Welcome to the Narcissist's World
In the next two or three posts, I will give an example of the kind of games narcissists play. In this one, the narcissist uses interactions with a friend whom he or she has casual contact with, usually in chats over the telephone.
Let's call our malignant narcissist Jean.
Jean doesn't view that friend as a normal person would. In fact, Jean has no real human relationship with that friend, only the semblance of one. She has zero interest in that friend as a person. As is often said, narcissists view all others as objects, tools. But that's an abstraction. What does it mean?
The closest analogy I can think of is this. Jean views these interactions – these phone conversations – as material for the work of fiction about her life that her whole life amounts to an act of composing.
If that sounds strange, remember that we all organize memory into an internal narrative about our life. It's just our way of filing away and archiving a coherent report of our history that becomes "our past."
I have known several narcissists so closely for so long that my experience convinces me that this normal process has gone haywire in narcissists. They aren't doing this to archive yesterday's affairs; they are doing this with life on the fly. Worse, they have utter contempt for truth. In other words, their internal narrative ain't history – it's fiction.
By Magical Thinking, it becomes "their" truth.
Jean's friend thinks they are close friends and thus believes that she is important to Jean. Wrong. To Jean this friend is but a walk-on, a character with a bit part in a story all about Jean. So, Jean views that friend the same way a novelist views the minor characters he creates in a story about the main character, the hero.
When you think about it, you can see that this is a twisted view with serious implications.
A storyteller designs, creates, and uses these "extras" as tools. For example, in Hamlet, Laertes exists only to show how noble Hamlet is, by serving as a foil to him in every way. King Claudius exists only to show how great Hamlet is by being his mighty antagonist. The Player who weeps for Hecuba is a tool to provide an opportunity to show us how empathic Hamlet is. The Clown digging Ophelia's grave is a tool to provide an opportunity to show us how easy-going and naturally fearful of death Hamlet is.
In other words, these other characters don't exist for their own sakes in Shakespeare's mind. They exist to reflect the noble and tragic glory of his hero, Hamlet. They supply actions for Prince Hamlet to react to, thus revealing him to us.
Note that some of these characters are major characters, not mere walk-ons, and that a storyteller like Shakespeare does paint on them a character with depth, a human character. Laertes and Claudius are interesting. They have feelings and motivations. But minor characters don't get that treatment. They are painted with mere caricatures, flat cartoons, without depth. Since they have but bit parts, utilitarian parts, it would be a distraction (upstaging Hamlet), to highlight their caricatures in a way that gives them a personality.
But a narcissist like Jean has only her hero, Jean, and a lot of minor characters in her story. No one else must be interesting and thus distract ATTENTION from her in this story.
As I have said before, what narcissists DON'T know about significant others in their life is amazing and diagnostic. A narcissist can know you for 20 years and not know you at all. Jean doesn't know whether you are honest or a liar, excitable or tranquil. She may not know how to spell your name. If she sees you outside the usual setting, she may not even recognize your face!
That's how disinterested in you she is. Her need to look down on others by paying anti-attention to them as beneath her notice has relegated you to the background of the sights and sounds in her life.
You are but a manikin this storyteller paints a caricature on. Her purpose isn't to see you as you are: it is to design you the way a fiction writer designs minor characters – to reflect the glory of Jean in a story all about Jean.
You can test this. Find out a narcissist's depiction of you. You get hints of the picture they have of you in what they say and how they treat and react to you. Be prepared for a stupefying shock. Find out how the narcissist depicts you to others. I guarantee that you won't recognize yourself. The narcissist's depiction of you bears no resemblance to reality.
She just makes it up according to her whim and fancy as she goes along. And, being the author of this work of fiction, she can change it overnight. Which explains why you often see a narcissist's opinion of someone go upside-down overnight. That's what an editor's pen can do to a work of fiction.
Narcissists' cavalier attitude in doing this is breathtaking. They paint mud on you with all the whimisical delight of a child painting a coloring book. They are artists, you see. Like children crying, "Look Ma! See what a brilliant masterpiece I drew?"
Callous is what callous does.
In fact, the narcissist's depiction of you will be downright ironic in certain particulars. Your good qualities will all have been painted over with the semblance of their opposite. That's because a narcissist must be better than you, so she must paint over any shiny spot in your image that diminishes the glow of her glory, especially one that serves as a foil to any blemish in her character. For example, your generosity makes her stinginess more noticeable by contrast, so she must pull the switcheroo with these character traits in her depiction of herself and you.
In other words, she is composing her My Life by filtering and editing reality on the fly as the material to base this work of fiction on. That's how she denies what she really is and identifies with her false self, a work of art, instead.
She must, for to be a narcissist is to be someone who cannot bear to know themselves. Therefore, when self-awareness frequently and persistently surfaces to consciousness on them, despite their best efforts to keep it repressed, narcissists start contemplating suicide. (See the chapter entitled "What's In There" in the book.)
One more tremendously important thing. Note that, in your personal narrative, you relate to the other people in the story of your life as Hamlet relates to the other characters in the story of his. But a narcissist relates to the other people in the story of her life as the author (Shakespeare) relates to the mere fictional characters he has created to tell the story of Hamlet's life.
Weird. Very, very weird.
So, welcome to the narcissist's world - the wonderland Alice found herself in when she fell down a rabbit hole on a psychedelic trip.
To be continued...
narcissistic personality disorder narcissism