How big is the problem in New Zealand? It is thought that around 3% of NZ has this personality disorder. Statistically 75% of those will be men. Evidence is presented in a study from Victoria University and University of Auckland in a paper called ‘Narcissism Creep’ that the age of narcissists is now much lower than it was 20 or 30 years ago and on the rise in New Zealand. They present some compelling notions as to why – including change of parenting styles, societal shift, or developmental shifts in different generation groups.
Narcissism takes time to grow and reveal itself in a new or existing relationship and narcissists are really good at hiding it. They work on multi levels of behaviour to keep control and will stop at nothing. Blame, shame, guilt, self-harm threats, ridicule, undermining in front of others…the list is endless. They use stealth to erode self-esteem and make the other person think it’s their fault.
Who do they target? The common myth is that they target passive submissive people, but, where would be the fun in that? In fact they are way more likely to choose assertive, highly successful people and then take pleasure in ‘breaking’ them.
Yes, it’s entirely possible that you don’t know you are one, or don’t believe you are one. The nature of narcissism in the early days at least is that no one will call you out on it. Narcissism needs feeding often. Others in your life feed it by enabling and accepting the incoming behaviour you are sending out. Narcissism cannot exist without enablers. The people who stand by and do nothing when they see/hear someone being abused by a narcissist are as much to blame. To be fair to people in this category. It is really hard to step in. People don’t engage through fear, weakness, fear of reprisals, physical safety and much more.
Can a narcissist be fixed? Hmm, tricky. The short answer would be – maybe, if they want to be, and the people dealing with them have the mental and emotional strength! It is a never ending and thankless task to try to re-educate and enlighten a narcissist. Keep in mind that if you ditch a narcissist, you may just have flicked them onto someone else. They rarely stop being a narcissist just because someone ditched them. They will already be looking for their next victim. Men who are ditched by people who are onto them get into new relationships really quickly.
The Elemental Potential Compassionate assertiveness in Action model works well on managing narcissists. It reaches that balance between rejection of the behaviour and not inflaming the situation further. Remaining calm, composed and in control are all of the things that give the classic narcissist a wobbly moment.
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