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Trying to UNDERSTAND and LEARN from relationship with a narcissist (and not/ no longer spew vitriol about them)

So, I think that people claiming their ex is a "narcissist" is a very over-inflated thing... People have shitty breakups, they (both) show their worst sides in the breakup and engage in some toxic behaviour and then walk away from it claiming that the other person is a narcissist, sociopath, crazy, damaged, whatever...

Whether it's that kind of breakup, or whether people truly did get entangled with a narcissist, I understand that the anger/ blaming phase can be an important part of getting over and healing from a negative, painful experience.

I've been through endless iterations of that... Blame, anger, doubt, self-blame, anger, rage, fury, disbelief, regret... round and round...

I think I finally need to leave that phase of rage and disappointment and hurt and enter a phase of acceptance and understanding and learning.

So I'd love some input from people who have also a) experienced the devastation of a narcissist relationship and breakup and b) moved on and healed enough to be over the intial rage phase and who can c) view the whole mess with a bit more distance, equanimity, objectivity, insight.

One of the questions rolling around in my head at the moment is the love-boming phase... I know not all narcissist relationships start out with that phase, but many do.

Having grown up with childhood trauma, I generally have quite a bit of healthy scepticism about relationships and people's intentions, but I thought that when you're in the "in love" phase of a relationship, it's normal for both people to sort of be wearing rose coloured glasses and to be "idealising" the other person a bit... I mean, nobody's perfect, but when you're in love, it can feel like the other person is perfect... And I don't necessarily think that's a guaranteed warning sign that the person must be a narcissist.

Ever since this happened to me tho, I'm hyper-sceptical now, when anyone is nice to me, that it's a potential love-bombing, idealisation, over-valuing phase of an overt or covert narcissist.

How can I tell the difference? Is there some kind of litmus test to differentiate "this person and I are a really good fit" and "this person is mirroring and play-acting that we're a really good fit for nefarious reasons of their own"?

I've lost all confidence at being able to distinguish that and I'm soooooo scared of getting entangled in that kind of dynamic again because it literally nearly killed me last time. I mean, I survived a whole childhood full of trauma and "coped" and "survived" but the relationship with a narcissist completely undid me and I lost the will to keep living. So I know the price can be beyond unimaginably huge - it can cause you to lose yourself in the most fundamental way.

So being able to tell the difference between "this person and I get on really well and we've got similar tastes and interests and values" and "this person is scamming me by emotionally tuning into what I want and pretending to be that" is truly a matter of survival.

In the aftermath of the relationship and breakup described above, I also got into the same dynamic with the boss at a new place of employment. This boss convinced me to leave my old job, they offered me amazing conditions at the new job, when I hesitated, they kept improving the job offer, I even said that I wanted to work there part-time for a while, to make sure we were a good fit and they complimented my work throughout that whole time (2 months) and then we finally signed the contract and literally on the day that I handed in notice at my old place of employment, the whole thing "switched" and turned into a dark, abusive stream of mistreatment... I was so shocked at the time and still wasn't anywhere close to understanding the dynamic of narcissist interactions... I didn't realise that they will do "whatever it takes" to get you hooked and that the moment they can tell you are hooked (eg handing in notice at your old employer) that they will shift the dynamic by 180 degrees, because now you're trapped...

So yeah, I really need to figure this stuff out.

And I know that my experiences of childhood abuse actually make me vulnerable to this stuff... After growing up in such an awful setting, a part of my psyche "wants" to hear the stuff that a "love-bombing" narcissist will tell me - that my work is great, that I'm a good fit for the company, that we're really alike, that I'm the partner they've been looking for...
Narcissism exists on a spectrum. This disorder is rampant right now. Sometimes vitriol needs to be repeatedly expressed so we can move on. I am very concerned about this disorder. It results in self sabotage egoism etc often leading to the person's death. I say educate yourself and stay away or set hard boundaries when even spectrum of it appears. I have forgiven family members and my first deceased husband for having these traits bit it has taken 12 years. Some of my forgiveness came in changing me. Becoming seizure free. My bankruptcy concludes and is dismissed by court in 1/24 or 2/24. Saying no. Blocking people from my life. Monitoring what I expose myself to and what I allow in my life.
 
I could use my intellect to construct a persona that would be appealing to you, even while actually just wanting something from you (money, admiration, etc).
Yeah, but what's the point? Why behave like a predator or a perp?

I could get a knife, walk over to my neighbour's house and stab him to death. I could drive my car into a random person walking down the sidewalk.

But why? What's the point of doing that?

We have a social, moral contract, that prevents us doing that kind of stuff.

It seems people with malignant personality disorders aren't part of that social and moral contract.

Which is why they feel free to behave as predators and treat other people as random prey.
 
Yeah, but what's the point? Why behave like a predator or a perp?
Well, as I mentioned, most people act in this way to get something from you.

