As you learn about the pattern of narcissism, it is essential to recognize the role of the False Self. Narcissistic individuals decided a long time ago that being honest about personal frailties, needs, and misgivings is dangerous. They have concluded that it is too risky to be vulnerable. Therefore, they have a deeply developed pattern of portraying themselves inaccurately.
In any relationship, learning each other’s flaws, mistakes, or weaknesses is inevitable (as is learning about each other’s positives, too). But narcissists, being so committed to the False Self, can hardly bear being discovered as imperfect, so they remain in constant spin mode, even when it makes no sense to do so.
Acknowledging their dishonesty
That being the case, when you call out a narcissist regarding an inaccuracy or a frustration you have, instead of discussing it honestly and constructively, they predictably go straight into denial, blame shifting, and angry rebuttals. It’s just what they do. Furthermore, when you catch them in obvious falsehoods, even as you are glaringly accurate, they double down on their dishonesty, appealing to their superior interpretations while reminding you of your inability to see things correctly.
A narcissist’s definition of “fact” is whatever props up their entitlement, or keeps them feeling smug, or keeps them in the favored position over you. And over time, as you have repeated experiences with this pattern, one stark truth becomes abundantly clear: To a narcissist, objective facts are irrelevant. If you wish to discuss matters they deem as inconvenient or indicting, they simply deny what is true and continue with whatever is necessary to keep the False Self propped up.
Inside the pattern of narcissism, dishonesty is first nature. They have lied to themselves for so long and on so many topics that they are incapable of coming to terms with facts that compete with their internal struggles.
To illustrate, notice several of the lies narcissists tell themselves:
- I’m more important than you.
- If you have needs, they are not as important as my needs.
- Our problems can’t be my fault, which means you are the problematic one.
- I am a worthy person, you are not, unless I confer it upon you.
- When we differ, your perspectives are not necessary.
- If you accuse me of impropriety, it is inaccurate.
So, understanding that facts are irrelevant to a narcissist, you will need to separate your mind from theirs.
Remind yourself of what is true:
- Narcissism itself is anchored in a multifaceted lie. It is not accurate to presume that selfishness, entitlement, controlling others, being manipulative, and being unaccountable is a reasonable way to live.
- Because of their commitment to the False Self, narcissists are unable to self-reflect. Their general attitude about self-examination is: “Who needs that?”
- Narcissists presume that if they accommodate another person’s evidence or perspective showing them to be mistaken, it means they are no longer able to be in control. This illustrates that controlling you is so important that it overrides open-mindedness.
- Likewise, if narcissists admit that you are truthful about their imperfections, it equates to bringing great shame upon them. The notion of addressing problems non-judgmentally is foreign to them.
- If a narcissist wants something to be true, that settles it.
- Accepting alternate explanations requires a form of empathy, but narcissists have concluded that empathy is undesirable since it would require them to step away from their attitude of superiority.
- And most of all…For the narcissist, dishonesty works, while honesty does not.
When you engage with narcissists, one of the healthy ingredients you can bring to the relationship is objectivity. Yet, over time, it becomes quite clear that they are subjective only. That is, they are driven to interpret life only through a self-serving lens. What is consistent with the False Self is all that matters.
Healthy people know that relationships require honesty, and that many other ingredients can be possible as honesty is prioritized…respect, reliability, and trustworthiness for starters. As the narcissist reminds you how facts are irrelevant to them, your response can be, “This means we can have no meaningful relationship.” That is sad, but it is also factual.
~Les Carter, Ph.D.
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