The Jerk and the Narcissist

Artwork by Lionel Kennaugh

Oh! He’s a narcissist. She’s just a narciopath, (I’m not even sure where this one popped up, but I keep hearing it), or a borderline personality disorder. Every other person these days is labelled with being a narcissist or having some other personality disorder. What they probably are in fact is your average garden variety jerk.

Perhaps, they are just noticeably confident and yes, even arrogant, or aloof. This does not make a person a narcissist. Some people are just jerks. They lack self-awareness, they lack common courtesy, and they lack kindness. Yet this still does not make them a narcissist. None of these things makes them a sadistic emotional (and sometimes physical) abuser.

It is indeed a dangerous thing to sit back and make a layman’s diagnosis of anyone without a qualified clinical psychologist or psychiatrist making that diagnosis. And even then, a real Narcissistic Personality Disorder is hard to spot.

Clinicians around the world use the DSM 5 to help formulate a diagnosis of a mental disorder.

From the American Psychiatric Association – The DSM 5 “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the handbook used by health care professionals in the United States and much of the world as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders. DSM contains descriptions, symptoms, and other criteria for diagnosing mental disorders. It provides a common language for clinicians to communicate about their patients and establishes consistent and reliable diagnoses that can be used in the research of mental disorders. It also provides a common language for researchers to study the criteria for potential future revisions and to aid in the development of medications and other interventions”.

In as far as the DSM is concerned, it lists 9 different criteria that true NPD’s possess. To be classified as such a person needs to meet 5 of the nine criteria listed. This means that there are a possible 256 different variables of NPD and these people are rarer than you would think.

Per the DSM 5, These criteria are:

NPD is defined as comprising a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by the presence of at least 5 of the following 9 criteria:

  • A grandiose sense of self-importance
  • A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • A belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
  • A need for excessive admiration
  • A sense of entitlement
  • Interpersonally exploitive behavior
  • A lack of empathy
  • Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her
  • A demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes

Having said that it is not a layman’s job to diagnose narcissistic behaviour, traits, narcissistic personality type, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or any other mental disorder. To those of us who have lived with these people, it is nevertheless easy to look at the above criteria knowing that you have dealt with someone like this in your life.

You will recognise the heady and potent blend of strange and disturbing ways. I have always looked at this topic from a victim’s perspective. I’ll continue to take this into that vein. There are many and varied reasons someone becomes a narcissist. There are many resources on the internet to understand these reasons and the inner workings of a narcissist. I’m going to focus on the behaviours of these people as experienced by a victim.

Let’s examine your average garden variety jerk vs the narcissist. There are significant differences between the jerk and the narcissist.

A jerk will not love bomb you.

As an example of a jerk, I once was dating a man, and although he was a lovely man, he just didn’t seem to have any clue as to how to go about dating somebody properly. He was in essence just a jerk, not even a nasty jerk he was just a little bit of a clueless jerk. He would do things like making plans with me on a Friday night to go out for supper then phone me 6:30 ish and say oh well he’s just finishing off drinks with his mates or his work colleagues and he’ll call me later. Later would turn out to be around 10:00 pm and he would say he’s ready to go out for supper. He never really could understand why I found this to be downright offensive. The fact that I had to wait in line in his priority list didn’t show me that he really wanted to date me. He wasn’t even really all that interested in whether he would get to have supper with me or not. I eventually just called everything off. He walked away quite happily, and I never heard from him again, no animosity. He was possibly slightly bewildered. He didn’t understand a lack of kindness, lack of priorities in terms of where he saw me in his life, and a fundamental lack of courtesy is what offended me. So, we parted ways amicably.

A narcissist is an entirely different animal when it comes to dating and love bombing.

