Dealing with narcissists

It’s going to take me a day or two to translate the rest of the Rav’s comments on the halachic discussion around ‘killing the people of Shechem’.

Baruch Hashem, he brings a lot of sources and insights, and approaches the question from multiple viewpoints.

If you are familiar with the process of ‘teasing out the truth’ that occurs in the Gemara’s discussion, the way the Rav discusses these things will probably be familiar to you.

I was asking my husband why it is, that the Gemara also sets up so many ‘false arguments’ as apparently being the correct approach, only to often end with a conclusion that is precisely the opposite, and overturns all that comes before it.

He explained that the Gemara is trying to teach people how to really explore all the facets of a question, and to really think things through properly, and not just ‘give them the punchline’.

He also explained that most of the arguments in the Gemara are actually around a very fine point of halacha – the detail of how to actually apply the  halacha, in practise.

No-one is arguing against the idea that Jews have to defend themselves properly against our murderous enemies.

The discussion is solely about the best way to do that, tachlis, taking all the factors into account.

And the Rav has some very interesting insights, which BH I will continue to translate and post up here, so you can think for yourself some more, about this subject.


In the meantime, given the ongoing onslaught of abusive psychos who like to comment here, I thought I would post up a series of articles I did a while back, for a different blog, about dealing with narcissists.

It’s the Rav’s shita to accept all the abuse that comes his way with love.

I have been trying to emulate that – for years! – on this blog, but I have to say the last few months, I have been reaching the point where I’ve had enough of the anonymous psychos who come out swinging with personal insults, instead of actually trying to grapple with the real questions and differences of opinion that are part and parcel of trying to tease out where the truth is, in this world of lies.

Life is way too short to waste any more precious time ‘talking to the wall’ with these people.


So, in the meantime, here’s a deep-dive on ‘narcissists’, how to spot them, and how to try to deal with them.

I personally still believe that a dyed-in-the-wool narcissist can change – but only if you adopt spiritual measures like paying a massive pidyon nefesh for them, to get out of the ‘narcissist klipa’ that’s gobbled up their soul.



How do people with personality disorders act?


NB: Throughout these articles, I’m going to be focussing on narcissism, as while it’s the least ‘obvious’ Cluster B personality disorder, it’s also the least understood, and, I believe, the most prevalent, particularly within the Jewish community. Also, narcissism is usually co-diagnosed as being present together with the other more obvious Cluster B personality disorders.

Let’s begin with the question of questions: why are personality disorders so bad? And why, exactly, are they having such a devastating affect on our communities, family relationships and mental and emotional health?

To try to begin to answer that question, let me paint a picture of the home environment a child grows up, when they’re raised by a parent who has a Cluster ‘B’ personality disorder.

That child grows up in an environment saturated with covert and overt power moves, where relentless manipulation and emotional terror tactics can create an overwhelming feeling of toxic shame, guilt and fear that can literally paralyse the child emotionally, and make them feel physically ill. Children of parents with Cluster B personality disorders are constantly criticised; are subject to implicit and explicit expressions of parental anger; and usually feel that they have no real free choice, to ‘be’ themselves, and to make their own decisions.


The following is taken from an e-book called ‘Narcissists Exposed’, in the Chapter entitled: Identifying Narcissists, which describes how narcissists typically behave towards other people:

“Much of the following may be hidden, to prevent others from rejecting the narcissist:

  • Lack of empathy and genuine concern for others
  • Everything is ‘about them’
  • Critical and judgemental behaviour
  • Wants to be obeyed, or pitied, or admire. Can become annoyed or angry when this doesn’t happen
  • Marked attachment to roles involving praise / credit / power
  • Usually serves others only because of underlying or hidden ulterior motives
  • Fragile ego – can’t tolerate being questioned
  • Disdainful, rejecting, resentful, snobbish
  • Believes they are more physically attractive or more intelligent than others, often even if not
  • Phoniness and lying to make themselves look better
  • Misuse of power, can be highly disempowering of others
  • Inability to simply be one of the crowd, a beginner or just play a small role – needs to immediately stand out as superior / special
  • Vindictiveness and smear campaigns against people who disagree with them
  • Preoccupation (often hidden) with whether or not others form a favourable impression of them, as opposed to caring about the quality of the relationship”


‘Narcissists Exposed’ also described some other key things that narcissists do:

1) They refuse responsibility. They don’t take responsibility for anything they’ve done wrong, even when you can prove it to them.

