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Narcissism: Surviving the Self-Involved – An Interview with Meredith Resnick

Published: September 12, 2012 | Last Updated: June 20, 2021 By | 32 Replies Continue Reading
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When I heard that my colleague Meredith Resnick a writer and licensed clinical social worker, had recently published an e-book on the topic of narcissism, I thought the topic might be of interest to readers of this blog, especially those who suspect that someone around them, either a friend or family member, may have the disorder. Below are some questions Meredith responded to for the readers of The Friendship Blog:

Irene:

What led you to write your e-book on the topic of narcissism?

Meredith:

I worked for two decades in healthcare, but it was through my personal journey in a few relationships that I began to learn, really learn, about narcissism, and its damaging effects. I wanted to heal from the effects, and it took me some time and a concerted effort to sort out exactly what was going on. There is a certain, convoluted, ‘smoke-and-mirrors’ aspect of the disease of narcissism, given all the projection that goes along with it. But once I began to understand and see the nuances, I felt my own healing from the relationships really take hold. I wanted to share what I’d learned to help other people who might be suffering from the same feelings I’d had (and others have had as well).

Irene:

What are the hallmark signs of a narcissistic personality?

Meredith:

There are several, but here I’ll mention three. I associate lack of empathy with narcissism, but also understand that a person who is narcissistic might appear to “care.” I’ve found, for me, it’s been helpful to view the relationship as a whole, to look at patterns. For example, non-empathy might appear as little digs, as a protracted period of coldness followed by what appears to be warmth (followed by icy coldness, and so on).

Projection is another key sign, which includes relegating their own (typically negative) feelings onto you, claiming they belong to you and/or that you alone are responsible for them feeling this way.

Another sign is a tendency to be exploitative in their relationships without even thinking about it, to get what they want in big and little ways.

Irene:

Why do we often tend to miss these signs at first?

Meredith:

It may be because people with narcissism can and do present themselves quite charmingly. They may be fun; the life of the party. Or, they may be sweet and helpful, focusing on you and how great you are. When the tide turns with such individuals, it can come as a shock. (Bear in mind there are many truly authentically nice, kind, wonderful people. But with them, we won’t experience the breach being discussed here. And when we experience the breach, we know it!)

Or, it may be for entirely different reasons. If a person was surrounded by self-absorbed people early in their lives, it’s possible that person developed a kind of blind spot to problems in their friendships, or maybe they keep choosing friends who demand lots of attention. This might happen when an individual is not accustomed to keeping the focus on herself in a healthy way, and, so, finds friends who want her attention to be on them!

Irene:

Is it possible to have a mutually supportive friendship with a narcissist or is the friendship doomed? Do narcissists ever change their stripes or do I simply need to walk away from a close friendship with a narcissist?

Meredith:

To these questions I would suggest re-evaluating what the individual really means by “mutually supportive,” and encouraging them to think about what they like about the relationship, and accepting it for what it is. Perhaps two people can still have fun together, but maybe other aspects of the relationship they are seeking need to be found or developed in other friendships.


Meredith’s new e-book, available on Amazon, is called Narcissism: Surviving the Self-Involved – A Little Primer on Self-Care. Her work has appeared in Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Psychology Today, JAMA, Orange County Register, Culinate, Dancing at The Shame Prom and others. She is currently working on a companion e-book, Stronger Every Day: 366 Thoughts, Meditations and Ideas to Help You Overcome the Effects of Narcissism.

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Category: Narcissists

Comments (32)

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  1. Anonymous7 says:

    This is such a prickly topic for me. I have had the great misfortune of wasting 5 good youthful years of my life with a narcissist lover. Fortunately (for me) he felt I was inferior to him and dumped me. He went on to have a complete schizo affective mental breakdown, lost his mind and last I heard is still looking for it. For reasons I can’t explain I have chosen to remain friends (for 20 years) with a charming narcissist who seems genuinely compassionate to me and others yet thoroughly hyper self absorbed in herself. I am at a place in my life where I realize I must edit her out of my life. Can this be done humanely or should I not give a rat’s ass?

  2. Kim Williams says:

    Thank you for the insights all your readers have shared. They were not only supportive, but generous in their honest admition of the devastating hurt a narcissistic friend might finally deliver in one fell swoop upon someone who has been their friend for over ten years. They walk away with no remorse or responsibility for the what they leave in their wake.
    I loved the writer who spoke to comparing their friendship with a narcissist to that of owning a poisenous pet snake.
    These friends usually do end up biting…and when they deliver the final bite of an asp and watch you wilt in disbelief and total confusion over what has just happened, they turn on a dime and never look back without the slightest remorse for what they have just inflicted upon another.
    Your website is important for helping to educate others on what they may experience unknowingly if they have found themselves in a close friendship with someone who displays narcissistic tendencies.

