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Narcissists Are Mad Men – Episode 1 July 6, 2012

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
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I’m not a diehard Mad Men fan, but when I ran across a copy of Sterling’s Gold – Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Manmy first thought was, “Forget Sterling, this is NPD Gold!” The book is ostensibly written by Roger Sterling, Jr., better known as Don Draper’s boss. If you follow my blog, you know I’ve written about Don Draper in Is Don Draper the Devil or a Narcissist?

I thought some of the quotes in the book would make excellent jumping off points to discuss questions that keep appearing via the Search Engines that churn 24/7. I’ve been addressing some of those questions in my The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism series, but it’s summer, so I’m down for something different.

First of all, you might be wondering, ” Are narcissists actually mad men?” I believe that although they would deny that they’re actually “mad” (as in angry, not crazy), their all-encompassing envy of others leads them to be angry, unsettling men/women who spend an inordinate amount of time trying to avoid and deny the inner conflict that rages. Their anger is like a pot put on the back burner left to simmer. It informs their every move.

I thought the above quote was especially appropriate for all my readers who ask:

Is it possible for a narcissist to find happiness with another person? 

Although you want me to say NO, and yes, NO is ultimately the right answer (wow, that was confusing) you must KNOW this. It IS possible for “your N” to find someone who will tolerate their BS  better than you. You’re not the only doormat in town, and they’re happy to wipe their feet on anyone who leaves the door open so they can gain entry.

Dysfunction – oh, let me count the ways! There’s the Meanie/Martyr relationship dynamic, which is self explanatory. Then there’s the Pursuer/Distancer variation where when one partner tries to get close, the other withdraws emotionally, creating a perpetual chase. Another variation is Responsible/Irresponsible, which is akin to a parent-child partnering. All of these exist in couples (narcissistic or not) and are not conducive to a healthy long-term relationship that will meet both partners’ individual needs.

So, although it might appear that a Narcissist has found happiness with another, remember that for the N, “happiness” is only to be found in the dictionary. For somatic narcissists, the new car smell wears off quickly, so they’ll soon be on the prowl. Cerebral Ns will begin to withhold sex leaving their partner feeling confused and abused. Most likely you know what I’m talking about because you’ve been there.

And just in case you’re tempted, there’s no point in warning the new person (though it might seem like the right/righteous thing to do). Don’t. Can you imagine if someone had taken you aside when you were in the throes of the Idealization Phase and told you the emperor had no clothes? You’d have thought they were mad and questioned their motives. You don’t want to come off looking like the crazy one, so bite your tongue. The train wreck is going to happen, so you don’t want to be playing on the tracks.

Ns ultimately live and die alone despite appearances to the contrary. Their life is like a film viewed over and over with the quality of the tape (okay, that reference is SO 20th Century!) degrading with each viewing, so that after years of their antics, the show is barely watchable.

Yes, Narcissists are mad men. But if you believe otherwise, you’re the one who is mad (as in crazy). Peace and Summer Dreaming.

Click here to read Narcissists Are Mad Men – Episode 2.

Photo Credit: Jan Marshall

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1. Catherine Sherman - July 7, 2012

I haven’t watched Mad Men, but I have heard about Don Draper’s exploits. Is he an N?

Not that I care, but would two Ns be able to maintain a relationship? I’ve met couples in which one partner was definitely an N, yet the other partner seemed “happy” enough. It seemed the secondary partner was also a sort of N, and the pair were circling each other like a pair of binary stars. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binary_star

Catherine,
Yes, Don is a N. Read my Is Don Draper the Devil or a Narcissist? and all will be revealed. :) Oooh, I love it when you slip in those scientific references. And binary stars would seem to be perfect metaphor for the first scenario.
1) There are actually Inverted Narcissists, people who can ONLY function in a relationship with a N. Many are the children of narcissists, so they’re all to familiar with that family dynamic. It’s all they’ve ever known, so it actually seems, if not normal, at least familiar. I watched an interview with Sam Vaknin, the world’s most self-promoting narcissist, on Youtube. His first wife divorced him. His second wife grew up with a father who was a N, so she admits that she’s accustomed to not having her emotional/sexual needs acknowledged or met. Some people have just been programmed to expect less which leads ultimately to thinking less of themselves.
2) Everyone appears to be normal until you get to know them. Many people live in what appears to be a happy marriage. These same people have come onto my blog having realized that they’ve wasted years (sometimes decades) of their life trying to figure out how to make their marriage “work” with someone who could have cared less. For many Ns, keeping up appearances is as good as it gets. Sad, but true. Jan