2) They lie. Narcissists lie are prepared to lie about anything, even small things like whether they take a nap on Shabbat, and certainly about big things, like what they did or said to hurt you.

3) They look down on you. Everything is a ‘comparison’ to narcissists, and they have to come out on top. Narcissists don’t value other people’s opinions or lifestyles. They have to feel ‘bigger’ by making other people feel smaller. Everything is a competition.

4) They’re two-faced. They act nice, even flattering to your face, yet can  spread the most horrible lies and slander – which of course they’ll flat out deny – behind your back.

5) They’re vindictive. “The narcissist has a seemingly inexhaustible obsession for making people who cross them (eg, disagree with them or fail to go along with their wishes) ‘pay’. There is no level they will not stoop to in order to ‘punish’ you.”

6) They project psychologically. This means that they accuse you of whatever they are in fact doing. For example, if you try to tell a narcissist that they hurt you, they will ignore you, and turn it completely around: “You hurt me!!!” It’s a lethal combination of self-righteous anger, criticism and complete avoidance of the truth.

7) They smear people who oppose them. They’ll slander you to your Rabbi, to your mother, to your best friend, to your husband, to your kids, or to your boss. Often under a guise of simply ‘caring’ or ‘worrying’ about you.


Narcissists in particular will go to great lengths to depict themselves to the outside world as ‘upright’, ‘caring’ individuals, and real ‘pillar of the community’ type of people.

But a very different picture begins to emerge behind closed doors.


Why narcissists and free choice just don’t go together

Free-choice is the whole reason that G-d created the world, but when a person has narcissist parents, their free choice goes out the window. A child of a narcissist parent has to do things simply because the narcissist said so. This is because the emotional cost of going against a narcissist parent is so high, most children (whether 5 years old or 35 years old) would never risk doing so.

This isn’t just a problem that occurs with secular narcissistic parents. Many people with personality disorders actually like tradition, and Torah and good manners, and are externally very ‘pious’ – although not for the right reasons.


Narcissists will learn Torah to show off their intellectual superiority, or to help them win arguments or to force other people to do things ‘their way’. While they are very keen to adopt external stringencies or ‘humrot’, at least in public (and to force their kids into going along with them), they won’t apply the Torah they learn to their own actions, their own negative character traits, or their own hearts.

For example, narcissists are often fanatical about Pesach cleaning, or  insisting that their children sit quietly at the table throughout the entire Shabbat meal. Because they put so much emphasis on impressing other people and are drawn to positions of influence and power, many narcissists may even be a notable ‘Rabbi’, scholar or rebbetzin.

But where as genuinely holy people are humble, self-effacing and genuinely don’t say a bad word about anyone else, narcissists will use their position of influence to show off, say damaging things about other people and generally mock and disparage anyone and anything that isn’t in strict alignment with their own worldview.


That’s because another defining trait of Jewish narcissists is that their way of doing things is the only right way.

Religiously, wherever the Jewish narcissist is holding, that is the only correct place. Other people will be ‘too frum’, or ‘not frum enough’, and don’t even get them started about all the ‘stupid minhagim’ and ‘stupid ideas’ and ‘illogical practices’ and ‘weird humrot‘ (religious stringencies) practised by other people.


Narcissism thrives in an atmosphere of lies and intimidation.

