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TV Narcs: Highlighting the Humor of Narcissism

I found myself watching old episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm the other night and it dawned on me: Larry David is sooooo NPD. I always related to the show and to the situations Larry finds himself in. Somehow Larry finds a way to piss off everyone around him and is generally clueless. [Raises hand]

During its original run not only did I not realize he was a narcissist, I hadn’t yet realized I was either. Now watching it again all these years later, it’s so clear. No wonder I related to his guy: He’s low empathy, self-centered, clueless in social situations, he ruins all interpersonal relationships, is easily offended and embarrassed, and often flies into fits of rage.

To some, Larry comes off as “neurotic.” But a recent study found that neuroticism and narcissism are essentially the same thing. Needy Narcissists May Just Be Extreme Neurotics:

In every sample, neuroticism was the biggest predictor of vulnerable narcissism, to the point that Miller tells Science of Us that vulnerable narcissists and people high in neuroticism were “basically identical” in their results. “They were not similar — they were almost exactly the same,” he said in an email. So the study may have uncovered a prime example of the “jangle fallacy,” where the same phenomenon gets two different names and is falsely treated as two different things. Though different literatures have grown around neuroticism and vulnerable narcissism, they may very well be one and the same.

Of course I took to Google to see if anyone else had noticed what a narc Larry is, and came up with an interesting article that compared Larry David to another show about narcissists I quite enjoy, Girls:

Larry David played a version of himself in “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” much like Lena Dunham, who plays an exaggerated and incredibly negative version of herself (and people she knows) in “Girls.” These two have much more in common than sharing a comedy series written and created by themselves on the same network. Larry (from here on out we’ll use “Larry” to refer to the character, and “David” to refer to the actor) is essentially the male version of Hannah: both ridiculously selfish, self-loathing, and navigating every aspect of life for his or her own benefit, while disregarding others along the way. It’s also pretty (pretty, pretty, pretty) much known that everyone thinks Larry is a complete asshole.

I love how Larry highlights the humor of life with NPD. I can get so caught in a loop of negativity about my disorder and all the very serious (and not funny) things about it. But sometimes it’s nice to be able to laugh at it, and laugh at myself.

Larry David is my spirit animal.

HBO announced that they are bringing Curb back for a 9th season this year. Can’t wait.

Larry being low empathy

 

Larry hangs up on his wife, who was having a near-death experience, because the cable guy came. “You know, it’s very hard to get those people here!”

Larry’s fits of rage:

I have friends who I can’t stand for like 25 years, I’m still friends with them. Because I stay ’til the end. I go down with the ship.”

Music: All in My Head

Pat Lok – All In My Head ft. Desirée Dawson [Love & Other]
Look baby I don’t know
What you said that time
But it just doesn’t help
Ease my over-thinking mind
Who baby I know
You said each word is true
But I got you in lies
So what’s a girl to do
Is it just all, all, all in my head
When I find out before I’m dead
Is it just all, all, all, all, all in my head
‘Cause I’m pulling you close
But should I leave you behind

Loving & Understanding A Narcissist

My friend, who blogs about living with Borderline Personality Disorder, gives her perspective on loving someone with NPD. She writes about her fiance with a lot of unconditional love and compassion — something most of us NPDers never had growing up.

Since waking up, I’ve learned more about BPD, and have been surprised at the many similarities in our internal thinking. This has become more evident as I’ve started learning DBT, which was originally developed for Borderlines.

It’s also striking how many Borderlines and Narcissists find ourselves in relationships. I’d say there’s a special relationship between the two disorders.

Borderline Mama writes:

His behaviour is not okay, I’m well aware of that. But it is fueled by his need for attention, love and validation. I put up with his behaviour by choice, because I know he is as emotionally damaged as me. I have BPD, and he puts up with my negative borderline characteristics. So why should I give up on him?

Our personality disorders are quite similar in some ways. Both narcissists and borderlines have a distorted sense of self, issues with rage, a deep fear of abandonment, and black and white thinking. Through these similarities, I am able to understand my SO’s behaviour to some degree.

