Do borderlines have a “false self”?

false_self_pic

One of the takeaways I got from my therapy session tonight, was that as someone with BPD, I do have a false self, but it’s not the same kind of false self a person with NPD has.

Actually, almost everyone has a false self. Whenever you’re polite to someone you don’t like, tell a “white lie,” put on your “best face” in a job interview, or act happy at the dreadful office Christmas party, that’s your false self in action. In the non-disordered, it’s called a social self, and is necessary to be able to function in the world. People who have no social self self at all are people who have no idea how to act in social situations, and just say whatever is on their mind. They care nothing about making a good impression or sparing someone’s feelings. There are people like this, but they’re usually living on the edges of society. Most people aren’t very comfortable having to wear this social self, but know they must in order to function in the world.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder are both Cluster B (emotional, dramatic, erratic) disorders and both involve serious disruptions in a person’s sense of self. In both disorders, the true self was compromised at an early age because the parents or caregivers failed to mirror the child’s growing sense of self. The false self is a defense mechanism and stands in for the compromised true self, which in the case of someone with NPD, can no longer be accessed.

falseself_graphic

But there are differences. In a person with NPD, the false self is an intractable, permanent structure and is stable. What this means is that a person with NPD has become someone else. The mask they wear becomes who they are, and any threat of exposure by another for the lie it really is will be viciously attacked or the perpetrator devalued. That’s why you can never criticize a narcissist.

The NPD false self is also stable, meaning it doesn’t change much.  For example, a somatic, grandiose narcissist has built an entire identity around their physical appearance and uses every opportunity to make sure everyone knows how physically perfect they are. Because so much effort has gone into building this identity, the narcissist is unlikely to have developed any other abilities or strengths. A person with NPD pretty much lives full-time as their false self, and rarely, if ever, show others any glimpses of their true self, which in the worst cases, is so inaccessible to them it may as well not exist. If the false self is ripped away (this can be done by denying a narcissist any supply), and there is no more supply to be had (this sometimes happens to elderly narcissists, who can no longer rely on looks, youth, career or financial success to boost their egos), what is revealed is a person so empty, depressed, or dissociated they may require hospitalization or may even attempt suicide. Some may voluntarily enter treatment, but if their fortunes change, they start to feel better and are likely to quit therapy. Schizophrenic symptoms in a degraded narcissist isn’t unusual.

NPD is difficult to treat because the false self is so intractable and all-emcompassing, the person has little to no insight into themselves or even realize it’s they who have the problem. Because they tend to project their unacceptable emotions onto others, they’re far more likely to blame others for things they have really brought on themselves.

In Borderlines, the false self manifests more as a series of temporary masks, adapted to suit certain situations or people. People with BPD are emotional chameleons. Their dramatic mood swings and changeability are due to constant mask-switching and the stress this causes them. The BPD false self is not well developed and it often fails them, causing them emotional distress. The BPD false self (really false selves) is unstable, permeable, and easily shattered, frequently revealing the empty, dissociated, depressed true self. Because it’s not a permanent structure, BPDs don’t require narcissistic supply to keep it “alive” (they’re more likely to become codependent to a narcissist). They can seem “crazier” than people with NPD, but they are more easily treated because they spend at least some of the time without their masks on.

Further reading:

Derealization and Depersonalization in NPD and BPD

Comparing Covert Narcissism and BPD

Borderlines are Human Chameleons

Why Narcissists and Borderlines are Drawn to Each Other

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Why does a narcissist need a false self?

trueself_falseself

On one of Sam Vaknin’s discussion pages, someone asked a very good question:
Why does the narcissist conjure up another Self? Why not simply transform his True Self into a False one?

I’ve wondered about this too. Here’s Sam’s explanation, which is a link to one of his articles from his website. While his long answer is predictably bleak and hopeless, and I don’t agree with him about everything, taken as a whole, this article did answer a lot of questions I had been wondering about and as always it made me think.

The Dual Role of the Narcissist’s False Self
By Sam Vaknin

We often marvel at the discrepancy between the private and public lives of our idols: celebrities, statesmen, stars, writers, and other accomplished figures. It is as though they have two personalities, two selves: the “true” one which they reserve for their nearest and dearest and the “fake” or “false” or “concocted” one which they flaunt in public.

