Are you feeling confused about your narcissistic partner or boss? Do you believe or wonder are ALL narcissistic people evil? In this blog post and podcast, I want to address this question. For some people, the answer will be an automatic, “Yes!” For others, they might be on the fence. Yes, on the fence. You might wonder why someone is on the fence if you experienced something horrific with a narcissistic person or parent. Not everyone will have the same heartaches. And my perspective might be different than yours, and this is okay. This is just information. So, let’s unpack it.
You have heard me talk about polarity. There is polarity when it comes to narcissism. There is a light and dark side. Some narcissistic people make good leaders and others that can scare the crap out of you when they are in a position of power, such as running the country. Some narcissistic leaders can be suited to act as a support for others, give a fresh stimulus to cultural development, or assess the damage in the established state of affairs. These are all excellent traits. There is also the fact that many of us have benefited and are enjoying the various inventions these narcissistic individuals have created. Without Bill Gates, there would be no Microsoft software. Steve Jobs started Apple; Jeff Bezos built Amazon, Howard Schultz was the founder of Starbucks, and Travis Kalanick was the founder and CEO of Uber.
All these great men created things that millions of people love and depend upon. Did they have to do some things that are immoral, unethical, and cutthroat? I would believe so because people like them want to win. They are more driven by power and greed. I will give you a personal life experience of mine and why I refuse to support Starbucks coffee. This is an example of intentional evil compared to unintentional.
When Starbucks came to the Bay Area in California in 1992, it did like most companies and targeted the local mom-and-pop coffee shop establishments. My mother’s best friend ran a coffee shop that her parents owned. It was part of the family’s generational history and was loved by many people within the community. At first, it was unsettling that Starbucks opened right across the street. This was intentional evil, in my opinion. At the time, there were many other locations they could have picked, but this was war. Eventually, my mom’s friend could not compete with the pricing, advertising, special promotions, and overhead expenses. Therefore, the coffee shop she loved went out of business. This upset many other people and me. Yet, life is full of changes, and we always have a choice. There are six Starbucks within a 3-mile radius in my demographics alone. People love their coffee, and I am okay with it. I choose not to support them financially.
Another example can be bookstores. I used to love going into bookstores. It is hard to find a bookstore nowadays. People are buying books for their Tablet or Kindle instead of in the paperback form. The romantic drama movie in 1998 with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, “You’ve got Mail.” Meg Ryan is an independent bookstore owner, and Tom Hanks is a book superstore owner. We all know it was just a movie, but there is a genuine difference between independent and supersize stores. With an independent store, there is love and attention to detail, you care about your customers, you can add that personal touch to your customers, and you love what you do for a living. A super-size store can offer you lower prices and more stuff, but there is no love, friendship, or care about the customers and even employees at times. It is not personal care but impersonal needs met.
Most of us, including myself, thought Costco came first, but it was not. In 1962 Walmart opened its doors, and Costco opened in 1976. My point is that there will always be competition and evolutionary change. Some of the changes can be positive, and others extremely damaging. That is why knowing more about a person in general and in a position of political power is essential. A narcissist wants to win and needs to succeed. They are very good at influencing people into doing their dirty work, cutting corners, committing a crime if they can get away with it, and even lying on their behalf.
Let’s talk about the dark side of a narcissist. Freud recognized that there is a dark side to narcissism. Freud pointed out that a narcissist is emotionally isolated (disconnected) and highly distrustful. Emotional isolation is a state of isolation where one may have a well-functioning social network but still feels emotionally separated from others. Being emotionally isolated is when your defense mechanism kicks in, and to protect yourself from emotional distress, you stop naturally communicating with people. You shut down. When an emotionally isolated person does communicate with people, they will keep the communication to a superficial level. The narcissist might have a wide social circle of superficial friends, yet they show little interest in other people’s feelings. This emotional isolation is a coping skill to avoid intimate relationships altogether. Most importantly, the narcissist can keep their feelings entirely to themself and will not be able to receive emotional support from others. The narcissist might even repress or suppress their own thoughts, feelings, opinions, and beliefs. They might feel as if they have shut down or feel numb because the world and people are not to be trusted. Being emotionally isolated creates self-centeredness and insensitivity. Being emotionally isolated is unhealthy because it prevents the person from having meaningful attachments in their life.
