In Greek mythology Narcissus was a handsome, proud man who disdained those who loved him. He fell in love with his own beautiful reflection in a pool, and because he couldn’t stop looking at it, he starved to death.
Narcissists have a great deal of resistance to change, basically because they cannot see a need for changing perfection. Narcissism is the epitome of insight-free self-centeredness. In the modern world the “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” represents the extreme end of the continuum of narcissism.
Narcissists are often very accomplished, but their inability to empathize with others and to tolerate criticism or setbacks is their downfall. They often have a sense of entitlement and are grandiose in who they think they are. They thrive on admiration and envy from others.
Narcissists can be male or female, but for present purposes I’ll make the narcissist male and call him “Joe.” He’s in his 50s and you meet him at a social gathering. He’s handsome and self-confident and apparently successful.
You have been single for a couple of years and are a bit surprised to find Joe is single. How can such a good guy “not be taken?”
Joe seems interested in you and you begin to date. You are wowed by his accomplishments and sophistication. And he is lavish in his comments about what a wonderful person you are and how he is so lucky to have found you. Joe tells you his ex was the scum of the earth, but you are a goddess. He wants to be with you forever and he asks you to marry him.
You marry, and when you’re out in public with him, you are the perfect couple that others admire. But in private he begins to get mean. He had you on a pedestal, but now you are an object of disdain. Sometimes it’s as if you don’t exist. When you tell him what you need, he doesn’t get it.
When you ask him anything personal, he stonewalls or gets angry. He may or may not lose interest in sex, but any real intimacy has evaporated. And the most he can say about any of this is that it’s your fault.
He revels in his public façade, but has zero insight into his deep feelings of shame and inadequacy as a man.
Here are a few clues to spotting a narcissist and protecting yourself. First of all be aware of your own feelings and stay grounded in yourself. Don’t let anyone put you on a pedestal, however flattering. Disagree with him, because narcissists can’t handle disagreement.
Narcissists are notorious for short-term, very intense relationships. Typically it’s no more than three to six months before devaluation—yours. So go slow.
– Dr. Neill is a Central-Island Registered Psychologist.