Saturday, June 13, 2009

Loving Narcissus

I realized recently that I am a magnet for narcissists. I always thought there was something wrong with a lot of the people who seem drawn to me and they have things in common. It was only the other day that I realized there is an actual clinical name for what they have: Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Although I don't encourage the worship of ancient pagan Gods, nor do I take the myths as literal truth, you can often learn something from them.

For those who aren't aware of the Greek Legend of Narcissus: (Taken from Wikipedia)
or Narkissos (Greek: Νάρκισσος) in Greek Mythology was renowned for his beauty. In the various stories he is exceptionally cruel, in that he disdains those who love him. As divine punishment he falls in love with a reflection in a pool, not realizing it is his own, and perishes there, not being able to leave the beauty of his own reflection.

Narcissistic people are so in love with themselves (though this self love actually stems from a deep self hatred that is buried beneath the conscious level - you know what they say, love is akin to hate). The painful thing about loving a Narcissist is that they cannot truly love you back. They have incomplete personalities that do not allow them to empathize with other people or understand their needs. Living with a narcissist is like living with a big and mean child that never grows up and learns to appreciate you for what you give to / do for him / her or love you back.

A brief run down of the traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

A pattern of traits and behaviors which signify infatuation and obsession with one's self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one's gratification, dominance and ambition.

Most narcissists (75%) are men.

NPD is often diagnosed with other mental health disorders ("co-morbidity") - or with substance abuse, or impulsive and reckless behaviors ("dual diagnosis").

Description of a Narcissist: (Narcissists usually have 5 or more of the following characteristics)

  • Fees grandiose and self-important (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

  • Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion

  • Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions)

  • Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation - or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (narcissistic supply)

  • Feels entitled. Expects unreasonable or special and favorable priority treatment. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her expectations

  • Is "interpersonally exploitative", i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends

  • Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of others

  • Constantly envious of others or believes that they feel the same about him or her

  • Arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted

Another good article about the disorder, written from the viewpoint of someone who has known several can be found here:

Pretty much all narcissists go undiagnosed because the disorder itself is of the nature that it would make it very hard for them to even admit they need help(and thus go to a doctor and be diagnosed). I actually believe that the Arab world - or maybe the Gulf Arab world and the UAE - Dubai - in particular (since that it where I have been living and have encountered a remarkable number of narcissists) has more of these men because this is a case of a nurture induced personality disorder. I got to wondering why there seemed to be more of such people here than I have encountered elsewhere (though they can be found everywhere and I have not been everywhere on earth so there very well may be other places that have just as many or more of these monsters running around.)

Now I have noticed that many parents here seem to think that parenting means producing children, paying for their needs and wants, and turning them over to tiny little maids for rearing - tiny little Indonesian / Filipino / Indian maids who have no authority over them. On top of that, the boys in particular are treated like little gods and indulged (this holds true with other men who are raised in a similar way - like my husband - oldest son, apple of his mother's eye who could do no wrong, etc.). These boys are basically grow up thinking other people exist for their pleasure - to give them what they want and make them feel good about themselves.

Over-indulgence of a child and distant parenting are both cited as factors that contribute to the development of a narcissist.

If you have a significant amount of children being raised this way in a given population, then you will have a significantly higher number of adult males with narcissistic personality disorder in that population as well, and because of that, a larger number of girls will also have grown up putting up and dealing with narcissistic brothers and fathers, which preps them to think such behavior is normal and to not ask for / expect more in future relationships. Now let me just add in here that I don't think ALL Arab men are like this and that all Arab families raise their children this way or that here is the only place you find children raised this way. I don't think this problem exists here because they are worse than any other group of people. They are normal people, capable of good or bad behavior, like everyone else on earth. BUT I do think certain factors - large families combined with newly acquired wealth (sometimes unearned or easily acquired), heavy reliance on hired help in child rearing, certain traditional attitudes regarding boys (males) vs. girls (females), sense of superiorty (nationals vs. non nationals and particularly Asian non nationals who tend to be the ones caring for the children) - contribute to this problem. I mean let's face it, if a child is never told no, if it is receiving care from people it learns to identify (from the example set by parents) as beneath itself and owing it this care (because they are hired to do it - its their job / duty ) they are more likely to grow up thinking that a) others are beneath them b) they deserve to have whatever they want c) people owe it to them to give them what they want and need.

Narcissists are like vampires, they feed off of the emotions, reactions and insecurities of their chosen victims. Before I knew that such a term "narcissistic personality disorder" existed, I used to call them "emotional vampires." And then, when reading about narcissists this past weekend, I saw another person refer to them by exactly the same term. Whatever the case, to a narcissist their partners, friends, loved ones, anyone who is putting up with their shit is not a person, they are what therapists like to call their "narcissistic supply" - they exist to feed the narcissist's emotional void.