  3. Ally says:

    I used to have a friend like this, the do come across as the caring, social type but I guess everybody’s true colours come through eventually

  4. Anonymous says:

    It’s great to see an article like this on a friendship blog. The internet is filled with articles, questions, comments about boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and spouses in regards to narcissism. It’s tiring to have to constantly adapt that information to a female friendship. Not everything fits and dynamics are different.

    As is typical…friendships just aren’t given enough value in regards to this issue like everything else. So even when a friendship that lasted for over a decade ends abruptly…it’s once again chalked up to be ‘friends grow apart’ or ‘seems like you guys just outgrew each other’ or ‘life changes’. No biggie? Right? Wrong!

    There is more sympathy and discussion going on over a 6 month romantic relationship than there is for a 15 year on and off friendship that was much more intense. This nonsense has to start to change…our society depends on it. People can not exist in a vacuum and expect to thrive over the long term.

    • Me says:

      I hear you and your frustration.

      Those failed friendships I’ve had over the years I now see were usually with narcissistic people, or people under their power – and the long term, healthy friendships I have are with functional people.

      As I gravitate towards narcissistic friends and have been very hurt by a couple of them, I’m hoping that developing a good radar for picking up narcs is going to help me avoid further heartache.

      Good luck Anon.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. I think I have similar experiences. And your discription of your father sounds identical. Perhaps he is the same man:) Lets hope putting this in writing will help shift things and you will meet some more loving people. Also thanks for book recommendations ..

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for writing this book so others can see what’s going on.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Im totally shocked hearing all of these information about a narcissism definitely validated how I thought about my son’s behavior. He’s 26 now and
    I started noticing the scary part side of a
    narcist on him. Since his my son I’m just going with the flow.

  8. Anonymous says:

    It just came to me recently about my tendency to not let myself be loved, as i have been looking inside as to the why of past relationship choices. Part of it is i am a giver, partly i tend to behave as if i don’t need to, that i’m fine, I do and have had nice, giving friends that have my best interests at heart, but those i have been most intimate in my past they didn’t care about me. There have been some less close friendships i have ended. My current friendships are mutual, i evenings have one who has big problems but is also a caring person and a good friend who cares about me. Thing is, i have a hard time opening up and sharing my frustrations. I guess i like to be strong for people and therefore am afraid to be vulnerable. Some of it is also low self esteem.. for some reason i am feeling really down on myself. I also had a narcissistic boss at my last job, many years and years ago and also quite often in the system in which i worked .
    I dated a.compulsive liar, he lied about everything. You are right that it takes a ling time to get over stuff. It has for me. Up to this past year i have had a hard time being open and being my better self and had relational conflicts i had never had before. I hope you make some good, loving friends and also that you find a loving, caring other half! Sorry about the typos, I am using my phone.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Your last sentence is very poignant. You deserve to be involved with caring people – having one person in your life who genuinely cares can make a difference and hope you can allow yourself to be loved and cared about, as you do for others. It is important to keep your good qualities that make you a kind human being and to give your energy to people who show they care rather directing it towards those who just use charm and make themselves out to be all that and a cherry cake but who are really just thieves of time and energy. It is good that you have not let them rob you of those qualities – because it is those qualities that will attract decent good hearted genuine friends into your life. I no longer deal with Kate or my father and feel much happier for not taking on their constant negative assessments and providing narcissistic supply to them. From not spending hours on the phone listening to drama there is more time for family and creativity and also learning to like myself and get away from being self destructive. When heavily involved with narcissists, in my personal life and at work (the industry I was in was infested with borderlines and narcissist personality types) was in a very self destructive state of mind, which takes a long time to get over even after the friendship relationship has ended.

    You’re right about noticing the behaviour pattern of consistent disrespect – that is a red flag. I used to excuse the disrespect because of trying to see the good in the persons character but the narcissists take advantage of this. Someone can have a bad day but it is the patterns that show a person’s true intent. Lying is another red flag – if someones going to lie once then they are going to lie often. I used to give the benefit of the doubt on lying too – I’ve had a couple of friends who were compulsive liars. Sometimes it feels like you have to be a detective when getting to know people, and have them in your life. It is like your life is your house – some you let in and they destroy it’s contents and some you let in and they make it better by being constructive and warm hearted. Have you explored why it is hard for you to let yourself be loved and cared about?