A primary tool in the narcissist’s toolbox is love bombing, and this starts almost immediately when you are the ‘chosen one’. You have been identified by the narcissist as his next source of supply because you meet specific criteria yourself deemed desirable by the narcissist. The requirements you meet are a particularly specific set of ways in which you can best meet the needs of the narcissist to be deemed a good source of narcissistic supply. You need to already be proven willing to be:

  • Completely selfless, especially when it comes to putting your needs aside in favour of the narcissists.
  • Pliable. You will be ‘trained’ to set your own morals and values aside and coerced into doing this, against your better judgement. Yet, if you show a willingness to do this, you will be a good ‘match’ for the narcissist.
  • Offer up undiluted admiration and adulation to the narcissist who will never get enough of this.
  • Be willing to display undying loyalty, even if it makes you question your own values and beliefs.
  • Have something of value to offer from a monetary or social value point of view. You have friends of influence or are influential yourself to the narcissist.
  • You are held in high esteem by your colleagues or peers and therefore have influence.
  • You want to see the best in people and are more likely to fail to spot the narcissist and his games and ploys. As you don’t think in that way, you are more susceptible to being caught up in his web, only because you are not looking for that and because you don’t think in that way.
  • It has nothing to do with your intelligence. It has everything to do with the narcissist’s ability to beguile and charm you into believing that the two of you have everything in common and therefore, every reason to be together. Yet, a healthy dose of disagreement often goes a long way to a successful partnership, instead of blind faith and belief.
  • You must be willing to supply sexual gratification in the romantic scenario, on-call, and unquestioningly.

These are a few of the things that you will need to be ‘verified’ to be of any value to the narcissist. For him to put in the effort and the time to love bomb you.

The dating experience in this scenario is nothing short of ideal in every way. Every effort is made to make the dating experience at this stage ‘just perfect’. No effort is spared, you are made to feel like the only living thing that is of any value whatsoever to the narcissist. It is, for this reason, it is also often referred to as the honeymoon period of the relationship. You will be led to believe that this relationship is ‘meant to be’ and nothing short of ‘perfect’. You will be showered with gifts to unbelievably passionate and intimate sex in the case of a romance. In a business relationship or friendship, initially, you fit hand in glove with your prospective partner. You each appear to bring the perfect balance to the business relationship, or friendship etc.

Simultaneously you’re being ‘wined and dined’ both literally and metaphorically, you are being tested out to see just how far you can be pushed. How easily your boundaries can be penetrated and how much you’re willing to take. How much you are eager to put aside your own needs in favour of the narcissists. It is an incremental thing at first. As you become more and more enamoured of how the narcissist makes you feel, the less of your own values and beliefs are featured. The grander the illusion the narcissist creates for you, the harder it is to turn away from it.

The fact that the narcissist is never deeply involved with you is not evident. He has his own agenda, and it’s not the same as yours. You are seeking out love, loyalty, intimacy, and trust. The narcissist is attending to his need for adulation, validation, sexual gratification (in the romance scenario). Money prestige or other tangible assets he can lay claim to in say possibly a business arrangement or friendship.

The disinterested or disengaged jerk vs the sticky narcissist

Contrary to appearing to be extremely involved with you, the narcissist is emotionally distant. He will, however, go to the ends of the earth to make your relationship with him as ‘sticky’ as possible. Whether this is a romance, a family dynamic, work, business, or friendship dynamic.

It’s like the old fable of the tar baby – an excerpt from Wikipedia:

“The Tar-Baby is the second of the Uncle Remus stories published in 1881; it is about a doll made of tar and turpentine used by the villainous Br’er Fox to entrap Br’er Rabbit. The more that Br’er Rabbit fights the Tar-Baby, the more entangled he becomes.

In modern usage, tar baby refers to a problematic situation that is only aggravated by additional involvement with it“.

This is another tool in the narcissist’s toolbox. To get you tangibly involved with him as quickly as possible. This includes, among other ploys, getting you financially indebted to him, or financially engaged with him, or giving financial control over to him. A fast-tracked relationship from courting to marriage impossibly quickly will also do. Even a pregnancy will do the trick—anything to keep you from leaving him or her. The more you give, the stickier the whole relationship becomes. Financial commitments made quickly and ill-advised in business deals are another way a narcissist will make the entire relationship a sticky mess.

