Off Label Patterns That Reveal Narcissism
“You are a bad person if you respond poorly to me!”
Happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise, and anger are the six basic emotions psychologist Paul Eckman identified during the 1970s. Basic emotions that he suggested are universally experienced in all human cultures. He later expanded his list of basic emotions with pride, shame, embarrassment, and excitement.
These basic, or core, emotions, we all have bumped into them in one way or another in our relationships where they are experienced on a deeper level when it concerns our romantic relationships. In a healthy relationship these core emotions are experienced in a balanced manner. We can talk about our feelings with those people we share these emotions with in order to minimize the duration of the lesser moments, to learn from ourselves and others, to create a mutual understanding and to have a healthy and close bond with the ones who are most important to us. But, when you are in a toxic relationship this is a one-way-street, a business contract set up by a narcissist, these fundamental emotions are being used against you in a very twisted way.
There are numerous ways for the narcissist to execute their manipulative mind games but in a nutshell, the narcissist’s happiness becomes your reward, they punish you by making you doubt yourself and feeling sad, and their fear (insecurity) and anger becomes your daily stress and confusion. As for the emotion of disgust, this is what the Narcissist displays in projecting and leveling the emotions of their victim(s). The emotion of surprise, well, this is what most of these individuals often experience and translate as shame.
This wry way of thinking is caused by the narcissist being incapable of experiencing any depth of vulnerability and thus projects his/her shame and rage outwards onto carefully chosen ‘targets’ in order to not have to ‘carry’ his/her shame and rage within him/herself. The result is them gaslighting you and using you as a flying monkey in order to maintain the controlling power over you…their victim. The narcissists starts to brag, exaggerate, and lie about their greatness and self-esteem that suggests that they are trying to convince themselves to disguise hidden self-loathing and feelings of inferiority.
Realizing that you are literally dealing with narcissistic abuse, it suddenly changes everything. And with ‘everything’ I really mean everything. As you start to wake up from the narcissist’s altered reality, crawling out of this murky nightmare of sadistic mind games, you have to reprogram your self-image, your entire thinking and emotions and is forcing you to step into a period full of confusion. And, most of the time, with a feeling of loneliness. This feeling of loneliness is spawning from the fact that the narcissist has already voiced his/her smear campaigns and worn the victim badge too many times with too many people meaning, others will not listen to you when you say “What you see happening here is not what is happening at home”. They think you are the problem!
This ‘wake-up call’ kicked-in my front door during the 2nd week of Nov. 2020. A moment that cannot be erased from my memory…ever! Anyway, shortly after picking up the scattered pieces the chaotic months that followed had left behind, I did a lot of work in understanding and breaking down the diagnostic codes about how and why these toxic individuals do the things that they do. This 2 year journey in both deep self-reflection (what made me realize that the physical and mental abuse I grew up with is NPD and has created with me not being able to voice my personal boundaries from an early age what, in turn, made me, as an adult, attract these toxic individuals) and gaining the knowledge on the ‘world’ the narcissist is living in and their abusive mind games, I briefly discussed in my previous articles.
Gaslighting others to make you the problem
Let’s tell it as a story shall we? Those who are in, are about to or just broke free from a narcissistic relationship know the scenario well. Behind closed doors, in a narcissistic relationship, is devaluation, manipulation, lying, criticism, anger, rage and, unfortunately, in too many cases also physical abuse. But then you are with other people, with family, friends, colleagues, and the narcissistic person in your life is all of the sudden the most charming and gracious person you have ever met.
He/she remembers people’s names, pulls a chair out, takes the hand of an older relative and helps them down the stairs, they pay the check for everyone, they compliment people…they even complimenting you!. You feel that you have gone through the looking glass and into the matrix. You look at this narcissistic person and think “What, wait…this person is actually really great! I was so wrong. He/she is so cool. My standards are too high. I am so lucky to be married to him/her. I need to stop overthinking this relationship.” And then, just to confirm your thoughts of you being married to this great person, your friends, family, colleagues, tell you “Oh, you are so lucky! What a great person you have married. He/she is so nice.”
As you go home you feel kind of warm and fuzzy, even in the car. But then the front door closes when you enter your home and the face looking at you is not the same face of the person who pulled out a chair for an older relative, helped someone down the stairs, picked up the check or complimented people. The face of this person is now unseen, unsympathetic and contemptuous. The warmth, the charm, the friendliness…poof…it is all gone. Now you are really confused. What is real?!
This back and forward…we had such a good time at dinner versus they are lying and manipulating me. But we laughed a lot during that movie versus they are criticizing and devaluating me a lot. That back and forward, that is the architecture of the narcissistic relationship.
These relationships are always 3 steps forward and 4 steps back. But the cognitive distancing that you experience imperceptible means that you focus on the 3 steps forward and you don’t notice the 4 steps back. You are always falling behind one step at a time. And so, over time, it becomes easier to blame yourself than recognizing the narcissistic abuse in the relationship.