    • Marlene says:

      That is so insightful. I have a narcissistic employee, and it is a first for me. I am learning to dial down the drama of her continual ‘health crises’ so that I no longer react as if they are real. Second, her monologues about her many amazing accomplishments at work (truly, just routine workflow) have left me speechless at times. I am learning to say ‘Oh, thanks, that’s great.’ instead of what is really on my mind, e.g., ‘ that is just part of your job, why do you think it’s so amazing?’ Third, I am no longer surprised when my routine ‘how was your weekend’ precipitates a blow-by-blow description of the many things she did from morning to night (again, with no corresponding questions such as ‘and how was yo
      urs?’ ever coming from her in return. Fourth, she seems to lie for no particular reason. Finally, I have realized that her co-workers often have trouble with her in these same areas. We are all quite mystified.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thansb for your insights, reading suggestions and sharing your story. Your father clearly is a narcissist. I’m so sorry that you had such a tough upbringing, it makes sense that you attract narcissists because of it, and this has made your relationship life difficult. Have you thought about dumping kate? You deserve to be loved and cared about by your friends.
    Me, i did not grow up with a narcissistic parent, no abuse, addiction, nothing. As an adult i was deeply involved with several narcissists. Right now i don’t have that in my life. You are so right about giving people the benefit of the doubt. I do it all the time. I also think about people and their issues to be forgiving and understanding. I don’t want to stop being that way, and won’t. I have blown a friendship or two due to trust issues that i have from bring hurt one too many times by narcissists. But if someone consistently disrespects me and doesnt care about me i promised myself i won’t getinvolved with someone again, but i will continue to give people i like a fair chance. I was thinking about how its hard for me to let myself be loved and cared about. Maybe that’s why i haven’t gotten involved with caring people.

  11. Anonymous says:

    There is something to discover about yourself but there is nothing wrong with you for being a good natured giving person – it is too bad that narcissistic friendships can Good question – and after thinking about it I think the main reason I’ve befriended lots of narcissists because the father I grew up with was one. I can’t say he raised me because he didn’t – I spent most of my childhood as a sounding board/therapist to his problems, and by doing this he left me alone from his wrath, for the time being. He has a lot of wrath – now that I see it clearly – his freak outs were his way of making sure he was the center of attention in the household at ALL times.

    I got used to listening and listening and apologizing for any wrong doing, trying to fit into his expectations which was an impossible task….fastforward to college (was in college trying to meet academic expectations when I was no academic) I meet my best friend ‘Kate’ – I don’t know what we had in common but we clicked, fast. I considered her my best friend. At first it was fun friendship, we’d go for dinners, movies the only thing that bothered me was she would always bring the conversation back to herself, at the time I dismissed it. Same as she was always always late..which again I dismissed but which was a sign that she did not respect or care about me. I did this with most of my other friends as well – “pierre” who peer pressured me into doing hard drugs, Celine, a work mate who I was on call phone therapist to for eight years who made mean comments about my work habits…I dismissed the behaviours that were manipulative and eroded my self esteem because they were my friends.

    …Nearly two decades later Kate and I have been through a lot together. We talk for one to two hours most evenings… I try to say something important and my comments dismissed, constantly told what a bad person I am because I’m not like Arabella, who she hasn’t seen in a year. This behaviour was exactly like my father behaved towards me. My mother got sick and Kate acted like it was a big inconvenience when I talked about her – my father made her illness all about him and was annoyed that he wasn’t getting as much attention because her illness was taking it up – the last time I saw my mother on mothers day he freakin made mothers day about him and talked about his subject of choice for three hours. Looking back, I wish I freaked on him that day the way he freaked on me so many times. But once again I let it go…

    My mothers illness and passing was the beginning of my wake up call to the types of people I was attracting into my life – and began to question why I was spending so much time and energy on them when they couldn’t genuinely listen to me for five minutes. Meeting my neighbor was also pivotol – she slammed the door all the time – I wrote a note, she got mad I apologized- then she was at my door all the time for any reason…a cup of milk, tea, food, money, cigarettes. Then, after reading Gavin DeBeckers the gift of fear I truly saw how I was being played – because I wanted to be seen as “nice” and gave people the benefit of the doubt who did not deserve it. That is the common theme in our situations – giving people the benefit of the doubt.

    Another concept I discovered was boundaries – if you don’t have boundaries these types will take all you have to give and more and not give two shiites about you when the tables are turned. They insert their life into yours and make it their own. Google 4mingthoughts emotional vampire series – that is very helpful with the concept of seeing people who just want to use you. That helped me deal with my neighbor.


    Good books and helpful material I’ve discovered in my discovery (and got from the library) Who’s pulling your strings by Harriet B Braiker, The nice girl syndrome by Beverley Engel, The gift of fear by Gavin DeBecker, and 4mingthoughts energy vampire series.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I’m looking forward to reading Meredith’s book. After reading this post, I think narcissism has been present in several of my relationships. I still have a hard time differentiating between narcissism and self-involvement. I think it’s because I want to give the other person the benefit of the doubt, or maybe it’s that I can’t allow myself to think that a close relationship was actually a narcissistic one.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Could you describe her rages and the context in which they occurred?

