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What do you do when you think a family member is a narcissist?

(26 Posts)
Betnovate Tue 05-Jul-11 12:55:44

And slowly destroying all the relationships around her?

Aislingorla Tue 05-Jul-11 13:11:42

Why do you think s/he is a narcissist?
How close are you to them?
Please, more details.

TeachMySelfBalance Tue 05-Jul-11 13:21:57

No matter how much you love that family member, I believe you must understand that you will eventually become a target for their narcissistic supply. It is inevitible. Therefore, please establish a perspective and boundaries to protect your own mental health.

If you point out to her that all these relationships are sunk because of her behavior and the reaction is not one of shock, embarrassment, remorse, and change...then there is a clue (one of many) that she might be NPD...not that we are diagonsing anyone (leave that to the professionals).

If you are considering "being there for her"...imho, it just isn't going to be mentally healthy for you. Being invisible is very depressive. The effect isn't like getting run over by a train, it is more like Chinese water torture-very slow, very subtle (especially if she is generous). You walk away from contact wondering why you don't feel quite right, or why you are thinking 'what did that mean?' or 'that was wierd, but I just can't quite find the right words for it'.

Betnovate Tue 05-Jul-11 13:28:41

My sister. She is getting more and more impossible. Her sense of entitlement and her grandiosity are unbearable, she is a perfectionist in some aspects of her life, other aspects are in chaos but she refuses to recognise that (let alone accept help) and instead pushes the blame onto others.

I think you are right; I must stop trying to help her. She does nothing for me, ever, and any attempts at helping her always end in disaster.

missorinoco Tue 05-Jul-11 13:32:38

Can I ask a question - is the generosity aspect a significant part of the make up? I have a family member I have recently decided has narcissitic traits if not the full NPD. She is can be generous, almost overly so, always arriving with gifts, and one of my failings are that I don't match up to this. Does that fit?

TeachMySelfBalance Tue 05-Jul-11 14:35:17

Betnovate, sad angry for you. It is difficult to deal with. Can you say 'no' to her?

Pride is a hallmark, I think. They must 'save face' and are masterful at deflecting anything even remotely negative.

Your experience mirrors mine. Gifts are a golden opportunity for the NPD to shine in all their own glory. Recipients are expected to fall to their knees in gratitude and then rise and give a 5 min. standing ovation. The day has to be 'made' by their gift. Anything less, like a simple "thank you", just doesn't rate.

I finally figured out that my sister likes to have moral superiority. The car loads of gifts for my kids (she is childless) created a debt. I would now owe her. She also liked to use gifts to make us jump through hoops. It had to be a surprise.

Betnovate Tue 05-Jul-11 17:36:25

Yes, pride is a good description. She is immensely proud and cannot be seen ever to make any kind of mistake. And she wants to project an image of domestic and maternal and professional perfection that she lack the resources and organisational skills to maintain, so is constantly dropping balls and expects other people either to pick up the pieces or to turn a blind eye to being let down.

TeachMySelfBalance Tue 05-Jul-11 18:26:01

Yes, I think the pride and superiority supplement each other.
Other individual people are a mere appendage of the central NPD's brain. Other individual people exist only to reflect the narc's life back to her/his self.

Being overly helpful is a trick too.

I think it is called 'over functioning' on the NPD's part. They breathe up all of the oxygen in of a room so no one else can function. But from the friends' perspectives, she was making them functionally invisible.

My sister has literally taken over the chairmanship of charity events that her friend 'just didn't even know where to begin' painting the hall/foyer of neighbors while they were away on vacation (she was feeding their dog). They made the mistake of being indecisive about the color choice in front of her.

Btw, I never did hear what the neighbor's reaction to the painting was even though sister talked about doing it endlessly for 3 or 4 weeks prior. Suddenly I never heard neighbors mentioned at all...You don't suppose that they were not grateful? wink

Betnovate Tue 05-Jul-11 18:59:51

"Other individual people exist only to reflect the narc's life back to her/his self."

