A couple of months ago, I discovered Dr. Les Carter on YouTube. Dr. Carter is a psychotherapist who has a private practice in Dallas, Texas, and he makes very insightful videos about how to deal with narcissistic people. I got hooked on his YouTube channel. I like his folksy, down home, friendly demeanor; his southern accent, which reminds me of “home”; and the fact that he really knows of what he speaks. Every time Les Carter closes his videos, he reminds viewers that he has other resources available, including several books. Because I like to reward people for good work, I decided to purchase three of his titles. I just finished reading the first one this morning.
Enough About You, Let’s Talk About Me: How to Recognize and Manage the Narcissists in Your Life was published in May 2009. It’s an excellent guide to learning how to recognize narcissistic behavior in others. In fact, given how prevalent narcissism is in today’s world, I would even say this book could be considered essential reading for anyone who has to deal with difficult people. Narcissists are at the top of the list of the difficult. And, like his videos, Carter writes in a folksy, down home style that is comforting, readable, and kind.
Are you dealing with a narcissist? Ask yourself these questions.
- Do you live or work with someone who is so self-absorbed that your needs are completely ignored or dismissed?
- Does this person make you feel as if you can never do anything right?
- Is this person constantly criticizing you, belittling you, or humiliating you, particularly in front of other people?
- Does this person exploit you, or attempt to manipulate you into doing things you don’t want to do?
- Does this person have a “my way or the highway attitude”, leaving you with no voice or choice in decisions affecting you?
- Would you rather capitulate to this person’s outrageous demands than suffer their wrath?
- Does this person have a very childish view of the world and approach to problem solving?
- Does this person throw “tantrums”, yell at you, shame you, or behave in some other dramatic way intended to get you to quickly agree to their demands?
If you can answer “yes” to any of these questions, chances are good that you’re dealing with a narcissist or someone with narcissistic tendencies. Unfortunately, it seems like these “damaged” people are everywhere, so there is a real need for people to learn how to handle them without losing their minds. That’s where Les Carter’s life’s work comes into play.
Narcissistic people usually have at least a few of the following characteristics:
- Grandiose sense of self-importance.
- Delusions of grandeur.
- Seeks constant praise and attention.
- Extreme sense of entitlement.
- Exploits others without remorse.
- Demeans, threatens, or bullies other people without a second thought.
- Expects to be regarded as “special”, even if he or she hasn’t actually achieved anything special.
- Exaggerates talents and achievements.
- Has no regard for the dignity or reputation of other people.
- Judgmental, haughty attitude.
- Demands unquestioning compliance with requests or orders.
- Envious of others.
- Only wants “the best” of anything.
Here is what typically happens when the narcissist doesn’t get his or her way:
- Becomes impatient or angry when they don’t get “special” treatment.
- Significant interpersonal problems with others.
- Thin skinned– feels slighted easily.
- Reacts with rage or extreme contempt when someone doesn’t do their bidding.
- Belittles and shows contempt to those whom they deem inferior.
- Unable to regulate emotions or behaviors.
- Can’t adapt to change.
- Has trouble dealing with stress.
- Becomes depressed when others don’t see them as perfect.
- Secretly feels shame, humiliation, insecurity, or vulnerability.
Both Bill and I have had to deal with our fair share of narcissists, although Bill has had it worse than I have. My husband’s ex wife is a narcissist. I have suspected it for years. Now that my husband’s long estranged daughter is comparing notes with him, I am positive that Ex is a narcissist. In almost seventeen years of marriage, I have heard many stories about Ex’s outrageous demands and bullying behaviors. I have witnessed Ex’s toxic methods of manipulating otherwise decent people into doing her dirty work. I have seen her ability to trap innocent people into her vision of how life should be. Those who don’t conform will suffer the consequences.
For years, I was very angry with my husband’s ex wife. However, since my husband’s younger daughter has finally seen the light, I find my husband’s ex wife much less infuriating and threatening. Instead, she’s incredibly pathetic to me. I feel sorry for those who still feel they have to do her bidding, although I also empathize with them. Narcissists have a way of making their victims feel like they live in a kind of Twilight Zone. They keep everything chaotic, which makes it hard for their victims to extricate themselves from the narcissist’s traps. But when a victim is finally able to leave the narcissist’s clutches, they will typically feel a lot better. In fact, that tremendous sense of relief that comes after leaving the narcissist is one way to know that you weren’t the real problem in the relationship.
When my husband left his ex wife in 1999, he felt better about himself within hours of getting out of her presence. He used to relish being sent away on work assignments because it was a break from his ex wife’s constant carping and the roller coaster of never knowing which version of his ex wife he was going to find at home. Recently, his daughter confessed that she physically, emotionally, and mentally felt much better when she was away from her mother. Yes, it was physically uncomfortable for both Bill and his daughter when they left, mainly because they both pretty much left with the clothes on their backs. But they were finally free of the toxic crap spewed from the Ex and they eventually flourished.
