Did you read the title of this post? That’s essential to know, because most N people aren’t “bad.” They’re not “evil” even though I’ve heard them described as such. Shoot, I’ve described them as such.
The truth is that they are mentally/emotionally damaged. They usually also believe themselves NOT to have hidden insecurities. Because they believe this about themselves, it could logically follow (if you’re crazy) that they are not insecure. They are. NPD usually arises because one or both parents were N people. An N has the emotional capacity of a child that is approximately 6-7 years old. That’s the age when it’s traditionally been determined that children reach the age of reason.
It’s also the age when life is truly “all about me.” Prior to that age children are selfish and act simply for self-fulfillment because they don’t know better. There appears to be an emotional shift around age 6 – 7 when a child begins to understand that life is not all about him/her. They begin to understand that they aren’t the center of the universe and their behavior will reflect this understanding.
N people stay in that 6-7 year old stasis, usually through the actions of a primary adult care-giver who is an N. Many times it’s a protective measure since making life all about themselves allows them to build the walls necessary to withstand the regular emotional (and sometimes physical assaults) perpetrated upon them by their N adult caregiver.
I was raised by an N parent. Luckily, my other parent was not an N and spent enough time with me to provide me equilibrium within the chaos. Having been raised by an N parent, you’d think that I would recognize N behavior before it enters my life. Not so, and not so with just about everyone who allows an N into their lives.
Who willingly allows an N into their lives? A LOT of happy, emotionally healthy and un-damaged people. N people are very good at masks. They live within walls of their own construction, and those walls have been constructed at an early age as a coping mechanism. They’ve been living within those walls for so long that they don’t know the walls exist and, for the most part, when confronted with the existence of those walls, they will deny they exist.
An N person lives most of their lives in denial about behaviors. They don’t feel. They do have feelings, but their feelings have been stuffed down in the denial cave for so long that they’ve forgotten they have them. They’ve spent so much of their pre-adult lives defending against assault.
Think about this: An N is usually the product of an N. If what the N has been taught about appropriate behavior comes from another N how are they going to act? There is no reason for them to believe that how they treat others is wrong because it’s been so deeply ingrained in them that it is right.
N’s are always right. Don’t forget that statement. I may have time to come back around to it in this post.
So why does it appear that an N person can love? Here’s why: They need to love, but they need to love a reflection. They are seeking that which they know is true about themselves. Normal, sane people know that what an N believes to be true about him or herself isn’t real, isn’t true, and is more likely to be a reflection of the N parent’s projection of self on the N child.
So an N has a driving urge to find a mirror. A mirror doesn’t reflect who we are, it simply gives us a superficial image. So an N will initially choose someone who they believe holds up a mirror for them to look in. When they don’t have someone who will hold this mirror for them, and hold it steady, they begin a cycle of destruction.
First, they are charming, usually above-average in looks, and appear to be above-average in intelligence. They will at time “test” their chosen victim by making self-deprecating remarks such as: “Oh, I wish I had YOUR brain power – I’m just not that smart.” When you hear something like this, beware. Don’t be on edge, because that can also be a normal comment from a normal person. From an N person, it’s a test. They want you to assure them that they DO have your brain power, that they are totally smarter than you are. It’s actually better, if you want to keep the peace, to make the statement that you’re really not that smart, and that the N is probably much smarter. But, as a rule, you don’t know yet that you’re with an N. Odds are you’ll shrug off a comment like this with an assenting murmur or even a bold assertion that the N is totally just as smart, if not smarter. And then you’ll provide examples.
Ahh. The N breathes an inner sigh of relief. Narcissistic supply met. You passed a test. The more you compliment them, the more they appear to like you. Don’t be fooled. They are not liking you – they are liking the reflection they receive of their belief about themselves.
N’s can, at first, appear to be very caring, nurturing, empathy-driven, gentle and compassionate. They are dangerously charming, usually appear “well-bred,” polite and considerate. They truly believe they are all these things. The contradiction here is that while a normal person can believe that all these things are true about themselves, they also know they are not always thus. They recognize flaws within themselves. They are balanced.
N people are not balanced. An N will start off appearing to share your feelings, to FEEL your feelings, feel your pain, reciprocate your generosity and in general display all those characteristics you want so badly in another person. They do this not because they are truly feeling this way, because they are incapable of empathy, but because they are feeding off YOU. YOU are their mirror and having a mirror to look in is the only thing that tells them whether they are truly what they believe themselves to be.
