Narcissistic personality development and what you are to a narcissist
Everything a narcissist says or does in interacting with others is for effect. He is just posing before a mirror (your face) to admire his image in it. That's what he's relating to, not you.
Make sure that sinks in. An image helps greatly to bring home the importance of this fact about narcissists. There is a Website that publishes the account of a survivor of a relationship with a narcissist. The home page elegantly depicts what you are to a narcissist in a simple graphic. It is a picture of a human being with a mirror instead of a face. That's you. That's all you are to a narcissist.
Even if that narcissist is your mother, that's all you are to her.
That's a traumatic fact to face. So traumatic that having to face it about her own mother or father is probably what made her a narcissist.
She's a damaged person, a person whose person-ality development was arrested at a very early age (before the age of three or four) by such a trauma. So, she's incapable of viewing others any other way.
The next time you get a chance to observe an infant or toddler, do. Notice how they relate to others. Notice, for example, than an infant in his mother's arms will just, out-of-the-blue, whack her in the face. We think nothing of that because the infant doesn't know any better. He doesn't know it will hurt her. To him, she's just an object, like a chair or something.
The problem with narcissists and psychopaths is that they never get past this stage. That is why they view others as objects and have no empathy. Though we have no memory of these early years, if you think back to your earliest memories, you do sometimes get a hint of what the world and the people in it were to you back then.
This is because we are born with a mind that is a blank slate. During our first years, the framework of the human mind is being acquired, integrated and established. This is when we develop our concept of self, when we begin to view ourselves as a discreet entity, a person, and develop a person-ality. This is also when we eventually discover that others are not just objects that we control by smiling or bawling, but persons in their own right. This is also when we discover that we are not the center of the universe, around which everything revolves.
Narcissists may grow up with a mind that works well enough to be a rocket scientist, but they never develop a normal human personality (which is why NPD is categorized as a personality disorder). In other words, they never develop a normal human mentality.
Whether this is by choice or not is practically a moot point, because this is a survival tactic.
The insidious thing about NPD is that, at an early age, narcissists realize that they are different. And they try to hide that. They become experts at passing for normal. They mimic the normal human reactions they see in others. At a funeral, for example, even as children they look around to see how others are behaving and mimic grief. A keen observer will notice the signs that it's put on. Yet we never wish to think so badly of people, so we often blow off our instincts about insincerity in them. Often narcissists put on an empathy-act too thick, so that you do a double-take because it seems like sarcasm or parody. But they are serious and just over-acting, because to them it is melodrama, not motivated by real human emotion.
So, though narcissists pass for normal, they are not. They are nowhere near normal.
P.S. I lost the URL to that Website mentioned above, so if anybody knows it, please post it in a comment.