Dr Judith Orloff's Blog

How To See Through the Charm of a Narcissist

Judith Orloff - Monday, September 20, 2010

Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s New York Times Bestseller, “Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life” (Three Rivers Press, 2011)

As a psychiatrist, I strongly believe that it is important to know about the narcissistic personality so you can have realistic expectations when dealing with coworkers, friends, or family members who may have some of these qualities.

In “Emotional Freedom” I describe how to recognize a narcissist. Here are some ways: Their motto is “Me first!” Everything’s all about them. They have a grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement, crave admiration and attention. A legend in their own mind, the world is reflected in their image. They’ll corner you at a party, recount their life saga. Some narcissists are unlikable, flagrant egotists. Others can be charming, intelligent, caring--that is, until their guru-status is threatened. When you stop stroking their ego or beg to disagree, they cab turn on you and become punishing. Once you catch onto this pattern, a narcissist seems about as charming as a banana peel.

These people are so dangerous because they lack empathy, have a limited capacity for unconditional love. Sadly, their hearts either haven’t developed or have been shut down due to early psychic trauma, such as being raised by narcissistic parents, a crippling handicap both emotionally and spiritually. (The damage of narcissistic parenting is outstandingly detailed in Alice Miller’s Drama of the Gifted Child). Hard as it may be to comprehend, these people have little insight into their actions, nor do they regret them. Though often highly intuitive, they mainly use intuition for self-interest and manipulation.’ As the Hassidic proverb cautions, “There is no room for God in him that is full of himself.”

To find out if you’re dealing with a narcissist, ask yourself the following questions from “Emotional Freedom.”


  • Does the person act as if life revolves around him?
  • Do I have to compliment him to get his attention or approval?
  • Does he constantly steer the conversation back to himself?
  • Does he downplay my feelings or interests?
  • If I disagree, does he become cold or withholding?
  • If you answer “yes” to one or two questions, it’s likely you’re dealing with a narcissist. Responding “yes” to three or more questions suggests that a narcissist is violating your emotional freedom.

    Narcissists are hard nuts to crack. With these patients, the best I can do is align with their positive aspects and focus on behaviors that they agree aren’t working. Still, even if one wants to change, progress is limited, with meager gains. My professional advice: Don’t fall in love with a narcissist or entertain illusions they’re capable of the give and take necessary for intimacy. In such relationships you’ll always be emotionally alone to some degree. If you have a withholding narcissist spouse, beware of trying to win the nurturing you never got from your parents; it’s not going to happen. Also, don’t expect to have your sensitivity honored. These people sour love with all the hoops you must jump through to please them. If a narcissist is draining you emotionally, use these methods to get your power back.

    Lower Your Expectations and Strategize Your Needs

    Keep your expectations realistic.
    Enjoy their good qualities, but understand they’re emotionally limited, even if they’re sophisticated in other ways. Accepting this, you won’t continue asking something of friends, family, or coworkers they can’t give. Consider this definition of insanity: when you repeat the same actions but expect a different response.

    Never make your self-worth dependent on them.
    Don’t get caught in the trap of always trying to please a narcissist. Also protect your sensitivity. Refrain from confiding your deepest feelings to someone who won’t cherish them.

    Show how something will be to their benefit.
    To successfully communicate with narcissists, frame things this way. Stating your needs clearly rarely works, nor does getting angry, or demanding. Alternatively, speak to what means something to them. Instead of saying to your spouse, “I’d really enjoy going to a family dinner,” reframe it as, “Everyone really likes you. They’d be delighted to have you there.” Or instead of saying to your employer, “I’d prefer to work fewer nights,” say, “I can bring in more revenue for your company during these hours.” Naturally, it’s better not to have to contend with the tedious ego-stroking of a narcissist. But if the relationship is unavoidable, use this technique to achieve your desired outcome.