One problem with this is that it’s all superficial. This is the halcyon or honeymoon stage of the relationship and it can last as long as you want it to last. Just dumb yourself down, don’t ever dare to prove you know more about something than an N does, don’t ever dare to utter words that might be misconstrued as even the slightest criticism, do everything the N tells you to do (and this will be an incredible tightrope walk on your part), allow them to act as they please, sublimate your self to their need for narcissistic supply, and you’ll do just fine in a relationship with an N. Really. You’ll be so very happy.
Okay, if you’re normal, you’ll be miserable. You’ll know after the first time you realize (and mention) that the N has done something that hurts your feelings or disappoints you, that you are to blame for being hurt and disappointed, that the N had nothing to do with it, and that you are an unfeeling, insensitive and out-and-out wrong person for feeling this way. You’ll know this because the N will tell you.
You see, an N has no personal accountability. They admit doing no wrong; they admit to no flaws; they cannot allow themselves to believe that they are not perfect. Thus begins the devaluation of you. Remember, you are nothing more than a reflection of the N, and if the N isn’t seeing what he or she expects and wants to see, in the mirror that is you, they will swing into manipulation and control mode. They may start subtly, so subtly that you actually believe that you were wrong, that your feelings were not valid and then you’ll castigate yourself for being so insensitive as to point out something to your N that you were hurt by something he or she did. You may even apologize emphatically for having felt your own feelings. You’ll feel this way because N people are usually very adept with words. At first.
N people use many methods to punish their mirrors. In my experience, withdrawal (punishment – you are banished from my magnificent presence!) was the first method. When I didn’t obey, passive-aggressive bullying came next. When that didn’t work and I called him on it, direct manipulation and control measures were taken to communicate to me that I was worthless. I was told what I would do, how I would do it, and for how long I would do it. It was the equivalent of standing a 6-year-old in the corner for bad behavior – and it was so like that because an N doesn’t know how to act, emotionally, beyond that level.
Do not ever forget that you are nothing more than an object to an N person. You are a mirror. You are an object. If the N doesn’t like what he or she sees, the mirror becomes trash. Do not forget that.
Narcissists can’t’ love. They don’t know how. They have no idea what that feels like because they’ve never felt it. They have an idea in their heads regarding what love is, but you will never hear them tell you they love you and if you tell them you love them, prepare for the worst. The N will compliment you rarely, but when he/she does, you can be certain there’s a direct benefit to themselves in doing so. Nothing is altruistic with an N. N’s gauge their self-importance, many times, by the company they keep. They get most of their information from the company they keep because that company is a mirror. I provided a “brag point” for my N. He could tell others he’d met a really creative and well-known artist who was featured in the local paper. This gives him a certain level of status that he may have been missing. The truth is that I’m NOT a well-known artist and that I was featured in the local paper purely because one of my pieces was photographed by a reporter who was doing a story on a gallery, not a story on me. N’s exaggerate and lie with the same ease that you and I change clothes.
The N will now begin to be hyper vigilant with regard to everything you do and say. They will listen and if you communicate with them in email (don’t – ever!) they will read, with the primary intent being to find fault with what you are saying. They will be reading and listening, not to actually hear what you are saying, but to find something, anything, that they can construe, in their own damaged minds, as an insult, a criticism or a “damning analysis of their character.” (that’s in quotes because it’s a direct quote from a reply I received from an N after I’d told him that I was hurt because it appeared he’d created a boundary that didn’t apply to him, only to me.) N people will trample boundaries like a herd of elephants on rampage.
Once the N has found what he or she wants in your words or writing they will pounce on it and wield it like a blunt object. They will beat you with it over and over. You will find yourself confused, then hurt, and then angry as hell. How could this person, who was so wonderful, who you thought was perfect for you, blithely ignore everything else you’d said and zero in only on the few words he or she found that could be spun to reflect an insult??? They can do it because they’re damaged. They’re narcissistic. They can’t tolerate any appearance in their mirror that there might be some implied criticism of themselves. They cannot handle that their mirror (don’t forget – you are an object) is now reflecting something less than marvelous about them.
So what do they do? First they may withdraw. Remember, this is all punishment. It has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with their perception that you may not be the right mirror. They’ve objectified you, and you aren’t meeting their standards for a perfect mirror. Don’t ever forget that this is not your fault. Once they determine you’ve been punished long enough, they will re-enter your life, lightly and oh-so-gently, probably with something that seems like wit and humor. N’s don’t have a sense of humor unless it’s strongly laced with criticism of you, sarcasm, and their “humor” can be used to hurt. Then they start to bully. They attempt to force their mirror into submission. They go from subtle manipulation to clear and present overt manipulation and control. They will threaten you: “If you want this from me, you will behave in the way I dictate.” With an N, you must obey, otherwise you are no good to them.
