Matt S. August 20th 2016 – Part 3
This is part 3 of a series on recognizing and learning to deal with difficult, manipulative and toxic people. If you think you are safe from these people in a Church or Christian environment, drop that notion immediately.
I have an update on part I with the one of the “Non door closing” offenders on the train. One individual who for several weeks has breezed into the train (literally) without closing the door has just started closing the door. People can change; some people just take a little longer. We are experiencing cold weather here in New Zealand at the moment, we normally have a very mild climate and are not accustomed to having many sub zero days. When we get a weather stream coming right off the Antarctic we really feel it.
Back to the subject!
In my last article I indicated that I would start to explore the psychological/mental health aspects of thoughtless, manipulative and deliberately evil people. The picture that heads this article is an apt description. These folk can very much disguise themselves as innocent sheep but underneath are very predatory in nature.
Let me start by saying that we are all prone to behaving badly at times, maybe a little bit and maybe a lot. I am no exception with some very bad behaviour at times in my life much to my shame. But it’s what we do with that. Do we apologise and seek forgiveness, do we repent and change our behaviour, and do we make amends? If we want to follow biblical teaching we do all of these things as much as we can (as much as others will allow us to also). God expects nothing less from us.
However you may be on the receiving end of some deliberately bad behaviour from others (discussed in Part 2 of this series), and you need to be aware that with some types of people this behaviour is not going go away, and may well become worse.
So what kind of person is it that we are dealing with here? If I use terms like selfish, self absorbed, angry, jealous, manipulative, deceitful, rude, arrogant, conceited, scheming, exploitative, violent and emotionally empty, that may describe all of us at some stage in our lives. It’s when we get many of these things grouped together in the same person at the same time that we then need to take a long hard stare at this person. Typically this type of person may be described by a mental health professional as a narcissist or a psychopath (and some variations around those labels).
You are going to hear the word narcissist a lot in this series of articles and I have had a great deal to do with these personality types over the years. The reason that I am focusing so much time on writing in this area is because I have grave concerns at the rapidly increasing numbers of people showing these types of personality traits.
Why am I so concerned about this?
Because I see the far reaching and devastating effects that this group of people have on others. What is of even more concern is that this type of behaviour is becoming normalised. What do I mean by that? I mean that selfish, greedy, uncaring, abusive, unloving, self indulgent, entitled behaviour is becoming normal. Just look around and you can see the focus that society now places on self, self focus and unproductive navel gazing. You hear that you have a “right” or “entitlement” to something but never about the responsibility that goes with that right. With this drive to focus on “self” it then begs the question of who is doing all the “giving” in this situation. How does this affect our ability to think of others in a caring way instead of just seeing them as objects to provide our needs?
Another concern that I have is that we have lost the ability to consider other peoples needs and even anticipate these to some degree also. So if you have a society that is increasingly being dominated by those that take and do not give or share willingly where does this all end? In my opinion this ends very badly and I think that we are seeing the fruit of some of this behaviour now.
I know that I seem to be asking a lot of questions but this is all going somewhere, and I hope that there are a few of you out there that have also considered the same things, and are also having the same concern.
Broadly speaking the term narcissism covers a multitude of evils, and is a good description of the type of behaviour I am describing.
What is so wrong with this thinking and behaviour? It is true that we all have (or have had) this type of thinking and behaviour at times in out lives. This is part of the fallen condition of mankind. What happens when we allow this type of behaviour to dominate and control the relationships we have with others?
If you have been around observing the world for at least the last 30 years you will have observed some fairly significant changes and how we treat each other. It would be fair to say that there have been significant changes even in the last 15 years. We are now treated to a steady diet of terrorism, murder, racial unrest, predatory sexual abuse from men and women, violence, fraud, theft and persecution just to name a few. We have become so desensitised to these tragic events that at times it is hard to believe that human beings like ourselves are the ones being murdered, raped, tortured, robbed and mistreated.
For those of us that can retreat to our homes, computers, note books and smartphones, we can just casually dismiss with a keystroke or finger swipe the real horror and pain of these events, if we choose to. So what drives other people to behave in this way? From my experience when individuals or groups start to dehumanise and exploit other people for some kind of personal gain then we see ever increasing levels of horrific treatment. Humans are also very skilled at justifying and excusing this behaviour. The classic example of this is the way the Nazi’s treated the Jews and other racial and ethnic minorities, callously experimenting on these folk and starving them as if they were lab rats.
So what does narcissism have to do with this? (I will describe this type of personality in more detail in my next article)
When you take a person who chooses (and this is my opinion that many make a choice to be this way) they give themselves licence to dehumanise and debase other human beings. If you no longer see the other person as a thinking, feeling, creature and just an impersonal object, it is easy then to make them “the enemy” and justify the abuse.
People with narcissism have a really messed up way interacting with others. There is part of them that can present with normal behaviour to get what they want until they have sufficient control over their victim (victim or quarry or prey is appropriate, as their behaviour is predatory). This presentation of “normal” behaviour by the narcissist is also what leads me to believe that they have some choice in how they interact with others. If you have ever had close dealings with someone like this you may know the “empty” feeling, the feeling of having been “used” after an interaction with them.
Their behaviour is about what they can get from you. Whether it be money, or love, or material assets, or emotional support, or praise, or worship, or sex, or pleasure they will take what they want and then when you are no longer useful you will be discarded. I have learned that this type of personality comes in shades of grey. It is not cut and dried. They come in many disguises but at the root of it all is a choice to be self focussed and selfish. There are certain warning signs to look out for but it will not always be immediately apparent that you are dealing with this type of personality. So with my next article I will go into more detail the types of things that you might observe with a narcissistic personality. Until then God bless you where ever you are in your day and thank you for reading this.