Yes, I think this is a good point. My sister seems completely unaware that I have any kind of life or commitments to other people beyond her, when I make plans with her. She is entitled to make changes to agreed plans at will, and I must bear the burden and responsibility for those changes, but I mustn't make a single change or woe betide. It is all about her, and nothing is about me.

missorinoco Tue 05-Jul-11 20:16:33

Very helpful, thanks.

TeachMySelfBalance Tue 05-Jul-11 20:43:52

I know exactly what you mean, Betnovate.
The All About Sister Show.
I have walked off of that set.

The turning point for me to set severe boundaries was when she applied for maternity leave when I was pg. That was the pinnacle of invisibility for me. I did not call her when I gave birth. Two weeks later she called; I told her I had to take a break from our relationship as I could not make my pregnancy be all about her.

I hope you can set some boundaries to preserve your self-esteem as well as the essence of 'self' of who you are. Narcs are vampires of the soul.

TeachMySelfBalance Tue 05-Jul-11 20:52:38

Hi again Betnovate and Missorinoco (xpost with you there)

Try this book. It has some very good strategies of coping if you can not detach.

Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving & Thriving With the Self-Absorbed by Wendy T. Behary

It does help to vent on MN too. It has servered as a support group for me. The things that seem petty-the circumstances that will be turned on you as the bad guy if you say anything-will be understood here and more importantly validated.

Just remember that it is not you, it is her.

TeachMySelfBalance Tue 05-Jul-11 20:54:08

An unconscious slip ther?
It is hard to sever the connection, very hard.

Betnovate Tue 05-Jul-11 21:36:23

"the circumstances that will be turned on you as the bad guy if you say anything"

Oh God, yes. If I stand up for myself (and since she won't listen to anything or accept any responsibility, I have to scream and shout to ensure I am heard) I get shot down as a "bully and abuser". Self-defence is very, very difficult as she has no shame.

RidinOnAPig Tue 05-Jul-11 21:58:19

I'm beginning to think my mother is.

She'll do you a favour and say 'Now what can you do for me?'

Whenever she does something for anybody or even something for herself she demands praise and lots of it.

Everything has to be tailored to suit her; meals out, work, schedules (i.e. getting angry when people do things even if they don't affect her), others behaviour, way things are done.

If you are ill, no sympathy. Even will say 'I'm bored of people being sick'. If she then gets unwell she demands mass sympathy and gets very uptight about it. Even recently called a family member who cried after a major operation 'manipulative' and after the event said, 'She didn't even apologise for crying'.

No empathy of other peoples situations or hectic schedules. Working mother's 'choose to work' and have it easy because somebody else is looking after their kids. Men, well that's their job to work so it doesn't matter how busy they are. She on the other hand is incredibly precious about her work.

Whenever something happens, good or bad, it's always about 'how difficult it is for me' (even if it is something happening to another person' or 'how pleased i am'.

Drags everybody else into her affairs to help her out, but when it comes to other people 'we all need to live our own lives'.

I could honestly keep going with examples for another few pages.
How do you know what's selfishness and what's narcissism?

TeachMySelfBalance Tue 05-Jul-11 22:58:06

It sounds like your mom is selfish and manipulative. The narcissistic tendency of no empathy is there, too. Wow, what a mix! You have my sympathies. [Dreadfully sad ] Queen holding Court, being dismissive of the lesser pheasants.

A very big thing with my sister is dismissiveness. When I told her I was pg, she said she already knew. (No way, it was a surprise pg.)
Another majestically dismissive example:
One day, when I said "no" and she could not prevail with the "Get That No Into A Yes" game, she said, "Well, I just don't know you then". That justified her failure, I guess. hmm

To people who are ill, "Oh everything will be all right." But don't ever sneeze within a 10 foot radius of her.

Could go on and on, too...oops already did! blush Thanks for listening, comparing notes.

TeachMySelfBalance Tue 05-Jul-11 23:05:13

Selfishness vs. Narcissism
I think selfishness can exist by itself within a person, iyswim. Like someone who is self absorbed, a teenager. (Hope you are not a teenager! grin)

Narcissism, imho, requires the presence of another person to degrade in whatever fashion that suits the purpose of the moment. For me, it is as if the narc can not feel good about herself independently; she can only feel good if someone else has been degraded (by whatever mechanism) by compairson.