In contrast, the narcissist has no private life, no true self, no domain reserved exclusively for his nearest and dearest. His life is a spectacle, with free access to all, constantly on display, garnering narcissistic supply from his audience. In the theatre that is the narcissist’s life, the actor is irrelevant. Only the show goes on. The False Self is everything the narcissist would like to be but, alas, cannot: omnipotent, omniscient, invulnerable, impregnable, brilliant, perfect, in short: godlike. Its most important role is to elicit narcissistic supply from others: admiration, adulation, awe, obedience, and, in general: unceasing attention.

The narcissist constructs a narrative of his life that is partly confabulated and whose purpose is to buttress, demonstrate, and prove the veracity of the fantastically grandiose and often impossible claims made by the False Self. This narrative allocates roles to significant others in the narcissist’s personal history. Inevitably, such a narrative is hard to credibly sustain for long: reality intrudes and a yawning abyss opens between the narcissist’s self-imputed divinity and his drab, pedestrian existence and attributes. I call it the Grandiosity Gap. Additionally, meaningful figures around the narcissist often refuse to play the parts allotted to them, rebel, and abandon the narcissist.

The narcissist copes with this painful and ineluctable realization of the divorce between his self-perception and this less than stellar state of affairs by first denying reality, delusionally ignoring and filtering out all inconvenient truths. Then, if this coping strategy fails, the narcissist invents a new narrative, which accommodates and incorporates the very intrusive data that served to undermine the previous, now discarded narrative. He even goes to the extent of denying that he ever had another narrative, except the current, modified one.

The narcissist’s (and the codependent’s) introjects and inner voices (assimilated representations of parents, role models, and significant peers) are mostly negative and sadistic. Rather than provide succour, motivation, and direction, they enhance his underlying ego-dystony (discontent with who he is) and the lability of his sense of self-worth.

buddhanature
“Buddha nature” True Self vs. “Ego” False Self. Click to enlarge graphic.

Introjects possess a crucial role in the formation of an exegetic (interpretative) framework which allows one to decipher the world, construct a model of reality, of one’s place in it, and, consequently of who one is (self-identity). Overwhelmingly negative introjects – or introjects which are manifestly fake, fallacious, and manipulative – hamper the narcissist’s and codependent’s ability to construct a true and efficacious exegetic (interpretative) framework.

Gradually, the disharmony between one’s perception of the universe and of oneself and reality becomes unbearable and engenders pathological, maladaptive, and dysfunctional attempts to either deny the hurtful discrepancy away (delusions and fantasies); grandiosely compensate for it by eliciting positive external voices to counter the negative, inner ones (narcissism via the False Self and its narcissistic supply); attack it (antisocial/psychopathy); withdraw from the world altogether (schizoid solution); or disappear by merging and fusing with another person (codependence.)

Once formed and functioning, the False Self stifles the growth of the True Self and paralyses it. Henceforth, the ossified True Self is virtually non-existent and plays no role (active or passive) in the conscious life of the narcissist. It is difficult to “resuscitate” it, even with psychotherapy. The False Self sometimes parades the child-like, vulnerable, needy, and innocent True Self in order to capture, manipulate, and attract empathic sources of narcissistic supply. When supply is low, the False Self is emaciated and dilapidated. It is unable to contain and repress the True Self which then emerges as a petulant, self-destructive, spoiled, and codependent entity. But the True Self’s moments in the sun are very brief and, usually, inconsequential.

This substitution is not only a question of alienation, as Horney observed. She said that because the Idealised (=False) Self sets impossible goals to the narcissist, the results are frustration and self hate which grow with every setback or failure. But the constant sadistic judgement, the self-berating, the suicidal ideation emanate from the narcissist’s idealised, sadistic, Superego regardless of the existence or functioning of a False Self.

There is no conflict between the True Self and the False Self.

First, the True Self is much too weak to do battle with the overbearing False. Second, the False Self is adaptive (though maladaptive). It helps the True Self to cope with the world. Without the False Self, the True Self would be subjected to so much hurt that it will disintegrate. This happens to narcissists who go through a life crisis: their False Ego becomes dysfunctional and they experience a harrowing feeling of annulment.

falseself_graphic
Anatomy of the mind of a narcissist.

The False Self has many functions. The two most important are:

1. It serves as a decoy, it “attracts the fire”. It is a proxy for the True Self. It is tough as nails and can absorb any amount of pain, hurt and negative emotions. By inventing it, the child develops immunity to the indifference, manipulation, sadism, smothering, or exploitation – in short: to the abuse – inflicted on him by his parents (or by other Primary Objects in his life). It is a cloak, protecting him, rendering him invisible and omnipotent at the same time.