Lately, I am recovering from dealing with another suspected narcissist who had far too much input into how Bill and I were living our lives. As I think back on the past few years and the absolutely batshit living situation we were in, I am pretty positive that we were dealing with a narcissistic person, or at the very least, someone with a high conflict personality. Bill has had to work with a lot of narcissists, too. The world is rife with people who have this personality type– immature people who are hooked on power trips and must have their way. They are not able to compromise, nor will they capitulate in a situation, unless they are forced by someone more powerful.
How do people fall into the narcissist’s trap?
Narcissists can be superficially charming and friendly, and they often seem dynamic and fascinating to the unaware. They also seem to have a super-sensitive ability to find empathetic people who will feel sorry for them, give them a break, and tolerate their abusive behavior. My husband is a very empathetic person. He bases a lot of his self-esteem on being liked and dislikes confrontations. He’s very kind, and tries hard to see only the good in people.
I, on the other hand, am not nearly as trusting as my husband is. I don’t attract narcissists as often as he does, but because he’s my husband, I am frequently exposed to them. And sometimes, people end up having to deal with them because the narcissist is a boss, a landlord, a co-worker, or a family member. These are people who aren’t necessarily in your life because you specifically invited them, as you would a significant other– although when it comes down to it, everyone in your life is there, more or less, because you “invited them” somehow. However, getting narcissistic people out of your life may come with a steep price, particularly if they are family members, which is why so many people suffer in silence.
What makes Les Carter’s book so helpful?
Les Carter has an empathetic way of addressing his readers, most of whom are people who have lost sight of their own intrinsic worth. When you’re dealing with a narcissist, you may find yourself in a place where you’re constantly questioning your own sense of reality. The narcissist will continually tell you you’re wrong, or you’ve misinterpreted, or you can’t do anything right. Dr. Carter reminds readers that they still have the ability to make choices for their own lives. There is no need to allow the narcissist to do the thinking or deciding for them. The narcissist is deeply flawed and acting like a kind of vampire. It’s the victim’s job to stop the process of being sucked dry by the narcissist’s relentless drive for supply. Narcissists want to be admired, respected, and adored. That “supply” is what fills up the empty hole where their souls should be, but they can never get enough. It’s like they have a bottomless pit that is never satiated by positive regard. They are never secure, so they have to make their victims insecure.
Les Carter would have been an amazing resource for Bill when he was just leaving his ex wife. I would definitely recommend his books and his videos to people who are still caught in the trap. He teaches readers how to recognize the narcissist’s bullshit for what it is. He reminds readers that they have worth and they aren’t crazy. He offers suggestions on how to replace anger and bitterness with forgiveness and resolve to move beyond the pain. He helps readers develop their own innate sense of security so that they are no longer so attractive to narcissistic people. Carter reminds readers that they can’t control how a narcissist behaves or change who they are. Instead, readers must change how they react to a narcissist and learn not to internalize their harmful messages of shame and guilt.
As Bill and I handle the latest narcissistic intrusion in our lives, we take comfort in knowing that we are not the crazy ones. Fortunately, in this case, it’s pretty obvious that the other party is nuts. We have it in black and white, and when the right people see the evidence, I am pretty certain we will prevail.
I can’t lie. I am still very angry about spending years of my life dealing with this person’s abusive behavior, especially since we were PAYING for the “privilege”. The better part of me realizes that the situation was not all bad. There were some good times, and someday I will look back on the whole experience with more positive feelings than negative ones. I am pretty sure the narcissist we most recently dealt with is convinced that we are awful, filthy, irresponsible people. It’s hard not to take that kind of opinion to heart, even though we know it’s not based in reality. But the rational side of me realizes that the vast majority people in the world would not see us as awful people at all… especially Bill.
There’s a lot to love about both of us, and we don’t deserve the abuse or constant shaming heaped on us by this person. We don’t have to allow those faulty perceptions to color the rest of our lives or opinions about ourselves, just because that person can’t see or appreciate us for the good people we are. Someday, we will no longer see the person as a threat who inspires anger. Instead, we will view them as the truly pathetic person they are.
I look forward to reading more of Les Carter’s work. I would recommend Enough About You, Let’s Talk About Me: How to Recognize and Manage the Narcissists in Your Life. I think it’s an excellent read for anyone who has to deal with narcissistic people, particularly if they are in a situation in which it would be very difficult to completely kick them out of their lives. The best way to deal with a narcissist is to go no contact, but that can be very difficult to do if the narcissist is a parent or a child or some other person who will always be a fixture around other loved ones. Dr. Carter will help you maintain your sanity and sense of reality around these toxic people. The only caveat I can think of is that it helps to believe in God, or another higher power. Dr. Carter does write about “God given” worth. But that’s a minor quibble that didn’t affect me, personally.
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