Expressing love for a narcissist, being patient, putting up with his crap, are all seen as weaknesses by him, weaknesses that he will exploit and for which he will hold his victim in contempt. He will not appreciate anything that is done for him, because deep down inside of himself, so deep that he is not aware of it, he hates himself and this is why he is obsessed with himself. Doing things for him will not "help him realize his better nature and become a better person." The only way for him to possibly learn anything and get the help he needs (therapy) is to lose everything. So leaving him, might actually be the only thing one can do that might (might) possibly help him.

If a narcissist appears to have spontaneously changed and be acting nicer for a while or appreciative, it is only so he can string his victim along some more.

If you want revenge, the best revenge is to leave him and ignore him as much as you can. No matter what he does to try to upset you, do not give him any more of your emotions, even anger, that is what he wants and needs from you. Once he gets nothing from you, he will leave you alone and move on and find a new victim. Don't waste your time wondering if he is treating his new victim better, because he is not; and if he is, it isn't because he likes them better than he liked you or appreciates them more, it is either because he has to (some external factor is forcing him to behave better) or because he is still fattening them for the kill so to speak.

In the Roman Version of the Narcissus Myth, a nymph named Echo, falls in love with Narcissus, who was the son of the blue Nymph Liriope and the river god Cephisus.

Because of his great beauty, by the time he had reached "his sixteenth year," (fifteen years of age, by modern reckoning) every youth and girl in the town was in love with him, but he haughtily spurned them all.

One day, when he was out hunting stags, Echo stealthily followed him through the woods, longing to address him but unable to speak first. When Narcissus finally heard footsteps and shouted "Who's there?", Echo answered "Who's there?" And so it went, until finally she showed herself and rushed to embrace the lovely youth. He pulled away from the nymph and told her to leave him alone. Narcissus left Echo heartbroken and she spent the rest of her life in lonely glens, pining away for the love she never knew, until only her voice remained.

I find this version of the myth interesting, because, it illustrates what happens to those who are unfortunate enough to love narcissists and persist in this love. Pouring all of your love into the emotional void that is a Narcissist will drain you until you are obliterated and nothing remains except pain and tears.

Because, they are void of normal human emotions (like love) they feel empty, so they suck all the emotions and feelings from their victims, but it is never enough, so they are discontent and they blame their victim for not being able to satisfy them or fill the emptiness. When their victim has nothing more to give, they will discard them and find another victim. As long as you keep giving to narcissist they will keep taking. The only way to be free is to stop giving - stop feeding their sick hunger otherwise all you become is a faint Echo of what you used to be.


Puça said...

Hi Desertmonsoon!

I thought by january/february you were tagged... but maybe not with the same questions... sorry then, because I thought on tagging you but then said.. no wait she already did it..

Do you think is ok to do an 8 bis??? If so... you're tagged, as you were in my first thoughts!!
If not... next time you won't escape to my tagging finger!!


Puça said...

Si, it's true. And i've been confusing narcissits with emotional vampires too. I also agree there's more man than woman in this situation.

A long time ago man here were rised like kings too ans thay all thought were over anyonelse. New generations know they are equal to woman and other people no matter race, religion, country..he/she is from, but that takes time to change.

I've a friend from a Gulf country and although he seems very nice and polite (he's no narcissist luckily) when he sees a philipino or indian...he changes and treats them like he is so superior..I don't like this attitude and when pointed he said it was natural. In fact for him it is because he's been raised like this. But for me, raised in equality is so shocking and incomprehensible...

Ahavah said...

how comes you are a magnet? perhaps because you are like Echo? Sweet, kind, loving and loyal which makes you vulnerable.

Lisa said...

Great post. I am clapping over here habibty and can see that you really put a lot of effort into this. I was also clapping about your comment over at Susie's Big Adventure today, but couldn't think of anything to add to it.

So I was at the psychiatrist today and I'll post on it very soon. And she gave me a homework assignment which is to join this group:

And additionally, she told me something interesting that also was VERY painful. She said that those who marry a narcissist often have dependent personality disorder.

*Has difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others

*Needs others to assume responsibility for most major areas of his or her life

*Has difficulty expressing disagreement with others because of fear of loss of support or approval (this does not include realistic fears of retribution)

*Has difficulty initiating projects or doing things on his or her own (because of a lack of self-confidence in judgment or abilities rather than a lack of motivation or energy)

*Goes to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others, to the point of volunteering to do things that are unpleasant

*Feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone because of exaggerated fears of being unable to care for himself or herself

*Urgently seeks another relationship as a source of care and support when a close relationship ends

*Is unrealistically preoccupied with fears of being left to take care of himself or herself

It was difficult to hear because she also included borderline.

