What happens on their end of your interaction with a narcissist - Part 3
Last time I attempted to explain why narcissists interract with other people the way normal people interact with a mirror.
That's an abstract analogy that often goes over people's heads. But it's a fact with tremendous implications.
For example, let's say that you are a person with poor posture. Do you let that show before a mirror? No! Before a mirror you straighten up, don't you? Is that image of yourself you're projecting the truth then? Is that the real you? Of course not! The real you slouches. But so what? You're just posing before a mirror. The object isn't to show the real you: the object is to make your reflection as flattering as possible.
In interracting with you, a narcissist isn't expressing herself: since everything she does is solely for effect, truth is irrelevant.
To her, that is.
In fact, to be more precise, we don't interract with a mirror: we interact with our reflection in a mirror. Similarly, a narcissist isn't really interacting with you, she is interacting with her reflection in your behavior toward her. She's trying to adjust it, period.
In other words, she's trying to manipulate your behavior toward her.
Not just some of the time — all the time. In other words, you needn't be talking about her and trying to get through to her, trying to reason with her. You might be talking about the Mideast Crisis, your family budget, your kids, the garden, a customer satisfaction survey, what you had for lunch — anything. She isn't interested in any of it. She pays no attention to anything but the look on your face, the tone of your voice, your posture, gestures, and other things in your behavior that reflect (on) her. She just says or does whatever it takes to adjust those aspects of your behavior = to adjust her image in that mirror.
Typically, narcissists do this by showing disapproval of whatever you say to manipulate you into a posture that seeks their approval. For, that reflects on them as superior to you. Get it?
Hence the fact that narcissists are notoriously disagreeable people. That disagreeableness isn't genuine: it's just a ploy to manipulate you.
So, there you are, expressing yourself to a narcissist, and none of it is getting through. She ain't (all) there. She's reacting to some ghost. A ghost of herself reflected in your attitude.
Of course, she'd rather you shut up about the Mideast Crisis and just hang on her every word while she talks about herself ;-) And she will try to manipulate you into doing so by acting bored and cross if you don't. Like a Hollywood star, she expects you to reflect (on) her as being very, very important. She accomplishes the semblance of this by getting you to silently pay attention to her as if consumed with interest in every stupid thing she says and every minute and mundane detail of her daily life.
(Note the irony: who's the real bore?)
And the appearance of that is all she cares about, because she needs nothing but your silence to to support her delusion that she is so fascinating that you really are consumed with interest in every stupid thing she says. Yawn, sigh - there in the Land of Pretend she will unsee and unhear you do that. Put the phone down and do your dishes, speaking "Uh-huh" into it periodically. She will be completely satisfied, because that's all she needs to pretend that she's so grand that even her chatter is fascinating to mere mortals like you.
Indeed, what child needs a real car to pretend that he is driving a race car or a real gun to pretend that he is being a soldier? An overturned bicycle or a baseball bat held backward will do. Such is the power of a childish imagination and magical thinking.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, 'It's a terrible death, to be bored to death by a narcissist's talk.' If their empty life doesn't supply a grocery list and a list of this morning's errands to bore you with, they relentlessly steer the conversation to a subject you can't contribute to. Like the husband who goes on endlessly about car engines to a wife who doesn't know the difference between a distributer cap and a transmission. If that won't make you shut up and just listen (thus seeming to reflect an image of them as fascinating), narcissists get exhibitionistic. Like the Hollywood star on a late night talk show, who appears in a wild outfit and spouts every outrageous thing that enters her head, just to grab and hold the audience's attention.
This vain folly is more than a bore. It is another fact with tremendous implications.
In identifying with her reflected image in your reaction to her, the narcissist is identifying with a mere caricature of herself. A work of art, a figment of her imagination . . . there behind the Looking Glass.
She is living in a world fiction there. Which is why virtually nothing she tells you is true, at least not in the details, which she edits on the fly to reflect on her as flatteringly as possible.
Again, like a little child pretending that he is Superman.
And don't jump to the conclusion that a flattering reflection must be that of her as a good person. What it must be is grand. So, admiration isn't the only thing she loves to see in you. Shame before her is something else she loves to see in you, because it reflects on her as superior to you. The most flattering reflection of all is that of being powerful. Therefore, if you are someone she can treat like dirt, look out. Because you are just a mirror.
You must never forget this. Not for one moment. Every time you are face to face with a narcissist, all she's doing is manipulating the look on your face. She just says and does whatever it takes to put shame there. Or whatever it takes to put admiration there. Or whatever it takes to put sympathy there. And so forth.
Yes, even if you're her therapist and she's on your couch!
Don't assume that she cares about her SELF. How could she? She doesn't identify with her SELF: she identifies with her IMAGE, so all she cares about is that MIRAGE.
Therefore, even if you have caught her red-handed doing something despicable, or if she has been dragged into marriage counselling before you, the whole time she is doing nothing manipulating you for the best reflection she can get. Period. Usually one of sympathy for poor-little-her that blames the victim.
To that end, she rewards you for every right thing you say, for every bit of "understanding" you show. She gives you what you want when you do that and witholds what you want when you look favorably on her victim instead. So, if you're a bystander who wants to feel like a good person or a therapist who wants to feel like you're competent and getting anywhere with her, you had better ante-up what she wants. Get it, doggie?
She doesn't even see your face, just the look on it. That's because no one looks at a mirror; people look only at their reflection in a mirror. And that's what the narcissist is doing. That's why narcissists are notorious for not recognizing the faces of people they know, even members of their own family, when they meet them in an unusual place, such as on the street or in the grocery store.
So, you never connect with a narcissist. YOU are not even there to a narcissist. She isn't interacting with you: she's interacting with herself, with her reflected image in you. Because you are just a mirror.
Yell if you want. But that won't get her attention. She will just yell louder to drown you out. She will throw up all kinds of other flak too — anything to block you out. It's a distraction from the only thing she has eyes for: her reflected image in your reaction to her.
In other words, both your attention and her attention must always be all on her. She's desperate to have and keep it that way.
So, narcissism is all about attention, and she's gotta have it all. Her life is but a game of monopoly for it all.
What are you trying to discuss with her? Don't bother. Because, no matter what it is, she couldn't care less about it. She has a knee-jerk reflex to seize every opportunity to create a glorified reflection of herself in a mirror, and that's all her one-track mind cares about.
Is she after an admiring look from you today? Then she is just playing you for one. If that requires her to be a Republican, she'll be a Republican. If that requires her to be a Democrat, she'll be a Democrat. And if she finds that she guessed wrong, she can switch political parties in two seconds flat.
She loves her reflection in your look when she has made you feel inferior to her. That is why she manages to work a put-down into everything she says and does.
Because you are just a mirror. And her image is all that matters to her.
That's all there is to narcissists. They are that shallow.
narcissistic personality disorder narcissism