Do narcissists cry?


This is a revision of the Jan. 1, 2015 article.  It’s one of my most popular posts, so I figured I’d post it again, with a few changes.

Do narcissists cry?  Sure, they do. Of course they do. And the histrionic, somatic types will cry conspicuously and loudly and convulsively and make sure everyone notices.  Think of Joan Crawford’s over the top histrionics in he movie Mommie Dearest.  The attention they get from this show of dramatics (which you cannot ignore) elicits lots of narcissistic supply for them and gets them the sympathy they crave.  Remember, positive attention isn’t necessary to serve as supply to a narcissist.  Any sort of attention–even disgust and anger–will do.

Self-serving crying and fake empathy.
Narcissists cry for themselves, never for you. They *might*cry when they see a sad movie, if they experience themselves through that character. Movies are a safe way to shed tears, even for those who don’t cry easily (and that includes non-narcs too). But narcissists aren’t really crying for the characters in the movie. They are really crying for themselves.

Some narcissists who are good actors can pretend to cry for others–these are dangerous narcissists able to feign empathy but show their true colors after they’ve charmed you and duped you into thinking they’re the nicest, most sympathetic person in the world. But it’s all fake. Those “empathetic tears” are crocodile tears. A narcissist can never cry for anyone but themselves.

Narcissists are just big babies.
Kim Saeed, a writer who has an excellent and extremely popular blog here at WordPress about narcissistic abuse, wrote an insightful article about what makes a narcissist cry (basically, self pity and attention getting). It’s a good read. Narcissists cry the way an infant cries–to have their immediate needs met. Whether they admit it or not, they need a mother–and most likely never got adequate mothering, so they’re still trying to get it. Like an infant, they are incapable of separating themselves from others and can feel no empathy for anyone else.

Here’s who your narcissist really is.

While some narcissists take pride in their appearance, professional accomplishments, athletic prowess, or outstanding intelligence, there are some narcissists (the covert type) who take a perverse pride in being as pitiful and pathetic as it’s possible to be. These are what I call “needy narcissists” (Kim Saeed refers to them as “extreme narcissists”).  Many of our mothers (not mine–my mother was overt and aggressive) fall into this category.  They guilt-trip you and constantly whine about how badly you’ve treated them.  They remind you of all the wonderful things they’ve done for you.   They are emotional, financial and spiritual vampires who will suck you dry if given half a chance. They tend to attract empaths and HSPs and codependent types of people who are willing to give them the pity and sympathy they crave. And they use tears to elicit those things. Tears are powerful and contagious and get babies what they want–why not narcissists? Hey, if it works, use it.

Can a narcissist ever cry non-self serving tears?

A narcissist crying for reasons other than self-serving ones is rare.   But if one ever enters therapy or gets to a point where they recognize their own narcissism and is able to grieve for their lost true self, it’s possible.  Don’t get your hopes up though.    That being said, I read an article by Sam Vaknin about the way he cries in his dreams, which I thought was pretty interesting.   If something like this can happen, maybe it could be used as a catalyst to healing.  Maybe.  (Sam is not cured of NPD and probably never will be.  It’s his livelihood).

Dreaming and “lucid” dreaming: a possible key to healing?
Dreams open us up to the subconscious mind, so remembering dreams is useful in therapy.  For a narcissist, dreams have the potential of tapping into the atrophied and depressed true self–the self that dissociated and went into hiding during early childhood to protect itself from abuse by caregivers. Sam Vaknin writes about this phenomenon in this journal entry, in which he describes two nightmares that briefly brought him in contact with his true lost self, at least until he woke up.

He writes:

I dream of my childhood. And in my dreams we are again one big unhappy family. I sob in my dreams, I never do when I am awake. When I am awake, I am dry, I am hollow, mechanically bent upon the maximization of Narcissistic Supply. When asleep, I am sad. The all-pervasive, engulfing melancholy of somnolence. I wake up sinking, converging on a black hole of screams and pain. I withdraw in horror. I don’t want to go there. I cannot go there.