These big grandiose shows of generosity and solicitude in front of other people, especially other people who matter to you, that is the ultimate gaslighting trick of the narcissist. Because now everyone is in on the delusion. People only see the generous, helpful, charming person. And because most people out there don’t understand or recognize narcissism and gaslighting, they think you are the problem.
Don’t become the narcissists property
Those who are on the receiving end of the equation of this narcissistic abuse, can be e.g. anxious, sad, have difficulties with social interactions and experiencing self doubt. Unfortunately, other people might actually see the victim of narcissistic abuse as the problem and the sunny narcissist as the saint for putting up with his/her negative partner who is complaining about the relationship. This is gaslighting!
The narcissist person who needs narcissistic supply is no fool. They often know that they need to put on a show to get supply. They are interpersonal sprinters but they can only wear the mask of charm for so long before the exhausting gets to them. And then they are back to be their malcontent and contentious selves. That is why the mask comes off as early as the car ride home.
They are a ‘charmer’ in public but they are a cruel manipulator at home. Although many might think it is, it is actually not a disconnect. The narcissistic person is doing what the narcissistic personalities do, getting their supply in public and then getting rid of their tension and regulating their shame by attacking you.
Now this cycle of being generous and charming in public and abusive and mean in private is a profound gaslighting experience because it leaves people questioning their perception and their reality. It is why, over time, these relationships leave people so anxious, so confused, so full of self-doubt, so helpless and so hopeless. And to people out there who are not in these relationships but maybe had that experience of your friend or someone close to you who is suffering in such a relationship but your experience has been of the grandiose public version of the narcissist, recognize that this dichotomy is a thing. Don’t be one more gaslighter to the people who are going through this. Don’t be that person who says “Well, I don’t see it because they are always so nice to me.”
Off label patterns that reveal narcissism
When we search for a clinical explanation about the topic of narcissism we find very strong identifiers that we can zero in on. Identifiers like pathological self-absorption, an inflated ego and a sense of entitlement. False confidence that illustrates that these individuals are living behind a false front. But also ‘them’ displaying impaired empathy or a willingness to exploit other people prone to exaggerated emotions both positive (they either love you) and negative (they may hate you). But their manipulative mind games go further than that and are often unnoticed.
Here are 14 different indicators that will give you an idea of how extensive this manipulative and mental abuse can be. With the gaslightning in the back of our mind, let’s see if we can understand what some of the off-label identifiers of narcissism are and you be the determiner to see if this is something that you recognize with someone or, can relate to as the receiving end of the equation.
1. Narcissists can be very inclined towards criticism which is part of their attitude of superiority over individuals. They have a gift of being able to find out what is ‘wrong’ about you which is one of the narcissists favorite games. They like to poke you and set up scenarios where you indeed will give them an ugly response and then they turn right around and say “See, there’s is the proof that I need. You are a defective person.” And they go into the character assassination.
2. Narcissists can be laser focused on you. By that I mean, they can watch you very carefully to determine if you are doing whatever is necessary to make them feel better in the moment. They want to zero in on how you are supposed to look or feel or what kind of opinions you should have. They focus heavily outwardly.
3. There is only one opinion in the world that really matters and guess whose opinion that one is.
4. There is a pattern that is referred to as splitting. Splitting or binary thinking, means that there can be a strong ‘all or nothing’, ‘black or white’ kind of a mindset. You and I are in agreement with each other and if not, I hate you! There is no nuance, no middle ground. They don’t know how to deal with complexity or diversity. That is something that is just very uncomfortable for them.
5. Simple suggestions create an oddly defensive of projection and accusing kinds of reactions. For example you might say hey you might try this instead of this. And instead of them saying Hum, okay they can go off with this real strong defensiveness like why are you trying to tell me what to do! They can be very thin skinned in a very odd kind of way over minutia.
6. There is self-delusion that inhibits them to say hey let’s learn from one another’s conversations. Now when I say self delusions it is like I don’t need to hear from you, I don’t need to hear from anybody. And so when they say Hey let’s just talk and I’ve got some ideas I know you do too the delusion is, you just need to listen to me and I say if I need an opinion from you. Because, I am the only one in the room that matters.
7. They hijack conversations constantly. Now from time to time when somebody tells you something, you will respond with a ‘me too’ reaction. For instance when someone says I went to an event and you say oh I did something similar last week. But you will notice that narcissists go way beyond that. You may be talking about something that is very important to you and as you are into the conversation, you realize that that person just took whatever you said and start talking about their own favorite topics. And, listening more closely to the narcissist, you realize they do this a lot. They don’t let you have a conversation. They just make it all about themselves and they think it is perfectly normal. They think that this actually is empathizing when in fact it is shoving you aside. I am the only one here that’s important don’t you know?
