Tag Archives: covert narcissists

Confrontation!

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

 

“People who confront the narcissist always lose.”

 

What do you think? Is that a true statement?  It certainly seems true, doesn’t it?  Only enter the fight if you are prepared to get beat up.  To confront the narcissist on behavior or attitude is to walk dangerously.

If you are reading this, you probably understand. It might be at work where you confront the narcissist about the lies he has told about you.  It might be a parent who has always put you down.  It might be a friend who takes advantage of your time and energy.  Or it might be a spouse or lover who is often cruel and uncaring.  But when you point out how they hurt you, you end up hurt again.

Somehow it is all your fault. You started it.  You deserve it.  You are the real culprit.  If you hadn’t done what you did, this never would have happened.  You should be thankful the narcissist puts up with you at all.  On and on and on.  By the time it’s over you wish you had never dared.

Then you feel like crap. Sorry for the vernacular, but that’s the way it is.  You built up your courage, gathered your nerve, prepared your words—and got creamed.  And this isn’t the first time.

So what do you do? Simple justice seems to demand that the narcissist be confronted.  She has to be told that she is hurting you.  He has to have the boundaries made clear.  They ought to be stopped.

But here’s the problem: the narcissists either already know they are doing something that hurts you or they simply don’t care. All your energy seems out of line to them.  They don’t understand why you are attacking them, since they have done nothing wrong.  Again, you deserved it.  To the narcissist, it is almost hypocritical of you to challenge them for their cruelty when it was your own fault.

 

And     so     you     go     slowly     crazy.

 

But understand that this is not your problem. You are not the crazy one.  This is how narcissists generally deal with confrontation.  Whether it is the boss, the mother, the neighbor, the police officer or anyone.  Even the counselor.

To the Officer: “Yes, Officer, I see your point. Thank you.  I appreciate your diligence.”

To you: “That jerk!  If he didn’t have that badge I would have pushed his words down his throat.  Who does he think he is giving me a ticket?”

Even when it seems that the confrontation works, it still doesn’t. There may be limited success.  He might shut up for a while.  She might walk away.  But they really don’t understand your anger and don’t care about your point.  They can’t see you as a real person whose emotions are valid.  Your anger, your sadness, your joy—they don’t understand them the way you might understand the emotions of others.

 

Back to the question: What do you do? Here are some ideas:

  1. Do what you must. If you must say something, do it. It will feel good to get it out, no matter how it is accepted.
  2. Plan for failure. There are times when it is right to do something even if you know ahead of time that it won’t work. Maybe someone else will hear and understand your point, even if the narcissist doesn’t get it. If you plan for the narcissist to avoid or miss your point, you might not be as hurt when he/she does.
  3. Accept small victories and benefits. Sometimes a confrontation can set up a boundary. Sometimes the narcissist will be set back and have to take a different tack. That can be good.
  4. Or you don’t have to confront at all. Why put yourself through that if you don’t have to? Set your boundaries and maintain them without confrontation. The narcissist will probably try to use confrontation if you seem to want to avoid it, but walking away or staying silent can be a very effective strategy.

 

Confrontation is hard and narcissists usually choose victims who hate it in almost any circumstance. It is hard because you see the other as a real person and you don’t want to hurt them, nor do you want to fail to get your point across.  Just know that your desire to confront and your struggle with confrontation are okay.  They’re normal.

So I have attached a little video that seemed to illustrate what happens when we try to confront the narcissist. I apologize in advance for the “dumb criminals” part.  You are neither dumb nor criminals, but the narcissist is usually as hard as bulletproof glass!

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Insidious

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

 

A friend is dying of cancer. I hate cancer. Cancer is sneaky. It lies in wait and pops up to ambush a person. It doesn’t care whether you are young or old, married, have children, have unfulfilled dreams, or anything. It just hides until it surprises you.

