From Tina Swithin’s How I Fell for a Narcissist:
Part of healing involves research on this personality disorder. I reached out to Dr. Craig Malkin, clinical psychologist and instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School, for his opinion on how a person could potentially fall for a narcissist. According to Dr. Malkin, narcissists are experts at “impression management.”
Part of what makes narcissists so seductive, especially at the start of a relationship, is that they’re experts at impression management.
According to research, for example, they’re no more physically attractive than the average guy or gal — maybe a 5 or 6 — but they’ve perfected the art of looking like (and acting) like a 10. They can be charming, alluring, and even sensitive (up to a point).
Add to all this the fact that, when we’re in love with someone, the judgment centers of the brain become eerily quiet, and it’s easy to see why narcissists can slip by, red flags and all, and cozy up to us for a good long while.
Narcissists who run hot and cold are especially difficult to leave. The ups and downs put you on what psychologists call a variable-ratio reinforcement schedule — the same pattern of occasional reward that keeps gamblers racing back to the slot machines.
One key to spotting a narcissist is to bring your judgment centers back online. Pay attention to feedback from friends, for instance. They’re more apt to see — and remember — important red flags that you miss, precisely because they’re not under the narcissist’s spell (I call this ‘borrowed judgment’).
Keep a journal of painful moments, and ask yourself, is your partner working with you to understand and prevent them? Learn, and watch out for, some of the hallmarks of narcissism:
Is every mistake he makes, for example, someone else fault (‘externalizing’)? Does she routinely devalue and belittle other people in her stories? If so, it’s only a matter of time before the disdain or indifference comes your way.
Tracy Fortune wrote in the comments, “Victims exhibit PTSD after interactions with an NPD- it’s THAT bad.”
Having written down this story as soon as possible after it happened, has helped a great deal: Whenever I start to weaken, and remember only the good things, thinking the bad things must be my imagination–I read parts of my story again. I see and remember that everything I wrote is exactly what happened, not my imagination, but truth–and that reminds me that my memory is not my imagination, either, but the truth.
That keeps me from running back to my narcs and making myself into their victim all over again, degrading myself by taking responsibility for their abuses.
It also keeps me strong in my resolve to keep them blocked from my blog, which they monitored for some ten months before I found out how to set up a self-hosted Wordpress blog, keep my Blogger traffic, and finally, effectively block them.
The story is especially helpful because Richard did to me what Tina’s ex-husband did to her: He made himself so charming, played so well on my loneliness, naivete and desire for that Best, Closest Platonic Friend Like Sam/Frodo Who Would Be There Forever, that I overlooked the red flags.
And the red flags were there. But because he love-bombed me so effectively that I thought our friendship was real, enduring and God-ordained, I ignored the red flags. And he did run hot and cold, as in the quote above, making me addicted to the rewards.
After dealing with Phil, my narcissistic ex, I relied more on the judgment of friends to help me find a good husband. But with Richard, I had been isolated so long because of life circumstances–including a small child, shyness, church changes and my husband having a falling-out with a friend–that I had no close friends nearby to watch and make observations about my platonic friendships.
My husband was also under the spell, had also been charmed to some degree, thought that Richard was a good guy–until my husband experienced the “WTF moment” himself on 7/1/10. (That’s when Richard blew up at him and became a raging, intimidating machine, not the gentle friend he had been to us.)
Articles such as the above help us figure out how we fell prey to narcissists, and how to avoid falling prey again. Because why would we want to be prey to narcissists again and again?