Everywhere you look on social media there are posts about narcissists and the damage they can wreak. Books and therapists abound to help people damaged by their abusive actions. But kill? Really? Oh yes. In researching my Crime Dictionary, I delved into their psychopathy and uncovered evidence that, aside from wrecking lives, they can and often do end them, in one way or another.
Let’s first take a look at what constitutes a narcissist, or someone who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I won’t say ‘suffering from’ because the only people who suffer are those who have the misfortune to allow a narcissist into their lives.
The popular image of a narcissist as someone who holds a grandiose view of themselves is true but that view is not necessarily out there for the world to see. It is often the covert narcissist who gets away with more as the red flags that alert their potential victims go up slower, if at all. A psychologist quoted in the American Psychiatric Association
“Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition describes a narcissistic client like this:
“This is a man who is used to doing what he wants regardless of someone else’s opinion or the impact of his behavior on others. He acknowledges he goes for the jugular. He needs to be in control of all situations and will often do what he wants in blatant disregard of rules, others’ perceptions or the impact of his behavior on others. He challenges, threatens or cajoles to achieve his ends.”
It is in that disregard for what the rest of us consider the normal rules of human engagement that the real danger lies. To a narcissist, all bets and constraints are off, including legal and moral ones. They will do what it takes to get what they want and do so without a shred of remorse. Of course, that inevitably means that they frequently lie to, as well as about, their victims, ironically always playing the victim themselves.
It’s what makes their prey feel so isolated and alone, the target of pointing fingers while the real culprit gets away with the very thing they threw at them in the form of accusations and smears. And if you are wondering if I speak from experience, yes I do. But not bitter experience because to become bitter would be to allow the narcissist to truly win, lowering you to their level.
So far, so bad you might say but do these people go so far as to commit crimes? All the time. Imagine, for a moment, that lethal combination of a person who feels completely entitled to have and take anything they want on this earth without any moral or other imperative constraining how they go about that. Of course they will lie, cheat, steal and even kill to get what they want.
Ted Bundy was a narcissist. So are many serial killers, their trademark arrogance and entitlement providing another huge clue. But a narcissist doesn’t have to be a serial killer to destroy lives. They can do so with a thousand cuts, tearing their victims down and apart until they lose all hope, never mind the will to live.
As with Bundy, many narcissists are exceptionally and deceptively charming. They are masters of manipulation and expert at gaslighting their prey as well as those around them, leaving their victims isolated and disbelieved as the narc makes off with the spoils. It is that gaslighting that is so insidious, undermining their victims’ trust and faith in themselves and the wider world as they are continually made to believe that it is they who are crazy. The truth is, it is always the narc who is damaged and disturbed.
Another telltale sign is the projection which all narcs use as a weapon, accusing their marks of the very traits they possess and the appalling behaviours they carry out. And I use the word ‘mark’ advisedly because, to a narcissist, you are nothing more than an opportunity for some kind of gain, be it financial or emotional. Not that a narcissist feels emotions in the way that you do…but they do need you to feed the supply of attention and even adulation that keeps them from thinking about the darkness they know lies within.
That, of course, is their Achilles heel. Deep down, all narcissists know that they are at best empty and, at worst, evil. They understand what they do to people but they simply do not care and that is because their need to trample over them as they take what they want supersedes everything else. A narcissist will remain benign and even loving until the moment you challenge them. Then the gloves are off and they will tear you apart faster than they ever built you up.
The build up is perhaps their deadliest weapon. It’s the way they hook their victims and gain new supply. The infamous love-bombing in which narcs indulge is no accident. It’s a tried and tested strategic system that works every time. Again, look at Bundy and his classic method of appearing physically injured while charming his victims into helping him. He would strap an arm up in a sling and use his good looks and charm to inveigle young women to come to his aid before overpowering, torturing and brutally killing them, tellingly keeping their heads as trophies in his apartment and going back to reassert his power by performing acts of necrophilia with their rotting corpses.
Bundy played on his victims’ kindness and ready empathy. A narc does not target someone as damaged as they are – instead they sniff out and home in on the best of the best, the people who have what they want, namely success as a human being with all that involves. If you are kind, happy and open to others well as ready to trust them then be aware that you are the perfect target for a narc.
Does this mean you should become as cold, predatory and mistrustful as a narcissist? Absolutely not. But you should bear in mind that everyone has an agenda, for good or bad, and that agenda may be to hurt you just when it appears the opposite. This applies to both men and women although 50 – 75% of those diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are men.
If someone immediately declares you the love of their life, that they have never felt this before and that they’ve been waiting for you forever then warning lights should flash. Of course it’s immensely seductive to hear but it’s also not the behaviour of an emotionally mature and healthy human being. It takes time to get to know someone, certainly to know whether they really are the love of your life. If you are lonely or vulnerable, perhaps because you are a single parent or not in a healthy relationship, then you are all the more likely to believe it because you want to.
Fairy tales do exist but so do monsters. In my experience, Prince or Princess Charming arrives not in a flurry of flattery and declarations of undying love but in acts of kindness and genuine friendship. The true love of your life will not tear you down in hundreds of ways so tiny you barely notice them until they become an avalanche. They will not dangle glamorous plans in front of you only to let you down again and again. Nor will they lie, with the lies becoming bigger and bigger as they test you and find that you will take more because you so desperately want to believe them, to believe in the myth that they wove so seductively.
It doesn’t even need to be a romantic relationship. Narcissism rears its ugly head at work, among friends and family, in any situation where people interact and the narc can spot an opportunity. In the case of the covert narcissist, you will be left spinning when what you thought was an everyday relationship turns into anything but as the narc unveils their true self, decimating you in the process. That will be in response to your attempt to set a normal boundary, to refuse to do what they want because it is unreasonable or even unlawful. In other words, to act as a normal, responsible person.
Narcissists do not take responsibility. It is anathema to them. Ted Bundy showed no remorse whatsoever for his crimes. A narcissist does not care that they have hurt or even destroyed you, so long as they got their own way. It is all about control to the narc because they feel so deeply out of control. It is all about inflicting pain because they live every day with the knowledge of their own inadequacy, however much they pretend otherwise. But do not pity the narcissist. They do not deserve your pity because they would never return it, instead viewing it with contempt and as yet another way to manipulate.
Walk away. Actually, run. You cannot change or save a narcissist and they will certainly never try to save you. Why would they, when you, with your sheer humanity, threaten their very existence?