“Where do you place yourself on the sliding scale of egotism from shrinking wallflower to narcissist?” My friend Jorge really knows how to put me on the spot.
I answered that it changes from day to day and even hour to hour. Most of the time there is no need to blow my own horn, or shrink from view, or anything related to egotism. There are times when it seems appropriate to assert and other times when it seems appropriate to retreat. I don’t think I’m qualified to give a clinically correct response to the question.
Jorge noted that he has been self-evaluating a lot since he fell into the rabbit hole of the Internet narcissism trend and the accompanying lifestyle coaches.
What happened to my friend for him to become obsessed with narcissism and lifestyle coaches?
Jorge said that one of his neighbors befriended him and his husband last year. She seemed like the perfect person. She showered Jorge and Jose with compliments and did a lot of unsolicited small favors. The couple felt flattered and obliged to their neighbor, so they sometimes invited her to their place for lunch or coffee–just normal, neighborly behavior.
The trouble began innocently enough when the neighbor asked if Jose could house-sit while she was away to the east coast to visit her family. Jose decided to help her out, mainly because he still felt a sense of obligation to the neighbor because of all the “little acts of kindness” she had performed. The house-sitting seemed to go off without a hitch.
After the neighbor returned from her vacation, she began asking the couple more frequently for favors. They squeezed in as many as they could, but the neighbor increasingly seemed displeased with Jorge and Jose. They found out that she had been spreading rumors and gossip about them. Of course, she denied doing so.
The neighbor’s shift in behavior triggered some heart to heart discussions between Jorge and Jose in which they analyzed their relationship with the neighbor. They noticed that when the woman and the couple conversed, the topic of discussion was overwhelmingly about her. Whenever she asked about them, they would give an appropriate reply. Often, she interrupted to talk about her life situations. The relationship between the couple and the neighbor had been largely one-sided for a long time.
They realized that the neighbor didn’t really care about them at all, she seemed to only want them in her life to be her inferiors. Her words and actions had crossed the line between neighborly and annoying. It seemed that she had been trying to control their lives.
It was at this point in time that Jose decided to diagnose the problem relationship by searching the Web. The two men began watching videos on YouTube about narcissists and psychopaths. There seemed to be an endless supply of videos, psychologists, and self-styled life coaches describing problems and solutions regarding relationships with narcissists. Thumbnail titles about narcissism and codependency began crowding out other topics on their YouTube page.
The videos and their neighbor’s behavior were coming together to create a perfect storm for the couple. Every time they tried to dial back their contact with the neighbor, she became more intrusive and hostile. What could they do? The neighbor was becoming highly obnoxious, but hadn’t broken any laws so they couldn’t call the police.
The couple found themselves caught up in numerous “catch-22” situations. How could they extricate themselves from their next door neighbor’s influence? This is the situation they find themselves in right now. They are between a rock and a hard place.
Jorge said he wasn’t asking me for advice about how to handle the situation, but he wondered if I thought he and Jose were overreacting to the neighbor’s behavior.
It’s my unprofessional opinion that Jorge and Jose have good reason to be very concerned. I told Jorge that they need to be more vigilant because it seems like the neighbor could become fully unhinged and threaten their safety. Their neighbor is not a friend, but is a clever adversary. I based that judgment on a similar experience I had with an acquaintance.
I told Jorge that a book could be written about that relationship. It had taken a somewhat parallel course with that of him and his neighbor. Thankfully, I do not live next door to my adversary, so I was more easily able to get away from the very toxic relationship.
Jorge said he will continue to watch the videos. The couple has considered consulting a professional about their dilemma. Right now, it looks like whatever they decide to do will cause upheaval, turmoil, and more problems.
I reminded Jorge that he has my support, regardless of what he and Jose decide to do about the next-door narcissist. This is a situation that requires solid, yet diplomatic measures. I wonder what those measures are. Hopefully, a reasonable, safe resolution happens soon.