Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Are some narcissists worse than others?

I can see how the lay person falls for the notion that your garden variety narcissist or psychopath - who never commits a violent crime - is somehow not as sick as the one who does. But I am peeved at professionals for being so simplistic. It's their job to think a little better than that.

An example will show how flawed this notion is.

Let's take two narcissists. One happens to be the son of Saddam Hussein back in his heyday. The other happens to be the younger brother of an FBI agent.

These two predators live in very different environments. They have very different situations.

Saddam's son cannot be punished or retaliated against for anything he does. No one dares even look at him crosswise. When he says, "I want a woman in my torture chamber within the hour," a whole herd of people scramble to do his bidding. He is so powerful in his world that he doesn't even have to hide what he is. People see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil about him. Out of fear they bow and scrape to him. They glorify him for every detestable thing he does. He not only has no inhibitions, he actually is tempted to do violent crime for the sucking praise he'll be rewarded with for it.

Now compare him to the school teacher whose brother is an FBI agent. This teacher knows that if he starts hunting human prey and bringing victims to a torture chamber in his basement that his brother will notice things that make him suspicious. The neighbors might notice something. His colleagues at school might notice his inappropriate relationship with students. He is very vulnerable. No one would praise him for doing such things. Anyone would turn him into the police if they suspected him of doing such things. He'd be shamed for life in his world if anyone discovered that he was about such horrible things.

Now compare these two men. Which is sicker? We can't tell. One has inhibitions and the other doesn't. One can get away with murder and the other can't.

What if they switched places? Do you think that the FBI agent's brother, filling the shoes of Saddam's son, would be any different than Saddam's real son? Or vice versa?

Therefore, a narcissist's acting out could very well be a measure only of their FREEDOM TO ACT OUT, not a measure of how warped they are.

This part is just my own observation, but seeing is believing for me. More than once I have seen a narcissist's life circumstances change almost overnight, so that they suddenly could get away with much worse abuse. And guess what happened?

Bingo, it was like pushing a button on them. Overnight they began doing things that I'd have sworn the day before they were incapable of, shocking, odious things.

Which is why I am convinced that the only rein on a narcissist's behavior is what they think they can get away with. I'm not stating this as an authoritative opinion: it's my personal opinion. But my observations and thoughts have proven dead on so often that I now trust my instincts and will bet the farm that I'm right.

And I think it's time the professionals started investigating. I bet they will find that the only thing that one makes on N worse than another is his ability to get away with worse.

Because if you have no conscience, you have no conscience. And, just being afraid to have people think badly of you is not the same thing as having a real conscience.

What does this mean if it's true? It means that the N you live or work with now may become monster overnight someday when the situation changes.

A death in the family is an example of the type of thing that can can precipitate the event. It always results in a shake up of existing relationships and the balance of power. For example, many have observed that the death of a non-narcissistic parent often precipitates a coming-out of a narcissist. Though an adult, the narcissist still is that parent's child, so the non-narcissistic parent still had the old parental rein on the N child's conduct. But as soon as that parent is gone, the other children in the family had better look out.

This is why you shouldn't tempt fate. If someone is a malignant narcissist, he or she may be little threat to you today, but that can change. With a promotion, a death in the family, or any number of other everyday events.

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At 8:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's an interesting thought to ponder:to switch their environment or circumstances.i bet you are right.(shivers up spine)
just being afraid to have people think badly of you is not the same thing as having a real conscience is another good thought to ponder.i've even caught myself realizing the difference in me! when you turn your thoughts and observations outward your mind does turn into the projection machine.you do start to use other peoples reactions as your barometer of right and wrong when you really know better inside. so i guess that may be where the tendency of sympathy comes from but also the judgement of of "hey - if i can follow the rules then you should too". if you spend time with yourself (without "running away") and "own" what's right and wrong, then your conscience develops.
i suppose our "well behaved Ns" perhaps at one point had enough conscience in order to "get along"-but spent too much time denying what the rest of us try to take to heart/conscience. either way, their "conscience" is being eroded.
maybe all they've needed is "an escape hatch" and that's why they change so abruptly at times.
i wonder if maybe it's just as hard for professionals to gage the harm being done until the damage is obvious- just like for so many of us we could feel the burn without putting our finger on it. that stupid insidiousness thing again! what would help the professionals more would be for them to talk to us extended casualties to find out whats going on. The Ns certainly won't admit to any wrong!
on a personal note- my N thinks (and states) that nothing will change until death takes place. but his tone is more like that death will spurn a resolution. i'm actually getting quite wary of the prospects!!!
my whole marriage to him has been like living with a volcano. i didn't know it was there at first, didn't take too long to realize it, got enough reassurance to stay for (quite) a while. but was always wary. and now after all these years- his childhood is coming back to haunt us. and triggers are finally being pulled once in a while. and i'm in the line of fire because he is soooo out of touch with what his real source of discomfort truly is.i'm getting a first hand living lesson in projection and it is weird!!! bet these 'deaths we've been waiting for' will put him into his preconceived peace zone for a little while THEN all hell break loose. or- God forbid- it will just be more of the same... like the slow poisonous gas that it has been.
see?! always guessing...!jt

At 7:02 PM, Blogger gior said...


