NB: Throughout these articles, I'm going to be focussing on narcissism, as while it's the least 'obvious' Cluster B personality disorder, it's also the least understood, and, I believe, the most prevalent, particularly within the Jewish community. Also, narcissism is usually co-diagnosed as being present together with the other more obvious Cluster B personality disorders.
Let's begin with the question of questions: why are personality disorders so bad? And why, exactly, are they having such a devastating affect on our communities, family relationships and mental and emotional health?
To try to begin to answer that question, let me paint a picture of the home environment a child grows up, when they're raised by a parent who has a Cluster 'B' personality disorder.
That child grows up in an environment saturated with covert and overt power moves, where relentless manipulation and emotional terror tactics can create an overwhelming feeling of toxic shame, guilt and fear that can literally paralyse the child emotionally, and make them feel physically ill.
Children of parents with Cluster B personality disorders are constantly criticised; are subject to implicit and explicit expressions of parental anger; and usually feel that they have no real free choice, to 'be' themselves, and to make their own decisions.
The following is taken from an e-book called 'Narcissists Exposed', in the Chapter entitled: Identifying Narcissists, which describes how narcissists typically behave towards other people:
"Much of the following may be hidden, to prevent others from rejecting the narcissist:
- Lack of empathy and genuine concern for others
- Everything is 'about them'
- Critical and judgemental behaviour
- Wants to be obeyed, or pitied, or admire. Can become annoyed or angry when this doesn't happen
- Marked attachment to roles involving praise / credit / power
- Usually serves others only because of underlying or hidden ulterior motives
- Fragile ego - can't tolerate being questioned
- Disdainful, rejecting, resentful, snobbish
- Believes they are more physically attractive or more intelligent than others, often even if not
- Phoniness and lying to make themselves look better
- Misuse of power, can be highly disempowering of others
- Inability to simply be one of the crowd, a beginner or just play a small role - needs to immediately stand out as superior / special
- Vindictiveness and smear campaigns against people who disagree with them
- Preoccupation (often hidden) with whether or not others form a favourable impression of them, as opposed to caring about the quality of the relationship"
'Narcissists Exposed' also described some other key things that narcissists do:
1) They refuse responsibility. They don’t take responsibility for anything they've done wrong, even when you can prove it to them.
2) They lie. Narcissists lie are prepared to lie about anything, even small things like whether they take a nap on Shabbat, and certainly about big things, like what they did or said to hurt you.
3) They look down on you. Everything is a 'comparison' to narcissists, and they have to come out on top. Narcissists don't value other people's opinions or lifestyles. They have to feel 'bigger' by making other people feel smaller. Everything is a competition.
4) They're two-faced. They act nice, even flattering to your face, yet can spread the most horrible lies and slander - which of course they'll flat out deny - behind your back.
5) They're vindictive. "The narcissist has a seemingly inexhaustible obsession for making people who cross them (eg, disagree with them or fail to go along with their wishes) 'pay'. There is no level they will not stoop to in order to 'punish' you."
6) They project psychologically. This means that they accuse you of whatever they are in fact doing. For example, if you try to tell a narcissist that they hurt you, they will ignore you, and turn it completely around: "You hurt me!!!" It's a lethal combination of self-righteous anger, criticism and complete avoidance of the truth.
7) They smear people who oppose them. They'll slander you to your Rabbi, to your mother, to your best friend, to your husband, to your kids, or to your boss. Often under a guise of simply 'caring' or 'worrying' about you.
Jewish Narcissists will go to great lengths to depict themselves to the outside world as 'upright', 'caring' individuals, and real 'pillar of the community' type of people.
But as we're about to learn, a very different picture begins to emerge behind closed doors.