People with narcissistic tendencies are dangerous — physically, spiritually, emotionally. They are especially dangerous in a crisis where the pressure of a situation reveals the depth of their narcissism. Thus, it’s important to be able to spot them — and deal with them in a rational, thoughtful way.
First, let’s do a level-set …
Psychologically, I’m referring to Narcissistic Personality Disorder. You can do your own search on this issue, but this article has a good summation:
Narcissistic personality disorder involves a pattern of self-centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, a lack of empathy and consideration for other people, and an excessive need for admiration.
Spiritually, I’m referring to someone fully consumed by their ego-self. A metaphor I frequently use is the rind and the fruit. Picture an orange. The rind represents the external identity we’ve adopted to make it through life. The fruit represents our interior true Self. A spiritually healthy person has a fairly thin rind and lots of juicy goodness on the inside. The more the trauma or delusion, the thicker the rind — and the less the fruit. Someone fully consumed by their ego-self is comprised primarily of rind.
It’s important to note that we all have narcissistic tendencies. More on that later.
With those references in mind, here are five ways to spot a narcissist:
- Fragility — Narcissists are famously thin-skinned (which is ironic considering the above metaphor). They tend to become petulant, defensive, angry when confronted. This is because the rind is being pierced — which means their entire identity is threatened. This is why they are always comparing themselves to others.
- Forgetfulness — Because narcissists live almost completely in the world of illusion, they are forgetful of their own statements and proclamations. They don’t remember what they said, what they promised, what they threatened. They lack the recall ability of rational thought. This is why narcissists are notorious for not reading, avoiding hard data and being easily swayed by conspiracy theories.
- Bad at Moral Math — Narcissists have a strange way of keeping score. They will do 100 horrible things and one “good” thing. When confronted with their horribleness, they will bring up the one thing and proclaim their righteousness. This is also how a narcissist’s enablers apologize for his/her behavior. A famous version of this is in regard to the Italian dictator, Mussolini — where it was said: “At least he made the trains run on time.”
- Impulsiveness — Narcissists are fast at what should be slow and slow at what should be fast. They are notoriously impulsive with relationships — or staff in a working environment. They are notoriously slow at grasping facts, data, science.
- Destructiveness — Because narcissism is both a mental and spiritual disorder, it never ends well — unless there is some sort of intervention or awakening. If not, it inevitably ends in some sort of bunker — either a literal bunker or a mental one.
So how does one deal with a narcissist? Here are three ways:
- Practice distancing — The thing the narcissist fears the most is being ignored. Attention in any form fuels their ego. It’s tempting to debate or argue with narcissists. But they love that shit. The best thing to do is to remove yourself from their presence.
- Set clear boundaries — This is using declarative words and firm voice to establish a clear buffer. Imagine speaking to them as you would a child. This is useful if you have to deal with a narcissistic person in your family or an ex-partner/co-parent.
- Be empathetic (but not an enabler): As mentioned, we all have narcissistic tendencies. We have identities, roles, views that we get very attached to. I say this because empathy is one of the most effective tools for dealing with narcissists. It’s not so much about empathy for them and more about understanding where they’re coming from as to not become like them.
It is important to remember that, ultimately, narcissists are consumed by fear. Their aggression, self-aggrandizing, reactivity, bluster are all fear responses. Fear of being found out. Fear of being ignored. Fear of being alone. The antidote for fear is Love. In this case, a deep, abiding self-love that is grounded in humility, worthiness and confidence.
Ryan Holiday shares it this way:
“When we remove ego, we’re left with what is real. What replaces ego is humility, yes — but rock-hard humility and confidence. Whereas ego is artificial, this type of confidence can hold weight. Ego is stolen. Confidence is earned. Ego is self-anointed, its swagger is artifice. One is girding yourself, the other gaslighting. It’s the difference between potent and poisonous.”