A primary skill for personal growth is introspection. When you are willing to examine yourself honestly and objectively, good things can result. Using analytical thinking, you can focus on the why’s of your thinking in ways that will inform the what of your behavior.
A beginning point for narcissists is the belief: “I know plenty. If you want me to wallow in my personal problems, you’ll be disappointed. I don’t do that.”
Rather than engaging in therapeutic introspection, they put their energies into false portrayals. They prioritize crafting a self-flattering public persona, conveniently overlooking personal flaws. And even if they admit problems, they predictably blame and make excuses. They cannot take responsibility for their imperfections.
This sets up one of the most common defense mechanisms used by narcissists…Projection.
Denying their personal problems, they will inwardly rationalize their own goodness, then displace their personal faults onto others. (That’s where you come in.)
Using projection, narcissists will see in you what they refuse to admit about themselves. Since this pattern arises from the False Self, dishonesty and manipulation are built into the equation, but if you are aware of their tricks, you can sidestep the “designated loser” role ascribed to you.
With that in mind, let’s identify seven of the most common projections narcissists will apply to you:
- I dislike how you try to control me. A defining feature of narcissism is control. As they engage with you, inwardly they consult “The Agenda,” fixed notions about how you should live. Then when you balk or choose otherwise, ignoring their demands, they will exclaim that you are the controlling one.
- Your public behaviors are just for show. You’re a phony. Narcissists are constantly, constantly posturing as they engage the public. They like sidling up to the “desirable” people. They make sure their positives are known, which requires them to cover up any deficiencies that might invite scorn. But when they witness how you engage well with others, you are the fake person. This is especially true when others seem to enjoy your company.
- I can’t get through to you at all. Narcissists are notorious for defensiveness. Unwilling to hear separate ideas, they routinely stonewall. They justify and rationalize their difficult traits. They turn reasonable discussions into arguments. Then when discussions inevitably fall apart, they point to you as they proclaim how no one can possibly communicate successfully with you.
- You just think people are supposed to cater to you. Being self-impressed, narcissists assume that you are supposed to read their minds, respond to their cravings, and conform to their standards. How hard is that? But when you fail to adjust to their liking, you will hear something like: “You think the world revolves around you!”
- You have serious anger issues. Because they have such impossible demands, while also lacking patience, narcissists have a natural predisposition to be angry. Sometimes it is loud and ugly, while other times it is simmering and contemptuous. Either way, as anger fills the room, they will point the finger of accusation as they imply: “I’ve never known anyone as easily agitated as you.”
- I can’t trust you; you’re dishonest. Being defined by their carefully crafted False Self, narcissists lie, keep secrets, offer half-truths, omit key facts, and feed you information on a “need to know” basis. When plans predictably fail, they turn the focus onto you, complaining how you are not a trustworthy person.
- You don’t understand people like I do. Narcissist think of themselves as the standard bearers for proper living, yet they make little effort to know what makes others think and feel as they do. They are users, and they wish to learn about others only for the sake of manipulations. As you seek a more gentle, empathic approach toward relations, they will scoff: “You don’t know people as well as you think.”
Whenever you experience these forms of projection, know that the narcissist is gaslighting you. Their strategy for controlling you includes keeping you off balance emotionally. Their goal is dominance, and honesty is easily set aside.
The likelihood of them admitting to the defense of projection is extremely low, so factor that into your expectations. Understanding this, make it your task to be self-aware. Be honest with yourself about your strengths and your weaknesses. Cease counter-accusing or defending. Stay accountable with people you trust. And remind yourself that you are dealing with a pathologically insecure person.
A narcissist’s need to see in you what they cannot admit about themselves is their way of covertly admitting their inner chaos. But they cannot be honest enough to admit that.
Remind yourself: “One who chronically blames and projects is not credible.” Then move toward greener pastures.
~Les Carter, Ph.D.
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