One’s narcissism stands in direct relation to the seething abyss and the devouring vacuum that one harbors in one’s True Self.

I know it’s there . I catch glimpses of it when I am tired, when I hear music, when reminded of an old friend, a scene, a sight, a smell. I know it is awake when I am asleep. I know that it subsists of pain – diffuse and inescapable. I know my sadness. I have lived with it and I have encountered it full force.

Perhaps I choose narcissism, as I have been “accused”. And if I do, it is a rational choice of self-preservation and survival. The paradox is that being a self-loathing narcissist may be the only act of self-love I have ever committed.

Crying of the Stone Angel by Eternal Dream Art at

Can a narcissist’s true self ever see the light of day?

The true self is there in hiding, sometimes peeking out in dreams.  A narcissist without insight (which is almost all of them) would not be able to write the post quoted above.   Even if they were aware of having such a vulnerable inner self, they would never admit it.   They’re so walled off from their true feelings they can’t access it even in dreams.   Instead, they shore up a fake self that takes the place of the true one–but it’s not sustainable and will fall apart without a constant source of narcissistic supply that keeps it inflated like a balloon.  The constant inflation keeps their false self alive and as long as it’s there, they never have to face the black emptiness inside where the atrophied child-self exists.  If they fall into such a depression, they may go insane.  Suicide is not unheard of.

Sadness and tears that could arise from being able to encounter one’s true self, even if only briefly in a dream, could be the key to healing.  If only anyone really could figure out how to harness this and keep it accessible long enough for the narcissist to start doing some difficult internal work before they slap that mask back on.   Harnessing any brief moments of emotional nakedness is like trying to hold onto a dream while awake–most of the time, it dissolves and fragments like soap bubbles before being  swept away in the the river of day to day reality.   It’s still there, buried in the narcissist’s unconscious the way a clam buries itself deep in the wet sand near the shore after the waves recede.  But in all likelihood, the narcissist will die a narcissist, and no one (including themselves) will ever know what could have been.   I think most of them choose to remain living in the darkness because it’s a whole lot “safer.”  Maybe “lucid dreaming” (a skill that can be learned) could be one way to capture the true self when it emerges in a dream, and keep it there long enough to work with.

Most people don’t believe narcissists can be cured (and in most cases, they can’t be and are perfectly fine with being the way they are).  That being said,   I like to remain optimistic.   I can’t believe there are people walking on this earth who have completely lost their souls.  Unless a person has consciously chosen evil and has become sociopathic, I don’t think most narcissists are that far gone. The challenge is catching them when their guard is down, which is almost never.  I don’t recommend you try  doing this yourself.  Leave it to the professionals or to God.   You cannot fix a narcissist.   All you can really do is stop giving them supply, so stay (or go) No Contact.

28 thoughts on “Do narcissists cry?

  1. I’d suggest that “crying for oneself” can actually be the start of a good and healthy thing, if a person can deeply feel self-empathy and self-compassion. It can allow them to eventually let themselves be more vulnerable and open to others. Being able to feel known and supported in one’s vulnerability by another person is really a prerequisite to being able to have genuine empathy (i.e. identify with the feelings of someone else). This his what happens in therapy when a narcissistic person does get help, as you hinted might be possible at the end of your essay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point, but maybe that “selfish” crying has to occur in a therapeutic setting (if the narcissist actually appears in a therapist’s office for help, which doesn’t happen too often) because I know a lot of narcissists who cry all the time about themselves but they never seem to get any better. A therapist might be able to help them redirect their focus off themselves and onto others somehow. Interesting observation.


