How a Narcissist Thinks
If you’re like me, you have spent a great deal of time trying to figure out why your partner reacts the way they do. You have also probably spent a lot of energy trying to perform in ways that will make your partner happy. And if you are with a Narcissist, you have probably begun to ask if it is all for nothing.
Yes, it is.
As far as approval and support goes, you’re not going to get it from the Narcissist. They have an image that they have in their mind, a false self. Everything goes toward building that image. And, as you saw in the definition of a Narcissist, it is usually a pretty grand image. Maintaining that sort of false image requires a lot from the people who come in contact with the Narcissist.
Your N views reality as a series of interactions with that false self. The thinking that your N does is all about processing how those interactions impact the false self. The reactions your N has are all about keeping that false self intact, so as to not reach deeper to any feelings that might lie underneath (I’m not sure if there are feelings in there or not).
You have the kids clean their bedrooms. Your N comes in and sees how much progress has been made, and starts to complain about how the kids never clean their bedrooms. This will happen if your N sees herself as the one responsible for keeping the house clean and for getting the kids to do their share. She does not see a clean room – she sees you revealing her inability to keep things the way she wants. In response, she begins to lash out at anyone she can pin for a mess being there in the first place.
The same reaction can come from cleaning a car, paying the bills, mowing the yard – whichever area your N sees as part of their false self’s responsibilities.
Where did all this start?
There are a million theories on this, which means it cannot be pinpointed exactly. As with most human traits, I think it is a complex combination of things.
All kids, as part of maturing, go through a phase (a many-year phase) where they begin to notice that other people are noticing them. They see that their actions can make people laugh or cry. They invariably exaggerate the truth to get sympathy, admiration, or whatever they want. They can feel great peer pressure to meet a certain type of image.
As they grow older, perhaps in High School or College, most kids start to realize that there are all kinds of people in the world, and they do not feel the pressure to meet a certain type of image. They start to realize that they can be the type of person they truly are without having to worry about external judgement.
The Narcissist seems to not outgrow this. The inner feelings get suppressed, and the complicated fear kids feel on the inside becomes entrenched and wholly focused on protecting the image that they have created.
The Narcissist grows in confidence as an adult, but never got past the phase of trying to live up to a certain image. They become confident that the false self they created is the only reality, and all the reactions become focused on protecting it.
The difficulty is that their departure from reality seals itself off. That is, part of their personality is always protecting that false self. Anything that can harm that image is defended vehemently. Therefore, any attempts to cure a Narcissist are defended vehemently.
So there you are.
You are left coming to the realization that you are in a relationship with a person that is likely never going to change. What can you do?
There’s no simple answer to that. The recommended path is to leave, and there are plenty of ways to create your own confidence and separate yourself from your N. In my case, you will see that I am deciding to stay, and the decision is based entirely on the fact that we have children. I feel I can help the children more by protecting them than by leaving the relationship.
Your situation may be different. I don’t presume to know what is right for every relationship. But I am here to explain what I am doing to manage this situation and raise happy, confident, well-adjusted children. I hope it helps you, too!
As you move forward, know that all thoughts of your N are centered around protecting her own false self. You will likely be suspected of threatening that false self frequently. And don’t spend great amounts of energy trying to prove your love or impress your N, because it will not matter to her. At times, she will like that you find ways to boost her image, but be careful, because that can turn on you in an instant.
Instead, spend great amounts of energy influencing the things you can – In my case, that’s myself and my children.