Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Red Flag: Hostile Reaction to Attention Given Others

The last on Kathy Krajco's list of eight red flags of narcissism is:

Hostile Reaction to Attention or Credit Given Others

And then, of course, we get to the heart of malignant narcissism, Narcissistic Envy.

You will notice that, invariably, when anyone is given recognition before the group, a narcissist immediately starts showing dislike for, or animosity toward, that person. Immediately he sets out on a campaign of character assassination.

Envy is bitter, an extremely unpleasant emotion. It's normal only when some other party really has robbed us of our due.

A narcissist's unnatural envy is so universal and so strong that he cannot even stand being in a place where someone else gets attention. If he cannot keep that from happening, he will find some way to absent himself from the situation -- if only by turning away from others and staring at a corner of the ceiling. What Makes Narcissists Tick, pg. 84


I elaborated on the centrality of envy in the narcissist's personality structure in this post. I have observed before that the two driving forces in the narcissist's life are envy and fear. I believe their pathological envy is the fountain from which all their fears arise.

Their pathological envy is also the explanation for why they turn predatory. They don't want what they deserve. They want to steal from you what you deserve. They are professional moochers in the physical and moral realm. Thieves of accomplishment in every sphere. Their envy is what justifies to them all their thieving and murderous ways -- their very real cannabalism. Their sense of entitlement springs from their malignant envy. They believe that their lusts are to be fulfilled by absolute right -- not at their expense, but at yours. Hence, they are invariably parasitical in their existence.

When seeking to understand what moves the narcissist you must remember that primarily it is their envy. Pathological and unrelenting covetousness of what doesn't belong to them defines their existence. This one fact will help you untangle the web to see past the lies, bluster, obfuscation, projection, blame-shifting, and Do-gooder schtick into their true motives. They are constantly on the move to obtain by force or by lies that which is not theirs to take. It may be as subtle and spiritual as your personal integrity or virtue. Anything about you that takes the spotlight off of them or shows them up for being the shallow creatures they are will incite in them the desire to steal from you. Even your happiness is an object of their envy. You will only be allowed happiness if they can make you believe that they gave it to you. Every flavor and variety of attention is their object of insane desire. Any attention you receive is perceived as a diminution of what they believe is theirs. All of it. They are giant, black holes into which is consumed every ray of light. Take all and give nothing back is their motto.

I'll close with this quote from Atlas Shrugged. Supposedly it is bad form to quote from Atlas Shrugged on blogs because Ayn Rand can't say anything that doesn't require reams of pages for context, but I think this quote does stand on its own because of what we understand here about the nature of evil:

The last of my words will be addressed to those heroes who might still be hidden in the world, those who are held prisoner, not by their evasions, but by their virtues and their desperate courage. My brothers in spirit, check on your virtues and on the nature of the enemies you're serving. Your destroyers hold you by means of your endurance, your generosity, your innocence, your love --the endurance that carries their burdens-- the generosity that responds to their cries of despair--the innocence that is unable to conceive of their evil and gives them the benefit of every doubt, refusing to condemn them without understanding and incapable of understanding such motives as theirs...life is the object of their hatred. Leave them to the death they worship...don't exhaust the greatness of your soul on achieving the triumph of the evil of theirs...

...to win requires your total dedication and a total break with the world of your past, with the doctrine that man is a sacrificial animal who exists for the pleasure of others. Fight for the value of your person...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Red Flag: Extreme Self-Absorption

When it doesn't perplex you, or annoy the hell out of you, or make you cry, this next red flag provides some of the humor when dealing with narcissists. I'm talking here about the humor that makes you laugh at someone who is being ridiculous and stupid and is blissfully unaware of it.

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.
One could hardly be less interested in a fly on the wall.

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.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Red Flag: Disrespect for Boundaries

We're up to number six of Kathy Krajco's list of eight red flags of narcissism from her book, What Makes Narcissists Tick, pg. 81:

Tramples Privacy/Boundaries as a Control-Freak

Yet another red flag is a universal disrespect for other people's privacy, boundaries. This is a result of the narcissist viewing people as mere objects there for her sake to serve her needs and desires.

I gave an example in the previous section, in the boyfriend who disrespects your right to decide how to wear your hair. It's your body, not his. You're the one who lives with the consequences of the decision, not him. You aren't his car, something he owns and therefore can paint a different color if he wishes. You own you.

But he is treating your body as HIS property by presuming the rights of its owner over it.

Here's another, more literal, example. Your property line affects him like waving a red flag affects a bull. He must violate it and make what's your territory his territory. So, he parks on your lawn, ties his big mean dog out at the edge of his property to use yours (and menace you with Rover). He reacts to your claim of ownership as though you are stealing from him. Nothing short of a big fence will stop him from making your property his. And then he'll probably ram it with his truck if he thinks you'll be intimidated by that.

In other words, he is incapable of "distinguishing between mine and thine." Again, he is treating your property as his by asserting the rights of its owner over it.

Even your mind is not your own in his eyes.

Which is why a narcissist sticks his nose into everything, for he considers your business his business. He feels it incumbent on him to bestow judgment on every single thing people think, say, do, wear, or even feel. His disapproval (or the threat of it) is a stick this control freak with a God Complex herds people with.

He is possessing you.

Individuals with NPD are likely to attempt to get their needs met in relationships without acknowledging the independent existence of those from which they "expect to feed."

-- Sharon C. Ekleberry, Dual Diagnosis and the Narcissistic Personality Disorder [link now dead]
So, he presumptuously makes other people's choices for them. Often to ridiculous extremes, such as telling people how to wear their hair, what clothes to wear, where to buy things and what brands to buy, what chair to sit in, what end to start on, which route to take, and so on. You can tell he's doing it just to do it, because he makes people change their choice to comply with his wishes. In fact, if the same person is doing what he said to do the last time, the narcissist tells her to do it differently this time.

In short, a narcissist views others as objects on a chessboard, or tools, robots, the executioners of his will. One I know of, a private school principal, demonstrates the desperate compulsion narcissist have to control people. He is said to have nearly driven almost a thousand people to justifiable homicide by blasting over an hour's worth of nonstop orders over a blaring squawk box about what to do in an annual Christmas celebration that everybody had carried off without instructions for decades. Nobody can walk into a room and sit down without this clown telling them to sit somewhere else.

I dealt in some length with this red flag of being controlling a couple of months ago in this post so I won't be reinventing the wheel for this post. Controlling Others Vs. Self-Control.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Recommended Article

Personality Disorders: The Controllers, Abusers, Manipulators, and Users in Relationships
By Dr Joseph M Carver, PhD.

I just finished reading this three part article and wanted to recommend it to you all. It is an excellent synopsis of personality disorders followed by descriptions of how each of these PD types behave relationally. The article contains some good practical advice as well. I am impressed by the author's firm grasp of the reality that victims are not to blame for the behavior of the personality disordered. Read it and find validation and balm for your soul.