Red Flags Don’t Just Mean Riptides: Spotting a Narcissist

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Sandos Blog

The warning flags that litter the beaches are much easier to spot than the elusive “red flags” of a narcissist.

  As the much-needed Spring Break peeks around the corner, many families are already planning beach vacations. Sandy seasides of California, Florida, Texas, and even the beaches of North Carolina’s coasts rely on a standardized flag system to warn beachgoers of possible dangers. But are the metaphorical “red flags” of a narcissist as easy to interpret?

  The term “narcissism” originates from the ancient Greek allegory of young Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. The man ironically died of dehydration, unwilling to reach into the water to drink in fear of disturbing the image of his vanity.

  Today, individuals affected by Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) experience an over-inflated sense of self, projecting their egotistical behaviors on those around them. Narcissists may use techniques such as gaslighting, scapegoating, and stonewalling to emotionally manipulate those around them.

  The “red flags” of NPD are easy to confuse with someone who is simply narcissistic. The difference between a diagnosable narcissist and someone who is self-centered is that narcissists are generally unaware of other people’s wellbeing and lack empathy.

  Narcissists are known for their sense of superiority and entitlement, belittling others to increase their appearance of grandiose. According to Winning-teams.com, a website associated with a string of books on narcissism by David Thomas Ph.D., “[Narcissists] see [themselves] at the center of the world, the controller, an idol to be adored and admired.” Amplified arrogance could cause a narcissist to feel anger when their ego is threatened, or when receiving criticism.

  Another warning sign of a narcissist is a desperate need for control. Narcissists are often found in “positions of power,” such as lawyers or doctors, as they view their surrounding environments as an extension of themselves. “Narcissists also tend to gravitate towards positions of power where they can take advantage of those below them,” shares junior and Equity Team president, Chalina Morgan Lopez. 

  Individuals with this personality disorder will often employ a certain “charm” or “facade” to the public, but will act completely different behind closed doors. Like Narcissus from the Greek parable, narcissists are focused solely on appearances, and how others perceive them. Conversations with a narcissist will feel one-sided and frequented with vain self-praise.

  Morgan Lopez shares a harsh reality on coming forward about one’s experience dealing with a narcissist, “[Narcissists] absolutely care more about how they appear to [the public] than how they actually are in private, and this makes it extraordinarily difficult for people to come forward about their experiences; they are often not believed, and any time they try to tell someone, it always gets back to the narcissist.”

  Narcissists will try to make their friends, families, and partners dependent on them by using techniques like gaslighting. Gaslighting is psychological manipulation in which a narcissist plants seeds of uncertainty in a victim’s mind, causing them to question reality or events that have taken place. This is intended to cause the victim to become dependent on the narcissist, furthering their sense of control.

  The last “red flag” of a Narcissist is covert manipulation. While narcissists are known for using belittlement to manipulate their surroundings, they can also use flattery and affection to gain control. Whether it be withholding affection to secure a victim’s attention or overinflated flattery to draw someone back into their circle, underhanded manipulation with a “positive” twist is harder to spot— and a favorite tool of a Narcissist.

  “Narcissists use what are sometimes referred to as “Jedi Mind Tricks”— the most common ones being gaslighting, guilt-tripping, and intimidation,” says Morgan Lopez in regard to techniques narcissists use to manipulate others.

  A common defense mechanism that victims of a Narcissist will find themselves unconsciously relying on is the “gray rock method”. Gray rocks litter the beaches vacationers walk on— but do they remember a single, specific rock they saw? Victims using the “gray rock method” will make themselves seem as uninteresting and reaction-less as possible, prompting the Narcissist to lose interest in manipulating them.

  “The “gray rock” method, if done correctly, is a way to limit conflict with a sociopath or narcissist,” explains Morgan Lopez, “The less you communicate with them, the less opportunity they have to manipulate you, and the less they’re able to be involved in your life.”

  Spotting Narcissistic Personality Disorder can be difficult and confusing, but remembering the “red flags”—an amplified sense of entitlement, need for control, gaslighting, and covert manipulation— will make them easier to pick out from the crowd.