 

Oh, there are signs. A cough. A lump. An itch. A pain. A weariness. Little things that make you wonder. But it is so easy to shrug those signs off and just keep going. Sometimes people even go to the doctor, but the cancer is so small that it isn’t detected . . . yet. But it’s there, waiting. It’s insidious.

 

Insidious.   Seems to me that’s a good word for narcissism also. It means to wait, as in ambush. It comes almost directly from the Latin term. The idea, in Latin, is to sit waiting. The enemy in hiding. The enemy in our midst, not quite identifiable. You can almost feel that something is wrong, but you can’t see it or touch it. It might be right around the corner, or the next. Then, suddenly, it’s there.

 

That lady in church who welcomed you with such kindness. You notice how others seem to let her have her way. You notice that she is much better at getting others to work than she is at doing work herself. The more you get to know her, the more you realize that she speaks a little too freely about others. You begin to wonder if she speaks that freely about you. You have trusted her with private information, but now you begin to worry. Insidious.

 

The young man was so full of love and attention. He was polite and patient and thoughtful. At times it seemed like he was courting you instead of your daughter. She seemed so lucky and so happy. Just because she started wearing her hair differently and she sometimes wouldn’t tell you where they were going, you weren’t worried . . . at first. After a while, when he left his good job because “they didn’t know how to use his talents,” you began to see a different side of him. Soon he and your daughter were living in another state and she never called or emailed. That’s when you saw that you were ambushed.

 

Insidious. I could tell story after story. Husbands and wives; in-laws; co-workers; leaders; friends. People who seem great at first. Even when you begin to see the little things, they seem benign. But the cancer waits and grows.

 

Some people grow up with narcissism. It surrounds them from their earliest memories of parents, grand-parents, or siblings. What seems so obvious to outsiders just seems like regular life to these folks. Nothing is wrong, but everything is wrong.

 

Others have narcissism creep up on them. They enter into relationships with kindness and hope, never suspecting that an abuser sits waiting for an opportunity. It might be at work, where a co-worker tries to take your position or clients. It might be at church where the narcissist decides you are the one that needs their control. It might be an intimate relationship where you thought there was only love. Insidious.

 

So what do we do? Well, we do the same thing we do with cancer. We watch for the little things and pay attention. We tell others about the reality of narcissism and teach them to watch for the signs. Not every unkind act or selfish focus is an indication of narcissism, but we can watch. Patterns begin to emerge, evidence accumulates, and maybe we can act before the damage is done.

 

Sometimes aggressive treatment does work against cancer. Sometimes a change of diet or the right medicines or simple surgery can reduce or eliminate the effect of cancer. In the same way, catching certain behaviors or attitudes early in a relationship can allow us to build defenses, watch even more closely, or escape before things get bad.

 

And I have noticed an unexpected relief for some people who are diagnosed with cancer. Finally they have an explanation for being tired or for that pain that won’t go away. Finally the whole thing makes sense. Again, in the same way, those who have grown up knowing the pain of narcissism sometimes find a relief in naming the insidious enemy. They always knew something was wrong—their family was not like others—but now they know what it is. It doesn’t make it go away, but naming it brings both explanation and options.

 

Parents can talk with sons and daughters about the warning signs of a narcissist. Bosses can learn, as can pastors. Marriage counselors and therapists are beginning to see the truth. Narcissism no longer hides as easily in our society. More of us are sounding the alarm.

 

Yes, narcissists are adaptable, just like cancer. They adjust their tactics and hide differently so we have to be alert. Certain regimens will help. Clear and strong boundaries. Acceptance of ourselves and our uniqueness. Trust in the leading and love of the Lord.

 

We may never eradicate narcissism and it might still surprise us from time to time, but the battle is not the same. Narcissism may continue to be insidious, lying in wait to abuse, but we are watching for it.

 

We are no longer unaware.

 

 

 

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Why?

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

 

Why do the narcissists abuse people?  Why do they do such things?  They hurt.  They use.  They manipulate.  They destroy.