Read the whole article: Loving & Understanding A Narcissist

Derealization and depersonalization in NPD and BPD.

Mentioned in my last post, but this is worth posting on its own.

Lucky Otters Haven

Worlds_Collide___Phaeton___by_Meckie
Worlds Collide-Phaeton: by Meckie at Deviantart.com

A common symptom of both NPD and BPD is dissociation: a splitting or fragmenting of the personality not very different from what occurs in the Dissociative disorders such as DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) and Psychogenic Fugue. It usually happens in response to a severe loss of supply or major narcissistic injury, or a sudden awareness of oneself as not oneself (realizing your false self is not who you really are–which happens when a narcissist becomes self aware). These disorders themselves, especially NPD, are dissociative in nature because a split in the personality has occurred. In the narcissist, it’s a substitution of the original personality for a false one.

Borderlines, rather than having a false self per se, are more like chameleons, adapting their personalities to fit the people and situation around them. That’s why Borderlines can seem so changeable.

I first started to experience…

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Validation and self-esteem

Great piece on a narcissist’s need for validation.

“If one’s self-esteem is set externally, validation is like an addictive drug. If it’s set internally, validation is like an occasional glass of wine.”

Thinking Clearly

I’ll drop my glove, to prove his love; great glory will be mine.

Leigh Hunt

Vanity and fair are simple words. However, it was only recently that I understood what these words mean together. In more contemporary English, it means an exchange of validation between two people. What got me thinking about it is the book I recently read by Robert Cialdini called Influence. It describes the mechanics of how easily people’s need for validation  can be used to play them in a Machiavellian way.

Validation is always a treat. We must be wired for it. Given that humans are social animals, it makes sense to yearn for validation as it increases one’s chances of survival. If one is part of a tribe (i.e. accepted/validated by the tribe), he/she is less likely to get eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger. However, it seems that this pathway gets hijacked an…

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Hello, My Name is Yara, and I’m a Crack Addict for Approval

What happens when you become self-aware? For one, you start questioning your own sanity.

I look back and I cringe at things I’ve done in the past. At the time, my behavior made perfect sense to me. I was totally justified.

But as a healthier person seeing it through another lens, it’s embarrassing. I can’t believe I walked around acting the way I did – I overshared to the point of embarrassment, I showed no empathy for others, I (unknowingly) used people, I had no control over my temper, I was condescending and rude. Finally, I was easily manipulated because all it took was a little flattery, ego stroking, or approval and I was putty in a manipulator’s hands.

The anger is what I remember the most. I was always angry – or always looking for a reason to be. I wore all my insecurities on my sleeve. I was a caricature of a person.

Knowing that, today if I feel offended or manipulated – even if the manipulation is resulting in a good feeling—I find myself wondering, what part of this is real and what part is my disorder?

I wonder, is this person doing this on purpose? Do they mean to hurt or offend me? Are they pretending to like me to get something from me? Are they manipulating me? My rational mind tells me, probably not. This is your disorder talking, it is probably not even about you. Stop making everything about you!

But there’s always the possibility that I am actually being manipulated or mistreated. What then?

Because I now recognize I’ve been so completely detached from reality for so long, I have trouble separating fact from the fiction I have a habit of creating in my head.  Not being able to tell real from fake is disorienting. My inner compass is broken. I can’t trust myself.

Recently, I’ve been trying to break the cycle. Yesterday, after dealing with a highly manipulative person, I found myself questioning the interaction. I went over the conversation in my head again and again, picking apart what they said, what they were trying to get from me, how they were trying to make me feel, how it did make me feel.

That last one is the key: How did it make me feel?  In the end, it doesn’t matter if the other person is trying to manipulate me, because with strong boundaries I can protect myself. What matters is why I feel manipulated and what the root cause of that insecurity is.

The answer was what it almost always is for me—approval. This person was offering me approval and I soaked it right up. Despite my self-awareness. Despite working so hard on changing my behaviors and addressing my triggers. Despite that they have shown me little respect in the past.

Did they do it on purpose? Maybe. Does it matter? It shouldn’t. I’m working on not letting it.