So, let’s break down emotional isolation because it will explain more about how a person becomes narcissistic. Emotional isolation is triggered by social isolation, infidelity, abuse, fear of abandonment, and other trust issues where emotional bonds have been broken. These broken bonds are all trauma related.
- Social isolation – a child who moved to a new school were they were bullied.
- Infidelity – a spouse in a marriage where a previously intimate partner betrayed them.
- Abuse – a younger child constantly being physically hurt by an older sibling.
- Fear of abandonment or rejection– a child who lacked having an emotionally available parent figure growing up, after a divorce, family illness, parent dies, or traumatic event.
- Trust issues – a young child who was raped by a family member, family friend, or someone within the community. Or a parent is a pathological liar.
These five emotional isolation triggers can make a person narcissistic if not treated. That is why I say a survivor of trauma or psychological abuse can become temporarily narcissistic. The narcissist was either bullied; there was mental and emotional abuse, trust issues, or maybe even infidelity within the relationship. When emotional isolation goes untreated and unresolved, it can also create an unhealthy attachment style in how a person will react and perceive their world and others.
Therefore, a narcissist’s perceived threat can trigger anger and rage. Think of a spiral going down from their rational thinking cortex brain into their defensive life or death survival brain. The spiral downward happens because of how the person mentally processed an incident of trauma or series of trauma incidents in their past, in which they cannot confide or trust people to listen or support them mentally and emotionally. They stuffed it down, and anger is bubbling underneath. That is why you can witness a narcissist go from zero to 100 in a flash. Basically, the narcissist has unresolved issues, and they will project those unresolved issues upon anyone who emotionally triggers them. And, they will act immaturely because the core trigger wound was created at a young age. Plus, you might discover that things can get terrible when the narcissist has split thinking – you are either with me or against me. There is no middle ground with these types of people.
Therefore, when the narcissist does experience an emotional achievement, it can feed feelings of grandiosity. Freud thought narcissists were the most complex personality types to analyze, and I agree. I found an interesting article online about narcissistic leaders and liked this example. “Consider how an executive at Oracle describes his narcissistic CEO Larry Ellison: “The difference between God and Larry is that God does not believe he is Larry.” That observation is amusing, but it is also troubling. Not surprisingly, most people think of narcissists primarily negatively.
Let’s talk about a productive and unproductive narcissist. Leaders such as Jack Welch, the CEO of General Electric, and George Soros are examples of a productive narcissists. They both are gifted because they can come up with creative strategies. They can see the big picture and find meaning in the complex and risky challenge of changing the world and leaving behind a legacy. During times of great transition, these people dare to push through the massive transformations that society periodically undertakes. Some people hate change and will go against it, even if it improves their quality of life. Productive narcissists are risk takers willing to get the job done while charming the masses with their persuasive speaking. The danger is that narcissism can turn unproductive when the narcissist lacks self-knowledge and restraining safety anchors to protect the whole project or goal. When there is a lack of self-knowledge and protection pitfalls, the narcissist become an unrealistic dreamer. The narcissist will nurture grand schemes of paranoia, and unpredictability, and can harbor the illusion that only circumstances or their enemies are trying to block their success.
If you have seen the mini-series, “Super Pumped” on Hulu and Showtime, you will notice these exact behaviors of an unproductive narcissist. Travis was brilliant, but he destroyed himself and his success with Uber. This tendency toward grandiosity and distrust is the Achilles’ heel for a narcissist. That is why he went under suspicion for his self-involvement to win consistently, instead of doing the right thing for the company’s greater good. We saw his unpredictability in how he treated people, especially those trying to help him and wanted to avoid future pitfalls. We also saw his paranoia and need to put someone in their place as if he was above everyone, even his investors. He was considered a unicorn and needed much support in preventing self-destruction. Eventually, he did destroy his reputation, career, and interpersonal relationships.
If you have not figured it out by now, I am a person that likes to be neutral. I want to look at both sides of the coin. There is no judgment, just information, and clarification. For example, I know many people that refuse to shop on Amazon. When Covid hit, everyone’s life went upside down. You were afraid to go grocery shopping and were stuck in your home. Ordering online saved so many lives. There were items you could not find in your local stores and items that did not even exist yet. The world changed and we adapted to that change. We had no choice. And some people learned to appreciate Amazon, instead of hating it.
