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Customer Review

410 of 422 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All I can say is WOW, December 2, 2007
This review is from: The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family (Paperback)
I dated someone who is described in this book, and while together I didn't know what the heck was wrong with her thinking at times...that is until I read this book. A happy relationship most of the time, it then became crazy other times, getting worse and worse as time went on. Eleanor Payson hits it right on the nose and explains the child-like behaviors that would occasionally surface from an otherwise truly brilliant and highly successful woman. Here are some of the behaviors described:
1. They are never EVER wrong.
2. They never admit to anything.
3. Nothing is ever a great idea unless it comes from them.
4. You will never get any credit for what you do. Ever.
5. They don't seem to know or care how what they say might impact you.
6. You get hopelessly entangled in their arguments, and it never leads to a resolution.
7. Emotion = Weakness.

And on and on it goes. The closer you get to them, the worse it becomes. Every chapter sent me reeling as all these behaviors are discussed. Probably half the book is highlighted in yellow and I read it twice. It was like this book was written about her. It also helped me confront my part in the whole thing as well.
READ THIS BOOK if you suspect a significant other or parent has these tendencies listed above. If so, this book will blow you away. I wish I had this knowledge DURING the relationship and not after I ended it. Understanding the dynamic has brought me some closure and the wisdom of avoiding anything like it again. The sad (and most painful) part is that the only healthy thing you can do is leave. You cannot help them. You cannot heal them. You will not change them.
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Tracked by 7 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 19 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 20, 2010 5:57:06 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Dec 5, 2010 3:43:15 PM PST
Greenlight says:
Angelo's description exactly encapsulated the person I was with.

There has been a lot of discussion around the DSM committee's decision to drop NPD, including an immense amount of superficial journalism, which is nearly all hopelessly off-track. None of the journalists delve any further than noting the "grandiosity" of a narcissist and don't have any experience with narcissistic manipulation. The main problem, as those who have been in relationships with narcissts will know, isn't "grandiosity" -- that aspect of the disorder is at worst tiresome. The really destructive part of clinical narcissism is the "gaslighting" that makes untangling emotionally brutalizing conflict impossible.

The five-year experience I had with a narcissist can serve to illustrate this point. This woman is admirable in her community involvement, she is intellectually curious -- and of course she is self-confident and outspoken in ways that at first seem very healthy. In sum, to everyone she isn't intimate with, she is a complete breath of fresh air. But later, she harped condescendingly and vaguely that her "trust" in me was depleting, and what was left was a hard, unrelentingly stigmatizing, angry person.

For people trying to make sense of this sort of relationship arc, I believe it's worth clarifying something: It often comes across in our remarks as though narcissists were obvious monsters off the bat, so we should never have invested in those relationships. On the contrary, the most disturbing thing is just how much of a good thing the narcissist is intent on throwing away. The narcissist often expresses stalwart faith that the relationship is what they want at the beginning. They may make genuine efforts at the outset to be a considerate partner. Over time, though, strong bonds they may actually want turn out to be poison to their overriding compulsion to keep themselves remote from all honest, insightful critique.

When a relationship with a narcissist gets more committed and more complicated, the dynamics become thoroughly bizarre and untethered from the part of the person the partner originally knew. This is more than a case of being with someone with "a wandering eye." There is a disruptive pride and unremitting resentment at work, but kept out of direct view whenever possible.

At the outset, the narcissist hides from critiques in ways that come across as just aggravating character "blindspots," while the dialogue in the relationship may seem otherwise constructive. Later on, the contributions the partner makes to bettering a relationship only seem to prompt the narcissist to "move the goalposts," and swamp progress with their anger. Gradually, the pattern becomes evident, that the insecurity the narcissist is experiencing isn't a particular complaint, but is a defense to prevent access to their thinking -- and to ward off any further open exchange in a relationship.

