As published on the Huffington Post
It’s easy to get hooked by a narcissist. There’s something about charming aloofness that just snags the attention. We may just chalk it up to the human foible of the sort that makes young women fall for the bad boy. But have you ever really wondered what it’s about?
Did you know there are emotional reasons you get unwittingly hooked by a narcissist?
Most narcissists are charming, and charm is attractive. “Charm” is defined as the power or quality of giving delight or arousing admiration. This is a particular unconscious skill of a narcissist, and it’s difficult to resist. A boastful narcissist is likely a turn off, but most narcissists initially come across as agreeable, open, well dressed, physically appealing, self-assured and entertaining. Non-narcissists can be charming too, so don’t conclude that everyone that is charming is a narcissist.
The attention of a narcissist is in short supply when it comes to people, so when that prized attention shifts your way it can feel good. The limited supply hooks you into trying to get more. Narcissists tend to ask only a question or two about a person. Usually a narcissist subtly invites you to admire him in some way, and in the beginning it can be easy to do this. So you provide the mild admiration he invites and enjoy what seems like his valuable, and limited attention.
Another way we get hooked by narcissists is that we like to feel special. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel special – it’s something all of us want without even realizing it’s something we seek. What we don’t realize is that in the initial stages of a relationship, work or personal, a narcissist works hard to make you feel this way. A narcissist has an uncanny psychic ability to know what a person needs to hear to get them interested. He’ll applaud your looks, your possessions, your style, or intelligence or creativity, or whatever quality he senses is a vulnerable one for you. What we don’t know is that this will change as the relationship develops. Then we’re likely to try to recapture that elusive feeling.
Naivety and lack of awareness hook the bulk of us. A young person has a lot to learn, and learns by doing. A youthful narcissist can be particularly hard to detect because some narcissism is developmentally appropriate. Since everyone in the young adult realm is a bit self-focused as they seek to separate from their families and establish themselves as independent beings, it can be hard to discern who is actually going to stay self-absorbed.
The rest of us can be equally naive. Most people don’t really know what a narcissist is or how to tell if someone is a narcissist. We assume that most people are like us, and are capable of empathy. We go about establishing relationships without ever even knowing we make this assumption. Many of us probably can pull the biggest offenders out of a line up, but without the education that comes from experience we can’t identify most everyday narcissists.
Narcissists move quickly to cement promising relationships, whether personal or professional. Many of us take this quick, deep interest as a sign of depth of emotion (who doesn’t secretly wish to believe in love at first sight?). If a narcissist doesn’t sense you can be useful to him (by admiring him or doing things for him), he’s likely to hardly pay attention to your existence. But if you can provide for him in some way, and are willing to engage in the initial charming, approving banter, you are likely to find that narcissist everywhere all at once. Your ability to process and discern gets limited by the over-involvement. This plays to the narcissist’s advantage, causing you to get quickly involved in a deeper fashion than you’d be likely to do if you could remember to take your time.
One thing that gets said about people who find themselves on the receiving side of a relationship with a difficult person like a narcissist is that they are somehow wired to attract and be involved with people like that. This implies that there really is something wrong with you if you are involved with a narcissist. This is a trap. It is a trap that plays into the hands of a narcissist, who actually does believe there is something wrong with you and colludes against you to get you to buy into that notion. There is not one among us who is perfect, who has absolutely no issues left over from childhood. Every day narcissists are everywhere and lacking awareness, we fall for them – for their charm, for their attractive qualities for being made to feel special, for attempting to grasp their elusive attention. It is easy to fall into relationship with a narcissist. The good news is that you can also grow to be more aware and watch for telltale narcissist red flags and avoid this type of relationship before it happens at all.