Update on 1/19/19: My memoir, Angels in the OR: What Dying Taught Me About Healing, Survival, and Transformation, can be pre-ordered now. It is a #1 new release in several categories. I would love it if you helped me make near-death experiences more mainstream.
There are many degrees and shades of narcissists. I highly suggest you check out the work of Breakthrough Life Coach Lisa A. Romano and other sources like Psychology Today to better understand narcissists. Narcissists can be introverted, passive aggressive, and display traits we don’t initially associate with narcissism.
It is my belief that many near-death experiencers come back with greater empathy. Most of us are born with sensitivity and love as our inherent nature and near-death experiences simply remind us of this love. Anyone who broadcasts love and innocence can attract souls in great pain who might be narcissists, sociopaths, or psychopaths. Our journey might simply be to learn to protect ourselves from narcissistic abuse and help others heal from relationships with narcissists and shine their lights. Many narcissists can be handled easily in small doses, but in larger, more intimate relationships or projects they can cause considerable pain.
The Narcissist at Work: If you start a creative project or business with a narcissist, everything will seem spectacular in the beginning. Their exuberance and confidence will give you confidence. They will speak passionately about their efforts, and you might live in their dream world for a while where everything is easy and all effort equals instant, brilliant success. Eventually, you will notice that they don’t like hard work. You find yourself taking care of more of the details, but you tell yourself that they offer inspiration and bring charisma to the project/business/plan. Eventually, you see that their egos are fragile, and you try to hide how much work is needed because you don’t want to lose everything you have worked to create. Conversations become more difficult, and the narcissist fights to hang on to his or her original ideas without considering revision. Chances are good that they will sabotage everything, and you might never get a straight answer about why they gave up. Narcissists will simply move on to another scenario that fulfills their ego to a greater degree, a dream that looks brighter, a path that seems easier, and you will be left falling through empty space.
You will wonder if you did something wrong, but the only thing you did wrong is miss the warning signs that you were dealing with a narcissist. Perhaps, this person despises all authority figures, even the nurturing ones. Perhaps this person brags in a way that is off-putting to some, but you thought this person was simply spunky or confident. Perhaps they always make themselves the hero or the amazing one in their stories and never admit to having a flaw.
There are always warning signs that a narcissist is in the office. An avoidance of hard work is generally the best clue. Narcissists might even brag about how they get out of work yet still believe they should be offered promotions and given awards. If you are starting a business with a narcissist, they may be absent large parts of the time and blame you for the problems. If you are co-authoring a book, they may fail to see that great books are often rewritten eight or nine times, yet they expect to become a millionaire with a first draft full of typos a fifth grader might make. They want to call themselves a great writer/singer/dancer but not put in the hard work to become one.
Whatever the scenario, the narcissist will be full of energy, dreams, and braggadocio in the beginning and will slink away sullenly, secretively, or angrily in the end of your relationship, often blaming you for the pain they caused. You might even believe the situation is your fault, but all you tried to do is do the hard work for yourself and someone else. Beware of narcissists in other areas besides work. You can find them in churches, spiritual gatherings, and political organizations.
The Narcissist in Love: No one is more skillful than the narcissist at promising the world, mirroring your desires back to you, and focusing on you with an intensity that you have rarely if ever encountered in your life. Many women are hungry for deep emotional intimacy, and we can mistake a predatory gaze for intense connection. Narcissists, whether male or female, speak a language primarily made up of phrases like soulmate/twin soul/love of my life and usually say these phrases after a short amount of time. If these types of words don’t turn you on, the narcissist promises anything that will make you feel secure, happy, and safe. They want to bask in your adoration of them.
Narcissists know how to make you feel addicted to them. They take their time in the bedroom, and make you feel treasured. When I think of narcissists, I think of the poem by Sharon Olds “Sex Without Love” and how narcissists know they are never honestly going to connect with another human being. Everything is a great big show. They come to the bedroom like great runners, and “they know they are alone/ with the road surface, the cold, the wind, / the fit of their shoes, their over-all cardio-/vascular health–just factors, like the partner/ in the bed, and not the truth, which is the single body alone in the universe/ against its own best time.” With a narcissist, you might initially feel like the God or Goddess, the light, the eternal love of the universe with this person because of the effort they put in, but the narcissist is only showing off his or her skills, hoping to get you hooked. Exercise is an apt metaphor for how narcissists function in the bedroom.
After a while, you might realize that the narcissist is unable to truly connect with you because he can’t swim through the sea of millions of bodies he has observed through the lens of pornography to clearly see you. Maybe he is a calloused type, especially if he has a lot of money and is full of his own image. Men in this category might make women work to get their attention and make them feel insecure with little digs. Women who pay a lot of attention to their looks might be critical of their mate and make this person not feel good enough for them. There are many different scenarios for narcissists, but the outcome is the same. Eventually, you will feel that the connection is not genuine or uplifting.
