Escaping The Narcissist Monster

September 8, 2014

NarcissistThe Narcissist monster belongs under your bed, not in it.

Tomorrow marks the publication of a new book by Jeffrey Kluger, senior editor and science writer at Time magazine: The Narcissist Next Door: Understanding the Monster in Your Family, in Your Office, in Your Bed-in Your World

Kluger points out that we’re all sociopaths in the beginning:

“Small children, by their very nature, are moral monsters. They’re greedy, demanding, violent, selfish, impulsive and utterly remorseless.

…They expect to be adored but not disciplined, rewarded but never penalized, cared for and served by parents and family without caring or serving reciprocally.”

This is narcissistic psychopathology only when we fail to outgrow it.

“It’s an evolutionary imperative for babies to be selfish and narcissistic at birth in order to get their needs met. Life is set up so that they get what they have to get to survive.”

Mark Barnett, Developmental Psychologist

Unfortunately, narcissism persists in some individuals long after they’re able to fend for themselves. They generally make life miserable for all those who must deal with them.

There are several components to the psychopathy of narcissism:

  1. Entitlement
  2. Egocentrism
  3. Bottomless appetite for attention and rewards
  4. Indifference to the suffering one causes others
  5. Lack of impulse control
  6. Lack of remorse

By about six months of age, babies begin to recognize when someone else is sad or suffering. Even newborns can tell the difference between a real infant’s cry and a recording of a baby crying. This is the start of empathy.

For the adult narcissist, desire equals license. In the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment, one-third of the 4 year-olds in the study were unable to delay gratification in order to earn a larger reward. A follow up study was done of those kids when they reached 18. Those who had lacked impulse control had inferior social skills, were less able to cope with frustration, and had SAT scores 210 points lower, on average.

What Causes Narcissism?

Genetics

There is definitely a heritable component to narcissism – a 2000 study of identical twins showed that when one twin was narcissistic, there was a 77% likelihood that the other twin was also. This was not the case with fraternal twins.

Mask Model Theory

Some experts believe that self-absorption and egotism mask self-loathing and low self-esteem.

Parenting Theory

Others believe that overindulgent parents create the little monsters.

Can narcissists ever change? Kluger states that therapy can help, but most narcissists believe they know more than the shrink and won’t participate.

Narcissists are disproportionately male and are disproportionately represented in the dating pool because they generally employ short-term mating strategies and fail at relationships. According to research, they also struggle with rage and misogyny:

“Heterosexual, narcissistic men become enraged at people who deny them gratification, whether it’s social status, having a trophy partner or sexual gratification,” said study author Scott Keiller, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Kent State University Tuscarawas in Ohio.

“The group that could gratify heterosexual men the most is heterosexual women,” Keiller said. “To the extent narcissistic men would get resistance, that would make them enraged.”

Men who scored the highest on the narcissism test were more likely to view women as conniving gold diggers, as teases who tempt men with sex and don’t deliver, or as seductresses with plans to trick men and “get them under their thumb,” Keiller said.

“Narcissistic men hold overtly hostile, adversarial ideas about women,” Keiller said. The findings suggest they view their relationships with women as patriarchal rather than egalitarian.

Narcissists have remained in the population because their malignant self-love comes across as confidence and charm when you first know them. Extremely vain, they are careful with grooming and fashion, usually presenting a polished appearance. They are great seducers.

How to Know When You’re Dealing With a Narcissist

The usual checklist of telling behaviors includes grandiosity, controlling behavior and a fragile ego. But often the narcissist keeps those behaviors under wraps for a while, and women get sucked in while they are still on their best behavior. What’s the best way to filter out these toxic guys early?

The best way to identify the sociopathic narcissist is to keep a sharp eye out for displays of empathy – or lack thereof.

You should see emotional range and expression in a man from the very first date:

How does he talk about other people?

How does he respond to the needs of strangers?

Do you get an immediate sense of the closeness of his relationships?

How does he interact with animals?

What is his relationship history during the past year?

How interested is he in learning all about you?

Neuroeconomist Paul Zak:

“How does your man respond to chick-flicks? If you spot a misty eye when the guy gets the girl at the end of the movie, or the little boy succumbs to cancer, he’s got an intact oxytocin system.”

You should see signs of a big heart from the beginning. If he’s cool, collected and not at all vulnerable, next him. He’s double trouble.

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