By contrast, authentic Judaism thrive in atmosphere of openness and truth. G-d’s seal is truth, and the truth is: Ein Od Milvado! There is only Him. Once a person starts to internalise this first rule of emuna, they can start to escape narcissists’ attempts to control them by fear and bullying tactics.

Also, the more a person is connected to truth, and living a life of truth, the easier it gets to start challenging all the lies that Jewish narcissists tell, which is another crucial part of being spiritually prepared to live in Moshiach’s world of truth.


Judaism is a code of law for living.

G-d has set down rules guiding everything from what we eat, to how we relate to other people. When we follow G-d’s rules, we are doing good. Jewish narcissists hate this, as it sets up an objective framework of making people accountable for their actions – and narcissists normally refuse to take any responsibility for the nasty, inappropriate and destructive things that they do, say and cause.


Narcissists excel in mind-games, and are adept at trying to brainwash others into believing that their subjective notion of ‘right and wrong’ is the only definition that counts.

But when someone genuinely believes in a Higher Power, in G-d, then this doesn’t work any more, because the question becomes: What does G-d say? What does G-d want? And narcissists, even externally very ‘pious’ ones, will only agree with G-d when it suits them.

Narcissists fundamentally believe that they are the centre of the universe. They simply don’t ‘see’ anyone else in the picture, not their children, not other people, and certainly not G-d.

So a key way of spotting a Jewish narcissist, particularly in religious circles, is to see how much they put G-d into their conversation.


In my experiences, even the most externally pious narcissist will have extreme difficulty giving any credit or acknowledgement to Hashem.

They might pepper their conversations with ‘thank G-d’, or ‘Baruch Hashem’, but it’s never more than that. If G-d happens to show up in one of the stories they are repeating (they can’t originate their own Torah ideas, and so constantly regurgitate stories and anecdotes that they’ve heard from other people) – all well and good. But a Jewish narcissist will never tell you how G-d helped them out of a tight spot, or share a meaningful ‘prayer’ moment with you, for example.


Narcissists relate to people by ‘talking at’ them.

They aren’t interested in what the other person has to say, or what they think, or what they feel, because they lack empathy, defined as the ability to put themselves into another person’s shoes, and to see things from another’s perspective – and the same is also true of any relationship they claim to have with G-d.

Many narcissists genuinely do believe in God, but their relationship to the Creator is warped by the same factors that make their interpersonal relationships with other people so difficult and strained: G-d is there to listen to them; God is there solely to fix their problems; God is there just to serve them.


The impact of narcissism on the Jewish soul

The crucial aspect of Jewish narcissism is that whatever route they take, whether ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ religious, Jewish narcissists completely kill the inner dimension and spiritual uplift of the mitzvoth they, and others, are involved in.

The overriding preoccupation for Jewish narcissists (and all narcissists) is ‘how does it look?’ By contrast, a non-narcissist Jewish soul is attracted to matters of the spirit; how does it feel?


Another key indication that you’re dealing with a Jewish narcissist – however ‘religious’ or otherwise they may be – is that nothing ever changes on the inside (although the outside often changes dramatically overnight, because it’s all pretend).

The Jewish soul is an amazing creation; it’s a part of Hashem, and each individual soul contains a mind-boggling infinite ability to grow, develop, shine and help build the world.

Perhaps one of the most dangerous ways that Jewish narcissists can pull other Jews away from G-d, and away from their own true missions in life, is by creating a society, a family, an atmosphere, a community where nothing genuinely ever changes, at the spiritual level.

Jewish narcissists HATE change, particularly inner change that makes people more authentically ‘them’ and subsequently more attached to G-d.


This comes through very clearly in the secular literature on narcissists.

Take this, from

“Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a pattern of self-centred or egotistical behaviour that shows up in thinking and behaviour in a lot of different situations and activities. People with NPD won’t (or can’t) change their behaviour even when it causes problems at work or when other people complain about the way they act, or when their behaviour causes a lot of emotional distress to others.”


