Dr. Ramani Durvasula (@DoctorRamani) is a clinical psychologist, professor of psychology, media expert, and author. Her latest book is “Don’t You Know Who I Am?”: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. [This is part two of a two-part episode. Make sure to listen to part one here!]
What We Discuss with Dr. Ramani Durvasula:
- We’re all a little selfish sometimes. So how do you tell a genuine narcissist from someone who’s just having a bad day?
- Is it just our collective imagination, or is true narcissism on the rise (or at least more visible)?
- Is someone necessarily born a narcissist, or can they “catch” it later in life?
- Can a narcissist be reformed?
- How can you protect yourself from a narcissist if just staying 500 feet away at all times isn’t a viable option?
- And much more…
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Even if you’re not in a relationship with, working with, or born into a family with a narcissist, chances are pretty good that you at least know one or two. This especially holds true if you’re in a Western society that encourages materialism, which goes hand-in-hand with narcissism. So when you’re in the orbit of someone who considers themselves the center of the universe, how do you ensure you’re not drawn in by their gravity and disintegrated?
On this two-part episode, we’re joined by Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a clinical psychologist, professor of psychology, media expert, and author of “Don’t You Know Who I Am?”: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Here, we discuss how narcissists are made, what makes them tick, and how to protect yourself from a narcissist when you find them unavoidable. Listen, learn, and enjoy! [This is part two of a two-part episode. Make sure to listen to part one here!]
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Named by Apple as the Best Show of the Year 2021, A Slight Change of Plans with Dr. Maya Shankar blends compassionate storytelling with the science of human behavior to help us understand who we are, and who we become, in the face of a big change. Listen here or wherever you find fine podcasts!
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Thanks, Dr. Ramani Durvasula!
If you enjoyed this session with Dr. Ramani Durvasula, let her know by clicking on the link below and sending her a quick shout out at Twitter:
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Resources from This Episode:
- “Don’t You Know Who I Am?”: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility by Ramani S. Durvasula, Ph.D | Amazon
- Dr. Ramani Durvasula | Website
- Dr. Ramani Durvasula | Twitter
- Dr. Ramani Durvasula | Instagram
- Dr. Ramani Durvasula | Facebook
- Dr. Ramani Durvasula | YouTube
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder Symptoms and Causes | Mayo Clinic
- How #MeToo Exposed the Hidden World of Narcissistic Abuse | The Calda Clinic
- Havelock Ellis | Wikipedia
- Otto Rank | Wikipedia
- Sigmund Freud | Wikipedia
- The Myth of Narcissus | History Today
- The Internet Is a Narcissist’s Paradise | Psychology Today
- When Protecting Other People from the Narcissist Makes You Look Unstable | Dr. Ramani
- The Pathological Narcissist and Co-Narcissist Convoluted Dance | Narcissistic Behavior
- The Role of Habituation in Narcissistic Relationships | Dr. Ramani
- How to Recognize and Break Traumatic Bonds | Healthline
- How to Recognize Coercive Control | Healthline
- Understanding Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder | Healthline
- Narcissism Linked to Aggression in Review of 437 Studies | Ohio State News
- The Concept of Narcissistic Supply | Psychology Today
- Coming to America | Prime Video
- Love Bombing: What It Is and Signs to Look For In a Partner | The New York Times
- Eight Common Post-Separation Domestic Abuse Tactics | Domestic Shelters
- Educating the Disagreeable Extravert: Narcissism, the Big Five Personality Traits, and Achievement Goal Orientation | International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
- Eight Signs You’re Dealing With A Vulnerable Narcissist | Mindbodygreen
- The Undetectable Way Vulnerable Narcissists Love Bomb | Dr. Ramani
- Sometimes I Treat People Badly. Am I a Narcissist? | Dr. Ramani
- 10 Surprising Ways to Spot a Narcissist on Social Media | Psychology Today
- What Is Projection? | Dr. Ramani
743: Dr. Ramani | How to Protect Yourself from a Narcissist Part Two
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:03] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And so if you walk into a tiger's cage, they're going to kill you or they're going to pull off your arm or maul you, right? If it's really a tiger. But if you're still suspicious and think it's just a sweet little cat, walk into the cage and see how it works out for you. If indeed what you encounter, you say something to them, you talk to them, you try to communicate with them, and they actually are amenable. Maybe you misread the situation, but if they start mauling you again, then there's your reminder. And sometimes people need a few of those reminders to say, "Okay, I'm dealing with someone narcissistic.
[00:00:35] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional organized crime figure, war correspondent, rocket scientist, or hostage negotiator. And each episode turns our guest's wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
[00:01:02] If you're new to the show or you want to tell your friends about the show, please begin with our episode starter packs. These are collections of some of our favorite episodes organized by topic. These are very helpful in getting new listeners a taste of what we do here on the show — topics like abnormal psychology, technology and futurism, disinformation and cyber warfare, negotiation, cults, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or search for us in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:28] Today, part two with Dr. Ramani on narcissism. Of course, if you haven't heard part one yet, time to go back and listen to that. Part two, there's a lot more practicals. We wrap up our discussion as well. And without further ado, here we go, part two with Dr. Ramani.
[00:01:43] Going back to some of these examples of folks that I know, they would say something about somebody and I'd go, "Well, okay, don't we all do that?" But then I was like, "Wait a minute. You do that especially, and also this other person really almost never does that. And also, aren't you talking about something that happened two days ago where we were all there and this is a hundred percent you?" And they didn't seem to notice it. I thought, either you're a really good actor or you lack self-awareness to the point where you don't even realize that you're doing this and other people are not. And the jealousy was there, turned up to 11, the gas lighting was there, turned up to 11.
[00:02:14] And I started having to write things down after dealing with them because they would go, "We're going to do this, this, this, and this." And I'd go to a meeting the following Monday, I mean, four or five days later. And they'd say, "Well, I told Jordan to do this, this, and this, and he didn't." And I'll go, "Ah, finally, I wrote this down where you said you were going to do that, and then you didn't. And now you're blaming me and saying that I agreed to do it and now I'm not the crazy one. You set me up for this." And it would happen constantly. And I can only imagine if that is you but your parents are doing it. It's got to just be a million times worse.
[00:02:46] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: If your parents are doing it, what the child does, the child does not have the luxury of saying, "Yo, mom, stop with the projection, you're gaslighting me," right?
[00:02:55] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:02:56] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: The child has one need and those are attachment needs, right? So they can't afford to cut off that attachment to a parent. The parent is the source of food, shelter. But above all else, the perception that they're also the source of emotional and psychological nurturance, of safety.
[00:03:10] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:03:10] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So when this is happening to the child, what does the child do? They internalize the projection, "I am a bad kid. I am a liar. I did do that. I must be awful." And that kid slowly morphs into I'm a bad kid.
[00:03:23] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:03:23] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Because instead of the parent taking ownership of their subpar behavior, they project onto the child. They literally resent the child for having any needs as though the child is a burden. And in a million subtle ways, they let the child know it. So what does the child internalize? "I'm a bad kid. I'm a bad person." And that trails them into adulthood.
[00:03:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Ugh. That's awful. Another trait, seeking out high-status friends. I know a lot of influencers just by virtue of the fact that I'm in this industry, and there are some folks, most of the people in this industry are fine, great, normal, whatever. But I had literally had this conversation where someone will go, "I only hang out with famous people or people who are going to improve my brand." And I'm thinking, "You said the quiet part out loud. You might not want to advertise that. You sound a little bit psycho when you say things like that."
[00:04:09] And I had one friend of mine come to me and say, "I went to so-and-so to be on their podcast. And they literally told me I wasn't famous enough." And I go, "Didn't you just do a bunch of consulting with that guy for like six months where you helped him for free with all this stuff?" And he's like, "Yeah, I did. And I didn't charge him for it. And then when I wanted to promote my book on his show, he said, 'I only want big-name people and people who can enhance my brand.'" And I'm just thinking it's got to just be lost on him how crazy that sounds. But he'll say it, he'll tell you. And I thought I don't know if I admire that or if I'm just in shock because the honesty is just unbelievable. You might as well have a t-shirt that says, "I'm a horrible, shallow person," and wear it every day.
[00:04:50] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: That idea of I only want people around me that enhance my brand—
[00:04:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:04:54] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —is really the beautiful 21st century way of how we, of what a narcissist is about, right?
[00:04:59] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:04:59] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: They do only want people around them who enhance their brand, which is why, you know, you'll see that, for example, the trope of the older man with the inappropriately younger attractive partner. She supplies, right? She's enhancing his brand—
[00:05:12] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:05:12] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —on whatever variant that works, his fame, fortune, notoriety, whatever, people status. People want that, and narcissists want that I should say. And you know what? In a way, what I like about someone saying it out loud is that then it's buyer beware.
[00:05:29] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:05:30] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: If you're keeping company with somebody who's saying, "I only want to be with people who enhance my brand," that might be the time you say, "I need to go use the bathroom," and not come back.
[00:05:38] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Right. I know this person's ex-girlfriend and she's so nice. Literally, one of the reasons they broke up was he was sending dick pics to everybody on Instagram that he could find. And then some other girl with more followers who was famous in another country, started replying, probably, you know, same issue as him, wants somebody who enhances her brand. And these people were house shopping. And then, he dumped her kind of out of the blue after they had a fight about him sending dick pics because he's like, "Well, I didn't do anything." And I'm like, "Well, one, you did because the rumors are flying everywhere that you're a cheater. Two, sending dick pics to people you don't know on the Internet is basically the same thing. And three, minutes later you're dating a different girl with more Instagram followers." And then they got the exact same type of dog that he had in the previous relationship and started taking the same kinds of photos. And I remember thinking, Okay, one day, I'm going to talk to a psychologist who understands exactly what's going on. And this is that day, Dr. Ramani.
