February 16, 2002
Abusive behavior in men or women can be a function of many underlying
issues. Personality disorders or their milder counterparts (i.e.,
"traits" or "features") are one underlying etiology. This
article tries to help the reader understand the mindset of the female
with NPD or with narcissistic features.
Like her narcissistic male counterpart, this lady harbors
deeply held and undisputed irrational underlying beliefs that affect
her feelings and behavior. Most of these beliefs are never questioned
and are only dimly realized, if they are realized at all. While we all
harbor irrational beliefs, those with personality disorders harbor
belief systems that are deeply embedded and intertwined.
A Real Charmer
Dana is an extremely pretty 23-year old young lady. A delight on the surface, she has an uncanny
knack of presenting herself extremely well to the target audience she
wants to impress. She has a corresponding almost
magical ability to make people feel verrrry good. She can WOW you! You'll be gushing (or
panting if you're a guy), and there just isn't anything you wouldn't do
to please her.
She will continue to reward your good behavior as long as she needs
you. After all, it is very hard work to be "on" so much of the time.
If she's accomplished her mission and you are no
longer useful, she spends less and less energy being perfectly
charming and engaging. In most cases Dana has no real desire to be
disrespectful, but as she "relaxes," becoming more "herself," she
becomes quiet or mildly disrespectful.
A Typical Narcissist
The problem is that the only person Dana cares about
is Dana. You are no more than the object who provides her with
whatever it is she wants and needs: love, admiration, money,
encouragement, support, etc. While she pretends to care, and
indeed wants to care, the reality is that she doesn't care.
Her world starts and stops with herself. She hides that fact pretty
well from most people; especially those who are consistently
meaningful to her (i.e., parents, husband, siblings, boss, etc.). Most
of these individuals would be shocked to hear this, and in fact would
think you're crazy!
Dana is typical as pretty female narcissists go. She
relies on her beauty and her charm. She feels good about herself as
long as she "has it over" anybody she considers "the competition."
Few Real Friends
Parents are parents and too often love
unconditionally, but friends and acquaintances don't. As a result,
while new people Dana meets like her, the more they got to know her,
the less interested they are in her company. Except, of course, for
the young men, most of whom vie for her attention.
Other than a childhood best friend with virtually
non-existent self esteem, there are no friends. There are acquaintances and
those who share her environment as well as the many men who surrounded her - all of whom she
refers to as "friends," but there really are no friends.
She explains this deficit by rationalizing that
her peers disappoint her in one way or another. This one uses drugs,
that one you can't trust, the other one is jealous of her, etc.
There is virtually no recognition that the reason people who
are not related to her or have no sexual interest in her do not like
her given how she treats them!
I'm The Best!
Dana is not content unless she feels she has it over
her peers, especially female peers. She believes she has the prettiest face,
the nicest hair, and the best figure - which she flaunts with her form-fitting, sexy, and
hip wardrobe. She is always well-dressed, even when lounging around.
"Studied cool" describes her style. While giving the impression of having thrown together any old
top and pair of jeans, the trained eye can discern the hours and
hours spent trying the outfits on, making up to appear not made up,
Every asset she has, she flaunts.
One weekend, invited to spend a weekend with some new friends at their
family's home in a poor section of a neighboring town, she found
reason to make a 30-mile detour to her parents' upscale, gorgeous
home - to show it off - as though announcing her supremacy. Of course,
she would never admit that's why she came home. Her reasons are always framed in wording that casts her in a
positive light such as
"It's my dad's birthday, or, "I have to pick up something
important I forgot." Never an honest reason like, "I wanted to show
off the house to intimidate them."
Jealousy is a huge issue. Her own envy is as cut off
from her consciousness as Wisconsin is cut off from
the Atlantic Ocean. While she has no clue regarding her pervasive
jealousy, it is sadly evident to the sensitive observer.
One year Dana didn't get her
cousin a Birthday present. While Stephanie routinely bought
Dana beautiful and expensive gifts,
Dana couldn't say why she didn't get Stephanie anything. When pressed, annoyed,
provided a series of senseless answers. "I made a deal with
my friends that we were not to exchange gifts." "Did you
made that arrangement with Stephanie?" "No, but I'm not
getting any gifts. We're going to lunch. I'll pay." Not only
did she not end up paying, Stephanie paid for both Dana as well
as for Dana's boyfriend!
