"But, you can't walk out now," Marnie, the registered nurse, said to Dr. Crissey, as he walked out of the conference room. "We aren't finished with report, and we've got a 'live-wire' on the ward that needs to be seen."
Seemingly indifferent, Dr. Crissey whirled around, retorting, "Who are you to tell me what to do? What I do is for your own good. You are just a nurse. I'm taking a break. There's nobody here as trained as I. You'll just have to carry on without the best surgeon you've got. Nobody is going to tell me what to do. I'll be meeting with the Board any time now, and they will hear about your lack of respect."
Intervention time. I spoke to both, after I was called in to intervene. Marnie assures me that Dr. Crissey comes with a long list of positions he once occupied, and constantly lets everyone know that he's "a big man on campus." She says, "He has an uncanny way of delivering put-downs. If he is in error, which he would never admit, he has a way of turning things around so that the person he injures ends up feeling to blame. He never owns his own shortcomings and goes into rage at the very suggestion that he is less than perfect. He is never nice without reason. Only when he wants something does he stroke us around, and then, the second he gets what he wants, he cuts you off. His heart must be made of ice. No wonder he's getting a divorce."
This is classic "narcissism speak." Dr. Crissey, on the other hand, tells me that it is ridiculous that he should have to talk to anyone, because he's believes he's in the right. "They're all fools, like my wife, and the two before her," he says. "She needs me, I don't need her. Who do these people think they are? I've got an I.Q. that leaves them in the dust, and a résumé that should make them all shut up. They have no idea who they are dealing with, and what I know. I'm not about to limit myself by such stupid protocals. When I take a break, I take a break. I'm worth my weight in gold. They should know that."
What's going on here, and why should you care? I share the above true scene with you, although the names have been altered, in order to usher you into the world of what's been called "malignant love." The clinical term for it is narcissistic personality disorder, and it underlies some of the newsmakers these days. When someone is narcissistic, be they a head of state, a celebrity or a family member, all suffer. When narcissism is "in the house," it leaves a trail of pain. Many are living with people with this disorder and do not know it. My intention is to set the record straight, in hopes that this may bring ease into your own life, if you find yourself dealing with these purveyors of malignant love.
Towards that end, I will outline a checklist of characteristics that are common to this personality disorder, which is, by the way, highly resistent to treatment. A narcissist need not have all the following, but the more they have, the more suspicious the picture. (Note that these characteristics are considered as diagnostic in adults, since during certain developmental periods, such as adolescence, this goes with the territory.)
If you've been involved in a "crazy-making" situation at work, home or elsewhere with someone that matches the following symptoms, take heart knowing that you are not alone. You may well be dealing with one of these folks. Know also that the narcissist is pretty much the last person standing to ever go for professional help, because they insist, "There's nothing wrong with me. It's not me, it's you." Consequently, one narcissist with a big network can pretty much build a therapist's practice from those who know them and are at their wit's end trying to figure out how to feel better! Even when the narcissist ends up in treatment, the outcome is bleak. Therefore, you must do what you must to save yourself. Remember the old adage about giving yourself the oxygen mask first if you are in a plane about to crash? Same thing here. Fasten your seatbelt, because here we go:
Characteristics Of Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
- Chronic grandiosity (manifesting in unrelenting drive for success, power, love, beauty, brilliance)
- Fantasies of grandeur
- Strong need for being admired
- Lack of not only sensitivity to other's needs, but to others as anything other than a means to their own satisfaction (to be seen as a special case, where the rules do not apply to himself)
- Feelings of entitlement
- Exaggerated accomplishments
- Need to be larger than life
- Feelings of rage when confronted with self-absorption, revealing underlying sense of unimportance, emptiness, lack, fragility
- Secret feelings of unworthiness or imposter syndrome
- Appearance of icyness when confronted, indifference
- Unwillingness, inability to empathize
- Envy of others' success
- Exploitation of others
- Often with an extreme adversion to aging
Seven Strategies To Protect Yourself
If these characteristics sound familiar, know that when you are dealing with a narcissist, ignorance is not bliss. Know that it is highly unlikely that the narcissist nearest you will ever find the need to change. If anything is to shift, it will come from you. Your first step is to realize that you deserve to treat yourself in a worthy manner. Apply the following:
- Decide upon your boundaries.
- Identify what behaviors cross the line, and communicate this as needed.
- Build into your schedule plenty of down time for you when you've been in their vicinity.
- Identify a strong circle of support for yourself, not as a place to whine, but as a place to renew your energy and perspective.
- Build reserve. Know that when the time comes to set stronger boundaries, there will be push-back.
- Don't crumble. Stay steady. Stand your ground without drama. Stay neutral.
- Do not be duped. Move toward what love really means.
- Love heals, not hurts.
- Love collaborates, not competes.
- Love cherishes, not diminishes.
- Love values, not devalues.
- Love extends a hand, not a fist.
Your turn: What are you willing to share about dealing with narcissists, or questions you have had? What has helped you? I'm listening, and learning from you, my teachers.
For more, see carabarker.net. For updates, contact me at carabarker.net, or dr.carabarker@gmail. To receive email notices when I post new blogs on HuffPost, click "Become a Fan" at the top of this page. Stay tuned for upcoming developments with The Love Project, including "Practicing Love." Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrCaraBarker.