Have you noticed how trendy narcissism is? It’s everywhere. Why is that? I caught an episode of Jada Pinkett Smith’s online program, “Red Table” with Dr. Ramani Durvasula. Dr. Durvasula is one of the best people I’ve seen talk about narcissism. She says the topic is exploding thanks to the internet. Think about it, you’re a 1950’s housewife, married to a narcissist who’s running your whole world. Financially and beyond. Where would you go to learn? Very few people were going to therapists in the 1950’s. But now, you google how you’re treated and BOOM, 18 billion articles, including this one now.
I first learned about narcissism in therapy in 2007. My psychologist was skilled on the subject and even then, she told me that it was still a learning process within the psychology community. I have a degree in Human Relations and narcissism was not a topic covered in my studies. The books she suggested I read confirmed that the world was just beginning to understand how narcissism affects the mindset of the narcissist and the mindset of the non-narcissist.
When we first learn about the narcissism playbook as I call it, we are pissed. Infuriated beyond boiling. Show me an online article about narcissism and I can tell you how long someone has been educating themselves based on how angry their writing is.
It takes years of personal development work to learn how to respond to narcissistic actions. The beautiful thing is that once you start putting boundaries in place and building your confidences, the folks who use the narcissistic playbook as their chosen operating system for life affect us much less. The ugly part, it takes a long time to get there.
I, like everyone else who first starts to understand narcissism called everyone a narcissist. If they even looked like they might be doing something narcissistic, I labeled them. Problem with that is that narcissism is best explained on a spectrum. If 1 is healthy narcissism and 10 is toxic, where do you land on the spectrum? We all move up and down the scale. While I like to think I hang out on the low end, some unhealthy narcissism has helped me cross a finish line or two. Guilty as charged. And those folks in our life who hang out on the toxic side of the spectrum, you have seen moments where they are able to put down the narcissistic playbook for a real moment of connection. Then they bolt back to the toxic side of the spectrum where they feel safer leaving you totally confused. I now try to not call anyone a narcissistic and instead look at their behavior governed by a playbook of toxic actions that more times than not are inherited. I find if I can focus on actions and not labeling the person, it allows me to see their heart or at least remember that they have one.
All that said, imagine my surprise when a person who I’ve admired for years showed up with a narcissistic playbook in hand. I was floored. Not that he picked up the playbook, that doesn’t surprise me anymore. What floored me, was how triggered I was by his actions. There I was, caught up in the game, mostly in my head. I thought I healed this and knew how to respond not react to narcissistic actions. Truth is, we were both frustrated with ourselves more than anything. But there I was, making calls, complaining, pretending not to blame but out of the corner of my mouth blaming. And now that the situation is fixed, I can’t help but think … Was he the only one holding a copy of the playbook?
What do you think of this idea of focusing on a person’s actions and not their whole person? Do you believe if you have good boundaries that you can stay in the present moment and less affected by these folks? Do you notice when you’re triggered?
Important Disclaimer: If you are new to learning about narcissism, please message me for healthy resource options from trained psychology professionals and I will share a list. This is a serious topic and unfortunately sometimes individuals can be too harmful to stay in relationship with. You can disconnect safely with good support.