Thursday, April 12, 2007

Narcissism: Pathological Competitiveness

I often describe narcissists as essentially mental three-year-olds, and troubled ones at that. But, as with anything, you can view it from different angles to see more about it.

Another way to understand narcissists is as pathologically COMPETITIVE. They compete for every bit of ego gratification as if it were the last bit on earth. As if they were starved for it. They gotta have it all. All the attentions, all the respect, all the sympathy, all the credit, all of everything that makes life worth living, all that makes people feel good about themselves. They gotta have it all and would rather die than see you get any.

Of course, that is childish, isn't it? As everyone knows, one must teach three-year-olds to share, because they won't if we don't make them.

That's why life with a narcissist is a never-ending fight. The spoiled narcissist knows that if she grasps at and fights over what she wants (or wants to deny someone), the normal people will just let her have it rather than fight with the imbecile.

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At 1:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Kathy,

I thank you for this blog. Again, you have hit the nail on the head. I could write reams of stories about the pathological competitiveness of my ex wife. And it is important to distinguish between being competitive and pathologically competitive.

I live in s amall Southern town. My ex was the first female member of a traditionally male business club. After she was admitted as a member, I was also asked to join. When I told her of the good news, foolishly thinking she would be happy for me, she pitched the proverbial fit. She threw all kinds of asinine excuses: "We can't afford." "It will be weird having a husband and wife team." "They won't see me as a serious businesswoman anymore; they will just see me as a wife." And on and on.

It was a damn sick scene and I eventually gave up. I didn't need the hassle. At the time, I had no idea what I was dealing with. I had no name for it. And, of course, the funny thing is that somehow the whole thing got turned around one me as a person who "needed" to be a member of the club, as if I "needed" the attention. Can you say projection anyone?

Let me be clear about what I learned: You cannot have a loving relationship with someone who is pathologically competitive. In a loving relationship, there is give and take. In a pathologically competitive relationships, there is only take and take and take and take. You get the picture.

Good job, Kathy, in pointing this out and especially distinguishing between competition and sick competition.

At 2:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent analogy--so true it hurts. To my mother everythign is a life or death, let God sort 'em out battle.

I tend to think of Ns as emotional gluttons--too much is never enough, and it is all for them.


At 6:47 PM, Anonymous gh said...

So true, so true. Like my ex actually lying to our daughter about how much he spent on her Christmas presents, just so he could come out on top as the guy who spent more. Or whipping out his credit card and grabbing the check out of my hand when we'd go out to eat -- even though it was a joint account and I was the only one with an income -- so he could be the one "paying" for dinner.

Anon at 1:44 -- I do have to comment that some of your ex's reaction, as described, doesn't sound so totally crazy to me, if you think about the pressures women still face in a largely male-dominated world. She probably felt like being admitted to the club was a sign that she'd broken through the glass ceiling and was being recognized as a professional, but when they invited you as well, she was right back to feeling like she was nothing more than somebody's wife. The sad truth is, women are sometimes seen that way and, like victims of narcissistic abuse, can become a bit hypersensitized. (As you distinguish between competition and pathological competition, I suspect you already knew this and there's alot more to your story. But being a hypersensitive gal, I just had to toss in the defensive disclaimer!)

At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a twisted little game that my family narcissist plays to feed his need to compete.

When he learns that another family member is about to make a purchase, be it sporting goods or a computer program or anything at all, he works his butt off trying to sell them on a particular model. He will claim that he has thoroughly researched the product as he is going to make the same type of purchase. He will work and work to convince you that one item is the best and only a fool would spend the extra money for the next better model.

Of course, as soon as someone takes his advice and "benefits" from his "research" and buys the item, he immediately purchases the better model, claiming he changed his mind at the last minute.

Now the fun begins. He is in all his glory as he runs off at the mouth for the rest of time about the advantages of owning the model he purchased. Why, it's just so much nicer to own, so much more enjoyable, so superior in every way! All the things he can do with his that you can't do with yours, on and on.

At 8:57 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

A good example. No wonder people don't believe the truth about narcissists. It's that unbelievable. What used to get to me was what an insult to your intelligence this stuff is. Like they think you don't notice what they're doing. They think everyone is that stupid.