8. They can have a chameleon-like engagement with people or if they are with a certain group. Over here they will be like the people in group A and when approaching group B they will be like them and many times there are gross contradictions. So which one is it? The answer is neither,. There is not a real “them” in there.
The narcissist lack any kind of center or real sense of meaning or self, and is therefore constantly looking outwards for other people to fill this void inside them. And, by telling exaggerated and false narratives, this void is temporarily filled with the attention people give them.
So, metaphorically describing a narcissist as a chameleon simply refers to the fact that they will often adapt and change to mimic their surroundings like a real chameleon does. Narcissists will intensely mirror and copy the traits, hobbies, interests, values of someone they enter a close(r) relationship with, but will then happily discard them and move onto other people and do exactly the same, mimicking a completely different set of traits and hobbies.
9. They are hardly ever curious about you unless they want something from you. They might ask you some questions but they truly are not interested in you because they diminish you, and everyone else who has a strong sense of self, very heavily. They are constantly in a fault finding mode meaning, the only thing the narcissist is interested in when asking questions, is gathering facts which will be used against you later on.
10. They like for you to filter your relationships with others through them. Many times you might hear them say things like why would you want to spend time with that person?
You have a loyalty to that individual but do you know how many things that they’ve done that have just been absolutely wrong? You’re going to wreck your life if you’re with that person!
They need you to zero in with them and so they are putting down others.
Many narcissists will cut you off from your friends or family members. They will or speak badly about people who are important to you or ‘take’ certain people inside the family, whether it is kids or adults, and act as if these people belong to them. In that way they can be the ‘gatekeeper’ of your relationships.
11. They can often be very impressed by someone else’s power, accomplishment, their prestige, their beauty or whatever positive they bring to the equation and want to settle up next to it. This might come across as the narcissist having a healthy way of being impressed by someone’s accomplishments but, it is part of their envy and filling in the void they have inside. It is their way of saying I need to be associated with the highest and the best. I don’t want to just be an average person like you. Telling that the narcissist is an average person is an insult to them which makes them immediately resort to their defense mechanism of projection.
12. They offer lots of excuses for their own personal problems and, it is always someone else’s fault. If there is a breakup in a relationship, if there is a project that did not go well, if a mistake was made or just something was forgotten, it is always someone else who is responsible for that. In their mind they are constantly the victim of other individuals inappropriate actions.
13. They are not known for being patient. There is a constant undertow of irritability and agitation. And as a result, when you go counter to them, you are going to pick up on their irritability and impatience and that is part of that emotional dysregulation that is so easy in common with them. Unfortunately, when you go too often against this narcissistic trait, physical abuse might be lurking around the corner.
Not to enter another fight, you work faster what makes the narcissist say See, you are creating this stress with me because you are always stressed and in a hurry. Or, if people only knew how pushy your are they would understand why I am having a burnout.
14. They are very willing to betray a friend, family member or colleague if it means that they get to move ahead. If they have to shove their grandmother, child, partner, off to the side in order to get ahead they are willing to do that. To them you are nothing more than an object to make them look better, friendlier, charming or, the victim.
Based on these backstabbing behaviors, which I had to deal with while living with a narcissist for 22 years, my answer is: narcissism is not something that just exists strictly in academic textbooks. It is something that happens at a real-time level. It is far-reaching, it is very broad and it impacts many people in a disruptive kind of a way.
Staying alert for years takes its toll
It is amazing how many people can be ‘bought off’ by someone picking up the check after a meal. This false generosity, warmth and friendliness, is exactly what most people see. And so, they assume that it is you that is the problem.
A narcissist makes their victims small and anxious — almost afraid of the world in some way — what makes others think “Ugh, this ‘person’ is so charming no wonder that they don’t like the relationship. Who wants to be with that anxious person!” Not only does this confuse their victims and test their reality, it also cuts out the amount of support their victims can get and need, because other people actually really fall for the false narratives of the narcissist.
So, adding gaslighting to the above list I have given you 15 different indicators that will give you an idea of how extensive this mental abuse is the narcissist is executing in a slithery and malcontent manner. I could actually add more indicators like parental alienation but now you have a head start in recognizing the difference between the narcissist and their victims. As well as it might answer the question ‘why do we have to educate ourselves so much on this topic of narcissism’.
It is really important for you to recognize that this behaviour is a pattern. These two masks, these two faces the narcissist is showing and acting upon, is their game and it really does harm to those who are stuck in a relationship as such. This behaviour of someone being able to be so different in public, so different with their friends, so different with other people and then show you an entirely different face behind closed doors… is a form of gaslighting and it blinds people’s perspective of recognizing where the true problem lies.
People need to understand and recognize these masks these narcissistic individuals wear. Therefore, if your friend comes to and says What you see out here is not what is happening at home, listen! Because, that is not your friend complaining, it is your friend saying that there is an abusive dual life they are stuck in.