What is narcissism?
Narcissism as a mental illness is a cluster b personality disorder.
The cause of cluster b personality disorders, of which narcissistic personality disorder is one, is an attachment disorder due to lack of object constancy. In less technical terms, the young child was neglected/abused/traumatized at a very young age, say around two, and didn’t learn that their primary caregiver could be trusted to provide for their needs. They become traumatized, believing their needs won’t be met, that they can’t express their needs, and that the world is a scary and unsafe place.
They believe their real self has been devalued and rejected (which, tragically, it has been) and that, as they are, they are unlovable and without worth or value. They are filled with shame, because, tragically, they perceive their rejection from the defective caregiver as being their own fault, because there’s something wrong with them.
So if they can’t get what they need from others by being themselves, they’ll create a persona that can get what they need. They learn passive aggressive techniques at an early age, and become masters at manipulating others.
They become emotionally stunted at the age of their trauma, unable to experience more mature emotions, such as gratitude, remorse, empathy, or disinterested love. Shame is absolute anathema, a horror which must be propelled away as far as possible by projection or gaslighting as aggressively and urgently as possible. This explains their inability to apologize, or not be right in regards to their opinions or perceived needs.
They see things in black and white. They are either 100% happy (“I’m good, you’re good, everybody loves me, life is good”) or 100% unhappy (“I’m bad, nobody loves me, you suck, life sucks”). There’s no in between, calm, balanced state, where things are just normal.
They don’t have the ability to perceive others as detached from themselves having separate needs, feelings and desires, and thus they don’t care, and cannot care, about others in a mature, disinterested, unselfish way. Victims often confuse themselves thinking that if only the person with the personality disorder could be properly cared for or loved they could improve, but the problem is the reality of people with personality disorders is fundamentally different, and cannot be altered by being loved.
Narcissism in the vernacular is often not referring to the mentally illness, but certain undesirable traits such as selfishness, arrogance, ignoring others, and so on.
What do you think was the cause of your narcissism?
I was abused as a child growing up with a single mother who was also a clear narcissist, and at the same was perceived as the golden child by her. My mother idealized and paraded me as a genius who will succeed. I was independent, I loved to learn, I asked questions, I was curious of everything around me, I liked interacting with people because I was sheltered, and I liked going out into the world. The abuse was normal to me at the time but something changed and it became worse.
I was seven years old in second grade and I was the top student in my class. I remember going into the MPR with Mom and they were seating other students and I at these rows of desks and handed us booklets. It was a test that I had no idea I was taking but being me I did not think much of it and took the test. It seemed pretty easy because I flew through it but I did not hear anything about that test since. One thing for sure, something became different.
My Mother became harder on me when it came to my education. She bought more self study booklets to do Math and English out of and I did them without question. The problem was my Mom seemed to be less happy with me. I did not know what was going on but the one thing my Mom praised me for became absent. I was no longer getting any praise, only abuse, and it was worse.
We end up moving to a city twenty minutes from us and I started school there. Everyone seemed pretty nice and I was starting third grade. I was interacting with everyone and I was excited to meet new people but I end up being bullied like never before. In the past I was the butt of the jokes and had some bullying but this was on a consistent basis. I started to become aware of my status and I started to feel insecure with who I was. Without realizing it I fell into a deep depression and my grades fell.
My Mom showed me no mercy. Instead of receiving encouragement and empathy to reassure me that I could still do better and that I am still a smart child, she ridiculed me and beat me worse than she ever has. I did not know what to do. People did not accept me for who I was, my Mom did not care to know or ask what was going on with me at ask, and me a child have no clue or awareness to what is happening in my life and the emotions that I was carrying.
We were not raised to understand our emotions. Emotional support and evaluating how we feel inside was something we were ignorant of. Empathy was a big one as no teacher or person never asked me if I was okay and I went about my life as if it were normal. This was my place in the world and I thought it was normal.
Seeing the world where I am at the bottom of the food chain was normal, me being unaware that I have deep emotions that are affecting me was normal, not ever receiving empathy was normal, no one acknowledging this obviously quite child is depressed was normal, only receiving love when I had good grades was normal. This stuff was completely alien and not in my world. I had no comprehension of any of these needs at all. I cried myself to sleep so many nights as an eight year old and growing up that it was normal. I use the word normal so much because I want to emphasize that this is what reality was to me. This was reality to me in ever sense. It is comparable to how Christians believe in their God without questioning.