    Judith Orloff, MD is author of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, the Oprah Magazine and USA Today. She is a New York Times best-selling author of Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Guide to Intuitive Healing. Connect with Judith on  Facebook and  Twitter. To learn more about empaths and her free empath support newsletter as well as Dr. Orloff's books and workshop schedule, visit her website.

    Giuseppe commented on 21-Sep-2011 02:18 PM
    Thank you Dr.Orloff for your blog and for sharing your knowledge with us.With the help of your articles and videos,I managed to discover narcissist in my life and to distance from them in order to protect myself.I only wish I knew all this many years ago.That
    would save me lots of energy and emotional pain.I follow all your post on Facebook on regular basis.Thank you again for your advices. Giuseppe
    TD commented on 24-Sep-2011 07:24 PM
    I pray that everyone who has this disorder gets healed, and until that moment, that all those who are vulnerable to this, become educated to protect themselves. Thankyou Judith, this is very helpful, all of your work. I find that the book of Tanya (Chabad)
    teaches alot of this in its own way, and is so beautiful and deeply helpful too. I hope you will look at it.
    Sue Cameron commented on 30-Oct-2011 10:51 PM
    Narcissists don't get help because " it isn't their fault!" ha! It is always the other person! I was raised by one ! Still healing!!! But, I guess we all heal and grow from something! It taught me to be a good mom and grandma, especially!!
    Anonymous commented on 28-May-2012 01:50 PM
    Thank you for the education from Dr. Orloff about Narcissist. I wish I could have known it earlier so I wouldn't have to waste my energies on this type of men and hope to heal them. I also have seen my many female friends married to Narcissist and suffered
    from their marriages. For us as women is obtain that wisdom to identify and walk away from the hopeless relationship immediately before it gets entangled. I have bought two books and am inspired from her intuitive talent and compassion to share her experiences
    with the rest of the world.
    click here commented on 25-Jul-2012 12:08 AM
    i like this blog!thank u!!
    LARA commented on 10-Aug-2012 12:42 AM
    Nowadays, finding a high quality post is really difficult. I'd like also to thank my friend for giving me the url of your blog.
    awra commented on 29-Aug-2012 11:39 PM
    Betterlife commented on 19-Dec-2012 09:53 PM
    I answered 1 question-that I do-but I realized I do it & attempt to halt when it happens. Thanks for the suggestion and HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!
    Kimberly Thompson commented on 17-Jan-2013 06:23 AM
    I want to thank you for responding to my email. I have decided to move away from my sister (far away!). I will be surrounded by people who love me, and they will help and protect me in keeping my sister from rentering my life.
    They know who she is since they have known my sister and I since birth lol. They also knew my mother, who help enabled my sister to be who and what she is.
    Your book is a lifesaver, and so are you!
    Many blessings to you and to your assitant Rhonda....
    m.g. commented on 18-Dec-2014 11:55 AM
    All i can say is wow, i was told years ago by a therapist that guys like my husband realistically are extremely difficult to change. I didnt really get what i was being told. I love my husband yet feel so drained by him. I have been in a dystemic Depression for sometime. Wishing Father would bring me home. Now i understand why i will never get the loving, respect, and emotional support i dream of. It does help me to know this and that i must rid myself of any n all expectations of recieving the emotional support i want so desparately from him. Just knowing n understanding is going to help me tremendously in every way. A heartfelt thank you from me to you.
    MJ commented on 13-Aug-2015 08:39 PM
    I think my boyfriend is a narcissist. It explains a lot why we can't communicate. I am a highly sensitive person. Are we attracted to narcissists because I always seem to fall for the same type?
    jl commented on 03-Sep-2015 04:55 AM
    I dated a narcissist for 4 yrs and went through hell. I look back now ten years later and wonder how and why I put myself through such torture...but they drag us empaths in. I am now with a normal, kind partner and the difference is astounding. 'Just leave' is tha only advice I can give to those with a Narcissist. It seems so hrd at the time but there is a great life out there without their weirdness in it.

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