  14. Anonymous says:

    It was nice to see that i am not the only one who has attracted many narcissists. I was beginning to think there’s something wrong wifh me, something to discover about myself. I have begun to explore this in therapy and so far she says because i am good natured, considerate, and give people the benefit of the doubt, and that i need to think of my own needs also. But i think i there’s more for me to uncover about this pattern i have tended to have. Have you made any headway as to why you have befriended lots of narcissists?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Hi,
    Thank you for the post. Few months ago, I had a really bad experience with someone who was a friend and my guess is she is a narcissistic person. She exhibited rage on several occasions and continues to do so despite my attempt to ignore her completely. It’s easy to get sucked into what she is saying and it has been very painful. Any suggestions on how to recover from this?
    Thank you.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I too have had my share of narcissists. The constantly showing up late i have experienced with a few, and i would always be 10 minutes early for one and her, she’d keep me waiting , and i had a demanding job and went to school. But there were many other things as well.would patterns and habits that made me feel diminished. Also with narcissists their assessments of people tend to be compldtely unlike how a person resally is. Another red flag is not being able to admit doing wrong or apologizing and reflectjng on how their behavior affects others. There are people
    Wo have ptsd or under severe stress, like in survival mode being self concerned with little empathy for others is different than narcissism.
    In spite of how hurtful a narcissist can be, my heart breaks for narcissists, and being forgiving and an optimist that if given enough love a narcissist can change, i have been pretty deeply hurt because narcissists expoit those types of people.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I have one of those in my life and despite numerous attempts at setting boundaries, she just keeps trying to maintain contact.

    She goes on and on and on about herself in a way that almost seems pathological. And with no regard to any comments or “sharing” that may be hurtful or obnoxious to someone who doesn’t have the same wealth, relationship, etc.

    Sixth months after my mother died, she sent me a 4 page email about how wonderful the trip she had taken with her mother was, and how fortunate she was to have this opportunity and to not have to work so she could take this time, and a description of every little thing they ate along the way, and the entire wardrobe she bought in preparation, and how perfect is body is to wear a bikini, and how superior she feels (her words) being in a position to do such things as opposed to people living paycheck to paycheck.

    Like me…the “friend” getting her charming emails. The friend who she knows perfectly well doesn’t have a mother, the means to buy a new wardrobe or vacations, who is struggling to drop weight, etc. I have lots of people in my life I can be perfectly happy for, but she makes me insane.

    Now she’s pregnant and beyond insufferable and i get unsolicited detailed emails on how she scans everyone’s baby registries and spends hours tweaking her own and snickers at the number on the scale of the person who was before her at the doctor’s office (she actually writes all of this!).

    Is this narcissism or just the most obnoxious person on the face of the earth? I don’t think it’s insecurity. I’ve never met anyone so thoroughly delighted with herself.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Me too 🙂 looking back I think most of my “friends” over the years were narcissists and it takes looking back to see how bad their behaviour really was. I felt the odd energy from them but was taken in by charming words. Actions speak louder than words – so actions are a clue if you are dealing with one. If you have a friend who is always always late on every meeting that is an action that is telling you that you’re friend is self centered and doesn’t care and just wants you for narcissistic supply. I had a friend that was twenty minutes to a half an hour late for literally years – and when I finally confronted her – because it was my birthday so I think I had a right to be upset – my “friend” got very very angry and told me I should have used that opportunity to read a book.

  19. Anonymous says:

    My husband had a family member who was diagnosed as having this, so we are familiar with it and this description is right on the money.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I have a friend who told me he was a “recovering narcissist.” I realized then that he wasn’t recovering. And that I did not want him in my life. He’s not particularly missed. I think narcissism is really harmful. This same man has no relationship with his adult children and though “recovering” is making no attempt to fix so much that he has broken over the years…

  21. Anonymous says:

    Really interesting, and makes me see the people I know who I think are narcissists in a whole new way.

  22. Anonymous says:

    So many people need to know about this. I’ve only come across a couple Ns in my life. The first I had no idea what was wrong and assumed I was at fault. The second I was wiser. Still people need to know. Could save a lot of suffering.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I’ve known many narcissists over the years…but fear I might have missed some clues and let some others go undetected!

    Sheryl

  24. Anonymous says:

    Thinking for a moment about empathy ~ an overly self-involved person might still be able to feel empathy and true concern for another.
    In the book, I’ve included a short essay by Dr. Ruth Wimsatt, a psychologist in private practice, that speaks about the process of change.

    Meredith Resnick

  25. Anonymous says:

    I think being friends with a narcissistic is like owning a poisonous pet snake..you just have to be aware, that if the mood comes they will bite you…with no regret

  26. Anonymous says:

    What is the difference between narcissicm and being overly self-involved? “Narcissism” sounds so much more “serious” and less likely something that can be changed. Is that true?

    • Sela says:

      Great question, for which I have no answer, however, narcissism is more of a personality defect, whereas self-absorbed is a stage of life that usually passes. My shot in the dark!

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