2. The False Self is misrepresented by the narcissist as his True Self. The narcissist is saying, in effect: “I am not who you think I am. I am someone else. I am this (False) Self. Therefore, I deserve a better, painless, more considerate treatment.” The False Self, thus, is a contraption intended to alter other people’s behaviour and attitude towards the narcissist.
These roles are crucial to survival and to the proper psychological functioning of the narcissist. The False Self is by far more important to the narcissist than his dilapidated, dysfunctional, True Self.

The two Selves are not part of a continuum, as the neo-Freudians postulated. Healthy people do not have a False Self which differs from its pathological equivalent in that it is more realistic and closer to the True Self.

It is true that even healthy people have a mask [Guffman], or a persona [Jung] which they consciously present to the world. But these are a far cry from the False Self, which is mostly subconscious, depends on outside feedback, and is compulsive.

The False Self is an adaptive reaction to pathological circumstances. But its dynamics make it predominate, devour the psyche and prey upon the True Self. Thus, it prevents the efficient, flexible functioning of the personality as a whole.

That the narcissist possesses a prominent False Self as well as a suppressed and dilapidated True Self is common knowledge. Yet, how intertwined and inseparable are these two? Do they interact? How do they influence each other? And what behaviours can be attributed squarely to one or the other of these protagonists? Moreover, does the False Self assume traits and attributes of the True Self in order to deceive the world?

Read the rest of Sam’s article here.

Is NPD really a dissociative disorder?

dissociative_identity_disorder

I think there’s good reason to think NPD (and to some extent, BPD) is really a dissociative disorder. Think about it. There is a true self and a false self that are split from each other, much the way a person with dissociative identity disorder (DID) has a “waking self” or the “host personality” (the DID’s equivalent of the true self) that has split into different “personalities”, some of which aren’t even aware that others exist. Still, the narrative of the true self runs beneath everything, like an underground river feeds the land above it. In other words, the false self’s behaviors are driven by the need to keep the true self hidden and/or protected.

NPDs (and BPDs) also have episodes of dissociation and feelings of unreality, depersonalization, derealization, or even annihilation when under stress or when injured, and these dissociative episodes can become so bad during a narcissistic crisis that a psychotic break can occur. Narcissists are not unknown to become psychotic during old age due to massive loss of supply.

There are other things too that are dissociative–the magical thinking, the splitting, and the manifestation of the FS itself, which is, in essence, a separate “personality” from the TS.
I’ve read elsewhere that NPD could be a dissociative disorder, and I think it’s a valid argument. Thoughts?

False self vs. true self.

wolf

UPDATE: I wrote this post during a four-month period of time when I thought I had covert narcissism.   I don’t (BPD + Avoidant PD in the same person can look a LOT like C-NPD and even confuses some professionals), but I think this still applies because Borderlines do indeed have a “false self” (and to some extent, everyone does) which is just less developed than someone who has NPD.  

Like the wolf graphic above shows, all human beings have a good self and a bad self. But in a narcissist, the good (true) self is dissociated and split off from the bad (false) one, where in normal people all these feelings are integrated into One Self.

I’m beginning to see the woman I can become. The woman I would have been had I not been so abused and allowed myself to fall under the thrall of a malignant narcissist/ASPD man for 27 years.
That woman is taking shape in my mind and all I need to do is find a way to reconcile this new vision with my reality.
She’s someone I like very much–the adult version of the sensitive little girl that brought me so much shame and humiliation because no one mirrored her positively.

My True Self…

Enjoying the sun

Enjoying the sun

–Is in touch with her feelings but doesn’t fly into BPD rages or seethe with envy, bitterness and resentment. She’s in control but can feel appropriate emotions at appropriate times, and isn’t ashamed to show them.

–Is naturally introverted (INFJ) but not shy. People don’t intimidate her but as an inward-looking person, she often prefers solitude to pursue activities and interests she loves. (I’m already halfway there).

–Is creative–she uses her ability to write to purge her past and her emotions (I’m already doing this) and sometimes just for fun (my other blog has a lot of silly or humorous posts). She also loves photography, art, music and wants to learn to play the guitar to accompany herself singing. She’s not a talented singer, but sings for the joy of it. Music feeds her soul.

–Is quietly confident and not afraid to let someone know when her boundaries or rights are being violated.

–Is able to make and keep close friends, not just acquaintances she keeps at arm’s length.

–Is an HSP with possible empathic abilities. (I’m not there yet).

