Am I a narcissist? The signs and what to do

A narcissist in the family

A narcissist in the family will make your life unbearable.

Photo credit: Samuel Muigai | Nation Media Group

“A shilling for your thoughts,” I told Jane, a close friend during a lunch date. She stared at her drink then blurted out: “My cat is a narcissist.” I chuckled but she went on to explain what she meant.

“She’s a taker. Takes and takes and never gives back anything.”

“Well, that’s the nature of cat...,” I said.

She divulged more details to make her point.

“She likes to be fed, cuddled, and pampered, but will not even look at me, unless when she’s hungry,” she complained. I thought that was very mean of the cat.

“Why do you keep her if she is so much work?” I asked.

“I am an empath. I attract narcissists,” she said.

“Where did you learn that?” I was curious.

“Oh no my friend, cats are narcs,” she responded.

“Maybe you should keep a dog. They are the empaths,” I suggested. She looked at me, smiled, and called the waiter to settle the bill.

But the narcissistic cat discussion stuck with me.

Of late, every human connected to social media platforms seems to have turned into a psychiatrist or psychologist. We are quick to label every ill-mannered behaviour from someone as narcissistic. Thanks to an overload of information, we now know that more than half the population has a varying degree of mental illness or personality disorder. But in our lazy consumption of information, we (mis) diagnose other abuse as narcissistic. It could be because, at any one time, we all display a narcissistic trait even though that does not qualify as a narcissistic personality disorder unless it is consistent.

I was surprised to learn that not all abusers are narcissistic, but all narcissists are abusers. While both men and women can be narcissistic, in patriarchal societies like ours, more than 70 per cent of the persons with the disorder are male. Patriarchy normalises misogyny and unconscious bias is common, for example in everyday speech. Do you realise it is taken as an insult to call a man, a woman but flip the same and it becomes a compliment. “Huyo ni mwanaume. (to mean she is tough). She has built her parents a house,” is a common statement.

A husband who is not conscious or intentional about the value of a woman will easily turn into a narcissist without realising it.

So how does one know if they are experiencing narcissistic abuse in marriage?

“Betrayal is the one constant sign,” Dr Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist sheds light on narcissistic traits and narcissistic personality disorder.

Betrayal in marriage such as adultery, selling off a joint property behind your spouse’s back, or withdrawing funds from a joint account without consent or knowledge of the other is a serious breach of the marriage trust and promises.

Consistent behaviour of betrayal, not just towards the spouse but others, points to a narcissistic personality disorder. The most disturbing thing about this disorder is that the person does not acknowledge their problem and its impact on others. They will justify their actions, as they have an entitlement mentality and a grandiose sense of self-importance.

Jeniffer Kiarie, a psychologist, and founder of Heal and Thrive describes the experience of co-parenting with a narcissist.

“A narcissist doesn’t co-parent, they counter-parent,” she says.

When a marriage breaks down, normal people will amicably co-parent, for the sake of the children. But a narcissist will be hell-bent on punishing you for leaving them, without regard for how their behaviour led to the demise of the marriage, and most critically, without caring about the welfare of the children. If you find yourself dealing with a narcissist and they are being difficult on custody issues, to protect your sanity, involve the law. Stay away from narcissists. Healing from narcissistic abuse is work! It takes therapy, prayer, fasting, grieving, anger, acceptance, and the toughest, forgiving oneself.

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