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5 Things You Need to Know About Narcissists

Updated on June 8, 2015

Living with a pathological narcissist in your life is very painful. Far from just benignly in love with themselves as they are sometimes described, the true pathological narcissist is a brutal, sadistic manipulator and abuser. They are not only not in love with themselves, they cannot love anybody - including you. They will destroy your self-esteem, your reputation, your family, your support system, your dreams, your life and your very sanity if they get the chance, and for no other reason than they want to and they can. You represent everything they are not and can never be. They hate you for that and they will take it all away from you if you let them.

The best advice is to simply stay far away from narcissists once they've been identified in your life. Don't talk to them and don't feed into their manipulations. You can't help them. They cannot be saved. They can only pull you under with them - and they would truly love to do so. If the narcissist in your life cannot be avoided, here are five things to remember in order to protect yourself.

5. The narcissist will always use you.

Narcissists are users. They are manipulators. They don't see people as living, breathing human beings with feelings. People are viewed as either stepping stones to get what they want or hurdles to be jumped over on the way to it. That's it. No matter what they tell people, no matter what they say, this is the truth. If we strip away their manipulative words and look only at their actions, we actually see this very clearly. It's who they are and it can never change. The part of their brain that enables them to care and empathize with other people is either missing or so dysfunctional that it is completely ineffective, depending on the childhood trauma that made them a narcissist in the first place.

Why do narcissists use people? Narcissists view people as objects and as extensions of themselves. Because of this, they are unable to see people as separate beings from themselves with their own feelings, needs, wants and opinions. We use our coffee pot. We use our arm. They are objects that serve a purpose in our life and nothing else. We don't worry about whether or not our arm wants to lift a gallon of milk. We don't think about if our coffee pot likes making coffee for us. We just make them do it. This is how the pathological narcissist sees and reacts to other human beings. Other people have things they want and they want to absorb these qualities into themselves somehow, to make up for what they are lacking. They will continue to use you for as long as they think you have something they want. They enjoy manipulating others and they get excitement and pleasure from tricking or "getting over" on other people. It makes them feel smart and superior.

This cannot be changed and it is very important that everyone dealing with a narcissist understand this. It's very tempting to view them as helpless, wounded children who need healing - especially the ones who present themselves this way - but narcissists are not children and they cannot be helped, fixed or healed. It is too late for them. It's very sad but the damage has been done. They are what they are and this cannot be changed. This cannot be changed. The narcissist cannot be forced to see other people as human beings. It is a waste of time to try to "get through" to them, or get them to see it. They are incapable of doing so.

4. The relationship with the narcissist will never be equal.

This can be a hard one for people to accept. Most of us are raised to believe in equality and equal treatment for everybody, so when we run into someone who doesn't feel this way, it just does not compute. When dealing with a pathological narcissist, however, it is necessary to get this clear right away.

The relationship with a narcissist can never be equal. They don't want it that way. They don't want an equal relationship - at all. They want to be first. They need to be first and they will do whatever they have to do to ensure that they are the most important, the only one who matters. Any attempts the other person makes at independence and equal treatment are viewed as extreme threats by the narcissist and are reacted to as such. The person is attacked for daring to have feelings and for daring to think these feelings matter. The pathological narcissist cannot understand that other people have feelings and does not care anyway. All that matters to them is themselves. This may sound trite to some people, or cliché; we all know selfish people. Pathological narcissism is far more than just selfishness, though and anyone who has lived with a narcissist knows exactly how terribly abusive, how horribly painful and how destructive this kind of relationship is.

A person suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder can only be happy when they have crushed the other person beneath their feet. It is the only thing that makes them feel better about themselves. If they cannot control, dominate and crush the other person down, they will never stop trying and what results is an endless power struggle with the narcissist continuously accusing the other person of attempting to control, manipulate, oppress and subjugate them. In reality it is the narcissist who is doing these things, but they accuse the other person of it because unless the narcissist is the only thing that matters, they don't feel they matter at all. They cannot bear to be invisible and this is how they feel when they are forced to acknowledge other people's feelings, accomplishments or good qualities.

When dealing with a narcissist, it is imperative to always remember: they can only feel like a person by making other people feel like less than they are. They only feel validated when they can control and dominate others. This can never be any different. They will never see other people as equal. To do so would be the same as suicide for the narcissist. This is how important it is.

