Something new I’ve noticed about narcissists.


I received an email today from a reader asking me if narcissists have preferences — that is, do they really have opinions of their own?  An example was used of a man who said he likes a certain TV show, but when asked who his favorite character on the show was, couldn’t (or wouldn’t) name one, as if he hadn’t actually ever watched the show.

Did he really have a favorite TV show, or was he just saying he had one to give the impression he had his own opinions?    The email writer also said that this person changes his mind a lot and seems to tell different people different things which sometimes conflict.  (I haven’t answered this email yet, but my answer will be that I really don’t know if narcissists have their own preferences or not).

This was an interesting question to me, because of something I’ve been noticing lately about narcissists, especially when they (temporarily) drop their mask.   I noticed they seem to have no personality.   Many people have said they seem soulless, but it isn’t really that.  It’s not a question of whether they’re good, evil, or in between.   It’s more as if they’re a blank slate and there’s nothing imprinted on that slate.   I get the impression of a sort of nebulous “white fog” where a person should be.    It’s like a person without a personality, who then adopts a false one to give the impression that they have their own interests, preferences, like and dislikes, when in actuality they don’t have much of an opinion about anything.   Depending on the person or situation, they “change their minds”–so when talking to one person they may like ABC, but when talking to another one, they like XYZ instead (and dislike ABC).

When a narcissist drops their mask (for whatever reason) it’s as if you’re trying to communicate with a blank wall.   They still don’t share their true self with you because they don’t even know who their true self is (if it’s even accessible), so it’s like there’s no “self” there at all.  It’s both unsettling and sad.

I know one who began to open up about their past and get into some some real meat about the trauma they had experienced when young, but then she abruptly stopped, probably because it was too painful or scary.  I can’t get a clear impression of this individual; she shares nothing personal and is more like a shadow than a real person.   She seems to be trapped in a weird no-man’s-land between the shame of no longer wanting to present a false self (she knows she has NPD and is in therapy) but also not having the courage (or the ability) to present a true one either.

It occurred to me this could be some form of dissociation.


26 thoughts on “Something new I’ve noticed about narcissists.

  1. Hello, I don’t have a site as such but have been doing a lot of reading lately about narcissists and came across your place – thankyou for sharing your experiences to help others. It cannot be easy.
    I was very recently involved with a narcissist. He’s gone now, but…..
    I remember saying to him, early on, that it was unheard of for me to be involved with someone and to have no idea of their politics. Left? Right? In the middle?
    Nothing, blank. Looking back, I think perhaps he’d just never found a use for politics in his dealings with other people. So he just didn’t develop any.
    (except of course in the sense of “If I ran the country, then…”)
    I also remember falling off my chair (metaphorically) when he asked one night, “What is this Brexit thing”.
    When I told him, I had to go right back to, “well, there was this vote in the UK….”
    It was truly impossible for him not to have been exposed to it, the whole entire thing. He watches the news most nights and considers himself a man of the world.
    I think it was just another thing he threw on the “don’t need” pile, at the time.
    It was just very, very interesting, how deep that apparently runs.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As far as likes and dislikes and opinions…maybe it depends on where they are on the spectrum. My father knew his opinion and had strong ones. He knew what he liked and what he didn’t like as well. He was very knowledgeable as well about current events and politics and also had strong opinions in that arena as well.

    I remember once when I was young saying to him, off the cuff about something (I forget what)..”Oh you wouldn’t like that.”

    And he said in his loud, nasty tone of voice, with a hint of disgust, “Don’t tell me what I would and wouldn’t like.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Maybe he got mad because your question challenged him and he saw it as an attack on his false self so he jumped on the defensive. Or maybe it does have something to do with where they fall on the spectrum. I also think it could have something to do with whether they are grandiose or covert. I’ve noticed this sort of thing more so with covert narcissists.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t think my father was grandiose. If anything he was the opposite. Although he could come across in some instances as being confident and was in his career and his favorite hobby, he was not the kind of person who thought of himself as someone who would accomplish great things. He did ok but he was never rich. He later became unsettled with what he did for a living because he got pushed out of his original career, which he loved and ended up doing something he didn’t like…even though he was good at it.

        He could also try to put on that air of confidence but it was so obvious when it was fake. You could feel the anxiety seeping out of him when he wasn’t feeling comfortable with himself.

