A client recently told me she was dating a man who, after two months, was talking about buying a ring, moving in together, having babies, and planning a life together. She wanted to believe this was a love-at-first-sight scenario. This is understandable, but it can also be dangerous. This man, though highly successful and charming, ended up abusing her, physically and emotionally, within months of claiming she was the love of his life.
It is important to carefully assess those we allow into our personal space. We must go beyond what looks good on paper, and instead focus on character traits and value systems.
When you consider getting involved with someone new, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
- How does this person treat other people?
- How do they behave in public?
- How do they treat their children?
- Do they display kindness and empathy toward others?
- Are they judgmental or critical of other people?
- Are they intolerant of differences in culture, race, religion, or gender?
- Are they inclusive and tolerant of other people’s opinions and values?
- Do they always have to be right or win?
Another vital litmus test when becoming involved someone new is to ask yourself, “How do I feel in the presence of this person?” And you have to keep asking yourself this question, particularly when you have become vulnerable or have shared your vulnerable feelings, problems, or personal issues with them.
Over many years of treating and evaluating victims of narcissists, one issue that recurs is the deep shame people feel when they realize they have been duped. But anyone can be duped by a narcissist. If you are a kind, loving, sensitive person who knows how to love, you can be duped, too. It is difficult to really wrap your head around the fact that some people are not capable of love and empathy. You can imagine, or perhaps know from your own experience, that this is particularly difficult if the narcissist is your parent, partner, friend or someone you deeply admire and love.
Remember: Narcissism is a spectrum disorder. We all have some level of narcissistic traits. But the higher the number of traits, the more problems an individual will represent, and the more damage he or she can cause in a relationship. The emotional damage cannot be taken lightly., including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, body image issues, addiction, and other concerns.
Given that any of us can be duped by a narcissist, it is important to be aware of the people in our world, our culture, and our families. Don’t be hard on yourself just because you know how to love: That is a gift. But increased awareness of narcissism may save you from devastating, crippling ramifications.
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