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2. CZBZ - July 7, 2012

Did someone say n-a-r-c-i-s-s-i-s-m?? ha! I could hear you clear across the blogosphere, Jan!

“Can two narcissists stand each other long enough to call it a relationship?”

O hella-yes. Happens all the time. The most infamous duo is the Narcissist and Borderline Couple. Each click fits the other’s clack and their relationship might last their lifetime, clicking and clacking along like two broken rail cars on a track headed to hell.

Is it the kind of relationship most people would hope to have? No.

“Is it possible for a narcissist to find happiness with a another person?”

Well, that all depends on what you call happiness. If controlling someone like a “puppet on strings” makes a happy relationship, then yes. I’d say narcissists can find happiness with another person.

Some of us had borderline traits when we met the narcissist (or codependent behaviors) and if we are able to ‘fix’ those traits overtime (it can happen naturally as we mature), the narcissist will find another person with clacks he can click.

There are so many reasons why someone sticks it out with a narcissist and it isn’t always because he or she had/has psychological holes in their brains or emotional deficits. Lots of people have deeply held beliefs about marriage that trap them with a lousy partner who will not change but they don’t know that. Yet.

Education makes an incredible difference. We have a lot of dysfunctional folk wisdoms to counter during this new period in human history learning about psychopathy. That’s why it’s so important for knowledgeable people to share what they’ve learned about narcissism.

Had I known there was such a thing as a personality disorder, I’d have GIVEN my husband to the ‘other woman’ rather than fighting to keep him. ha!

Are they happy together? I hope so. I sure don’t want him back.

Hugs,
CZ

CZ,
You word slayer, you! No one’s going to be “clicking your clack!” :) My dear sister-in-law, a Mormon, married early, had a child, then divorced her first husband because of emotional abuse. Looking back, she was so green about relationships and life in general. Although it’s allowed, Mormonism frowns on divorce, so she felt like a failure in providing that perfect family that was advertised. Husband Numero Dos was even worse, but she stuck in there for 14 years (and eight children) because having “failed” once, she was determined to right the ship. Little did she know, it was the Titanic. They couldn’t manufacture hoops fast enough for her to jump through. I’m so happy that she and her children are officially No Contact. Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned. Jan

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3. Catherine Sherman - July 8, 2012

Thanks, I re-read the Don Draper post. Great stuff. Some day I should get the Mad Men series and watch it, maybe while re-organizing my kitchen cabinets or something. (I always feel guilty sitting down to watch TV without also doing something else. Consequently, I don’t see the whole television show, nor do I accomplish my other task very efficiently.) I found your Halcyon link on the Draper post and re-read that. Very informative. Learning about NPD, thus quickly identifying Ns, would save people a lot of heartache.

Catherine,
You now know that there were binary stars just a little too close for comfort in your galaxy. “If only I knew then what I know now,” could be the mantra for anyone who’s had a close encounter with a narcissist. Knowledge is power. Jan

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4. Donna - July 8, 2012

Oh Yes Jan, your knowledge has provided me with more power to recognize……these ppl if they show up again in my life. Being aware that there are so many normal looking, acting and charming men/women in the world that will try to suck you dry and try to destroy you, manipulate and control is a wakeup call for everyday. I have read alot about NPD, and your blogg has been the most helpful for me, because I receive a one on one reply back from you.

From what I have read, they only get worst as they get older and will exploit, demean, injury and discard women them on a moments notice if they get bored; the good ones and the harem women as well.

