Extreme self-absorption is another red flag. Unless a narcissist is a "doting" narcissist who keeps a "star" child he's exploiting under a microscope, just ask him about his family. You will be astounded at what he doesn't know about them.
That's the dead giveaway.
To test a person, write a basic character description of each member of his immediate family. Note things like whether this person is religious, excitable, highly motivated -- that's all, just basic stuff that anyone who sees them regularly should know about them. If you ask a narcissist to match each character description with the family member it belongs to, he will gape at you as though you just asked him to show the derivation of E = mc2.
It will astound him that you would expect him to know such things about his wife and children.
Because you know more about cartoon characters than a narcissist knows about the members of his immediate family. For, he can learn nothing about what he willfully, relentlessly, and reflexively pays no attention to.
Narcissists are notorious for being unable to remember people's names or to even recognize their faces outside the usual setting. That's because people all look the same to you when they all look like this.
[drawing of a girl's face blanked out because it is a mirror showing the narcissist flexing and posing in the mirror that should be her face.]
In your encounters with them, you make sure you get 100% of their attention while giving them zero of yours. So, what did they say? Anything? Did they even get a word in edgewise? If they did, you didn't hear it.
A narcissist may, for example, recognize her son in the home but not when she runs into him in the grocery store -- giving him a stupid stare as he approaches, until he clues her in by saying, "Hi, Mom."
Here are some other illustrative examples from narcissists I have known or heard about:
- Does not know how to spell his daughter's name.
- Never had any idea what kind of grades his kids got.
- Does not know his wife or children's birthdays.
- Has never visited the major Website his/her child/sibling published.
- Does not know how old his children are.
- Does not know that his daughter was a National Merit Finalist.
- Has no idea how good his kids are at any sport or other activity.
- Does not know what perfume his wife wears.
- Has never read the book his child wrote.
- Never does learn the names of the students in his/her classes.
- Cannot get the names of people "with two first names" straight. (viz. Jean Paul, Howard Dean, John Kerry, or even John Edwards.)
- Does not know the names of his children's spouses, let alone his grandchildren.
- Has never shown up to watch his son play varsity sports.
- Does not know what his children majored in at college or what degrees they earned.
- Does not know whether his teen-age son/daughter is dating.
- Has never met the boy his teen-age daughter has been dating for three years.
What Makes Narcissists Tick by Kathy Krajco, pgs. 83-84
The running joke in our family, and among some of our family friends, was on my mother's absolute inability to recognize any of us if we passed her when we were on the road. She should have recognized our cars. She most definitely should have recognized our faces. But she was utterly, completely oblivious. Even when we'd honk or wave our arms she'd never see us. It was treated like an endearing quality for years. She claimed to be very focused on the road and didn't have time to be looking around at other cars for familiar faces. She claimed she didn't care what people drove so how could she be expected to recognize their cars? Never mind that she often rode in our cars and that our cars would sit her in driveway where she'd often see them close up or could look out her house windows to observe.
My mental picture of my mother behind the wheel of her car is her sitting very straight, gripping the wheel with both hands almost pulling herself forward a little and staring straight ahead. Oblivious to everything around her. Not just us. Riding in the car was always a little scary because she was completely oblivious to what was going on around her. Near accidents were frequent. Her claims to being focused on her driving were baloney. She was not only oblivious to people she should have recognized when driving around town, she was oblivious to everyone. She was in her own little world while behind the wheel (as well as any other time). This was the main reason my father always kept her in very large cars. In case of accident, she would have a better chance of survival. Yes, she did have frequent driving accidents. Only one of them serious last I knew.
If her obliviousness was confined to her driving then it wouldn't have much or any real significance except, perhaps, she was just a bad driver. But it was just the demonstration of her ever-present self-absorption being displayed while on the road. If I walked into a store where she didn't expect to see me she wouldn't see me unless I walked up to her and started talking. I am the fruit of her own womb and she wouldn't recognize me. What she didn't know about her closest family members was just about everything, yet she claimed to know us better than we knew ourselves. We believed that lie for too long. She created what we were out of thin air and superimposed her false image of us onto us. There was no escaping her false rendering of our characters or accomplishments. She only thought she knew us. But the truth was she was entirely ignorant of who we were or what we've accomplished or what our real interests were.
To those who will come along and try to accuse me or Kathy of making a big deal over a frequent human failing let me point out what should be obvious. Everyone has had moments when we've forgotten a child's age or maybe their birth date. Everyone has an occasional moment of being oblivious. Usually this is because we've become engrossed in some mental activity and not because we're busy thinking about ourselves and getting what we want every livin' moment. This red flag is not talking about that. This is about a pervasive pattern that is far outside the norm of occasional human forgetfulness or being engrossed in some project or activity. Fact is, it isn't about being forgetful with the narcissist. You can't forget what you never bothered to know in the first place. It is the demonstration of the reality that to the narcissist you are an object. Not a person.
Just like anything else with the narcissist, we are talking about something that could be found in a normal human situation but it is at a level of pathology. Far outside, above and beyond what is "normal". That is why this extreme self-absorption is a red flag: because it falls outside normal limits. That word "extreme" is your clue that we're talking about something beyond the average or outside the definition of normal.
I'm sure that the comments will fill up with examples of this red flag behavior. Commence.