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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Signs of narcissism

The other day a friend mentioned that he thought his girlfriend was probably a narcissist. As an example of her behavior he mentioned that she would constantly interrupt him, but get angry if he ever interrupted her.

Those who get most enraged when interrupted do seem to do the most interrupting themselves. (In both cases, they must dominate the conversation, a sure sign of narcissism.)

The other behavior my friend cited was that if he so much as talked with other women, she would get angry, and say it was inappropriate, and hurtful to her. At the same time she would brazenly flirt with other men, and once even received flowers from another guy. She would then dismiss my friend's objections by saying that these men were just friends and he was being silly.

Hypocrisy may be the best measure of narcissism there is. There's no one more easily annoyed than a hypocrite, and there's no one more annoying.

Another measure is how much the person wants to talk about himself vs. how willing is he to listen to others talk about themselves. There's a guy who swims at my pool who likes to talk about himself, but if anyone else dares to do the same, he'll just say, "I have to loosen down now," and put his head underwater and push off the wall. (I'm not the only person who's noticed this.)

This guy isn't evil; he's not a sociopath. He's just a hypocrite (and demonstrates this in other areas as well). Like most such, does not see his own hypocrisy. (I actually told him once he was a narcissistic personality, which he didn't appreciate.)

The other day I swam a set with him and another guy. I was complimenting the other guy on his swimming, and the narcissist seemed to get increasingly annoyed. I eventually realized that he was annoyed that I was complimenting the other fellow rather than him.

A narcissist has to be the center of attention.

Your garden variety narcissist is not a sociopath: you don't have to dive for cover when you see him. But hypocrites are never good company.


Anonymous said...

"But hypocrites are never good company."

The ones I've known were great company provided you indulged them and didn't take their opinions too seriously. If even sociopaths can be fun to hang around with(temporarily), why couldn't a hypocrite be?

John Craig said...

Anon --
That's a good point. In the short run, many narcissists and even sociopaths can be charming and fun. Both narcissists and sociopaths tend to come across more dynamic than the average person.

However, in the long run, anybody who criticizes you for things they themselves do palls very quickly. And once you've been hoodwinked by a sociopath, it becomes a lot harder to see his charm.

Anonymous said...

I have three more to add:

1. Being unable to take criticism, even the lightest and most constructive sort.

2. Never admitting to being wrong, and only grudgingly apologising when told to.

3. Twisting things and telling misleading half-truths. For example, I once tried to compliment a girl on her new hairstyle only to have her friend march up to me hours later, belligerently demanding to know whether I thought her old hairstyle was ugly. That incident was more than a decade ago, but it baffles me to this day.

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
Yes, those are good signs. I have to wonder in that incident, who it was who twisted your words around -- the girl you complimented, or her friend. It might have been the former, and her friend felt obliged to stick up for her. Or it could have been that "friend" (frenemy), who planted the seed of doubt and kept goading her friend until she reluctantly agreed, and that gave the friend the self-righteousness to march up to you and demand an apology. I doubt it was both of them.

Steven said...

in what context did you tell the fella he was narcissistic? Sounds like a story.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Not much of a story. He was complaining about how a client of his had "learned narcissism" and I just dropped it there. Probably shouldn't have.

Anonymous said...

The girlfriend saying he was being silly is a great example of gas-lighting.

She most likely is a narcissist.
They can be fun until you are no longer required or they need new supply to torture.

John Craig said...

Anon --
It does sound that way.

Pavonine99 said...

I remember reading somewhere that you don't usually have to worry about vain (nonsociopathic) people, since they already have a high opinion of themselves and therefore don't need to put other people down to feel positively. It's the people like the guy you and Anon describe who you need to worry about, since they have to be inconsiderate in order to boast their own egos. I wonder why that kind of person is even called a narcissist? Self-love doesn't seem to be their problem, it's more like petty viciousness.

John Craig said...

Pavonine --
I think it all boils down to how you define self-esteem. A lot of people use the term to refer to people who don't need to boast, who are secure in themselves, and who are well-adjusted. Others use it to describe those who are constantly self-obsessed, love to boast, can never admit to being wrong, and are sensitive about even the gentlest criticism. These latter types are the ones referred to as having narcissistic personalities.

Pavonine99 said...