Now here's the thing: we usually marry a narcissist because we're their polar opposite.

They can take over where we cannot and it feels good in the beginning.

And I so agree with you about the nurture relationship with the Arab world. This starts from birth and I SO agree that Arab men are more affected.

A great book for us is The Arab Mind which goes into some of it in detail.

Not only were these guys never told no, but they were given a high five for not accepting the word no.

The culture so needs to pay and make no mistake it will sweetie. Eventually as CEO's start broadening themselves around the globe and taking over in other countries, the culture will be forced to change. It already is in some instances. These guys are simply not hireable or fit to work! No wonder the Arab world has such high unemployment rates! We have all these narcissistic babies whining about how they refuse to so work that's beneath their grandiose bipolar ideal....

They want their mommy back and the maid!


I am SO glad you got out. As a Dependent Personality Disorder, I thought I could change my emotional vampire.

The way I see it, the way to change, is to start bringing in managers from overseas to work in Arab countries, and have them say uh uh, I'm not hiring that psycho.

And then eventually moms will have to raise them differently.

I don't see this taking 20 years to change. I see it taking 80. I just wrote a comment on this post that sums it up:

I hate to be a pessimist, but I can't see it changing in 20 years in the Kingdom. The average age of 46% of the population in 1999 was UNDER 15. Imagine where those numbers are now.

What that means is we really need about 40 years minimum, because most of the younger generation is still being taught by mom to segregate.

Remember that the U.S. took 80 YEARS to fully de-segregate racially. And we had Brown vs Board of Education. And we were more willing to look at Democracy, and certainly more okay with gender fusion than the Kingdom.

Very, very nice post. I enjoy this blog a lot.

I love you so much habibty. And I'm so sorry for all you have been through. You are my light at the end of the tunnel, seeing how you conduct yourself today as a singe mom of two precious boys. Love you endlessly.

desertmonsoon said...

Hey Puca, Ok I am working on the 8 things post but I don't think I have 8 people to tag :(. I'm not one of the "cool kids" :P

What you said about men there being raised like that too - well I think all men were raised that way at some point in history.

Is the friend from the Gulf country the one who calls you, or is this another one you are talking about?

Ahavah, I think you make me sound too nice - I think I am kind of insecure - more than I used to be after everything I went through with my husband.

desertmonsoon said...

Lisa, I think I have that dependent personality disorder to some degree too, but disorders also overlap so sometimes it is hard to tell where one ends and another begins. OCD runs in my family big time and I think have it on a mental level. My mind fixates on an idea or worry at times and can't let it go. So if I have an argument with someone I love, I can't sleep until I feel it is resolved, but my desperation to resolve it makes me vulnerable to just accept whatever crap they say / do just so I can sleep at night. If I don't get the resolution I need then I start worrying that they will hate me forever, disappear - but I am not sure which came first, the chicken or the egg. I mean I was abandoned and treated really badly so now I fear it happening again. My husband's transformation from "the nicest guy I had ever met" to monster totally shocked and baffled me and left me feeling like I had no way to assess who is genuine and who is not.

I don't think you should be ashamed of having dependent personality disorder given what you have been through - from your description of your childhood, I think that is a natural outcome of the abuse you suffered as a child - it is very likely your father was a narcissist too - abusers often are.

I don't understand how I got here - my parents were not abusive. I know they love me. My father was a bit distant - he always had his head in the clouds and reading something, and he was strict and very religious and has OCD but he was / is not a bad man. He never abused his children and he loves us all even if he doesn't know exactly the best way to show it.

But I was a middle child out of 7 kids and of all the middle children, the "least special" in the sense that