[00:06:32] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: There you go.
[00:06:32] Jordan Harbinger: This is that day.
[00:06:33] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And that idea of people living in that fear of they're going to want to trade up the trophy partner. Narcissistic people do that.
[00:06:41] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:06:41] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: I mean because it's transactional. They're choosing on the basis of status. So trading someone out for somebody who is, quote-unquote, "better for their brand," that's what you're going to see with a narcissistic person. The challenge becomes though, Jordan, is that the person who is left, the person who is rejected, the person who is no longer on brand, their tendency is to internalize it and wonder what's wrong with them.
[00:07:03] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:07:03] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: "Am I not enough?" Right? You know, you're more than, you're a human being, so by dent of that, you're more than enough. But the fact of the matter is that it's a transaction. So the problem lies in the person who views the relationship as a transaction, and that's the narcissistic person.
[00:07:19] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So, these people also I know spend a lot of time researching things that they covet that they want, because they always want something new, something better, something more on brand. But the hole never fills because it's unfillable. So like you said, the other person says it might not enough. It doesn't matter who you are because you can't be enough for them. It's a black hole.
[00:07:38] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: It is a black hole. And so, you know, always, when I would teach students about narcissism, I'd say, I want you to think of a bucket with holes popped in the bottom and you're pouring water in it. In good faith, thinking it's a bucket you could fill and you're pouring and you're pouring and you're pouring it after a while. You're like, "How come I'm not filling the bucket?" But you never quite realize that there's holes in the bottom. And because most people don't understand narcissism, they don't understand the holes being in the bottom.
[00:08:00] Nobody is ever enough because nothing is enough for them. And I think that what happens is that, for example, a narcissistic person may state, people will say, "Well, how is it that I know a narcissistic person and they were married for 40 years, 45 years, 50 years?" It's because that relationship was serving a function for them, right? It may be that they were able to come off as the family person in public, or they liked the facade of it, or they liked the comfort of the relationship, or they liked, you know, whatever it is they liked about it, they kept that, right?
[00:08:32] So it's almost like if you go to my kitchen, I've got a food processor and I've got a coffee maker and I've got whatever the heck else I have. Teapot, I'm not going to throw out the teapot because I have a food processor. I need both of those things. That's what a narcissistic person views people who supply as almost kitchen appliances. So they may stay in the long-term relationship because that's serving them a function, but then they want the other thing, which might be, you know, a relationship on the side or whatever because it is never enough. So they often switch up their supply and make their supply more, I don't know, diverse as it were, and get different sources of it. But nobody can be enough because it never is enough.
[00:09:08] Like for example, they just want to be the emperor or empress of the world, like they want to be in charge of everything. I mean, I guess there's some people like that in the world—
[00:09:17] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:09:17] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —who have that kind of power, and my guesses are, I don't know if what we call them satisfied narcissist, because if they were, they'd probably be sharing their wealth and they're not. So they're not.
[00:09:26] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:26] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: They're narcissistic and obviously having all that money matters to them.
[00:09:30] Jordan Harbinger: There's a lot of envy and trying to create lives that other people envy. But of course, that envy is toxic and causes them to wreck their existing life with their happy partner and their kids because they want to get things that other people will envy. And that's what's so tragic about this, right? You see people who have what should be a great life because they have a great person and they have kids and they have a good business, but then they will sacrifice all that for another person that has more followers on Instagram. And you're just thinking, "What are you doing? You were holding happiness in your hand and then you splattered it on the ground to go get something shiny."
[00:10:03] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So envy is a two-way street in narcissism. It's interesting, and it's even built into how we clinically think about narcissism. First of all, narcissistic people envy other people. They envy the person who has the fancy airplane or the fancy car, or even, I don't even know. I mean, it depends on where you fall, whatever they've got—
[00:10:20] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:10:21] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —that you don't have. They envy other people a lot, but on the other side, they think other people envy them or they want to create a life where other people envy them. So they want to get the fancy things, or they want to put the life out on Instagram. In fact, a psychiatrist friend of mine once said to me, she said, "Instagram is literally a tool that was perfectly designed to induce envy in other people."
[00:10:43] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:10:44] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: It's almost like its only function is to make other people envy you. And that need for other people to envy is an incredibly, incredibly unhealthy dynamic to be hitting the world with. And listen, oh, I know some people are going to say, "Oh, I wanted people to kind of be jealous of my vacation to Paris. Does that make me a narcissist?" Eh, maybe not. But take a look inward on what that's about. Why would you want anyone to have to hold that negative mood state of envy about you? And there's likely an early core reason in their lives for that, because a healthy person wouldn't want somebody to envy them. And in fact, as there's the humility of like, "Oh, maybe I'm not going to let people know this about me because it could make them uncomfortable or make them feel, you know, less than, I never want that." That's a healthier approach. But that envy piece is absolutely huge.
[00:11:29] But then, you said something interesting about happiness. They were holding happiness in their hand. They don't understand happiness, right?
[00:11:35] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:11:35] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Happiness is a very deep, deep quality that what all the research about healthy folks suggests it's very much about mutual, compassionate, respectful, reciprocal relationships. Well, narcissistic people don't have those. So happiness for them is a very fleeting state. It's usually the thing right in front of them, you know, as long as they feel like they got a new shiny thing, that means you need a new shiny thing all the time. So for that person, they thought they'd be more happy as it were with the new shiny thing. But that's because this thing called happiness, they don't have a deep hold on that particular construct.
[00:12:13] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense, yes. Some other quick traits, generous only when it serves them or they can make a show of it, which makes sense, right? Why be generous if you're not going to get some brand enhancement from that? We talked about dysregulated patterns, the anger, the rage, where things just seemingly are, the disproportionate reaction to something. Grandiosity, one of the other hallmarks, cult leaders and conspiracy theorists have this, but it's like the big new app idea, the business they're going to build. And you mentioned in the book is really interesting, the fantasy, when they talk about these things, it's confusing to other people because it's so far away and doesn't reflect reality.
[00:12:46] And I live in Silicon Valley, I've seen people come up with big ideas before, but sometimes it's okay, this guy can really pull this off. And other times it's, "Wait a minute, you've been working here for three days? Why are you talking about when you're the CEO of the company, you're going to take the brand in a different direct— what are you talking about right now? None of this makes any sense."
[00:13:04] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So the grandiosity is often quite delusional.
[00:13:06] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:13:07] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: They talk about it like it's actually happening. Sometimes, they'll say, I don't know, they'll talk about applying, I don't know, to an elite university or something like that. The way they talk about it, it's almost like they're planning on going and I'm like, "Oh, there's less than two percent chance of you getting in there," but there's that. It's the three days in, "I'm going to be the CEO." But it is, it's a delusional grandiosity, and they do it because if they say it enough, it's almost like they're living into that grandiose experience. It's exhausting for the people around them who are like, "Listen, we got bills to pay today." But there's a big failure to launch with many narcissistic people. They like being grandiose, but they don't like doing the work.
[00:13:44] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:13:44] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Because think about what starting a business is, it's grunt work, it's regulations, it's applications, it's getting the funding, it's writing things. It's not glamorous. It's really painful. And so, unless you're like a billionaire's trust fund kid, where you know, you take the money and then you make a bunch of other people do it and then show up as the face of the company. For normal people, starting a company and getting something off the ground or even doing other things, getting an advanced degree or something, it takes work. It takes time. So they like to talk about things like they're happening because it's almost as though they experience them as though they're happening. Again, it's confusing and exhausting for the people around them. And it often means that things don't get done.
[00:14:26] So if you have a very grandiose boss, they will be asking for things that simply cannot happen. And so then they're angry at people for not being able to enact their vision. But people say, "This is not possible what you're suggesting," people lose their jobs as a result until the grandiosity is finally found out by someone. Look at someone like Elizabeth Holmes. What's that?
[00:14:46] Jordan Harbinger: Theranos.
[00:14:47] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: The lady with a Theranos. Right, it's a great example of that kind of grandiosity. "I'm going to take a tiny drop of your blood and be able to tell you everything about your health history." I knew having some science training, I'm like, that doesn't seem realistic.
[00:15:00] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:15:01] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Like, it just doesn't make sense how they run assays. But what did I do? My first thing was like, oh, maybe I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.
[00:15:08] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:15:08] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: But you know, I think anyone in the sciences was like, "Huh?" And then she got these billions in funding. And I think just other people like whatever, that's your billions, so not mine. But we knew it wasn't going to work and yet she held onto it to the bitter end. And that's how these things often crash and burn.