I thank you for listening and being my online friend. I am even willing to make a contribution to you or your favorite charity. Sincerely, Donna

Donna,
Ahhh, you’re too sweet. Your comment is your contribution, for it will help others. You can also pat a dog on the head for me. :) There are those who say that a narcissist can possibly mellow in middle age, as they have to reconcile the reality of their life with their carefully crafted fantasy. But others have said the Ns they knew were cruel to the end. Personally, I wouldn’t want to stay around to find out. Life’s too short to spend one’s time pining for someone who is incapable of loving you. Jan

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5. kiwigal007 - July 10, 2012

Tell me something all, have any of you heard of or know about those Fifty Shades of Grey books? I am wondering if there are alot of narcissitic tendencies in them too, its not my kind of genre at all but I could not help but read about it in Amazon recently. I do not know anything about this Don Draper character, nor have I seen the series here in NZ but it just lead me to think about these books that apparently selling very well at the moment…

Hi Shell,
It occurred to me after I wrote the post that most likely only Americans have watched the Mad Men Series. My husband finds it difficult to watch the show as it’s set in the 60s. Although the art direction is spot on, it’s hard to watch women, in particular, so held back during that time period. I have yet to read the Fifty Shades of Grey books. I’ll have to check those out. Jan

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6. lesley - July 10, 2012

Hey Jan and everyone,
No, you are on the button as always,Mad Men very big over here in UK too…BBC ran with it for three or four seasons but the latest we have to watch on Sky Atlantic or stream.
I’m a big fan, to me it’s a piece of TV art and the clothes blow me away…like you I pray for a triumph for the working women but they
are on the ball in their own way too?Joan the office manager is a true force of nature.
I think that Betty(played by January Jones),also showed severe narc traits in her role as Dan’s wife. She trades him in for the up and coming politician…(more status at the country club) and treats her children,particularly the daughter, as extensions of herself? The manner in which the Betty character is played reminds me of the icy
demeanour of Hitchcock Heroines. All that beauty and perfection covering up a simmering personality disorder.Chilling.
In terms of the Narc pairings, yes, for a while Dan and Betty were a fit,then one or both want more…so time to trade up?
Interesting to read your take and others on the myriad of pairings these hollowpeople indulge in. Car crashes in slow motion!
I think this post reminds us of the importance of being aware of how Narcissism plays out but also of the need to look at ourselves too,if only to ensure that we are not ignoring red flags or investing in false hopes. We never get the time back we spent with an Narc. It’s dead time.
Thinking these guys change is a free-pass to Crazyville and I’ve thankfully,oh so thankfully, destroyed my map to there.

Great post.

Les

Les,
I’m so glad to hear that you’re a fan and have seen this in the UK. Those smoldering secretaries (the “girls”) wielded more power than you might think – often through subterfuge. I happen to be reading Jack Kennedy by Chris Matthews ATM. It really propels you back into that time period. Jack was worried that news of his “girling” could damage his presidential prospects. It wasn’t THAT long ago, but oh how times have changed though all of that Madmen “manliness” covered up/excused so much bad behavior. I love your “a free pass to Crazyville.” That’s my laugh for the day. Jan

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7. usamade63 - March 31, 2013

I just discovered this site. I’ve never been able to have a discussion with anyone that understands life with a Narcissist so for that I thank you. This has been refreshing and noticeably healthy: none of the posters appear angry and have moved on.
Although I already know a great deal, I read about NPD regularly as a reminder. After all I’ve been through, I still have compassion for NPD’s. If you listen closely, you can figure out what made them this way and it’s not pretty.The trauma runs deep and no one ever cared enough to address the unusual behavior as a result. This is one of the reasons why, I believe, it is so difficult for them to accept it. Recently I gave my ex a book on intimacy. Maybe if he sees the issues that failed in our marriage, he will get a glimmer of what I’ve been going through and why. I know, wishful thinking.
There is so much I want to share I don’t know where to begin. Three years ago I discovered an article written by Mary Jo Fay about NPD Victims Syndrome. It was as if she was writing my biography. It was late when I called her and she actually picked up. We didn’t talk for long but she gave me a few instructions, analogies and advice.
My life has been a roller coaster but I am finally getting my self esteem back. I recently moved into my own place, after taking a long retreat focusing on getting my strength back. I took workshops on Yoga and Psychotherapy, Self Healing, and Acquiring a Positive Attitude. Old habits are hard to break but I have conquered many.
The Mad Men series drew me in the moment I laid eyes on the handsome, charismatic Don Draper. I finished watching the last season last night and have spent most of today dissecting the characters.