Why?

Some have attributed their cruelty to hatred.  Some to anger.  Others to envy.  Perhaps they look at the rest of us and create ways to demolish what we or others have built into our lives.   Perhaps they do it for fun, excitement, maybe challenge.

Narcissists can cause a lot of pain.  I read the stories people send to me privately and those shared in the comments and I grieve for those who have had to endure so much.  Some of the stories are hard to believe, but I know narcissists and I do believe them.  And, again, why do they do these things?

I have written about this before, but it seems important to say it again: it isn’t your fault.  You are not an inferior person destined to be the kick-toy for others.  You are not suffering because of some sin in your life.  Narcissists don’t need our sin in order to accomplish their nastiness.  God is not angry with you.  He did not send the narcissist to punish you.  Basically, it isn’t about you.

I’m not sure the truth will make you feel better about the reality in which we live, but I hope it allows you to feel better about yourself.  It’s the narcissist who is broken.  There is something lacking in them that allows them to hurt others without concern.  There is something in them that is very different from the rest of us.  No, they are not normal.

You see, the narcissist simply doesn’t care.  He will do whatever he wants.  She will say whatever she thinks.  Words and actions are part of the narcissists’ tools to get what they want.  They do the things they do because they are means to an end.  If it hurts you, so what?

But, you say, how can a spouse or a friend or a parent think like that?  I don’t know.  I just know that some of them do.  They manipulate in whatever way works.  If it takes being nice to you and making you feel very good, they will do that.  If it takes being mean and cruel, they will do that.  Either one is simply useful, not good or bad.

So is it envy or hatred or sadism or some other perverted motivation?  Maybe.  But I will guarantee you that the narcissist does not feel these things in the same way you do.  If they envy, they don’t think of it as envy.  It is probably much more like base desire.  If it is hatred, it may still have nothing to do with you as a person.  If it is sadism, it does not bring the pleasure you might think.  The narcissist is motivated simply by the desire to feel better about themselves.  Whatever it takes…

Don’t try to figure it out.  There is probably no cause and effect that will make sense to you.  Just don’t believe the lie that it is about you.  A few years ago I ran across this little selection from T. S. Eliot.  I have shared it here before, but it seems good to share it again.  It might help.

 

Half the harm that is done in this world

Is due to people who want to feel important

They don’t mean to do harm ­

But the harm does not interest them.

Or they do not see it, or they justify it

Because they are absorbed in the endless struggle

To think well of themselves.

T. S. Eliot

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Feeling Trapped?

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

 

Being dumped by the narcissist is hard. One day you are wonderful and special; the next you are nothing. One day you feel loved and the next you feel hated. That’s tough.

But I think it is even harder when they won’t let you go. Day after day, week after week, on and on they just keep nagging or begging or criticizing or using or trying to make you crazy. And they are so good at keeping you involved in their lives. They lie and cry and plead and threaten, whatever it takes to keep you on that string.

Why are some narcissists so hard to get rid of? Here are some ideas:

 

  1. They think they own you. Remember that you are not a person to a narcissist. The narcissist sees others as tools, toys or obstacles. If you have been useful in the past, you may be useful in the future. Most narcissists have as little regard for the feelings of others as you or I would have for belongings. So you can’t make the decision to separate from them. They own you.
  2. They may be afraid of what you know. Did you learn any compromising information about the narcissist during your relationship? Could that information be used to challenge the image of the narcissist? Perhaps you are not important or useful, but dangerous and you must be controlled.
  3. You continue to provide supply. Sometimes we think that narcissistic supply, the “drug” many professionals refer to as the source of addiction for narcissists, is only admiration and attention. I think it is also found in conquest, control, and superiority. Every time the narcissist thinks he has won an argument, he gets a hit of supply. Every time she makes you feel worse about yourself, she gets that supply. Whatever it takes to make the narcissist feel better about himself—that’s supply. Even the battle that seems so worthless and so negative to you may provide supply to the narcissist. And, of course, your friend or lover might still want what you gave in the past and continues to look to you to provide it.

