My husband and I were at a party last weekend for a charity function. Most of the attendees from my
observation seemed educated, well dressed and normal. As I “travelled around the room” meeting
people, some of the people I found were lovely, talked about their lives and asked about mine….just
normal “how do you do” conversation. However, there were several people when I asked about their
connection to the charitable event who began talking, and talking, and talking. They told me, what
seemed to be, the unending story of their lives. This I could deal with except for the fact that after 20
minutes of conversation they had asked nothing, nada, zero about me or my life. They ended our
“conversation” by saying it was so nice to meet me and moved on to their next “victim”.
Has this ever happened to you? It makes me feel like I am an “object” who is there to absorb the “brilliance and specialness” of the other person. That I am there just to listen, admire and be their audience. Have you ever had that kind of experience before? Is it just me, or does it seem this is becoming more prevalent in today’s world?
What happens if a Narcissist gets in a position of power? Sees slights where none exist? Bullies their way through meetings with intimidation and “tough guy (girl)” behaviour. My husband was a professor at Harvard Medical School and there was another professor there that whenever a graduate student or postdoc fellow presented a paper would verbally “tear it apart” to show he was Top Dog and knew more than anyone else. I cannot tell you how many promising students and researchers he demolished with his intimidating behaviour. My husband realized that the only way to stop that intimidating behaviour that demoralized so many students was to do the same thing to this man. So when the man next presented his own research in a meeting with all the professors and students present that’s what he did. He challenged his research and hypothesis and pointed out the “holes” in his logic and conclusions. And you know what? That professor it seems got the point and straightened up his challenging/alpha male narcissistic behaviour that demoralized and humiliated the students.
We can all tend to be self-centered at times, but what pushes someone over into the narcissistic category? Sandy Hotchkiss in her book ‘Why is it Always About You?’ nicely summarizes the seven deadly sins that characterize the narcissistic person. Look over the list below and see if you think these characteristics are prevalent in our society. Does this describe anyone you know?
- Shameless: Narcissists are shameless in their behaviour. It is all about what’s in it for me, what do I get out of it? They justify why what they do is necessary even if other people might get hurt along the way. It’s about them, not about what is fair, just or right.
- Magical Thinking: Often narcissists have a seductive allure that draws people to them. They love themselves and want you to love and admire them too. They can be charming, attentive, exciting and captivating. However, you are often left feeling controlled, manipulated, and doing things for them you don’t really want to do in order to please them. They are caught in their own web of magical thinking–of being so important, beautiful, handsome, brilliant. that they can pull others into their web. But if you cross them, they feel justified in trying to get even.
- Superiority: Narcissists think they are naturally superior to others (although they can hide that well). They are often charming and at the same time bossy, judgemental, perfectionist and power hungry. They long for status, importance, and to be above others whether it is intellectually, in money, power or prestige. They need to be seen as “the best” because of their internal feeling of inadequacy. They need the external trappings that prove they are successful and above others. Image is everything!
- Envy: They are envious of others because of their own internal emptiness. They can be kind to your face, but when you unintentionally “cross” them or have a difference of opinion, they can’t tolerate it and seek to “get even.”
- Sense of Entitlement: They feel entitled and justified in being the center of attention. They feel they are special, talented and self-important and others should recognize that. The rules often do not apply to them. They are above rules. They have trouble knowing when enough is enough. If they have 10 billion dollars, they need to make another 10 billion, even if they do some insider trading, lie, bend the rules, act dishonestly, hurt or defraud others.
- Lack of Empathy: Narcissists have little ability to empathize. They can unintentionally or intentionally hurt you, take from you, degrade you, because they feel the credit, prestige, money, or the prize, belongs to them not you, even if you are the one who deserves it and are being cheated out of it.
- Poor Boundaries: Narcissists have poor boundaries and don’t know when they have crossed a line, or maybe they do and don’t care. Authority, rules, regulations code of ethics are just things to be “gotten around” and manipulated so they can get their own way.
We must ask ourselves why we tend to admire, elect and try to emulate the people in public life (politicians, businessmen, athletes and movie stars) who show these narcissistic characteristics. What happens when they are well educated, brilliant, well spoken, extroverted and able to manipulate themselves to the top of their field? Can you think of people who hold positions of power and influence who carry the narcissistic traits? And if so, what does that say about us?
Much more about recognizing and responding to narcissism can be found in my new book “Finding the Port that has Your Name” which has recently been published as an e-book on Amazon. You can find it at getbook.at/FindingThePortThatHasYourName .