–Is authentic and nurturing, and truly wants to help others discover who they are (I actually do want this now, but I’m mainly doing it for myself. If I help others along the way though, it makes me feel good).

–She feels attractive and even sexy, but appreciates the beauty in others and in the world around her too. She feels beautiful by knowingly and mindfully being a part of beauty (and almost everything has a certain beauty).

–Is able to parlay her love for writing into a career as a published author. No feelings of, “but I’d fail at it.” She isn’t afraid to take smart risks to turn her desire to express her insights and emotions into her life’s work.

My False Self…

false_self

–Is selfish and demanding, always complaining about how badly she’s treated or disrespected.

–Always thinks everything’s about her. If someone looks at her the wrong way, she lets that ruin her entire day and thinks everyone hates her. If she walks into a room and everyone smiles, she focuses and ruminates about the one person who is scowling.

–Overreacts to slights and occasionally flies into rages (this may be more due to BPD; my DBT skills have mostly got this under control though the rage is still present).

–Is envious; can’t be genuinely happy for someone else’s good fortune (except for my kids).

–Sometimes secretly gets a thrill on hearing someone else’s bad news (I’m really ashamed of this and it’s really hard to admit this). I don’t feel that way all the time though. I don’t try to cause pain to others. I hate being the perpetrator and have a lot of guilt and shame when I know I’ve caused someone pain. I’m a passive sadist, I guess. Isn’t schadenfreude the term for this? I’ve read that everyone experiences it, but I think I have it more than most people.

–Feels secretly superior under a self-loathing exterior. Of course I loathed myself to the core (not so much now), but to correct the cognitive dissonance between what I was and what I wanted to be, I’d denigrate others and put my own actions on a pedestal. For example, when I thought I had Aspergers, I felt “superior” for not being a neurotypical and used to feel contempt for people who had a lot of friends or an active social life, or the ability to feel comfortable in a group setting. I actually envied their ability to connect with and not fear the judgment of others , but I convinced myself I was somehow “better” because I didn’t have to engage in stupid small talk and my mind was probably superior to their anyway.

–No matter what the situation, I always think about how it’s going to affect *me* first.

–Fearful of getting involved in a romantic relationship, yet at the same time I long for one. (This is probably more due to my BPD).

I’m happy to say a lot of these FS behaviors are diminishing, just through the self-discovery I’ve achieved through blogging for the past year. A couple of my FS traits have nearly disappeared. I seem nice now, and I am nice (I don’t think I present my false self on this blog), but I wasn’t always so.

I just noticed I wrote most of this list in the third person–isn’t that something narcissists are known to do? :/

Dragon slayers: the origins of grandiosity.

I thought this article fit on both my blogs. It’s something I was thinking about earlier.

What does covert narcissism feel like?

itsmytime

This was a comment in another post but I wanted it to be a blog post because I think it’s a good nutshell explanation of what covert NPD actually FEELS like, filtered through self-awareness:

I feel like…”everyone’s better than me and has more and I deserve to die because I’m a worthless POS”…but underneath THAT is this “how DARE they have more, I’m more SPECIAL and that’s why I don’t feel like bothering with you and people are stupid for rewarding you for not being all that,” (but this defensiveness stems from my fear of them getting too close and seeing nothing but a black void under that).

And under all THAT–inside the VOID I can’t let anyone see–is the true self I’m seeing more and more of, as she shows herself more. She’s creative and sensitive and cares about people–a LOT. That void isn’t empty at all, but I have to go in there and face the darkness…

Does that make sense?
We have TWO masks, not just one.

So it can’t be Aspergers. Aspies don’t have all that RAGE..and self hatred…and fake hidden grandiosity and bitterness…

I still have a long way to go but I’m feeling pretty good about it all. I hope that’s not being grandiose. I’m actually happier than I’ve ever been right now because I lost something really toxic during that bizarre journey of a week ago…I still get emotional (in a good way) thinking about it…

Why narcissists will never grow up.

I just created this meme. Feel free to use it, but please credit me.

narcs_dont_mature
Click to enlarge.

Borderlines are human chameleons.

chameleon

My latest obsession seems to be the similarities and differences between people with NPD and BPD. I’ve been trying to come to terms with the idea an increasing number of mental health professionals hold that BPD may actually be on the same spectrum as NPD (for more information about this, see Alexander Lowen’s “Spectrum of Narcissistic Disorders”) but is a less adaptive (to the sufferer) form of the same disorder. What I’ve been reading is disturbing to me because I had no idea how similar BPD and NPD really may be.

