For years, I used to consider myself an expert on narcissistic behavior. My credentials included being the daughter of a narcissistic mother and then picking a narcissistic husband. These two fundamental love relationships formed how I saw myself and how I came to classify all of my other post-divorce romantic relationships. But more importantly, I became acutely aware of narcissistic behavior, and how to spot a narcissist from a mile away.
We are all them
I proudly wore this self-professed expertise like a badge of honor, and I’d tell anyone I met about my new skill. As a new divorcee, I felt I earned the right with all my battle wounds, to let anyone I met know what I just discovered. I would say, “those narcissists are tricky liars” and “you don’t know you’re being duped until it’s too late, and they’ve sucked the life out of you.”
Stuff like that was coming out of my mouth all the time. And then, one day, my psychologist friend said, “We are all narcissists.” What?!
In all of the years of therapy, not once did my therapist tell me that I was a narcissist. In fact, I was told that I wasn’t, but that I was a masochist. But it made me think. If our lovers are our mirrors, then there is some truth to this.
It made some sense because I am my mother’s daughter to a degree. But I always identified with my father, who was a masochist. But then, if I have developed this superpower and can see them from a mile away, I must have a bit of the narcissistic tendency going on. Right?
Narcissist or Psychopath
It’s a 20-point checklist that is used by qualified clinicians to determine the level of psychopathy in individuals.
Psychopathy has a range, and narcissistic personality disorder is within this range. In Bob Hare’s opinion, after working with the most dangerous psychopaths in the world, psychopathy is incurable. After extensive testing, he discovered that the amygdala, which registers fear, doesn’t’ function in psychopaths. Which indicates that they will re-offend.
There seems to be a disconnect with empathy and inflicting pain. And for narcissists, this doesn’t mean that they will necessarily inflict bodily pain, but that they have no remorse when they inflict emotional distress. This sounded familiar.
I reviewed my 20-year marriage. Yup that made total sense.
The Psychopath Test
The checklist is used as a reference along with an extensive interview process. Here it is for your reference:
- Glibness/superficial charm
- Grandiose sense of self-worth
- Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
- Pathological Lying
- Lack of remorse or guilt
- Shallow affect
- Callous/lack of empathy
- Parasitic Lifestyle
- Poor behavioral controls
- Promiscuous sexual behavior
- Early behavior problems
- Lack of realistic long-term goals
- Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
- Many short-term marital relationships
- Juvenile Delinquency
- Revocation of conditional release
- Criminal versatility
“Each of the 20 items in the PCL-R is scored on a three-point scale, with a rating of 0 if it does not apply at all, 1 if there is a partial match or mixed information, and 2 if there is a reasonably good match to the offender.” The maximum score is 40. The cut off for labeling psychopathy is 30 in the US and 24 in the UK.
Other factors make up an accurate assessment, but if you’re interested, have a go at it and see where your ex scores.
How to spot a narcissist from a mile away.
Narcissists come in all shapes and sizes. But I have found that some early tell-tale signs can quickly determine if they are one.
If you are dating or new in your relationship, you can quickly determine Narcissistic Personality Disorder by asking some key questions.
- Tell me about your family? This is a good one to start with. You can tell a lot about a person based on their relationships with their family members. How they were treated by their parents is critical here, as well.
- Tell me about your friends? How many do you have? What do you do together? Do you have a best friend?
Pay attention here. How they speak about their friends, if they have any, is key to how liked and respected they are amongst their peers.
- Tell me what you are proud of doing in your life?
Pay attention to how they speak about their accomplishments. Do they seem to be exaggerating?
- Do they show interest in you at all? Most narcissists will want to dominate the conversation and try to blind you with their charm to fall in love with them. Then maybe when they are finished talking about themselves, they might ask you a bit about yourself, show slight interest, and then bring the conversation back to them.
- What was your biggest failure? This one will determine if they can take responsibility for their mistakes or whether it was everyone else’s fault. The red flag comes up with the latter.
Clearly, there are many more characteristics that can be revealed when you are spotting a narcissist. You might have already determined some defining rules for yourself. But the one thing you have to remember when Narcissist spotting is that they can’t be cured. They won’t benefit from therapy because they will pretend and just use what they’ve learned to manipulate.
But if you’ve been involved with a narcissist, the chances of you picking another one is very high. By doing the work by paying attention to these characteristics, you will learn how to spot them from a mile away.