It’s Narcissist Friday!
Take the narcissist as an example. When a spouse begins to understand that this person she has known for all these years hasn’t been real at all, that she hasn’t really known him, she can be both surprised and angry. Somewhere, under the disguise, is a person who has been inhabiting a husband’s body. This person has only pretended to love and care. This person has been all about himself the whole time. Suddenly so many questions are answered. Puzzle pieces fall into place.
But, she asks herself, where has this person been? She knows that he is not appearing just now out of the blue. Everything is beginning to fit. That’s when she becomes angry.
How do you handle criticism? Especially when it is pointed, personal, or unfair? Most people struggle. This is when the flesh comes out. We learn how to respond to cruelty in various ways. Some people are crushed. They agree with everything and think of themselves as stupid or evil or sick. Others fight. They argue and become defensive and swear. Some just try harder. They believe the criticism and make personal vows to do better next time, no matter how hard it might be.
The narcissist handles criticism differently. He hides. In fact, he is already hiding when you meet him. He has learned that hiding what he believes is his real self will protect him from criticisms. So he simply never puts himself out there. He hides behind an image, a construct that will lead you and others to think he is something really special.
Of course, no one can do this all the time. Eventually, occasionally, the truth slips out and the narcissist becomes vulnerable. When that happens, the narcissist has learned other ways to hide. He may hide behind aggression or cruelty or deception. Narcissists are often proficient liars and can twist a conversation away from themselves with amazing skill. Sometimes they attack you in order to take the attention off themselves. All of these are hiding techniques.
But this is hiding in plain sight. When your eyes are opened and you realize the truth, you wonder who to blame. Maybe you blame yourself for not seeing the truth about your narcissist earlier. Maybe you blame him for hiding. Maybe you want to find someone else to blame. But listen, just understand that this is what your narcissist learned very early in his life. It doesn’t help you to know this. Things don’t become better now that you understand, but at least you can begin to accept that it isn’t about you. It isn’t your fault. He is just that skilled at hiding.