The most important thing both disorders seem to have in common is that both borderlines and narcissists feel empty inside. Both feel as if they have a black hole inside them, and many try to “fill” that hole with things like substances, sex or compulsive shopping. People with both disorders are prone to abuse drugs or alcohol, or engage in other unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors (with the borderline more likely to be deliberately self-destructive and the narcissist callous or destructive toward others). Filling the inner black hole becomes so important that people with these disorders may disregard the needs of others in their need to get their “fix.”

I found an article in Psychology Today that discusses the devastating conundrum that both narcissists and borderlines have to face: the lack of an identity. It’s this absence of a true identity that make people with these disorders feel so empty and hollow, and drives them to do the kinds of things they do. The primary difference between these disorders is that narcissists adopt a false self to replace the lost true self, while borderlines–although not having a false self per se — instead become human chameleons, adapting their behaviors to a given situation (to avoid rejection)– but none of these identities are really “them.” The truth is, they don’t know who they really are. That’s why borderlines seem to change with the wind and confuse those they are close to.

The article I’ve linked to discusses these ideas in more depth. It’s extremely interesting stuff, but somewhat upsetting to people like me with a BPD diagnosis.

This article is Part 7 of a series about the differences and similarities between BPD and NPD.
The other 6 can be linked to from this one. (Of course I’ll be reading all of them.)

Who Am I? The Conundrum of Both Borderlines and Narcissists

I cannot repost the article here here without written permission from the author, so you will have to click the link to read the article.

Here is an article by the same author about the False Self the Narcissist uses to mask their lack of an identity: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stop-walking-eggshells/201111/behind-the-facade-the-false-self-the-narcissist

I think it’s time we stop bashing all narcissists.

stop_sign

This post is probably going to make some of you angry or upset. I understand that. After all, many of us were badly damaged by the narcissists in our lives. Anger and even hatred is an understandable and very human reaction to their abuse.

The blood sport of “narc bashing.”

blood_sport

There are a lot of people these days writing about narcissism and the sentiments found on the Internet about “narcs” and “N’s” is overwhelmingly negative:

— They can never change.
— There is no hope for them.
— They are monsters.
— They are demons.
— They aren’t human.
— God hates all narcs.
— They all deserve to burn in Hell.
— There is nothing good about them. Everything they do is evil.
— They were born evil. They are bad seeds.
— They never tell the truth.
— They have no emotions. They are machines.
— They all deserve to die.

Pretty ugly, isn’t it? This attitude is fueled by hatred and behind hatred is fear. Again, I understand this. I’ve experienced that hatred and fear myself. We have a right to be angry if we were badly treated by a narcissist. People with NPD aren’t pleasant to be around. But here’s the rub: unchecked fear and anger lead to hatred, and hatred accomplishes nothing. Hatred builds walls and leads to a refusal to even try to understand people with a devastating mental disorder. Hatred is itself evil–and narcissistic.

Hatred also leads to bigotry and intolerance. There is already too much of that in the world. People with NPD are mentally ill. We don’t malign people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder the way we malign people with NPD, but people with those disorders can also be very unpleasant to deal with. If someone started a blog that spewed hatred toward people with schizophrenia, there would be outrage. That person would be called a bigot and possibly evil.

Narcissists are abuse victims too.

abused

It’s true that people with NPD are extremely unpleasant to deal with. But all mental disorders are unpleasant. People with NPD weren’t born that way. There is no such thing as a “bad seed.” In almost all cases, a person became a narcissist because of severe abuse or neglect as children. In most cases, they were raised by people who were themselves malignant narcissists or psychopaths.

Pastor David Orrison, who writes about narcissism from a Christian perspective in his “Narcissist Friday” posts, illustrates this well in this sad story. He is rightfully critical of the disorder and its manifestations but his posts are always written in a way that attempts to understand narcissism and people with NPD the way Jesus would have done–holding them accountable without hatred.

unconditional_love

Some of you have said, “but they don’t count because they made a choice to be narcissists.” Yes, that is true, it was a choice. But that choice was almost invariably made when they were young children, as a coping mechanism to protect themselves from being hurt anymore. Narcissists are people who started life with too much sensitivity, maybe more so than those of us who identify as HSPs (because we still found a way to cope with life without constructing a protective False Self). Narcissists felt too vulnerable and naked. They were born without any natural coping mechanisms at all. They knew they couldn’t survive without this protective natural armor, so they had to construct a False Self to cope. The False Self is a lie, but it protects the True Self from further harm. The reason they act so mean is because they live in terror of the False Self being damaged and exposing the too-vulnerable True Self. Like the rest of us, they wanted to survive. This was the only way they knew how.