My predicament at this point is something that is terribly hard to admit but I must unveil it in order for me to continue getting stronger. It needs to be addressed:
“Hi. My name is Lory. I’m addicted to Narcissists”
I am attracted to these kinds of men even though I know better and I see all the red flags. I don’t know what to do with this realization? Will I spend the rest of my life alone or do I take what I’ve learned and apply it to the chosen NPD? What I mean is, play his own game without sacrificing myself?
Tonight I’ve been thinking of the new character played by Juliette Binoche. She too has NPD traits but her approach is different. She has been painfully honest from the beginning. Indifferent. Tonight I wrote: She has a system. Stays detached. Gives nothing, Jaded but in control.
I feel that I will never trust again because I fall for the same kind of man and get burned over and over again. I’ve been struggling all my life, having a mother with NPD.
The retreat was enlightening and I stayed on a healthy path until recently. I fell under the spell of an artist and once again reverted to codependent behavior.
Admittedly, I have so much yet to learn and conquer.
Any pearls of wisdom would be greatly appreciated. Give it to me… spare nothing!

L.

Lory,
A child who grows up with a NPD parent, gets used to accepting crumbs of what they think is affection. No matter what they do, they’re never good enough. There’s an excellent blog post on Mary Jo Fay’s site about “Trauma Bonding.” Having a mother with NPD “conditioned” or “groomed” you to accept abuse/neglect as a normal way of being. You didn’t mention your father….
Actually, most of the visitors to my blog are still reeling and somewhere on the journey to recovering their self esteem and understanding what happened. They want to look at the situation honestly and know how much they had a part in it. They don’t want to go a second round with one of these emotional vampires – it’s too demeaning.
That said, you have to ask yourself why you think you’re addicted to emotionally unavailable men (whether they are Ns or not)? Usually it’s because you, yourself, are not emotionally available. Otherwise, why would you put up with their lies and manipulations? As with any addiction, the first step is admitting that’s it’s out of your control. But the goal is to not give into the addiction. Any time you are trying to outwit a N at his own game, you ARE sacrificing yourself. In terms of the new character on “Mad Men,”(which I haven’t seen yet), you sound like you’re taking notes as to how she’s able to handle Ns so well. Let me remind you that these people are ACTORS. A scene for one episode was shot in the alley behind my house. These are actors reading lines from scripts – so I wouldn’t be taking cues from a character who seems unscathed by the narcissistic abuse. If you try to out N an N, you are being dishonest with yourself. It is a losing game. As I often tell my readers, the door to the cage opens from the inside. You have to want to get on top of this “addiction” and not merely “manage” it. BTW welcome and thank you for your honesty. Can I ask if you have children? Jan

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lesley - April 10, 2013

Lory,
Just picked up on your post and was impressed by how honest you’re being with yourself,even if you realise you are still in the grip of an
addiction?
It does occur to me that many co- dependents of cluster B/Narcissism pretend to be’doing well’…leading exemplary lives..when in fact they are still in the grip of their own dependency…Jan’s right they do make you reel and it takes a long time to extricate yourself.
First part is as you honestly say…you’re part of the dynamic too?