Of course, what happens next (even after months or years) is as you try to extricate yourself, you only make things worse. As you are trying to reverse out of the situation, the narcissist is trying to keep you involved. Even while using systematic denigration and intermittent reinforcement, he/she will be working extremely hard to keep you engaged with them. All the while, the abuse is ongoing.

Your average jerk, not so much.

Perhaps, for example, the jerk is just a one-night stand. He’s not likely to try and stick around, he’s in and out, got what he needed, and he’s off. There would be a certain amount of disappointment if you were hoping for something more. Yet, the jerk will not make a concerted effort to keep you engaged with him. Quite the opposite, he’ll actively make sure that there is no further involvement with him. He will not actively malign or abuse you, he’s plain selfish and disinterested. Even if he’s caused some emotional distress, his willingness to just move on and not pay any further attention to you differentiates him from a narcissist. At some later point, the jerk may even make a sincere apology for his behaviour. In contrast, the narcissist only ever ‘apologises’ if it suits his own ends to do so and the apology is anything but sincere.

In a business or friendship scenario, a jerk may not live up to their promises or perhaps they are unpleasant and rude to work with. In friendships maybe you must do all the work to sustain the friendship, this doesn’t make them a narcissist. Again, they may show a lack of regard for your feelings and may even be calculating and dismissive, but this still doesn’t make them a narcissist.

Who has the brakes?

There is a line that a jerk won’t cross. No matter how rude or downright mean a jerk can be, there comes the point where they will stop. I almost want to say that most jerks are lazy if you wanted to make that comparison in a perverse way to a narcissist. A jerk would rather walk away rather than go to all the effort to love bomb, use intermittent reinforcement, effect gaslighting or blame-shifting and they are not likely to play the victim.

While a jerk may not be the most pleasant person to be around, they do have empathy. They ultimately will not drag you into a situation you find hard to extricate yourself from just for their own sadistic pleasure and need for validation, and narcissistic supply. A jerk simply couldn’t be bothered.

I once used to say of a narcissist I was involved with, that he was the type of person who would spend $10 000 to make a point over $100. Very often even to their own detriment, a narcissist will go out of their way to harm you, cutting off their nose to spite their face. A narcissist will simply take things too far if it means hurting you in the process.

Your average jerk doesn’t know any better, and their lousy behaviour shows it. Usually, once this is pointed out to them, they can be reasoned with and may make a concerted and sincere effort to change and apologise. You can have a discussion with them, instead of a blame-shifting argument. A jerk is grounded in reality, whereas your average narcissist is definitely not grounded in any kind of reality and will play the reverse victim the minute you try to reason with or engage with them in any sort of sincere way.

Please remember that narcissists are extremely intentional and deliberate in the way that they behave and in the patterns that they repeat. It’s the go-to game plan that always works for them, and they will repeat this all-pervasive set of behaviours repeatedly in a cycle of abuse, with you in the eye of the storm.

Suffice to say in conclusion, as is evident, your average jerk is not going to set about ruining your life and you are in no real danger from the jerk. Inconvenienced, yes, upset, quite possibly, but nonetheless relatively safe from real danger.

If it is a narcissist you’ve attracted your chances of being in real danger, emotional, mental, and possibly physical danger truly exist. Everything about you is up for grabs to be exploited and used until you are a shadow of your former self, drained of all self-worth and energy and possibly financial independence too, as well as in danger of literally going mad with the crazy-making behaviour of a narcissist in your life.

Learn to spot the signs early, if it feels to good to be true it probably is. If something feels off, it probably is. Continue to educate yourself about narcissistic abuse and all the various ways in which the ‘toolbox of abuses’ is used. Learn the terminology, look it up, watch YouTube videos and arm yourself so as not to be caught out by these people in the first place. There are many red flags to look out for, I have named but a few.  I wish you well and hope that you never have to deal with (another)one of these people ever.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *