Tricks on how to extricate oneself from an association with a narcissist

Dr Leon F Seltzer who has an article in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Dr Leon F Seltzer who has an article in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Image: Supplied

During a brief, but meaningful, catch-up with my tribe last week, the topic of narcissism was a highlight.

Ironically, I have known narcissists who are quite oblivious that their observation about “other people’s selfishness” is, quite clearly (to us), a reflection of themselves.

Few of us are cognisant of — or willing to go digging for — our own blind spots.

In close relationships, narcissism is a common theme, but has only recently found itself worthy of the media spotlight.

Psychologists have warned of it for years, and provided tools to patients for handling this most nefarious of character flaws, but most people generally don’t know what to look for.

One of my tribe, inspired by our chat, posted a neat, layman’s guide to narcissism, which she’d found on that virtual tome of self-awareness, .

Far from a fluffy exposé, the article by Dr Leon F Seltzer refers to the nine classic traits listed in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — but explains that health professionals see many more (which is why the rest of us may “miss the signs”, since some traits are more subtle or complex than the well-known ones).

The common, most glaring personality markers of a typical narcissist are: a grandiose sense of self-importance; preoccupation with fantasies about unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love; a belief that she or he is “special”; a heightened need for admiration; a sense of entitlement; interpersonally exploitive; lacking in empathy; envious of others and displaying an arrogant, haughty, rude or abusive attitude.

Easy to spot, and we probably all know at least one.

But Seltzer points out that behind the pompous, larger-than-life markers above, there lurk some lesser-known ones that may help us understand why some people just don’t work for us, or cause our hackles to rise.

Narcissists, you’ll discover through close relationships with them, are highly reactive to criticism and generally have low self-esteem.

They can also be “inordinately self-righteous and defensive”, says Seltzer, and react to contrary viewpoints “with anger and rage”.

Maddeningly (and I’ve come across this one more than once), they also project onto others the very qualities, traits and behaviours that they can’t — or won’t — accept in themselves.

Are there tricks and tips to help us extricate from an association with a narcissist?

I’m sure there are — and perhaps I’ll follow this up with a self-help guide to a fuss-free escape.

But since the first step is identifying what just seems “off” — and being aware that the narcissist in your life will usually, quite successfully, make you believe you’re the problem — being able to recognise one is a good place to start.

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