Narcissists don't wear signs. They don't glitter in the sunlight like pretend vampires or flash a certain color. Since they don't wear flags on their backs, they're not so easily spotted.
Wouldn't it be awesome of they did wear flags? Or flashed red? But if they did, like Todd Grande says, "yeah but then the narcissist would just say "only special people flash red."
Yes, the narcissist would spin it because they lie to themselves and are master manipulators.
Since narcs don't flash red or wear flags on their backs, they're not always so easy to spot which definitely sucks for regular people. This is why there exists so many "narcissistic survivor groups" because people oftentimes don't even begin to question whether they're dealing with malevolence until narcissistic damage is already done.
When relationships end or there's a breakup that seems to really rock you, sometimes we tend to revisit the relationship and reflect on everything that happened. This is totally understandable and a normal part of processing.
Survivors of narcissistic abuse however, tend to do something called narcissistic rumination.
Yes, there's actually a proper clinical name for the fact you can't seem to get past that narcissist in your life.
While it's normal to think about your exes and reflect on relationships, especially immediately following a breakup rumination when it comes to a toxic relationship is a little different.
This is when you just can't seem to stop thinking about your narcissistic ex, going over in your mind what you maybe did wrong, wondering if you'd just handled something differently then maybe you wouldn't be separated from them right now. You might find yourself going over your conversations in your head, revisiting old arguments or even reliving the abuse you endured.
While reflecting on relationships can be healthy, rumination is said to be potentially dangerous. Rumination puts you in a position to talk yourself into believing it's all somehow your fault, or you could become more open to the idea of a reconciliation with your abuser.
You might have even had a narcissistic ex who used the false positivity we discussed before in the previous post to control you, so you might end up telling yourself things like, "But they're so evolved and spiritual, it can't be their fault, it must be my own fault."
I've compiled a list of points that might help you discern whether or not you were on the receiving end of narcissistic abuse after a relationship has ended.
*Please keep in mind that I'm not a psychiatrist, and this is not an attempt to diagnose anyone, and any mental health questions should always be properly presented to a licensed mental health clinician.
Signs you may have been dealing with a narcissist:
1. You are experiencing the above mentioned rumination. While there's lots of relationships that can leave you thinking about your partner or going over a relationship in your mind, there's a certain kind of addictive, negative flavor to a narcissistic rumination. You might even find yourself making excuses for their bad behavior, or talking yourself into believing that you somehow deserved being mistreated.
2. The narcissist will always turn the conversation back toward themselves. It doesn't matter what you're talking about or how you approach them with a situation or topic of conversation, the narcissist will ultimately cycle the conversation back toward themselves. You might even find yourself wondering how the conversation got there.
3. You might have noticed they attempted to become just like you, or just like someone else. While imitation is said to be the highest form of flattery, the narcissist lacks a firm sense of self-identity and tends to "become" whoever they admire at any given time, and they also tend to do this in their romantic relationships.
While it may at first seem kind of cute that they're copying your words, vernacular, or even the way you look, it goes way beyond that old "two peas in a pod" type of experience. The term for this is referred to as narcissistic mirroring.
4. The narcissist rarely apologizes or accepts responsibility and only apologizes or accepts accountability / responsibility when it behooves them to as a mechanism for control. As in, "I'd better be accountable here because if I don't, they'll know I'm a narcissist." The narcissistic types of "apologies" usually start with something like "I'm sorry you feel..." versus an actual apology that sounds like "I'm sorry that I did..."
5. Narcissistic delusions of grandeur is another sign. This goes beyond mere narcissistic vanity and arrogance. While it's true that each human being is unique in their own right, narcissists believe that they're somehow exceptionally unique and special, more superior than anyone else. They may believe they have special abilities, powers and gifts that the rest of the world lacks.
They will believe they can only be understood by special people, people who are just as evolved, powerful and special as they are. Regular people can't understand how special they are, and it's speculated this is one of the many reasons why they shy away from getting therapy.