[00:15:22] Jordan Harbinger: There's so much here we have to skip some of these signals just in the interest of time. Passive aggression, schadenfreude, something that everybody else does, you know, being happy when others fall. But the flip side of this is rationalizing the winds of others is less meritorious. Like, "Ah, she slept her way to the top," or, "It must be easy if you're so and so." I've had people say like, "Oh, well, you're successful because you inherited a bunch of money." And I'm like, "My mom was a public school special education teacher, by the way." "Also still a lie." "I didn't inherit anything. My dad was in auto work. He's an engineer." " Also, still a lie, you know?" "What are you talking about, man? Inherited it? No, I've worked hard and I got a lot of luck because of the market timing. But like inheritance, geez, pick a different sort of boogeyman here, buddy." But I do get things like that or people being like, "I've been doing a podcast for as long as you and your show sucks compared to mine." And I'm like, "Oh, you're just obsessed with this concept of," and I'll put this in air quotes, "fairness, where you're better than everyone else." And they're just obsessed with this. And I noticed that as well about people I know, I guess in real life who exhibit this is everyone else who's doing well has somehow done so either because through less meritorious means or is just purely lucky. And when am I going to get my due is just the constant refrain and it's like, well, I don't know, maybe get up before 11:00 a.m. and work.
[00:16:40] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: But it's interesting. So it's an interesting kind of like backstory to the schadenfreude, right? So schadenfreude, for people who don't know is a German word, leave it to the Germans who have one handy word—
[00:16:49] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:16:49] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —that gets to this, which is the glee or the pleasure one experiences at another person's misfortune.
[00:16:56] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:16:57] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Not so nice. We've all done it.
[00:16:58] Jordan Harbinger: We all do it.
[00:16:59] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: We've all done it.
[00:17:00] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:17:00] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Folks, if you have experienced schadenfreude doesn't make you a narcissist. And in fact, when we often experience the most schadenfreude is when the narcissists themselves fall. So that's all good.
[00:17:09] Jordan Harbinger: For sure.
[00:17:10] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: The difference is how. With a narcissistic person, the schadenfreude is so cruel, like they'll kick a person when they're down, they will mock them. Because schadenfreude to me, if you kind of do it in private, you're like, "Hmm, look what happened to that one."
[00:17:24] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:17:24] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: You know? And then you're thinking it. That's very different than getting up in the face of someone and saying, "Yeah, loser," and you're like, "Well, this person's already going through something, whether they deserved it or not, like maybe let it go." So the narcissistic person, it's an absolute enveloping glee that they experience. Now, you talk about that other, sort of an interesting flip side of if anyone else succeeds, it's luck or inheritance like you put it, or they slept their way to it, whatever sort of dodgy way that they got to it. And I'm not getting there because the world isn't fair to me. But the piece they never account for is they're not doing the work, right?
[00:18:02] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:18:03] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Or they'll say, "I've made my podcast as long as yours." Really? I mean, I know having a podcast myself, the hustle involved, you know the time and you even still don't know what the audience is going to take, what the audience takes, and if mine is not as successful as someone else's, the ideas for me to be circumspect and say, I mean either this isn't resonating or I need to step up my game in terms of that, but it's not, Jordan is not good. It's Ramani's not trying hard enough that conceptualization is never going to work for a narcissistic person because it's too much of an ego threat.
[00:18:35] But if you're their friend, it doesn't feel good. When they're saying, "Oh, Jordan, you got ahead because of this inheritance," from these poor living people.
[00:18:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:18:42] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Who are you? So what it does is it diminishes what you've worked hard for. And so it's really hard to maintain a friendship in that when you constantly feel that that's happening. And sometimes people in these relationships feel guilty at succeeding where the narcissist is not, they're like, "Oh, I'm not going to tell them I did this or got this because I don't want to hurt their feelings." So a lot of people in narcissistic relationships actually learn to silence—
[00:19:06] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:19:06] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —their own accomplishments, so they don't hurt the narcissistic person's fragile ego.
[00:19:12] Jordan Harbinger: Also, these folks are often vindictive when slighted because, and you said — this makes so much sense — external image is all they have. So they have to be vindictive when slighted, because if somebody slights me, yeah, it doesn't feel good, but I'm probably not going to think about it for more than a few minutes, and even that's too long. But we've all seen the person who cannot ever let anything go, and it's because these slights, these tiny little things are elevated to primary importance because they don't have anything else going on. I thought that was really enlightening as well.
[00:19:43] And also paranoia, I didn't see this one coming, they often think that other people are out to get them, which I guess if the focus of the whole world according to you is also you, that makes sense. But these folks are prone to racism, nationalism. That really is interesting. I'm wondering if you think there's a rise in that too because it sure seems that way from watching the news.
[00:20:04] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Well, think about it, right? So at any ism, you know, the willingness to dismiss an entire group of people reflects not only an entitlement but a lack of empathy. How could an entire group of people on the existence of something like race or you know, whatever it is, it's an absolute unseen of another human being? And so what it does though is that there's this, and this is if you want to radicalize or create nationalistic movements, you try to foster an us-them mentality.
[00:20:31] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:20:31] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And so if I'm in the group that's better, then I'm great and narcissistic people are always looking for ways to pump themselves up. So what better way to say it? Do it, then the other group is bad and I'm great. And that could be anything from sports teams to race to whatever, you know, the town someone's from nationality, religion, picks something. And so it speaks to sort of the mental weakness that is narcissism because it's that need to sort of say that the group I'm in is great, yes, I'm great rather than it's another group of people I can get to know people as individuals. But the constant threats that narcissistic people feel from the world, just like with the paranoia. Narcissistic people have something, the fancy term for it—
[00:21:10] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:21:11] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —is hostile attribution bias. And hostile attribution bias is the attribution you make for other people's behaviors. Like somebody who may look at you in a store is always hostile, like it's threatening versus maybe they're looking at me in the store because I remind them of someone, or they think they recognize me. "No, they're out to get me. What are you looking at?" That kind of thing, that's the hostile attribution bias, and that's a very classical part of narcissism.
[00:21:34] Jordan Harbinger: The other behavior in the outer world is inconsistent with their inner world. And the example that slipped right out and hit me in the face was that CEO who got famous for paying $70,000 a year wage for his payments company. And he was in the media and he was all writing on LinkedIn, and he was this big deal, and he is always like the corporate America, they're taking too much. And then now his current thing is a dozen-plus women saying he's sexually harassed and or abused them. All of his exes are coming out like, "Yeah, this guy's a total bastard. I didn't say anything because he was in freaking Forbes for being the best CEO ever and paying everybody a living wage and coming out against greed." And it turns out he's just, yeah, maybe he's generous with money because he's getting validation, but he's also gropey and gross.
[00:22:17] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Correct. And we see this all the time in these big, you know, these increasing numbers of corporate scandals, a lot of which we then sort of really start escalating during Me-Too, and they're all the ones that never got documented prior to Me-Too, or the people died is that that idea of the person who is viewed as the titan, the genius, the generous one, the philanthropist is behaving in this horrifying way. That inconsistency though, it actually speaks to sort of the inconsistency that they themselves feel.
[00:22:48] Remember it's very simple to understand narcissism, they need validation. So if they're like, "Oh, if I give these people a lot of money and be Mr. Philanthropists or Ms. Philanthropists or whatever, then I'm going to get a lot of validation. I'm going to do that. That seems like a good thing to do." It's not out of a love for the cause or anything like that. In fact, they often have contempt for the people they may be trying to benefit. It's just that they're going to get recognition. And what they're not going to do is give that money quietly, right?
[00:23:12] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:23:12] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So they're going to make sure there's galas and posts and "Aren't I great? And look what a humanitarian I am and blah, blah, blah, blah." But we come to find out they're screaming at their household staff. They're sexually harassing and abusing people. But then there's another level to this. Harvey Weinstein's a great example. Anyone in the industry will say, everybody knew he was behaving badly for years, but everyone wanted to be part of the Miramax miracle machine. Everybody wanted their name affixed to a big project. "Let me get that on my name. Then I can distance myself from this monstrous guy and I can go make it in this dream industry," right? So the fact of the matter is whether it's a Bernie Madoff, whether it's a Harvey Weinstein, anyone who's got that level of notoriety, but was able to get away with the stuff behind the scenes, people will often soften those edges so they can get what they want from that. That's something also called cognitive dissonance. We want the pieces to fit, and if they don't—
[00:24:05] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:24:06] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —there's a sense of tension. So we're going to tell ourselves the stories we need to tell, whether as a society or as an individual, but there is often that incongruousness, and in many ways, it shows that the narcissistic person knows that what they're doing behind the wall is inappropriate, so they're creating that offset image. There's a form of narcissism called communal narcissism.
[00:24:26] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:24:26] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: It's a really interesting model of it because these folks, they get their validation and admiration by being do-gooders, by being rescuers. Some you see here, again, some of these sort of really hypocritical philanthropists or people who are on Instagram rescuing whatever animal de jour they're doing, but doing it in their bikinis. And in the worst example, a lot of these sorts of new-age folks who are out there, you know, proclaiming the virtues of positivity, cult-like structures, all of that. All of that is in that communal narcissistic model. And what we know at the communal narcissist, when they're not rescuing the elephants or recruiting people into a cult or giving away money, they're often quite cruel and abusive to the people closest to them. People who may work for them, family members, whatever, but those people close to them can almost never get support because the world views that person as so great and so wonderful and so virtuous that nobody believes them. So there's a real cruelty to what happens to people stuck in those relationships with communal narcissists.
[00:25:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, there's also covert narcissism as well. Tell us the difference here from regular, regular good old narcissism.
[00:25:32] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So here's a chance to dispel sort of a misuse of language, right? So the covert narcissists are actually those vulnerable narcissists I talk about.
[00:25:39] Jordan Harbinger: Uh-huh, okay.