Sorry I can not describe it better. It is a very tricky dynamic. I was fooled for decades.

garlicnutter Wed 06-Jul-11 01:15:01

"She didn't even apologise for crying"

That is seriously fucked-up shock No way to call that common-or-garden selfishness: there's a wholesale inability to imagine that someone's post-operative shock/pain might be good cause for crying, only annoyance at the patient's perceived bad manners towards her!

I assume she really meant "She didn't display enough gratitude for my divine presence at her miserable sick bed"?

Am shock and grin at your sister, TMSB - sorry for laughing, but ... mat leave for YOUR pregnancy?!! And stealth decorating the neighbours' hallway! You've got a cracker there, all right.

TeachMySelfBalance Wed 06-Jul-11 01:36:08

Thanks garlicnutter. I appreciate that validation immensely.
My counsellor said that 'she might have some issues with boundaries'. Ya think?

The twist about the painting is that we have a bonkers aunt that did some volunteer painting when we were growing up and that example was a snickering point through the years. She'll probably never realize that she did it herself...or conconct some bizarre reasoning that would excuse her but not bonkers aunt-perhaps she didn't use fire engine red the way aunt did.

Betnovate Wed 06-Jul-11 07:03:25

My sister rings me up (occasionally) for a self-congratulatory monologue that might last for over an hour. She hasn't got a clue what is going on in my life because she isn't remotely interested in anything to do with me. She loves to moan about anything and everything, but if ever I offer a solution (which I often can do) she rejects it, often with the most preposterous fabricated reasons (she cannot find a real reason). She hates the fact that I could possibly remove one of her reasons for moaning and garnering sympathy.

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Wed 06-Jul-11 07:20:55

Narcissism, imho, requires the presence of another person to degrade in whatever fashion that suits the purpose of the moment. For me, it is as if the narc can not feel good about herself independently; she can only feel good if someone else has been degraded (by whatever mechanism) by compairson.

I second this analysis. Well said, Teach.

TeachMySelfBalance Wed 06-Jul-11 16:03:23

Thanks IsMeAndMyPuppyNow.

"but if ever I offer a solution (which I often can do) she rejects it"

This is my sister also. She would often state what a wonderful relationship she has with her neighbor for keeping each others dogs when needed. So when my dh finally put his foot down and wouldn't put up with her dog anymore (he is allergic to pet dander) I suggested that the neighbor could look after her dog. All of the sudden it was "Oh no she couldn't dare ask such a favor", bla bla bla, "that would simply be out of the question", etc etc etc. Wtf?

BettySpaghettiOnAJetty Wed 06-Jul-11 17:04:30

My PIL is a narc. We recently lost our business and he was almost happy about it. It gave him the excuse to give his incredibly Ill-informed and ridiculous opinions as to 'where you've both gone wrong' we are treated like the poor relatives now. Even more than before.

He lent us some money about 15 years ago, a relatively small sum, then refused to accept when we tried to pay him back. That gave him the excuse to remind us about the time he 'helped us' and how 'ungrateful' we were every time there is a big family row.

I could go on.

Orbinator Fri 08-Jul-11 21:33:09

I do wonder if my ex is a narc. He's actually decided to have an operation on his leg (could have had it months ago or next year, etc) at the precise time i'm giving birth - won't be able to walk as has a cage on it for months. Is therefore completely useless around the house just when I'm relying on him and talks about it constantly, even at my MW apps or to taxi drivers who always seem to fail to notice I'm 8 months preg in favour of his giant metal cage being waved about with excessive force... A couple of months ago he had a similar op on his shoulder, again completely through choice and not necessity. He has to have the perfect body, you see.
When he emails me he'll go into detail about how he is the best at everything and how silly others are, give me highlights of his day, or his woes and then conclude with "but anyway, lets talk about you" which somehow always has the effect of making me feel I'm not meant to have anything to say hmm
He never sees when people don't like him either. He seems to have a strange inability to read social situations, especially when he is being embarrassingly arrogant.
Does this sound like a narc?

maandpa Sun 10-Jul-11 09:57:03

Yes Orbinator, your ex does sound as though he is a narc. I had an ex like this too.

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