My MN ex always had to have what he wanted, right that second. During those seven years he freeloaded off me and refused to work (AFTER the divorce), he’d interrupt me at the most incredibly inconvenient times to take care of some minor need, and he’d become very petulant or even angry when you refused to jump when he said jump. He used to wake me up in the middle of the night, knowing I had work in a few hours, saying he needed a pack of cigarettes. Or when I’d go shopping, if I didn’t get him exactly what HE wanted (remember, he didn’t work and I paid for all the groceries myself) he’d rage and hurl insults at me until I went back to the store to get him what he wanted. He never even thanked me for going out of my way for him. He assumed this was his due and that I existed to carry out his bidding. Boundaries meant nothing to him–unless they were HIS boundaries (woe be to you for crossing over THOSE!). He’d never return the favor if you wanted something from HIM. He just kept taking and taking and taking, draining me of my sanity, my money, and even my looks and my health. If I hadn’t kicked him to the curb in early 2014, it probably would have killed me. He was like a giant baby living on my couch, only not at all cute or funny. Maybe more like a giant cancerous tumor attached to my couch and wallet would be a better description.
My mother, also a narcissist, used to call me at any old time. You were not allowed to refuse. You were supposed to drop whatever you were doing. When I’d tell her I was in the middle of work, or busy, or on another call and could I please call her back later, she’d pour on the guilt: “I’m your MOTHER, you can certainly spare a few minutes to talk to me!” followed with an ultimatum: “Tell them you’ll call back later.” How DARE I have priorities over taking a call from her? How DARE I make her wait? She wanted what she wanted when she wanted it, and did NOT want to wait. No narcissist does, because waiting for something requires a degree of empathy–that the person you want something from may have needs at the moment that override your own.
Instant gratification isn’t something that’s usually associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder; more often it’s associated with Antisocial Personality Disorder. I think for a narcissist, the inability to wait for anything is part the entitlement problem they have. To make a narcissist wait means you’re not putting them FIRST, which means they’re just not important enough to you otherwise you’d jump when they tell you to. To make one wait is a narcissistic injury. A baby can’t wait when it’s hungry; he cries and screams until Mom comes to feed him–that’s because he doesn’t realize yet that Mom is a separate person. To the baby, they are one, and Mom exists only to serve him.
Right up there, that’s your narcissist.
A narcissist is an overgrown adult baby. They never learned to differentiate other people from themselves. Due to something going terribly wrong during their early childhood when they were supposed to be learning that they existed separately from others, they are stuck at a pre-verbal level of emotional development, where other people exist only to serve their needs. If their immediate needs aren’t gratified, and you don’t put yours on the back burner or sacrifice your needs completely, to the narcissist it’s tantamount to annihilation. They feel as if they don’t exist. Hence, they must punish you–their rages and abuse are the equivalent of a two year old’s temper tantrum when they can’t have their ice cream RIGHT NOW.
Don’t enable a narcissist by letting them invade your boundaries this way. If you can’t go No Contact, stick to your guns and let them get mad–and get away as soon as you are able.
Thanks to My Child Within for the idea for this post, which arose from a conversation in the comments.
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:
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.
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.
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.