6. They possess arrogance like no other. Sometimes this is confused with seeing someone as being confident or charismatic. Arrogance is a different animal. Perhaps it is clear that they believe they're above everyone else and are merely rude to the waiter at a restaurant, or maybe it's a just a feeling you have that when you're around them as though they're somehow tolerating you, putting up with you, because they're doing you a favor.
7. They will delude themselves. This is sometimes also mistaken for confidence. The narcissist possesses no true self-identity, so they will make up an identity. Maybe they'll have a friend who they want to emulate, so they'll try to start the same kind of business, or start a blog of the same nature, or will follow in their footsteps in some way in an attempt to make that their identity.
They might even change their hair to match yours, or might even tell themselves lies about the fact that the other person is being like them versus the other way around, and actually believe themselves. This goes back to protecting their fragile ego.
8. They will play the victim card like no one else. While the grandiose narcissist will oftentimes be the one who seems like no one can ever hurt them, it's the covert narcissist who plays the victim. Actually, there's usually overlap between grandiose and covert, but playing the victim happens when they're seeking attention.
If someone is sharing how they were abused as a child, the narcissist will have a worse experience story. Yes, they'll "top" everyone else's troubles. It doesn't matter if you were kidnapped, raped and left on the street, the narcissist can top your experience. No one has ever suffered as much as they have, and if you're sharing your troubles the covert narc might begin overshadowing your story with one of their own that's worse in order to receive sympathy and attention and ultimately feed off your empathy.
If you say "My ex assaulted me," they'll respond with "I know how that feels because I was sexually assaulted and abused for 7 straight years by someone I knew and trusted." Suddenly your assault pales by comparison and you give empathy to them but remember, that was their whole plan: to feed off your empathy.
9. Narcissists tend to lack empathy of course, but oftentimes will actually possess what's called cognitive empathy but will lack affective empathy. This means they understand emotions and can relate through cognitive empathy, but can't actually apply affective empathy and cannot empathize with you.
This can be extremely confusing because they'll seem to understand what you're going through, but at the same time they will not be able to show you any empathy. They can show kindness. But actual empathy is what they lack.
10. They will idealize the perfect love relationship which goes back to the fact they internally know they're unable to experience empathy and love, but desire it more than anything else. If you've been put on the narcissist's pedestal and somehow do something to negatively impact their fragile ego, you'll fall off that pedestal and end up on the receiving end of their wrath. They'll even make love relationships their identity.
You might hear something like "I've met my soulmate or twin flame" from a regular person, but a narcissist will say the same kind of thing in a different way such as, "I am so and so's true soulmate or twin flame and soulmates and twin flames are especially powerful and magical because..." There's a difference between saying "I've met my twin flame" and "I (am a real) twin flame with special super powers." See the difference?
11. Narcissists have what's called magical thinking. Magical thinking is said to be a mechanism of personal control and a method to protect a fragile ego that lacks a firm sense of self-identity.
An example of magical thinking is the way Ted Bundy thought he could snow the entire courtroom, jury and judge by representing himself in court. Bundy probably really believed that the jury were mere idiots and he was so wonderful, no one could possibly ever believe he could be a serial killer. There's many views on the pathology of Bundy but he makes an excellent example when it comes to magical thinking.
A real life example of magical thinking is the narcissist might believe they can cheat on or lie to you, and you'll never know or would never believe they'd do such a thing.
Another example of magical thinking is the dark triad pathology of cult leaders who believe their followers will always trust and believe them, and if they question the narc, they're booted from the cult -because "non believers" are mere peons, not special enough to understand the magical cult leader. There's a YouTube video Dr. Ramani made on the subject of twin flames about how a narcissist could actually weaponize the concept of twin flames. "We have a magical, otherworldly connection, you can't leave me, you must excuse my toxic behavior because we're twin flames." I'm sure you get the idea.