They lack an internal source of empathy for others, and lack that sensation of guilt and remorse, so they're not motivated to behave prosocially from an intrinsic place. So if you have something this type of person wants (and sometimes that can be intangible - friendship, admiration, attention, affection, sex, etc) they don't have that filter that says "oh, if I manipulate/use this person to get what I want, it might make them feel bad." The fact that you feel bad is irrelevant and meaningless to them. So they'll do it.

For me, I learned how to be prosocial through external means. It's more advantageous to me to participate in the social contract because people are more compassionate, welcoming, forgiving, accepting, etc. when they feel that you care about their wellbeing. Later on, I did actually develop internal empathy responses (thanks to psilocybin), so now I understand more about my fellow human beings and why they act the way that they do.

I could get a knife, walk over to my neighbour's house and stab him to death. I could drive my car into a random person walking down the sidewalk.
Most people who behave like this have something neurologically wrong with them. They might be psychotic, schizophrenic, etc. Randomly killing people is a sign of serious neurological disturbance, and most people who do this qualify for an insanity defense. The more realistic scenario is that you might kill someone out of rage/impulse, by accident, revenge, honor, gang initiation, in combat, self-defense, etc.
 
Narcissism exists on a spectrum. This disorder is rampant right now. Sometimes vitriol needs to be repeatedly expressed so we can move on. I am very concerned about this disorder. It results in self sabotage egoism etc often leading to the person's death. I say educate yourself and stay away or set hard boundaries when even spectrum of it appears. I have forgiven family members and my first deceased husband for having these traits bit it has taken 12 years. Some of my forgiveness came in changing me. Becoming seizure free. My bankruptcy concludes and is dismissed by court in 1/24 or 2/24. Saying no. Blocking people from my life. Monitoring what I expose myself to and what I allow in my life.

While yes, we should all maintain boundaries that we don’t let people cross, I feel like this take is dangerous. This is how witch hunts and ostracism happen and that’s not fair to the majority of people who aren’t some evil villains. It’s not like anyone chooses their mental illness. Also, it’s not rampant right now- it’s just a buzzword catch all that people who have no clue about the actual disorder are throwing at anyone who has ever wronged them in some way.
 
Yeah, but what's the point? Why behave like a predator or a perp?
Narcissists do this for a reason that a person who is not a narcissist will never understand. It makes them feel good. It makes them feel powerful. Manipulation is intentional and when it succeeds all a narcissist feels is pride for what they have accomplished. It's difficult to explain and harder to understand. I'm sorry that you are dealing with a person like this. In my experience, the best course of action is not to engage. It's the only way to truly keep yourself safe. It seems you need to know the "why" of it all, but again, in my experience the "why" is irrelevant. Meaning, what difference does it make as to why someone treats you poorly? Just go. Their personality is their problem to deal with.
 
It makes them feel good. It makes them feel powerful. Manipulation is intentional and when it succeeds all a narcissist feels is pride for what they have accomplished.
This disorder is rampant right now. Sometimes vitriol needs to be repeatedly expressed so we can move on. I am very concerned about this disorder. It results in self sabotage egoism etc often leading to the person's death.
Reasons why the word has very little meaning these days (sigh).

Narcissism, in a pathological sense, comes from personal insecurities. That’s it. It’s not rampant, its no more ‘intentional’ than any other mental illness, it’s got nothing to do with pride or self sabotage, and it’s waaaaay down the list in mental health disorders that increase mortality rates.

It’s always a little depressing to read this kind of uninformed stigma on a mental health forum.

Be critical of where and who you get your information from. We have ptsd, and so managing our hypervigilence and paranoia means being really cautious about blanket emotional statements we throw out at other groups of people.
 
It seems people with malignant personality disorders aren't part of that social and moral contract.
NPD isn’t inherently malignant.

((I know, that’s a bit noodle-baking if the NPD person you’ve met IS an abusive asshole… Hullo trauma driven cognitive distortions & core beliefs!!!
…or… if the people you’ve been around find it less “rude” to identify a person’s actual attributes they dislike, & instead call anyone they dislike for XYZ reasons a narcissist, ABC reasons a psycho, 123 reasons Autistic, etc..))

I could use my intellect to construct a persona that would be appealing to you, even while actually just wanting something from you (money, admiration, etc).
Yeah, but what's the point? Why behave like a predator or a perp?
Because that is ALSO behaving like a world class diplomat, teacher, CEO, actor, musician, foreman, negotiator, and dozens of other professions that the BEST of whom can skillfully read a person/group/situation… and construct a persona / conversation / relationship… that inspires, motivates, challenges; creates deep bonds of loyalty, engenders trust, et Cetera, et Cetera, et Cetera… all getting the person/people in front of them? To do what they want them to do, how they want them to do it, and how to think/feel about both what they’re doing, and the person directing them to do so!

Whether someone is using their ability to read & predict & manipulate people to get what they want… for “good” or “bad” purposes? Is very dependent on the individual themselves. Their own sense of right/wrong, fun/boring, worthwhile/wasteful, ambitions & goals, focus & drives, etc.

