Would it be accurate to assume that all the motives of a narcissist are 100% wrong?  No, not really.  Even though the primary ingredients of this pattern of life can be obnoxious, at its base is a desire for self-preservation, and that’s not always a bad thing.

Though you naturally dislike much of what a narcissist stands for, you can understand their initiatives more clearly as you consider the early conclusions narcissists made as they were trying to find their way in a complicated world.  For instance, in their earlier development, budding narcissists might have thought:

  • Some people in my life are not safe.  I have to measure what I say or how I present myself.
  • I feel inept in managing conflicts.  I never learned the necessary skills.
  • If I’m open about my hurts or needs, there’s a strong chance I’ll be shamed or judged.
  • The anger of key people scares me.
  • The control of key people scares me.
  • I often wonder if I’m going to be invalidated, dismissed, or deemed irrelevant.

Every one of us can relate to such thoughts, since each us has received some sort of life-lesson about the woes of the world.  

But with narcissists, what is it about their self-preserving efforts that become so problematic?  In part, it goes back to the lack of personal competence in managing relationship challenges.  Lacking competence, they tend to mimic the very dysfunctions of those who created tension.  And it is also impacted by the selfishness that is so natural in the first place.

But the Number One reason narcissists mismanage self-preservation efforts is the lack of humility.   Absent that trait, they are emotionally imbalanced as self-preservation becomes little more than raw selfishness.  Humility could become a counter-balance to that potential, but most narcissists won’t entertain the possibility.

If humility came into play, they could reason:

  • Life is not always about me.  I need to consider the big picture.
  • My tormentors are imperfect, so it would be wise to factor that into the equation.
  • When I am insulted and demeaned, it would be hypocritical to tend to my needs by throwing the same ingredients back onto the one who does it to me.
  • Ultimately, self-preservation is best managed within a mindset of mutuality.
  • I’m doing no one any favors by clinging to hatred or contempt.

In humility, we could reason: Self-preservation makes sense, but self-preservation at the other person’s expense only perpetuates dysfunction.  

Typically, by the time narcissists reach their adult years, unhealthy patterns have already become engrained, and humility is off the radar screen.  Ideally, they could find balance by exchanging controlling and adversarial thoughts for better alternatives, but most are not insightful enough to make the switch.  For instance, they could acknowledge:

  • Healthy self-preservation does not seek another’s destruction or subjugation.
  • Pain is inevitable.  I understand that I live in a broken world.  I don’t like it, yet I need to be prepared for it.
  • I can advance my needs without a know-it-all attitude.
  • Rather than prioritizing guttural emotion, I appreciate that change is driven by well-conceived insights and reflections.
  • There is no need for me to indulge disdainful temptations.
  • Each person has the right to choose.  Others have that right, and I have the right as well.  When we differ, it makes sense to establish my boundaries and be who I choose to be.
  • I’ll be patient with myself when my efforts are not ideal.  I’m a work in progress.
  • I can stay in control of myself as I let go of the need to control others’ thoughts and opinions.
  • Shame does not work as a prime motivator.  
  • I’ll prioritize solid standards and ethics, then lean into them.
  • When I need to be assertive, I’ll do so, and that includes a willingness to manage myself with civility.
  • I’m willing to ponder the mitigating circumstances causing others to be dysregulated.

Do you know people with strong narcissistic leanings who are able to think that way?  

Sadly, narcissists tend not to self-reflect, and they are certainly not known for championing the mind of humility.  Instead, they refuse to shift gears, meaning anger and retribution predictably take https://survivingnarcissism.tv/7-truths-narcissists-cannot-embrace/center stage.

Balance comes as we seek self-preservation while remaining grounded in honesty about the human condition, staying fixed on clean initiatives, then embracing humility as the ultimate strength.

~Les Carter, Ph.D.

To watch the video on this topic, click here.