Are they really a narcissist ?
A few buzz words are flying around conflict at the moment. It makes me cringe to use this term but it has become quite trendy and quasi sophisticated to label somebody a “narcissist” because they have behaved in a certain way.
I admit, I use this word a lot. It’s not often accurate and it doesn’t help to resolve conflict.
Let’s be clear on what I mean by conflict resolution. It’s not just about “making peace” with your opponent and stopping hostility. It’s also about making peace with yourself. That can involve forgiving yourself for your role in the conflict, allowing yourself to grieve the end of a relationship or the realization that what you thought was good for you was actually quite damaging. You may need to accept that you cannot change the other person and you have to move on without them. Ultimately, the aim is to minimise the mental stress and emotional disturbances conflict can cause to all involved and turn it into a learning experience that can ideally, lead you to greater understanding.
I have written about managing conflict with a narcissist before and it’s not easy to deal with. But it is possible in the sense that one of your options is to end any relationship which harms you mentally and physically. It sounds easier said than done for most people but that is a decision you need to take for your own self-esteem and general well-being. I acknowledge that that is not always easy but the starting point is awareness that it is possible.
What narcissists are not
What a narcissist is not is a person who upsets you, has a differing opinion to you or stands up for themselves when you have done something that ignores their boundaries . Anger is a normal emotion and they may just be having a bad day!
The word narcissist is a psychological term that is notoriously difficult to apply to a subject and there are varying degrees of this condition culminating in psychopathic individuals such as serial killers. They often lack empathy and cannot connect with people on an emotional level, and find it hard to understand your pain or suffering . Narcissists have an inability to feel even basic human emotions. This makes them very good at manipulating your emotions and toying with you in a way that allows them to use you for their own purposes. That could entail abusive tendencies, either physical, emotional or others. If you have ever been in a relationship with a narcissist, you probably felt controlled, unimportant and second to their wants, desires and needs. They are the most important person in your life ( and the universe) and anything bad that happens is your fault, even if they caused it. Such as their own abusive conduct.
Emotional manipulation is about putting you high up on a pedestal in their eyes and then bringing you down to the depths of their intense anger and disapproval if you don’t do something they want. The manipulation occurs when you try your best to win back their approval and acceptance by doing the thing they want you to do. This exercise of power is not a part of healthy relationships where people communicate openly about each others’ needs and wishes.
Why is this important?
When we put people into categories and assign them negative labels , it de-humanises them. This exacerbates conflict. It means that we can blame them entirely and avoid making ourselves accountable for any wrong-doing. It also means that we can be as offensive and aggressive as we wish to them whilst taking shelter as a victim.
We all have narcissistic characteristics. There are times when we all lack empathy or we respond without considering the suffering we may cause to others. We are all capable of arrogance and to some extent, abusive behaviours. Hopefully, these are not calculated and sustained patterns of conduct. It’s also crucial to remember that narcissists are only deeply wounded people who were probably raised by similar people, who themselves may have suffered years of trauma. They are usually the most insecure person in the room, using their grandiose ego as a cover to hide their pain.
Whilst this won’t help you to resolve conflict, it will remind you that the only way to respond to conflict constructively, is by recognising that we are only ever dealing with human beings and many of us don’t ever heal from the pain we were caused as children. Narcissists however, do feel deep, entrenched shame that motivates their every move. To some degree , we have all felt these same emotions. This explanation is intended to help you find options to deal with any conflict as opposed to lowering your own boundaries and causing yourself harm through the acceptance of unacceptable behaviour.
What do you think about this? Are you aware of your own narcissistic tendencies or does that horrify you? Let me know by leaving a comment!
I have found this to be a very humane and thoughtful post on narcissism. It’s very easy to forget that those who consistently display some or all of these traits are still human (I don’t include empathy for true sociopaths or psychopaths – I do have boundaries, ha). But…it does put into perspective their life. I have learned to control my response and emotions around these fundamentally damaged humans and life is much better…for me.
Thank you for this comment. It’s also very hard to keep this in mind when dealing with a narcissist !