There are two contradictory notions that describe narcissists: First, they cannot be trusted with the truth. Second, they portray themselves as keepers of the truth.
By definition, narcissists are self-impressed and entitled, which means they must position themselves in the advantaged position over you. Then, it also means they are masters at gaslighting since they reject your versions of truth and do not want you to feel confident about what you observe and know.
Early in life narcissists began noticing that life can feel unfair.
They learned that some people did not like them, often for little good reason. They observed that many people had a fixed agenda, meaning it was not safe to reveal real thoughts and feelings. So, as a result, trust with key people felt elusive. Judgment and shame became their filter.
In other words, prior to their adult years, narcissists encountered some ugly experiences, but did not learn to cope with the meaning of those ugly experiences. Instead, they assumed a permanent role of victim, eventually creating to their own version of Alternate Reality. Then they convinced themselves that their needs should be prioritized over anyone else. Furthermore, they concluded that anyone who disagreed deserved punishment or revenge. And in the process, their ability to incorporate healing insights did not develop.
Narcissists never learned that the mark of a healthy person is not the absence of troublesome events, but the ability to rise above those troubles by learning transcendent truths that can result in an honest, integrous manner of life. So, until narcissists learn to rise above their unresolved problems, they will push their dysfunctions onto you.
Let’s identify seven of the most common truths that can undergird psychological wholeness, noting how narcissists have yet to embrace those truths.
- Each person has inherent worth. Narcissists learned that people can and should be utile, with worth given only as that utility is fulfilled. They became psychologically competitive, building their worth upon achievement and comparative standing. But in the process, they failed to understand that worth does not have to be earned or bestowed. It is built into the fabric of humanity.
- Each person gets to choose. Narcissists have developed a conflicted relationship with the concept of freedom. They want to be free, but they dislike you being free. They like to select their personal preferences, priorities, interests, and opinions, but they can feel terribly conflicted when you wish the same for yourself.
- Difference does not equate to one-up, one-down. Narcissists learned to associate differences with shame. Using strong binary thinking, they concluded that one person gets to be right while the others must then be wrong. The result is the contortion of reason as they presume they have a higher order of thinking. It does not even dawn on them to live in mutual regard in the midst of differing preferences.
- Variety of feelings and needs is broad and natural. Part of the beauty of humanity is its grand diversity, something that perplexes and scares narcissists. Narcissists learned that inside relationships, there are controllers and there are conformists. They did not learn the value of exploring others’ perspectives, but instead decided to be the ones who insisted upon conformity, invalidating those who remain too distinct.
- The best way to find significance is to give it away. Just like anyone else, narcissists want to feel like they are significant, that they matter. But because of their entitled and competitive mindset, they have convinced themselves that their psychological significance rises as yours diminishes. They have completely missed the truth that the best way to find significance is to help others feel significant.
- People who hold grudges have a poor memory. Narcissists tend to hold onto contempt and condescension toward those who prove to be imperfect. In doing so, they forget how they too are flawed. They lack the humility that would prompt them to state: “I have flaws, and I am in need of forgiveness. Let’s work on this together.”
- Conflict can create growth opportunities. The pattern of narcissism is an outflow of much tension, but narcissists are so afraid of their inner tensions that they cannot learn from their difficulties. They cannot process pain and anger cleanly at all, which leads to predictably destructive attitudes and behaviors as they navigate relationship strains.
Mature individuals are not free from mistakes and problems; rather, they are able to use their experiences to ponder the truths that will guide them toward dignity, respect, and civility. Lacking that skill, narcissists are held captive by their neurotically driven False Self.
As you observe their demise, my hope is that you can come to the truth about who you really are, lumps, bumps, bruises and all.
~Les Carter, Ph.D.