Our storytelling reveals who we are whether we like to admit or not. Especially, the things we say about our past and the way we say them.
At the beginning of every relationship, we share things about ourselves in order to build intimacy and connection with each other in a more profound way.
Those people who have narcissistic traits are inclined to self-presentation and because of that, you can pay attention to how they are speaking about their past to know whether you are dealing with a narcissist.
The retelling of the past – childhood, adolescence, or relationships and events during their adulthood – and the manner of which they speak about events can tell you a lot about a person. You can find whether they are defensive or have a lack of empathy and compassion.
Dr. Craig Malkin, in his book “Rethinking Narcissism” says: “Narcissists bury normal emotions like fear, sadness, loneliness, and shame because they’re afraid they’ll be rejected for having them; the greater their fear, the more they shield themselves with the belief that they’re special.”
That’s why you are probably going to hear idyllic stories of their “perfect” childhood filled with love and happiness. And you will be happy for them until you realize that something doesn’t add up. For instance, such is a case of one woman. Below is her story:
“The childhood he described sounded wonderful—clamming on the beach, going sailing, being surrounded by friends. I was taken aback when, much later, he confided that his father had been a binge-drinker, never drinking in front of the family but simply disappearing for days at a time. It was as though these two versions of his childhood existed on parallel tracks in his mind and when I challenged him, he became angry and said that he hadn’t been affected by his father and that only his brother had. I chalked it up to denial but, now, it’s clear in context and of a piece with his other behaviors.”
So, if you want to be able to spot a narcissist by the way they tell their story, here are the things to which you should pay close attention:
THEY DONE THEM WRONG – Past Romantic Relationships
For an attractive narcissist, their history with relationships is how they were always betrayed by their lovers in spite of doing everything they could. They will tell you how they were trying to make them happy and they loved them with all their heart, but nothing seemed to be good enough for them. They do this to make you feel sorry for them.
They will never tell you about their control issues, their jealousy, the gaslighting, their attempts to isolate them from family and friends… But you will figure those things out later when they start doing the same things to you.
Plus, they will never accept responsibility. They will always say that it was because of the other person that their relationship broke. But you may miss their blame game because you will be busy feeling sorry for them.
THE WHITE SHEEP IN A BLACK SHEEP WORLD
The premise here is that they never do anything wrong. They are flawless. Therefore, when a problem occurs, it is always because of someone else’s mistake. They will tell you all kinds of stories about how their colleagues always make rooky mistakes that they need to fix.
They will tell you all about other people’s flaws and mistakes while boasting about their good nature and willingness to help. In their stories, it is always black and white; there are no gray areas. But, of course, you will be busy trying to be empathetic with them to notice these things, and they know that.
THE SITUATIONAL REWRITE
You know that there are always two sides to a story. Not with a narcissist. The narcissist will use everything they have at hand to make sure it is clear that their story is the only true one.
You may not see this pattern at first, but after you start disagreeing with them, you’ll notice how they will tell you that those things you say never happened and that you tend to always exaggerate and get everything wrong like you always do.
Finally, does the narcissist believe their own lies?
In his book, “The Narcissist You Know”, Dr. Joseph Burgo notes that “Because of his distorted, defensive relationship to reality, the Extreme Narcissist often believes the lies he tells, both to himself and to other people. He doesn’t see himself as a liar but rather as an embattled defender of the ‘truth’ as he has come to see it.”