We already know narcissists lie. It’s the one thing they’re all good at. I read a conversation today about the way narcissists lie even about things there is no reason to lie about, and that they also begin to believe their own lies.
Narcissists have been telling lies for so long and have gotten so good at it that they really do believe their lies are the truth. Sometimes they even become skilled at using lies to cover up other lies. To a normal person, living a lie and trying so desperately to cover the truth would be an unbearably stressful way to live. Narcissists are stressed out by this as much as anyone else, but they don’t know where their stress comes from. They are deluded and think their lies are the truth. They honestly don’t know any better so they can’t stop lying and they can’t stop the stress that comes from that.
Think of a young child playing pretend. The child may know the fantasy is just a fantasy, but while they’re in it they believe it’s the truth. Tell the child their fantasy is a lie and they will rage and get very upset. But for young children, living outside reality to some extent is normal. When an adult lives outside reality and creates a fantasy world they think is real, we call it crazy.
If you tell a narcissist to stop lying, they will attack or sometimes, withdraw or even disappear. This happens because: 1. They hate the truth because if they know you can see through their lies, you have blown their flimsy cover and that is terrifying to them; and 2. like a young child, they don’t want to leave their fantasy world–a dream where they are perfect and superior to everyone else. Because in reality they know they aren’t. In fact, narcissists have dismally low self esteem. They hate themselves–but are in love with the false self they created. That’s where their grandiosity and sense of entitlement comes from. They need a constant influx of narcissistic supply from you to keep their false image of themselves alive.
In “People of the Lie,” M. Scott Peck discusses a malignantly narcissistic patient of his named Charlene. After years of therapy (during which Charlene spent most of her time sadistically playing with Dr. Peck like a toy), in one session she told him about a dream she had of a “marvelous machine.” The machine did everything and was perfect in every way. Charlene proudly told Dr. Peck she had designed and built this marvelous machine herself. When Dr. Peck suggested this machine that did everything was actually an elaborate weapon Charlene had created in her mind to avoid facing the truth about herself, Charlene’s cover was blown and she reacted with unreasonable rage, attacking Dr. Peck for not agreeing with her about the perfection and beauty of the “machine” she was so proud of and what its true purpose was. She could not bear to face the truth and preferred to keep living in her fantasy world of delusions.
The Wizard in The Wizard of Oz wanted to appear to be a powerful and ruthless tyrant, so even though he was actually a weak and unassuming little man, he hid behind a curtain, amplified his voice, and projected a scary image onto the far wall when Dorothy and her friends entered the Wizard’s castle. What gives the Wizard away as not being a true narcissist (I’d venture to guess he was probably a borderline) was the fact that when exposed, he took responsibility and showed true remorse for behaving the way he did. It’s still a good illustration of the way narcissists deny reality though.
Narcissists hate themselves and only want you to see what they want you to see. While perhaps done unconsciously, they construct a False Self which is a self of lies. This mask isn’t who they are but they sure get good at convincing everyone it is. Their abuse of others stems from the need to protect “the marvelous machine” they created. If they feel this cover may be blown by the truth, they attack, abuse and rage (or leave), because they’re so terrified you may see the emptiness inside or even worse for them, the vulnerable and defenseless True Self hiding in the dark corners of their unconscious.
I’ve seen narcissists talking to themselves, sometimes in public. It’s weird. It’s as if they don’t know they are talking to themselves. I used to point this out to my ex when he was holding conversations with himself, and he’d deny it or get angry. Could narcissism be a psychotic or dissociative disorder? Do they hear voices in their heads? Sometimes I wonder.
By telling themselves so many lies, they are abusing themselves as much as they abuse others. Only they never realize this. And they won’t ever let you tell them. They’d rather wander forever in the confusing labyrinth of their disordered minds where up is down, north is south, dark is light, yes is no, wrong is right, and they are gods. They can’t face reality because it might destroy them. Or so they believe.