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We’re familiar with the self-centered, self-inflating tendencies of narcissists but have you ever stopped to wonder why they do what they do? Sometimes we assume that it’s due to “low self-esteem” but then it also seems that they feel superior to others — which presents a contradiction. Getting a handle on why they do what they do can help your relationship with a narcissist make more sense.

Keep in mind that narcissists can be male or female — what typifies a narcissist is their behaviors.

Here’s a list of just a few of the more common “patterns” of narcissism, and a brief explanation of what’s behind the behavior: Continue reading

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Ever wonder if you are dealing with a narcissist or sociopath at work?

When it comes to dealing with difficult personalities in the workplace, people struggle because they don’t know the difference between a narcissist and a sociopath. Both personalities show up in all sorts of workplaces, and at all levels of employment. Sociopathic personalities are not as uncommon in the work world as you might assume – functional sociopaths can manage quite well in the everyday world. Because of this, it’s very useful to know the difference between the two, so that you can use responses and strategies that work best for each specific personality problem.

Knowing some basics of how to discern the difference between the personality types is the place to start. Continue reading

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As published on The Huffington Post

This is such a sad, difficult question to answer. Primarily because those of us who love a narcissist really do not want to know the unpleasant truth that the answer is complicated. What’s really true is that the understanding and assumptions about love and how to love of an emotionally healthy person are very different from that of a narcissist. Your understanding of what love is and does is not the same as that of the narcissist in your life.

A narcissist can seem to love you. A narcissist can make it look like love. A narcissist can say the words of love. A narcissist can think it’s love. Unfortunately, when involved with a narcissist, you are enmeshed but not in love. You can be enmeshed and mistake that for love. But enmeshment and love are not the same thing.

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Summer is the season of travel, renewal and rest. If you’re with a narcissist, it can also be a time for you to design a road map that enables you to exit the difficult journey you’ve been on.

If you discover you are in an intimate relationship with a narcissist, you may decide that exiting the relationship is the best course. Once you’ve made that decision then you need to do everything you can to prepare so that your exit happens smoothly.

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Are you a person who feels best when other people seem to approve of you and your actions? Do you seek approval even from people you hardly know or care about? Unfortunately, if you are highly “other” oriented, you may have trouble if you’re involved with a narcissist, whether at work or in your personal life.

If allowed a major over-generalization, the world could be broken down into three types of people:
1. Self-absorbed
2. Other-oriented
3. Empathetic and self-aware

Self-absorbed people (narcissists, sociopaths, etc.) get a lot of attention and are becoming more familiar to many of us.

Empathetic, self-aware people are also generally understood — they are the more emotionally intelligent among us.

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One of the questions that frequently comes up when people hear about my work in the practical aspects of living and working with narcissists is, “Is there something wrong with me because I loved a narcissist?”

The answer is NO. There’s nothing wrong with you.

All sorts of people get involved with narcissists. And people stay involved with them for all sorts of reasons.

Narcissists look for people who are loving, kind and generous — those are optimal qualities in anyone. Unfortunately, for a narcissist, they are also beams of light in their path toward enmeshment.

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Have you heard someone be accused of being a narcissist, but realized that you don’t really know what that means? You know it’s negative. You may think that it probably means someone is egotistical, or self-absorbed. But how do you really know if someone is a narcissist?

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Are selfies causing narcissism? With all the latest fervor about selfies you might think that people who take them are narcissists.

But what’s true about selfies is that just as not all celebrities are narcissists, not all selfies are a symptom of narcissism. Sure, some selfie takers might be seeking validation but probably not because of a personality disorder. People take selfies for a wide variety of reasons: to show off and get props, to celebrate an occasion or a moment, to share an event, to mark something personally memorable, to share something fun with friends, to note an achievement, to make fun of oneself. In all the conversation about selfies, people seem to miss the fact that tons of selfies are silly, self-deprecating and fun.

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“Nice people don’t necessarily fall in love with nice people.” – Jonathan Franzen

Blame is a natural place to go when confronted by a narcissist being a narcissist.

By the time you have enough experience with a person to realize things are off and to figure out she is a narcissist, you’ve probably been dealing with her for at least a little while. Usually this means you’re annoyed by the person pretty regularly.  Continue reading

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As published on Huffington Post

In my work with people who are coming to terms with the realization that they are close to a narcissist either in their personal life or work life, I’ve seen a wide variety of reactions. Some people are furious and think narcissists are evil and deserve to be banished, while others notice it, but don’t seem to be bothered.

Your reaction likely depends on the sort of narcissist you’ve been involved with, the severity of their narcissism, how long you’ve been in relationship, how close you’ve tried to be (intimate, family, or friend) or needed to be (work), your past exposure to and experience with narcissists and how things have played out in your particular situation.

It is useful to understand that there are typically three types of narcissists:

1. Those that are demanding, difficult, mean, and dramatic — this could be termed the classic narcissist (which exists on a continuum from somewhat to very narcissistic).

2. Those that are subtle in presentation and hard to discern as narcissists — sometimes called covert or shy or vulnerable narcissists.

3. Those that have a mix of problems and are hard to figure out because of their complexity. Depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, sociopathy, stalker behaviors — all of these can arise from or share some of the elements of narcissism.

People in personal or work relationships with a narcissist have reactions that range along a continuum from absolute fury to amused acceptance. Some want to shout their anger from the rooftops — they think that narcissists should be branded with an “N” so everyone can get it. Some people want to fight the narcissist. Some people are angry and simply don’t know what to do with their anger; they have an inkling that directing it at the narcissist is futile but don’t know what to do instead. Some people are exhausted and hurt — they want to understand the nature of the problem and how to take care of themselves. Some people are unruffled by a narcissist. Some people approach dealing with a narcissist with humor, making light of a dark situation.

Whether in the workplace or in your personal life, one thing to understand is that you do not have to stay stuck in aggravation; there are options for you to take care of yourself.

It’s useful to know, as well, that most narcissists are good at the initial stage of inviting a person into relationship — the charm before the storm. The way things turn sour really does vary widely; for some things flare into major drama while for others it’s more like a pot of water where the heat slowly gets turned up.

No matter what your experience and initial reactions, you can come out of a relationship with a narcissist and thrive again. It takes understanding the basic dynamics of narcissism, awareness of your reactions, learning skills for processing your emotions and interacting with the narcissist as you maintain or exit the relationship.

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