12. Narcissists will engage in the love bombing --> devalue --> discard --> hoovering you back --> love bombing --> devalue --> discard cycle over and over again until either they find a new victim or until you put a stop to it. It can make you feel like you're on a roller coaster. There's much speculation about this cycle as far as the length of time, but I believe it's unique to each narcissistic relationship pattern. This cycle can happen over a matter of days or even years.
Does your ex tend to somehow create situations where you end up in some type of argument and then they "hoover" you back in? Sometimes it's days, weeks or months. And yes, sometimes even years. I almost wonder if the narcissist DOES IT because they just want to know they can "still get the person back" even if weeks or months goes by.
The school of thought about this is that either the narcissist is somehow triggered into it, often by triggers known only to the narc, or the narcissist believes they're undeserving of love so they push their partner away through this cycle only to renew the realization that yes, no matter how terrible they are, they can always get their ex to come back to them.
While there's a bit of "running and chasing" and a bit of a "push/pull" in just about any connection, it's different with the narcissist in the respect that it's a cycle of love bombing, devaluing, discarding and then hoovering the person back in, over and over. It's draining and exhausting for the one on the receiving end of this.
13. Narcissists hate getting bored and this is especially in relationships. It's going to possibly feel like when things are really great, the narc thinks "there's just not enough drama going on and I'm not getting nearly enough attention" so they create some. That isn't a psychiatrist I'm parroting, that's my personal opinion about the way I've experienced narcissistic abuse. It seems the narcissist can't handle getting bored, psychiatrists have stated this as a fact about narcs, but it's my own speculation about the why behind it.
Narcs have an "infatuation phase" in relationships in which they idealize their partner and will even think the connection is "otherworldly" and will try to convince their partner of this too. There's a kind of a "high" associated with this infatuation they compare to illicit drugs, which is why people in toxic relationships say, "When he/she loves me, it feels like we're the only 2 people in the whole world, like our relationship and I am the only thing that matters."
It's also said narcs can lose interest as the expectation of intimacy increases, and they can keep that they're excellent at creating a false sense of intimacy. They prioritize power over vulnerability.
14. You can't argue with a narcissist so don't try. The disagreement will, a lot of the time, circle back to an "original argument." An example of a narcissistic injury being triggered, let's say you're talking to a narc and trigger narc injury. They'll argue with you, and then they'll bring up what you did wrong on a certain date and time and remember those details down to a T and then that argument will somehow circle back to an "original argument."
I have a friend whose ex would remember dates and times of things she did wrong, and would bring that up in their arguments. Psychopaths do that too, but in her case it was a narcissistic ex who would do this to her each time they disagreed, things could be going wonderfully and all of a sudden her ex would be triggered by something and here comes the same old argument. That happened like 30 years ago. Then he'd give her the silent treatment and a 2 week cold shoulder. As a mechanism for control.
15. This brings me to the their propensity to always do that narcissistic silent treatment. The silent treatment is one of the narc's tools they use to control you. It's not nice, not fun, and while you want to discuss your feelings, the narc will be giving you a silent treatment. The fact you want to discuss your feelings is what the narc is banking on.
Sometimes they'll even use children in their silent treatment such as, "Tell your father that the keys are on the table." I liken this to a child having a tantrum. But it's also in the form of blocking on social media, cutting you off, not speaking to you for whatever reasons, and yes it's malevolent. They're silent, or as silent to you as possible.
16. Narcissists crave attention. They'll even engage in covert operations to get it. For example, let's say a narcissist participates on a social media site. You know that note from sites that say "we shared your post with one million people," or "your video has been viewed one million times?" Those alerts happen sometimes and it's clear as day what they mean, and they're sent out by the websites' algorithm. A narcissist craving attention will literally screen shot it, post it and play stupid. "Hey, I got this note saying my video has been viewed one million times, anyone else ever get one of these? What does this mean?" It's clear what it means, it even SAYS what it means. But the narcissist wants attention. And so they seek it, using that as a mechanism.
