Narcissists can and do control themselves when someone's good opinion is sought -- in front of a judge, for instance -- and are skilled at presenting a respectable, even admirable, public face; some are actually meek and mild in public. Most of us who've lived with narcissists have had the experience of being disbelieved when we dared to tell what goes on in private; in some ways, we can hardly believe it ourselves. Life with a narcissist is like a bad dream that you can't wake up from. As a child, I used to be dazed by my narcissistic parent's public demeanor -- I wanted to take that person home with me or else live our entire family life in the protection of the public eye -- so attractive, modest, and sweet that even I could hardly believe that this same person could be the raging fiend I knew at home and had seriously thought, for a while when I was about ten, might be a werewolf. But truthful reports about narcissists' private behavior are often treated as symptoms of psychological problems in the person telling the tale -- by naming the problem, you become the person with the problem (and, let's face it, it's more gratifying to work on changing someone responsive than it is to tackle a narcissist). And I'm talking about the experience many of us have had with "the helping professions," including doctors, teachers, clergy, counselors, and therapists. This stuff is hard to talk about in the first place because it's weird, shameful, and horrifying, and then insult is added to injury when we're dismissed as overreacting (how many times have we heard "You're just too sensitive"?), deluded or malicious, as inventing stories, exaggerating, imagining things, misinterpreting -- it goes on and on. The fact is that there is next to nothing anyone can do to modify a narcissist's behavior and the only useful advice I ever got (first from my non-narcissistic parent, later repeated by my Jungian analyst) was "Get out and stay out."
But that's much more easily said than done. We're still members of families that have been damaged, corrupted and corroded by narcissists' pathology, and we can't totally remove ourselves from the narcissists' sphere of influence without also forsaking other family members and old friends. Parents sharing child-rearing or custody with narcissists, or who have narcissistic children, can't just get out and stay out.
Anyhow, these are chronic troubles that I haven't even attempted to address fully on these pages, because it's a horrible mess and I can hardly be coherent about it. Additionally, most of my narcissists are still living and, regardless of the hell they put their intimates through, as long as they keep their behavior out of the news, they're entitled to privacy. Besides, I still love them and have residual protective feelings. Mea culpa -- though my steadfast husband tells me that loving someone is never wrong.
I'm a writer and editor, and not a counselor or therapist, either by training or by temperament. This site is meant to be a first-aid station and a little oasis of validation for people who've had bad experiences with narcissists. My own concern has been with the effects narcissists have on the rest of us, and most of what I know is that it's not good to spend our lives with murder in our hearts. Having known narcissists of both sexes for my entire life, I'm kind of jaded, I guess, and my interest in theories about the causes of NPD has been exhausted; I have no ambition to "write the book" on NPD or compile a comprehensive review of the literature. Additionally, readers raised several relevant issues that I was in no way qualified to address. For these reasons, in March 1999, I set up a discussion list called Aftermath.
I was still kind of uneasy about public discussion of troubles with narcissists, so I made Aftermath restricted and unlisted. Quite a few people (including me) have been stalked, harassed, defamed, or flamed by vindictive narcissists. Please remember that email is not secure and you can never be certain of privacy on the Net. If you have concerns about confidentiality, you might want to get an account with one of the many free Webmail providers and use an assumed name for posting.
After several months, at my request, an Aftermath subscriber took on the duties of list admin. If you're interested in joining the Aftermath discussion, write to Lynda and request to be added to the subscriber list. She'll appreciate a brief description of your background and interest in joining the discussion.
Some other online discussions:
Adult-ChildrenOFNarcissits [sic] "This is a group for adults (meaning 20, plus) who were raised by a Narcissitic [sic] parent.... adults who are looking for validation."
Healing Narcissism and Disorders of the Self. "We pride ourselves in being the safest place on the internet for all persons to explore healing disorders of the self."
Narcissism (scroll to the bottom of the page for the subscription form) -- for the study of causes, effects, and manifestations of pathological narcissism.
Narcissistic Disorder Family Board
Narcissistic_Personality_Disorder Mailing list.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder Message board.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder Bulletin Board For people with NPD.
Nmagnets_Anonymous - For Survivors of Narcissists A forum to share information and to gain support and comfort during recovery from relationships with pathological narcissists.
NPD Family Support Group "Share stories, frustrations, and any news related to NPD." LiveJournal community.
Verbal and Emotional Abuse in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis