Occasionally you will hear testimonials about people who have taken responsibility for their narcissistic bent and have made significant adjustments. The odds of this happening are low, but it exists.

Narcissism is a pattern on a spectrum, and the further a person goes into that direction, the more you will notice how darkness has infiltrated the personality. Narcissism itself is defined by self-absorption, entitlement, exploitation, a need for superiority, hiding behind a False Self, and displaying very low empathy. And many on the spectrum have become so entrenched in those qualities that the pattern is irretractable, making growth very unlikely.

To get an idea of how a person is gripped by the darkest elements of narcissism, you can watch for key indicators.

For instance:

  • Alongside the attitude of superiority is pervasive condescension. More than seeing others as “less than,” the narcissist views others with contempt. Your mere differences are “proof” of your inadequacies.
  • Anger is consistently just beneath the surface as they engage with you. The slightest annoyance will elicit harsh criticism and derision.
  • To the narcissist, your desire to choose is invalid. You are neither enlightened enough nor trustworthy enough to make free choices. Your independence is a menace.
  • They want control, but it is more than that. Narcissists must be dominant. They frequently use shut down communication toward those who do not accept the subordinate position.
  • Their lack of empathy is accompanied by an inability to appreciate your struggles. They are impervious to any pain you may feel, even if they have created that pain.
  • Truth is a toy to be played with. What the narcissist says is logical…is. Once they declare something to be true, they receive no input from others.
  • Often, they seem to be on a crusade to smear your good name. In the mind of narcissists, when others see you as good, they interpret it as detracting from their own efforts to find acclaim.
  • They incline toward cold-hearted meanness, and when you protest, it becomes clear that they have rationalized how their meanness toward you is justified.
  • Sometimes, they will dress up their harshness in the name of virtue.

The consistent darkness

If you are keenly aware of the pattern of narcissism and have committed yourself to the better alternatives, you can feel baffled when you witness the destructiveness of narcissists who are consistently dark. To you (understandably), that manner of life makes no sense. You might argue with that person, or you can find yourself pleading for a better way of relating. And yet, despite your pleas, narcissists will make clear their unwillingness to change. They have an underdeveloped conscience. What prompts soul-searching introspection in healthy people has no impact upon narcissists who are enveloped by darkness.

Clearly, you are better off as you disassociate with such people. Moreover, you can use your observations of their traits as motivation for the development of the opposite within yourself. You can determine to be a person of light, illuminating the way toward a dignified life. Your commitment toward goodness can be strengthened. You can lay aside any temptation toward exploitation by prioritizing conscientiousness. You can treat others as equal, and you can respect their freedom to choose who they wish to be.

Moving forward

As you commit to the better alternatives, you would be practicing the art of relationship boundaries. Instead of allowing a darkness-filled narcissist to set your pace, you would take full responsibility in defining who you are and living into that. Naturally the narcissist will be displeased, but that is to be expected.

When you have been exposed repeatedly to a narcissist’s darkness, you are likely to have psychological wounds and scars, and your life has probably taken unwanted detours. Understanding that, you can still determine that you will have the final say in who you are and how you will live.

You are a free person. The narcissist does not like your independence, yet it is yours to claim. In the end, you can be guided by the very thing a narcissist will never have. You can be a person of character.

~Les Carter, Ph.D.

To watch the video version of this topic, please click here.