But if you stop and think, they are just showing again that they have the mentality of a three-year-old, who thinks he is so sly in pulling the most OBVIOUS stunts, that you don't see through them. It's hilarious.

But I later learned that they don't care whether you see through it or not. They don't regard you as a thinking being. So, it no more occurs to them to wonder whether you see through them than it would to wnder if their car sees through them. You are but an object in their world.

They don't care what you think: all they care about is the look on your face, or whether you're tolerating them, or whether you're retaliating. All they care about is your reaction AS IT AFFECTS THEM. What you think is irrelevant to them.

They just want you to play along with their game of Pretend by acting as though they aren't being a living, walking, breathing joke.

At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't checked in for a few days and these last few articles are very good.

I think narcissists go beyond low self-esteem to self-loathing. I believe this is rooted in laziness and insane jealousy. They know what they should do but they are to lazy to do that and they become jealous of whoever is nearest them when those nearest do the things that they should and receive the credit that the narcissist desires. Instead of doing what the N knows is right, they instead act against their conscience and try to bring down the person they are envious of. A few years of this would twist any-one's thinking beyond repair. Jealousy coupled with laziness becomes the monster that destroys them from inside out. Then they are left with nothing but false reflections in others. The way in which they dress and pose for those mirrors depends upon the image of themselves that they desire. If a pillar of the community is the role of the day, they will become religious. If they desire fear and trembling, they will portray a madman. It is all a game of what-they-could-have-been if their laziness and jealousy hadn't consumed them and if they must crush others for their momentary pleasure, than so be it.

Psychopaths will destroy to get what they want and God help you if you stand between them and the object desires. A true NPD will destroy you for nothing more than the momentary pleasure of seeing the image they desire of themselves in you. They don't seek anything material and that is why it seems they behave as they do for no reason. They have a reason but it is not a reasonable one and that is what makes them so confusing.


At 9:19 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Very well put and with absolute clarity. In fact most of these comments are. You can tell that people make an effort to communicate precisely.

About narcissists, that ain't easy, because their behavior is so counter-intuitive (for normal people) that the reader anticipates something other than you are saying. The result is that an important fact just blows by without sinking in.

That's why concrete examples really help. And, Pam, you nailed the point home precisely with your comment above.

At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Kathy,

I thank you very much for your blog and messages. I lived for 27 years with an N., my ex-husband, now divorced, without knowing what is wrong with him. You're blog and messages opened my eyes and are so to the point and totally wright that it really helped me understand many things. Sometimes I'am laughing the way you put it. I can only tell, leaving them is the best one can do. Leave them far behind and never look at them again. They only mess up once life.

They stay competitive even long after divorce and yes they want it all.

Thanks from the Netherlands!

At 5:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bringing up the word competitive is giving me more to work with. my N can seem quite competitive yet it's hard to point to evidence that someone else could identify. maybe this is where his tendency to argue and devalue comes from. also a lot of people of all ages seem to like me (because i CARE about them) and i think in his odd way he is jealous of that. maybe that is why he has been mr. rogers lately too cuz the more i've pulled away the more he has had to pay more attention to making new observations and i think in many ways he is trying to copy me. i remember a while back really resenting him for riding on my coat tails when it came to social interactions cuz he really doesn't have adequate skills on his own. oh yuck- that sounds like he needs me- but even if he deems me 'teacher' , he is a very poor student.and that could be why he constantly was correcting and negating everything i said- cuz he was competitive. he doesn't have the courage to branch out much so no wonder i get all his john wayne stuff.
a particular example could be we got a new electronic device- he almost yelled to me how it works- raising his voice and getting all animated in his frantic search to convince me he was right?- the whole time i knew he wasn't accurate- of course i didn't take it personally cuz 1 he was wrong and 2 how could that be a personal subject?!!- anyhow we were at a store and i asked the sales guy a lot of questions in front of N not trying to prove him wrong but just for his enlightenment (he sounded so ignorant!)- anyhow i bet that killed him !jt

At 7:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It only took me about fifty years to start to see what was wrong and that is from many years of daily contact with folks such as these. I guess, I should give psychiatrists a break but I do wish they'd take the damage caused by these people more seriously and also be more wary of their ploys.