3. Everything the narcissist says is a lie, a manipulation and a scam.

It can be extremely difficult to extricate yourself from the relationship with a narcissist. They hang on very tightly. They can be charming and manipulative, desperate to keep control over you. It's hard to say no when they are saying all the things you have been waiting so long to hear from them. Suddenly they've seen the light! You have shown them the way! It's finally happened! Losing you (well, almost losing you) was the kick in the rear end they needed to see how selfish they were being and Lord Jesus, it will never happen again! Saints be praised, it's a miracle!

No. It's a manipulation. Narcissistic lies are designed to trap other people into doing what the narcissist wants them to do. The lies narcissists tell are exactly what people want to hear and they are saying it because they know that. They know what you want them to say and they will say it if they have to, but it's never going to be true. Everything that comes out of these people's mouths is a lie. But why? Why do narcissists lie? They have no truth. All they have are lies and manipulations that go along with whatever they are trying to get you to do today. Tomorrow they will argue the exact opposite without batting an eye, if they have to do it in order to win. Winning is all they care about.

At 4 o'clock the narcissist is fervently apologizing for lying to you (again), saying he will do anything - anything, do you hear him?! - to make it up to you because he never meant to hurt you. You are the best thing that ever happened to him, you are amazing, you are wonderful. At 4:30 the narcissist is insisting he never lied to you. You claimed he lied and then forced him to apologize to you even though he's done nothing wrong because you are unreasonable, controlling and abusive. He twists everything that's been said in a way that makes it look like you are lying, confused or are deliberately making things up. When you continue to insist this isn't true or point out that he's already admitted to lying and apologized to you, he launches into a screaming hysterical tirade designed to control the situation by shutting you down and deflecting the consequences of his actions away from him. Look what you're doing to him! Look how you're hurting him! You cruel, evil, vicious abuser! Yes, OK, you think he lied and yes, OK, you did catch him red-handed in the lie but look at what you are doing!! It doesn't matter what he's done! Nothing warrants this kind of abuse! YOU are the wrong one! YOU!!!!!

Why the change? He changes his tune because his initial tactic didn't work. You didn't do what he wanted you to do, which was accept his apology and simply forget that he lied with no hard feelings. The fact that it's the 30,000th time he's lied to you about the same thing doesn't matter to him. The fact that he is obviously not actually sorry doesn't matter to him, either. He's apologized and you need to accept it. If you don't, you're abusing him. He will continue to change his tactic until something does work. Apologizing didn't work, so now he changes to denial: he didn't really lie, you just think he did because you're stupid/crazy/unreasonable/controlling/etc. If this particular strategy doesn't work, he will change from attacking you to claiming you are attacking him: You're only saying he lied because you hate him so much. He can't do anything right or make you happy because you're cruel and abusive. When this tactic doesn't work, he reacts with a meltdown designed to guilt or frighten you into doing what he wants. This might entail violence - either toward himself or you, screaming, crying or any combination of emotional dysregulation.

If the final meltdown does not work, if you stand there and watch his hysterics stone-faced without backing down, he will calm down and start back at the beginning again and apologize. In fact, if the argument continues long enough, you will see him go through the same cycle of manipulation tactics over and over again. It's all he knows how to do. He can't take responsibility for what he's done (though he probably thinks his "apology" covers that), he cannot understand or care that he hurt you and he cannot see that he's done anything wrong. All he can do is try to control you by either telling you what he thinks you want to hear or using guilt, violence and hysteria to bulldoze you into what he wants. None of it is genuine, except for possibly the anger you see. Everything these people say is a lie designed to manipulate, control and force you to do what they want you to do.

However far he has to escalate it, whatever he has to do to control the situation and make you do what he wants you to do, that's how far it will go.

2. The narcissist will never change or stop abusing you.

Narcissists have a brutal superego that assaults them with horrible things 24 hours a day. Lashing out at other people is the only way they know to try and find peace from it. It doesn't work, but they have no other coping mechanism. They simply spread the misery around, hoping to take some of the punishment off of themselves. At the core of their personalities, narcissists believe they are bad. They believe they are weak, unlovable and broken. It is because of this that they treat the people who love them so badly. The very fact that the other person loves the narcissist must mean there is something wrong with that person. Because of this, the person is seen as irretrievably flawed and stupid, therefore deserving of the narcissist's abuse.

This is the nature of the relationship with a narcissist: it can literally never be anything but abuse. The other person only exists to make the narcissist feel better. In fact, the narcissist is hoping to effect a sort of personality transplant or swap with the other person. The other person is everything the narcissist feels he is not: caring, smart, charismatic, well-liked, competant, powerful, exciting... whatever. The narcissist wants to absorb those good qualities into himself and force the other person to carry all of his bad ones. He needs to control and dominate the other person in order to strip them of their coveted good qualities and take them into himself. He needs to abuse and reduce the person in order to force them to carry his bad qualities and relieve him of them. He is a weak person who cannot carry them himself and the image he projects of himself (and onto his victims) is nothing but lies.

