Narcissists give new meaning to the term "attention deficit"
Here is a good example of one of the strange things I have noted in narcissists. This is an example of one I know but very seldom run in to or talk with. Nonetheless, whenever there is a close encounter, it is always of "The Third Kind" ;-)
Over the years, this person has often told me that she can never remember how to spell the word maybe.
"Well, uh, it's just may and be put together."
"Yes, I know, but that's logical and I can never remember whether this is one of the words spelled logically or not."
"Well, uh, how else would you spell it?"
"Well, uh, that would be pronounced ME-bay."
She hasn't even heard that, because she's talking over you, breathlessly gallivanting off onto another subject.
Time and time and time again. It's deja vu. No matter how many times you tell her that maybe is just may and be put together to mean the same thing as "may be." Though she has an advanced degree and teaches science, you'd need a battering ram to get that through her head.
Because she can't hear you. It's like a kind of autism.
By the same token, numberless times over the years, this woman has referred to my book and web domain by the wrong name.
"No, it isn't 'Operations Doubles,' it's 'Operation Doubles.'"
"Yeah, like I said, 'Operations Doubles.'
"No! Can't you hear the difference? 'OperaTION Doubles.'"
But she hasn't heard that, because she's talking over you, breathlessly gallivanting off onto another subject.
I long ago gave up trying to correct her.
But then one day she forced me to keep trying to correct her. How? By sitting at her computer, calling me up, and asking me to spell the URL to her over the phone. O my God, don't ever try to spell out your URL to a narcissist over the phone!
She's asking you to spell it to her, but her communication blocking reflexes are kicking in to make her keep butting in on you so you can't!
The result was like Monty Python's Flying Circus. I swear that she imagined she heard every conceivable spelling but the one I gave her. It is very unlike me to get impatient with people who seem to be trying, but it was so exasperating that I surprised myself by yelling at her to shut up and listen.
Not that it did any good.
Now she had a problem with the word doubles too. Though a tennis player herself, she seemed to think that the name of this website on tennis doubles would be named "Operations Double."
"No. It's about tennis. (Sarcastically) You know, tennis - tennis singles and tennis doubles. DouBLES. So it just makes sense that the website would be called 'Operation DouBLES,' right?"
But she hasn't heard that, because she's talking over you, frustratedly telling you to just spell it to her again.
For decades, this type of behavior in narcissists I have known mystified me. But over time, I began to see what the problem is.
They have a deeply ingrained mental habit of filtering out everything but the kind of information they want - their own reflected grandiose image - in their interactions with people. This goes further than 'selective memory." This is "selective consciousness."
Like Narcissus here. He's blocking out everything but the image of himself being reflected by his interaction with Echo.
Remember that you are bug in his esteem, unworthy of more attention than a fly on the wall. To give you any would pain him as a terrible comedown.
So he CAN'T pay attention to others, even when he wants to. At least not to those others that he is deeply invested in looking down on.
But our brains LEARN what kinds of information we pay no attention to. They learn to filter it from consciousness automatically. This is why when you first move to a neighborhood with a railroad crossing, the trains drive you nuts. But soon, you don't even hear the noise of the passing trains anymore (unless they happen to drown out some sound you are trying to listen to).
The same thing seems to have happened to the older narcissists I have known. I think their lifelong habit of filtering out all but what what they want to see in that mirror trains their brain too well.
They can't pay attention to anything. (Sometimes I wonder if they don't actually have a phobia of paying attention.) They are stuck in fantasy, unable to step out of The Looking Glass while at work and in other places where they need to tend to daily affairs and pass for normal.
This starts to really show in their fifties, when people outside their family start noticing that something is wrong with them.
I suspect that in the comments we'll soon see other examples of the same thing.
narcissistic personality disorder narcissism