[00:25:40] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So what happened was that language kind of got, as the Internet does, like, you know, now that TikTok seems to be, supposed to be the substitute for therapy for everyone, that now what we see is that the language got morphed and the original, the sort of the orthodox language around this, the vulnerable narcissist is that resentful. So even I made that mistake in that book, and it was interesting, as I started doing deeper and deeper and deeper dives into literature, I was like, oh, I should have gotten that one right. I did my mea culpa, but it's vulnerable narcissism.
[00:26:08] Covert narcissism, it's the stuff we can't. So it's their thoughts, it's their feelings. It's the stuff that's going on in their heads, right? "I'm so great," and we can't see it though. It's just being reflected in their behavior. The overt narcissism would be the bragging and the arrogance and all of that. The covert narcissism is the stuff we can't see. That term covert narcissism is often used interchangeably with vulnerable narcissism, which is that more victimized form of narcissism.
[00:26:38] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dr. Ramani. We'll be right.
[00:26:43] This episode is sponsored in part by HVMN. I am a skeptic when it comes to a lot of things. Supplements are no exception. I was very skeptical about ketones because first of all, I'd never even heard of it. If you don't know what that is, like I didn't. Ketones help you burn fatty acids for fuel, which gives you focus. That's different and frankly, a lot better than coffee in my opinion. Ketones are also something your body naturally makes, just not in the same quantity. I originally thought it was coffee giving me a boost, but it definitely turned out to be this stuff that was making me feel less jittery, angsty, more focused, trimming the appetite down a little bit. I take it before my workouts. I definitely see and feel a difference and I constantly make fun of the taste. And I'll be honest with you, the taste is absolutely vile and maybe that's how you know it works. I mean, if the ketones don't wake you up in the morning for your workout, the taste will wake you up in the morning for your workout. They've got a government contract with special forces, they're using this stuff. A lot of extreme athletes are using it as well. You can also find HVMN's Ketone-IQ in California Earthbar locations. So if you're at Equinox in California, make sure to try it before your workout.
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[00:29:41] Now, back to Dr. Ramani.
[00:29:44] I think a lot of people maybe know someone like this, but it slips. They say, "Well, he's kind of a narcissist, but also kind of not because he doesn't do all these other things." And then, when I learned about covert or vulnerable narcissism, I was like, "Ah, okay. Definitely just that instead." Yeah, that makes a lot more sense.
[00:30:02] Victims of narcissistic abuse can often fall for shady new age gurus. You kinda mentioned these new age gurus a minute ago. I'd love to discuss briefly how and why this happens because I see this all the time, especially when I lived in LA a lot of these people in these weird self-help cults, they had parental issues or abuse or bad partners and I thought this is just an extension of that. And I'd go to these recruitment meetings because it was a business leadership thing. And you get duped into going and I'm like, "This is gross. it doesn't resonate with me at all. I'm out of here." And other people, I check in with them six months later and that they're still doing it. And I'm thinking, "What? This is the dumbest thing in the world. Why does this appeal to you?" And they're just getting sucked into this. Just like they got sucked into the bad relationship with the last three guys they dated or whatever.
[00:30:47] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: You know, we look at that — what is it? It's things like having to earn yourself or earn your place in the relationship. A lot of them have levels, right? You go from this level to that level, to that level. That's so much the architecture of a narcissistic relationship or win me over more. There's a lot of money that exchanges hands. But what it is, is that a lot of these sort of toxic new age types is they shame any kind of negative emotion. "Oh, if that didn't happen for you, I guess you didn't try hard enough, you're not manifesting hard enough."
[00:31:13] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:31:14] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: That's on you versus really giving a holistic look at it. And a person who's vulnerable will very much fall for that kind of nonsense. And under the kind of billing and the community that these new age folks bring, "Come and we're going to have crystals on the beach," but then you're like, "What is happening?" Like you're—
[00:31:31] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:31:32] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —blaming these people for circumstances in their lives they had no control over. And what happens too is that these organizations will often isolate, "Oh, your friend is telling you that this isn't cool. Uh, you're letting too much negative energy into your life. A place to start is to hold this pink crystal and tell your friend you don't want to talk to them anymore." And so now they start isolating these people from the counterweights in their life, sort of get more and more isolated. And before you know it, you're all the way in. It's a systematic indoctrination in these, but you need a person who is often looking for answers, you know? And like you said, some of them are even, it's not even just vulnerable people trying to work out soul pain. Sometimes it's just people, business leadership, I know exactly what you're talking about.
[00:32:13] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:32:14] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And that people get into this and like, "Oh, this was the answer to everything." But really what it is, is that they often take very basic principles of positive psychology and cognitive behavioral psychology, and they repackage it as like, "Your mind can control everything."
[00:32:30] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:32:30] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: "You know, you are only using two percent of your brain capacity." No, you're not. You're using it all. Trust me. But they'll sell people on this sort of pseudoscience and really confusing stuff, but people who don't know, and the people who sell this stuff are very slick, very charismatic. It's all packaged really well. You know, people will go with it because people are seeking answers. I think we're in a really existentially bruised time in human history. So narcissistic people are climbing right in there and selling this kind of snake oil, and they're great salespeople.
[00:33:05] Jordan Harbinger: I found it interesting that some people are more likely to develop narcissism, and it's kind of more than I wanted to go into in this discussion, but there's biological vulnerability. There's, of course, the way you were raised and kids are inherently narcissistic, but I thought, okay, if kids are inherently narcissistic, that's why adults who act narcissistic seem like toddlers. And now that I have toddlers, I'm like, "Wait a second. You're kind of acting like that guy did at Target the other day." And I realize, I guess my question is, is it safe to say that narcissism is something we grow out of versus something we grow into? And then, of course, some people just don't grow out of it. And that's why I see the guy yelling at the cashier for squeezing his loaf of bread too hard while scanning it, real example.
[00:33:45] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So even when I say, you know, kids, adolescents are narcissistic, they still have empathy.
[00:33:51] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:33:51] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: I bet your toddler actually has empathy. You know, if they sense that you or the other parent was, I actually think that you'd see the sadness register on their face right away. Those mirror neurons, the beginning of empathy, your single most important task is that little what person's parent is to infuse them with that empathy to mirror back, to create that back and forth.
[00:34:12] Now, the narcissistic folks don't get that from their parents, but I actually would argue that most even small kids, even toddlers, have more empathy than your average narcissist. But that egocentricity, that self-centeredness, the child needs to have that, you know, so they can develop. All their resources need to go into turning them to the adult they're going to be. So I think that what happens is I don't know that we grow out of it because I think even the most tantrumy toddler isn't narcissistic. I think even the most tantrumy toddler just doesn't have the tools to be able to talk through being tired or express what they need. The narcissistic person has the language, they have the tools. They're just choosing not to use them. That's a choice. For the child, it's not a choice.
[00:34:52] Now what happens is there's a certain biological vulnerability or temperament. Temperament is the biological part of our personality. It's why you might even have like a funny little, I know, funny little bit of your personality that's exactly like an uncle you've no contact with almost whatsoever.
[00:35:08] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:35:09] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: It's just there is a biological part of it to things like stubbornness, agreeableness, all of that. We've seen that. Now, it's not completely, and that temperament gets shaped by the world. Narcissistic people, there's no good longitudinal work on this. This is speculative. We see some of this stuff in the research on borderline personality supports it a little more, even psychopathy is supported by this, that narcissistic kids probably have, I should say, people who go on to become narcissistic adults likely have really difficult temperaments.
[00:35:38] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:35:39] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: They're the kids that are difficult to soothe. They're the kids who can't sit down. They're attention seeking. People don't like them. They're not nice kids. They're difficult kids. And it's kind of mean because they are kids.
[00:35:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:35:51] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And yet they're cartwheeling through the living room. They're demanding, "Oh, look at me. I'm doing a show. Look at me. Look at me." You're like, "Oh my god." Whereas the other kid may be al bit more serene and may be able to play by themselves. That more serene kid is going to get a lot more positive inputs from the environment. Then that, "look at me, look at me," inattentive, jumping out of their chair, difficult to soothe, loud kid. So already the world is starting to invalidate that kid a little bit too. That combination of the early invalidating environment and that biological vulnerability, that's how you create these difficult personality styles, and that's the work of, even like Marsha Lenihan has written about this borderline personality, but I think it applies in narcissistic too.
[00:36:32] The problem is though too, we also have this other piece to it. We know there's some narcissistic kids out there where it wasn't so trauma-ish, abusive, invalidating as a kid, their parents were just really overindulgent.
[00:36:44] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:36:44] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: They got anything they wanted. They never had to regulate disappointment. Everything was handed to them. They cried. Parents would do anything to stop it versus, "hey, sometimes you lose, kid." Like these are the parents who buy off the coach, you know, to make sure their kid is a starter, all of that stuff. And that continues to even when they're in adolescence and the parents buy off the university to get them into college, and that just keeps going, right? So they recognize that there's no sort of internal, everything's external, and that's how that sort of moves adult narcissism.
[00:37:17] And I always say narcissism is always a story we can tell backwards with complete clarity. But it's a really difficult story to tell forwards. And what I mean by that is a lot of folks reach out to me. "My 17-year-old is mean and entitled and oppositional," and I'm like, "You know what? Call me in about eight to 10 years and we'll talk."
[00:37:37] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:37:37] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: But right now they're acting like an adolescent. But I'll promise you this, in any 28, 29, 30, even 50-year-old narcissist, if you're able to find the people who were witness to them in adolescence and childhood, they'll say, "Yeah, they were a handful." So if you can tell it backwards, you just can't predict it forward.
