It’s Narcissist Friday!
From time to time I indulge in a little “light” reading. Okay, murder mysteries and scifi. I just finished a book by Simon Brett called, “A Shock to the System.” Not anything spectacular, no particular recommendation from me. However, it was an adventure in narcissism.
The anti-hero was an interesting study on the ability to depersonalize other people. He felt frustration and anger and took it out on a homeless person on the street. He discovered that the emotions others seemed to feel about murder didn’t rise in him. All his life he had felt oppressed by others and this was the first time he had real power. In fact, he felt stronger when he thought of himself as a murderer. Murder became a real option in his life when faced with people problems, an option he used throughout the remainder of the book.
I think most people would identify more with the lead character of “Crime and Punishment” by Dostoyevsky. Guilt, fear, remorse—these are normal emotions. The drive to be free by confession and absolution or to be justly punished for sin. Some may say this is simple conscience, others suggest it is conviction from the Holy Spirit, but my point is that when we realize we have hurt someone we normally feel negative emotions.
But narcissists have great difficulty believing that others are real, particularly as real and as valuable as they are. For the narcissist, another person is part of the environment. He or she may be taught that a person should be treated with respect and worth, but the narcissist rarely feels that another person is valuable—except as a tool or a toy. He may be able to fake empathy, to act as though he understands the emotions of those around him, but he does not connect with the feelings of others.
The literature generally agrees that narcissists are not usually violent. Their primary motivation is self-preservation and violence opens the door to things that can’t be controlled. Narcissists know the legal limits and the consequences of wrong actions. That’s why they develop means to manipulate and hurt from positions that provide safety for themselves. Fearing the loss of power and privilege keeps them from starting something that could backfire.
On the other hand, the ability to depersonalize others allows the narcissist to use and discard people without caring. Sexual abuse, bullying, terrorizing, and even murder are acts which come much easier for those who don’t care. We see these things every day in the news.
Narcissism is not a normal way of thinking and not to be taken lightly. The narcissist may not have a goal of hurting others, but he will do so and he won’t care. These words may be blunt and even harsh, but those who are in relationships with narcissists need our understanding.
I want always to leave the door open for true change, but only the brokenness and rebirth provided in Christ can change the narcissist.