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.