The paper tigers I speak of are people with varying degrees of Narcissistic Personally Disorder. A Paper Tiger is usually someone who appears threatening, but is ineffective when they are found out. I have known three who I have considered, “Thoroughbreds”, over my almost eighty years. Knowing some concentrated traits can help avoid hitting a brick wall when encountering this disorder in others. This blog will probably go over the heads of any narcissist reading it, which is the main reason they never seem to change for the better.
Here is what many professionals have to say about this sad part of society. Most are male. There is no clear-cut cause. Some think family environment, being plummeted with excessive criticism, genetics, and neurobiology , the connection between the brain and behavior and thinking are thought to be major contributors.
The beginning seeds were probably planted as a defense mechanism and insulation from pain. One of the main symptoms is an inflated sense of self-importance. They are needy, and have to be “Top Dog”. They have a great drive for excessive attention and admiration. The greatest roadblock they exhibit is the lack of empathy for others.
Other traits include being right fighters, score keepers, and are heavy on “One Up man ship” ,with EVERYONE, and are well versed in the “Blame Game”, and “My way or the highway” attitude. Most of their actions carry strings attached. Self promoting takes up lots of their energy. They cannot tolerate being disagreed with or being challenged because of their being so fragile emotionally. They feel a strong entitlement. Bullying behavior can easily creep in. They appear to have “Swiss Cheese”, hearts and souls. They seem to only relate to their mind connection and not the heart. They are ego driven rather than by a purpose of just doing something for the pleasure of it. Behind a mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that is vulnerable to the slightest criticism. They become gravely unhappy when they don’t get the recognition they think they deserve. They can easily exaggerate achievements and talents. It is common for them to believe they are superior to most and can only associate with equally special people and belittle those who do not meet their “Standards”. If they happen to change their minds about those like-minded people, that they are not a special person after all, they can turn on a dime, and become the proverbial Jekyll and Hyde. They seldom give a nano thought after such a person has been kicked to the curb. They are super critical of others with little reason. They demand unquestioning compliance from others, void of any consideration, and are unwilling or unable to acknowledge the needs and feelings of others.They think others envy them, and are conceited, arrogant, boastful and pretensions. They have difficulty regulating behavior and react with rage or contempt, and try to belittle others to make themselves seem superior. They have major problems with stress and adapting to change.
Sometimes the warning signs are hard to recognize when there is not a lot of contact with such a person. I was presented with a situation when I married and my brother-in-law turned out to be a text-book case. Much restraint and good manors had to be brought into play, for nineteen years. The subject was a co-owner of a radio station with his wife. Bill and Lois were their names. He reminded me of a radio without an off switch. He never shut up. His wife managed the office and kept track of the revenue and payroll, and the staff ran the news and programming end of the operation. Bill was a brilliant engineer and kept the radio tower, that received and transmitted the radio signal, in pristine working order. He viewed himself as having a lot of friends. The fact was that he had none, only employees and advertisers. He constantly criticized everyone within his reach and considered them far beneath himself, no matter how well they performed.
Lois spent most of her time stroking him and bending to his ever need. Her one great love was a beautiful flower garden full of Gladiolus and Irises. One year while visiting them I noticed that her garden was in disarray and pretty sad-looking. I inquired about it, and Lois said that Bill had resented the time she spent in the garden, and had finally insisted that she stop gardening. I was dumbfounded at his lack of empathy.
I will note that he was estranged from his children, to the point where he did not attend his only daughter’s wedding.
I remember when my husband and I were their guests we were often held hostage with endless stories about his hunting trips. There was no chance of changing the subject so we could all talk about a variety of subjects that would include everyone. I often discreetly plugged music buds in my ears and stuck a book in my face.
When the TV was on, Bill would switch the channel every ten minutes so no one could follow any program.
Once when they were visiting I headed for the kitchen to prepare breakfast . Bill stepped in and informed me that he preferred that Lois fix his breakfast. I said,”Sure”, expecting that he had some complicated dietary requirement, only to find out that he always ate two eggs, over easy with dry toast. Stories like these repeated themselves for nineteen years until my husband’s death. It was sad to see that Lois had chosen to be a “Sacrificial Lamb’. Others in their lives escaped that sentence.
A second example involved a wonderful idea that got derailed because someone with this disorder could not step aside and let the plan work. It was a community movement to bring together quitters to make coverings for the needy and elderly in the community. The project was derailed because this person wanted to control ever aspect of the group, to the point where she chose the colors and patterns each participant made, and kept putting restrictions on the group. The group was short-live. ” The Paper Tiger’s” power was short-lived.
To sum up some of the major reasons why Paper Tigers do not make good friends is because the Narcissist doesn’t think anything is wrong with themselves. Only they can make any changes, and one has to recognise a problem in order to fix it. The defence mechanism they have in place is usually to deeply seeded, and they are too fragile to dig deep enough to make any significant change.
As far as the counter-part to the Narcissus is concerned here are some grave concerns and realities they need to recognise about these flawed individuals. Their needs are never-ending, tiring, and draining. Their lack of empathy, and constant criticism is hurtful. I think those who try to befriend them end up feeling like the narcissist is literally standing on their shoulders with no end in sight.
I doubt if anyone will ever hear these three statements from someone with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
1. I was wrong.
2. I am sorry.
3. How can I repair the damage?