    • Sorry about the late response to this, Sam, but I found this particularly interesting:

      Narcissism IS a dream state. The narcissist is totally detached from his (human) milieu. Devoid of empathy and obsessively centred on the procurement of narcissistic supply (adulation, admiration, etc.) – the narcissist is unable to regard others as three dimensional beings with their own needs and rights. This mental picture of narcissism can easily serve as a good description of the dream state where other people are mere representations, or symbols, in a hermeneutically sealed thought system. Both narcissism and dreaming are AUTISTIC states of mind with severe cognitive and emotional distortions. By extension, one can talk about “narcissistic cultures” as “dream cultures” doomed to a rude awakening. It is interesting to note that most narcissists I know from my correspondence or personally (myself included) have a very poor dream-life and dreamscape. They remember nothing of their dreams and are rarely, if ever, motivated by insights contained in them.

      The Internet is the sudden and voluptuous embodiment of my dreams. It is too good to me to be true – so, in many ways, it isn’t. I think Mankind (at least in the rich, industrialized countries) is moonstruck. It surfs this beautiful, white landscape, in suspended disbelief. It holds it breath. It dares not believe and believes not its hopes. The Internet has, therefore, become a collective phantasm – at times a dream, at times a nightmare. Entrepreneurship involves massive amounts of dreaming and the net is pure entrepreneurship.

      This makes sense to me. Narcissists are eternally dissociated from their true selves and live in this imaginary persona — they are playing make believe, living in a dream world. Like a little child forced to take off the Superman or Princess costume and come back to earth, narcissists balk and rage that anyone would dare try to strip them of their make believe self and make believe world. When we dream, we are also dissociated, but in a different way–our conscious minds become dissociated from the unconscious, but it’s the unconscious we should be listening to, because that’s where the truth can be found. Narcissists can’t access the true dream state as readily as other people because they are dissociated from the truth. All they have is their fake dream like waking state.


  2. I have one in the family that doesn’t ever cry and one that does. My mother never cries as she portrays the masculine woman without a tear. It was strange at my brother’s funeral how she projects this grieving somehow. She was nasty really. Had everyone believing how she just wanted to cry even when she was saying stuff about him being too fat and he deserved to die. This looked like grief to others. I can’t really explain it.

    She even triangulated at his graveside and wouldn’t let my sister cry. Mother said, “He’s was never very nice to you, so don’t cry about him being gone.” This looks like mother was grieving.

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    • That ‘s horrible! Your mother, btw, sounds EXACTLY like someone else’s mother who posts here a lot. My mother was emotionally cold too, but more the histrionic type who cried conspicuously at everything .
      But my God, how awful for you.


      • Mine? I have seen my mother cry ONCE, it was fake tears because my father got into a fistfight with my brother, and was telling my mother to kick her 16 year old son out of the house and threatening to go. My father was a narc too, abusing my brother. She would defend my brother on rare occasion when it looked like my father may almost kill him or put him in the hospital and bring their suburban castle of cards crashing done. My brother admits he was abused but lives in denial about it and is a flying monkey to my mother. I have never seen that cold wench cry once, except that time, even at funerals. Sometimes she would carry on, but there wouldn’t be actual tears in her eyes, I noticed this when my father died and was creeped out. It was like she would manufacture emotions. She never showed fear too which troubles me to this day. The Mini-me doesn’t cry either. I didn’t get the histrionic type of narc but the opposite and believing mine were into sociopathy land. I never heard anything about dreams, feelings, nostalgia or other human things other people take for granted. This was the worse person I could have had for a “mother”.

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        • That’s terrible. And yes, Peep, I was referring to your mother, I figured you would know.

          Yes I have noticed that about narcs when they “cry for you.” (not themselves) Some can manufacture tears (I posted a video of the psychopathic murderer Scott Peterson who killed his pregnant wife some years back and he was GOOD at squeezing out a river of tears during questioning in order to give the police and court a better impression. It’s under another post, I forget which one atm)
          Most aren’t as good as he was at this.
          Anyway, whenever you see someone who cries in “empathy” or “guilt” but you don’t see any tears, suspect a narc. They will probably try to hide their face so you don’t notice the dry eyes.


