Narcissism develops in early childhood when a child experiences attachment trauma and insufficient nurturing or love from their primary caregiver. As a child, narcissists learn that relationships are merely transactional and for their benefit, and not what is considered a normal loving connection. 

A narcissist learns that relying on others is not safe and therefore they become unable to attach to others in a healthy way. Instead, the narcissist learns to manipulate and relate to others only if it benefits him or herself. Narcissists seek transactional relationships with people who become their narcissistic supply.

Narcissistic supply becomes a form of payment of those chosen by the narcissist to prove their transactional worthiness. The narcissist is a master of emotional manipulation. They are both manipulative and charismatic and brilliant at reading what others desire. The narcissist, in the beginning, plays to the identified desires and engage in “love bombing” the object of their narcissist supply. Saying all the right things and showering of gifts starts their manipulation to ensure their narcissistic supply feels a sense of security, no matter how false it is.

Once the object of supply feels secure, the narcissist begins their ridiculous accusations, unwarranted criticism, and unrealistic demands. Isolating their supply from the ones that love them furthers their assertion of control. Once isolated, the narcissist ignores its supply criticizing their needs and feelings. This wreaks havoc on their supply’s confidence and self-esteem. 

Common characteristics of a narcissist

  • A narcissist has a grandiose sense of self-importance and exaggerates achievements and talents. They feed off attention and need constant validation, appreciation, and recognition. They name-drop to artificially align themselves with celebrities and famous public figures. They often live beyond their means by driving expensive cars, wearing designer clothes, and showering their supply with flashy gifts. This is designed to dazzle and charm the unsuspecting while hiding their deep-seated insecurities.
  • Narcissist craves admiration, talking only about themselves with no interest in others. Narcissists are charming, beautiful, and successful; they often excel at seduction and flattery to gain control of the object of their supply.
  • The narcissist lacks empathy for the feelings and needs of others, and a determining symptom of narcissism when combined with their sense of entitlement and exploitation. The narcissist is emotionally unavailable and incapable of vulnerability. 
  • Narcissists are arrogant and criticize others to make themselves feel superior. They often act with rude disdain, abrupt anger or covert hostility. They believe they are infallible and always right, never taking responsibility or apologizing for their actions. A red flag not to be ignored is hostility around past relationships and how they inevitably describe themselves as the victim.
  • A narcissist will exploit others to achieve their personal goals, every relationship is transactional and only meant to provide a means to their end. A narcissist uses covert aggression and manipulation to influence their bidding. More serious exploitation involves lying, gas-lighting, cheating, and fraud. 
  • Narcissists are compelled to be number one best. They stop at nothing to take down those they perceive as competitors. The narcissist cannot tolerate any form of criticism.
  • Narcissists are arrogant, entitled, and need to feel as though they are the center of everything. They feel entitled to special treatment- rules do not apply to them. They feel no responsibility, are always the victim and someone else is always to blame. 

Now you know what a narcissist is and how to recognize their common characteristics, how can you guard yourself against falling for their charm when they are love bombing you?

If you were raised by a narcissistic parent, you are naturally more susceptible to what feels familiar and a narcissist is a master at recognizing this in you. Once attached and in love, it is not easy to stay or leave, both are equally as frightening, exhausting, and emotionally devastating. 

It is a difficult decision to leave a toxic, narcissistic relationship and equally as devastating to be discarded by one. After all, you have been brainwashed to doubt yourself, your confidence and your self-worth. Here are some practical and concrete actions you can take to heal from a toxic narcissistic relationship.

  • Become aware and challenge any false beliefs that were born of this toxic relationship. Writing down false beliefs allows you to analyze whether they make sense or have any truth in them.
  • Now is the time to take some emotional inventory on your life. Where and by whom did you learn to be responsible for the feelings for others and accept all the blame?
  • Understand your motive or what need within you in met when you accept unacceptable behavior.
  • Use your reasonable mind to create new healthy boundaries for yourself, how you will be treated and what you will accept from others.

It is natural for human beings to want to remember the good times and forget the bad. When you find yourself romanticizing any part of your toxic relationship, remind yourself that you are thinking with your emotional mind. To overcome this, redirect yourself and use your reasonable mind. Create new boundaries for yourself to ensure your mental and emotional wellbeing.

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