Every person is going to have lapses in judgment. No one is immune to making mistakes, or being insensitive. It’s part of being human. Healthy individuals are conscientious enough to keep those episodes to a minimum, and when necessary, they take responsibility for their errors, making true restitution. They use their less-than-perfect moments as springboards for growth and maturation.
Narcissists, however, are not psychologically healthy. They too have lapses in judgment, but instead of making restitution and learning from their experiences, they seek someone to blame. As a general rule, they cannot admit fault. They demonstrate little to no humility. They have little regard for the ill effects of their behaviors upon others. And they refuse to adjust, even when their errors are egregious and obvious.
In moments of imperfection, a narcissist commonly thinks: “How can I get off the hook…fast?” Their narcissism is driven by hidden insecurity, but also by a need to stay in control. So, it is quite common for them to manipulate and exploit, and one of their favorite tactics is finding a scapegoat…someone to blame for their clear dysfunctions. They are too fragile to say “I was wrong,” but instead, it’s “Look what you did to me; you need to pay.”
Even as scapegoating is clearly dishonest and divisive, narcissists have all sorts of reasons to pin false shame and guilt onto someone (anyone) else. Let’s highlight a few of them:
- They desperately wish to avoid the label of corrupt or unreliable. In their personal histories, narcissists developed a conflicted response to the emotion of shame or guilt. Their exposure to judgments left them feeling perplexed, but instead of finding constructive ways to manage it, they chose to project their shame onto others.
- Narcissists are committed to the False Self. A person’s True Self includes a broad compilation of pluses and minuses, successes and failures, strengths and weaknesses. But because of their hidden shame, narcissists have decided that they will claim ownership only to traits that support their narrative of presumed superiority.
- To them, relationships are a competition. Rather than thinking about harmony and inclusivity, they think in terms of winners versus losers. And since their False Self demands that they must be in the superior position, it only makes sense (to them) to have a designated loser in their world. And that person is the scapegoat.
- They have an almost complete inability to manage awkward or unpleasant emotions. Narcissists struggle greatly with psychological ineptitude. When faced with hurt, anger, anxiety, or confusion, they have a paucity of coping skills to draw upon. They have not been trained in emotional competence, and frankly, it’s simply easier to point the finger of accusation outward than to delve into inner contemplation.
- They make heavy use of projection as a primary defense mechanism. At some level, they know they are flawed, but instead of addressing it, they see in others the very traits they dislike about themselves.
- They feel power when someone in their presence becomes powerless. Lacking empathy, they do not feel with another person. As part of their narcissism, they lack compassion, patience, or equality. Instead, they ascribe lowliness to the scapegoat as a means of claiming phony dominance and strength.
By choosing a scapegoat to unload their inner misery onto, narcissists show themselves to be the ultimate gaslighters. They wish to fill their victim with doubt and confusion, but in the process, they overlook how it actually illustrates their own inadequacies.
Simply put, narcissists are psychological weaklings, and they are psychologically lazy as well.
This means they have no inclination to examine themselves objectively, nor do they ponder the impact of their behaviors upon the scapegoat. Instead, they are solely focused on being in the dominant position, illustrating an utter lack of appreciation for thoughtfulness or contemplation.
More to the heart of the matter, though, a narcissist’s inclination to scapegoat illustrates self-loathing. By refusing to be honest about their humanity, they imply: “I hate my imperfect self, and I’ll do whatever is necessary to draw attention away from who I really am.”
Narcissists cannot admit they (like every other person) are a mixture of many traits, some good and some not-so-good. Vulnerability is anathema to them. Anger, contempt, and pessimism have taken over their personalities. Self-awareness is almost completely absent.
As you witness the narcissist’s inclination to blame and accuse, instead of defending or responding in kind, choose the better alternatives of self-care, wisdom, and decency. The narcissist is unlikely to be impressed, but that is not your problem to solve. Your task is to use your observations as motivation to be the much cleaner alternatives.
Did I mention that they are psychologically weak and psychologically lazy?
~Les Carter, Ph.D.
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