Denver 's Best Dating, Mating, and Relating Group Message Board › ONE LAST THOUGHT ...
|Mary Jo Fay, RN, M...||
Hey Savvy Singles,
Here's one last thought on this topic and then we'll move on. Some of you might resonate with it ...
Stay warm and dry this weekend!
But is He or She Really a Narcissist?
copyright by Mary Jo Fay 2013
Greetings Savvy Singles,
Now that so many of you attended my narcissism workshop what I frequently hear after wards, as people digest this information is this: “Yes, but is my MATE REALLY A NARCISSIST?”
Labeling someone with a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is the job of a qualified psychological health professional. However, man people demonstrate some narcissistic behaviors from time to time. While that doesn't mean we all have NPD, a consistent display of narcissistic traits can be destructive to those of us stuck interacting with the "bad behaving ones," and that's where the problem lies.
So instead of asking the question, "Yes, but is he (or she) REALLY a narcissist?" The questions I consistently ask my clients instead is, "Do you feel healthy in this relationship? Do you feel equal? Do you feel controlled and/or manipulated? Do you feel bad about yourself? Do you feel sorry for the way your children are treated in this environment? Are you struggling with constant depression? Do you feel like you're on an emotional roller coaster or are walking on eggshells around this person every time they're near?"
These are truly the important questions ... not the ones related to a diagnosis. The partner driving this victim to these feelings may have any number of psychological ills going on. Some may be treatable, some may not. (Again, diagnosis by a psychological professional can determine this.)
However, what IS important is that the victim do something about the situation! Remaining in an unhealthy environment, especially when children are being affected, is the unhealthiest part of the equation.
I also believe that each "victim" must understand that his or her own "baggage," combined with that of the victimizing partner, is what sets the dynamic up to begin with.
For example, let's say narcissistic behaviors or "traits" can be depicted on a sliding scale, with healthy narcissism being One (on a scale of one to ten) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder being a Ten. One doesn't have to be demonstrating behaviors in the 8 or 9 range to do some pretty extensive damage to those around them ... especially if those around them have issues in their past that leave them more vulnerable to abusive treatment to begin with.
Looked at from another angle, a very emotionally healthy and strong person might be able to work in an environment with someone with some pretty severe narcissistic behaviors and still maintain their ongoing emotional health by setting pretty strong emotional and physical boundaries, keeping their self-esteem intact, and by understanding how not to play into the manipulative games of the narcissist, or otherwise "bad behaving person".
And yet, someone who may only demonstrate a low level of narcissistic traits can cause severe damage to someone much less protected. Take for instance, someone with minimally but consistent narcissistic traits. (For point of reference, let's say he's a 3 on our scale of one to ten.) Now throw him together with a weaker partner who comes from an abusive background, a childhood living with an alcoholic parent, or some other life-altering situation including things like suffering from post traumatic stress. This can just as easily become a set-up for damage, and the manipulation and abuse that can occur within this relationship can be substantial. Each person brings their "stuff" to this relationship and that's where the problem lies. Each one must heal from their own baggage if this relationship is to work.
And unfortunately, many narcissistic types refuse to seek help because they see all the problems lying external to them ... if everyone else would just "get fixed," then all would be fine once again. Herein lies one of the key problems in being involved with these difficult people ... For someone to change his or her behavior, they must first acknowledge that they too have something to work on. So if your partner simply brushes off all the problems within your relationship as yours and is not willing to seek help for his or her role in the relationship, then this is one of your first clues that you are fighting an uphill battle to begin with.
And thus, I return to the question I ask of my new clients: "Is your relationship healthy?"
Perhaps one partner has one of many other issues that they are dealing with ... Borderline Personality Disorder, Bi-Polar, Schizophrenia, or any other. (There may be more than one issue occurring at the same time.) While these may not be narcissistic issues, they can still leave an entire family struggling with pain, anguish, fear, confusion, depression, and life-long struggles with self-esteem and more.
And sadly enough, this unhealthy pattern is destined to continue. Children raised in these unhealthy environments have much higher odds of ending up as grown-ups in unhealthy environments as well, because they have no reference outside of their dysfunctional family, as to what real "healthy" relationships look like. As a result, they frequently are attracted to these types of people in later life, thus repeating the cycle of what is "normal" for them.
Unless a conscious understanding of this situation occurs, and a conscious choice is made to take a different tack, a vast number of victims are destined to repeat their relationship patterns over and over again.
So if you find yourself in any kind of relationship where you are constantly feeling bad, unequal, controlled, manipulated, frightened, depressed, angry, unsafe, or like you're chronically walking on eggshells around the one who is supposed to be your loving partner, business partner, parent, or best friend, then I once again return the question to you,
"Do you feel healthy in this relationship?"
Of course, then there is always the question of "What are your issues that are allowing this relationship to continue as well?"
The bigger focus of my work to helping my clients heal is NOT spending much time focusing on the behavior of the abuser, beyond simply clarifying and understanding how manipulation and abuse works - emotionally as well as physically or sexually. We all know we cannot easily change anyone else, no matter what the root of their problem. (Ever just try to get someone to quit smoking, much less change their personality or interpersonal behaviors?)
By better understanding what makes us tick, we can more easily see how we got into unhealthy relationships, what made us believe we deserved such treatment to begin with, and why we stayed. The next step is to learn how to get out, as well as how to break the unhealthy dynamic and move on to more emotionally healthy relationships with ourselves and others.
Difficult relationships can strip you of more than you know. Self-esteem. Enjoying life. Being passionate about something. Feeling safe in your own home.
And yet, I truly believe that ...
The most difficult relationship that most people have,
is the one they have with themselves!
Until you can get that most important relationship on a rock solid foundation, with a belief in your worth as a person on this planet, a strong and healthy self-esteem, and an ability to recognize bad behavior and not settle for it for yourself or your children, then dealing with difficult people will always be a constant in your life.
"But is he or she really a narcissist?"
Doesn't much matter.
"Am I living in an unhealthy relationship for me and my children?"
Now that's the question that you can do something with!