 

All of this is to say that it might be very difficult to end a narcissistic relationship. Not impossible, but difficult and not quick.

So how do you do it? Well, every situation is different. Family, marriage, work, church, friendships—all require some special methods, I suppose. Yet, there are a few things you should know for any kind of narcissistic relationship.

You have the right to be yourself. You should have some space and time and energy of your own. That will take some resources. Don’t be afraid to hold onto a little money or to take a little time for yourself. Even the most controlling relationship can be tolerated if you find a way to feel good about yourself. That happens in private times with the Lord or conversations with supportive people or just a special time by yourself.

Here are a few things I believe will help:

 

  1. You are not wrong to say no. You have to maintain some personal control in order to be healthy. Saying no or keeping your distance may be a very good thing.
  2. You don’t have to answer the phone, read the email or the text or the letter, or even be home when the narcissist expects. This is harder in a marriage, of course, but adapt these things to your own situation. If the marriage has ended, almost all of the conversation can as well.
  3. You are not accountable to the narcissist and must not tell more about yourself, especially your secrets. Secrets are powerful. When you hold one, you have control. When you share one, you give control away. This is why narcissists love to learn the secrets.
  4. There is no responsibility to continue a friendship when you have been abused. A user will use you again. Count on it. You do not have to stay tied to the abuser. You have a right to life without that person. That’s true even for an abusive parent.
  5. Plan for the battle. Remember that they will use your empathy or your guilt or your sadness against you. They want you to feel bad about letting them go. They can be ruthless. They will tell your secrets. They will lie about you. They will try to destroy whatever support you have. You will have to be strong.

 

Can you ever win? Will you ever be able to move on? Oh yes! Most of them will give up eventually. Those who won’t give up or those who have you tied into situations where you think you can’t escape only think they are in control. Create a life within your heart and mind that is yours. Even if they can make you do certain things, they can’t make you do everything. Win little battles and feel good about yourself. Spend a little time just for you. Spend a little money just for you. Find a place that is yours, even if it is a spot in the yard or a stop along the drive home. Don’t go there when the narcissist is with you. It’s yours.

Know that you are more than the victim or the supply of the narcissist. You are you and you are valued and loved. If you can get away from the narcissist, do it. If you can’t or feel that you should continue longer, find the way to be healthy even in the relationship. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself.

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Imprecatory Prayer

It’s Narcissist Friday! 

 

Imprecatory prayers. When you read them in the Psalms they seem almost shocking. After all, aren’t believers supposed to be nice? To call down judgment and punishment on those who cause our suffering just doesn’t seem consistent with “love your enemy,” does it? Christians should just “turn the other cheek” and suffer in silence, right?

Recently a commenter asked about imprecatory prayer (thanks Kathy!) and whether it is appropriate for those who suffer at the hands of someone who is cruel. I am going to say that it is.

Interestingly, “to imprecate” simply means to pray. It seems to have a particular sense of verbalization, to say out loud or to write the things we feel. So the prayer is purposeful, intentional, and not just a thought. It gathered a negative meaning along the way and is used today in the sense of “to curse,” or to call down punishment. When we pray about the pain we suffer, we may want the cause of that pain—even if it is a person close to us—to be broken so that he/she will stop.

Three thoughts come to my mind. First, in the midst of pain and suffering imprecatory prayer is normal. That is not a moral judgment. You just want the abuse to stop and it is normal to lash out against the one who hurts you. Just as it is normal to want to hit back or want justice, it is normal to take those feelings to God. In fact, those feelings should be taken to God. That’s what David did throughout the Psalms. God was the source of David’s hope, the One who helped in times of trouble. So taking those feelings to the Lord and letting Him work in your heart is the right thing to do. If your words come out stronger and with more venom than you would normally speak, God understands.