This doesn’t give them an excuse to act as they do. It doesn’t mean we have to tolerate their manipulations and abuse. I’m not condoning abusive behaviors and that applies to anyone. But we don’t have to spew hatred against people suffering from NPD all over the web either. We don’t have to be so judgmental. We don’t have to pat ourselves on the back because we are “better” people. Only God can judge us that way. We can try to have compassion without giving in to abuse or allowing narcissistic behaviors to destroy us.

A serious dissociative illness.

dualman

Narcissists suffer. They are deeply unhappy people. They don’t know how to feel empathy, or experience joy or love for others. They never learned how–or they dissociated themselves from those feelings at an early age because it hurt them too much to be that way. They are not without emotions. In fact, their emotions are so strong they feel like they must always be on the defensive, 24/7, 365 days a year. Imagine how stressful it must be to go through life in mortal terror of your facade of invulnerability being ripped off, of constantly having to act a part in a play, of never being able to show your pain to others, of never being able to risk loving anyone else or feeling empathy, of being bitter and envious of everyone all the time? It must be hell.

Narcissists, in spite of their name, don’t love themselves. They only love their False Self, and will do anything to protect it from exposure as the mask it really is. Because the False Self was constructed when they were so young, they don’t even know themselves most of the time. How can you love someone you never got to know? If anything, they live in deep shame of who they really are so they hide from the world behind their masks.

Some mental health experts believe NPD should be classified as a severe dissociative disorder. You can read about that here and here. It’s not that narcissists don’t have any goodness in them, but that they have “split” from their good (true) self to avoid further harm–even to the point where they can no longer access who they really are. But the pain they feel still comes through and if we listen closely enough, we can hear what they are really saying: “please love me.”

Narcissists never got to grow up. Their true self is at the emotional stage of a very young child. Inside every narcissist is a little boy or girl of 3 or 4, sitting in a dark corner crying because they feel so lonely and unloved. Their reactions are at the level of a young child too. They never learned how to experience more mature emotions, because the False Self was constructed when they were too young to feel the emotions of an older person.

NPD is a spectrum disorder running from mild all the way to psychopathy and sociopathy at the top of the spectrum. Most narcissists are not psychopaths (who actually have Antisocial Personality Disorder rather than NPD and have built a wall so impenetrable even they can never access it and will never be able to admit they are the ones with the problem). Even malignant narcissists (just under psychopathy on the spectrum) may have rare moments of insight and regret for the way they behave. It’s my belief that NPD is as much a spiritual disorder as a mental one, but that doesn’t automatically make all narcissists “evil.” Who are we to assume that God hates all narcissists and can’t help even the most malignant ones? I believe God can perform miracles should He choose to do so. To speak for God this way is itself narcissistic.

Art allows the True Self to find expression.

iris_scott

The pain and hurt that fuels narcissistic behaviors can find honest expression. I’ve noticed many or even most narcissists have a talent in one or more of the arts–William Shakespeare, Ezra Pound and even Michaelangelo (who probably had NPD) come to mind, to name a few. Good art is about Truth and is one of the greatest blessings God can give. It’s through these artistic endeavors that a narcissist’s true self comes through, that they dare give that vulnerable hurting child a means to express the truth of how they really feel. Having a creative ability–whether in the visual, literary, or performing arts–is all the proof I need that people with NPD are still loved by God. Through their art, they are crying out through their mask. They want to be loved and they want to feel love. I can think of many examples of this, but the other day I received an email that really stood out to me and made me take a second look at my own negative attitude toward “narcs.”

The email was from a young man who admits he has NPD. He expressed a strong desire to try to heal himself. He hates his disorder because of what it has done to his life and the ways it has caused his relationships with others to suffer. He wants to know how to feel empathy and genuinely love others. I have no doubt his words were sincere and came from his True Self.

This young man said he was a singer-songwriter so I checked out some of his stuff on Youtube. (I can’t post it here right now because I have not asked for permission to do so). I was blown away by his talent. The words of the songs he writes express emotions almost too deep for words. His powerful emotions of pain and the desire to love and feel connected with others come through in his beautiful voice–and in his face when he sings. I have no doubt his music comes from his True Self, not his false one. Through music, he’s able to break through his wall of narcissism and allow himself to become vulnerable, to cry out in the darkness.