Recognizable Individual Variations
Some individuals present with corrupt and antisocial traits, while others take pride in their high moral and ethical standards. Some are boastful, assertive, and arrogant; others can be modest and unassuming with an air of grace; and yet others can present as perpetual failures while constantly being driven by unattainable, grandiose aims.

One person can be charming and friendly, another shy, quiet, and vulnerable, yet another domineering, maneuvering, aggressive, and manipulative.

NOT (by a long shot) are all NPD people very good AT reading & manipulating people. They’re skills most people with NPD attempt to develop, similar to how most people with PTSD attempt to develop self-control, but individual results vary.

Don’t just need to take my word for it! Many of the worlds leading experts PTSD? Are also the leading authority in treating narcissism & NPD. Which parses, PTSD is an extremely selfish & self centered disorder, often mistaken for narcissism // similar behaviors for very different reasons. Van der kolk, Levine, Janina Fisher, etc.

Some reading you might find useful



 
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behaving like a world class diplomat, teacher, CEO, actor, musician, foreman, negotiator, and dozens of other professions that the BEST of whom can skillfully read a person/group/situation
I question how relevant these examples are as they are all professions, which are by their nature transactional. Personal relationships might be transactional for some people but others in the world have a different approach. Survivors of csa and children of parents with NPD,BPD,etc. were typically so conditioned to think transactionally that it can be challenging to imagine another way.
 
I question how relevant these examples are as they are all professions, which are by their nature transactional.
Because it was posited that constructing a persona that would be appealing, in order to get something that you wanted, is acting like a predator or a perp.

Setting aside that most people do that to some degree (changing the way we look/act in certain situations, and around different groups of people)… there are whole FIELDS where in order to even be good at it, much less be one of the best? You need to have crazy manipulation skills.

Just because someone can construct a persona to get something from someone else? Doesn’t mean that they’re a criminal or abusive.
 
Not just professions and certain lifestyles, but age groups too. My therapist playfully (but not really untrue) says infants/toddlers could fall under the NPD spectrum just as most teenagers are BPD. It’s just who you are developmentally and it made a lot of sense to me.

I’m not meaning that to infantilize or insult anyone. It’s just that babies are narcissistic through and through and teenagers are the embodiment of emotions on steroids. None of that is bad or evil or has any malicious intent behind it.

Don’t quote me on facts because I haven’t done the research to correlate, but I could see where if trauma happens during those specific stages, that’s likely going to be the disorder the person will be left with because they didn’t get to develop past that to some degree. And again, none of that is bad, evil, anything like that. Stop letting media define things, they get it wrong way too often.
 
@Friday fair enough.

@OceanSpray it is well understood that toddlers display narcissistic traits—they wouldn’t survive without them. Also why adults who display NPD traits are often viewed by those outside the dynamic as being giant toddlers.

@Ecdysis your question was how to tell the difference between normal nice behavior and love-bombing. And also to hear from people who are past the rage stage. I think those are important questions.

It seems this conversation has shifted to questioning the usefulness of the term Narcissist and extolling the value of boundaries in general. I see that value in that you are not required to hand out diagnoses or succumb to whatever social media post is flapping on about.

At the same time, it behooves you to be able to recognize behaviors that are exceptionally damaging to you. And the reason love-bombing exists is for you to doubt your own judgment.

People with narcissistic traits often give their object of desire compliance or shit tests. If you buy their shit then you have yourself to thank. Basically these are tantrums, in all their glorious forms.

If you suspect you are being led into a transactional relationship you can test them yourself! If you can change plans at the last minute, cancel, make mistakes, change your mind in general, without the other person sulking, blowing up, having a meltdown… then you have good information that they are probably behaving more relationally than transactionally.

Think about the worst narcissist relationship you were in. You can probably list a dozen tantrums they had and your job was to soothe. As an enabler you become trained to manage the meltdowns and manage the emotions of the narcissist. The love-bombing smooths the way for you to do that. Because you want to get back to the good stuff. It’s easy to blame yourself (and you were conditioned to do so or you wouldn’t be pursuing a relationship with such a person.)

Not everyone deserves your holding them in your heart. A relational style of thinking about people means holding their needs and your own at the same time. People with NPD traits will think only of their own needs, even if they can pretend to hold your needs, as a way to avoid their own low self-confidence. And enablers will only think of others’ needs, as a way to avoid their own low self-confidence. Like magnets they will find each other.

It’s hard if you, like me, have been conditioned to be an enabler because a non-transactional relationship without love-bombing might seem boring or not register as something worth pursuing.

What I’m doing is focusing exclusively on friendships. I still have to navigate the codependency dynamic but there’s so much more breathing room. It does take a long time to retrain yourself—it’s very slow.
 
If you can change plans at the last minute, cancel, make mistakes, change your mind in general, without the other person sulking, blowing up, having a meltdown… then you have good information that they are probably behaving more relationally than transactionally.
This is an excellent thermometer. ^^^^ All of this.
 
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