Promises from narcissists evaporate, and you are only left with words. You might fight to make these words turn into the promised reality, but if you are dealing with a narcissist, no such luck. The minute you have doubts, they know that your adoration will be tinged with doubt and this won’t feel good enough for them. Their focus will shift. Often, their focus was never fully on you anyway, though their words proclaimed otherwise. They are masters at triangulation.
The narcissist might make passive aggressive jokes about how he or she would not miss you that much if you broke up. This person is only testing how much you are hurt by that statement to gauge how much to pretend to invest in you. Communication feels more like a sick game than an honest dialogue. Passive aggressive behavior will escalate over time with deliberate procrastination, the silent treatment, and withholding praise.
Work is another interesting factor that plays into this relationship. Narcissists come in many varieties. You might find the dependent narcissist who believes in a ridiculous form of law of attraction that will “someday” make this person wildly successful without any effort on their part. Alternately, you might find someone who is tied to his or her work and sees their job as a reflection of his or her image. Everything will be sacrificed for his or her image.
Narcissists in a relationship, however, are not excited to do the hard work to make a relationship work. They don’t want to learn new communication skills or be forced to a new level of honesty. They will avoid counseling or criticize and demean therapists outside the office. Most likely, they will start building a new dream with someone else instead of working on themselves. When the narcissist leaves, he or she leaves you with a blank space inside. They were never really 100% there in your life. They leave you with the loneliness that they must feel as they walk through this life never being completely real and honest with another human being.
Narcissists as Parents: The obvious type of narcissist, usually a father but sometimes a mother, is the type of parent who is absent. Maybe they are absent due to drugs and alcohol or maybe they are too self-centered to be bothered by the mundane, annoying details of raising a kid. They might be more loving or upbeat than the parent who is around more often. Children might long for a deeper relationship with that parent, but as they get older they usually see that this parent isn’t giving financially or otherwise. This type of parent is charming and good at building you up, but if you ask for the money or assistance they may not be able to deliver reliably. Their own needs and desires will be more important than the needs of dependents.
If this type of narcissist gets sober, these types focus on how much they missed their kids when they were out living the lives they lived. The narcissist will overly focus on his or her accomplishments in sobriety but won’t find the time to heal the harm they caused in their kid’s lives. Often, narcissists are not willing to address their psychological issues. They won’t actively teach their kids about co-dependency and how to break these patterns. They won’t warn their children that alcoholism has a genetic link. They can’t be bothered to have difficult conversations that might benefit others. However, they will brag about their kids and take more credit than they deserve for their accomplishments. Maybe they passed on a few of their good-looking genes. That’s about all they can take credit for when it comes to your accomplishments.
The abusive, narcissistic parent is on a continuum like all narcissists. They might be religious and use a Bible verse to justify spanking their very young kids who don’t understand why they are being hit. Their love might be contaminated by belief systems that tell them it is o.k. to take their stress and anger out on a child. Maybe they are emotionally manipulative and want to prove to the world or their family what a giving, loving, fantastic parent they are while paying very little attention to your actual needs. Maybe they are verbally abusive and fly off the handle in a rage at the smallest of irritations. Maybe they are emotionally abusive and keep their children away from one side of the family out of spite.
Maybe they are more toxic than these examples and physically and sexually harm their children. Whatever the level of abuse, reconciling with an abusive, narcissistic parent is difficult. Maybe you tried to get along with this person for years, only to be thrown off guard by the hateful things they say in conversation. If you go no contact, the narcissistic parent will probably blame you for this when they talk to others. They will blame you for not being a good/respectful son/daughter and for pulling away from them even though they will never honestly care about what you are going through. They will only be concerned with themselves and how your behavior affects them.
Maybe they believe they reached forgiveness with their own abusive parents, but you find it hard to believe since they didn’t transcend the pattern. They can’t be loving or consistently decent to you in conversation, so how could they truly have forgiven their own parents? Whatever the case, the abusive, narcissistic parent leaves children with a wound that is hard to heal. Healing is possible and usually found through breaking patterns and filling one’s life with people who know how to honestly care about you. Healing takes a lot of work which is something narcissists shy away from even as parents. Narcissistic parents will tell you how their life was much harder than yours to prove a certain superiority and avoid acknowledging your pain and their role in that dynamic of pain.
My greatest hope is that empaths might find larger groups of caring people. My hope is that narcissists might heal the wounds that keep them from addressing their problems holistically.