Series On Domestic Violence Part 4: What Exactly Is Narcissism?

Diana WinklerDomestic Violence

Narcissists wear masks

This is Part 4 of a continuing series. You can read part 1 here. Part 2 here. Part 3 here.

Have you ever gone to the theatre and watched a play? Have you ever been to a costume party and pretended to be someone else? These things are how some abusers choose to act. Read on below to learn how these are related.

Narcissism Is Hard To Define.

It is something that you experience being around someone who behaves a certain way. When you’ve dealt with it, then you understand. You might have been a victim of narcissism and not even know it because most people think it is normal behavior.

Before I was with Mending the Soul and listening to survivors’ stories, I had no idea what a narcissist was. I also had no idea how common it is and how destructive it is, especially to children.

I use the pronoun “he” out of simplicity’s sake, but narcissists can be male or female.

Here Are Some Characteristics Of A Narcissist:

He thinks he is more important than anyone else.

Ever been at a party or gathering and there is one person in the group that does all the talking? He doesn’t listen to anyone else’s stories, or cuts people off to one up you with a better story? This person is self absorbed, self serving, and oblivious to needs of others around him.

Constantly craves attention and admiration from others.

My abuser was constantly trying to get unsolicited compliments. He was unsecure in himself, deep down, and always needed to be affirmed as right in whatever he was doing. He wanted the adult pulpit to preach at instead of preaching at children’s church or the seniors at a nursing home. He craved the spotlight and approval.

No concern or empathy for others who suffer.

For most people, showing concern or care for others is a normal reaction to suffering. Not for a narcissist. He will callously leave a pregnant dog out in the cold during a blizzard. He will ignore his daughter’s need for affection and tenderness after falling down on her bike.

Pretends that he has a perfect life and that nothing is really wrong behind the scenes.

Narcissists play a part in a play. He makes everyone believe he is someone he is not. The public image is everything. Backstage is a different story. Imagine a doting husband taking care of his terminally ill wife and posting all his actions on Facebook for all to see. When no one is watching, he tells his wife to quit “milking it” or tells her to get back to work-She’s fine.

It’s the preacher with the perfect Christian family at church, but at home he is raping his wife, and abusing his children.

They are the expert on everything.

He won’t take any advice from people who are actually qualified on a particular subject because he knows all. He tells his doctor that he is wrong, and that what he read on WebMD or online is right.

Love bombing in the beginning of the relationship.

When I tell you he doesn’t care about anyone but himself, he will play games with you for a while in order to get what he wants. He will give you gifts, shower you with compliments, and actually tell you that you’re doing a good job. But watch out. There is always something he wants. Once you are of no use to him, the game changes. A narcissist will typically trick people into marrying him, making her believe he loves her and has the same wishes for the future. Once the marriage begins, the mask comes off and his true self is revealed. This leaves the victim powerless and betrayed.

Unwritten, unspoken rules about family relationships.

Have you ever been in a situation where you have no idea how you are supposed to act, but everyone expects you to already know? Lots of families exist just like that. You are punished for not following the rules, but you didn’t know the rules to begin with. It’s enough to drive anyone nuts.

Neglect is a common problem in narcissistic families.

Children feel invisible and neglected.

“Children are to be seen and not heard.” Ever hear that phrase? Some people literally mean that . Family members are never paid attention to, Children are considered to be burdens or mouths to feed more than gifts from God. Legitimate needs are not met, like proper shoes, winter coats, or meals. Children fend for themselves.

Family members are not permitted to express emotions or communicate needs.

There are people in this world who have never cried. Ever. They were not allowed to cry. Not allowed to complain. Not allowed to show anger or fear. If they did any of these things, they would be punished. So the victims learn to stuff it down deep inside with any method available: alcohol, drugs, sex, work. Narcissists need their victims to hide their secrets and that can’t happen with children giving away clues.

Ignoring obvious proof or living in denial.

“My kid wouldn’t be doing drugs/skipping school/having sex.” The parents doesn’t want to deal with the son or daughter acting out because it makes them look bad. Like an ostrich, the head goes into the sand, ignoring what is really going on, refusing to deal with reality and help the kid.

“I’m not hiding gambling debts. It’s an accounting mistake”.

“You didn’t see me with another woman. You’re seeing things.”

This is also called gas lighting. The narcissist makes you think you’re the crazy one, and messes with your head. He depends on trust of his victim to get away with this.

Exaggerating, rationalizing, “It’s not that bad”, or “I only do it once in a while”.

Getting caught red-handed in an affair, but he’s claiming it was nothing. Or saying that it’s your fault that he had the affair because you didn’t have enough sex with him. Or, ” I only look at porn once in a while. You are making a big deal out of this.”

Keeping secrets and deliberate concealment.

Everything is a secret. You can’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth. A pathological liar. Hiding Swiss bank accounts. Concealing a venereal disease. Going through great lengths to keep things under cover.

Abuse is a family secret. You are to protect the family’s image at all costs..

A lot of abuse is affected by cultural expectations. For example, in some cultures, like South Korea, a young girl could be sexually abused by a family member for years. The mom knows about it. The siblings know about it. The whole neighborhood knows about it. No one does anything. No one deals with the elephant in the room. No one says anything because it would shame the family. The family honor is the highest priority, over the needs of the victim.

You May Think This Behavior Is Normal.

I assure you that it is not. This is not God’s original design for a family. You may have suffered yourself for years and can’t seem to deal with life. If you are a victim of such behavior, you are not to blame. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. If you need help healing from your past, consider joining a Mending the Soul group in your area. For more information you can check out my page here.