One thing I wanted to add, just some reading I’ve been doing lately… and is centred on the fact that you say your Mother was a Narcissist?
You possibly know that in Narc families there may be a Narc and an ‘Enabler’,frequently the other parent?
Often the child or children within Narc families will identify with the Enabler…they then model their behaviour on the Enabler’s acceptance of the Narc? It’s how they cope with the trauma on a daily basis…and involved much denial, turning a blind eye and seeing themselves as a’nice person’ rather than being honest about their own needs.
The unravelling of this dynamic is incredibly difficult to face up?You seem to be on the journey and trying to be scrupulously honest with yourself…good luck with that.
One extra bit just occurred to me…over on Jan’s right margin there’s a blog called’Narcissists Suck’…the woman who wrote it has a Narc Mother and writes very openly about it. It comes from a Christian perspective,which may not suit everyone, but she has definitely done the walk in order to talk the talk!

Light Shine,
Les

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8. kiwigal007@wordpress.com - March 31, 2013

Hello to you all,
Every so often I come in here as I am still subscribed to Jan’s posts and read what others are saying about Narcissism and the like and I remember what it was like for me to be involved with someone that potentially could be a narc. But I just want to let you all know that although I have not completely healed from the experience, the experience has taught me a lot about who I am as a person and why I probably drew attention to the man that I was dating on and off for almost six years. Its been a hard battle and sometimes very draining but I know that now I am in a far better space than I have been in a long time. Once we rid the Narc out of our lives, it takes some time before we are ready to move on. Some of us may be in complete denial, others are bewildered and some are downright angry that this whole experience left them thinking the way they do. I suffered all of these but I know that in order for me to rid my pain and experience from this predator was to learn from it, talk to others and to share my experience by getting it all out and in the open. The more people know about these types of people, the more educated we become. They say “Knowledge is power” and the more knowledged I have become the better I am in able to deal with life and people in general. Everyone likes to show their good side at first and who wants to see a person at their worst? But if you are able to read the signs early or have a sick feeling in your tummy or something doesnt seem right, RUN! I know for me there were probably dozens of red flags I overlooked but now I know what to look for. I am not interested in pursuing another relationship right now as the only relationship I am working on is with myself and when I feel happy in myself, happy and content to date again I will seek a relationship. Narc’s hate to see people happy by the way so the happier I am, I am hoping the less that these sorts will stay away. Have a good Easter all. Shell. :-D

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Donna - April 1, 2013

Shell, thank you for a great uplifting post. So many of us have come along way in this journey of healing from the Narc’s in our lives. You sound happy, hope you had a blessed Easter. Donna

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Kiwigal007 - April 1, 2013

Thank you Donna, I had a wonderful Easter andd was spoilt heaps by a friend and my siblings as I had no idea that they were coming to my home with lots of beautiful food, great drink and fantastic company. It takes time to get rid of the Narc out of your system and time. I am in a far better space than where I was this time last year and in time I know that it will all be but a distant memory for me. I trust you had a blessed Easter break also and that you are enjoying this time too. :-)

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usamade63 - May 15, 2013

I’m still suffering and trying to get out of the marriage. I left him 14 years ago then got involved with another! It has been about 4 years since I discovered NPD and each time I get strong and healthy, I get involved with another! I too am alone now and working on myself. What resonated most about your message, and actually made me smile, I didn’t understand why my husband would turn sour when I was happy. We are still married but I am finally on my own and have a shark for an attorney with a reputation too. I’m stronger now that I know I have an attorney in my back pocket, but still an emotional wreck. The kids and I have started counseling because I see signs in them that are too familiar. Honestly, some days I don’t think I’ll ever be rid of him and sometimes I fear for my life. What’s hardest is few people understand…they think he’s perfect…including the children. It’s good to talk about it though. Thanks for the forum.

I have a friend whose children also idolize their N father, and he plays mind games on them as well. It’s so painful as they just don’t understand why. And how could they? All they know is he can crush their spirits….like that! And I know someone whose eldest child shows a few N traits himself. This alarms her, but as the oldest, he got to witness more of his father’s abuse. His mother is hoping therapy can help him work through this. The jury is out.
I’m hoping you were involved with just two narcissists. You do need to find out why you keep shooting yourself in the foot….or is it the heart? In the meantime, counseling with a professional who understands the N dynamic sounds like the best course of action. I wouldn’t obsess about the future (I’ll never be rid of him, etc.). Focus on what you can do TODAY for yourself and your children.
Always, Jan

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