That is another reason he is abusive: If he convinces the other person that they are bad - or convinces other people that the person is bad, that makes him good. If he lies about the other person and makes other people dislike that person, that makes him more well-liked. If he says the other person doesn't care, this means he cares more. If he convinces the other person they are crazy, that means he is competant. If he makes the other person feel weak, this makes him powerful.

This is who the narcissist is. This is why narcissists abuse. He projects all of his bad qualities on to other people, and when he is called out for doing these things, he simply says, "No, that's what you're doing. You must be the narcissist!" This results in a never-ending cycle of the narcissistic simply deflecting every single thing he is doing wrong onto the other person while never actually acknowledging or taking responsibility for any of it. He will never face reality. He can't. Narcissists are like the living embodiment of that old saying, "I'm rubber, you're glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!" Except they actually mean it. They live it.

Perhaps most importantly, the pathological narcissist enjoys hurting other people. Narcissistic abuse is like food to them, literally. They love it, because they hate themselves and they hate you. They get something out of hurting those who love them. They can't get it from just anybody. It has to be someone who cares about them; hurting strangers just isn't personal enough to give them that feeling that fixes them - even for just a second - and because of this, they are addicted to it. In fact, many times it is apparent how much they are enjoying themselves just by looking at them. They are often overconfident or unaware regarding how they appear to other people, so they make zero attempt to hide it.

If anyone reading this is waiting for the narcissist in their life to "see the light" or have that epiphany, give up now. It is literally essential to his well-being that he abuse, dominate and control others. He can never learn, he can never change and he will never stop. To stop abusing the other person would mean admitting that the person doesn't deserve the abuse and that's never going to happen. The other person now carries all of the narcissist's bad qualities and the narcissist absolutely despises these things. The other person is also seen as possessing good qualities the narcissist dearly wants and thinks he deserves but cannot have because the person cruelly refuses to give them. This is seen as very unfair, even abusive. The way the narcissist views it, he is striking back in self-defense because by not being given what he wants, he is being terribly, terribly mistreated. The pathological narcissist believes that a person who is that despicable, that abusive, that unjustly punitive and withholding toward him deserves all the abuse the narcissist can give them. And they will get it.

1. The narcissist cannot love you.

If we've not made this apparent thus far, it needs to be apparent right now. If anyone reading this is asking themselves, "Can narcissists love other people?" the answer is no. The narcissist does not love you. You don't even love the narcissist, because the person you fell in love with (or want to love, if the narcissistic personality in your life is a parent, friend or sibling) does not exist. The person you fell in love with was a mask. It was a reflection of what you wanted and what you are. You essentially fell in love with yourself, because the narcissist was only reflecting your own wants and good qualities back to you in order to snare you. The real person is what is described here: a vicious, abusive, empty shell that needs constant sustenance, support and domination to exist.

The narcissist cannot be happy and they cannot let anyone else be happy, either. Even if you do absolutely everything the narcissist asks you to do exactly the way they ask you to do it and exactly when they want you to do it, they will find some way for it to be wrong so they can punish you. If you live with a narcissist, you probably already know that. Don't hold your breath or waste your time waiting for it to change. It won't. They are incapable of love, of empathy, of sympathy, of loyalty or of honesty. The "relationship" with a narcissist is an endless cycle of abuse, domination and cruelty. This never changes and it never ends. The narcissist cannot love anyone, especially themselves. They only know how to take.

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    • SinDelle profile image
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      SinDelle 2 years ago from Macon, GA

      @Bill Beck: You are absolutely right. It's just so difficult for non-narcissistic people to understand. And you're correct about setting boundaries, too. This will anger the narcissist but not everything is about them - regardless of what they think. Great comment! Thank you!

    • Bill Beck profile image

      Bill Beck 2 years ago from Ohio

      While we are all surrounded by narcissists, I did not know that until getting to know the ins and outs of one particular family member. All of the things in your list are true, and they always seem like they have some other explanation. That is the narcissist's skill.

      Once you understand that you are dealing with a narcissist, and how these separate things from your list work, it is jst as difficult to comprehend. When faced with it, and when thinking about it, one can not wrap one's head around the idea of a person with zero compassion. It seems like an exaggeration to say that they think of other humans as objects, but there is no better way to describe it. You will have to grasp that fact in full, and set up limits regarding your interaction with the narcissist. There is no learning or growth out of this condition for the narcissist. None whatsoever.