[00:37:54] Jordan Harbinger: That makes a lot of sense. Because I was just thinking, my kid says, "Look at me, I'm doing a show." But then I'm like, well, but everyone likes somebody. He's really kind and he — well, okay, never mind.
[00:38:01] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: That's it.
[00:38:02] Jordan Harbinger: But yeah, I guess, it can be less obvious, and yeah, just wait till he is a teenager. I'm sure I was a nightmare as a teenager. I'm fairly confident of that at some level.
[00:38:11] You told me before the show that being around narcissism for a long time can actually make you sick. And I'm not just referring to the trickle-down narcissism where the victim starts to behave with less empathy because they themselves are not being given any, I mean, actual physical illness. And you kind of touched on this at the top of the show, the concept of perceived partner responsiveness was something I just never heard of. Can we discuss that a little bit? I thought this was so interesting.
[00:38:35] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So you're in a relationship, right? And you have a partner and when you laugh, they laugh with you. Most often, if you tell them news, they drop what they're doing to listen to you say, "I've had a hard day." They come and talk to you like, you know, there's a confidence that you can go to your partner. And they will respond to you in a way that shows an awareness of what you're saying to them. They're actually listening to you. And then when you bring whatever it is, good, bad, or indifferent, they respond to you. But that's not just reality. It's also how you perceive it. And that perception comes from reality, right? How this person behaved.
[00:39:06] So that idea of if you, over time when you're in a narcissistic relationship, you really learn that nothing I say to this person matters. They don't care if I'm sick, they don't care if I'm well, They don't care. They just don't care.
[00:39:17] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:39:17] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And that when you have this idea of a low perceived partner, responsiveness is bad for your health. I have worked with so many survivors over the years, and I am struck. By how much worse the course of their illness was than it needed to me. They did not have biological vulnerabilities and genetic vulnerabilities to illnesses that they were getting. They were developing a lot of non-specific physical issues that didn't really track, but the chronic stress of living with someone invalidating, not having that partner responsiveness, basically living in a house full of mirrors that don't show back your reflection is a really unsettling feeling, and we know that cumulative stress can relate to a whole host of health issue. It's a tough way to live.
[00:39:59] And I have to say, I've worked with long-term survivors. People have been in marriages 30, 40, 50 years, and the kinds of health issues they're having, it really tracks. It really makes sense of the cumulative stress of being in the relationship. I am also struck by people who will say, "Oh, one day the narcissistic person died and within six months my health improved."
[00:40:16] Jordan Harbinger: That's incredible. And I would imagine also getting sick while your partner is a narcissist is incredibly inconvenient for them and they just view it as an annoying thing that they have to deal with.
[00:40:26] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: It's absolutely terrible. And what's so sad is some people will say, "Oh, you know what? I'm getting older. I need a companion. And gosh, when I'm older, I just need someone to care for me." I said, "They're not going to care for you."
[00:40:36] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:40:36] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Not everyone listens. And the number of tales I've heard of people who said exactly what you just said, they feel inconvenienced by their partner's illness. The narcissistic person almost doesn't like the mortality reminder that another person's illness is. They don't like the change to their routine. "Hospitals make me uncomfortable."
[00:40:54] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:40:54] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Oh, do you think they make you uncomfortable, how do you think about the person who's sick?
[00:40:57] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:40:57] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And so what the person will find is the so-called person they thought would take care of them when they're older has no problem dropping them off at the curb when it's chemo day and saying, "I'll be back in a few hours," or, "Can't you find another ride home from your colonoscopy?" or, "How could you inconvenience me?" They won't visit them in the hospital. They won't take care of them at home. They won't even give them a meal. That's the sort of stuff. Although if the narcissist gets sick, oh my gosh.
[00:41:24] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:41:25] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: They expect you to turn the house into an intensive care unit, but they have absolutely no capacity to take care of a sick person and will often gaslight that sick person and say, "Are you really that sick?"
[00:41:35] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:41:36] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Or, "It seems like you're making a really big deal of your symptoms." And I have to say, for some survivors, that was the moment that broke them. They thought, after all, I put up with, I thought at least there was this other person in the house who would take care of me and they actually made it worse.
[00:41:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Ugh, it's so awful. And when you hear about children having to provide narcissistic supply for the narcissist parents, it's so unfair. It's so exhausting.
[00:41:58] How do narcissistic parents program their kids in weird ways that show up in adulthood, right? The conditional love. The book mentioned something really interesting called shape-shifting, where the kids will try to suit the perceived wants of their parents, which, that is obviously unhealthy. That just reaches through the page and hits you in the face when you read that.
[00:42:18] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So the narcissistic parent doesn't view their child as an autonomous individual outside of them.
[00:42:24] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:42:24] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: In fact, they're inconvenienced by the child. They're often, and what they do is they get very resentful if that child needs anything. Like, "Wait a minute, you want something? And that doesn't work for me. How dare you." And so what ends up happening is the narcissistic parent holds all the power, right? So what they're able to do is basically say the narcissistic parent holds the only reality. The child is not permitted to have a reality outside of that. So when the child, for example, expresses a need, that need is shamed or that child is viewed as disloyal.
[00:42:54] And while the parent may not say that in as many words, the child will sort of start detecting the dance, I express the need the parent withdrew. So children are incredibly perceptive. And as they start putting together that the only way you're going to get the time of day around this place is if you do everything that that person wants. The only way you're going to be safe around this place is if you do everything that that narcissistic parent wants, then the child starts doing that. And they're like, "Oh gosh, yeah, I had no interest in soccer, but maybe if I play soccer then my parent will pay attention. Maybe if I play tennis one day they'll play tennis with me."
[00:43:27] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:43:28] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So they try to take on the intro. "I'm going to be a doctor when I grow up because my mom's a doctor," and they'll talk from the age of six, "Mommy, mommy, I'm going to be a doctor just like you." The poor kid is just doing that to be seen by the parent.
[00:43:39] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:43:40] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So they literally just shape-shift and become whatever that parent wants because the parent does not hold space for that child to develop into their own autonomous human being with their own needs, their own wants, that they're valuable that way and that they love them. But the narcissistic parent, just like they are with everyone, they can't be bothered that somebody would exist outside of them. Succession is a great example of that. The narcissistic father in Succession. The show with all of—
[00:44:05] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, HBO.
[00:44:06] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Perfect.
[00:44:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:44:06] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: It's the best example of that I've ever seen in a show.
[00:44:09] Jordan Harbinger: Adult children of narcissists often cannot enjoy their life's successes because they overshadow the parent and are thus belittled for it and/or feel guilty about it. I'm paraphrasing, but that's the culmination of all of this sort of sadness, so even if you escape the orbit and you do well for yourself and you manage to get a happy life, there's a possibility, a distinct possibility, you're going to be made to feel like crap because you're not making your crazy mom or dad, the center of your world now.
[00:44:35] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: From a relatively young age, if the narcissistic child outshines the parent, let's say the child is, I don't know, winning awards for something or getting attention or anything like that, the narcissistic parent isn't going to like that unless it can be harnessed in a way that the narcissistic parent is getting some form of adulation, like a stage parent kind of thing, right?
[00:44:53] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:44:53] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Now, fast forward that into adulthood, that same ideation. Let's say a person goes on to make more money than the narcissistic parent or have significantly more success, either the narcissistic parent will devalue or diminish it. "Well, of course, you did well, kid. We took care of everything."
[00:45:08] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:45:08] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: "We couldn't have made your life easier. I had to work for everything I had. If you couldn't have done that much with everything we got you, you're a bum." Right? So there's that piece of it. But then there's also — no child wants their parent to envy them. That is too destabilizing because it takes away the grandiose idea of the parent. Take that into adulthood. The adult may feel guilty that they are doing better than the parent.
[00:45:30] I'll never forget a story that incredibly successful man I had worked with. He had a very narcissistic mother and he had said that after he made his first billion, he wanted to buy a house for his mom in a place that she'd always wanted, that vacation house. He came from actually relatively modest means. And when he did, his mom, instead of saying, "Thank you so much for this beautiful house," she said, "Oh, well, I guess for a billionaire this is the best you could do?" So she was sort of nudging at him and he was devastated. He said, "I felt no different than when I showed up to her with a picture I made in school, and she would say it wasn't very good."
[00:46:09] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:46:09] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Like that invalidation of her child was who she was, you know, from the picture he made when he was five to the villa he bought her when he was 35. But then it's also that sense of there may be envy that the parent would, you know, again, envy them and then the child will almost try to soften that again by buying them the house or the car, paying all their bills. But it's almost like a survivor guilt that the child has that somehow they've surpassed the parent and that they were told from an early age that that was not okay.
[00:46:37] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Dr. Ramani. We'll be right back.
[00:46:42] This episode is sponsored in part by Progressive insurance. Most of you listening right now are probably multitasking. So while you're listening to me talk, you're probably also driving, cleaning, exercising, maybe even grocery shopping. But if you're not in some kind of moving vehicle, there's something else you can be doing right now, getting an auto quote from Progressive insurance. It's easy and you can save money by doing it right from your phone. Drivers who save by switching to Progressive, save over $700 on average and auto customers qualify for an average of seven discounts. Discounts for having multiple vehicles on your policy, being a homeowner, and more. So just like your favorite podcast, Progressive will be with you 24/7, 365 days a year, so you're protected no matter what. Multitask right now, quote your car insurance at progressive.com to join the over 27 million drivers who trust Progressive.
