The Washington Post recently ran a story titled “Start of a Long Year of Toxic Politics Between Dems & Trump.”
It reported that the ongoing battle between President Trump’s desire to keep his campaign promise to build a wall and the Democrats’ plan to foil him sets the tone for this increasingly toxic environment to continue.
Coincidentally, heading into 2019, Oxford Dictionaries summed up the mood of 2018 with its word of the year: “toxic.” Thing is we all know people — or just “scenarios” — that are toxic to us, including workplaces, relationships, schools, society and politics.
As a result, therapists are increasingly advising patients on how to eliminate poisonous factors in their lives. So, first, they are pinpointing the types of people who take and take and don’t give back — the emotional vampires who suck our time, energy, love and resources. These toxic types include, the Instigator, the Eternal Critic, the Attention Seeker, the Ghoster, the Adult Dependent, and the Narcissist.This isn’t the kind of thing you want to “win.”
Most noteworthy: the narcissist.
In Greek mythology, Narcissus is the hunter who fell in love with his own reflection. Narcissus is that iconic painting by Caravaggio that depicts Narcissus gazing at his own reflection. The term narcissism means a fixation with oneself and one’s physical appearance or public perception. Sigmund Freud published a paper exclusively devoted to narcissism in 1914, called “On Narcissism: An Introduction.”
THE NARCISSISM OF MODERN POP CULTURE
It seems like, narcissists are found in all walks of life today, including: stars of vapid reality shows (Keeping Up with The Kardashians to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills to TRH of New York City); to pop stars, music divas, Hollywood, Broadway and West End actors.
Then there are those with narcissistic personality disorder, which is described by the Mayo Clinic as one of several types of personality disorders, and “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
First of all, famous narcissists have historically included Henry the Eighth, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, and serial killer Ted Bundy. Furthermore, more modern examples include O.J. Simpson, Kanye West, Paris Hilton, and President Donald Trump, who’s described as displaying “every trait of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” He wants everyone to know his name, no matter the cost. Remarkably (and a bit terrifying), Trump has succeeded.LA-based (MFT) therapist Robyn E. Smith.
Love him or hate him, everyone knows Donald Trump. (He) obsesses over his looks, be it his fluffy hair or tanned skin. Trumps also continuously degrades women by proudly stating how he could get with any woman he chooses to. Trump lacks empathy or remorse for his obscene Twitter rants and awful treatment of pretty much anyone other than himself.
Most probably, many of us are never going to be dealing with these people. However, there may be those with toxic narcissistic traits in our lives and, quite frankly, experts suggest the quicker we become aware of and deal with them, the better for our health.
GET READY TO DUMP ‘EM
For the reason that a narcissist cannot see you as a person, LA-based MFT therapist Robyn E. Smith says it’s a good idea to dump them, explaining: “They are unable to consider another’s subjectivity. Instead, they see you as an object that serves the function of feeding their ego.
“They couldn’t be different if they tried. It’s really sad for everyone. The narcissist uses people and never knows what it’s like to be in a genuine relationship. The person in a relationship with a narcissist is inevitably disappointed at best and mistreated at worst.”
THE WOUNDED CHILD
First of all, Smith sees one of the root causes of this behavior, adding: “There is something to have compassion about when it comes to a narcissist — they are that way because they were genuinely wounded as children. Narcissistic wounding sometimes leads to a narcissistic personality structure. Narcissists are very insecure and always looking to feel better about themselves. To survive, they try to hide the fragile person they actually are inside.” A narcissist’s bravado, inconsiderate behavior, and disregard for others’ feelings are unfortunate attempts to protect him- or herself from feeling the miserable feelings inside.
YOU MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO HELP
As a result, Smith also says there’s not much we can do: “Once a person’s personality is structured this way, it’s important to remember that you can’t do anything to change the way the person is. But what you can do is change your expectations of the person and try to enjoy them for what they offer — interesting conversations, good taste in art of music, shared memories.
But if you are looking for someone who is supportive and generous and able to emotionally connect with, look elsewhere.
SIGNS OF A NARCISSIST
Consequently, Smith offers some helpful signs to watch out for: 1) They don’t ask questions in conversations — Narcissists are incapable of genuine interest in others. 2) They will accuse you of things they know are true about themselves — They don’t see others and different and separate people, so they assume others have the same motivations they have.
For example, a narcissist will accuse someone of lying because they know all about lying. 3) Attention, even negative attention, is a win for a narcissist — Narcissists have such fragile egos that they sometimes fear on a deep level that they don’t exist. This manifests in acting in ways or saying things that get people talking about them. 4) They struggle with long-term relationships.
Narcissists often break off friendships or relationships once they no longer feed their ego. If you think about how a narcissist can’t see another person as a person, it’s clear why genuine, loving relationships are difficult if not impossible.
So, if there’s a snake in your life, if you do know someone who seems toxic, you probably have a narcissist who’s more interested in looking over their own shoulder at their reflection in the mirror. Or even worse, Smith offers that they’re just good at taking your time, resources, energy, empathy and compassion ― but not so good at giving it back.
Above all, a word to the wise from the experts — drop the mic on them, like real hard!