My older sister was the first child and the first girl. I came along - my dad thought I was going to be a boy, he had a boy's name picked out - so I was just the second girl and second child. When I was less than 1 1/2 my mom had the first of my younger brothers. He too is a middle child but he was the first boy. After him came my brother "c", - "C" has severe OCD and complex tourettes syndrome - so his behavior always insured that he got attention. After him came my youngest brother - he weighed less than 4 pounds when he was born and was tiny and needed extra care - alos my parents didn't have anymore kids for 6 more years so he got to be the baby for a looong time (I think he nursed until he was 3!). Then my second sister came along. At this point my parents were gettting older so they thought that for sure she was the last one and again she got to be the baby for over 6 years
and then finally my last sister was born and she was the baby.
I was quiet, got extremely good grades, tried hard to behave, and therefore didn't get much attention at all and if I did, it was only when I was really upset about something and from my mom who was more moved by crying than my dad was. My dad alway tries to reason about anything and everything. If I came home and said, those kids were mean to me, he would sit there trying to reason with me as to why it isn't such a big deal what the kids said or did or he would propose theories as to why they did it - maybe they like you and just want to get your attention, maybe they thought you were being mean to them, - etc. It wasn't helpful and it wasn't very comforting, but that is just the way he is. He is pretty controlled and logical in his reactions most of the time. Someone could spit on him and he probably wouldn't react. He goes and prays for people who say / do bad things to him. But he didn't seem to realize that this is control that he learned over time and little kids can't be expected to exhibit the same level and sometimes they just want to hear their parents say, "it's ok honey, I love you" and hug them - simple as that. He always had to complicate everything with long talks.

Puça said...

Great I'll see your 8x6!!!

Don't be modest, you are one of those cool kids!!!!

It's not him, but it could be as in some conversations he talked about how cheap are foreign maids and drivers and workers... and the tone was a little bit weird...

Lisa said...

Hi sweetie,

Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to you fabulous comment here.

You definitely found yourself here quite by accident. Perhaps because of the very best intentions. You were possibly an optimist, looking for love, wanting to believe in him. And maybe more opimistic than the usual soul habibty.

Your dad sounds so wonderful. I wonder if a little of is distance caused you to seek refuge in a male figure more than you otherwise would have?

I also think that your mom divided her attention alot with all he kids she was raising, and your personality was quiet, serene, bookworm, sweetie. And whathappened is you got lost in the shuffle.

Our stories are very similar as far as depending on mom for the love but competing for it with siblings....being introverted and getting good grades....a bit of distance with dad. Mine veers into child abuse at that point...

You wanted to marry your "perfect father." A man who was emotional a little more often and wouldn't just reason with someone who spit in his face. You wanted to be held sweetie. You wanted something a little less OCD, you were running from it.

You found an extreme in your new husband.

I hope inshallah that your way is lit more and more sweetie. I know how frustating this period must be for you everyday. In time, the bad memories will fade and slowly, ever so slowly the trust will return. Inshallah I pray that your family can be there with you as a tower of support in this....

I love you endlessly, please feel free to email me or call me anytime sweetie.

Faith in Writing said...

I don't think my hub is totally narc, but I can see what you mean about being raised as one who can do no wrong and is like a prince. My hub is the second of 4 boys and still acts like he owns the world. Everything is about him. If we go anywhere 'Take a picture of me here' not a family photo, not us together. 'I need to have my hair trimmed... I need to buy new jeans' never wanting to spoil me or anything. I think his whole life he was treated like a God and no one ever held him accountable for anything. Now he won't take criticism on board and thinks it's ok to just think about himself all the time. Drives me nuts.
I'm so glad I had a little girl when I think of all this... if I had a boy and he turned out like my husband I would be so mad with him. My hub is so selfish sometimes.

desertmonsoon said...

Faith In Writing,

Yeah what you are describing sounds like more than one person I have known who in my opinion are narcissists. Hard to deal with.

Gabby Hijabi said...

OMG. My husband is totally a narcissist.. problem is i saw the comment about us being attracted to polar opposites, and i am exactly how it describes.. i am afraid to be alone, or take care of myself.. and i have no idea where it comes from.. childhood maybe.. Its not you i think alot of arab men are narcissistic especially egyptian men that are from South Egypt (Sa3di men) the women are so very submissive.. they cater to their husbands even if that means sacrificing everything (at least the southern egyptian women i know that are married to southern egyptian men) and my hubby is the firstborn.. sometimes he hides his "other" vain side but i am always reminded how stupid i am and that he is so much smarter than me, and i am to blame for every wrong thing that happens (even if it is a fluke thing and shouldnt be blamed on anyone) like our printer that doesnt work all of a sudden..i want to know how i can fight him back with my mind.. maybe win..???

Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks for this interesting statement.

I would like to add another idea:

Narcissists are known to hide their flawed personality behind a carefully constructed facade. Keeping up this facade is all-important to them, therefore they accept no criticism.

Now the Arab world has a 'shame culture'. It is a collectivist society in which other peoples' opinion about oneself are far more important than what the individual believes. In other words 'the desire to preserve honor and avoid shame to the exclusion of all else is one of the primary foundations of the culture. This desire has the side-effect of giving the individual carte blanche to engage in wrong-doing as long as no-one knows about it, or knows he is involved (...) As long as others remain convinced he is innocent, the (narcissist) does not experience either guilt or shame