At that point, while they can "compromise" on some issues, they paint in more and more stigmatizing terms the burdens that the partner represents to them. They grossly devalue even the most sacrosanct pursuits and connections they share with the partner. Someone who in other contexts is a scintillating conversationalist has no "patience" for dialogue that suggests shared responsibility for conflict, and they cannot enter these difficult relationship conversations on an up note. They "remember" only the most problematic parts of earlier conversations, and sounding like "bad historians," may recycle "settled" complaints at random from other long-ago conversations to steer the topic away from them. They characterize their partners as overcome by emotionality and weakness. At the mention (even in writing) of contributions the narcissist has been making to conflict, they often angrily derail the discussion, sometimes with wholly disproportionate and even laughably distorted outbursts. At no time will they evince any insecurity, yet they make it nearly impossible to focus the discussion any deeper on their patterns of behavior. The point is to entangle the partner in argument rather than arrive at clearer understanding.

At a certain point, the narcissist no longer has any effective means of deflecting critical insights into their character. Making amends is impossible for them, so the less they are compelled to look back, the better. The narcissist often calculates that it is safest to sacrifice the entire connection -- leaving the relationship either formally, emotionally, or covertly -- and becomes firmly committed to propagating the view that the partner made the situation impossible.

Good people can take a long time to write off a loved one or reach this diagnosis. After it is apparent that the narcissist isn't who they appeared to be, a victim can start divorcing themselves emotionally and regain their agency. But the disrupted goals and time sucked away are compounded by an unsettling portrait of emotional betrayal. That is its own sense of agony, just like in the most painful divorces.

It's important not to make a diagnosis that a partner is a narcissist without taking a therapist's views on board -- both for the dignity of the person under the microscope, and to make sure, if you are the one hooked, you are getting a clearer perspective on the dynamics. The painful bewilderment that comes with these relationships is almost always unavoidable because of how truly senseless their anger becomes: Narcissists are capable of appearing solid and intelligent, but then inexplicably begin evaporating into an incoherent miasma of distortions and dishonesty. As they begin revealing their other side, they deflect observations suggesting that they were, once-upon-a-time, capable of being a more considerate person.

If in your case too, the experiences do line up, then consider if it is appropriate to step up and gently forewarn the next partner. It may or may not be. Above all, don't make a scene, either by speaking from the gut to the next partner, or by too freely offering what will just come across as "psychobabble." As you won't be received by the next partner as delivering an epiphany, just a heartfelt heads-up, try to figure out exactly how an NPD pattern fits AND doesn't. Paint a full portrait that would be familiar to the next partner -- including what is initially enchanting about the narcissist. Further, skepticism on the next partner's part is the normal response, and so word is probably going to filter back to your ex, who will almost certainly then paint you as the kind of person who was primed to impute just such shamefully inappropriate "distortions" of her personality.

In my case, I did decide to warn her next partner, and after a year's hiatus, he got back in touch to say the picture was clear. From that point on, we pieced together something else about her: While in relationships with each of us, she'd been pointedly lying to both of us to cover for on-and-off affairs.

Never underestimate the scope of a narcissist's uses of deception. Indeed, the only guess I can hazard is that for her, living out those kinds of affairs was a predatory behavior. Betrayals helped her more comfortably rationalize the protective beliefs she holds. After all, having confirmed in her own mind that we were simple dupes, she could pardon herself from any thorough self-examination of the truth about herself -- that she has fashioned her entire life around misrepresentations and dishonesty.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 28, 2010 7:11:59 PM PDT
Alabre says:

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2011 11:42:32 PM PDT
slowhandfan says:
Your assessment of your experience is totally insightful. You should write a book, Greenlight!

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 9, 2011 4:44:25 PM PDT
Paul Liepa says:
Thanks for the effort and insight. Your discussion belongs on the main page, where it can be seen more readily.

In reply to an earlier post on May 21, 2011 10:52:30 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 21, 2011 10:54:31 AM PDT
The grandiosity in someone with NPD is easy to overlook at first as a simple character weakness but what you have described so beautifully, the machinations that the NPD sufferer employs to avoid acknowledging or addressing damage caused to others by his or her behaviors, are what too often destroy the codependent narcissistic supply source with a thousand tiny cuts. Thank you for your insightful comments.

