The Paradoxical Nature of Narcissists
The following quotation is of Sam Vaknin in his book Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited. It's about the paradoxical nature of narcissists. It helps explain how they can know a thing and not know it, feel a thing and not feel it - how they can feel guilty/ashamed and not = not experience the slightest pang of conscience. It's all just a matter of represssing awareness of unwanted knowledge and feelings every time they start to surface. Sometimes it's harder to do so than at other times, and so there are times in a narcissit's life when he can't repress and actually gets a look at what he can't bear to see = the real him inside:
He regards and treats people as though they were objects: exploits and discards them. He mistreats people around him by asserting his superiority at all times, by being emotionally cold or absent, by constant bickering, verbal humiliation, incessant (mostly unjust) criticism, by provoking uncertainty and by actively rejecting or ignoring them. All his interpersonal relationships are deformed and sick. The longer the relationship – the more it is tinted by the pathological hue of narcissism. In his marriage, the narcissist recreates the conflicts with his Primary Objects. He is immature in every walk of marriage, sex included. He would tend to select the wrong partners or spouse.
He would do everything to lead to the fulfilment of his greatest horror: being deserted. Even the staunchest supporters and lovers ultimately abandon him.
The narcissist then experiences the horrifying complete breakdown of his defences. He then, naturally, feels lonely – but his loneliness is of the existential, almost solipsist type. The whole world seems unreal to him, possessed of a nightmarish quality. He feels disproportionately guilty and assumes all the burden of blame, allocating none to his partner. Those moments may be the only occasions in which he is in touch with his emotions – an experience the narcissist is trying to avoid all his life and at all costs to his mental health.
From Chapter 3, "The Workings of a Narcissist: A Phenomenology." Read the rest here.
These are the rare times narcissists suffer any pain, but during these short episodes, boy do they suffer pain. It is capable of driving them to suicide if they don't find Narcissistic Supply in time.
See also Characteristics of NPD at the Main Site.