That could be true, I just never saw inordinate self-esteem as being the narcissist's main problem, since the narcissists I've known came off very differently from the egotists. The narcisists were consistantly negative and nasty to everyone who was not them, whereas the egotists were at worst inconsiderate but not constantly carping or malicious. They always struck me as comepletely different animals, but it may simply be a difference of degree.

John Craig said...

Pavonine --
It's my impression that narcissists come in a range, and at the extreme end of the range lie sociopaths. The "egotists" you refer to sound to ma like normal guys.

Shaun F said...

John - For what it's worth a definition of people who are secure within themselves is humble - they don't go off the rails, if criticized, or if at loggerheads over a different point of view. The self esteem issue is just pride if used in a truthful context. Which I differentiate, from being a bit awkward socially in certain situations or uncomfortable with certain people. I remember in high school, I could state "I had low self esteem" and consequently wanted to be very popular, and was. In hindsight, I would say I was insecure, and prideful and definitely wanted to make inroads with the out crowd. With regards to that girl, self centred, prideful people fly off the handle as there is a correlation between control, and self centeredness, and I noticed she played the victim card - as her feeling were hurt. On the other hand one must consider the deceitful nature of a narcissist and perhaps it was her pride that was hurt, not her feelings. Nevertheless, those are all bad signs. I’m sorry to hear your friend is with her, as his relationship is an elevator going down. I admire the fact that you told the person at the pool he was a hypocrite - however, I think in proverbs it states (loosely) “If you correct a fool, he can’t hear you - if you correct a prideful man, he gets angry.”

John Craig said...

Shaun --
I agree with you; I think some of the confusion here is over semantics. What some call self esteem is not what others call it.

And I'm not religious, but I like that Proverbs statement, it is right on target.

I don't know what will happen with my friend and his girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

What do you think of wealthy rock stars such as Bono and Bob Geldof leading campaigns for "Making Poverty History"?


John Craig said...

Andrew --
My opinion is the same as (I assume) yours is: they're a bunch of preening moral poseurs. They're not content with money and fame, they're so egotistical that they want reputations for being saintly as well.

Those who help others by quietly donating their time or money are wonderful, and usually motivated by sympathy and goodwill. But those who do it as splashily as Bono and Geldof do obviously have another agenda in mind: "Look at me! I'm a wonderful person!"

Anonymous said...

We both agree...I was hoping to lead to the idea that it is something a little more than egotism.

I would imagine that the attention, the hypocrisy, the fact they are 'pulling the wool over peoples eyes', the fact they are not anything like who they present could be quite tantalizing to some personality types?

Back to your article, narcissists (I'm talking about the most dangerous ones, the covert ones)are really hard to detect(obviously). I'm pretty bad at noticing the run of the mill types Narcissists and a pretty poor judge of character in general..damn maybe slightly aspy.

A lot of the time they are very well liked and charming. Maybe one person out of ten may say there is something 'off' about them or they may say something very unusual but besides that they are very very well hidden.

I find it much easier to spot the covert narcissist in a family dynamic. The narcissistic parent/s will usually have a "Scapegoat" the one who adsorbs the projected pain of the narcissist. (Mildly dysfunction non-narcissistic families may have one also)

The scapegoat child is the 'truth teller' of the family and the one who acts out the family dysfunction.

So, if you see a family which appears to be relatively normal but one child is an Off the Rails:

-Drug addict
-Anorexic etc
-Self harmer; or,
-Will not talk with the family
-Ostracized from family
-may have made suicide attempts or completed.

If you see any of these the child maybe the "Scapegoat" of a narcissist.

I could go on, and I will!

You will find the narcissistic parent/s may say the following when talking about the Off the Rails scapegoat child.

- "We have given him/her everything" (except love of course)
- "We tried to help him/her"
- "They burnt too many bridges" (the tokens of loveless help ran out)
- "Where did we/I gone wrong?!" (waa waa, me, me, me)

Just some thoughts/theory's/ideas (some stolen, some mine) while nursing a hangover!


John Craig said...

Andrew --
That's interesting about the scapegoat dynamic, I hadn't been aware of that, but it makes sense. It's true, there's often one screwup in a family which is otherwise successful. But family dynamics are complicated things to work out, and I wouldn't pretend to understand them.

Plus people's lives take unexpected turns that have to do with circumstance, luck, who their friends are, and their IQ's and levels of neuroticism (for both better and worse) as well.

Those comments you "quoted" do ring true, though, I've heard similar ones before.