Have you ever been with a narcissist? If you did, most probably they had an impact on you, and made you wonder how their minds work. Let’s find out.
Narcissists at first sight look just like normal folk, maybe even nicer and outgoing than the majority, but as you start to know them that is far from the truth.
For the people who suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder they don’t consider themselves in need of help to overcome their condition.
They think they are above normal, and all their problems are due to others. There is nothing wrong with them. They are perfect.
Some manage to arrive at psychotherapy only looking for new ways of dealing more effectively with others, but never to change themselves as they think that there is nothing wrong with them. The problem is always other people.
Often psychotherapy has no effect on them because they are unable to establish a bond of trust with the therapist. Narcissist never lower their defenses and it would be unthinkable for them to expose their inner thoughts and feelings to others. After a few sessions they generally stop, presenting an external excuse or blaming the therapist for not being effective (it is never their fault).
This is dramatic as they continue to live their lives, oblivious to their condition, and making the lives of those around them miserable.
Only when there is a breakdown or melting down of their ego defense mechanisms it is possible to begin real psychotherapy and deal with the psychic content, trying to heal the very deep and old emotional wounds.
It All Started When…
To better understand how they work internally you have to go back to childhood. Something went wrong there to mark the mental, emotional and spiritual patterns of the narcissist.
Most research points in the direction of a damaged attachment bond between the baby and the caregiver (usually the mother).
This bond is crucial for the baby to learn its sense of being loved, worthiness and self esteem.
When this bond is severely damaged, either due to early trauma, neglect or abandonment, a defective self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy and fears of humiliation sets in, and serve as a psychological template for future attachment responses and relationships.
This explains a lot about the selection of future love partners, the way they treat their children (even pets), and the way they approach and respond to love life in general.
The Over Inflated Ego
To compensate the lack of love and attention from the early emotional wound, an over inflated ego is created to mimic great worthiness, importance and huge self-esteem.
Deep inside they carry this wound that makes them feel empty, fake and not worthy of love. This inside emptiness that can only be filled through seeking attention, control and perfectionism.
“A narcissist can’t be faithful. This is because—to a narcissist—’you’ don’t exist except as a mirror. When he looks at you, all he sees is his own reflection. Distort this reflection and he will go find another mirror. It’s as simple, or as complicated, as that.”
— Tigress Luv
The Narcissist and Love
Narcissist adults continue to search for the approval that they didn’t get when they were children. The difference between the people pleaser and the narcissist is that the narcissist will impose to others his or her approval in the form of “I will make you love me even if hurts you”.
Another thing that is blatant is the lack of compassion towards self and others. As they only learned conditional love in the form of “I will be loved if I do this or that thing”, love is only perceive by them as a thing to be conquered through being worthy of it.
Love for them is never the base ground where they can return to, relax and be whole. Love has always a price to them, and the more they look for it, the less they will find it, due to their control and perfectionistic approach (which drives their partners away).
They aim not for a love relationship, they aim for the “perfect” partner, (which we all know doesn’t exist). This compulsion for “perfectionism” will lead them to disillusionment after the first infatuation period of romance.
“The main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism.”
— Erich Fromm
Narcissist and Spirituality
Narcissist’s will move away from personal development and spirituality, as they fear to be involved in self disclosure and exposing their deep secrets: their emptiness and non-worthiness.
They don’t want to expose themselves and be questioned about the idealization they constructed about themselves – their ideal person – which they think is their true self, but is nothing more than their ego playing a part.
In some cases the narcissist will be involved in religion and spirituality to a certain extend, specially if they are not personally exposed and will be seem by others as doing the right thing, specially if they get some sort of recognition from it, and influential social contacts.
On the other hand, they love to assume the position of a spiritual leader, guru or charismatic life coach. By assuming positions like this they can have an audience to feed their ego with attention. An audience that they can control, and above all to be seen as grandiose and perfect.
This kind of flamboyant spiritual narcissistic leader might appear very attractive to people who are very anxious, with low self-esteem, and looking for an authoritative figure to decide for them, and tell them what to do.
Severed Connection to Self and Source
Narcissists are castaways of Self and Source, navigating a life where emptiness drive their motives and actions. It is a never ending emptiness that devours them.
This deep emptiness stirs their emotions which make them uncomfortable and anxious. They will try anything to ignore or numb those emotions through various means. They treat others emotions the same way they treat their own, by ignoring or dismissing.
Throughout life they will protect to the death this sense of emptiness that they carry inside resorting to distorted ways of relating and dealing with others, specially close loved ones.
Highjack Other’s Victories
Imagine that you want a prize. The narcissist will probably start talking emphasizing how much he or she helped you to achieve the prize, monopolizing the conversation.
It is not your victory, it is theirs. You are robbed of your self-worth in plain sight, and with no appeal.
Their Children as Personal Extension
For the narcissist their children are not seen as persons in their own right, but as an extension of themselves, a mere reflection of them.
They will try to control every aspect of their offspring’s life, what they do what they and don’t do, not because they are concerned about them, but because it will impact on their image of being a parent. They want to look good parents, perfect parents with perfect children.
“The narcissist devours people, consumes their output, and casts the empty, writhing shells aside.”
— Sam Vaknin
Lack of Compassion
The fixation on perfection steals their human care and compassion for family, friends and coworkers.