Insight and willingness: ingredients for change.

willingness

I don’t know if this young narcissist can heal himself. It’s a difficult enough disorder to treat by professionals, but he says he can’t afford a therapist and can’t find one willing to treat NPD anyway. Most narcissists won’t present themselves for therapy because their disorder is so deeply ingrained they have no insight and think it’s everyone else who has the problem, not them. Some narcissists may have insight into their disorder and know they aren’t well but still not be willing to change because their mask has become too adaptive or they are too afraid. But insight is the first step toward redemption–it’s not possible to have willingness without insight. This man has both the insight and the willingness. With both present, I think there is hope for him.

Tough love, not hate.

tough_love

Just because we should stop spewing hate against people with NPD doesn’t mean we have to tolerate their manipulative and abusive behaviors. It also doesn’t mean we can’t leave a narcissist or go No Contact. In fact, doing so may be the most loving thing we can do for them. Going No Contact removes the source of supply we have been giving them, and in rare cases may cause a narcissist to seek help or at least begin to question their own motives. Going No Contact is also the most loving thing we can do for ourselves. Refusing to have further contact with a narcissist isn’t an act of hatred. It’s an act of self-love and survival.

St. Augustine said, “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Jesus inspired this quote because He hated no one but was no pussy either. We can hate the behaviors without hating an entire class of people with a severe mental and spiritual illness that causes them even more misery than they cause those they attack. Going No Contact or refusing to play their narcissistic games isn’t an act of hatred. It’s an act of survival and is just plain common sense. It may even be a way we can show them love–“tough” love.

I realize this post may be controversial because we ACONs have gotten so used to thinking of “narcs” as evil. Their behaviors may be evil, but people with this disorder are still human beings who have feelings–even if they don’t know how to show them properly or keep them under wraps. Except for the most malignant narcissists and psychopaths at the top of the spectrum–who probably can’t ever change–I think calling narcissists evil, or referring to them as demons, monsters, or machines is a form of bullying a group of very sick people and is just as hurtful to them as what they have done to us.

I also realize I may sound like a hypocrite. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve engaged in the popular sport of “narc bashing,” and recently too. While the anger and rage we feel toward people with this disorder may be adaptive while we are trying to disconnect from an abusive narcissist, when these emotions no longer serve a practical purpose (after we have gone No Contact or disengaged from our abusers), they become bitterness and hatred, emotions that eat away at our own souls and can even turn us into narcissists.

Letter from a narcissist’s “true self”

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Here is a hypothetical letter written from the point of view of a narcissist’s True (lost) Self.

The advice given here by the True Self is almost the polar opposite of whatever their False Self would tell you. That’s because their False Self is a lie and isn’t who they really are, even though they may have been wearing this mask for so long they can never access their True Self without enormous difficulty or even at all.

Always follow the advice of their True Self, no matter how much they protest and rage, unless you want further abuse. It’s actually the best thing for them if they ever decide to look in the mirror past the lies they show the world (and may have come to believe is the truth)–and of course it’s best for you.

Letter from a Narcissist’s True Self:

Dear Victim,

I have lied to you about nearly everything. I am not sorry for this behavior because I cannot empathize with you. I chose narcissism so early in my life that I never had the chance to develop a conscience or the capacity to feel remorse or empathy for the way I hurt you. Still. I know it’s wrong on an intellectual level. I just cannot feel your pain. Sometimes I wish I could, but I can’t.

I became a narcissist because as a child I felt too vulnerable. I was sensitive. I felt too much and most of it was painful. I was made to feel like I was nothing, a nobody. I was hurt, betrayed, abused, just like you. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t loved, or why I was treated with contempt and like I didn’t matter. I was also was never given a good example of how to become a good person. I never had anyone to model in a positive way.

Life was so painful for me I had to do something about it. Something drastic. I had to become strong and never show weakness again, because my weakness was killing me. I was trained that being a sensitive person who feels compassion and remorse, a person who can love others, is a weak person. I know that isn’t really the case, but it was how I was trained. I was so young that I couldn’t see how wrong that might have been.

I reached a point where I had to make a choice. In order to survive, I had to sacrifice my humanity. I didn’t want to do it, but I felt like I had to. I didn’t want to be hurt anymore. I had to sell my soul.

In order to sell my soul, I had to shut you and everyone else out. I couldn’t allow myself to feel too much. I couldn’t allow myself to be sensitive anymore, and that meant I could no longer allow myself to love anyone, feel anyone else’s pain or joy, or feel sorry if I did something wrong.