I think one of the most frustrating examples of how they think so differently is when I in my straight forward manner, try to tell them something and they can't hear what I say because they are so sure that I mean something else besides what my words convey and that I have an ulterior motive. Just as I who am straight forward expect the same from others, they also expect manipulation and lies for that is the way that they operate. Everything is subterfuge and maneuvering. They are natural born politicians and actors. Many find their way to entertainment or leadership roles and it really is no wonder. Up close and personal however, the cracks begin to show and are undeniable before long even if it takes a long time to understand what caused those huge cracks in their integrity.


At 11:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow thats an interesting observation-just as i who am straight forward expect the same from others, they also expect manipulation and lies for that is the way they operate. NO WONder some of our conversations feel so odd. of course he would assume i am like him, no wonder he looks so flustered sometimes when i seem to say the wrong thing- sometimes i don't follow the script-imagine your leading lady not knowing her lines!!!- sometimes i didn't realize he was directing a play! only he DIDN'T fill us in on our roles- he type casted us and projected onto us so of course was thrown when we didn't "cooperate"- we didn't know we were supposed to.sometimes out in public he would "set me up" and actually at those times i would purposely go a different direction and i always wondered what i was doing- now i know.oh weird- i actually do that at home sometimes too and was aware i felt like i was being obstinate even though i didn't get where it was coming from. no wonder sometimes he seems so confused.i'll bet he projects onto us more than anyone would ever realize.i wonder if the Ns got on line with each other and talked about us if they would be saying the same sort of things about us that we say about them.
and i know he hates himself. he always has. but instead of destroying himself like so many do w drugs and drinking and financial disaster (which would help identify that there was something wrong, i mean that other people would be able to identify with) he just hides, hides who he really is- but another thing is the more he projects= the more he hates me- the less he seems to hate himself- and I CAN TELL that very slowly he is 'turning me into his problem.' projection is really weird when it gets like this.i'm not even feeling bad about this- it's rather matter of fact- i can tell things are "turning" here. no one else could get what i'm saying if they didn't have the wisdom we are gaining's pretty twisted.i feel alone a lot with that but once again, you guys help a lot. jt

At 5:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I come from a small town, with an extremely high drug abuse & alcohol abuse problem. I have grown up with these people for most of my life, thinking there was something wrong with me. Strange to live in a town and never really fit in. After reading these articles I counted over 20 people I know who fit that category of NPD. So my question is if a family has an alcohol/ drug dependancy problem would it be reasonable to see much higher rates of NPD than normal? Thank you for these articles because my family have been torn apart by these wolves and we have never been able to understand why.

At 4:37 PM, Blogger Watercolored said...

I love what Pam said about trying to be straightforward with them!! I know. And then you feel crazy because you are not in the same conversation.
Then, when I am straight and courteous, I get accused of being condescending and or manipulative. It's awful.

At 9:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kathy this is a great website. I wish I knew about the N years ago. I would have stayed away from 90% of the people who made me feel that I had the problem.
I like what you stated about N's being lazy and jealous. I worked with a woman who was just that. Not only that she made sure no one knew her job but her. She was able to make the boss feel that the dept. could not run without her. She went into screaming fits if she felt threated. Her favorite words "I was stabbed in the back". She did not do anymore that she had to. Of course the labor laws made it difficult to fire her. I live in the NYC area and there are enough hotheads as it is. I had no choice but to find another job.

At 2:39 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Thank you, I appreciate that. In fact, the damage these people do in the workplace is just as serious as the pain they cause in the home. In the workplace, they ruin whole lives and careers. They drive others to permanent unemployment and suicide by the vicious attacks, especially on the work and character of their BETTERS. is a good site documenting much of this.

That's something the spouse of a narcissist should consider. Do you want to benefit from what that narcissist is doing to the lives of others to get ahead in the workplace? Because you are profitting from it with every dollar it brings in.


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