Narcissism – How do you recognize it?



Gaslighting. Flying Monkeys. Love-bombing. Do these have anything to do with narcissism? Yes! Granted, these terms do sound ridiculous. But… they accurately describe many narcissistic behaviors. Before we go further, let’s first do a quick recap of last week’s post.


Remember Narcissus? The Greek god who fell madly in love with his own reflection? This tale of long ago depicts the origin of narcissism. Today, there are two fundamental types of narcissism—overt and covert—which both display common characteristics such as exaggerated self-importance, need for admiration, disregard for others, and lack of empathy.


While it would be pretty easy to notice narcissism if you came upon someone gazing deeply at themselves in a pool of water, that does not often occur in our day-to-day lives (if you have had this happen, please let us know!). So, how can we recognize it? Glad you asked…


Although not exhaustive, here are a few warning signs to help you identify narcissistic behavior. Let’s start with the ones mentioned earlier.


Note: The words “narcissist” and “narcissistic” will be used below as shorthand to describe someone who displays narcissistic tendencies.

  1. Gaslighting. Derived from the 1944 movie, Gaslight—where the husband attempts to make his wife believe that she is insane—a narcissist will use manipulation to confuse and cause another person to question their own reality, memory, or perception.

  2. Flying Monkeys. In The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch uses an army of flying monkeys to accomplish her evil deeds. Likewise, a narcissist will gather their own group of “henchmen” to complete their desired persecution and smear campaigns.

  3. Love-bombing. This term describes the over-the-top strategies used to obtain someone’s trust. These may include lavish gifts, romantic vacations, continuous compliments, and promises of endless love. The giving is only temporary and stops once the goal is met.

  4. Refusing Responsibility. A narcissist will shift blame to cover any notion of personal fault, weakness, or error. To avoid being seen as “human,” they will resort to making excuses and shaming others. “It’s your fault that I forgot - because you didn’t remind me!”

  5. Dismissive. Narcissist’s think in black and white terms. If you think like they do, you are “right.” If you have a different opinion or thought, you are “wrong.” There is no middle ground. You are expected to adjust your thinking to match their “correct” one.

  6. Win/lose Attitude. Being in a relationship with a narcissist feels somewhat like living a chess game—someone is going to win, and someone is going to lose. And… you will not be the winner. There is little room for discussion or collaboration. They are “right.”

  7. Alternate Reality. If the real-life situation does not fit the narcissist’s desired view, they will make up their own reality. Even if facts are available to support the truth, it will be denied or brushed aside. “That’s not what happened.” “You’ve got this all wrong.”

  8. Sensitive to Confrontation. Narcissists, when confronted, may throw up their hands and walk out of a room or be passive-aggressive through silence. They may give veiled threats or intimidating glares. You may even hear, “Do you really want to challenge me?”

  9. Joking. Making fun of another, while wrapping it in humor, is a red flag. These statements demean the one on the receiving end, while eliminating all responsibility from the giver. “I was just joking.” “Can’t you take a joke?” “You’re so sensitive!"

  10. Heavy Agenda. While there are essential things that we need or want to get done each day, a narcissist will use commanding language to obtain obedience. They will use words like “must,” “better,” “have to,” “should,” and “ought to.”

Wow… that is a lot, I know. Being aware of these warning signs can help prevent you from being drawn into an unhealthy, often damaging, relationship. So, what can you do if you recognize some of these behaviors in a co-worker or someone you are dating? That… is our focus for next week! See you then!


In the meantime, if you would like more about navigating a relationship with someone who demonstrates narcissistic tendencies, do not hesitate to reach out to KS Services, LLC for a free 15-minute consultation. We would be happy to answer any questions!


Debbie Rackham, MA

Licensed Resident in Counseling



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