Of course regular folks will see that and say, "It's obvious what it means, it means that's the first time you've ever seen an alert like that and you want praise, you narcissist."
But the narc will think, "I want attention. I'll post this and play dumb, people will give me praise and attention and I can also simultaneously find out if anyone else is getting this kind of thing because I want ALL of the praise and attention." Because everything is a competition to the narcissist.
17. Everything in a narcissist's mind is one big competitive game and competition. They tend to believe attention equates with being good. Yes, it's nice to have. But it isn't the be-all-end-all of existence. But to a narcissist, they think everything is a competition. They don't have any firm sense of self-identity, so they're always in competition mode.
Narcs will use other people's successes and failures as a measure of what it means to be good. I'll use a scenario of website views in this example. They'll think, "I want to know what so and so's view count on X post is so I can compete and do better." While so and so will look at (their own) view count and say to themselves, "Thank you for one million views, let's make it 2 million," a narcissist will look at other people's view count and gauge their own success and self-worth based on how they're doing as compared to other people. Other people who aren't them. This goes back to lack of self-esteem, lacking self-identity and a fragile ego.
While it's normal to strive based on inspiration from others, making one's entire life some kind of a competition isn't healthy. The narcissistic ego can't handle being "less than" anything, or anyone.
18. Narcissists, especially the covert variety will put themselves in situations in which they can feed off your energy and empathy. Believe it or not, and I know this isn't something anyone wants to believe could be possible, but narcs actually delight in your misery. But they'll put themselves in situations to be helpful and give assistance in order to feed from your empathy and drain your energy.
Personally, I liken this to what people call "psychic vampires." Some people will seem to just drain your energy which many psychic vampires will do, but a narcissist is even worse. They SEEM really helpful, they seem amazingly kind and empathetic, even comparing their misery to your experiences, advising you all the way, but actually they're just delighting in your pain and loving the attention they're getting from "being so helpful." They're not actually being helpful. It's a special kind of evil covert narcissists are, in my opinion at least.
19. They use false positivity to control you. I've actually done a post about this before and included a video by Dr. Ramani about this exact thing. I'm not referring to when someone pretends things are all positive when they're really not, I'm talking about false positivity as being delivered by narcissists.
So-called spiritual gurus are famous for this kind of thing. I'm not saying spiritual people are bad; I'm a part of the spiritual community and spirituality and spiritual people are fantastic - I mean REAL spiritual people. I'm not referring to the spiritual community. I'm talking about false positivity via narcissistic delivery.
There's a certain type of narc behavior that will, however, literally use positivity to control another person. For the full explanation of this, please see that previous post and if you're inclined, please do take a look at Dr. Ramani's video. There's much on this subject, too much to cover here.
20. Narcissists will use you for their own means and will take advantage of you. This might look like a sometimes on-and-off again relationship that feels like a roller coaster ride. This might also look like a back and forth romance that has extreme peaks and dips which reaches its "wonderful high peak" with sex, and then you're devalued or promptly discarded shortly thereafter only for them to return again for another cycle.
21. Narcissists will oftentimes be big, fat bullies and will pick on you. In more severe cases they'll create a smear campaign against you. Oftentimes this is triggered by narcissistic injury or what I refer to as "playground competition" because in an attempt to level the playing field, a narcissist will create smear campaigns against perceived enemies, but no one is actually immune. Remember when you were a kid and fat bullies attacked and the parent would say, "They're just a little immature child inside, that bullying is only an exterior." And later on down the line, you realized your parents were right? It's true.
In really severe instances of narcissism, the narcissist will emulate their target (see above when I described how narcissists lack self-identity) and once they've sufficiently become enough like their target, they begin to identify with their "new self" and as a result, they will create a smear campaign against their target which is referred to as "narcissistic annihilation."
