It’s been said that people on hard drugs like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine can act like narcissists, even if they do not have NPD. That’s because as the addict’s body begins to crave the substance, they will do ANYTHING to get it, because to not get it will cause them unbearable agony. Even if they know it’s better for them to go through withdrawals than continue their addiction, they will still beg, steal, hurt others and even kill to get their fix. Empathy, remorse, and consideration for other’s boundaries and rights flies out the window. The only important thing is getting that drug. It doesn’t matter if the addict is the most compassionate and loving person in the world when they’re clean; when they’re jonesing for a fix to ward off the agony, they become psychopaths.
When a person becomes a narcissist (usually early in childhood due to abuse but sometimes later, even in adulthood), they become an addict too–their drug of choice is narcissistic supply, which feeds their sense of entitlement and specialness. It mirrors and validates the false self they have erected for themselves, a self they need because if it was ever lost or shattered, they would be forced to face their own emptiness.
Maintaining the mask takes enormous effort and causes stress. Narcissists live in constant fear of the mask being revealed as the fake self it really is and they live in mortal terror of the mask being destroyed or harmed (either through loss of supply or perceived insults or threats) because if that happens their protective armor would be damaged or lost. So if they perceive any attack on themselves, no matter how minor, they will react badly. That’s why narcissists are so paranoid and so quick to anger and so easily offended. It’s why they overreact to slights. There’s simply no room for a sense of humor or self-deprecation.
What some narcissists (probably most) may not realize consciously is they really erected this elaborate defense mechanism as a way to protect and hide the scared and hurt child that was lost to themselves through abuse or neglect. Most can only see the emptiness if they “get clean” (lose their sources of narcissistic supply) and like a person suffering from drug withdrawal, if a narcissist loses their “drug” they undergo a narcissistic crisis (something they avoid avoid at all costs) and will suffer as badly as anyone withdrawing from hard drugs.
Narcissists with no insight (probably most of them) can’t recognize the hurt, lost true self hiding in terror behind the protective but always pissed-off-at-the-world mask of NPD. But for those who can, meeting that lost self (if they can see through the empty blackness that hides him or her) is agonizing because of the regret of knowing what they have done to their true self when their minds erected the defensive mask that was ironically meant to protect the true self. Then they suffer unbearable guilt and shame. This is the reason why most people with NPD cannot be cured. Like a drug addict, maintaining a mask to hide the emptiness (which itself hides the hurt child they once were who was never allowed to grow into a person) becomes the most important thing, even if it means they must beg, steal, hurt or even kill someone to obtain their fix of narcissistic supply or defend their protective walls of barriers.
Some insightful narcissists actually don’t want their disorder but they still can’t escape from its clutches because their desire for a fix becomes too strong. These are the most tortured narcissists and the ones most prone to black depressions and other serious mental disorders. They can undergo a psychotic break. Constant war is being waged within them, between the person’s desire to be a real person and react in normal, human ways, and their overpowering desire for narcissistic supply and having to harm others to get it and/or defend themselves from narcissistic injury.
This is why a few insightful narcissists may be nice at first. It could be a mask but it could also be a real effort to try to act more human. But sooner or later, if someone they’ve been nice to insults them (or they perceive an insult due to their own paranoia), their desire to repair the damage they feel was done to their false self (which is important because it’s all they have to hide behind) becomes overpowering and they will turn mean and strike you out of the blue like a rattlesnake. Some might even feel guilt after the fact, but they just can’t stop doing it. It’s an overpowering addiction, like a drug so powerful you can never free yourself from it.
A drug addict will do almost anything to get his drug of choice, even if he wants to be clean. A narcissist will do almost anything to keep his masks intact, even if he wants to be human.
They key to a cure then, would be to find a way to wean a narcissist off his need for a fix of supply and somehow make him willing to to work through the ensuing narcissistic crisis (withdrawals) and confront the emptiness that hides his or her hidden, neglected true self that lives in darkness and silence inside the vacuum.
Due to a comment I received on another thread this morning, from now on I am putting a link to my Disclaimer after every post where I write about mental conditions and disorders outside of personal anecdotes, obvious opinion pieces, and journals.