Before I start discussing my topic today, I wanted to clarify something:
Most of my regular readers know that I have a Ph.D. in school psychology and that I work as a school psychologist as my day job (because, alas, nobody wants to pay me to blog).
I originally noted my Ph.D. and profession in my WordPress and Twitter bios, having added that information to my bios more out of habit than anything else ~ an automatic response to the ubiquitous “Who are you?” question.
I have now removed that information from my bios. I didn’t remove that information because I am ashamed of it in any way, nor am I trying to hide it.
Instead, the reason I removed that information from my bios was two-fold:
1). 99.9999 percent of the time, I am writing as a person/Lesbian, not as a psychologist. In the rare instance when I am writing as a psychologist, I am careful to specify that fact.
2). I’ve found that many people are unduly impressed with a Ph.D. People have a tendency to mistakenly think that because someone has an advanced degree, he/she is somehow better than others who don’t. That’s not true. I most certainly do not feel that way myself, and I decided that by saying I had a Ph.D. in my bios, I might be unintentionally perpetuating that elitist nonsense.
All of the above is to explain my decision to remove that information from my bios at this point (because I have received a few questions about it), and to reiterate to everyone to always assume I am speaking as a person/Lesbian, rather than a psychologist, unless I specify otherwise.
Today’s post is also (very) personal, not professional. Narcissism is a topic that I know a lot about, both as a person and as a psychologist; however, my focus today is solely on the personal, rather than the professional.
Much has been written about narcissism: the symptoms, definition, treatment, and so forth. For those curious about the basics, a simple Google search will garner oodles of results; to get the most reliable information, start with information from a known reputable organization such as the American Psychological Association, the Mayo Clinic, etc.
This post isn’t intended to be a lesson on narcissism or a description of narcissism, but rather a discussion of my own personal observations/reactions.
I do want to clarify that some people may display narcissistic-type features/traits/behaviors but may or may not meet the clinical criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
Bottom line: We cannot, and should not, diagnose others on the internet anyway, so I will focus on features/traits/behaviors rather than actual or intended diagnoses.
***Therefore, for the purposes of this post, the word “narcissism” will be used as a descriptor rather than a diagnosis. Also, I am using “she” in this post because my own personal demons are with females who have narcissistic traits, but, of course, these traits can be exhibited by either males or females.***
Why do I know so much personally about narcissism? Simple: Because I am the daughter of a narcissist. I have sort of danced around this fact in my previous posts about my mother, because I was hesitant to say the bald truth publicly. I was raised to never say anything negative about my mother, and old habits die hard. In fact, so hard that I never did speak a word about it until after she was dead.
I won’t go deeply into my personal experience with my mother and the effects on me as her daughter, at least not in this post…I am not quite ready for that yet.
But I am sharing this information to illustrate why I not only recognize narcissistic features/traits/behaviors in others, but, more importantly, to explain why I also still occasionally fall into the traps set by female covert narcissists…even now. Yes, even now. Even after getting a Ph.D. in psychology. Even though I am certainly old enough to know better. Even after years and years and years of working to understand the dynamics between narcissists and their targets. Even though I know all about narcissism…well, at least intellectually, that is. Even though I do (or should…?) actually know better than to engage.
As I said, old habits die hard, especially when you are conditioned to respond in a certain way. Sometimes, without realizing it until it is too late, I still unconsciously respond like Pavlov’s dog to the siren call of a female covert narcissist (which only happens online at this point, because I am MUCH better at recognizing and avoiding them in person).
When I do respond, I unwittingly become an active participant in a toxic pas de deux. It is a dance that I recognize all too well. It is a dance that will never end well for me, because there is no winning with a narcissist.
But: A narcissist cannot perform her twisted dance without a partner, someone who is primed to dance the specified steps. It takes two to tango, as the saying goes, and I now find myself finally ready to hang up my dancing shoes permanently.
Image: Pixabay: Jabore: Creative Commons CC0
For me, the warning signs that I have been sucked into the vortex of a narcissist are as follows:
- an uneasy feeling of familiarity, even when I am dealing with a complete stranger on the internet;
- a distinct difference in my response to that specific person which very far from my normally calm self;
- queasiness, shakiness, fatigue, headache, malaise;
- a very strong feeling of needing to defend myself and/or my point of view;
- knowing I should pull away from the situation/argument, but feeling strangely unable to do so;
- anger and defensiveness, usually way out of proportion to the situation;
- a seeming inability to disengage without a LOT of conscious effort;
- losing sleep and a general feeling of unease and restlessness;
- unable to truly focus on anything else for the duration of the dance;
- an obsessive, oppressive feeling that I need to fight as if my life is at stake;
- fight or flight response (rapid heartbeat; tense muscles; etc.);
- repeated fantasies that everyone else will somehow magically see the narcissist for who she really is;
- feeling unreasonably threatened (while knowing that the person poses no literal physical threat);
- strong emotions trumping my knowledge/logic…I can even consciously be aware that the individual is likely a narcissist (or that she at least exhibits some narcissistic features/traits/behaviors), but yet still feel compelled to engage anyway, despite knowing it is a fool’s game to do so.
Of course, everybody will have different ways of recognizing that they are dealing with a narcissist; the above is my own personal list only, based on my own experience.
So, you may be wondering: How can anyone win a battle with a narcissist?
Sadly, you can’t. I can’t. Nobody can.
Let me say that again, because it bears repeating:
NOBODY CAN WIN A BATTLE WITH A NARCISSIST.
So: If I ever find myself locking horns with a covert female narcissist (my personal Achilles’ Heel) again, I vow to remember the following:
- Recognize the above signs, preferably sooner rather than later;
- Remember that any response whatsoever gives the narcissist fuel which she will use to burn me at the stake;
- Walk away. No matter how hard it is, walk the hell away and keep walking (or, even better, RUN LIKE THE WIND);
- If the situation occurs on social media, block the narcissist immediately, and block everyone who attacks on her behalf (because she will enlist others to do so);
- Remember that narcissists are usually incredibly cunning/manipulative and extremely good at fooling people, so most others are not going to be able to see the truth about her (so give up the hope that they will);
- Refuse to engage with the narcissist, her minions, or even random strangers offering “help”;
- As much as I may want to defend myself, I need to remember that I don’t need to do so (and, in fact, it will even be counterproductive if I try);
- Listen to my wife Dirt and to friends I trust ~ they will always be much more objective about the situation/person than I can possibly be at the height of the drama;
- Remember that I could fight all the female covert narcissists in the whole world, but not only would I not win my battles with them, but, more importantly, fighting with them would certainly never heal any wounds from being the daughter of a narcissist.
Finally, to quote Vizzini from my favorite movie, The Princess Bride:
“You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia.’ But only slightly less well known is this: ‘Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!’ Ahahahaha, ahahahaha, ahahaha—-thud”
Another classic blunder to add to Vizzini’s list is: “Never engage in battle with a narcissist”…because I have a better chance of single-handedly winning a land war in Asia than anyone does of winning a battle with a narcissist.