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Keep Narcissists on Your Radar

A while back I was talking with a client about how to deal with her narcissistic father and why she kept attracting narcissistic people in her life. This was after a session with a client who commented about how her narcissistic mother had shaped her obsession with pleasing people rather than pleasing herself. When I stopped to think about it, I figured that about 90% of my clients over the decades have had at least one narcissistic parent and how sad that was both for the parents and my clients. My client with the narcissistic dad and I started talking about how to sense and identify narcissistic people and she said she wanted to improve her “nardar.” I loved the term and we went on to brainstorm what traits to look out for. Here’s what we came up with:

Narcissists are self-centered and have difficulty sharing space in a relationship. They talk mostly about themselves and don’t give you any room to share your thoughts or feelings. When you bring up something personal, they snatch the idea away and run with it, leaving you feeling that what you have to say doesn’t matter. Sometimes when you’re around them, you feel totally invisible and that can generate either despair or rage or both—and drive mindless eating.

Narcissists tend to be grandiose either about material things or how special and exceptional they are. For example, I’ve known several of them who could not stop talking about the good works they did in the community. Other ways of displaying grandiosity include needing constant or excessive praise, proving how they’re better than other people, being highly materialistic, and trashing others to place themselves in a better light. Feeding their egos may exhaust you and also drive mindless eating.

Narcissists have scant sense of humor about their shortcomings. They can’t be self-deprecating, even to put others at ease, and become highly insulted or enraged when their tiniest flaws are exposed. In psych parlance, they fear “narcissistic injury” because flaws blow their façade of believing they are fine or even near perfect. In truth, they have zero interest in hearing or knowing about their shortcomings. People around them often feel at fault and defective which—you guessed it—can drive mindless eating.

I feel deep compassion for narcissists who are some of the most limited, sad, fragile, lonely people on the planet. But, I feel worse for their children who are robbed of the love they require. Use your “nardar” to keep narcissists at bay as much as possible and see if you feel less of a desire to eat over the negative feelings they generate in you.