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[00:47:40] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is sponsored in part by A Slight Change of Plans podcast. They say the only constant in life is change. That's true, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the changes in our lives. A Slight Change of Plans from Pushkin Industries is here to help. It's hosted by Dr. Maya Shankar. She is a former guest of the show, really amazing person. She's a cognitive scientist who is an expert on human behavior. It's a show all about who we are and who we become in the face of a big change. A Slight Change of Plans features, incredible stories of transformation from guests like Ruby Bridges, who at six years old became a civil rights icon. And Christy Warren, a first responder who after enduring psychological trauma from helping others in emergencies bravely sought out help for herself. Blending science with storytelling, A Slight Change of Plans will leave you thinking differently about change in your own life. Listen to A Slight Change of Plans wherever you get your podcasts.
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[00:48:51] Now for the rest of my conversation with Dr. Ramani.
[00:48:56] Today, my son asked why his drawings were up on the wall, and I said, "Because we love them" and he goes, "Why?" And I said, "Well, we love everything you make for us." And he goes, "I'm making another one today." And you could tell he was so happy about that. I can't imagine doing the opposite of that. It's just so heartbreaking to think about because he's so little, he took great joy and pride in the idea that he did something that we were happy enough with to stick on the fridge. I'm going to tear up about my kid's stupid drawings on my show here. But I can't imagine doing the opposite of that. It's so heartbreaking. It makes me so sad to think that kids are growing up that way.
[00:49:29] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Lots, lots and lots and lots of kids.
[00:49:32] Jordan Harbinger: If you're raised by narcissistic parents, I know you're more likely to be susceptible to other narcissists and maybe pick narcissistic partners because of the tracks are already built, like the programming's already there. Are they also then more likely to become narcissistic themselves?
[00:49:47] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: By and large, the vast majority of people who have narcissistic parents go into adulthood, anxious, not aware of their own capacities. They're often more vulnerable to the sense of, "I'm not good enough," right? That's the vast majority. Do a percentage of them though go on to become narcissistic? Absolutely. You know the fastest way to create a narcissistic adult is for them to have had a narcissistic parent. But that's not the majority.
[00:50:12] Remember, that temperament piece? That is why, because listen, there's people out there who are really nice people and they have a narcissistic sibling.
[00:50:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:50:19] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: How did that happen? Right? Because they had the same parents.
[00:50:21] Jordan Harbinger: That's a good point.
[00:50:22] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And it was temperament. It was temperament. In fact, I've worked with people, parents who were married to narcissists. I worked with a non-narcissistic parent. They were married and then divorced from a narcissist and they have kids who are now adults and one of their adult kids is a narcissist and their other kid is a sweetheart. And one of the things we unpack right away is how were these kids when they were small. And they'll say, oh yeah, that narcissistic kid was a handful. But more than anything, that non-narcissistic kid was an angel. Like just a sweetie, sweetie, sweetie. Like just easygoing and had a great easy temperament and really, you know, still got really harmed by that narcissistic parent. And in adulthood doesn't understand their value, but you need that temperament piece. You really do to turn that person and then the narcissistic parent has a much greater likelihood of that spinning into a narcissistic adult child.
[00:51:10] Jordan Harbinger: That makes sense. It's kind of like how some metals are more magnetic than others.
[00:51:14] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Mm-hmm.
[00:51:15] Jordan Harbinger: And they react more strongly. That totally checks out. Also, I thought it was really interesting that it's not just people from bad families with, or I put bad, but from families with narcissists that fall from narcissistic partners. It's often people from really great families that fall from narcissistic partners because they view everything with the lens that it's all going to be okay, and maybe they don't see this type of behavior because they've never experienced it before. Maybe they believe in fairy tales and happily ever after and maybe they're a little naive. I thought that was really interesting because you would think, oh, the track's already there. They would recognize it. This is, they don't recognize it because it's all new to them, maybe.
[00:51:51] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Remember, the trick with the narcissistic relationship is that there are lots of good days in there with those bad days, right? So it'll be bad day, bad day, bad day, best weekend ever.
[00:52:00] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:52:01] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Bad month, amazing vacation, right? So you're going back and forth, but the person from the happy family gets the message. If you love enough, love saves things if you're there and our family matters more than anything. They get that messaging and they believe that messaging, because that's how they grew up. That's what they saw. So as a result, and even their family's like, "Come on, yeah, marriage is work. Sure. Sometimes we'd argue," but their argue was like, "Oh, you know, I don't want to chocolate cupcake." Not this kind of soul-devastating argument. And even the family can't be of much help. They're like, "Just work harder. Try harder. We'll just love them more. We're going to take you all on vacation."
[00:52:37] Again, having worked with families in this situation, I remember again working with a really sweet, sweet, sweet couple, loving, married forever. Happy, happy, happy. They'd wear matching pajamas, all the happy family things people do. And their daughter married a really narcissistic guy. Part of it was the love bombing seems like not so love bombing. Like of course, people do nice things in a relationship.
[00:52:59] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:52:59] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Then once things started getting bad, the whole idea was like, "Oh, I'm not supporting them. They're going through a lot of stress. I just need to be a better partner." And the family would pipe in saying the same. Everyone believed it was fixable. So when the thing went off the rails, these parents were like, "We don't know what, what is this?" Right? These were older people in their '70s. I'm like, "Oh, let me teach you about this." And they said, "This is not our world." And then they thought their daughter would be able to waltz into divorce court and get full custody of her kids because the husband was so mean. I was like, "Slow down, folks."
[00:53:29] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:53:30] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: You know? And I had to walk them through what family court was really about. And it was amazing to me, because these were people, like I said, in their '70s, but they were as naive as children. And I kind of envied them. I'm like, oh my god, I wish I could have gotten to that age—
[00:53:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:53:41] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —not knowing that this lurked out there, but they did not know how to help their daughter because they had no playbook for this. So that's where I'm saying it created a vulnerability. But the good thing was though, the daughter felt incredibly supported by her family, right?
[00:53:55] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:53:55] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So, I mean, even at the end of the day, it's a win to come from a loving family. I just think that everyone knowing about this means that when the love bombing turns into red flags that no love is going to rescue this one. Someone's behaving like a fool, there is no beauty and the beast. You need to get out.
[00:54:11] Jordan Harbinger: You mentioned family court, and in the book, you note that narcissists, even if they just completely ignore your kids, view them as an inconvenience, they're still going to use them as leverage because they know it can hurt you and they can get what they want. They're not thinking, "This is bad for the kids to be jerked around like this." They'll take 50 percent custody and just make the kids watch the iPad for three straight days while they go off and do their thing. If it's going to mean that they won or you didn't win, right?
[00:54:34] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: That's the most painful part of these divorces is that the narcissistic parent may not be interested in the drudgery of parenting, right? I mean—
[00:54:40] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:54:41] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —parenting is a joy, but it is a lot of drudgery.
[00:54:43] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:54:43] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And so what happens is there is that fight. It's almost like, I want this thing that you want.
[00:54:49] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:54:49] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And so that creates a lot of it too. But also for many narcissistic people, it's not as if they're all like, "I want to be, I don't want these kids." They like the look of it.
[00:54:58] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:54:58] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: They're often the Disneyland parents, right? These are the Disneyland dads that, "Oh, we're going to go do super fun stuff. We're going to go to super space surf camp, then we'll go to Disneyland, and then we're going to go do this." And then they didn't do their homework, right? So then the other parent is left like, "Oh my gosh, we've got the four days of homework and you've only eaten hot dogs for five days."
[00:55:16] So that other parent is in the far less lovely position of having to be broccoli and homework. I mean, that's tough after super space surf camp. And so the narcissistic parent also knows it's a look, right? Like they want to be viewed as the good parent. And then so they want custody so they can get the pictures and say, "Look what a great parent I am," and sometimes what happens is they're not that interested in their kids and then they meet someone new and they want to create Insta family. So now all of a sudden they'll fight to have more custody of their kids so they can bring them in with this new partner and say, "Look at us. We're the Brady Bunch."
[00:55:50] Jordan Harbinger: Ugh, yuck. Uh, I'm getting skin crawl. I know I'm going to get emails from people who are like, "This happened to me," and I'm ready for it because I love to support my audience with stuff like this. And I think a lot of people are going to see and feel some relief being like, "Oh, this is a thing. It's not just me having the worst luck in the world with my ex—
[00:56:06] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: No.
[00:56:06] Jordan Harbinger: —whatever. I know that we've gone a while here, but I do want to talk about what we do if we find out, "Hey, there's a narcissist in my life. I know from your book that once you start making accommodations for these people, it's like ants at a picnic. You attract more because you're making them, I don't know, you're making a comfortable environment for them through your actions.
[00:56:24] So let's talk about how to do the opposite of that or something that's effective for getting these people to go away or for letting us go.
[00:56:33] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: So there's no easy way out if you're in it, the more—
[00:56:35] Jordan Harbinger: Of course.
[00:56:35] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —significant the relationship is like a marriage or family relationship that's going to be a lot harder to cut ties than maybe a—
[00:56:42] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:56:42] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —friendship or even a workplace thing if there's workarounds, right? And if people only get one thing from this podcast episode is, don't call them out. Do not walk up to a narcissistic person and say, "Yo, you're a narcissist." Not only is it never going to work, you're going to have to deal with the tirade, the likes of with, which is not worth it. This is one of those things to keep on stealth. You're like, "Okay, now I see what this is. What do I do?"