As most of today’s business world rewards behaviors that prioritize profits over people, narcissist are well adapted to enterprise living and striving.
There is an exception to this. Narcissists respond well to people in positions of hierarchical power. Not because they like them but they see them as stepping stones for their future ambition plans.
The Silent Treatment
When things go array and they feel offended by you, they might resort to the silent treatment.
For the next days or weeks you will be ignore and not talked to. Only when they want something from you they will be back, without mention of what happened before, expecting that you are open to them and pretending all continues as usual and nothing happened.
Narcissists see themselves not only above you but entitled to things without having to work or fight for it.
A good example of this is their problems are more important and more urgent than yours, or expecting that you treat them in a certain way they like.
Skin Deep Relations
Narcissists look for functional relations with people based on wealth, social prestige, and in power positions.
In the beginning of a relationship things might go well but soon they lose interest because when there is nothing more to share (and there are unable to open themselves up to intimacy) or because they don’t see a payback for them (the relationship leads them nowhere in terms of importance; they are not being served).
Probing and Questioning Others
When they meet new people it is like a job interview for which you didn’t sign up. They will probe and question what you do, what is your background. They will try to evaluate your wealth, your social prestige and your power.
Role and Position
They evaluate others not by what they are but by the power, prestige and social position. The person in itself is not of importance to them.
“Some narcissistic people end up believing their own lies.”
Lying and Deceiving
Reality is molded to serve their needs or wants. This way they don’t have a problem in lying to you or deceiving you, as their needs and wants are perceived to be more important than yours.
One of their preferred strategies is gaslighting. This strategy is one of the most vile types of manipulation which can damage your emotional and mental wellbeing.
They will tell you that such and such didn’t happen that way, and what you recall is just your imagination or you are not seeing things clearly.
This creates a state of personal doubt and the relying on their version of events. Your perception and sound judgement of reality is questioned, leading you to question yourself, your self-worth, self-esteem and mental sanity.
The purpose of this for the narcissist is for you to rely in their version of reality instead of yours, and as such, gaining more control over you.
If you try to expose them you will find yourself with no proof and you will be labeled as the crazy one, and suffer the consequences.
They are always right even when they are wrong. Apologizing is a thing they have great difficulty do consider or even do, as apologizing for them points in the direction of being imperfect, and that can’t be tolerated.
Remember that in their minds they think of themselves as perfect, flawless.
Putting People Down
Putting people down is one of the preferred ways for them to feel better about themselves. Because they don’t have self worth they can only get it by comparison to others. This results in depriving others of self worth and turning them more open to their manipulation.
Talking about themselves
Often when they want to make a point they talk about themselves in the third person, like there is another level of themselves that is superior and is overseeing the conversation. Another grandiose way to pull attention to themselves.
No Respect For Others
They interrupt others and show no respect for them.
Often they respond to questions that were directed to others, or talk about other people that are present like they were not there issuing opinions and judgments on them. This is like a magic trick make others that are present “disappear” from the conversation, minimizing their worth, and again making the narcissist occupy the center of the conversation.
When a Narcissist Asks You a Question
Be ware when narcissists ask you or propose you something, they always have a second motive. Imagine that you are being asked if you like coffee. What is encoded in this question is: the narcissist likes coffee, most probably they want to have a coffee and they don’t want to invite you directly. If you say yes that you like coffee they might introduce the idea to go for a coffee pretending that the decision came from you. It is the illusion of choice.
They always ask you about the things they like or want, but they are not to keen to know what you really like, want or need. It is always about them.
“A narcissist paints a picture of themselves as being the victim or innocent in all aspects. They will be offended by the truth. But what is done in the dark will come to light. Time has a way of showing people’s true colors.”
— Karla Grimes
Playing the Victim Role
Often when their control tactics don’t work, the narcissists will resort to play the victim role and blame you for all that happened. In general, this open the door for the narcissist to make projections and judgements on you, to make you feel guilty and ashamed.
By making you feel guilty and ashamed they take you out of balance to an emotional state which blocks clear thinking and your ability to give a rational response.
Deflecting and Projecting
Deflecting and projecting are the two most common defense mechanisms used by the narcissist. You have to remember that these defense mechanisms operate on an unconscious level. So they do it but they are not aware of using them (even if you tell them).
When you say something that in their minds threaten their weak sense of self worth or expose them or their tactics, they will deflect the conversation towards you, and you will become the target of their aggression through projecting opinions and judgements.
“Narcissism falls along the axis of what psychologists call personality disorders, one of a group that includes antisocial, dependent, histrionic, avoidant and borderline personalities. But by most measures, narcissism is one of the worst, if only because the narcissists themselves are so clueless.”
Hopefully now you have more clear picture of what happens inside of a narcissist’s mind, but please remember this, narcissism is not about character, mood or education. Narcissism is a mental and behavioral disorder.
When you are talking or relating to a narcissist you have to remember that you are talking to a person that needs special care and treatment.
It is not up to you to fix them. It is not your fault they are the way they are. But it is up to you to be mindful on the way to respond to them, by not lowering your mental, emotional and spiritual defenses, and to uphold your boundaries, self-respect, self-esteem and self-worth.
Please, if you will, share your personal experiences with a narcissist in your life.