Not too long ago, I was criticized by some other ACON bloggers for being a “narc hugger.” First of all, let me clear that up right now. I don’t hug the narcs, I don’t believe in enabling them in any manner, and I believe and always will believe that No Contact is the only viable way to deal with a narcissist. They are dangerous to be around.
But do I think they’re demons who have no souls? Well, no. But I can understand why many people, especially people who were unfortunate enough to be raised by them, think they are. I think many of the things narcissists do are evil but I’m also all too aware that they are mentally ill people who do the things they do because they can’t help themselves. If narcissism is a choice, for most that choice was made at such an early age it was never a conscious choice.
Some people think we shouldn’t feel sorry for narcissists or care about the poor little hurting inner child that went into hiding so long ago and constructed a false self in its place. I can understand their viewpoint too. That abused and hurting little boy or girl no longer exists and is not likely to ever emerge again, unless the narcissist is fairly low on the spectrum and becomes self aware and willing to change, and NPD by its nature means the lack of insight and empathy, which are prerequisites to make real healing possible.
However, people aren’t born narcissists. Almost all people (unless they are psychopaths, in which case they were born with a defective brain capacity to feel much emotion) with NPD were once normal children with a normal capacity for empathy and love. This was something that was done to them, and the “choice” to become a narcissist was usually made at an early age, from about ages 3 to 6. These kids were so abused or so neglected that they turned to narcissism because it was the defense mechanism that was most efficient in allowing them to cope with their intolerable caregivers. Some grandiose (not usually covert) narcissists may have been spoiled, but spoiling a child is abuse too, because it negates the presence of the child’s true self, an imperfect human being and tells them they are perfect, which is a lie they come to believe and try to live up to.
However their narcissism developed, and whether they are happy being that way or not, people who have it are prisoners to their own disorder. They are not happy people. They are living a lie and in many cases believe the lie they live is the truth. They live in mortal terror of being exposed or losing supply. This doesn’t mean we should enable them or let them get away with the things they do. They need to be exposed. They need to have consequences. Just like the children they are.
I can no longer hate narcissists. My mother is a somatic malignant narcissist but I also know she had a horrific childhood. She’s never talked to me about it but I know of it. It makes perfect sense to me that she would have become a narcissist, given the environment she was raised in. She’s been this way since she was a very young girl and simply knows no better. In her 80’s now, she won’t ever change. She has never been a happy woman, has never known joy, has never really loved anyone. She can’t. And it’s sad.
I am no contact with my mother. For most of my life, I felt like a victim, even after I became an adult. I felt like the things she said and did she was doing to me because she was an evil, soulless witch who hated me. Feeling so hated by my own mother, I felt defective and defenseless. Why would any mother hate her own child? It must have been me. I must have been unloveable. I must have been a horrible child who brought her shame and misery. For years, that was the only explanation that made sense to me, because mothers just don’t hate their own children!
When I first learned about NPD, I immediately recognized it as my mother’s problem, the reason why she couldn’t love me or anyone. I read a lot about it. (This was years before I became so deeply involved in the narcissistic abuse community–that would come later, after I left my ex for good). I read M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie and thought to myself, well, that explains it. My mother is evil.
But why me? Why was I so unfortunate to be born to an evil parent? I felt sorry for myself. Other people had loving parents, but I got an evil one. It wasn’t fair! Again, I felt like a victim.
Only in the past sixteen months, as I’ve learned about narcissism on a much deeper level (including a short time where I thought I hadn’t escaped the disorder myself), have I realized that narcissists are mentally ill and became the way they are because they were abused themselves. All of us who escaped developing NPD are extremely lucky. We could have become that way too. Maybe due to temperament or some slight difference in our circumstances as children, we somehow managed to escape. Yes, we might have complex PTSD, Borderline Personality or other personality disorders, we might have a bad case of narcissistic “fleas,” we might have severe neuroses like OCD or even Dissociative Identity Disorder, or we may be prone to severe depressions, but we haven’t ever needed to hide our true selves completely behind a mask. We can still sometimes be what God intended for us to be. Narcissists can’t. They are imprisoned forever by their own defense mechanisms.
By coming to this awareness, I’ve been able to develop an understanding of what makes narcissists the way they are, and to me they seem like victims too. And no matter what you may think of that, thinking of them as victims helps me, because when I think of my mother now, I don’t think of her as being some demon that I had the back luck to be born to; instead I think of her as a victim who had no idea how to raise a child and victimized me because she just didn’t know how to be any other way or even know there was another way. It’s a lot easier for me to regard my mother with pity (not enabling!) than with hatred because feeling pity helps me be able to move on with my narcissist-free life and feel less like a born victim. Somehow that makes me feel less afraid. It’s God’s job to fix a narcissist if that’s his will and it’s God’s job to judge them if it isn’t. All I can do is worry about healing myself and pray for people like my mom.
Further reading: We Were The Lucky Ones