The danger of bad friends :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)
Toxic friends can drain your energy, sap your self-confidence, erode your morals, and even cause you to question your own sanity. They range from needy dependent types to narcissists (See my Catholic Match article ' It's All About ME ') and even bona fide sociopaths. Not the serial killer kind, mind you, but the average, garden-variety sociopath. Clinical psychologist Martha Stout, former Harvard Medical School professor and author of The Sociopath Next Door , tells us that one in twenty-five Americans are sociopaths who simply do not feel shame, guilt or remorse. Not all sociopaths are violent criminals--they may be your boss, your ex-boyfriend, even your best friend.
According to Stout, sociopaths are often charismatic, using flattery, seductive yet false (or sham) emotion, lies or deception luring us into their intrigues, sucking us into pitying them or otherwise giving into their demands, causing us to question our own good reason, and using our good nature and generosity for their own selfish purposes.
When things go wrong, the narcissist blames everyone else. He doesn’t stop to think: What part have I played in this fiasco? Perhaps I should have been more understanding. Am I sincere with God and with others?
The narcissist follows a unique script in which he is the perfect protagonist who can do no wrong. Your purpose in life is to serve him. He is condescending, arrogant, and uses others to achieve his own ends. His relationships never work out, because he undermines them all. And it is never, ever his fault.
He avoids any real introspection, because deep down, he fears that he is worthless. Instead, he covers this feeling of shame or worthlessness with a grandiose self-image, a false self that he projects onto reality. At all times, he must feed this grandiose self-image, so he spends a lot of time talking about himself, putting other people down, and constantly seeking admiration and flattery.
As a result, there is little time or energy available to actually listen to somebody else . A narcissist rarely expresses any true interest in, or sensitivity toward, anyone other than himself. A narcissist lacks empathy.
If you have ever been in a relationship where your feelings don’t count; where you always feel just slightly off-kilter; where you feel belittled or continually disparaged; where you never know when the next outburst of anger or rage will come, and you are kept continually on edge; where you are expected to reassure or flatter him or her; and where your own feelings seem never to count…then you might be in a relationship with a narcissist.
If you are caught in a narcissist’s web, you feel as though you have been sucked into a black hole or an alternate universe. At first, the narcissist is rather charming. However, his charm eventually wears thin. You begin to doubt your own abilities and qualities, because the narcissist convinces you (when you are in his world) that you are nothing compared to him. You fear his anger if you do not continually feed his need for admiration and praise. Though reality may not match up to the grandiose image of the narcissist, he confidently assures you of his own eminence and authority while keeping you in a state of subjugation. You may begin to doubt your own sanity.
Yet, though there are surprisingly few true narcissists  , there are many who have a narcissistic “style.” In our society, we value self-confidence and assertiveness. Yet, when self-confidence becomes arrogant or exploitative, we have a problem.
“All people have personality styles, but when their ‘personality’ prevents them from maintaining employment and/or long-term relationships their style of relating becomes a disorder.” says Dr. Lisa Klewicki, a Catholic psychologist in private practice in Northern Virginia.
Dr. Klewicki tells us that she is seeing more and more narcissism in her practice. “With an ‘instant anything’ society in which one's own needs can be immediately met in some way or another, usually at the detriment of someone else, people begin to believe that their needs are more important than anyone else. Thus, narcissism is on the rise, especially in places where people feel tend to feel more entitled to having everything their own way at all cost.”