“I am Iron Man!” These words from Robert Downey Jr.’s mouth form the framework for the heroic journey of his film character, the narcissistic industrialist and playboy Tony Stark. In the end, he even sacrifices his life to save the universe from the titan Thanos, proving that he not only has a huge ego but also a heart. Strictly speaking, this is only half a purification, because there could hardly be a more grandiose exit. The hero with the inflated ego is the perfect example of a narcissist.

The story of Iron Man Tony Stark shows what the way out of the narcissism trap can look like. Because it is a trap for the people around him (the majority of narcissists are actually male) and the narcissist himself. I have experienced this because I suffer from this disorder myself.

What distinguishes annoying everyday egotists from pathologically malicious narcissists? The American diagnostic manual DSM-5 lists nine criteria for a solid diagnosis.

Narcissists are arrogant, lacking in empathy, and jealous. You are taken with your own uniqueness and importance, and ideas of power, success, and grandiosity.

They believe they have a right to admiration and privilege and, thanks to their charm and a high but non-binding empathy, behave exploitatively in private and professional relationships.

This points to another aspect, an inherently weak self, susceptible to “narcissistic injury” when denied admiration and privilege. Like Iron Man, narcissists build armor over the course of their lives from the brightly colored and shiny bits and pieces of a desire ego.

So they hide everything weak and vulnerable in a shell. Tony Stark’s red and gold iron armor is a memorable image.

The story of the film character also traces the reason for the split between an injured self and a shiny shell: his need for love and acceptance, for being heard and seen, is denied him. He only finds out that his father loves him from a Super 8 film instead of from his father’s mouth.

Usually, instead of the narcissist, those around them suffer. Without your own suffering, the way to diagnosis, therapy or even purification is blocked. However, when life shoots through the narcissist’s armor or he suffers from a lack of admiration and privilege “due” to him, then there is a chance for change.

My realization came through a professional confrontation with a narcissist. All the suffering I had inflicted on my surroundings, mostly without feeling, I now experienced first-hand.

In this conflict, my ego quickly got holes and the injuries to the weak self made me seek therapeutic help. This started a way of understanding this disorder and overcoming it in small steps.

Once the armor has cracked and the light of knowledge seeps in, the question for us narcissists is how do we fix that flaw. It can then help, for example, to come out as a narcissist.

The Rhineland knowledge “Every Jeck is different, everyone is different Jeck and Jeck we are all” relieves the burden. If the ego can’t soar to lofty heights of uniqueness, then at least be no worse than the rest. A small step, but in the right direction.

Another possibility would be the eponymous flirtatious self-revelation from the book by psychiatrist and best-selling author Dr. Pablo Hagemeyer: “Allow me, I’m a (nice) asshole”.

For this purpose I got myself a plush figure, a raven named EGO, who will now act as a figurehead in new outings and help to warn those around me: “I have a bird and it’s called EGO and it sometimes does a lot of shit.” . But even without the EGO bird, the narcissist can come out without identifying himself.

With words like “I have narcissistic tendencies”, “live with a narcissistic disorder”, “have a narcissistic diagnosis” or even “I sometimes behave narcissistically” the others are warned without accepting the disorder as fate.

The effectiveness of such delimiting, “dissociative” language patterns has long been known in humanistic psychology and the resulting neuro-linguistic programming.

But what helps against the performance principle “Faster, higher, further”? This principle internally drives the narcissist to permanent self-optimization, because the actual self is not good enough, never simply lovable, not justified to exist without performance.

This is where positive psychology exercises can help:

“I, me, mine, me – God bless the four of us” is a saying that sums up the way the narcissist thinks. Both in internal dialogue and in dialogue with others, the narcissist’s language revolves around his ego.

However, modern linguistics and ancient traditions agree that our language shapes our thinking. Our mother tongue and even more our own language in which we process experiences and think.

Already in the Babylonian Talmud, a commentary on the Jewish Bible, there is the sentence “Pay attention to your thoughts, … for they become your character”.

This is confirmed by the American-Belarusian linguist Lera Boroditsky in her TED lecture “How Language Shapes the Way We Think”. Our language shapes our thinking. What’s more, like on train tracks, it always steers in the same direction.

For example, the Thaayorre, an Aboriginal community in Australia, have no words for left and right. Instead, they use the absolute cardinal directions north, south, east and west. As a result, the Thaayorre learn as children to reliably orient themselves with the precision of a magnetic compass.

Not only our behavior, but also our language is a reflection of personality and this also applies to the “unique” narcissists. In fact, it is such an exact mirror that even AI systems can now recognize personality traits in speech.

In addition to classic analysis and relevant books, it was also the creative power of language that helped me more and more often to put the laboriously constructed ego on the back burner or sometimes even to leave it behind.

I have found the following linguistic tricks to drive a wedge into the armor of the ego and to change its language game towards you. For months I consistently rewrote all emails, which unfortunately began indiscriminately at first with “I”: Here a “you” or a “we” was added, the “I” was placed at the end, softened to “me” or deleted entirely. A seemingly small exercise in human fitness. But as the Thaayorre teach us, over time, one’s orientation and experience of the environment changes.

Avoiding any comparisons and superlatives can also help the narcissist to keep jealousy and the craving for recognition in check. Then things or events are no longer “better than”, “best” or even “perfect” or “great”, but simply good. And good is good enough. A bitter but healing pill for the narcissist.

The search for linguistic alternatives to the narcissistic guiding values ​​can also help to change one’s own mindset:

In this way, the narcissist can set up a diversion sign in front of the usual egocentric patterns of speech and thought to more human proportions. Then maybe the big turnaround to what the childlike core of the narcissist has always wanted, namely to receive acceptance and love instead of recognition, will succeed more and more.

My parents gave me a last linguistic means of overcoming my narcissistic megalomania with my name. As every name encyclopedia knows to report, the name “Michael” comes from the Hebrew and means there “Who is like God?”. Regardless of our own religious musicality, we narcissists can ask ourselves whether we are God?

Even a brief inventory then brings to light that we are not omnipresent, omnipotent or omnipotent. So the low door of humility is always open, which teaches both narcissists and non-narcissists the healing humane measure.

Michael Stief (58) is an expert in positive communication, teamwork and leadership and founder of the POSITIVE HR consulting network. MANAGEMENT (positive-hr.de).

This article was written by Michael Stief

Originally Posted by Movo on How I Coped With My Narcissism.