How to handle a narcissist
If someone is narcissistic, it means they lack empathy, they’re very arrogant, superficial, prone to lying and feel deeply entitled. That’s just for starters.
They also tend to be very good business people because “they’re quick, they’re sharp and they don’t care who they hurt,” psychologist Dr Ramani Durvasula told me.
She sums them up like so: “They’re jerks”.
“They care tremendously only about appearances and Instagrammable lifestyles”.
I know what you’re thinking; that could apply to all of us, right? Turns out, it probably does.
Worryingly, Dr Ramani believes narcissism is “the new normal”.
And, “it’s getting dangerous,” she told me in HealthHackers episode 21.
Dr Ramani suggested it may be down to “major shifts” that have taken place over the past three to five years.
It’s no secret that she believes US president Donald Trump is a narcissist.
“He’s gotten everything he’s ever wanted because he’s revised the story, he doesn’t care who he hurts.”
Dr Ramani was speaking to me just days after two significant and deeply disturbing events had taken place in America.
“People are expressing their rage,” she said.
“Sadly, a significant chunk of Americans think there’s no problem with that.
“That’s narcissism - the idea that I can hurt someone because I don’t agree with them.”
And if you’re wondering whether a narcissist feels remorse for causing that hurt…
“When they apologise it’s not because they feel bad about the impact it had on someone else, [it’s] that they feel ashamed that they got caught doing something that makes them look bad”.
Handling a narcissist partner
A person lacking all empathy is a tricky human being to have a relationship with (putting it mildly).
“They’re constantly seeking validation and admiration.
“That’s why, for example, they’ll do things like cheat on a partner because it’s just one more way to get validation to have someone tell them how attractive they are.”
Dr Ramani, who authored the book ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Narcissistic Relationship’, regularly sees clients who come to her as a couple seeking help with their partnership.
Unfortunately, when one of the partners is a narcissist it means he or she will never change their self-centred ways - no matter how many counselling sessions they attend.
“Being in a relationship with a narcissist is a bit like being in a cult - you’re brainwashed,” she said, and you can expect to be made to feel like you’re not good enough.
She advises that if you can leave your selfish partner - that’s great.
However, “you can expect a brutally painful divorce battle,” - dragged out, expensive and exhausting.
And if you decide to stick around…
“You have to ratchet your expectations down” because your partner will always be this way.
You have to realise that “this person doesn’t care about you, they’re going to keep lying to you, they don’t care about your life, they don’t care about your sadness, they don’t care about your triumphs”.
In practical terms, Dr Ramani says that means you make your relationship “deeply superficial”.
She suggests you keep your conversations limited to menial subjects like the weather, or how a new supermarket has opened nearby.
Don’t bother talking to them about substantial things or important decisions because they’ll break your heart again, according to Dr Ramani.
“You almost have to view yourself as being in the relationship alone,” and cultivate other networks of friends and family, even if your narcissistic partner has tried to isolate you from others.
How can you prevent your child from growing into a narcissist?
“Narcissism is largely made, it’s not born,” Dr Ramani told me.
“The single most important thing I think we can teach a child is empathy”.
They need to have a sense of self-awareness as well as the needs of other people, according to Dr Ramani.
This could be teaching them to check in with another child who might be feeling down, telling a teacher when someone is upset, or learning to wait their turn and share.
Dr Ramani suggests that convincing your child they are more special than everyone else and trying to create the grandiose goals you have for them isn’t helpful.
“Narcissism is a condition of insecurity and that insecurity is often brought by parents who do not nurture their child’s inner world”.
Listen to the audio podcast of HealthHackers episode 21 with Dr Ramani: How to handle a narcissist, psychopath or sociopath.
Or watch the video version below.