Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Narcissist's Ability to Become a Different Person

It was about this time of year when a narcissist went away to college as a freshman at the colossal University of Wisconsin in Madison. The next thing her family knew, she was a different person.

She had always been your good, clean-cut, all-American kid in high school. Got good grades. Went to Mass with her parents every Sunday. Was a cheerleader. Took part in athletics. Never touched drugs. Had a steady boyfriend who was himself a clean-cut all-American kid.

But in Madison, with no parents around to see what she did, she went wild. You name it – drugs, sex, riots – she was into it. Didn’t go to class. Partied all the time. Hopped into bed with anyone. As for Sunday Mass – she never went once. When her sister came to visit and expected to go, she announced that she didn’t believe in it.

She didn’t offer any explanation or relate her thoughts and reasoning on this. She just bit off the matter glibly by saying that she didn’t believe in it, period.

All within less than six weeks of coming out from under her parents’ roof.

Get it?

A typical narcissist’s transfiguration (see the eBook for more). It was like she suddenly was a different person. And The people at school who knew her now wouldn’t have recognized the person she had been just a few weeks earlier.

Anyone not born yesterday knows what happened. Since she could get away with bad behavior now, she did. Instantly she went wild. There was no gradual degeneration of her moral standards. Instead, they simply proved to be nonexistent. She thus proved that she had been a total phony before.

This equates with the frequent report that a narcissist goes wild after the death of a parent who exerted some control over them.

And there’s a warning in it. It means that the only rein on a narcissist is what they think they can get away with. That can and does change with circumstances over the course of life.

And when it does, you may get a nasty surprise. You may suddenly see your narcissist doing abhorrent things you never dreamed him or her capable of.

Simply because the only rein on a narcissist is what they think they can get away with. They have no moral restraint whatsoever. So, when external constraints are removed, look out.

This may explain why powerful narcissists seem worse. They may not be worse: it may be only that they can get away with worse, so they do.

This particular narcissist felt so uninhibited that she took a psychotic break when one of her roommates tried to talk some sense into her. Older students from elsewhere on the floor came running and literally held her down in what they later described in terms that remind one of an exorcism. They then took her to see her older sister in another town the next day, warning the sister that something was wrong with her.

Glibly the narcissist explained it all away to her family by saying that one of the girls’ cousins had slipped her LSD.

What she didn’t tell them is that she had begun a campaign of telling everyone in Madison horrible lies about them to make people feel sorry for her, in an effort to get some rich people who owned a bar on campus to adopt her.

So don’t assume that your narcissist’s assault-weapon mouth won’t be turned on you. Pay attention to what he or she tells you about others and know that he or she is going around saying as bad or worse about you, no matter who you are.

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At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. eye-opening. That really explains a lot of what happened in my marriage. Once my ex-N's dad left his mom and really disappeared from my ex-N's life, my ex-N just degraded instantly. He even said "I don't have my dad around to anymore to keep me sane." He just didn't hide anymore of the evil stuff he was doing and became extremely verbally abusive and physically threatening. It was very obvious that without his dad in his life, there was nothing he had to hide from anymore.

Bad stuff.

At 8:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is only half baked for me but it seems like a good time to bring it up...i'm puzzling over the same thing only opposite so bear with me. my N seems so much "better" now that i'm out of the picture. (we live like we are separated but in the same house and we pretty much ignore each other)- i suppose to other people he gets to "hide" behind the facade that everything is fine and dandy in the ******house. maybe that's why i get the seething resentment and why i want to tell everyone how poorly we are really doing. he looks like a great regular guy now. even though our marriage is about as dead as any can get by healthy standards. i think this is proof for me just how much he projected onto me. if he did in fact hand me all his bags of shit (sorry- but that is the best way to put it)and i apparently held them- plus all the empty ones too- all the decoys ! (God i was a fool)...and now i seem to be "disappearing" then maybe for him it's like "there ! it's all gone now !!!"and now that that is gone- he can pretend like he's all fine. CAAREEEPY. is anyone else getting this ? projection is complicated. kathy am i on track to try to understand it ? jt

At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i went back over some of the recent posts...labor day we got onto the subject of projection pretty well ! my comprehension of the subject comes and goes...sometimes it's still just too hard to really accept. maybe that's why sometimes i understand and sometimes i forget. i sure appreciate continued discussion on the topic. gerard-i appreciate your story- it's going to take some time for me to fully comprehend it but this is the place to do it. i'll bet very few people understand or believe- but i think i'm starting to more and more. it puts me in deep thought about my inlaws and my N husband. it's hard to talk about because no one else would see it the way it's been showed to me. your words bring comfort as do many others. i don't feel isolated here like i do in this home environment. i even read some of my own posts and can tell i know then unknow information cuz it hurts so much some times. this site helps clear the clouds and smoke and reveals clear vision again. thanks (as always) kathy. jt

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

"projection is complicated. kathy am i on track to try to understand it?"

Sounds like you are to me. You know what what my reaction was while reading your post? Starting with "my N seems so much "better" now that i'm out of the picture" - I'm thinking "yeah...yeah...yeah, like so what else is new?" In other words, it sounded just like what I'd expect. So, I think you've got it.

You point out an interesting aspect of projection. The scapegoat "carries away" the projected guilt and shame of the projector. Kinda like the victim gets to take out the garbage. That's an often overlooked part of it, but note that scripture always emphasizes this point about about the scapgoat: he is to take away the people's sins to a far away unihabited place.