The one thing that drives a narcissist crazy is lack of control. The other thing is lack of a fight. This goes back to that playground competition. They'll even enlist their confederates to assist in the smear campaigns and annihilation attempts.
22. Narcissists are extremely judgmental however, they're also excellent manipulators and fake empathy and can fake being the polar opposite of judgment easily. In the dark triad psychopathy, the narcissist's opinion is the only one that matters, and they play judge and jury and decide who's wrong and who's right with little or no room for the possibility that there can actually be more than one opinion or more than one "right" way.
It's said that normal, enlightened people always know there's room for more growth, more learning, and the potential that they're not always "right" and don't always have to have the last word. Narcissists tend to be the opposite. It's all about sheltering their fragile ego. Yes, they're in love with their opinions, right along with their victim mentalities.
23. Narcissists actually seem to believe that no one realizes they're narcissistic. This is of course my personal opinion because there have been cases where narcissists have actually (albeit extremely rarely) gone for therapy. Of course most narcs don't actively seek therapy unless it's for something else but some narcs do know they're narcs. But it's said in some cases they think if they accepted the truth, that they're not really special and all-powerful, this could cause "narcissistic injury" as it's said, which is why they might appear to live in a palace of denial.
Denial goes back to their tendency for "magical thinking." If you question the narc they'll show you proof about how they're right, even if they confabulated said "proof." Do you remember the deranged Heaven's Gate cult guy who claimed to talk directly with God or that Jim Jones fella who was a total psychopath? Of course we're talking about dark triad psychopathy now, but it's said that cult leaders like that usually start out as public speakers and kind of spiral from there.
Anyway, it's my take that just like a psychopath, narcs are similar in the way they actually believe they're special and more wonderful than any other person around which is why they think they're well within their right to act like a complete jerk, along with lacking empathy.
There are some traits that narcs will share, or are at least somewhat noticeable. But again it isn't always easy to spot, especially when someone with high empathy wants to believe that most people are inherently good. But as we all know, not everyone is actually good and it's never a good idea to fall in love with someone's potential versus who they really are as a human being.
Here's a condensed list of narcissistic traits:
- Exaggerated, grandiose sense of self-importance.
- Having a "right of entitlement" attitude.
- Having a preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited power, success, brilliance, beauty or the ideal love.
- Having the belief they're special and unique, and can therefore only be associated with or understood by people who are as special and unique as they, themselves are.
- Having an inflated sense of importance about any aspect of their lives.
- A deep need for attention and admiration.
- Lacking true empathy (possibly possesses cognitive empathy but lacks affective empathy.)
- Often has troubled relationships.
- Interpersonally exploitive behavior.
- Envy of others.
- Hypersensitivity to criticism.
- Manipulation and charm.
- The you can choose "my way or the highway" attitude.
- Having a belief that others are envious of them.
- Demonstrating arrogant thinking, attitudes and behaviors.
- A cycle of love bombing, devalue, discard and hoovering.
- They feed off your attention, empathy, compliments.
- Attention-seeking behaviors.
- Magical thinking.
- Bullying behavior / victim mentality.
Please note that just because you might notice a certain traits or even multiple traits listed above doesn't mean you've been dealing with someone who's narcissistic. The information in this article here is for informational purposes only.
There are of course different types of narcissism, typically categorized in "grandiose" and "covert" narcissism however again there's usually some overlap in the traits between the two.
There's also different levels of narcissistic exposure. Just standing in a room with a narc or having a few words in passing with one is far different than having a relationship such as a friendship, romance, or having a narcissistic parent for example. It's what occurs in that exposure that will have an impact.
If you feel you have been in a narcissistic, toxic situation it's best to use your own good discernment and get yourself to safety. No one deserves to be stuck in an abusive situation or relationship. It's also helpful to receive proper therapy when recovering from an abusive situation. Excellent self-care is also extremely important.
I hope this helps you. Blessings xo