Second, look at the things Jesus said about the Pharisees and religious leaders of His day. He wasn’t particularly nice, was He? No, He spoke truth about them and their ideas. Many of us were taught that, if we can’t say something nice, we shouldn’t say anything. That is neither taught nor modeled in the Bible. We are to speak the truth with love. When Jesus spoke the truth about the Pharisees or Paul spoke the truth about the Judaizers, the words were not very nice. How do you nicely say that someone is lying or is being abusive? There may not be a nice way to speak up against the false teaching of a leader. But it is often very important that the truth be told—nice or not.

So to go to God in prayer and speak truthfully about the abuse and the abuser might seem like you are being judgmental or condemning. To ask God to stop the abuse might mean to ask Him to stop the abuser. It might take something serious to stop the abuser. That’s up to God.

I know that people get uncomfortable when they read things like David asking the Lord to “break the arm of the wicked and evil man,” in Psalm 10:15. But understand that David doesn’t really care whether God breaks the person’s arm. The point is that God would stop the power of the evil man from doing damage, that God would take away his strength. And when you pray that God would take away the strength of the abuser, be aware that God might break his arm. It’s up to God to choose the method.

Third, remember that under grace we know that even the discipline of the Lord is for the person’s good. Yes, we are to love our enemies. Sometimes that might mean that we ask God to break them so they will call out to Him and open their hearts to Him. I would not ask God to send anyone to hell, but I would ask Him to get their attention so that they can see what they are doing. I might have suggestions as to how God could do that, but I would always yield the methods to Him. I might even be motivated by my pain, but under the pain is always love for those He loves.

Brokenness is a painful process. Some people have to lose almost everything before they will see that the Lord is the One they need. Is it cruel for me to ask Him to break them, to destroy their power, or to humble them? Not if my hope is for their salvation or for the protection of their victims.

Vengeance does belong to the Lord—and He chooses to love. Anyone who comes to Him will find forgiveness and acceptance, even your abuser. In Christ, we understand and accept this. We even rejoice in it. But there is nothing wrong with praying for the abuse to stop, even if it hurts the abuser in the process.

One more thing. When you read something from the Beatitudes, like Matthew 5:44 (“love your enemies”), remember the context. Jesus is speaking to the Jews under the law. He is saying, “The will of God for you is this. To live perfectly in His will, you should be doing this.” But Jesus is fully aware of His purpose. He knows that we cannot live perfectly in the will of God. He knows we need a Savior. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is calling the Jews away from the compromises of their lives and to Himself as their Savior. He is not leaving them with impossible commands. He’s telling them He understands.

God understands your feelings. He accepts your anger and frustration. When you cry out to Him in pain, He still hears you and loves you. If you say things that seem too strong, that accuse and condemn, you are not judged. You may have noticed that He doesn’t do the terrible things you might wish He would do. He will do what is right and in the right time.

Someday the abuser will stand before God and suffer the condemnation he has deserved and chosen . . . or he will stand forgiven in relationship with Jesus. Both justice and mercy are under grace. And you will be safe forever in the hands of the Lord who loves you.

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“A Cry for Justice” – a resource

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

 

Perhaps one of the most grievous sins committed against the people of God comes in the suggestion that God should be found in the church. What I mean is that He should be found only or primarily in the church organization. So, when a victim of abuse needs to run to the “strong tower” of protection, she is led to the pastor or the elders or the church family. It may be the one place of safety, she thinks. They will believe her story, she thinks. They will help, she thinks. But the church is not that strong tower.

I have come to understand that a certain percentage of my love for books is actually a love for book titles. This one that I found a few days ago has become one of my favorites: “We’ll be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter” by Rachel Hanel. I know little about the book, but I love the title. There is a certain perverse irony in it.