At 1:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

so if we practice "no contact" as I do- are we relieving them too? Are we inevitabley making it easier on them? Not that they care, but if no one is projecting the truth -they just evade, evade. Of course, they never get it.

But I am getting it and it is a trip.

At 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


What do you think is the best way to interact with a narcissist when you have no choice (i.e., ex-husband and father of my two young children is a diagnosed narcissist).

He has since lost his job and remarried and is in melt-down mode - leasing an expensive home, buying new cars for the new wife, impregnating new wife, buying two pure-bred puppies, but not paying child support to me for his two children.

He constantly will harrass me for "some favor" I somehow owe him or ask me to accomodate his schedule by changing the pick-up location and time for the kids (he is unemployed, I am a single, working mother with sole custody of two young children).

My therapist, who has met him, advised me to never give in on anything that was an imposition to me, as it will never be returned and he will continue to take advantage of me whenever he can.

I do this, but it is tough, as I do not want to have to interact with him anymore and to have to say no to him and have a confrontation with him is exactly what I don't want, is why I got away from him in the first place, to end conflict and being bullied and controlled by this awful man.

Any suggestions?


At 7:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Favorite example of my N-brothers projecting is when he said to me,"Why do you hate me, you talk about me to people and say bad things all the time." (Twilight Zone music please) WHAT?!!! Not only would I not say bad things about him but I was a participant in the coverup of all the lies he told to people about himself (bragging about things he never did etc.). Not by lying for him but by not saying outright to people, "No what he told you is not true."
He was the one telling people things about me. And yes when my Dad passed away he ran amok.Now I see all that I chose not to see for many years, The lying,cheating,even stealing from me and others, because I was conditioned to forgive and forget and keep up the Family facade. It has taken me a long time to even be able to talk about the f'ed up family I have. Thanks to this site I've been able to find out that there are others like me who are enduring the same crap. We are not alone and we can talk when no one else will listen.
Thanks Kathy.
One more thing about the evil of projection is that it makes you question yourself, your sanity. It throws you off balance and makes you respond to things that are false, thereby putting the onus on you to defend yourself, not the real offending one.Evil stuff.

At 8:40 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

I don't know. I'm not a counselor. Make sure you do nothing to reinforce his demands for attention. Letting him have what he wants would train him to keep it up. Yes, like a dog gets trained. But arguing with him is paying attention to him, and that will train him to keep it up too. As much as possible, I'd just not be there for it. Non response. Like he doesn't exist. Bare minimum back over the phone when he calls, so that he gets no reaction and the conversation is over in a minute. Just deny him a mirror. Maybe impossible though with a child he can use as handle to demand your attention.

At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that does kind of work. i've withdrawn by first altering the way i answer questions- politely but simply without explanations-don't go on and on once you've said what you need to say. he would try to extend my talk by questioning me more--like a trick to see if i "undid" my answer by saying too much (information) or by altering my first (adequate and accurate) response. DON'T EXPOUND YOUR POINT with them...they don't need more information to "get it" , they want to undo it.
a simple example would be this: i started really noticing in the common exchange of "how was your day"s, he would take over the opportunity to be on stage and recite how his day was without reciprocating and hearing about mine. you have to wean this gradually...eventually i got to the point of saying "hi" ,he says "hi,how was your day?" (normal stuff so far) i answer "pretty good" or whatever--- and then quit talking. seemed rude at first. and would generally be. BUT with my N- it gave him pause and to watch him not know what to do with it is almost comical. he has yet figured out how to get on stage for his performance. i notice he won't ask questions to facilitate conversation when i have control..what's he gonna do if he asked and i was happy with my answer in such a simple way-- he asked- i answered-nothing to debate.
something else i keep in mind too is 'if you are polite about it you can 'play dumb'- this works well too if you can gradually be subtle about it.. basically just make yourself hard to argue with. if you are simple, pleasant and straight forward in such a way- then they know they look stupid
arguing with you. when you are the emotional one they can throw the spotlight on you and feel in control. i know this all sounds kind of weird.
you gotta be careful though-- some of this could trigger a rage from them. you gotta be careful and almost sneaky. subtly change your demeanor over time.
one more point from my house-- i sometimes have learned how to give N supply on my terms= to just feed him enough to give him something to chew on so he doesn't take a bite out of me= like every once in a while i WILL ask him how his day was. it's noticeable how he must of been on the sidelines holding his breath cuz he almost runs out on stage like he could barely stifle his performance any longer. you can almost hear his sigh of relief. (hmmm that reminds me of how he seemed so relieved after his big rage months ago only to not revisit the same existing subject matter- my question-where did it all go? he must of handed me the bag of **** and i apparently "took out the trash") hope you get all this. jt

At 10:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

some other little bit of advice if you will...when they ask you for a 'favor' -just like when people counsel on how to "say no" to too many outside responsibilities, learn to say no. gradually over time. if the request is reasonable or normal and you are able to accommodate without pain -then realize YOU CAN CHOOSE whether or not to polite, be simple, play dumb-- but if you really can't be there at a different time or a different location- just be pleasantly matter of fact about it and don't take the bait to argue or be dramatic over it.
don't think i have all the answers. all this is absolutely exhausting for me. i am in constant ready mode for the next rage. i just have noticed that some of this has seemed to work in at least minimizing the drama. there is no way to 'control' a narcissist. jt

At 10:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read this post and went Wow - my daughter exactly less than a month at college and bam! Thank you, it has aided me in my sometimes endless quest for an explanation.

At 10:32 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

I am really sorry to hear that. But I'm also glad that examples show possibilities that click with people looking for the answers to mysteries. Best.


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