Tuesday, July 10, 2007

How to Tell What the Narcissist is Up To

Narcissists have to use camouflage because if they were completely honest about who they are we would all be repulsed. Because they make a meal by sucking the life out of the humanity around them they must be described as predators. Like all predators, they must hide themselves; often they do so in plain sight.

A favored tactic by narcissists is to wear the clothing of their opposite. The Bible is where we get the term "wolves in sheep's clothing". (See Matt. 7:15) A wolf, a predatory animal, tries to appear to be harmless by looking like a sheep, a prey animal. You can have a very large clue as to what the narcissist is up to by how they present themselves. In what way do they try to look harmless? One of my mother's camouflages is her frequent assertion that she is the "family peacemaker". She appropriated that title to herself many years back. The reality is that she is the family pot stirrer. For decades she stirred up trouble between family members and then would jump into the situation to get people to make the peace. When they would make peace my mother was there to take the credit. She gets to hide behind the "peacemaker" moniker even though she, in truth, was the one creating the wars. Think of the book "1984" and you see how the narcissist uses descriptors to hide the truth. The Department of War becomes the "Ministry of Peace", etc.

We see variations on this theme in the news quite often. John Wayne Gacy, who would rape and murder young children, would present himself as a clown at kid's parties. Harmless. He was also a Boy Scout leader and was respected in his community as a good family man. Ted Bundy would ask for the assistance of young women by wearing a cast on his arm or using a crutch. A pedophile hides behind the vestments of priest. A daycare director turns out to be a child abuser. A non-profit religious organization leader is a megalomanical control freak who threatens and abuses her employees while presenting a mild-mannered face to the world. A family member who sneakily creates confusion while claiming to be the one who is always clearing up confusion he himself created in the first place. A narcissist who lies all the time will claim to be a paragon of virtuous honesty and may work in a profession where honesty is supposed to be integral to what they do.

What often goes hand in hand with this bait and switch is a good dose of projection. The "honest" narcissist is often found accusing others of dishonesty. The sneakily thieving narcissist is always pointing a finger at others and accusing them of being thieves. The one who is always accusing others of being greedy are them self constantly coveting what others have. The one committing adultery is quick to label their spouse a whore. Beware of the one who often talks of killing them self...they may actually be planning murder.

Assume that the narcissist is always engaged in diversionary tactics. When my husband and I go for a walk and see a killdeer start to run in one direction acting like her wing is broken we immediately move to the other direction and look for the eggs or chicks. The killdeer bird uses diversion. She tries to get the possible threat to move away from her young so she runs away from her nest. We have learned the diversionary tactic of the killdeer, so we go the opposite way she does and will usually quickly find what she is hiding. (Of course, we also quickly leave so as to not give the poor bird a heart attack.) Look in the opposite direction that the narcissist is trying to get you to go in and you will usually find out what they are up to. And if they are pointing an accusatory finger at someone it is quite likely they are accusing that person of what they themselves are up to.

You must never forget the predatory nature of a narcissist. If you keep that fact in your awareness you will be much better equipped to see in what ways they lay in wait. You have to look beyond appearances to find what is really going on. A good dose of suspicion will make it less likely you'll be made a meal of. When they point in a particular direction, start looking in the opposite one if you want to find out what their game is.


Anonymous said...

My N mother has always taken on the persona of martyr. Any peacemaking she has had to do was 'forced' on her by the rest of her family. She too though, like your mother, is a pot stirrer. I heard an expression the other day which sums up her behaviour, she is an 'uproar'. She doesn't cause it, she IS it.

Cat Lady said...

"Beware of the one who often talks of killing them self...they may actually be planning murder."

This comment sent chills down my spine. I just broke up with a N boyfriend after spending the last 2 weeks on suicide watch over him. I would bring him to the hospital and he would switch to a charming flirt in interviews with the medical staff? At first I was too numb to realize how psychopathic his behavior was. 30 minutes before he had just threatened to hang himself at my home with tears in his eyes?
Last weekend he got drunk and confessed to me that he had fantasies about killing his ex-wife because she had left him and destroyed his life. That night I finally had enough of the bull he has been abusing me with for the past 8 months.

I have been trying to break it off with him for 2 months now and he always managed to crawl back under my skin. I'm glad that I met him though; I realized that I have been repeating my relationship with my mom through other people in my life. I don't have a sense of normal boundaries and have been in insane situations because that is kind of like what my childhood was like. My mother also talked about killing herself like my N boyfriend. She would go into specific details. How sick is that; to put that kind of a burden on your own child?

I have to say this again, thank you so much for this blog. I believe in god and I think that I was ready to see the truth last week. I've been reading your blog daily and I keep seeing more and more of the truth. I have faith that it will eventually set me free.

Anonymous said...

Question - I'm doing research on narcissists for a character in a piece of fiction I'm writing. This blog post is so helpful and informative - and I'm so sorry you all have gone through this!! In my story, the main character is told to marry a guy that she intuitively can tell is bad news even though he is nice (the term narcissist doesn't exist at the time period of the story) so she runs away, all the while being told she's crazy for turning down tons of money. My question is, for you who have lived through relationships with people like this, what would you want a main character to "see" through the mask of the narcissist character? What would be the main red flag that says "run" to her?

Anon said...

Mine has the persona of shy codependent, quietly spoken a perfect social predator surrounded by friends and family.
If it looked like evil he wouldn't be successful, he is evil.