The "problem" was that Stephanie, her peer, had
gotten her life together. Also beautiful, she found her
calling and was pursing an advanced degree with straight As - a feat
Dana couldn't hope to accomplish. She also
had a rich boyfriend who adored her. You get the picture. When asked point-blank if she was jealous of Stephanie,
replied too quickly and with an affected laugh, "Jealous of Stephanie?
WHAT is there to be jealous about?"
The Price She Pays
Part of the price Dana pays to manipulate others is
the exhaustion required to
be "on" much of the time. When caught with her
vigilant guard down, she is not nice: often impatient, short, arrogant
and condescending, reflecting her near chronic bad mood. Shopkeepers,
boyfriends who try too hard and all the not-too-important people in her life
who will put up with it are the unwitting victims. This is subtle. For
example, one day
she walked into her compulsively clean mother's house and saw a leaf
on the sparkling floor by her feet. Instead of picking it up, she asked, "What's that?" Her mother, almost on cue, dropped what she was
doing to pick up the leaf by her daughter's feet.
The Devil in Disguise
The apparent angel is the devil in disguise.
A compulsive liar who needs to mislead to maintain
her unblemished facade, Dana is not a mean or cruel person. This young woman
really wants to do the right thing. While she derives a measure
of immediate satisfaction from her cruelty, when forced to face her
behavior, she is not happy she mistreats others. After all, a
misbehavior is not in keeping with her perfect image of herself! When
reality occasionally hits her and she is confronted with her
condescending acts, she becomes upset with herself, often in
tears. For a short time. Soon all is forgotten. Time heals or she
takes solace in blaming others. When she presents her
selectively-presented view, it sounds compelling. Until one realizes
nothing ever seems to be her issue. Someone or something else is to
blame - or the entire topic is dropped. No matter how much she has
vowed to correct these behaviors, she does not. She cannot because she
Why, Why, Why?
She cannot because she chooses not to face the truth about
herself. She cannot face that her nature is in fact dark and very
imperfect. She cannot face that she is no more special, no more unique, no more
perfect than anybody else. Unthinkable! What can she possibly fall
back on if she were to simply enjoy her many assets as well as accept
and work around the impact of her many deficits?
She believes special rules apply to her, and
she is not willing to give these up without a struggle. She's secretly
glad others haven't figured out how to be as special as she is. Giving
up her specialness in unthinkable. It does not feel good.
How, How, How?
Keep in mind that narcissism is a lifelong pattern
developing from childhood and believed to have a biological
basis. If deception and pretense have provided a lifetime of
comforts and esteem supplies, why mess things up? Isn't it more satisfying to
concern herself with gratification in the moment? Why work when you
can instead do just enough to
get by? Better to spend that energy cultivating one's external assets
and targets. These yield immediate rewards.
After all, the only thing she compromises is herSelf,
her integrity, her relationships. All the things she has never known
but thinks she knows well.
With all these issues, the narcisstic woman (or man
for that matter) cannot be trusted. They are not trustworthy - unless
they are expending energy pretending to be trustworthy. So, at
best, their trustworthyness is inconsistent. Like the male
abuser, her moods are unpredictable. When frustrated, the
energy demands of being "on" are too great. Her frustration
slips away from her - and spills onto anybody unfortunate enough to be
in the way.
In a Nutshell
whole, a woman like Dana needs to be the center of attention, be the prettiest,
the most fortunate, the most talented, the bestest. She cultivates
others who will be manipulated by her to admire her, adore her, inflate her,
love her, and overlook her pretense,
lies and half-truths.
If she is questioned, she distances. This simple yet
effective technique invariable affects the codependents in her life.
On cue, they lay low and let the issue drop or chase her, thinking
they must have done something wrong/ worrying that she won't want to
be with them. Should an admirer truly believe in her specialness
and try too hard to win her, they are treated with contempt instead of
charity. These people represent that which she despises: only the weak
and common permit themselves to be demeaned.
The bottom line is that this very beautiful, very
charming (and extremely manipulative) young woman has absolutely no concern
for others apart from those who are in a position to provide her with
Does anybody know a Dana? Even worse, have any men
out there fallen in love with a Diana? (May God help you...)
If you haven't already, see Dr. Vaknin
on the difference between male and female
narcissists. Then please post your comments below!
(The box on this article and Doc's
article point to the same board.) Dr. Irene