It’s ironic that so many millions of Americans voted for a man who has made it clear he doesn’t care about anyone but himself. Do they really believe he will make their lives better? I grew up in a family where one parent was a Democrat and the other was a Republican, but I can tell you that neither would have ever considered voting for an extreme narcissist like Trump.
I believe it is important to understand the mental processes of narcissism, because this personality “type” evokes either adulation or revulsion, and sometimes both in the same person. I know, because I spent many years of my life tied up in knots trying to please the whims and demands of narcissistic men in my relationships.
You may share the assumption I once had, long ago, before daily experience shattered my illusion, that a narcissist is simply a guy who is a bit vain, kind of conceited, what you might call a clothes horse. He loves to dress up, and be admired. He thrives on being the center of attention. In a child, we call it being a show-off, but by the time a full-blown narcissist is swaggering around the business world, he’s got his act down pat. He knows how to push buttons, and senses when he needs to back off, smooth things over with flattery or claim that he was only kidding (Hey, can’t you take a joke?).
At its heart, the behavior of a narcissist means controlling and manipulating others to get his way all the time. And when he feels thwarted, to erupt in rage and thus ease his inner turmoil.
A few traits common to the classic narcissist are: erratic behavior, shrewd, unreliable, predatory, disdainful, cunning, bigoted, offensive, and a formidable foe.
You can find many narcissists in the bloodied pages of history, stomping their way across nations and demanding fealty and gold.
However, in order to get what he wants, the most adept narcissists learn they have to play by our rules at least part of the time. This means showering people with compliments, particularly in public or in front of others whose esteem he is cultivating.
An example would be at a dinner party where the narcissist wants to impress his guests with the façade of a happy marriage. He’ll glowingly praise his wife—then, after the guests have gone and are safely out of earshot, he’ll lambast her for embarrassing him, being cold to the guests or not serving the food the way he told her to, or any number of invented reasons for blowing up at her. Why? It is his habitual, practiced way of releasing the tension which was building up inside all evening as he fretted that the guests might judge him unfavorably and thus withhold their esteem of him.
In order to get the love and friendships he craves, the narcissist is fully capable of being Mr. Dream Man, Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. Fantastic Boss…at least while it is necessary to do so. Then, once you’ve taken the bait, it does indeed turn out to be a bait-and-switch swindle.
The term bait-and-switch popularly describes an offer too good to be true, where the advertisement promises a fabulous item for sale, but when you get there, the skilled salesperson switches the offer and pushes you to buy a higher priced item, claiming they are sold out of the advertised merchandise.
In the narcissist’s game, bait-and-switch is a bit different. He lures you in with friendliness, with being such a great guy you can hardly believe your luck in meeting him. Perhaps the relationship is for business instead of a romantic relationship. That’s okay, the narcissist readily adapts like a chameleon when he scents admiration in the air.
Praise and attention are catnip to the narcissist: he can’t get enough, and panics when adoration is in short supply. In those moments, you can count on the narcissist to agree to trips you want to take, to authorize that new piece of office equipment, or even give you a raise.
The “switch” comes about when the narcissist has tested you enough by jabs of sarcasm which you overlooked or readily forgave. After all, if you are basically an amiable person who wants everyone to get along, it didn’t seem bad enough to speak up and say “Please don’t talk to me that way.” You didn’t want to make a big deal over his being out of sorts, you didn’t want to rock the boat, you know he’s under a lot of stress so it’s easier to go along with his denial and reminder yourself it’s no big deal to excuse his behavior.
You pass his frequent tests when you avoid confronting him or setting limits. When you go along with his program, and begin your part of the game which is to carefully watch him and try to head off his anger before he erupts in a full-blown rage.
Now he feels a great sense of joy inside: he can count on you to stay! He doesn’t have to be nice unless others are around, or unless he wants something. It takes a lot of energy for the narcissist to be generous with genuine affection, so he doesn’t bother unless he sees the advantage to be gained.
So here’s the switch: that sting of cruelty, the pain of physical, emotional and verbal abuse, the bruises from being someone’s verbal punching bag.
And yet, millions of people manage to cope with a narcissist in their life and keep on hoping for change, or taking any little sign of niceness that he has seen the error of his ways and is on the way toward treating you better. That “honeymoon” phase in the narcissist’s cycle is when he is feeling a release of his tension and is more relaxed. But the tension quickly builds because the narcissist takes everything (literally everything) personally, and so the cycle continues, endlessly. He has no motivation for personal growth or development, because he is the center of his world and it is running smoothly.
Inconsistencies of thought are rampant in the minds of a narcissist. He likes to believe the image of himself as a nice guy, someone admired and even loved by many. When he rages, it feels good to get rid of that inner tension, and yet since that kind of behavior is not consistent with Mr. Nice Guy, he has to simply pretend it didn’t happen.
When you get adept at watching a narcissist’s behavior and noticing the signs of building tension, you can learn to back away and spare yourself the explosion fallout as much as possible, and you can also figure out when to approach to have a more rational conversation with him. When would that be? I’m sure you can guess that it is when he is playing his favorite role, that of benevolent and beloved king.
I’ll get into all of this in greater detail in my new book America’s New Breed of Freedom Fighters—coming on Inauguration Day.
Are you in? Okay, then put aside the panic, breathe mindfully, and realize this is an incredible opportunity for all of us to “fight” for the freedom and justice we desire. More to come in the rest of this blog countdown to Inauguration 2017, and in my new book which will be released that day: America’s New Breed of Freedom Fighters: With Liberty and Justice for All
Pre-order now on Amazon at: http://bit.ly/NewBreedFreedomFighters
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