I had to don this mask that I wear, which is a lie. In order to keep that lie intact, I had to treat others badly. I had to diminish you to prop my false self up. I had to hate you in order to “love” the mask that I show the world, because if I didn’t continually prop myself up by making you feel bad, my mask of lies might fall off and expose the real me, a powerless and vulnerable child which I had to protect at all costs, even if it meant destroying everyone else around me. I am a bully but inside I know I am nothing. I act like I love myself but I really hate myself. I only love the mask I wear. I abuse you to protect that mask.

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Read Michelle Mallon’s story here.

You can never get through to my true self because the lies I tell are nearly impenetrable. I have lied so often and for so long that I myself have come to believe my own lies. I am a walking lie. That is the truth.

I will never let you get close to what I really feel. I don’t even know what I feel anymore. Most of the time I feel nothing, because a lie has no feelings. But try to destroy my protective armor, and I will try to destroy you. If I must go down in flames, I am going to take you with me. I will rage and abuse you. I will gaslight you and tell you the most horrific lies about yourself.

I may seem nice at first or when I feel like the supply you give me is threatened or you may leave. I know how to get others to trust me–by acting like a nice person. I am good at acting like a nice person but I can’t feel a nice person’s emotions. It’s hard work to act nice, because that’s a lie too.

When you begin to trust me, I will start abusing you, because I must keep you at arm’s length and keep my mask of lies intact at all costs. Both the niceness I show you and the asshole I become are both lies. I cannot even access who I really am. I have forgotten. I just know that my true self is there, somewhere, and I can never, ever, let you meet them.

If you mirror back to me too much of the truth about me–if I become aware that you KNOW this mask I always wear is a fake–I will attempt to destroy you or cut you out of my life. I cannot afford to have the truth about myself revealed to me. Nothing terrifies me more than facing the truth about myself so I have dissociated myself from it. It scares me so much to realize how evil I have become. It hurts me so much that I had to choose this fake self because of what was done to me. I hate being evil. I really don’t want to be this way but I will never, ever admit that. I cannot ever show you or anyone in the world how weak and vulnerable I really am. But deep inside, I know I am.

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I am still an infant. I never grew up. My emotional and moral development was arrested when I was just a very young child, so I only have the emotional maturity of a child that age. That’s why I can’t care about you. It’s why I must always have my way. Can a two or three year old care about YOUR feelings? Of course they can’t, and like a toddler, I can’t either. I am like a mentally challenged person, only my retardation isn’t mental, it’s emotional and moral. I’m emotionally retarded.

It’s hard work keeping up my false self. I am paranoid and defensive all the time that I will be discovered and exposed. It’s enormously stressful to be a narcissist. It’s stressful and often painful, and I know I have sacrificed the ability to ever feel real happiness in order to never be hurt again.

But still, I hurt all the time. You can hurt me very easily. The only way I dare show my hurt is by projecting it back onto you through my abuse and through my rages. I’m a bully because I always hurt so much. But I can’t hurt FOR you, only for myself. I cannot afford to hurt for you. I’m too busy always licking my own wounds and trying to keep the lie going. I will hurt YOU if I must to keep the lie intact.

As I age, I may soften a little but most likely I won’t. I could even become worse. Don’t wait for me to change because I most likely never will. Once I chose this life, there was no going back. I chose darkness and once that’s done, there is no going back to the light. I sold my soul and there’s no way to buy it back, but through the grace of God himself.

If you care about yourself (because I can never care about you), you must leave now. Don’t play my games. Ignore me and act like I don’t exist. Being treated like I don’t exist is the worst thing I can imagine, but if you care about your own survival it’s what you must do. I will destroy you if you don’t. Heed my warning.

There’s even a small–a very small–chance that your abandoning me and taking away the supply I get from you could make me take a look in the mirror for the first time at the lost child I left behind so long ago. If that happens, I will be in so much pain I may seek the help I need. Don’t count on it though. Even if I ever seek help, once I start feeling too much pain I will probably leave counseling. Feeling that pain is too terrifying. It’s easier to abuse my own mind (and yours) by keeping up the masks and lies.

Here is a song that describes me well.

Don’t wait for me to change. I won’t. Don’t play my games. Even if I rage, hold your ground. You’re stronger than I am. I will never let you know I know this. Don’t fall for my lies.

Better yet, leave now. Keep your soul intact. Don’t allow me to turn you into a shell of what you used to be or worse, a person like me, even though it’s what I want.

Sincerely,
Your Narcissist