And this:

“[because] a prime characteristic of narcissists is believing that they are always right no matter what, narcissists are extremely resistant to change and, unfortunately, tend to get worse as they get older.”

And this:

“A striking thing about narcissists that you’ll notice if you know them for a long time is that their ideas of themselves and the world don’t change with experience; the ones I’ve known have been stalled at a vision that came to them by the age of 16.”


You have to admit you’re wrong, at least occasionally, in order to make sincere teshuva, and to grow and to change.

And this is something that narcissists can’t do.


Ad kan.

As always, there’s a ton more to say.

Bottom line, all these ‘personality disorders’ are caused by serious trauma in this life, and / or tikkunim from previous incarnations, that get the holy, pure soul ‘trapped’ in a klipa that Western pseudo-science calls a ‘personality disorder’.

As the levels of trauma and stress are rocketing up all over the world right now, the ‘personality disorder’ issue is becoming more prevalent again.

Under serious stress, most of us will act like a psycho, at least a little bit.

That’s not ‘being a narcissist’.

‘Being a narcissist’ is when you never really apologise for anything horrible you do, you never really change your mind about anything, and you just keep insulting, twisting and abusing others, when they come close to revealing that maybe, just maybe, you got something wrong, you did something wrong, and you aren’t ‘perfect’, after all.


May God immediately heal all the people with serious personality disorders.

And may He also protect the rest of us from them, until that actually happens.


4 replies
  1. Jeremy M
    Jeremy M says:

    bs”d Not exactly sure how to add to the conversation. Finally figured out why I wasn’t seeing new posts — I was still looking at and it wasn’t redirecting to the new page…really I’m not sure how I found my way here again.

    Umm. Thank you for spelling out the concepts in this article. I think it’s natural to be a bit uncomfortable with being wrong, but hopefully with maturity we learn to accept it, get better at taking advice, or hearing advice repeatedly even if we can’t get ourselves to take it the first time round (which was hard for me out of fear of getting an “I told you so”…and I had a breakthrough about it in therapy recently, that most people rightly in a position to give advice know better than to gloat when someone doesn’t take their advice)

    • Rivka Levy
      Rivka Levy says:

      Thanks for telling me – I passed it on to my tech expert, who told me somehow the redirect got taken off.

      BH, he’ll hopefully fix it back up.

      Re: the ‘told you so’s’ – that generally something people only do when they aren’t aware of, or acknowledging, their own failings, mistakes and errors of judgement.

      We all get it wrong, at least sometimes.

      So, I would say that ‘told you so-itis’, where there is no empathy for what the other person is experiencing, and just a desire to ‘win’, is another trait associated with narcissist behavior.

      Again, we all have these traits occasionally, we all have bad middot.

      The whole ikker, tho, is if we are willing to acknowledge them, and apologise, and to develop some humility that we’re also just fallible human beings, and not ‘better’ than anyone else.

  2. Daisy
    Daisy says:

    Boy, how I can relate to this post! I have somebody in my close contacts – won’t mention who – who fits this description 100%. I have known all along about that person’s narcissism, but your description was so vivid, nothing is missing . Oy……. How can you CHANGE a narcissist? Is there any way, besides giving a hefty pidyon nefesh – which I have zero intention to donate to that particular cause, because that person aggravates me so much!? I would rather stay far away………..???????????.

    • Rivka Levy
      Rivka Levy says:

      That’s the thing. You don’t necessarily give the pidyon to ‘change them’ totally from being a narc.

      You give the pidyon to change your experience of them ‘being a narc’.

      The people I gave pidyonot for were still narcs to most other people, but when it came to us, they changed around 100%, after the pidyon. this happened with a few different people.

      it sweetens the problem for the person giving the pidyon. So if it’s someone you can’t ‘get away from’, for whatever reason, I would strongly suggest doing it.


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