Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts. However, many can have tendencies without having NPD. In the UK, as many as 1%-6% is thought to have it. Many challenges come with interactions with someone with NPD. Many of these stem from how they perceive the world and their inability to maintain “object constancy”. This means that it can be extremely taxing when trying to communicate and, over the longer term, impact your own mental health. Although I am not a trained professional, I hope that this post will support you in feeling stronger and enhancing your ability to hold interactions and know what to out for.
Understanding NPD begins firstly with recognising healthy relationship interactions. Here are some signs:
- Both capable of listening while making an active effort to understand each other
- Ability to acknowledge mistakes and taking responsibility for them
- Feeling like you can be your true self in front of the other
So how does that compare to an interaction with someone who suffers from NPD? There are many signs and symptoms which are ultimately due to their perception of the world as excessively self-involved.
Signs and symptoms may vary, but people with the disorder can:
- Appear self-entitled
- Display exaggerated sense of self-importance, achievements and talents
- Be preoccupied with dreams of power and success and/or the perfect mate
- Believe they are superior (often based on wealth) and only associate with equally superior people
- Monopolize conversations and belittle others in them
- Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance
- Lack or absence of empathy
- Envious of others while believing others envy them
- Appear arrogant, overbearing, boastful and pretentious
- Difficulty regulating emotions
- Problems with change
- Displays rage when others are not compliant
- Lack of respect for the personal space or boundaries of others
Verbally or emotionally abusive:
- name-calling, insults
- condescending, public humiliation
- intimidating, yelling, threatening behaviour
- possesiveness, jealousy
- blaming, accusational
- controlling, monitoring movements
- telling you how you should feel or think
- invalidating your opinions
What you can do
Attentions seems to gravitate there. Be it the positive or negative type; they remain the centre of attention. Despite how much you may initially be prepared to adjust and accommodate their needs, it will never be enough. Protecting a personal sense of self and mental wellbeing is important if this is someone you are unable to remove from your life. Otherwise, you may fall into pushing your own needs aside to keep them satisfied.
Setting clear consequences and following them through is important otherwise, these will appear as an idle threat. Narcissists pay attention when things begin to impact them personally; therefore, consequences matter. Also, it is important to keep in mind that some may enjoy making you uncomfortable, so avoid displaying emotions when communicating with them. Being clear and consistent about what is acceptable is also important although keep in mind that they will not be able to understand or care.
Boundaries are most commonly met with negotiation; however, this may not be as direct as many assume. This may be through playing for sympathy, making counter demands, trying to make you appear unfair or unreasonable in some form. It is doubtful that they will admit a mistake or take any responsibility for hurting you. Instead, this will be projected onto someone or something else, be it a person or a situational cause they believe to be justifiable. Regularly dealing with someone who has a narcissistic personality can take a toll on your own mental and physical health.
The Gray Rock Method
The grey rock method involves communicating in an uninteresting way when interacting with abusive or manipulative people. It is worth mentioning that although this is frequently mentioned, its effectiveness has yet to be officially tested. The aim is to cause the abusive person to lose interest in you by:
- avoiding interactions
- keeping any interactions brief
- giving short answers to questions
- communicating in a factual, unemotional way
- avoid sharing personal information
Although I hope this post was useful, it’s important that if this person is causing a significant impact on your well-being, then the best option is a qualified professional.
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