        • Yeah you knew it was mine Lucky Otter. Yes her eyes were dry. This is actually something I look for now if I suspect a narc in my midst is crying. Not that I have many crying people around me LOL but you know what I mean. I read about Scott Petersen, he was scary one. That poor young woman and her unborn baby didn’t have a chance. I hate crying in front of other people, sometimes it can be a bad idea for an Aspie, because you do not know the things to say while having an Aspie cry fest, and often NT’s will be unsettled but I’m an easy crier. I get embarrassed because I will even cry at movies and books.

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          • I’m one of those aspies who doesn’t cry easily. Crying was shamed out of me at a young age by my FOO and the bullies at school (as a kid, I was always crying). I don’t cry when I’m depressed; I’m more likley to sulk or act grumpy or just sleep a lot.
            Sometimes I cry for no reason at all (alone of course). I think it’s to relieve stress.
            Lately though, I’ve noticed when I’m happy my eyes get wet. This is a good sign. Tears of joy are the best and I envy those who can cry when happy. I just read a beautiful post on another blog today about this:


    • Wow on your evil cruel mother Joan. I used to hear that garbage about my N grandmother who was the coldest fish in the universe and buried three children, all who died before the age of 36 [ages 14, 24, and 36] “She’s so strong”, none would ever wonder why someone like that would never cry. She basically hated your brother and was saying very nasty things about him. What she said to your sister is inexcusable. I have told my husband to keep any of my family away if I die. I won’t have fat comments and dishonor given to me in death.

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        • I just read your article, Joan. I can’t even fathom the way MNs like your mother think. It’s like they have an alien mind. She was blaming him even after his death and still using him to triangulate against you–even after his death. How can someone tell someone else not to grieve “because he brought it on himself’? And people bought that shit? I can’t even imagine the way I would be if I were at one of my children’s funerals. I would be down on the ground sobbing and probably blaming myself. Your mother really sounded like a cold fish, Joan. A psychopathic MN of the worst kind. I’m sorry this happened to you.


        • “And mother, to this day, jokes about him being too fat, and eating KFC all the time, and that is why he died.”

          OMG….She is horrible. I feel for your brother. The sad thing is it looks like that brother tried to take care of her and everything and she turned on him like a dirty dog. The stress and abuse I am sure affected his health. See at the funeral she was upset the attention was off her, this is how sick these wenches are!

          One thing my sociopathic mother, I realized had the ability to direct others just via facial expression and snorts of displeasure. I am glad in your family Joan, some let their true emotions show, but mine mother’s facial expression of disgust would have gotten the trained seals right in line. I wonder if this is why my sister doesn’t cry at funerals. I am sure my mother even rolled her eyes at some mourners. One thing these narcs will lie about people in death. A giant lie was told about one of my dead relatives, I can’t even write it here because it would stir the pot so much if my blog was found but they will dishonor the dead after they are gone.

          Us ACONS [especially us older and ill types] better make arrangements that if we die, someone else takes care of our arrangements, so we are not dishonored in death. I plan to start giving stuff away if my health declines to a certain point. I don’t want to be Tiffany Sedaris [] having narc relatives pawing through my art projects, paintings, stamp collection books and personal papers [written parts of a book manuscript, letters, comics etc, and burning everything and cackling or in her case, making snide comments about what she left behind.

          I feel for your brother Joan what happened was so wrong. It showed your mother being incapable of any love.

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  3. Its better not to be too much of a crier. I know I had to really learn to hold my tears back around the narcs, I went into Lisette called “robot mode” around the narcs long long ago. When I worked with those violent clients and all hell broke lose at times, I never cried. I had a rule about that but I had to invoke inner strength to quell back the emotional storm. I know if the you know what hits the fan, I don’t cry either. That was tested a few times, it’s like I shut down then and do what has to be done. However for in general, Crying can get me in trouble even now at this late age. I cried on the phone today, I wonder if my real ancestry is an ethnic group known for high passion and emotionality. Crying too easily can be embarrassing. I can cry from joy too.