        And he’d never be caught dead in a therapists office either. My mom tried a couple times and I did too once with family therapy. He was a closed up arrogant a-hole with the attitude of “our problems are not this guy’s (the therapist’s) business.

        Whatever his reason was for his reaction, that doesn’t cancel out the fact that he had strong opinions. But your reasoning could still be correct.

        I’m curious though, now that it’s come to memory again, what that really was about.

        Another example is my brother.

        We were going somewhere together (probably to my grandmother’s) in a car and I wanted to drive my car rather than go with him in his.

        He wanted to bring CDs. He’s also a musician and plays melodic metal. He is a phenomenal musician but I don’t like the kind of music he generally plays and also listens to. (Or so I thought).

        Anyway, before leaving that day I said, without even thinking, “I don’t wanna listen to all the same kind of music all the way there.”

        And he also reacted in the same defensive way…and growled at me, “I don’t listen to just one type of music.”

        So yeah, something to try to figure out for me.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Doesn’t it seem to you that these people must go through life being incredibly stressed out all the time at having to always be so fake and feeling like everything is an attack on them ? Not that they deserve any pity because of the hell they put the rest of us through. But good Lord, I’d sure hate to be one.

          Liked by 1 person

          • YES! Such a good point. I remember in both instances I felt blind-sided by their reaction. I didn’t mean anything hurtful in either case.

            In both cases it was coming from what I knew about each of them.

            Liked by 1 person

    • @Aura…. don’t get me wrong, our Mr N had opinions! Like your father, very strong and well-verbalised ones – where things related directly to him.
      His possessions, his surroundings, his activities.
      But when it came to, I guess, that outer ring of what usually makes up a person as a whole – the things that are developed through how they relate to the world they live in – if it didn’t have an immediate and everyday application in showing something about him to the people he wanted to impress, then it just wasn’t really there.
      He’d have a go sometimes. Like, on seeing one of my paintings:
      “I appreciate a wide range of art”
      “Oh! Who are some of your favourite artists?”
      “When are you going to get online and order dinner”
      As they go, he’s a fairly blunt object of a narcissist, our Mr N. Not much nuance, there.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi Lucky, you described this person as changeable to the circumstances, wouldnt that be more chameleon like as in the case with the borderline?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s what I thought too. Chameleon-like behavior is a borderline trait. I think the difference between BPD and NPD (besides BPD’s being much less cut off from their true feelings) is that a borderline doesn’t really have a false self, even though they can adapt their behaviors/opinions etc. to different people or situations. Narcissists have a more stable false self and are less chameleonlike, but they also adapt their opinions to different situations and people. I noticed when they drop that false self (if they do), it seems like there’s nothing there–just a blank slate. It’s confusing. I think both can be chameleonlike, but borderlines are more so, and they don’t give that “blank slate” impression that narcissists do.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Lauren – I agree with this particular post. I might even widen it and say that it’s not just narcissists. I know a few introverted histrionics (I know, I know it always seems an oxymoron, doesn’t it? But they seem to be quite common) and they really do seem to have almost no solid personality of their own but adopt whatever opinion or attitude or preference gets them the most brownie points at any given moment.

    My father particularly makes me laugh. He’s a good-going narc (believe me, it’s a measure of considerable progress that I’m able to laugh) and he simply borrows whichever opinion reflects best on him. For him, the two people whose opinions he most covets are his brother’s and mine. Unluckily for him, his brother and me have absolutely diametrically opposite views. It’s very funny watching Dad trying to wriggle his way out of one set and into the other, depending upon the prevailing wind.

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  5. I agree, Lucky Otter. I think it is disassociation. I know my estranged husband rarely had his own impressions except when it came to things he deemed not good enough or brilliant enough because they were things he hadn’t attempted himself (like how he thought college was a waste of time and he could learn whatever he needed to and was smart without a college education – he was often critical of me because I have a Masters), but I did often discover that he liked movies and shows that I liked. He would never say why. Just if I said I loved a certain show, he would go, OMG so do I. It was annoying.

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    • About the dissociation — I’ve noticed sometimes when a narc’s mask suddenly drops (or they have just been called out and have suffered a blow to their ego) , they get this momentary weird blank look on their face, like they have no idea where they are or who they are (which is probably exactly the case). It reminds me a little of when someone with DID switches to another alter, there is a moment of blankness before the switch is made. But with the narcissist, the blank look is quickly replaced by the normal mask again, as they compose themselves, or sometimes it precedes rage (if narcissistic injury is involved).


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