Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Narcissist's Strange Relationship to the World Around Her

A narcissist has no proper relationship with herself. She unknows the self inside and identifies with something external, her projected image, instead. Hence, NPD has often been called a "disorder of the self."

Now THAT'S a pretty important relationship to foul up. If you don't relate to yourself, how can you relate to anyone else?

Narcissists don't. They relate to other human beings as objects. You know - objects, things to use and ab-use for self-serving purposes. Things that have no rights, no right to be even. Things that have no feelings. Tools.

Until that fact sinks in, you just don't "get" malignant narcissism. You keep acting on the premise that the narcissist has some feelings for you, some conscience. And that premise is all wrong. Based on it, nothing makes sense. Hence you keep pinching yourself and wondering whether it's you or the N that is crazy.

The more I see, the more impressed I am by how a narcissist relates to the world around her. These are just my observations, but they are based on a lifetime of experiences fit together like the pieces of a puzzle - for what that's worth.

It's like she goes around with an artist's pallet and paintbrush in hand, painting over reality here and there, almost whimsically and on the fly, to make it more to her fancy or liking.

I think this is a lot like little children do as their minds and personalities begin to take shape. Their mind becomes a playground. They discover how it can be used to "alter" any reality they don't like. They tend to get carried away in flights of the imagination like Alice in the Looking Glass Room.

To us in the real world, the world Alice is in there behind the Looking Glass looks like this one. But beyond the edges of the glass (our look into her life) nothing is the same as in the real world. (More on this in the book.) In fact, Alice says that it's as different as can be.

She made it that way in flights of reckless fancy, often on a whim, just to make her world more interesting and exciting than the real world.

This reminds one of all the reckless experimentation with LSD and other mind-altering drugs, especially during the 1970's.

Fortunately, children normally attain the Age of Reason, when they develop a preference for truth and reality. Partly, they learn to fear the terrible power of the mind to alter perception and delude itself. Partly, they want to grow up and live in the real world like older kids and adults do.

They still daydream and take off on flights of the imagination. But they clearly distinguish between dreams and reality now. For example, they won't insist that you set a place for their imaginary friend at the table anymore.

The more I see, the more I suspect that narcissists never really made it to that point. From time to time they will say something that betrays their presence in some strange other world.

Ms. Painter does the same thing with the people in her world. She paints over them to make a work of art of them, one more to her liking. In doing so, she reduces them to caricatures. Pay close attention to the way she talks about others, and you will see that.

I am constantly struck by how similar these characterizations are to those of a novelist. In a novel, you don't want your secondary characters and minor characters to distract attention from the main characters, so you deliberately draw what we call "flat" characterizations of them. Caricatures. Often called "cartoons," because they have no depth.

To keep them from being bland and boring, you spice up the hero's sidekick with some eccentricity that makes him entertaining. In fact, in novels where attention is on the plot or whodunit, even the main character (e.g., Inspector Poirot) may be little more than a cartoon with some entertaining idiosyncrasies.

Notice that this is what a narcissist makes of the people she talks about. They aren't people; they are characters. There's a difference, you know. They aren't even realistic characters with depth; they are cartoons, caricatures.

She may describe a person as a "Kris Kringle" one day and as a "b****-slapper" the next though.

Because she is an artist, you see, CREATING and EDITING these cartoons on the whims of fancy, reducing human beings to them.

If you ask her about these people, you will find that she actually knows nothing about their character. How could she? She gets 100% of their attention without giving back any of hers. So, how could she have noticed anything about their real character?

All have but bit parts in an autobiographical work of fiction that is all about her.

Of course the narcissist is shallow too. How could she not be shallow? She doesn't identify with the real person inside; she identifies with the image she paints of herself. Another mere character, not a real person.

This is why a narcissist will be a Nazi one day and a socialist the next. She is just another character she creates. So, she can change that character any time the story isn't going the way she wants.

And she does everything possible to make the world reflect her fantasy. Her fantasy about you. (Through character assassination.) Her fantasy about the past. (By pathological lying.) Her fantasy about herself. (In con artistry.) She couldn't possibly have greater contempt for truth.

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At 1:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another great post.

This reminds me of a comment that once crushed me, but now..well just more proof they're an N---

my N said when involved in an argument about the "reality" of our friendship after a yr. of constant communication, viists etc. that, " I don't even know you."

That took my breathe away, what a blow- but shockingly it was a true statement- a statement made to maime me, but true. I learned in a later casual conversation including another the person the N did not know after well-over a year of "friendship" that I had a sister. No clue. THat's b/c they did ALL the talking- could be a two-hour conversation- it was all them, all the time.

