A beginning point for healthy relationships is truthfulness. Relationships can succeed as participants have no hard hidden agendas, but are committed to authenticity. In other words, what you see is the real deal.
Narcissists, however, are all about hidden agendas. They might give the appearance of being truthful or reliable, but as you get to know them, you learn that manipulative hooks abound.
Narcissists cannot be consistently truthful with you due to their pervasive need to live with delusional idealism. They nurse ideal notions about ways people should respond to them, becoming blissfully unaware of how their guiding assumptions are out of touch with reality. Then, adding insult to injury, when you indicate that you cannot agree with their delusions, instead of taking your concerns to heart, you become a target for their venom.
Here are some common examples of how deluded they can be:
- “I really should get everything I want.” Narcissists are by definition selfish, but instead of seeing that as problematic, when you protest, they let you know how much of a nuisance you are. “You are in my way.”
- “It’s not reasonable for you to discuss (or expose) my weaknesses.” Even when they are most egregious in their flaws and miscalculations, narcissists hide behind thick walls of defense. As far as they are concerned, “You just don’t understand what I’ve been through.”
- “My influence over you should be preeminent.” Being self impressed, narcissists genuinely believe that they should have higher status over you (and anyone else in their inner circle). Their presumption is: “You are fundamentally inept.”
- “If you think of me as judgmental, it’s because you refuse to admit your deficiencies.” Narcissists are highly critical and are not bashful about letting you know what is wrong. And when you balk at their pronouncements, they think: “You’re a slow learner.”
- “If I’m angry, it’s because you refuse to admit your culpability.” Narcissists do not have the ego strength to admit how emotionally abrasive they can be. Even when their anger is awful, they nurse the thought: “You just naturally create friction.”
- “What you call vanity is just me taking care of myself.” Narcissists are quite image conscious, so naturally they resort to all sorts of behaviors to make themselves look or feel special. This can come in the form of obsessing about physical appearances to having the right diet to being with the right people. And when you do not embrace their “self-care,” their retort is: “You’re just jealous.”
- “I’m typically understanding and helpful.” Wanting to appear virtuous, narcissists can convince themselves that you are lucky to have them in your corner. If you imply that they are insensitive, they can reason: “You just want me to be an enabler.”
In their delusional idealism, narcissists tell themselves that their truth is the only truth that matters.
They have life figured out, and you don’t. If you would just do as they direct, you’d be better off because, you see, they are the standard for normalcy and you are screwed up. They own the penthouse suite while you belong in the basement.
Making matters worse, they protect their psychic fragility by targeting you if you do not support their delusions. In their minds, you need to be re-educated. They will shame you, and will gladly inform others of your ineptitude. To them, if you reject them, it means you have to be taken down a few notches, and by no means do you have the right to believe in your inner competence. Instead, you are supposed to filter your thoughts through their grid.
The absurdity of their idealization is lost on narcissists because they are so committed to propping up their carefully crafted False Self. So that means you’ll need to have very low expectations for them to change, focusing instead on shoring up your good reasoning.
Narcissists cannot be truthful with you because they so willingly lie to themselves about who they are. Nonetheless, you can exchange their deluded idealism for your own common-sense realism. You are much more effective in your primary relationships when you consistently pursue dignity, respect, and civility.
~Les Carter, Ph.D.
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