Narcissists are harmful to your health. The Wizard of Oz gives you reasons not to date/marry one.
I went to see the new Disney movie, Oz the Great and Powerful, as soon as it came out. I wanted to see it for all the reasons that the millions of people – who paid over $80 million the opening weekend – wanted to see it. But I wanted to see it for personal reasons as well. I wrote a book on the Wizard of Oz (entitled Follow the Yellow Brick Road: How to Change for the Better When Life Gives You Its Worst) and I wanted to see how the Wizard that I wrote about compared to Wizard in the movie … and I did (See Article entitled, Oz the Great and Powerful Relationship Wrecker). What surprised me, however, was how well the movie portrayed the narcissist. Having taught graduate courses on narcissism and worked as a marriage therapist for over 30 years, I knew the hazards of dating (and especially marrying) a narcissist!
Although narcissists deep down inside already know that they are a fraud and a con artist, their mission is to fool everyone else into believing that that are Great and Powerful–beyond repute and always right. (They even fool themselves.) This was not-so-subtly portrayed throughout the entire movie. When we first meet Oz (played by James Franco), he is fulfilling his role as a magician and con artist. He not only performs his “magic” on the stage but also off-stage trying to seduce a young assistant, charming her with a music box. Narcissists are almost always trying to charm someone. He is slippery in all his ways, avoiding the challenge to truly heal a young girl. And when avoiding the Muscle Man who had it in for him, he escapes in a balloon –as narcissist often do when confronted– only to get transported in the truly magical Land of Oz. It is here that he pulls out all his tricks of deception to foster the people’s coronation of him as the Great and Powerful Wizard. Mission Accomplished! There is nothing more important to a narcissist than to be coroneted –with all the gold in the Kingdom that comes with it. For much of the rest of the movie he uses his trickery to not be discovered for who he really is, an ordinary imperfect human being.
“So what is the problem with dating or even marrying a narcissist … no one is perfect after all?” If you have to ask this question then consider yourself fortunate. It means that you never dated a narcissistic. If you did you would know. At all costs, the narcissist has to protect the secret that they are just a human being with faults and vulnerabilities. Because of this, they are experts at deception and slight of hand. For example, when you confront a narcissistic with an issue that concerns you in the relationship, it will only be minutes–seconds–before they turn the issue back on to you. All of a sudden you are defending yourself instead. Narcissists do not take criticism well; in fact they do not take criticism at all. And if a couple cannot have a candid discussion about offenses endured or what they need, they cannot have a real and growing relationships.
Narcissists demand constant attention and admiration; after all they are the Great & Powerful. They are by definition self-referential. Everything starts and ends with them. Because of this they are usually poor at empathy–a relationship skill that is absolutely necessary for a successful relationship. If you cannot see it from your partner’s point of view, you can never really see your partner. You only see the partner you want them to be and you get offended every time your partner ends up being someone else.
I’ve worked with couples for over 30 years and the single most important thing that I found to a success of a couple is the ability of each partner to admit to their own defects and vulnerabilities. Narcissist hate vulnerability, they see it as weakness and there is nothing worse than weakness to a narcissist. Weakness means that they are human –and being human is something they never learned when they were children and therefore a child –i.e. immature– they will be. And don’t be fooled. Narcissists are not truly confident. If they were truly confident they would not have to protect themselves so much and they would have a lot of room for other people–especially their partner.
Notice that I have not up to this point identified the narcissist as a male. The reason for this is simple; there are female narcissists as well and equally as hazardous to your (mental) health. I recent had a couple in my office for the first time. They were in deep pain. I asked each to account for the part they played in their pain. Every time that I asked the wife, what part of the problem she could own, she would seamlessly turn it back onto her husband. I tried it several times and every time she would wave her wand and it would magically become entirely his problem … again.
So what should you do if you are dating (married to) someone like this? Run for the hills? Not necessarily, especially if you love this person. You can do what Glinda did … test the narcissistic and find out if they are capable of being mature. Glinda, the Good Witch, knew that he was a fraud from the beginning. It is our responsibility not to be fooled by a narcissist. If a narcissist fools you then they are either really good or more likely, you want to be fooled because you are looking for a wizard (see Relationship Wrecker article).
The movie ends with the statement that is unmistakably the main theme throughout the movie: “It is better to be Good rather than Great.” When tested, James Franco’s Oz eventually decided to be Good rather than Great. He eventually was able to feel empathy for the people of Oz, he was vulnerable and no longer had to hide behind his mask. He became real. Test you partners by being real, vulnerable and candid yourself, if the are able to turn around and be grown-up, then you have something to work with in your relationship. And if they are not able to change … say goodbye or Good Luck.