What happens if you don’t obey? They discard you. Here’s the cycle, and it’s very simple, while being so immensely complex as to cause enormous damage to you:
Charm the victim into a feeling of security.
Devalue the victim as often as possible when it appears the victim is critical.
Discard the victim if they refuse to conform to or obey the N’s dictates.
Once you are discarded (and it may take a while before you realize you’ve been discarded) the N no longer has any use for you. They will become cold and distant. You are no longer worthy of being a part of their lives because you don’t reflect correctly. Think about it. Would you keep a mirror that makes you look worse than you believe yourself to look? Would you continue to look in a mirror that tells you that you are ugly when you absolutely know that you are the most beautiful person you’ve ever seen? My guess is that you’d head out to the trashcan immediately and dump the mirror in it.
Does any of this mean an N is a bad person? No. It means they act like bad people. They act this way because they know no other way. It’s what has “worked” for them all their lives – only – it hasn’t worked. You’ll be able to see, once discarded, that the life of an N is rife with unstable relationships where the N has never held him or herself accountable for their culpability in the demise of the relationship. Many people have lives rife with unstable relationships, but normal people understand their own contributions to that demise. N’s don’t understand this and never will. It’s always someone else’s fault.
Getting an N into therapy is next to impossible. Don’t waste your energy. Don’t be friends with an N – simply be friendly. There’s a distinct difference. If an N discards you and you realize you’ve been discarded, don’t attempt to re-enter their lives. Don’t give in to threats and demands. I was recently discarded by an N who sent me an email that left a “window” open – not for me, but for him. He told me that I would send him an email (control) and that email would say one thing (manipulation) and after a period of time (punishment), we might be able to resume contact (open window for him) if my anger had cooled (bad mirror, you need to be punished!)
In no fashion did he accept any responsibility for what happened. None. It was all my fault. I was critical, I insulted him and I perpetrated a “damning analysis of his character.” The worst thing I did? I evinced (according to him) a dissatisfaction with him.
Normal people will understand that people become dissatisfied and will sometimes articulate that dissatisfaction. Normal people will understand this is something that needs discussion and resolution, not bullying, control, manipulation and punishment.
Rarely will you encounter an N who has been professionally diagnosed. I think my N was, based on the lengthy divorce proceedings, the number of psychiatrists that were called in to evaluate both parents, the fact that both parents were court-ordered to intensive parenting classes, and the public court records show him requesting that certain evidence from psychiatrists be struck from the record.
Naturally, he would never tell me of this diagnosis because he does not believe it to be true of himself. It’s all there, though. I just didn’t see it in time.
N’s don’t like to live without their mirror. Once they discard one (and I’m thinking that my N married an N who had other issues and perhaps turned on him within the first year of marriage.) they will immediately start a search for another mirror. When that mirror proves unsatisfactory, they may stay with that mirror but continue looking, so they don’t have to be alone. N’s have a terrible time being alone with themselves. I think my N stayed married for 10 years because his spouse enabled him to feel superior, not through complimentary behavior, but by being herself, and showing behavior that was so much crazier than his that he received his narcissistic supply through watching her. He kept having children with her, and they now have several damaged children.
Three months after his separation, (he left) he was engaged in a full-on relationship with a woman he met on a dating site. He was “with” her for 6 years. The entire time he was with her – for six years – and he still says he was just “dating” her even though he practically lived at her house, he had more than one online profile open and was trolling.
Five months out of his relationship with her (he says he ended it, but I doubt it), he found me. Luckily for me, it only took me 3 months to see what this man is. I dodged a hollow-point, and if you know anything about what hollow-points do to you once they enter your body, you’ll get the metaphor.
I refused to become sexually involved with this man. I am so very glad for that one piece of good judgment on my part. He was very open that he was “trying to bring many people” into his life so he could “take his time” in finding a mate and not repeat his “pattern” of instant relationships. I bought that line. I thought it was a great idea, and so I told him I was dating other men. Bad thing to do. Nope – don’t ever tell an N you’re dating other people. They own you, regardless the “rules.” Remember, with an N, the rules only apply to you, not them. Most of the rules will be unspoken and you’ll figure them out once you’ve been discarded. You’re trash, you know. You’re a crumpled up piece of paper, casually tossed toward the wastebasket. Let’s hope the N has good aim and you actually land in the wastebasket, otherwise the cycle will keep repeating itself as he or she sees the piece of paper, opens it up, smooths it out, and begins to craft new ways to lure you back inside his or her realm of influence.