What are the signs of narcissism?
Narcissism is a personality disorder that goes unrecognized by the individual and therefore goes untreated. Care givers of an aging spouse or aging parent that live with a narcissistic parent or individual experience a higher level of stress with their care giving role. Many feel that they will not survive the experience of providing care of the elderly adult in their life. Living with or caring for an aging narcissist is painful and unbearable at times.
A narcissistic individual is all about controlling everyone in their life. They appear to have high self esteem, but in reality they are individuals that work very hard at hiding any real or imagined flaws they may have. These individuals have an overestimated sense of self importance in regards to all aspects of their lives. They feel that they are the best at their job, their skills level, talents and even their achievements.
Care givers must deal with attention seeking behaviors narcissism exhibits, even if the attention is a negative form of attention. You cannot please a narcissist. They view themselves as perfect. If you are critical of them, they respond with extreme anger and even rage. Many will make every effort to humiliate those that are caring for them. They have no ability to experience any empathy for others. Many caregivers find themselves desperately trying to please or placate in return for approval. Narcissism is not a pretty sight and requires skill to deal with.
The narcissist can appear to be a personable and confident to others. Underneath that cool exterior is a very insecure and needy person. The narcissistic individual goes to great lengths to control every individual and every situation in their path. Many individuals that find themselves caring for such an individual do not want to be in the role of care giver. They feel trapped, alone and unaware of how they have been put in this position.
The first step to survival is to realize that you are not alone. The narcissistic parent or individual are master manipulators. They are on a quest for undivided attention and have a way of getting individuals to continually try to meet their unrealistic standards. If they feel as if they are loosing control they will demean, demoralize and attempt, often successfully, to assassinate the character of each individual in their life. This is a way they make themselves feel important and in control.
To survive caring for an aging narcissist is to work at learning to remain calm and always have an exit strategy in place. Do not allow yourself to take on the role of a victim. You may have to provide care for this individual, but you do not have to tolerate the verbal and emotional abuse tactics used to keep you in their control.
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Practice patience and calmness, and communicate by asking leading questions to diffuse their perceived power. An example would be: ” I know that you like things a certain way, could you show me how you want it?” or “I am confused. Could you explain that to me one more time?” “Could you please clarify what you are saying?”
It is important to note that you should never make the narcissist in your life angry. They will plan revenge in some form or fashion. It is important to the narcissist to always look as they are the most important person in their limited world.
It is important that you never take anything a narcissist says personally. Do not allow them the power to hurt you mentally or emotionally. Set emotional boundaries and stick with them. You are in control of your own emotions and how you respond. Try to overcome your approval seeking behaviors, as you will only be disappointed and feel rejected. Your gifts, your efforts, your actions will never be good enough to please an individual plagued with narcissism. Give up your efforts of hoping that they will change. A narcissist is incapable of change. Only you can change how you respond and react to their behaviors.
Care giving is the most guilt producing role any individual will ever experience. The narcissistic care recipient will take advantage of that guilt and use it in their arsenal of skills. Remember and refer to this article when dealing with narcissism in the course of care giving.
Here is a link on the Caregiver Survival Guide when taking care of a Narcissist