What do I do if I am the narcissist? Am I narcissistic? Did I do this to our relationship?
If you are asking yourself these questions, likely you’re not narcissistic — but it is possible. The reason these questions are so popular is because in the community of narcissistic abuse, there are so many behaviors narcissist project onto victims. that oftentimes the roles become confusing. The manipulation and gaslighting endured by narcissistic abuse survivors can cause them to behave in similar ways to their abuser, be impulsive or erratic, and generally their survival mode causes inconsiderate and inappropriate behavior. However, due to the nature of narcissism, many do not have the capacity to self-reflect on their own and it takes extreme interventions or long-term therapy for them to have a realistic and objective self-image. It is not likely that a narcissist would read about narcissism and be outwardly affected in anyway, but deep down he will know exactly who he is.
If you do believe that you have narcissistic tendencies, do an inventory of your relationships and how you address issues when in a disagreement. What is your goal when in an argument? To gain control or to gain understanding through reasoning? How do you communicate your feelings when frustrated? Do you make charges against the other person about their character, what he always does, and how if he really cared about you he would do what you ask of him? Do you find yourself distrusting people and arguing with them about your beliefs no matter how much they try to reason with you?
Narcissism exists on a spectrum, so we all do have some traits or behaviors that may be characterized as narcissistic, the problem is created when our behaviors become toxic and abusive through mind games, manipulative accusations, and inflexibility with other people.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of clinical psychiatry revealed that “about 6 percent of people in the United States have full blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder,” however, the criteria for this diagnosis is so strict, it’s likely many more fall high on the spectrum with several toxic and abusive behaviors negatively affecting their relationships, jobs, and personal self-image.
It is possible that due to narcissistic abuse a person can engage in behavior that places them much higher on the spectrum due to how they have processed trauma. If you have experienced a narcissist, and now see yourself behaving with different people in similar ways, it is recommended that you seek therapeutic support to avoid hurting others the way you have been hurt. Even if you have not necessarily experienced abuse in any form — and if you find you are often very self-loathing, passive-aggressive, and crafty to get your way you may be placing higher on the spectrum and will need some help to change your behavior.
Another sign that you are high on the narcissistic spectrum is not taking responsibility for your role in a misunderstanding or disagreement. In Thought Catalog, Shahida Arabi wrote for “Narcissists, after all, lack empathy and are unable to even own up to their abusive behavior most of the time unless it serves them in some way.” If you monopolize conversations, or passively and psychologically belittle your significant other, or friends you may be higher on the spectrum. Saying things like “I can’t believe I am still your friend” to a significant other or “You don’t even deserve me” in efforts to validate your entitlement is a sign of unhealthy narcissistic traits.
The positive side to all of this is if you believe you have narcissistic traits and are higher than average on the spectrum, you are ahead of the curve. Now, it is up to you to address these issues of interpersonal disarray by getting therapy, talking to friends and coworkers about specific ways you can improve, and working toward being empathetic to others.
In Psychology Today. Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D. states, “Once you [the narcissist] stop using ‘devaluation’ as your all-purpose interpersonal tool for making you feel better, you will need to come up with other, less toxic ways of soothing yourself and getting attention.” So the first step she discusses on not devaluing others is to learn what behaviors and statements make others feel devalued. Do you make jokes about people’s weight or appearance when feeling bored or feeling left out? Have your friends told you before and you didn’t listen? This journey to addressing your narcissistic adaptations will start with having these conversations again, with an empathic mindstate. The next step is to make a list of behaviors and types of comments to avoid so that you can identify more appropriate ways to express yourself and get your needs met. As you may have a habit of devaluing people, unintentionally, you need to respond slower to situations and in conversations so you may think about the most interpersonally effective way to communicate.
Creating replacement behaviors is an important step in eliminating toxic habits; one that a therapist would work really well with. However, if therapy is not an option, you can role play different situations with a trusted, objective person in your life and practice healthy ways of expressing yourself.