Step one: Mindfulness. Stop letting my mind wander back to the interaction (obsessing). Every time it does, gently bring my focus back to the present.

Step two: Awareness of my feelings. Acknowledging, valuing and respecting my own feelings. Whether the person is actively trying to manipulate me or not, I know I don’t like how I feel. Being aware also helps me to be more vigilant in monitoring my own responses and protecting my boundaries.

Step three: Self-compassion. Not beating myself up for failing to have the perfect response, for soaking up the supply like a crack addict. I’m not a total failure. All hope is not lost. I’ve come a long way and I’m still working on it. Look at the positives: At least I realized what I was doing, albeit a little late. After all, before I wouldn’t have realized it at all. Next time I will do even better.

Step four: Self introspection. What are the root causes of my need for approval? How can I get those needs met in a healthy way?

Step five: Planning. How will I respond to situations like this in the future? Do I need to adjust my boundaries? How can I better recognize this stuff before acting next time?

What upsets me most about my need for supply is how vulnerable it makes me feel. Not to people like my husband, who loves me, but to others who haven’t earned that vulnerability from me. Brene Brown says, “You share with people who’ve earned the right to hear your story…It’s an honor to hold space for me when I’m in shame.”

But my need for approval, which stems from my childhood shame, is written all over me from my body language to my reactions. It’s as though I’m broadcasting my shame for the world to see. Until I can get it under control, I feel raw and exposed, out of control.

They say narcissists have addictive tendencies. My need for approval is my biggest addiction and I sometimes feel like a slave to it. Will I always have this addiction? Will I always be a narcissist, the way people in AA are always alcoholics even if they haven’t had a drink in 20 years? Will I have to fight against this for the rest of my life?

What a sad and terrifying thought.

I want to kick my habits now. But I know it takes time. And practice.

I want to be normal.

Learning it’s not about me: Priceless

As my boundaries grow stronger, I’m better able to deflect the negativity of others. Before, I absorbed it, and radiated it back to those closest to me. Oh what a joy I was to be around.

Now, when someone lashes out at me, it feels like a warning: back up, this is not someone you want to be bothered with. Back then, it was a challenge: who can be more of an asshole. My money’s on me. Sure you want to test the theory?

God, I was so negative.

I can see my own past behavior in these people, and I get a glimpse of how sick I’ve really been. It’s like they are holding up a mirror reflecting back to me my past self. That’s how I came off to the world. No wonder no one liked me.

It’s because I took everything so personally. Realizing not everything is about me? Priceless.

When people say narcissists “think everything is about them”, I never connected with that. They make it sound so enjoyable.

It’s a curse. It’s exhausting to be worried about what everyone thinks of you all the time. Ironically, I honestly feel more selfish now, not considering what everyone else thinks about everything I do. Probably because I was trained to think everyone else’s thoughts, feelings and opinions were more important than my own. But it’s so freeing not to have your self esteem hanging on it.

Here’s how I thought: Of course it was about me – maybe  they didn’t like me, didn’t respect me, didn’t recognize my authority/intelligence/good taste/talent/expertise or had some grand secret plot to ruin my day for reasons unknown.

But maybe it’s just not. If it’s really not about me, it doesn’t affect my mood. I also then have no reason to be mean to that person. In fact, maybe I’ll even be nicer, since they seem to be having a bad day.

When I don’t take things personally, I’m much friendlier. I think, wow, that guy seems to be in a bad mood, hope it’s nothing serious like his mother dying.

Seriously. Had you thought of that? I never had, and if I’m being totally honestly, I really didn’t care what was going on with that random guy. I just need what I need from you, so please make it happen.

And one of the most amazing parts of depersonalizing other people’s actions — it cuts down on the obsessing. If it’s not about me, I have less to obsess over.  My mind feels so much clearer and I can better focus on important things like my kids.

When you stop personalizing other people’s actions, you become happier. You’re also more pleasant to be around and people respond well to that.

Empathy and boundaries – two things I’m learning. In this instance they’re kind of working together.