The church often proclaims the message that it is a safe place for those who are hurting. We advertise the love and community, the acceptance and support. We want people to come to the church to find freedom and peace and love. And they should. If the church cannot provide the support the victim needs, if we cannot feed the hungry or heal the wounded, then what good are we?

Listen: if the church is unable to see the hurting from the perspective of Jesus, who loves them without judgment and condemnation, then it cannot be a place of refuge. Apart from the person of Christ, the church offers only a system of rules or standards or ideas, nothing to heal the heart of the oppressed. Jesus is the strong tower to which the abused can run to find comfort and support. If the church offers anything other than the love of Jesus, it fails.

Yet, those of us who read and listen to the stories of the abused hear over and over of the failure of the church. Victims come to pastors and elders and church families and receive judgment, blame, and neglect. If the leaders listen at all, they counsel without wisdom and without love. The victim so often returns to the same abuse, only now even more alone and weighted with shame.

That’s why I would pray that every pastor and church leader read Jeff Crippen’s book, “A Cry for Justice.” When I first started reading it, I found myself thinking that this is the book I wanted to write. Anyone who reads it should come away with a greater understanding of abuse and the church’s responsibility to help the victims. At the same time, you will come away with a sadness as you realize that the one place where the hurting should find help is often a source of more abuse.

“We’ll be the last ones to let you down.” That’s what the new church member hears. The church will be there in times of need. The church cares about you and your family. The church wants to help. But Jeff Crippen has learned, like many of us, that the church often offers its help wrapped in a message of: “It’s your own fault,” or “seven easy steps to restore your marriage,” or “don’t bother us with these personal things.”

Crippen writes about abuse in general, but says much that those who deal with narcissistic relationships will appreciate. In fact, without using the word, he describes narcissistic abuse very well. He covers many of the behaviors that we have talked about in this blog.

I especially appreciated the depth and breadth of Scripture used throughout the book. Like me, Jeff does not believe that Scripture addresses every life situation directly, but that we must reason from the foundation of Scripture to deal with our daily decisions. At the same time, you will be impressed with the careful and consistent use of Scripture throughout the book and the deep regard with which the author views the Bible.

The last half of the book got me even more excited. This is where Crippen directly confronts the church and its leadership. This is where he offers concrete suggestions for churches in providing real help for the hurting. This is what pastors should not ignore.

I know pastors. I know that they are often focused on things very far from hurting people. They are worried about church systems and church conflicts. They are concerned about reaching new people and keeping the ministry growing. They are concerned about what to say about their ministry at the next denominational meeting. These are not trivial things, but they do miss the point. Behind the scenes, the pastors cringe when they see Mrs. So-and-so in the outside office because they know they have little to offer her. They don’t have the time or the wisdom to handle such difficult problems. This is why I have counseled so many not to expect much from the church.

But Jeff Crippen would try to change that. He wants to educate pastors and church leaders. He wants to challenge their trite and formulaic answers. He wants to make them look at the victims of abuse and care. His advice is practical and potent.

With the support of and connection to Barbara Roberts, author of “Not Under Bondage,” Crippen offers an excellent perspective on the subject of divorce among believers as well. (I will be reviewing that book next.)

A Cry for Justice is more than a book, it’s a ministry. And I can see so much potential for the message of this ministry. I would encourage you to buy the book, read it carefully, and then give it to a pastor who will listen. Do I agree with every statement in the book? Probably not. That isn’t important. We will always have differences in perspective and style. But this message is important. I know of too many churches where the abuser is held in higher regard than his victim. Someone, someone of the church, needs to stand up for those who are being hurt.

So, get this book! You know that I rarely say something like that. I get nothing from the sales, not even an affiliate commission. I did receive a free copy of the book from Jeff because he saw that our hearts and ministries connected. You will have to pay for yours—but it will be worth it. In fact, whatever you pay will have twice the value if you pass the book on to a church leader with your strong encouragement to read (and heed) its message. When you get it, let me know what you think.