Now here is my main point. We live in a sea of polarity and all of us will eventually meet someone who is narcissistic. I want you to learn to see and catch the polarity between the two styles – productive and unproductive. Why? Well, it can support you going forward in life. You might have a boss or friend that wants you to take part in their business opportunity. Does this narcissistic boss or friend seem to be productive or unproductive? Will your investment in this person pay off, or will they steal your money and file bankruptcy? Do their sweet talking words have proof in their past actions, or is there zero proof to show good faith? Do they appear to speak without thinking first, as if they are a dreamer? Do they make fake future promises or do they take the steps to make those promises a reality?
So, let’s take the character Travis Kalanick, founder and CEO of Uber. Was he evil? My response is yes and no. He was brilliant and stupid at the same time. He could not accept defeat, and when he did win, he would spear it in the loser’s face. In my opinion, that is evil. Be happy with the win, but do not mentally, emotionally, or financially destroy anyone during the process. Some might call him a poor loser by his immature behaviors and actions, but what he did not realize is he was a winner. He did not know how to celebrate the wins without publicly trying to destroy and slander the competition. And what I am referring to here is the founder of Lyft, John Zimmer. I highly recommend watching the series Super Pumped. Many of the things I talk about within my blog posts are podcast episodes addressed in this series—even the part on sexual harassment, HR, and trauma bonding.
Let’s break this down even further. This weekend I was working at an event. I noticed a couple of walk-in with their young child in a stroller. Immediately I got the feeling that he was narcissistic. I saw her observing my table several times, but he wanted them to walk right past it. Just the book title alone, The Undetected Narcissistic, can trigger a narcissist. She came over to my table when he was chatting with someone else. The first words out of her mouth were, “I think my partner is a narcissist.” I smiled at her and said, “Oh, I saw that a mile away. It’s okay.” We both laughed. She asked me how I could tell. I told her he appears to be 15 to 20 years older than you. This means you lack life experience and can be easily manipulated and controlled. Then because he is older, he can offer financial security, which can leave you trapped in a trauma bonding relationship. The real questions are, do you love him? Is he an asshole to you all the time? And are you willing to learn more about his triggers, traits, and behaviors? The good news is, she did love him. He was not an asshole to her all the time. She was willing to educate herself because they have a child together. In my opinion, this was positive. I would rather see and hear people try to create peace and harmony instead of war. Because you can love someone narcissistic, but you do not like them. And not all narcissistic men are evil. Therefore, I told her to get a journal and write down some past events when he got triggered. I wanted her to see if there was a pattern because there is a pattern. The pattern could be that he stuffs down his anger from work and then dumps it on her when he gets home. This would show a pattern of him struggling with emotional isolation at work, but then show a positive way that he feels safe with her to dump his frustration. The problem is its not her job to fix him or allow him to use her as a verbal punching bag. She will have to learn how to communicate with him and how to set healthy boundaries. And maybe she can suggest he exercise or do something physical to release that built up tension before coming home. It all boils down to clear and effective heart driven communication.
I feel the biggest problem we all face is we don’t really know how to communicate with one another effectively, especially when things get uncomfortable and tension builds. We jump to conclusions instead of asking questions. We make snap judgments and assumptions instead of getting clarification and unpacking the issue at hand. We build walls of separation instead of breaking down the barriers within ourselves. We stop looking each other in the eyes, and we disconnect. All of these things can be felt and seen without anyone verbalizing them. Today this day, I still have some narcissistic friends. I care about them, and I know they care about me. They know what I talk about, and they know I do not spread hate, anger, or fear around the subject of narcissism. I understand them and how they were created. I talk about them coming from a place of compassion, reason, and kindness, and I like to unpack things to bring about a sense of clarity and wisdom. Yes, sometimes I do not like their behaviors, actions, and words. Yet, I can now step back, disengage, and view the whole situation without getting triggered or wounded. I can also speak my truth from a place of kindness instead of blame or resentment. I can set healthy boundaries and find harmonious solutions for both parties. I want everyone to be able to do the same thing. That is why I do what I do for a living.
Therefore, do you still think or feel that all narcissistic people are evil? You might, and that’s okay. We cannot eliminate them from the planet. We can only learn to coexist with one another with less trauma, pain, heartache, and anger. Everyone can have a different definition of what evil means to them. I hope you have enjoyed this blog post/podcast. Thanks for reading or listening and have a fantastic day!
Music by Amy Millan – Divinity