[00:57:07] Listen, when it comes to intimate relationships, I'd say probably at least half of people stay in these relationships. They don't want shared custody. There's financial issues, there's cultural, religious, whatever. They still have hope, whatever the reasons are. I never judge a person for staying, but I tell them, you're in for a tough ride. So you're going to have to radically accept that this is never going to change. There can be no more of, "maybe this year it's going to be different." It's never going to be different. You need to start building a life for yourself outside of this relationship, whether that's hobbies, friendships, work, anything that gives you meaning and purpose. Throw yourself into your kids, but you're never going to get those emotional needs met from this person. And keep in mind, Jordan, I am not talking about cases where there's physical violence. That's—
[00:57:47] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:57:47] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —a whole different situation. I'm talking about more of the sort of the really invalidating, negating horribleness of a narcissistic long-term relationship. If, however, you're like, I want out, you need to be prepared for the fight of your life. And I think that it is unconscionable to say to someone, "Oh, just get up and leave."
[00:58:04] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:58:05] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Because I'll tell you, the post-separation abuse is real. You may have to endure such psychological abuse. Some people say it was almost easier to be abused in the relationship than out.
[00:58:15] Jordan Harbinger: Ugh.
[00:58:15] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: It doesn't mean it's not a worthy endeavor. Some people say, "I want out." They endure it. They get to the other side and they're glad it's over. And for those people out there are like, "Oh, you know, I think my narcissist is cheating on me and they're going to leave me." I'd be like, "Great. Good for you—"
[00:58:28] Jordan Harbinger: Good
[00:58:28] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: "—because that's a lot." When it comes to family relationships, it's a little bit trickier because you might have some family members you adore and others that are really narcissistic. It's about finding those workarounds, finding ways to be there, but also knowing, I always say to people, here's the easiest trick, and it's not easy, simple, like straightforward trick to try—
[00:58:48] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:58:48] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —if you're dealing with a narcissist, I say never go deep. And by deep, I mean don't defend. Don't engage, don't explain, and don't personalize. If you do those four things, you actually could probably survive. The narcissistic relationships you can't get out of by don't defend is when they're projecting stuff on you or gaslighting. You're like, "Okay," and you just sort of shrugging like, whatever.
[00:59:09] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:59:10] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: You know, you don't engage, just don't, don't talk to them. Like stick to the weather and like the neighbor's barking dog because there's no way a conversation is going to go well. Maybe a movie you just saw. Don't explain. Like people said, "Let me explain my feelings to you." They're not listening.
[00:59:26] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:59:26] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Don't do it. And then the don't personalize, it's not you, it's them. This is their stuff. They do this to anyone who's sitting in your seat as their partner, as their colleague, whatever. This is just who they are. They're equal-opportunity offenders. This is not about you. You might be getting the worst of it because you're close to them. It is about boundaries, which are not easy to set. because when you set them, they're going to get mad. They're going to bait you, they're going to try to draw you into arguments. They're going to call you names. They're going to say, "Oh, you think you're all that? What? Are you in therapy now?"
[00:59:57] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:59:57] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: "Is that what your therapist told you to be like this?" Very contemptuous, very dismissive. But I think half the battle is the knowing it so you don't personalize it. But there's also grief because this relationship you may have put belief in for years or decades or even a life. You're kind of giving up on it. You're like—
[01:00:16] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:00:16] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: "Okay, this is not going to get better." And so there's a period of grief and I tell people, Prepare yourself for that. It might mean therapy, support groups, whatever you can do to sort of understand that this hurts. It's not easy for you. But I'll tell you, it's a lot easier than enduring someone else's invalidation. And I sometimes tell people, and if you're not convinced, go into what I call the tiger's cage.
[01:00:40] And so if you walk into a tiger's cage, they're going to kill you or they're going to pull off your arm or maul you, right? If it's really a tiger. But if you're still suspicious and think it's just those sweet little cat, walk into the cage and see how it works out for you. If indeed what you encounter, you say something to them, you talk to them, you try to communicate with them, and they actually are amenable. Maybe you misread the situation, but if they start mauling you again, then there's your reminder. And sometimes people need a few of those reminders to say, "Okay—"
[01:01:06] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:01:07] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: "I'm dealing with someone narcissistic." All of us are dealing with people like this, Jordan, I have several folks in my life like this, and this is what I do for a damn living. And they're not people I can easily cut out. So it's a lot of radical acceptance. It's a very hollow relationship. I don't think about them. I never miss them. I don't care. I just, I can't, I really don't. But I do the right thing. Not for them, but for me. And I think that that's the piece to remember is I want to conduct myself in a way I consider is appropriate. But that said, I'm not getting in the mud with them.
[01:01:36] Jordan Harbinger: Should we go no contact if we can? You know, if we're not talking about somebody in our family or maybe we are. Look, let's say somebody has someone in their life that is just, Driving them nuts. It's a cousin. They might see them once a year maybe, but is there a point at which we just go, "You know what, I can safely cut this person off, or I can stop taking phone calls from my own parents because they're crazy and I'm an adult now."
[01:01:59] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: No contact is great. It's great. If you could do it with any narcissistic person in your life, it's great. Why? Because you're not putting up with their stuff anymore. No contact is no contact, right? It's you don't talk to them. You don't text with them. You don't call them. You don't go to social events with them. You take them off your social media.
[01:02:15] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:02:15] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: You're done. It's like quitting cigarettes. I mean, you're going to feel better in two months, not even, maybe even the first week. Or it's like quitting drinking or something. People's like, "I feel so much better." It's not like an occasional drink. You're all out, right?
[01:02:28] Now, again, if you're co-parenting, not practical, there's certain relationships, it doesn't work. But the random cousin who may only show up to this or that, you might say, "You know what? Call me when cousin leaves. I'm going to show up then. I can't." So no contact is such an extreme stance that it's not always possible for people.
[01:02:45] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:02:45] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: And sometimes you may be no contact for a long time and then you have to break that. I don't know, an older parent gets sick and—
[01:02:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, a funeral.
[01:02:51] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: —you're the only person who can step in or whatever it may be. There may be situations, but then you can do the don't go deep and all those other things I talked about the boundaries and all of that. Obviously no contact, it's a great strategy because you are protected from that. But some people will shame folks for going no contact. "Oh, come on now. Was it all that bad?"
[01:03:11] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:03:12] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: But when you can do it, like example, a workplace is a great example. If you leave a workplace, you can go no contact with those people. You never have to talk to them again. And people who do that will say it makes a huge difference. Some people, if they never had kids and they get divorced, they go no contact, they never talk to the person again. So part of it is what is around that. But there are other forms of dropping contact, what we call low contact. And low contact is things like gray rocking—
[01:03:35] Jordan Harbinger: Gray rock. This is my next thing. I love this. This is brilliant. Tell me about this.
[01:03:39] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Gray rocking is what it sounds like is you'd basically turn into a gray rock. You're boring, you're disengaged, you're sort of boring, you know? You're sort of, "How are you doing? I'm okay." You don't engage with them. Now, narcissistic people don't like gray rock. It's a little bit cold.
[01:03:53] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:03:53] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Abrupt, they really, really don't like it. And so it works. I mean, because they're going to escalate for a while because you're not responding to them. And then they're going to be so bored, they're just going to leave, right? But it's not always possible. You can't gray rock if you're co-parenting with someone.
[01:04:10] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[01:04:10] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: You can't always gray rock in the workplace. So a friend of mine who does a lot of work in family court reform and helping people coming out of narcissistic relationships named Tina Swithin. Tina came up with something called yellow rock. And yellow rock is where you kind of liven up that gray rock a little bit. So you have manners. So when the narcissist says it's not just like, "Hello, goodbye. I'm fine." It's like, "Yeah, hey, I'm having a good day," or, "Yeah, oh sure, Thanks. Yeah, thanks a lot." So there's more emotion, there's more feeling. You'd be like, you know, "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I went to Costco. The lines were so long today," you know? So there's that a little bit, but you're not saying a lot of anything. And that yellow rocking for some people hits a nice compromise, but you don't ask them about their day. You don't follow up, you don't get a conversation. And if they try to draw you into an argument, like, "Oh yeah, I know. So it's such a funny thing. Yeah." And then you get out of there.
[01:05:01] So the kids aren't seeing the sort of weird robotic communication. Colleagues aren't being made uncomfortable. Your cousin's wedding isn't getting ruined because you're gray-rocking everyone. You could be a little yellow rocky, and then find ways of just sort of shifting away from having anything more of a conversation with them. That's often a great way forward.
[01:05:20] Jordan Harbinger: Well, I know this was a lot and we went way over time, so thank you so much. I feel like myself and everyone who made it through to the end here is much, much better equipped to spot and deal with narcissists. So mission accomplished in that way. There's so much more in the book. I've got a lot I'm going to cover in the show close with the practicals and all kinds of things people can actually do, but I don't need you to go over them because I've already taken enough of your time.
[01:05:43] Thank you so much for that time and for that expertise here today. I know we're going to get a lot of emails about this and I'm just, I'm so happy to give people these kinds of tools. I just think it's so important, especially given that narcissism is not declining. Is that accurate?
[01:05:57] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: No, I think what's happening, it's not even that, it's not declining. We're incentivizing it more.