I agree! I just said the same thing the other day about my N husband (soon to be former). I said that I feel he'd be as bad as Hitler if he were in that position of power.

Over the years he did get away with more and more. And as he grew worse I became more astonished as to just who he was. Now we are going through a divorce and what he is doing to me is just awful. He is now detroying our business and claiming he has no money and is leaving me destitute ...while he has sneakily built himself a new home in another state and has the money to pay for the additional mortagage....at my expense. He doesn't care that I am ill and has not paid my health insurance or my bills and has embezzled the business from me because I am ill.....leaving me with absolutely no income. He has me living under such hardship so that I will give up and he will get everything. He doesn't even care that his dog needs to go to the vet. I just hope the judge will see through him. I am only afraid that he can play this poverty game until the end and the courts won't be able to do anything about it. I never even conceived that he would do anything like this....mainly because this kind of malicious game would never have occured to me!

At 10:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


From what I have seen of my father-in-law, he does get 'worse' with age, more and more selfish and God-like (thinks he is untouchable) and treats people AWFULLY.

At 6:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting thread. I read something by Freud about how conscience is created and the differences between guilt, remorse and shame.
I guess it is always too late when we realize how evil they can get because the aggression is so subtle, indirect at first, insidious,paralyzing us gradually and preventing us from being sure of what is really going on and from self defense, leaving no tangible traces and without any witness. A predator by nature conceals his assaults.When a friend asked me but how could you allow him to treat you like that, I think she missed the whole point and makes me feel so guilty at the same time.

They fool most people and seem so adjusted social beings ( mine was ) that at firt I was always left with uncertainty and sometimes even felt guilty of thinking so low of him !

The difficulty of unmasking him ( or her) lies first in the fact that unless you are a psycho yourself you can't imagine human beings and specially the one who makes you feel so special and that has gone to great lenghts to seduce = subjugate you to be that cruel and evil and so skillful at destroying other human beings.
The second difficulty is that you have to weight the importance of every word, intonation, allusion. The details taken separately seem so harmless but added together and when you start scrutinize them they show a destructive pattern. But unfortunately we are not taught to recognize it and it is a shame because unmasking the deception is essential to recover our bearings, fight back and escape his or her hold.

At 7:16 AM, Anonymous Lynn said...

I'm totally convinced my N behaves only because he is either a) told very firmly to, b) keep up the image he wishes to project, c) risk of getting caught.

I've recently discovered the reason why he behaves after I've been very firm with him. It's because he has no internal conscience that tells him not to do something inside of a relationship. As soon as I yell/shout/scream and in particular waggle my finger in front of his face, he conforms! It's a clear demonstration that his conscience comes from an external source. Most people have an internal conscience, that's the bit that makes us feel bad inside when we do something like lie, that's the bit that says 'guilty' in big red flashing lights and makes us modify our behaviour in future. But N's are missing this 'guilty' feeling and there's no red sirens or beacons flashing inside of them to get them to stop. So they keep on getting worse and worse, until their partner screams at them to stop, or threatens to leave, or actually does leave. Asking nicely has proven not to work, as it doesn't send out that red beacon strong enough.

so yep, if the environment says they think they can get away with it, they will do it.

At 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But as soon as that parent is gone, the other children in the family had better look out."
Once again you zero in my pain like a laser. Your insight is amazing. The only thing I would change is that my deceased parent was also an N. But once he died my N brother finally had free reign over my "Mom".My sister and I were now completely alienated in an insidious process where you are driven away by actions done against you, then crucified for "not being there". By the way I think "Mom" might be an N too. Her reaction when we told her Dad had passed on the way to the Hospital, (after 30 seconds of tears), "who's gonna take care of me?!" It still enrages me to this day.
Yeah the deviousness of their actions is definitely throttled by the knowing of what they think they can get away with."N" Brother always manipulated "Mom" against Dad and everyone else for his benefit, with Dad out of the way "watch out"


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