My life has been made difficult due to abuse from narcissistic individuals. Abuse from narcissistic parents has led to low self esteem and actual brain trauma, as I saw with my own eyes when I received neurofeedback in 2018, which included brain mapping. It’s led to emotional instability as a result of post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, hypervigilance and suicidality.
I’ve worked for years with mental health professionals and spiritual practitioners to understand this and heal from it. That work has led to a greater understanding of narcissism and how it manifests in behaviors because such people can usually do so in subtle ways that are integral to their manipulative attitudes.
I’ve also met individuals who exhibit narcissistic traits but do not necessarily intend harm or truly want to control others. Such people typically have low emotional intelligence, often having been at some point diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s or a learning disability. They have difficulty relating to others on an emotional level, truly being able to relate and connect to others because they are so trapped in their long-term self-encased worldview.
The one near constant commonality of the two groups is having been raised by narcissistic or abusive parents or caretakers. Such abuse can result in damage to the brain, specifically the amygdala and frontal lobe, that makes it difficult to focus, concentrate and relate to others with empathy. Depending on genetics, environmental and forms and the extent of abuse, such individuals can develop narcissistic traits, or in more extreme cases, sociopathy, when individuals feel no remorse for the hurt they cause others.
But in some such abuse can result in an underdeveloped ability to relate to others as a consequence of coping with narcissistic abuse by withdrawing or avoiding the pain, creating a shell and bubble around their sense of self, which requires consistent maintain of that worldview via cognitive dissonance.
Such individuals may exhibit kindness, giving without expecting anything in return and compassion, but only relate from their point of view, and not fully understand when others are angry with or hurt by their behavior because they are not in touch with their emotions enough to truly know how others would feel. It is therefore painful to experience hurt or guilt, and their habit has been to avoid that, and therefore avoid accountability, resulting in severed social connections and a lack of understanding why their behavior led to that person seeking to disconnect from them. This can lead to rage and lashing out, feeling this person has been unjust. But these people can later see and feel enough to know how they may have been in the wrong and seek to make amends.
I have been like this in the past and can still fall into narcisstic behavioral patterns rooted in being raised by traumatic narcissists, compounded by my post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder symptoms. I have never been diagnosed with autism, but likely fall somewhere on the spectrum. Such behaviors have become more pronounced and damaging to others and myself when in active addiction, part of why my sobriety is very important to me. I’ve worked, and continue to work, on developing greater self-awareness and taking personal responsibility so I do not fall into manipulative and exploitative behaviors when I am in a state of woundedness or high anxiety.
A narcissist, someone with narcisstic personality disorder, on the other hand, will know fully well they are avoiding accountability, lash out, and seek to manipulate and control the other person, through triangulation, bribing, destructive criticism, threats of withholding material gifts, false promises, outright lies, denying actions and behaviors, coercion, blackmail, threats of violence, or actual violence.
They will often gaslight those who resist them, making them think they are crazy by denying certain events happened, even despite solid evidence, and ridiculing their beliefs. They know what they did was hurtful or illegal, but create stories in their head why they were right, and thus not feel remorse.
To them, everyone else in their life is the problem and needs to conform and change so they don’t have to.
They are often very angry and hateful inside because they are never satisfied with the behavior of others unless they can control them completely, which is possible to a certain extent with children who do not know better.
This can of course lead to that child becoming a narcissist, having low emotional intelligence with narcissistic traits, experiencing PTSD, depression and anxiety, or losing all sense of empathy with sociopaths in extreme cases. Their potential to recover is low because they refuse to be honest, and often develop physical maladies as a result.
An individual with low emotional intelligence, or emotional IQ, can recover if they have a willingness to accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions, make efforts to practice relating to and connecting with others, invest in self inquiry and developing awareness of their emotional state and their causes, express those emotions, be honest, face their fears and their roots, understand how their emotions inform their intentions and actions, practice developing healthy and respectful behaviors, respect personal boundaries and develop a sense of separate identity from their narcissistic caretakers.
Ultimately though the low emotional IQ person can only change through intrinsic motivation, as is the case of addicts. No one can do the work for them or force them to. Sometimes when such a person is acting out in abusive ways they do not understand or are in denial of, and do not want to change, those with social connections to them can only separate from them until their treatment has changed, or sever the connection entirely. But for me personally, I am more likely to only separate from them for a time, as opposed to narcissists who I have permanently severed contact for self preservation and the safety of those in my social circle.
This sounds like playing a game, and to a low emotional IQ individual stuck in a child-like mentality, this may seem like a cruel game. But if they do value you, they will change their behavior and treatment, and seek to genuinely increase connection.
A narcissist may at first capitulate and present what seems like changes, but is just a form of manipulation so they can further use you and your resources and vampire your energy. They will continually only be kind when you are who and how they want you to be, and make no real changes to their behavior.
Unlike a person with low emotional IQ, they know their intents and they are malicious in them. It is still your fault for not changing and confirming to their world view. Even if they are a loved one and it hurts, you must permanently sever your connection to them as soon as possible, which can be difficult with a romantic partner.
This does not mean you have to maintain friendships with low emotional IQ friends, family or partners. It just means if you have a deep interest, investment and care of this person, the connection can be made stronger in time, but only if they truly demonstrate changed behavior and displays of trust and respect. Otherwise they have turned fully toward narcissism, or are at very least disrespecting and using you.
You can tell the difference by how nourished and cared for you feel after you talk to and are around them. If you feel emotionally drained after talking to or being around them, they are a narcissist unlikely to change or truly treat you better, and will show their cards when you sever contact by retaliating and extreme anger, blackmail, sabotage, threats or even violence.
A person with low emotional IQ will eventually have their emotional wake up call, and may show signs toward that through expression of their emotional state, insecurities, revelations of things they long were in denial of, and through changed behavior. Relationships with these people can be salvageable, but you may need to prioritize self care and taking a step back so as not to get sucked into their tornado, especially if you’re uncertain which category they, and you, fall into.