Posted on Dec 1, 2011 4:58:06 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 1, 2011 4:59:37 AM PST
Mothra says:

Thank you for existing. The way you summarized your relationship with your Narcissist speaks volumes about you as a person.

Only a ***RARE*** individual can acknowledge that 'It takes two to tango.' in a failed romance. Your statement that, "It was like this book was written about her. -->It also helped me confront my part in the whole thing as well.<--", acknowledges that, for every Narcissist, there are enablers. Bewitched enablers, perhaps but, unless the Narcissist is their parent, adult enablers with free will.

Your conclusion that, "The sad (and most painful) part is that the only healthy thing you can do is leave. You cannot help them. You cannot heal them. You will not change them.", indicates that, instead of vindictive bitterness, you felt pain and compassion for this person, after everything they had done to you, after all your 'wasted' time. Your concern was for the Narcissist. Amazing.

Someone like you, who insists upon sharing responsibility with the Narcissist for a failed relationship, who, in return for pain inflicted by the Narcissist, suffers because you cannot help them heal, someone like you, _enfin_, recovers all the time they 'wasted'.

Because the Narcissist is a pathetic being who, the tiniest bit of research will show, nurtured "pride and unremitting resentment" not to mess with people, but as an early childhood defense against otherwise unbearable psychological and/or physical abuse.

And, interestingly, the best way to heal oneself after such a relationship as you had is to share their pain, to feel compassion for them, and to forgive.

Posted on Jul 1, 2012 7:23:44 PM PDT
I was a young woman of 21 when I first started a relationship with a narcissist. I thought that I was in love, but I did not understand why he was so difficult to get along with at times. When he locked his keys in the car, he blamed me. He could not admit anything was ever his fault, because he was so insecure.

He abused his parents, and I could not believe it when I witnessed it. He shook his mother violently, and she did not tell him to stop or stand up to him. He later shook me, and he was hurting me because I had a very sore rash under my arms, so I slapped him on the face to get him to stop. He looked at me like I had done something terrible. I apologized to him, but he never apologized to me.

He started screaming at his father when I was with them in his parent's kitchen. His father just stood there, and let him call him obscene names. When it was over, his father told him he should have more respect for me than to talk like that in front of me, but I wondered why his dad did not stand up to him.

I think my exbf had tantrums when he was little, and his parents did not know how to correct him. He did not understand boundaries when intimately involved with someone.

When he broke up with me, it was so he could have a one night stand with someone else. I did not know what was going on at the time, and I no longer wanted to be in this relationship that had gotten steadily worse over the course of three years. He told me I could call him when I wanted to get back together, but he had left me stranded without a way to get to a final exam, so I did not want him back.

I was feeling happier without him, but he sent his one night lover over to find out why I wasn't calling him. She found out I was happy. He called me 4 days after the breakup, all upset, but still he never apologized for leaving me stranded.

It was 35 years later, when memories were churning over and over in my head, that I realized why he was doing these things. It was stupid, and he was a waste of my time. I'm just glad I did not marry him.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2012 5:30:27 PM PDT
Randy says:
I am just discovering in the last month how devastating a relationship with a narcissist can be. I had no idea what I was involved in until she called 911 on me and sent me to jail. The repercussions from that call will be felt for years and perhaps decades to come. It was only after being released that I needed to try and understand what I had just been through. BE WARNED ! do not belittle or call them names, they will seek retaliation which will be swift and painful.

Posted on Aug 19, 2012 6:57:08 PM PDT
Go West says:
The list of the seven behaviors you provided describe my ex. I bought the book and have been learning to back off on the co-dependent behavior. l'm learning to make decisions based in what I want rather than his desires. I can make a good decision after all; imagine that! Best wishes in moving forward and letting go.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 18, 2013 5:53:44 AM PDT
Angela B says:
Greenlight...EXCELLENT post! It so hard to try and explain what is happening inside a NPD relationship with someone who has not been intimately involved with a NPD. I could have never articulated this CRAZY MAKING experience the way you have. I am still in the heat of the relationship as I have gotten into business with this person. What a stupid mistake! Thanks for sharing, knowing I am not the only person experiencing this insanity gives me strength. I agree, write a book!
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