The many and various ways I pass the time now has a new addition. Usually it involves drinking coffee whilst sitting at a computer keeping in touch with chums, or sipping wine sitting on our tiny terrace catching the sun, and wondering what else I can do to avoid any cleaning or tidying or putting away of stuff and things that aren't even MINE. And now I am going to type this blog. Provided that doesn't become a chore as well, in which case...

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

An Ex-Codependent's Cri du Coeur

I am doing a straw poll to find out how many other people out there have had prolonged dealings with a narcissist (be it parent, sibling, friend, partner, boss, colleague or adult child) and find themselves still searching for strategies to help them cope with the fall-out, even if they are estranged from the narcissist(s) in their life and many years have passed since contact. I am considering blogging separately on the topic as well, in a different blog aimed at foming a friendly and generous therapeutic community particularly of ex-codependents of narcissists.

If you recognise a sizeable number of these features in someone you know or have known well, please PM me with your experiences and coping strategies if you don't want to go public, or comment if you aren't shy.

Traits and signs

Narcissists typically display most, and sometimes all, of the following traits

1) An obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges
2) Problems in sustaining satisfying relationships
3) A lack of psychological awareness
4) Difficulty with empathy
5) Problems distinguishing the self from others
6) Hypersensitivity to any insults or imagined insults
7) Vulnerability to shame rather than guilt
8) Haughty body language
9) Flattery towards people who admire and affirm them
10) Detesting those who do not admire them
11) Using other people without considering the cost of doing so
12) Pretending to be more important than they really are
13) Bragging and exaggerating their achievements
14) Claiming to be an "expert" at many things
15) Inability to view the world from the perspective of others
16) Denial of remorse and gratitude

I have been in recovery from being a narcissist's codependent for many years now, so the healing powers of distance and time have helped a lot.  But the topic still exercises me somewhat, and of late I have realised that I have sustained long relationships with others with distinct narcissisic leanings despite the undermining effect this has sometimes had on my health and wellbeing.  I got good at coping, and even used comedy and humour to good effect to enable me to do so, but that didn't mean coping was doing me any good!

I have great faith in the idea of the Wounded Healer, and see how effective it is in support groups for physical conditions, to share experiences, offer hints and advice and discuss treatments attempted.  So I am going to see what I can do to pass on any wisdom that I have gained from hard-won personal experiences, and use the anonymity of my blog persona in particular if this will be of help to others, and also glean more ideas from others to help me find my centre and balance despite my past experiences of the prolonged and unthinking cruelty doled out to others by people with strong (and usually utterly unacknowledged) narcissitic tendencies.

Thanks in advance if you feel you can comment openly.  If you can't go public, please private message me.


  1. I don't think I can help from personal experience, but I do know the enormous value of mutual support in a different context (breast cancer forums) and think such endeavours are very worthwhile.

    Have you thought of adding a contact email in your profile for those not on FB or who don't want to comment publicly?

  2. In a way, I almost hope not to get too much of a response, if that means relatively few people have had to live with or deal with these intractable personality types. I don't have my e-mail on my profile either here or on FB, as both have the private message option, which is confidential without revealing a personal e-mail address. I have found lots of websites that touch on the topic, or even concentrate on it, but they are mostly made up of people who are still dealing with or divorcing a partner with those features and it can all be very high stress and heavy on a sense of grievance and victimhood. I'm more keen to understand than blame, I suppose, as well as recover.

  3. Like Perpetua I, luckily, cannot comment from personal experience but do know the value of support groups - both the Alzheimer's and Parkinson's groups have helped me a lot.

  4. When I looked up NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) on Wikipedia, I felt it summed up my father to a tee. I took the brunt of his emotional abuse up to the age off 11, when I dispatched off to boarding school, when my brother at age 7 became his prime target. It was as if we fulfilled the role of his emotional and psychological dustbin, for all the issues in himself that he couldn't be bothered to deal with. He seemed to want us to become clones of himself, with identical opinions and outlook on everything, so that we, in order to assert our individuality and existence, tended to do and think everything to be opposite to him. My coping mechanism was to be outwardly passive and to live in a fantasy world, my brother's was to become contemptuous of all authority, and to adopt a position of open hostility and confrontation. One problem for both of us is that in order to assert our individuality and separate existence from our father, we have found most of our lives taken up with this issue with precious little room for anything else. Most of my life has been lived in a world of ideals and dreams with little regard for reality, and my brother is constant confrontation with reality. As a local councillor, a politician, arguing any point with him was exhausting, with every nit-picked point using every ounce of energy, just to justify having an opinion different from him. What was very galling was that he found the situation so amusing. Any relationship of his where he was more powerful found him enjoying his dominance overruling the weaker person. In social situations involving people who were not in his family, such as neighbours, he would by his behaviour demand every ounce of limelight, with no other member of his family being allowed to get a word in edgeways, and within the family, at the meal-table, he would interrupt and hijack every conversation that was not with him, so socially, my mother, my brother and sister became silent whenever he was around, unless we were prepared to fight for every second of airtime. For my brother and I, the resulting emotional response has been hatred, contempt and to be everything that he was not. Does that make sense?

    1. Eloquent sense, Pete, as always your use of words is stunning. I can almost feel your exhaustion, even now. I am interested that you have spoken so tellingly of your brother's and your reactions and coping strategies. Do you feel your sister was dealt with differently, being a daughter, not a son? And how did she cope, as far as you could see?

      That nit-picking pulling apart of anything anyone tries to say if it isn't complete agreement, I remember that too. And silence being taken as acquiescence. That was another feature of day-to-day discourse.