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By Dr. Margaret Paul
July 31, 2023

Narcissistic behavior is common in many relationships. Learn to discern the signs of narcissism in yourself and others.

All about meMuch has been written about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which presents as an all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity; intense need for approval, admiration or adulation; self-importance and sense of entitlement; constant envy of others; arrogance coupled with rage when frustrated; and total lack of empathy.

This article is not about NPD. It is about what I call the common, garden variety of narcissism, which is far more prevalent than NPD. In fact, most people suffer from some degree of narcissism.

The narcissism I am writing about here can be defined as a pattern of thinking that others' behavior is "all about me."

The narcissist is self-involved, with a lack of caring and compassion for others when their fears and insecurities are triggered. You are being narcissistic when you take others' behavior personally and believe that you are somehow causing or controlling others to do what they do. You can see from this definition that the wounded self in all of us has some degree of narcissism.

For example, Sherrie is the mother of three children, ages 5, 7, and 10. Like most kids, sometimes they don't listen to her. However, instead of recognizing that sometimes kids just get resistant or preoccupied and don't listen, Sherrie takes it personally. "How can they hurt me like this? They don't care about me. If they cared about me, they would listen to me." Sherrie keeps getting hurt by her children because she is taking their behavior personally, thinking that it is about her rather than about them. Sherrie is operating from her narcissistic wounded self, but she doesn’t have NPD because she is capable of empathy. People suffering with MPD are not.

Norman feels hurt and angry when his wife, Natalie, doesn't feel like making love with him. Natalie works full time and is the mother of two young children, so she is often just plain worn out. Norman, instead of caring about Natalie and having compassion for her tiredness, takes it personally that she isn't feeling turned on. "If she loved me and found me attractive, she would feel like making love with me." Norman has the ability to be empathetic when he is in his loving adult, but his ability to empathize goes out the window when he is operating from his wounded self, taking Natalie's behavior personally, and then feeling rejected.

Trudy is on a constant search for approval from her boss. If her boss is slightly critical of something, instead of looking at the issue at hand, Trudy becomes defensive and angry. In her mind, her boss should care more about her than about the business.

If you find yourself frequently feeling angry, judgmental, or annoyed at others, you might want to explore the narcissism of your wounded self.

Often anger, judgment, and annoyance toward others come from the narcissistic wounded self's belief that others are responsible for your feelings. Therefore, if another person does something that upsets you or doesn't meet your expectation, you believe you have the right to be angry at them. "After all," says the wounded self, "if that person really cared about me, he or she wouldn't behave in a way that upsets me."

The narcissistic wounded self does not think about what might be going on with the other person. When you are operating from this aspect of the wounded self, it does not even occur to you to have compassion for the other person. You are focused on what you want, what you need, and how you feel - not from the perspective of the loving adult, who would be taking responsibility for your feelings and needs, but from the wounded self, who is only concerned with the other person meeting your needs and caring about your feelings.

The narcissistic wounded self believes that others should give themselves up for you, that others should think more about your feelings than about their own.

The narcissistic 'taker' aspect of the wounded self believes that "you are responsible for my feelings, needs, safety and security." If you are a caretaker in a relationship with a taker, you might believe that "I am responsible for your feelings, needs, safety and security, and when I do it right, then you will meet my needs for love, safety and security." The caretaker is overly concerned about others but lacks caring for self, and is therefore a covert narcissist, while the taker lacks concern for the other and is overtly narcissistic.

If you hear yourself saying things like, "What about me?" or "You think it's okay to just do whatever you want. What about what I want?" or "I just want to tell you my feelings. I'm really annoyed with you," or "I don't feel like I'm important to you," you might want to do some Inner Bonding work regarding how you are not taking responsibility for your own feelings and needs. You are likely in your narcissistic wounded self, making another person responsible for you feeling loved, worthy, important, or safe.


Heal your relationships with Dr. Margaret’s 30-Day online video relationship course: Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love.


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