Brash and vulgar narcissists naturally offend us. So, we naturally want to keep our distance and watch our backs. But charming narcissists are in some ways more dangerous. Like I say in In Sheep’s Clothing, dealing with them can be like getting whiplash. You only fully realize who they are and what they’ve done to you after the fact.
You can confront compensatory grandiosity with relative ease and safety. The vulnerable narcissist merely seeks reassurance. So, the more you reassure them, the better they inwardly begin to feel about themselves. But you can’t deal with or confront the truly egomaniacal narcissist with the same ease or in the same way.
You have possess character yourself to make a relationship work. But you also have to be able to rightly judge the character of another.
Everyone has a distinctive way of seeing things and doing things. And we develop unique “styles” of relating to others. That’s what defines our personality. But sometimes a person’s style of relating is in itself problematic. Character disorders always present problems for relationships.
Genuineness is a rare commodity these days. But of all wondrous things I’ve experienced in my years doing therapy, nothing compares to engaging with a person soul-to-soul.
Social mores and customs have loosened up considerably. Folks are not as repressed as they once were. They have less unreasonable guilt and shame about relatively inconsequential things and are therefore less “neurotic.” But we’ve paid a dear price for the “whatever feels right for you” relativism that’s replaced our older respectability norms. And we don’t have as clear a sense of decency and civility as we once had.
Manipulators are covert-aggressors. They’re out to win, dominate, and control but don’t want to be seen that way. If you knew what they were really up to, they’d run a higher risk of being resisted. And if you knew what they were really like, you’d be more wary of them. They’re the proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Narcissism is pathological self-love. And noble character is largely about healthy self-love. Getting the balance right is what the third commandment of sound character formation is all about.
Sometimes reality challenges the grandiose self-image narcissists have. And when a narcissitic wound is deep and the reality behind it too self-evident to deny, the consequences to those made to take the blame for failure can be profound.
Narcissists come in two main varieties: vulnerable (neurotic) and grandiose (character disturbed or disordered. Of the two types, grandiose narcissists are the more problematic. Unfortunately, because of the nature of our times, they’re also the more prevalent. The disdain they have for those they view as inferior often engenders a dismissive attitude that can really get under the skin of a relationship partner.