[01:06:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:06:01] Dr. Ramani Durvasula: Social media's giving them a stage. We venerate people who act like this and so I don't know that it's increasing, more that we're rewarding it more, which means that people who will say, "Well, I guess it's okay for me to be like this," but that's the problem. And that means people think they should get into relationships with these people and that's not a good idea.
[01:06:18] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you so much.
[01:06:21] You're about to hear a preview of The Jordan Harbinger Show with former NBA Superstar and American icon Shaquille O’Neal.
[01:06:28] Shaquille O’Neal: I'm flicking the channels and I see LL Cool J. I want to be a rapper. So I flicked the channel again, I see a guy doing a great sitcom. I want to be an actor. Of course, I'm a sports guy. I want to be Franco Harris, the Immaculate Conception. I want to be Reggie Jackson to hit a home run. My father made me ride from A to Z what I wanted to be. So A was a basketball player. B was a basketball player. I actually got in trouble for that.
[01:06:51] Dr. J changed my life. Dr. J was the guy that I said, "Okay, now, I know I want to be when I grow up." I had some good grades and my father took me to a game. We're way up in Madison Square Garden, probably top row. Boring game. Dr. J goes to baseline throwdown, the whole arena stands up. It actually scared me because I thought something was happening. And I look at my dad's like, "I know what I want to be when I grow up dad, I want to be that man."
[01:07:15] I've won on every level except college, Little League, AAU, Olympics, Junior Olympics. So as a youngster, when I used to play and win, he would let me celebrate the trophy one day. I'd come home after school and be gone. And he was the type, you never asked him where's the trophy at. So if I finally asked him when I got older and he said, "I did it because I never want you to be satisfied. I want you to always want more as a player." So even as a youngster, when I was a player and I wasn't that good that wasn't stopping me because I knew that because of my work ethic, I was going to be somebody. And once I saw Dr. J, it's all about believing.
[01:07:53] Jordan Harbinger: I got to ask or people are going to get mad. What's going on with the flat earth thing? Are you just messing with everybody with that?
[01:07:59] Shaquille O’Neal: It seems to be flat. Would you like to hear my theory?
[01:08:03] Jordan Harbinger: To hear more about how Shaq makes important business decisions and manages his expansive career, check out episode 691 of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:08:15] Lots here, I am so glad that I got to do an episode about this. I'm sure it will not be the last one. We all know people who just don't want the rules to apply to them, but want them to be mercilessly applied to others. They don't always say this exactly, right? It can manifest itself as eye rolls or other behavior. I found it interesting that Americans rate, other Americans as more narcissistic than others. Sure, maybe, but I don't know. Have you met the French?
[01:08:42] Soundbite: Come on, man.
[01:08:43] Jordan Harbinger: It does seem like narcissism may be rewarded in our society, especially in corporate America. We all have seen this, right with the narcissistic bosses. I'll talk more about that later. Another confounding factor here anyway is that narcissism and materialism, they go hand in hand, but also materialism is like a measure of success here in the West. It's almost encouraged. In fact, it is actually just encouraged.
[01:09:07] Narcissists, they can be great on the fun days, but they're just not there for the rest of it. Often people think they can get back to the way things were early in the relationship, the friendship, whatever it is, but it's really not possible. Relationships with narcissists are held together by hope. If you give them an ultimatum, the narcissist that is a divorce, breakup lawsuit, whatever it is, they may change for a while, but they're always going to revert back to their core characteristics because those have not changed. But it's important that we don't overuse the term narcissist and just slap the label on anybody we don't like or whose behavior we don't like.
[01:09:42] Dr. Ramani said that most narcissistic people are indeed toxic but not all toxic people are narcissists. Furthermore, toxic people aren't always toxic to everyone. When you're useful to them, hey, the sun might shine on you, but the clouds are always nearby. In a case, you haven't raced to our show notes to do so yet, if you have narcissistic parents or suspect you do, or you get a narcissistic spouse or kids, read this book, it's huge. But it's a virtual compendium on narcissism and how to deal with narcissists. The book also discusses toxic siblings, workplaces, children jordanharbinger.com/books always has our books, by the way.
[01:10:19] And for people who wanted more info on toxic leaders and bosses, well, I've got some cliff notes right here for you. It's no surprise that narcissism is overrepresented in toxic bosses and leaders. Why do people fall for this? Well, narcissistic parents, maybe some preexisting programming, basically, if we grow up with narcissism in our lives, the tracks have been laid as we were kids and children. So these narcissistic bosses and authority figures, they are masters on playing on that authority and that fear. Sometimes when people are familiar with this, it feels like, "Yes, I can be the one who's different. I can win the game. I can get treated well. I can get the keys to the kingdom." And unfortunately, the underlings of a narcissistic boss or leader are often left holding the bag. They're the ones that get fired. They're the ones that go to prison when all is said and done.
[01:11:08] Sometimes it can be very hard to get rid of these people in an organization because narcissists often they get results. Complainers sometimes can be seen as weak, depending on the culture. People are afraid to report them, so it can go on for years or even decades before it catches up to them. People are often afraid in a corporation to kill the golden goose if a person is really effective in that organization, and many people are tempted to think, "Well, okay, I can handle this toxic boss now that I know what they're about." This is naive. These are expert manipulators. Dozens of people before you could not do this in most cases, and toxic leaders demand blind loyalty despite their bad behavior.
[01:11:47] So what do we do? Well, I say this all the time when it comes to legal conundra here on the show — document, document, document. Generate hard copies, generate screenshots, save the documents and personal files wherever you can on your own thumb drive if legally allowed. Record conversations, depending on the state, depending on legality. Getting this information in hard copy or in print, so to speak, is key because of gaslighting. They're going to tell you it never happened. They're going to say you don't have any evidence. You can send emails to yourself, BCC-ing a private account. If you think you could do that without getting caught. Turn the red receipts on. Make sure you got summaries of meetings and phone calls, and take your own notes. Don't depend on other people because those people may not be on your side later on. They might be afraid of the consequences. They might not want to share their notes with you if you're going to do something with them that might get them in trouble.
[01:12:35] And you know what? Try not to think about them all the time. Close your phone and work laptop hours after you leave. Avoid that manipulation following you home. Don't just stick it out thinking it's going to be fine and fair down the line. This is sunk-cost fallacy. Move on quickly and move on as soon as possible.
[01:12:53] What about toxic friends, you ask? Well, Dr. Ramani says we just need to face the fact that some relationships, they're only going to go as deep as happy hour. Don't try to change this. Just accept it. And as a rule, don't judge a friendship by the good times. Judge it by how it functions when the chips are down.
[01:13:10] Dr. Ramani also has a list of something called pink flags, which I thought were pretty interesting. Not immediate alerts, but stuff so subtle that we would barely notice it. Well, what are these, Jordan? I got you. Here we go. Too many Photoshopped social media images, too many food photos, a frenzy of activity when they're on vacation and have something to brag about, oversensitivity in the face of an innocuous, tendency to get snippy with a waiter or retailer, distractability and boredom when other people are talking, paying the check for others but then reminding them about it later. How do they drive? Are they aggressive? Is there road rage? Do they park in handicapped spots or loading zones?
[01:13:45] When are we right to be alarmed here? One-offs on these pink flags, no big deal. I mean, many of us probably take too many dang food photos, but a bunch of these altogether, they can add up to real red flags, many of which we discussed during the episode here. And one other thing to note here is that we should not feel some sort of pressure to forgive narcissists in our lives, whether those are bosses, family members, spouses, society loves this. They put pressure on us to forgive and forget. Turn the other cheek. Religion does this too. This person is not going to change anyway. If you do forgive them, forgive them with eyes wide open in that they will do it again even if they say in the moment, they will not. And even if it seems like they mean it.
[01:14:26] Now, on the plus side here, narcissists are very easy to manipulate. You can validate them. That's really all they need. And what if it feels awful or inauthentic to validate somebody who's mistreating us? Well, you got a choice. You can do it anyway and just minimize contact or you can deal with the consequences of not doing it, which is often worse. It's important though, not to give them oxygen. Don't descend into their mud puddles. These people love arguing. They become galvanized when they do. They get frustrated when you don't fight with them. Less is more with narcissists. Do not give them much to work with. Basically, treat it like you're being interrogated by the cops. Treat their tantrums as if they're a rodeo clown there for your amusement. Don't take the bait. Don't take them too seriously. Maybe you don't laugh directly in their face, but just let it roll off your back.
[01:15:13] And finally plan a self-care activity after you know you have to deal with them. In other words, plan coffee with a friend regularly after you drop off your kids with a narcissistic ex or something like that, ex-spouse, baby mama/daddy, whatever it is. Okay and actually finally, do not wait for them to get punished or for them to apologize or to get their comeuppance. Karma almost always just does not apply in the world of narcissism. What you see now, you're going to see it 10 years from now only much more clearly, and the quicker you let go, the better.
[01:15:48] Phew, great stuff from Dr. Ramani. She will absolutely be back on the show links to all things Dr. Ramani will be on the website in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Transcripts are in the show notes, videos up on YouTube. Advertisers, deals, and discount codes, all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. Please do consider supporting those who support this show and this work. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on Twitter and Instagram. You can always connect with me on LinkedIn and I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same systems, software, and tiny habits that I use every single day. It's a free course, jordanharbinger.com/course. I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty and build relationships before you need them. Many of the guests on the show subscribe and contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:16:36] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mirai. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who deals with narcissists willingly or otherwise, definitely share this episode with them. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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