But at home? It's a completely different story - and the dichotomy between the narcissists seemingly 'perfect' external persona, and their very flawed internal dimension is part of what makes growing up with and around narcissists so difficult and head-wrecking.
- Narcissists lie very easily (especially to themselves) and fundamentally lack Yirat Shemayim (literally, 'the Fear of Heaven') - no matter how 'religious' they dress, or act.
- They constantly find fault with and pick holes in other people; they can't accept that they ever did or said something wrong (no matter how 'clear cut' the evidence may be); and
- They spread lashon hara (evil speech) and slander without a second thought. (This stuff is often done very subtly. So many of us are unfortunately used to hearing the lashon hara, we're not even registering what it is we're really being told.)
Narcissists live off other people's energy; they are adept at making themselves the centre of attention, and they hate being second-fiddle to anyone else, including their own children.
They will siphon away other people's attention, time and caring without any genuine reciprocation, and they have no qualms about using guilt, lies, bullying tactics and other manipulative behaviour to control the people around them.
Because most narcissists are usually fairly highly-functioning, narcissism can be very difficult to spot. Narcissists are rarely in trouble with the law; they are often in high-profile, high-status professions; and they are obsessed with making a good impression on others, at least superficially.
Narcissists can be the most amazing people you've ever met in your life - for the first five minutes. But after a little while, a spiritually and emotionally healthy person will usually start to sense that 'something' is wrong with the apparently perfect picture the narcissist is presenting them with. At that point, they will either put up a clear boundary, and / or walk away from the relationship.
If you have to work with a narcissist, or have one as a neighbour, it's never 'fun', but it's usually doable, once you realize what you're dealing with. But the real problem comes when you grow up with a personality disordered-parent, because then you may never actually come to realize that genuine relationships can and should be based on unconditional love and caring, instead of manipulation, guilt and fear.
As we'll start to explore in the next section, manipulation, guilt and fear tactics are not the Jewish way when it comes to parenting and family relationships; in fact, they're the very opposite of the Jewish ideal of how we should be relating to each other, and especially our closest family members.
The last three posts have essentially been a secular description of the problem, but starting with the next post, I want to explore why personality disorders are actually a fundamental religious challenge for the Jewish community, and also to start trying to describe the spiritual impact narcissists have on a non-narcissist Jewish soul, because it's absolutely devastating.