Narcissism is a fear-based pattern of life.  That stated, there are very few narcissists who will agree that they indeed operate with fear leading the way.  Instead, they will claim that such a statement doesn’t apply to them (keeping in mind they are pretty impressed with oneself).  They like to think of themselves as enlightened and you as the one who should fear them.  Nonetheless, their inaccurate presumptions do not change the truth.

We often think in stereotypes when we consider fear, but that limits our insights when we do.

For instance, fear can manifest in hyper-vigilance, trembling, anxiety, or being overtly intimidated.  So, if the narcissist sees none of that within, they presume they are off the hook.  But in doing so, they overlook many other behaviors that are a dead giveaway for fear.

As you learn to navigate your relationship with narcissists, you can make well-informed adjustments once you see them for who they really are. So, it will be to your advantage to recognize that behind their false superiority and their many insensitivities, they indeed harbor much fear. And seeing the truth about their fear, you can be positioned to respond to their many control messages wisely.

To get to the heart of the matter, it would be revealing if we could get honest answers to questions about their most common behaviors and attitudes.  Even when the narcissist claims to have no fears, you can know otherwise.  For instance, we could ask:

  • Why do you lie so easily? And why do you only offer selective disclosures about who you really are? Their slippery relationship with truth reveals a fear of being transparent since (to them) that would require letting go of power, becoming accountable instead.
  • Why is it so important for you to control others? A narcissist’s need to fit people inside their agenda implies a lack of trust and feeling threatened by differences. Likewise, the need for control implies trepidation at the prospect of sifting through another person’s distinctives.
  • Why do you resort to intimidation? Typically, narcissists intimidate as a hedge against coordinating with others. Being a team player represents accepting a lowered status. They fear being “average.”
  • Why are you so pathologically defensive? A defining ingredient of narcissism is defensiveness. Narcissists have crafted a False Self, and they dread being deemed less than ideal. So, they justify, deny, rationalize, and project…all because they are in chronic cover-up mode.
  • Why are you a psychological chameleon? Socially, narcissists attempt to create false impressions for the purpose of being accepted or blending in with the group in front of them. Not wanting (fearing) to be known as pathological, they yearn for admiration, and if it means appearing as someone they are not, they are willing to do so.
  • Why do you respond to differences or confrontations with unhealthy anger? A narcissist’s blustery anger lies in direct proportion to the amount of fear inside. They are overwhelmed when others differ, triggering an impulse to shut down any and all dissent. Ultimately, they feel inept with the task of blending with others.
  • You hate being judged, so why do you readily judge others? A narcissist’s proclivity toward judgment and criticism represents an attempt to gain a “first strike” upper hand in relationship competitions. Having learned that judgment, guilt, and shame are just one misstep away, they seek to neutralize your potential judgments.

There are more questions we could ask as we uncover a narcissist’s hidden fears, but suffice to say that narcissists have such pervasive insecurity that it is strongly predictable that their fears will creep into a wide array of behavioral responses.

Each time a narcissist indicates that they have no fears, keep in mind that you are in the presence of one with astonishingly low insight. They are self-serving egoists who must have the final word despite what the facts clearly indicate. They are too emotionally fragile to say: “I’d like to learn from you, so I’ll gladly hear what you have to say.”

Narcissists are master gaslighters who find pseudo-strength by negating your observations.  But their gaslighting is awash in their need to deflect truth.  Learn to read the signs of their many fears, and in doing so, trust what your gut tells you to be reasonable and accurate.

And as narcissists continue to pretend that they have it all together, you can conclude: “I choose not to alter my insights, nor will I change my personal initiatives based upon the projections of a fraidy-cat.”

~Les Carter, Ph.D.

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