David: This is an email question from C.G., who says "I am 'in love' with someone that I think may be narcissistic. I want to know what these type of men look for in a mate. I guess I am willing to lose myself in order to have him fall in love with me. I get no feedback whatsoever, even though I know that he does care (I have at least gotten that much out of him verbally) as much as he is capable of. I basically am a 'pleaser' and put the other person first in any type of relationship. I find this to be natural, wanting to make others happy. Does this mean I am an 'Inverted Narcissist'? If so, do we just feed off of each other? And if that is the case, couldn't this actually fulfill both of our wants and needs?"
Dr. Vaknin: Not every pleaser is an inverted narcissist. To "qualify" as an inverted narcissist, one must be willing to self-sacrifice. The inverted narcissist forgoes her own needs and wishes and subjugates them to those of her narcissist. She learns the art of "UN-being". She collapses into a shadow, a marionette, skillfully at the mercy of the whims and pleasures of her puppet master. If you wish to hold on to your narcissist, become his "pusher", his drug dealer. He is addicted to a drug called "narcissistic supply." Give it to him, but remember: drug dealers are interchangeable. Someone may come along with a purer, crystalline version.
vielen: When a narcissist abandons someone, can he erase them totally out of his memory? And does he want to?
Dr. Vaknin: Yes, I did that with my ex-wife. Actually, there are two typical reactions:
- One is, to totally erase and delete every shred of a remnant of a shadow of a memory of her and the common life (the more common reaction).
- Or as vindictive narcissists do - to stalk, pursue, invade, control, threaten and manipulate the ex.
See the relevant FAQ about "Vindictive Narcissists".
David: Is there a common characteristic, common personality trait, among the victims of narcissists?
Dr. Vaknin: Yes, their submissiveness and eagerness to please. This is because the narcissist becomes their drug, their addiction. Without him, it is a world of black and white. With him, it is a Technicolor show, complete with drama, thrills and frills. So, the inverted narcissist and the victims of narcissists (not all of them inverted narcissists), are attracted to excitement, to the violation of routine, to life itself. They live vicariously, by proxy, through their narcissist.
David: Dr. Vaknin's extensive list of frequently asked questions is here.
luke1116: HELP! Any advice on how to cope with my NPD ex-husband, with whom I share joint custody? He belittles and berates me daily in writing and I'm afraid that he's doing it during his visitation with our daughter.
Dr. Vaknin: He most probably is. But then, this behaviour is not necessarily limited to narcissists ...:o(( Narcissists are paranoids and cowards. If you were to find a way to show him that you are strong and are willing to use your strength, the harassment might stop. Leave it to his imagination what you might do to him. But make clear that you are going to do something about it.
But I must add that narcissists rarely go where they experience frequent or recurrent narcissistic injuries. Ask yourself what have you been doing to provide him with narcissistic supply. Your fear and humiliation give him the feeling of omnipotence. Are you ambivalent about your separation? Are you in pain? Can he see this pain? Are you sorry he left? Can he see that you still love him? Make his encounters with you a source of humiliation and narcissistic injury for HIM!
Jacqui B: What are the lasting effects on adult children of narcissists? Is there any hope for them to break free from their upbringing?
Dr. Vaknin: Yes, of course there is. Only a very small fraction of children of narcissists become narcissists themselves. What rarely goes away, is the pain and the agony of being treated like an object, of being subjected to psychological torture and nefarious mental abuse. This is part of the psychological baggage of every child of every narcissistic parent. Therapy sometimes helps and ameliorates. But the problem is that it is impossible to obtain closure with an narcissistic parent. He, or she, simply will not admit that they did anything wrong. They will deny, rationalize, intellectualize. Project anything, just to accept the bare facts and confront them in a constructive manner together with the hurting child.
Rena: I allowed my father much control over my life. I'm thirty-eight now and realize his narcissism. How do I limit his control without disowning him? Is it too late?
Dr. Vaknin: It is never too late to set oneself free. But liberty always has a price. Sometimes you can make peace with your oppressors, sometimes you can't, and YOU have to let go. It is a tango - you are BOTH engaged in this macabre dance. Stop the music. Set boundaries. Declare independence. Legislate. Fight for your rights. And if he persists, say goodbye.
David: Here's another email question. This is from Jill. Can you please explain how to reason and negotiate with a narcissist, whether it be a serious subject or everyday conversation?
Dr. Vaknin: That's a tough one. The narcissist is autistic. He inhabits in his own universe. In this universe, a unique logic prevails. You have to learn the language and then the meta language and then exercise some. To be more helpful: you offer to him narcissistic supply and he will give you whatever you want. It is that simple. Make it look like all the initiative is his, all the ideas are his, all the control is his, all the decisions are his. His, him, he - the three keywords. Not you, HE. Manipulate him. Example: if you want him to learn something new (of which he has no idea), ask him to explain it to you (put him in the position of the teacher, the guru). If you want him to attend marital counseling, tell him you need help and you need HIM to help you.