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    • I think another reason we go into “robot mode” (good description and btw Lisette has a fantastic blog) is not only as a form of self-protection, but because when you live in insanity and chaos, the abnormal becomes normal. You get used to it. You assume their behavior is normal when it isn’t. I feel like I’m waking up from a nightmare now and wonder how the hell I survived as well as I did. The mind is an amazing thing and can adapt to almost everything–of course it isn’t healthy but it is pretty amazing what our minds can do to help us survive the unspeakable.


    • Yes the funeral wasn’t about mother and that is why she was so mad, and had everyone (including me, I’m embarrassed to say) believing she was grieving. I was supposing it was easier for her to believe it was my brother’s fault and this would make it easier on her and everyone else. Not true, not true. I had to break it down in my head after I had my awakening. My brother died at 45.

      He was hefty and liked his KFC and other yummy food, this was his thing. He was a hard worker and loved one woman all his life. He was a good man. Thanks ladies.

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  4. I am a bit confused about the distinction between crying for a character you experience yourself through and crying for the character. I was under the impression that empathy is based on putting yourself in the shoes of another person.


  5. My ex also cried a lot and he was very sensitive. Lot of things seemed to hurt his feelings and he was so sensitive to criticism and he would always take what I say the wrong way. i also felt I had to keep everything bottled up or he would get upset. I have no idea if he was faking it or if he was always a crier. Someone once suggested on a forum to me that he thinks my ex used his emotions as an excuse whenever he didn’t get his way so he cried. This opinion came from someone who said he is also very sensitive and would get upset easier than others and he had Asperger’s after I told my experience with a very sensitive person and he was asking why people have a problem with it so I told him about my ex and he said that to me. I didn’t know at the time this was a narc quality. I just thought it was being very sensitive so it seems like anything hurt theirs feelings and you have to walk on eggshells and watch what you say and how you say it and watch how you react. But no this is all abuse, not being sensitive. But he did give me an eye opener for this is not what being very sensitive means. I don’t think he ever cried at movies. But he has told me he cried and I didn’t even know at the time he did until he told me he cried.

    But I wonder how can you tell what crying is genuine and what crying is fake and how can we tell if they are trying to manipulate us or if this is all actually real than them faking it? I guess if the relationship is going well and they treat you well and you are happy in it, then you can assume it’s all real but if they are just a jerk and you are not happy, then you can assume the worst so that means break up and leave and cut off contact. Better safe than sorry.

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    • Sounds to me like your ex was a covert narcissist (vulnerable narcissist). They can and do cry a lot, even the men. But when a narc cries, it’s always to get attention or sympathy from you. he probably didn’t cry in the movies because that would require him to experience empathy for someone else, even if it’s only a character on screen.
      I would agree, if the person acts like a jerk and seem to be a narc, their crying (if they do cry at all–many do not) is going to be manipulative and always for themselves. They will never be able to cry for you because they have no empathy. But they can be incredibly sensitive for themselves and all narcs get their feelings hurt very easily, even if they never cry. Classic, aggressive narcissists show their hurt in other ways, usually raging or giving you the silent treatment , which is every bit as manipulative as the kind of crying they do.


      • I’m wondering if his aspie traits were actually him being a narc. I wonder if they are also organized? He was and to him I wasn’t organized even though I liked to keep my things together and put away. He also claimed he got tested for Asperger’s and they said they couldn’t make it official because they only made it official for kids. I found out it takes months or weeks to wait for testing and also the place he claimed he got tested at do diagnose adults because I had met some in my autism group who have been diagnosed there as adults. The testing doesn’t happen over night, you call and you come in the next day and boom you did the tests and they tell you the results but it doesn’t work like that. It takes weeks about a month to hear the results. this is why I wonder if he ever lied about his condition and he told his son about it too in front of me. Also the fact he couldn’t get $300 from his grandparents for the official DX he claimed it would cost but yet he was getting money from them for his lawyer and his bills and food, etc but yet he couldn’t for his DX? Strange isn’t it?

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