As you discern a person’s psychological maturity, openness is a trait that offers clues about that individual’s capacity for insight and growth.  Open people see life as an ongoing learning experience, meaning they approach people and circumstances eager to find that which stretches their horizons.  They are comfortable embracing blind spots, welcoming input and challenges.

Narcissists are not open, but pathologically closed.   Hiding behind a carefully constructed False Self, they have concocted a tight script detailing what they will or will not reveal about themselves.  The False Self fears new ideas, reflexively invalidating input that is anything other than flattering.  These individuals are defined by selfishness, hidden insecurity, a tight need for control, a craving for the superior position, manipulation, and pathological defenses.

Lacking an open mindset, narcissists lie easily and often.

To them, honesty is expendable, and the need to learn and expand is minimized.  Self-protection trumps self-examination.  Narcissists presume theirs is a judgmental world, so they must find ways to avoid people who would shame and belittle.  Their coping skills consist of qualities like blame-shifting, bullying, stubbornly clinging to opinions, and creating power dynamics that favor themselves.  

Add it all up, and it’s no surprise that they keep secrets.  It’s in their vested interest to reveal as little as possible.  Knowing this, let’s identify seven of the most common secrets narcissists refuse to admit.

Your awareness of their secrets can prevent you from being pulled into their ongoing psychological confusion.

  1. Narcissists carry a lot of psychological pain disguised as anger.  Having much exposure to judgmental people, narcissists are consumed by the grades they might receive. To them, admitting pain would mean being poorly graded, so they flip the script by angrily accusing you as the troubled one.
  1.  They harbor self-hatred.  Taking it further, narcissists “cope” by making many excuses for their miseries, blame-shifting along the way.  This represents chronic denial, but more so, it is their way of implying: “I’m embarrassed by Me.”  They despise their weaknesses.
  1. They struggle with psychological incompetence.  As you get to know narcissists, you will notice a minimal inclination toward self-reflection.   Instead, they focus on matters “out there” in the effort to control people and circumstances.  They have not learned to address their own internal pluses and minuses competently.
  1. Self-esteem is built upon destroying others.  Narcissists reason: “I’m a somebody if I can prove you’re a nobody.”   It’s twisted logic, yes, but they build their reputation upon such a mindset.  This explains their many efforts to pull you into their emotional mud puddle.
  1. Arguing, then remaining hostile, is their superpower.  Forceful, brash agitation makes narcissists feel alive.  It gives them a feeling of strength.  Over time, they have learned that many will capitulate when they are irrationally brash.  The accompanying hostility is an “old friend” they go back to repeatedly.
  1. They envy any success that comes your way.  Narcissists operate with a zero-sum mindset regarding praise.  To them, there is a finite number of compliments to go around, so if you receive positive reinforcement, it subtracts from compliments they deserve.  Your good fortune somehow translates into their misfortune.
  1. Their biggest fear is being irrelevant.  Narcissists dread being deemed a Nobody.  Such a potential prompts them to pout, hold grudges, superimpose their wills, run smear campaigns.  Being immaterial, to them, is the ultimate insult.

There are more secrets narcissists keep, but these seven can give you an idea of how they process life. Because the False Self is so inclined toward posturing, each of the secrets identified here would be refuted by the narcissist. 

But their denial does not erase the reality of their self-protective dishonesty.

Perhaps you are familiar with the phrase: “You’re only as healthy as your secrets allow you to be.”  Because of their commitment to secretiveness, predictable unhealthy patterns inevitably emerge:

  • They are psychologically toxic.
  • They cannot be trusted, meaning they are not safe.
  • Immaturity defines them, as they are fixated in pre-adolescent thinking.
  • They are mean in the same way as an injured animal.
  • They are disinterested in your essence, to the point that it does not occur to them to know your back story.
  • They are unenlightened, having little wisdom.
  • They prove to be pitiable as they purport to know much even when they clearly do not.
  • They are the consummate posers.

Openness is indeed the beginning point for anyone wishing to grow and change.  But the narcissist’s False Self has such an ironclad grip on their reasoning, they continue to lie to themselves and to you.  Their secrets are poisonous.

In the meantime, you can determine to openly address your interior fully…separately from the narcissist’s toxicity.

~Les Carter, Ph.D.

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