I recently saw Fifty Shades of Grey for the first time and am elated to write about the protagonist, Christian Grey. What intrigued me most about this movie was Mr. Grey’s blatant narcissism. Though this movie has an erotic storyline, that’s not my focus. The aim of this article is to underscore the qualities typically seen in narcissists, so that you can reduce your risk of being ensnared by these emotional vampires.
Let’s begin with a little terminology.
What is a narcissist anyway? Essentially, they are the epitome of selfishness. Everything they think, do, and feel is for themselves. People are a means to an end for them, and then tossed aside until the narcissist needs them again for more self-serving reasons.
Though narcissism is a word loosely used today to describe people who are obsessed with selfies, it can rise to the clinical threshold. And it does—especially for males. (Sorry, guys, but you are more diagnosed than women.) I won’t get mired in the clinical aspects of narcissism as a personality disorder. I just want you to be able to take from this article, an awareness. Because, people generally aren’t able to identify their torment as narcissistic abuse. Most victims just know that something is “off,” and they feel confused and hopeless.
For the purposes of this article, Fifty Shades’ Christian Grey is my model. I will identify some of his narcissistic qualities (in italics below), and then elaborate.
•Childhood trauma. There are theories about how people become narcissistic at the clinical level. One theory is childhood trauma and that individual’s subsequent need to survive. There’s a chance that the narcissist in your life has a significant trauma history. NOTE: Not everyone with childhood trauma becomes a narcissist.
•Billionaire status. Narcissists are often seen at the top, as CEOs and Presidents, for example. They believe they are the best and deserve the title, pay, and other benefits that come with their superiority. They are driven by their egos to reach this level of success. NOTE: Not everyone with internal drive or a high ranking title is a narcissist.
•Attractiveness. Many narcissists “pose” (i.e., put on an act) to gain praise and admiration. This attention gives them the fuel (i.e., emotional responses, positive or negative) they need to survive. These charmers will often (not always) be good-looking, polished, and have a lot of nice things. They will drive fancy cars, wear expensive jewelry and shoes, and show off their trophy wives/husbands. Narcissists view people as extensions of themselves, with no boundaries between themselves and others. So, you better believe that close friends and romantic interests will represent the narcissist well, in terms of appearance, status, etc. NOTE: Not every attractive person with nice things is a narcissist.
•Control. This is huge for narcissists. They have to control everything. Power is one of their strongest emotions, and it’s obtained through control. When narcissists lose control, their fury is unleashed through yelling, name-calling, criticisms, etc. It’s an ugly scene, which only worsens over time for the person on the receiving end. NOTE: Not everyone with control issues is a narcissist.
•Heartless. Of course narcissists have hearts as organs. But, hearts as emotional banks that understand genuine give-and-take, and feel such emotions as empathy? Not so much. Narcissists aren’t devoid of human emotion. Their emotions are just along the lines of power, rage, fury, and jealousy, not love, happiness, joy, and compassion. As such, narcissists don’t really love anyone, including themselves. They really can’t feel love in the traditional sense that people understand love. They can certainly experience pleasure, excitement, and other, similar emotions. However, the feeling of love as most people know it, isn’t really something they know. This is partly why narcissist’s romantic partners end up feeling so betrayed. The partner wonders how someone who loves them could make them feel so unwanted, unloved, and punished. NOTE: Not everyone who struggles with their emotions is a narcissist.
•Flat, black eyes. Narcissists are said to have eyes of coal. They are also said to have no soul. There’s a saying that the eyes are the windows to the soul, so, it makes sense that narcissists have nothing behind their eyes. Notice for yourself. You won’t see it in the early stages of your relationship, when they’re trying to win you over, but later on when they start to devalue you (and they always, always, always will). NOTE: Not everyone with black, cold, empty eyes is a narcissist. They might be a psychopath, for example.
•Jealousy. As I noted earlier, jealousy is one of a narcissist’s emotions. When you come into their circle—especially as a romantic interest—they think that they own you. Thus, you will be expected to be at their beck and call. You will not give your attention to anyone else, you will not make the narcissist wait longer than three seconds to reply to their text messages, and you will not stop admiring them. Because, if you do, there’s hell to pay. And they won’t tell you that they feel wounded. They’ll just show you, through their notorious silent treatments and other passive-aggressive behaviors. NOTE: Not everyone with jealous tendencies is a narcissist.
•Inconsistency. One minute they like you; the next minute they hate you. They want you, then they don’t want you. They say one thing but do another. They change like the wind. And when you ask them about it, they’ll either say they never said or did something, or that you misunderstood them. In any case, it won’t be their fault. Nothing ever is. NOTE: Not everyone who is inconsistent is a narcissist.
Besides Christian Grey, who are the narcissists of the world? They are your siblings, parents, colleagues, spouses, partners, children, friends, service providers, and neighbors. Narcissists are everywhere. And they seek to destroy anyone or anything that gets in the way of their ultimate goal: Obtaining fuel and power.
You’ll know you’re in a dynamic with one when you feel hurt, betrayed, unloved, unwanted, and exhausted. You’ll be called crazy and told that your perceptions are wrong. Everything will be your fault.
These people are the ones at work who steal your ideas and pass them off as their own, or who create drama and then blame you for it. You’ll know it when you experience it, because it’ll be hard to describe, no one else will see it, and you’ll feel trapped and hopeless.
Know that there is hope! If you’re in an intimate relationship with someone you believe is a narcissist, seek professional help right away through counseling and support groups. Contact us if you need a referral.
Dr. Jennifer L. Prince has worked in the behavioral health industry since 2003. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist and holds several degrees in psychology including a doctorate of education in counseling psychology. Her experiences are broad and include direct care in mental health and addiction services, training and education, research, and executive administration. Most notably, Dr. Prince served 12 years active duty service in the U.S. Navy, including an operational tour with the U.S. Marine Corps. She has a special place in her heart for veterans and their families. Dr. Prince’s passion is being in service to others. She seeks to empower, educate, and inspire hope through writing, teaching, coaching and mentoring, whenever and however she can. She has a particular interest in narcissism, codependency, and the common interplay of the two.