Off Label Patterns That Reveal Narcissism (part II of III)

Maria Anna van Driel
4 min readSep 3, 2022

I want to start the second part of this trilogy by offering you a compliment and that I am convinced because you are here and reading this article because you are wanting to learn. In other words, you are the kind of person that wants to receive input in a way that is going to lead you toward understanding and personal growth. We have a word for that it is called ‘insight’. You want to have insight into who you are and how you can make it work productively.

Having a healthy insight into who you are, is a beautiful skill to have, right? Now try to think about how many times you have engaged with a highly narcissistic individual. Somewhere along the road it just dawns on you that this person almost seems to have a complete unwillingness and inability to receive input of any kind and that they have a very, very poorly developed sense of insight. At first, you may think well he/she is just being stubborn and he/she just don’t want to take responsibility for him/herself. But after a while, the thought can dawn on you if it is not just more than that. It seems like the elevator does not go all the way to the top floor with these individuals.

Narcissists are constantly in a compensation mode

The defining features of narcissism are all non-insight encouraging ingredients for example they are very self-centered and have an attitude of entitlement. They are deeply insecure but try to cover their insecurity by being falsely superior. They have developed a strong controlling approach toward life. They can be highly manipulative. And, they are not very caring kind of person in the sense that they don’t care about your feelings because they lack any empathy. And so, we can say with a great deal of certainty that psychological insight is not just something that they choose not to employ, it simply does not exist.

Becoming aware of this trait becomes very disillusioning when you are the kind of person who likes to be insightful and wants to bring a specific skill set to the equation. As a person who is respecting others having their skill set, strengths, and weaknesses, your mindset is aimed at let’s pull it together and see if we can make this work in a mutually beneficial way.

Sometimes though, as you engage with these toxic people, you start to notice that their mask is becoming transparent and their narcissistic tendencies begin to rise to the surface. They become so demanding and so manipulative that you finally conclude this is not working for me. As much as you want to engage with these individuals, you can clearly see that they don’t know how to engage well with others. So, you make the decision to unhook yourself from their tentacles.

Sometimes that unhooking or disengagement, goes all the way to the far extreme where you have to get away from this relationship completely aka ‘no contact’. Other times there are mitigating circumstances that don’t make that, particularly a wise thing to do but you can still go in a more disengaged way emotionally aka the ‘gray rock’. Going gray rock means that you pull back emotionally and keep a bland approach toward the narcissist. You greatly lower your expectations and you don’t really engage on any kind of personal or vulnerable level with someone who does not know what to do with that.

Image source: IStock

What to expect when you unhook

Now there is one overarching truth that we can say about what is going to happen when you let it be known, through word or deed, that you are disengaging and that is: a narcissist is going to come after you with lots of accusations. They will let the world know that you are the problem, you are the one who is creating all this difficulty.

They will come at you with lots of venom, blame, and shame, and when you get hooked on your counter emotion and anger, you remain tethered. And as long as you are filtering much of your emotional well-being through that person’s emotional dysregulation you are still engaged but in a very unhealthy way.

So there is one thing that you are going to need to hold on to, and this is the key to you knowing how to disengage successfully from a narcissist, and that is it’s not about you. The narcissist is going to want to make the diminishing of the relationship all about you in a negative kind of way. They want to make sure that you know that you are a disgusting person, that you are an impossible person, and that you are the one who has made their life miserable. But it is so important for you to recognize that this is their game, it is not about you.



Maria Anna van Driel

In 2020 I realized I was trapped in a toxic relationship since '00. In Aug. '22 I found the strength to break away, flip my life to become a psychotherapist.