I found out later that the test I took was for the GATE Program for intelligent students to be challenged and excelled. I obviously did not get in and I crushed my Mom’s idea of me as this brilliant child and no longer received the love and care I needed from her. Imagine already getting abused and the last thing that you are revered for is swept under your feet without realizing it. I was a child who just needed love and care. So, I unconsciously developed a mask trying to maintain the image my Mom idealized of me but I failed every time. I tried to advance this outwardly to receive praise and I did not start seeing any of it until I was a senior in high school.
What people do not understand about Narcissist is the void we are trying to fill can not be filled because the moment that left us the initial wound, no longer exists. We are trying to fill a void of a moment in the past. The most dangerous thing anyone can do is satisfy a need from a moment that no longer exists because there is not anything to fill there. Our existence came from the idealization our parents had of us because it was the only way to have our needs satisfied. We do this without realizing because its apart of the child’s survival mechanism to seek empathy and care when they are hurt or feel shame. This was that moment, I developed Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Can narcissism be healed? And if so, what methods are available?
This is a beautiful question, to me, only because I’ve met and known and heard of so many truly loving souls who’ve fallen into the grips of a narcissist man or woman, or narcissist relationship/friendship, with the hopes healing their narcissist partner/friend/parent.
Even if the hope was an unconscious one.
This tells me that at some level, somewhere deep within our Souls, we know love can heal all things.
So many men and women, myself included, work within this often unconscious knowing that love can heal all people, places, and things.
And there is truth, evidentiary proof, that this is accurate.
We discover that love will eventually remove us from the people, places, and things that hurt. We discover it was our love that may have gotten us into the relationship in the first place, so we could heal ourselves, and discover what love really is, and more of what we’re capable of as authentic human beings. We could discover love isn’t hurting ourselves. It’s helping ourselves. Sometimes it’s helping ourselves find the way out.
Love isn’t a form of a control. Love doesn’t seek to change other people, places, and things to make us feel better. Love instead, as I’m aware, helps us heal ourselves, so that we can transform our approach and relationship to ourselves and most often, make new choices and create and participate in new, more positive experiences for ourselves.
That said, many loving souls find themselves, often unwittingly, falling into the traps of men and women suffering along the spectrum of narcissism, and sticking with them, perhaps unconsciously thinking something like: If I just love them a little more, a little better, they’ll change. (Or something like that.)
Maybe the more effective approach would be something like: maybe if I become willing to love myself a little bit more, I’ll change. I’ll do something different than I’ve done before. I’ll let myself heal this “issue” within me that draws me to these people, places, and things that hurt.
Empaths, deeply loving, sensitive souls capable of experiencing the suffering of others, and connecting deeply with the consciousness of those around them, often discover themselves unwittingly in friendship, partnership, and childhood with parents that suffer from this lack of empathy, sensitivity, and connection.
The empath’s learning is sometimes growing a thicker skin, developing strength-of-heart, and developing coping skills, life skills, and relationship skills that involve firm boundaries and limits.
It’s often learning deep self-care that involves accepting one’s energetic gifts, and recognizing we’re energetic beings that also need to care for ourselves energetically. Empaths do this by learning how to surround themselves with people willing to see them, appreciate their ability to connect, and embrace their sensitivity (as opposed to those people who deplete them, exhaust them, and rob them of their energy.) Does the narcissist not teach these things?
I’ve met narcissists who fall on the lower end of the spectrum who’ve responded to pure love. Love given repeatedly that was very pure. Yet were they fully healed? Not necessarily.
Narcissism is a very tricky personality disorder. I still consider M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie as one of the best resources on the subject. On the most extreme end of the spectrum, narcissism could be considered the complete absence of love. In the middle of the spectrum it could be considered a simple lack of awareness as to what loving is, and a fear of the source of loving, within.
On the lower end of the spectrum, I’m aware that given the proper tools and resources there can be a way provided that the (mild?) narcissist awakens the empathy and love dormant within. I’ve seen this happen. But, and this may not be popular, I chalk up all awakening to divine intervention, or something often called, grace.