Here’s the link to the website:

http://cryingoutforjustice.com/

Here’s the link to the book on Amazon:

cry

 

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Emotional Awareness

It’s Narcissist Friday!

 

A few years ago I had a conversation with a lady who said that her husband had all the characteristics of a narcissist except one—he had lots of empathy. She said that he was very attentive to the emotions of his children and almost always knew what they were feeling. My response was that he either lacked empathy or was not a narcissist.

At the root of narcissism is the lack of empathy. This is well established. The inability to connect with or accept the validity of the feelings of others allows the narcissist to abuse with abandon. He causes pain simply because he does not care. There is nothing in him to move him away from the self-serving exploitation of others. Empathy is about caring.

In our further conversation, it became clear that this lady’s husband was truly able to discern the emotions of others, but then used that knowledge for his manipulations. In other words, he could tell when someone was sad, but didn’t care. The only reason it was important to him to know what others were feeling was for his own purposes.

Generally, empathy is defined as the ability to feel what others feel. It’s why we are moved to tears at a funeral of someone we didn’t even know. It’s the reason we get caught up in the excitement of a football game when we don’t care about the success of either team. The feelings of the crowd, or just the people around us, trigger the same feelings in us. The desire to belong allows us to join in the emotion around us. There are other words for this, of course, but it is an experience of empathy.

Empathy in personal relationships is more specific and more difficult to define. Whereas the crowd creates in us a desire to belong, personal relationships create a desire to connect. We want to understand the other person so we can share and relate and enhance our lives with their lives. This is a strong desire for most of us. So strong, that we often push the relationship toward that point.

As a counselor, I discovered this desire in myself fairly early. When I listened to the stories of others, I found that I would project my feelings onto them and assume they felt the same way. Very often I was right, of course, but sometimes not so much. I learned to tell people that I would always be blunt so they would know what I was thinking, but that I had no expectation of always being right. Therefore, I wanted them to correct my assumptions—particularly about their feelings. Many times I would jump in with some statement, only to be corrected and set on a different path by an honest counselee.

Writers, actors, politicians, comics, and others make their livings by being accurate in their assumptions about the feelings of others. Those who fail to connect are simply not successful in their work. But this is not empathy. It may be psychology, the study of what motivates people, but it isn’t empathy. It may even be an innate ability to discern the emotions of others, but it still isn’t empathy. Detecting and identifying emotions might enable a person to control or exploit, but that’s not the same as caring. To empathize is to care about the emotions of someone else. In fact, empathy requires neither conscious detection nor identification of the particular emotion. I may not fully realize that you are sad in order to feel and care about your sadness, for example.

Empathy is caring. Empathy is participating in the feelings of another person, sharing the pain or the fear or the sadness. It doesn’t have to have the same intensity, but it has reality. The feelings of the other person are real and important because the other person is real and important.

And there’s the rub. The narcissist does not see others as real or important except in service to him. People, as we have said often here, are tools, toys, or obstacles. They have reality for the narcissist, but they are not “persons.” So, it stands to reason, the feelings of others are not real for the narcissist in the way they may be real for us. It isn’t that the narcissist doesn’t see or acknowledge the emotions of others. It is that he/she doesn’t care unless those emotions are of some value.

The only emotions the narcissist feels are his own. In fact, part of his addiction is the pleasure he gets when his emotions are positive. The negative emotions he either denies or projects on others. I know that some say narcissists feel no emotions, but I disagree. I think narcissism is, by definition, an inability to deal normally with emotional stress or change; but every narcissist I have known exhibits emotions. They might do so differently, but the emotions are there.

Your narcissist might be very aware of your emotions or of the emotions of others. In fact, you may be surprised at just how perceptive he is at times. You may also be surprised at how he can twist or ignore your emotions while being so attentive towards those of someone else.

But the emotional awareness of the narcissist is not empathy; it is simply an alertness to that which is useful.

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