The Wizard of Oz is a great metaphor to help us recognize a narcissist. It sticks in my mind and helps me instantly recognize when I’m in the company of a narcissist (wizard) who is about to suck me into another quixotic quest down the yellow brick road of empty promises:
Dorothy believes that the Wizard is the only one who has the power to help her, and she embarks on one elaborate adventure after another to find favor and win his approval.
However, by the end of the book, I realized Eleanor D. Payson’s marketing strategy for The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family was more solid than the content of her book. I recommend it highly if you need to learn how to timely recognize a person with a malignant (deadly) narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). After reading the book, I realized most abusive people have a malignant NPD.
The book, unfortunately, is light on coping skills.
Mr. Wrong’s Mask of Mr. Perfect
People with a NPD wear a mask. They are the proverbial guys who are “too good to be true.” Ms. Payson explains:
. . .the nightmare side of these relationships is usually a private one, a nightmare that can only be stopped by receiving outside validation from a credible person who can offer a counterweight to the blame and criticism you are experiencing in the relationship. The NPD person’s ability to project his problems onto you is so powerful, you have come to believe that you are the one with the problems. . .your self-esteem in full retreat.
. . .the NPD person will blame everyone else. . .rather than acknowledge that he has a signficiant problem.
. . .the deep and severe distrubance of an NPD person is primarily seen in the pain he or she inflicts on others.
. . .the narcissist is never the person he appears to be in the public sphere.
Been there? Me too. Ms. Payson explains how we get sucked in:
. . .the narcissist has assessed, with considerable skill, the vulnerabilities of another person. . .effectively manipulates. . .
. . .the narcissist feels obliged to continually let people know how they should be doing things and to correct their actions. . .self-righteous attitude. . .relentless drive for perfection. . .inability to recognize your achievements. . .unless he can take credit.
. . .unable to recognize your basic human rights of respect and consideration. . .
Your first real evidence of the degree of unhealthy narcissism will most likely occur when you either decline a request or assert a need of your own. . .unrelenting tendency to feel that his needs and/or circumstances are more special, more unique, or more important than yours.
Tornado to Oz
The need for power and control, sense of entitlement, and lack of respect for boundaries are aspects of NPD. Sound familiar? They are also characteristics of an abusive person. After someone with NPD has seduced us, we often feel like a tornado transported us to Oz:
. . .the NPD individual may respond only to your admiration and support causing you to invest more energy in these behaviors. . .no idea where you stand. . .no real feedback. . .aloof and indifferent. . .need to pursue him. . .please him. . .go out of your way to win his approval. . .until the relationship is progresively on the NPD person’s terms.
. . .they inevitably render you increasingly unable to take care of your own needs and interests. . .neutralize your power by intimidating and devaluing you. . .attitude of contempt. . .potential for sabotage.
. . .survival is coming down to him or you. . .
On the one hand, Ms. Payson recognizes a narcissist’s penchant for retaliation. But, she seems to think all we need to do is assert ourselves. Right.
In Chapters 4 and 5, Ms. Payson gives an excellent portrayal of how we are groomed by narcissistic parents to become the ideal mate for someone with a NPD. It helped me appreciate that my familial experiences were typical for the child who is the target of narcissistic parents’ abuse. When we become adults, we are vulnerable to:
. . .gaining your sense of self through your ability to support and be an indispensable part of another person’s world. . .a worthy mirror. . .someone who inspires and elevates your compulsion to nurture ~ a partner who gives purpose to your mission to give. . .
You may feel a terrible shock as you see the dark side of your partner’s defenses and his need to flee from the threat of intimacy.
. . .your NPD partner demands more, and you sacrifice more. . .going through life on an emotional starvation diet. . .
Self-Care Is Vital
The greatest value of reading Ms. Payson’s book for me was that I now have a good grasp of the dynamics of narcissism. I understand now why I often feel “so many narcissists. . .so little time.” The wild reality is that people with NPD don’t seek therapy. . .they drive us to the couch. . .tell us we have a problem because we don’t like being treated like we don’t exist.
Self-care feels weird. Yet, I think step one for those of us who had narcissistic parents is to realize we are God’s children. We have a right to be here. We have a right to our own space. We have a right to have our needs met. And, we deserve to be treated with respect.
Next: Review of Freeing Yourself from the NarcIssist in Your Life by Linda Martinez-Lewi.