Thursday, April 7, 2011

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.


Anonymous said...

I grew up with a covert narc mother and a covert narc older sister. This describes them perfectly although it took me years to even notice although I grew up with them. But when my older sister let the truth slip out when she was drunk once this came out: " I need to destroy you, you know...walk away from the burning building like xandramas " Xandramas is a female villain in a black hooded cloack from one of her favorite fantasy novels. I wonder why narcissists don't put their imagination into some sort of creative writing or something, instead of running around trying to assassinate people's characters...oh well

Anonymous said...

the narcissist i know reimagines life as fiction, refers to himself as a hero, refers to other people as "characters", has said to me, "you're a character in the story in which i am the hero", and at times when i didn't want to do something he asked me to do, would say, "don't you want to be in my story?" when his mask slipped most recently, he said, "stop trying to insert lines into my fucking story." so scary.

Anonymous said...

I remember one of the first things I asked my narc was, "Are you some kind of a gamer person, or something?" I just sensed this kind of sub reality he lived in, but he didn't "game" so I couldn't real pinpoint why I asked that. Now I realize he does "game" but his way is much more dangerous than the people who make up their little fantasy characters. He pulls in real people, with real lives, and real feelings, including children, and he doesn't care about the adage he causes to them. In fact, it may even be part of his "story" depending on how he's decided the ending. But you know, I must say, I sensed that he was childlike when I met him, and that drew me to him, I liked that he knew how to play, had a youthful spirit, it just didn't occur to me that he didn't know when to quit, that either he had never entered the adult world in the first place, or that at one point, he had, but simply couldn't handle it. There is a reason why we feel sorry for them, they really can't handle reality, and it's a true blessing to get away from them, because no matter how naive we are, I think we always sense that something is wrong, always, and that because this individual doesn't know how to handle reality, we feel responsible for them, and that, for me was, although short, one of the greatest burdens of my life. Sometimes I even feel like I failed him, that I ruined his story, and that made him afraid again, but could he even imagine the fear I had of living in his?