The Therapy is Dandy Guidebook to having a Narcissist for a Parent. Chapter 16.
An ongoing survival guide.
Narcissism isn’t the same thing as Syphilis.
Just because you are exposed to it doesn’t mean you have it.
This concern is something a lot of people have been asking me. People who have narcissists in their life are worried about being closet narcissists themselves, or light narcissists, narcissists by proxy, or Stockholm syndrome narcissists.
There has also been a preoccupation with whether or not a person is without a doubt a narcissist or not. In past posts, I have suggested this is less of a problem than one might think. Perhaps a better explanation is in order. I have been using a new adjective recently, one that applies to these situations. It is “narcissistic enough.”
If for example an individual has 4 out of the 9 criteria that the current DSM IV-TR lists for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, my professional opinion is that they are narcissistic enough. And my common sense completely agrees. It’s nice but not altogether unsurprising when those two can agree on something.
Narcissistic enough to not know how to validate the emotional state of their child. Narcissistic enough to treat the child as an extension of their own ego, or worse treat them as an accessory. Narcissistic enough to allow their own needs and ego to get in the way nearly every time the child has an issue they need help with. Narcissistic enough, or so criminally preoccupied, that they don’t pay any real attention to the child. Narcissistic enough to blame the child for their (the parent’s) own narcissistic wounds.
Maybe some further explaining would be prudent here. I feel like I am on a roll. The DSM IV, or the nearly finished DSM 5 is not written for you, the population who are suffering from relationships with narcissists, or borderline personality disordered individuals, or people with ADHD, or ODD or any of the other well-known acronyms. The DSM is written for professionals to diagnose and for insurance companies to send a reimbursement check for services, and it is written for (some would argue it is written by) pharmaceutical organizations to sell you meds you probably don’t need (and probably don’t help that much).
That may have sounded like a rant, but I assure you I am just reporting facts. The difference, and believe me there is a difference, is that this guidebook and my professional raison d’etre is to provide clients and the general public with helpful information that addresses how you can deal with problematic individuals in your life, be they narcissists, or whatever. Hence the term: Guidebook. Okay, moving on.
Clues someone in your life might be narcissistic enough:
- Do you feel the relationship is unfair in terms of who supports who?
- Do you struggle to feel validated or heard by this someone?
- Does this someone have little patience for you, or anyone else’s problems?
- Does this person actively or passively aggressively denigrate you, put you down, or otherwise emotionally invalidate you?
- When backed into a corner, does this person blame you, or get angry at you, or others?
- Does this person not take responsibility for their actions?
- Does this person talk about their lofty, unreachable goals, but never quite follow through with any of them?
- When this person fails at something, do they blame others for the failure?
- Do you feel numb, defensive, not yourself when you are around this person?
10. Does this person have little ability to accept criticism?
If you can answer yes more times than no, guess what?
Having to deal with a narcissistic on a regular basis is enough for one to think that maybe they are the one with the problem, that they are—in effect—the crazy one.
If you keep blaming yourself for other people’s problems, then that is an even bigger problem.
Let’s pick up with that little codependent slice of heaven next time, shall we?