Relating To A Narcissistic Person

Self_portrait_of_sadnessHow can you tell you are trying to relate to a narcissistic person? The feeling you get when you’re together is it’s all about him or her. The reciprocity that is commonly found between two people interested in each other is mostly absent.

Questions directed at you are really only a preamble that redirects a focus back to him or her. You get the distinct feeling that he or she has some kind of ‘need’ to be the center of attention. You also get the vague sense that all this work the narcissistic person is doing is meant to either remedy something or keep something at bay. You are essentially a non-person to him or her.

He or she is trying to mask the deep and never satisfied need for love and acknowledgment he or she is keeping only partially concealed. Every once and a while, especially after a disappointment by someone who was supposed to take better care of this narcissistic need, you will see short bursts of unhappiness, frustration, anger, and sometimes indignant rage.

Narcissists are people who have been chronically disappointed by the people who were supposed to love them in their lives. The disappointment they experienced was so pervasive and painful that they searched for ways to avoid the depression and poor self-esteem that usually accompany this kind of emotional hardship. They expect continued disappointment but work hard to avoid it.

So they have learned to make demands for free love or anything else they can get for free. It’s free because the narcissist gives little or nothing back for what you or anyone else gives him or her. They are just too empty to give anything back.

The narcissistic person has to stick to their secret plan. If he or she makes enough demands for love, attention, approval, preference, and specialness, at some point they will be able to fill that void inside, the consequence of chronic disappointment in love. They work hard at this. So hard that once you become aware of why they are acting the way they do, you’ll feel a sense of sadness for them.

It is only then that you can be of some value to the narcissistic person. You see, as long as they are trying to use you to fill the void like they have tried to use a million other people, you’ll eventually get discarded when the disappointment comes, and it will come. Disappointment always comes because you can never fill their void.

Who wants to be treated like they have no self and sucked dry for every once of attention and consideration you can give? But if you can feel the sadness the narcissist is trying to conceal from you and from himself or herself, you’ll understand why things are the way they are. You’ll be in the position to gently tell the narcissist that his or her plan will never work. That the plan to fill the void is doomed to fail from the start.

With a little skill you can invite a conversation about how sad he or she appears to be behind their disappointing plan. If the narcissist is ready to work on healing the injury of chronic disappointment in love, he or she will cry for the lost opportunities in life. He or she will show the sadness, the frustration, the anger, and not necessarily in that order.

Once you’ve gotten through these feelings, understood the disappointments, at some point the narcissist will look up at you and say some variation of “Who are you?” At that point, there are two people in the room and enough healing has taken place for the intimacy to begin.

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan


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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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