Being a narcissist is a mysterious condition.
First, mental health experts don’t know what causes NPD. Narcissism is similar to psychopathy and sociopathy in this way. While family history and advanced brain imaging technologies (e.g., PET) may clue us in, psychotherapists are the only individuals who can diagnose the disorder.
Second, many people – including some mental health experts – are of mixed opinions on whether people diagnosed (or possibly, misdiagnosed) with NPD deserve sympathy.
What Is a Narcissist?
Let’s start with a few sentences to describe such a person.
A narcissist is a person who has an excessive sense of self-importance, an extreme preoccupation with themselves, and lacks empathy for others. They often require excessive admiration and have a tendency to exploit others to achieve their own goals. Narcissistic behavior can manifest as arrogance, grandiosity, and a strong sense of entitlement.
The Madoff Case
Consider Bernie Madoff as an example. Madoff pleaded guilty to eleven federal crimes for running a massive Ponzi scheme estimated at $65 billion.
He was given a 150-year sentence. Obviously, narcissistic and sociopathic traits – which Madoff almost certainly possessed – aren’t acceptable excuses in a court of law. While overseeing the most significant financial fraud in U.S. history, Madoff sat on the boards of organizations influencing policies for detecting securities fraud. On the other hand, Madoff was a noted philanthropist, donating millions to various charitable organizations.
“He was thought of as a great philanthropist, a pillar of the community, the chairman of Nasdaq – all of that stuff,” said a friend of his.
Does it matter why?
As Bernie Madoff’s “case file” confirms, narcissists and sociopaths don’t have a rhyme or reason behind why they do such immoral things; or why they act contradictory much of the time.
Does it really matter why?
Not to the victims of Madoff; many of whom lost their life savings. Not to the millions of countless nameless faces whose lives have been upended by a liar and manipulator.
One thing that most people will agree on is that self-protection is paramount. Narcissists and sociopaths can – and will – inflict harm, and most won’t show any remorse.
What goes on inside the brain of a narcissist?
Let’s take a look at 15 projections from the mind of a narcissist
“He who falls in love with himself will have no rivals.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
1. “How can I get attention?”
Psychologists have coined two terms that explain a narcissist’s constant need for attention: “emotional supply” and “narcissistic supply.”
Narcissists are always looking for where they can temporarily fill their unquenchable ego.
2. “I don’t care.”
Indeed. In fact, narcissists don’t care about anything except themselves. Most of us cannot fathom the intentional manipulation and hurting of others.
Most of us.
3. “I’m right.”
Let’s say you’re a prosecutor. You’ve built an “open and shut” case against someone, and the evidence leaves no doubt that the defendant is guilty. Now imagine the judge takes one look at your evidence and throws it out.
The narcissist is the judge.
4. “I have no self-esteem.”
Most experts believe that narcissists have developed a coping mechanism – a rewiring of the brain – that permits them to exhibit confidence despite a deep-rooted feeling of failure.
In reality, the emperor has no clothes.
5. “I’m entitled.”
When it comes to wanting something, a narcissist will act like a 3-year old would if you took his choo-choo. They have no concept of merit; which helps explain why they’re always looking for the easy way out.
6. “How dare you?”
Underneath their seemingly cool appearance, narcissists have a very delicate personality. Their deeply-held feelings of inadequacy and insecurity will surface when criticized.
7. “What an idiot.”
One of a narcissist’s most prominent delusions is the strange belief that they’re smarter than everyone else. It doesn’t hurt when you deny or flat-out disbelieve any evidence to the contrary.
8. “I need something.”
If there’s one thing to pity about a narcissist’s state of mind, it’s this: nothing makes them happy. Money, power, fame, and possessions do nothing. Where ordinary people look to their loved ones for real happiness, narcissists are unable to do so.
9. “You’ve made an enemy.”
The narcissistic are chiefly passive-aggressive people. Unless they’re outraged, or you happen to be close to them, they won’t make their anger known. Instead, they’ll appease their quelling anger by promising payback.
10. “Onto the next one…”
Question: how can someone honestly commit to another when they only care about themselves? Answer: they can’t. Dating a narcissist always seems to follow a predictable path: they meet someone who caters to their constant emotional needs; initial feelings of excitement subside, and they leave.
11. “Everyone is looking at me!”
Narcissists love being the center of attention. Being at the COA may be one of the only things they love. Until that attention fades, of course.
After “their” spotlight is redirected elsewhere, the narcissist begins thinking about what to do next to get it back.
12. “What are they complaining about?”
Joe Navarro, a clinical psychologist and author of Dangerous Personalities, says:
“I have talked to scores of individuals who have been victimized by the narcissistic personality…I heard the same (thing): Narcissists see themselves as being so special that no one else matters. Over time, the behavior (will) cast a wide debris of suffering.”
13. “I’m not apologizing.”
Good luck trying to get an apology from a narcissist. The only way that’s going to happen is if they see some pot of gold at the end of their tilted rainbow.
14. “I’ll forgive nothing.”
Narcissists do not forget or forgive even the smallest of “infractions.” Don’t fret, dear reader, the odds are that you did nothing wrong in the first place. Just be wary of their calculated behavior, especially when feeling “wronged.”
15. “I think I found someone I like!”
Impossible, right? Well, not if it’s a fellow narcissist. As it turns out, narcissists aren’t altogether rare – accounting for about six percent of the U.S. population.
Final Thoughts on Identifying and Understanding How to Deal With a Narcissist
It’s often not healthy to be friendly with narcissists because they tend to manipulate and exploit others for their gain. They may also have difficulty empathizing with others and only value relationships if they believe they can benefit from them. Additionally, their constant need for admiration and attention can be draining and make it difficult to have a balanced and healthy relationship. In some cases, being close to a narcissist can also lead to feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem. For these reasons, identify the catch phrases described above. so you can avoid a narcissist.