No I did not exist for them. I was a cut-out. Amazing.

At 5:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They relate to other human beings as objects. You know - objects, things to use and ab-use for self-serving purposes. Things that have no rights, no right to be even. Things that have no feelings. Tools.

Kathy, I could not agree more, I think that this is the most important thing to understand about narcissism.
However, it is a difficult concept to understand because normal people cannot feel like that. The nearest I can get to it is to consider how I use my computer. This is just a tool which responds to my inputs and when it does not respond in the way that I want, I get annoyed at it. But I cannot think that anything that I do to my computer is of any consequence to it, unlike things I do to other human beings. The N has exactly the same feelings to other people as I have to my computer.

Whenever we interact with another person, we cannot help but have some concern about what effect we have on that person, while the narcissist only has concern for the effect on himself. Only when you know and understand this can you see the actions of a N for what they are.

I think that N's exploit this difficulty in understanding this concept. When confronted about their behaviour, they are quick to offer a more acceptable explanation for their actions and too many are prepared to accept that rather than the truth - they just don't care, they look human but do not behave like humans.

Best wishes to you for 2008 and thank you for all your work in helping us try to make some sense of the craziness.

At 6:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kathy, You are so right. I observed this in N spouse many times, but couldn't understand why so many around us were labelled in derogatory fashion. They were "written off" as stupid, fools, etc. Then, he might change back his opinion without warning. When I objected to vulgar inditements, I was deemed "angry", or "mistaken that he ever said that" That really confused me; now I understand the awful gaslighting. Of course, my turn came, after the idealization ended. I fought the negative mask he put on me for years, but only result was hitting a brick wall. He kept walking away (literally). It felt like injustice. Your posts make so much sense - it truly did feel like he was smacking me down. For him, it must have been the "cartoon character" acting up. I wasn't following the script he wrote for me. I kept trying to have a real relationship, but never understood he didn't want that. What terrifying emptiness inside him, and complete contempt for truth (and me). No remorse, no empathy, no conscience -- maybe no emotions in the N. I have come to think of NPD as a deformity, one that is invisible to the eye, but clear to the way we feel in the interactions. A moral deformity. Now, there is so much to despair and regret for me. I feel like my life is ruined, and I have no energy or self esteem left to rebuild. My biggest loss after nearly 20 yr marriage is myself. "jewel"

At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Between reading the last couple of posts and seeing two movies that brilliantly capture two murder-minded specimens: "No Country for Old Men," and "There Will Be Blood," I feel like this has been the season of St. Narc, not St. Nick. It gives me cold shivers and makes me feel kinda sick (post-traumaticly), but at the same time it's keeping me on my toes and out of their clutches. A friend of a friend I met recently is such a big N it's almost funny and fun since I know I will never have anything to do with him and he can never get me!

At 4:57 AM, Anonymous been there said...

Jewel, do not despair! Hopefully you're in the position to leave your husband or at least emotionally separate from him. Then you can begin the difficult process of rebuilding your self-esteem and your life. At first it's very difficult, because these emotional vampires leave us drained to a point few understand. If you can, try to find an understanding therapist or support group who can help you makes sense of your experience. Once you have an opportunity to focus on yourself, you'll discover you are a strong woman (you lasted 20 yrs with an N) with many great qualities your husband envied(narcissists focus on destroying those who makes them feel bad about themselves). Many of us have felt as you do now after a long relationship with a narcissist and have been able to rebuild our lives and even find happiness again.

At 8:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jewel and Been There Said... For me it was almost 25 years with an NWife. She was a pastor's daughter, beautiful and her family looked "perfect". After we had 3 great kids, successful career, lovely farm, etc.,etc., she decided that she needed a change. The change she chose was my pastor!
It was ugly and crazy. That was 5 years ago and I'm just coming out of it. I've discovered the "old" me and I like him. The XNWife had me twisted up inside but you don't know that until some time is past. Jewel, the old you is in there and you'll like her when you find her and spend some time with her!
Be thankful that you are at least aware of this awful personality disorder. This is the first step to healing. It's also a good time to ask God for help. He's been very generous to me and I'm sure He will be to you if you ask.

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kathy, If I may extend a thank you to "been there." I really appreciate your kind words. The validation of our experiences, pain and confusion is such a help. I spend alot of energy trying to figure out what I am responsible for, as he said he was "never wrong" and "should have complete control." He left after that, but the divorce is exhausting. But, I intend to be brave enough to face my own mistakes, so I don't end up like him. He appears hardened now, almost insect-like. It is tragic and frightening. Thanks again for your understanding and compassion - it really means alot. "jewel"


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