Why smart people fall for Narcissists?
Updated: Feb 4, 2021
You understand you are an intelligent person so how did this happen? You ask yourself; 'How could I be so stupid/ How did I not see this coming?'
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorders are very charming and skilled manipulators. They don't come out as abusive or toxic the first date and sometimes not for months or years. If they did you would high tail it away from them.
They are so skilled and so good at this. They are the chameleon of the human world. They can shape shift who they are to fit whatever it is you are needing or think you want. They are very very good and polished at their intial attractive behaviors. Over 75% of NPD are men and they come across as the very alpha male, strong, powerful, sexy but show you this sweet intensity. I have met female narcissistics as well. They tend to believe they are superior to others, manipulative and controlling and they are much harder to spot. They may say the hate drama but tend to bait people into it. They tend to use neglect and guilt as tools where as males with NPD tend to be angry and explosive and use power and status as control.
Predators gravitate toward persons that have the qualities they need. Many people fall victim simply because they are intelligent or sucessful. People with NPD also use this as a way in to compliment you and to put you on a pedestal. It also gets turned on you later as in 'you think I'm stupid' and that is what they really think about themselves and are now fearing you see through them.
Dr. Stout the author of The Sociaopath Next Door notes, simply being human makes us vulnerable to these types because we have a conscience and a natural inability to recognize when we're dealing with the concienceless. We can't understand or fatham that someone might lack emphathy or remorse because that is not how we are wired.
I frequently tell clients that if you could understand people with NPD and why they do what they do you would be just like them. I can not understand a Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy or Jeffery Dahmer and their heinous crimes. It would be very scary if I could! That.would.mean I.am. like. them. People with NPD are on a continum from someone like a Ted Bundy who kills down to the scale of the one you know who may abuse and even kill their partner or to the one you have in your life that is an emotional abuser and has no empathy for anyone else.
As humans though, we struggle when we can't understand something. We think if we can understand it will make sense to us. If we have the answer we can feel better about it. In reality those without a conscience are someone we are never going to understand and thats a good thing!
Narcicssants and sociopaths sense our emotional gaps and prey upon those. The first part of the relationship they are constantly mining you for all your past hurts and empytiness. If you have had past trauma these past experiences make you a prime target as well. You may have very poor boundaries or you may think this is as good as it gets or you deserve this. They learn all the weaknesses while they are love-bombing us so they can become what we most desperately seek.
Love bombing is when they overwelm you with loving words, actions and behaviors but it is really just manipulation. These behaviors can be ; over the top gestures such as buying an expensive vacation as a suprise, a classic car you've always wanted or sending you several bouquets of expensive flowers to your work. They could also be numerous small things but simply too much such as a sticky note on your windsheild every.single.day telling you are the only one, the best thing thats ever happened to them, etc. There may be a date in your past from a death that they stow away and then use as a ploy to suprise you with a way to make that day super special so it over rides your grief. At the time is seems pretty sweet but once you have been able to see them for who they really are you understand it was a calculated move on their part.
They may send you so many texts or call constantly and if you don't respond in a very short amount of time and later cover it up with a 'I was so worried about you.'
I once came home to an answering machine that was full and every message was increasing the anty starting with an invitation, then another and then continued into why dont you call me back, I'm worried about you, into some negatives of well its obvious you aren't returning my calls or that you don't appreciate me etc. (This was in the days before cell phones) The key here was I had went on exactly ONE date with this person and told them I was going to be out of town over Christmas week. Knowing this made it a little more scary. But while I was seeing this as a red flag there was also the thought that he might have forgot and that he must really really like me.
Knowing deep down you may be in a vulnerable place or being duped still may not stop our very normal human need of wanting to be loved overriding our sensors.
I would frequently get notes that were written on what I thought, at the time, such a deep level. Years later I came to understand these were all crafted to fit my need of a relationship that was intimate and close. Once in a while I would get one that would cause me to think, who is this guy? This is so unreal. One I remember was several pages long but the phrase that stuck out was that I was one he would want to 'ride the river with.' I was frequently told how smart I was, successful and educated. When things went bad it was then turned around to him saying I thought I was too good for him.
He was always telling me of his exes who had cheated on him and done him wrong and of course I thought this all to be true. I was symphathetic and thought how could someone do that to this sweet loving guy. Then years later being told by a family member it was actually he who did the cheating and lying. Looking back why didn't I see that it would be odd that having 3 long term relationships that all ended in that way might not be a coincidence. Here again is a place where when you get cheated on you don't understand it because the thought is one that would never cross your mind. So why would you be suspecious they would? This also makes us easy prey because if we have had a loving family life and a loving relationship past because we have never encountered anyone without a conscience and dont know how to identify it. We think maybe we have never really been in love before , maybe this is different because it is real love. And of course you are getting told all the time this relationship is special, the best and unlike no other they have ever experienced.
Another sign you may pick up on is that of object permanence. Particularly in the case of children for the male NPD. If they are out of sight (living in a different state with their ex) they may seemly have no emotions such as missing them. They may exhibit anger toward the situation or ex and even try for custody but it is not about seeing the child it is about control. When they become involved with the next woman it is usually that woman who pushes the contact with the child. She increases the emotional connection because she thinks the man is unable to cope emotionally with the ex so she takes on the role.
In my practice all the clients I have had come in after their eyes have been opened have virtually the same story only with different players. These clients are very intellegient, insightful, sucessful and loving humans. They start usually by saying "I feel so stupid. How did I not see this?" Welcome to the club people. It is a club that seems to be getting bigger and bigger. Recently I heard a song by Carly Pearce called "Next Girl." Print off the lyrics and read through them. It is literaly a script of what I have been writing about.
The narcissist may or may not be a physical abuser but there is the potential. If it does not get to that level it is strongly represented by throwing objects, puching walls and is escalating. The threat and fear is there and this is when people generally start understanding they are 'in too deep' and struggle to get out.
Antedotically speaking I would say most people that have Antisocial Personality Disorder or Narcissistic Personality Disorders have dark brown eyes. When they are angry or caught in something those eyes go flat black. If you have ever seen this you will immediately know what I am describing. Once in awhile I get fooled and then it dawns on me this is a blue eyed antisocial personality disorder human. The same with always thinking they are men only.
We may make excuses like they were drunk or their ex really made them angry or whatever. It does NOT excuse violence ever. AND emotional abuse is abuse! I have had many clients say 'If only they would hit me, I would leave.' Do not wait for that to reach out for help. Some people do not survive the first attack of physical abuse.
Can a person with NPD change? That is an often asked question. My answer is rarely. They are very resistent to change. Some may become more self aware but to get to the underlying poor self esteem (the opposite of what they exude) takes a very long time. They may learn to notice when they hurt you but that does not guarantee they will care. They are the person who wont go to counseling because its stupid or whatever excuse. Or if you do get one into a therapists office they often times will get angry and walk out and then blame the therapist as in they don't know what theyre doing or they just took your side and never go back.
If you need help please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.3224 or your local shelter or crisis line. Gillette, WY it is GARF 307-686-8070.