Did you know that a narcissist does not always seem like a narcissist initially, and sometimes you see their true colors much later?
Publicly, most narcissists maintain a favorable image by advertising their good deeds. Privately, it is equally as misleading. Often when narcissists set their eyes on a “prize,” they stop at nothing to convince the person that they are selfless and loyal.
However, when the narcissist steps in and insists on saving the day, they usually have an ulterior motive. Although their gesture may seem altruistic, narcissists often use the opportunity as collateral.
For example, say Sara works for a boss who is unfair and frequently takes advantage of his or her employees. Lisa may leap to Sara’s side, join her in dislike for the boss, and offer Sarah an esteemed position at her place of employment. Incredibly grateful, Sara feels as if Lisa “saved” her.
Yet, months later, Lisa begins to criticize Sara’s work. She routinely makes backhanded comments about Sara at meetings, and subtly sabotages Sara’s professional reputation. When Sara confronts Lisa, she denies it, and angrily turns on Sara, demanding Sara be grateful for her position. After the interaction, Lisa distorts the discussion and paints Sara as the ‘bad guy” to fellow co-workers.
In addition, immediately after Lisa assisted Sara with the new position, Sara was grateful and included Lisa in social gatherings with her friends. As the months progressed, Sara felt her friends pull away. When she asked a friend about it, the friend confessed that Lisa told unflattering stories about Sara when Sara was not present. Unfortunately, because Lisa had spent a great deal of time with the friend group, Sara felt awkward asking her friends to sever their bond with Lisa.
Want to know more about how a narcissist does not always seem like a narcissist? Read 8 Tricks Narcissists Play To Manipulate Their Victims
At first, a narcissist seems confident and kind. The realization that he or she is unscrupulous and controlling often arrives too late. The question many clients ask is “Why?’ Why does a person feel the need to control and destroy another person? The answer may be more evident than people realize.
Initially, a truly kind and open-hearted person is appealing to a narcissist. Yet, as the person and the narcissist get closer, instinctively the narcissist senses that he or she is not as good-natured as the person. Instantly, this threatens the narcissist. In order to combat feelings of insecurity, robust and unconscious defense mechanisms automatically kick in. Extreme and unconscious deflection and projection allow the narcissist to relieve himself or herself of insecurities by seeing “bad” in the other person. This allows the narcissist to feel entitled to control and dominate the “problem.”
Alternatively, an emotionally healthy person is aware of insecurities and has no need to bully in order to feel better about who he or she is. It is a narcissist who is unrealistic about his or her insecurities and unconsciously projects them onto another. In part, an emotionally healthy individual is a prime target for a narcissist because he or she is less rigidly defended.
A person who has a flexible and malleable defensive structure has access to deep and sometimes uncomfortable emotions, such as insight, self-awareness, remorse, accountability, empathy, and conscientiousness. Unfortunately, a narcissist often ruthlessly exploits these deeper capacities and uses them to his or her advantage.
Yet, a kind-hearted person should never change who he or she is. A strong conscience, remorse, empathy, and insight are sophisticated emotional capacities that allow a person to be accountable and evolve. These capacities also help an individual maintain closeness with others.
There are four things a person can do to help himself or herself when ensnared with a narcissist.
First, do not succumb to the guilt a narcissist wields.
Second, diplomatically communicate to the narcissist that the treatment is unfair and needs to stop. Warning, this may not go well because a narcissist typically deflects responsibility and gaslights. If this occurs, a person may politely end the interaction by stating, “This conversation seems unproductive. Let’s revisit it later,” and excuse himself or herself from the conversation.