Just about everything the narcissist does is frustrating and painful to those who have to live with him. Everything he does is motivated by the need for ‘supply’, or more simply, the need to get your attention. While he’d rather get attention in the form of your admiration and awe, he’ll still be quite satisfied with your distress. It shows him that he has the ability to control your emotions. That makes him feel powerful, in-control, and significant.
“Doesn’t he care that he hurts me with all his tactics, and mind-games?” you ask.
The short answer to that is, “No. He doesn’t care.”
“Well, then…the narcissist must be evil”, you say. “No one can hurt other people without caring, unless they’re evil.”
And, hey, I get how the natural instinct is to agree wholeheartedly with that statement. But, since I’ve now seen and experienced this behavior for almost a decade, and also knowing what I now know about narcissism, I’d have to beg to differ, there, for one important reason…
The narcissist has no empathy. He can’t understand why you’re feeling the way you do, or how he might feel the same, if the roles were reversed. All he sees, in any given situation, is that you either gave him praise and admiration (for which you were probably rewarded with some small concession of kindness), or you viciously attacked his character. There is no in-between.
Here’s where the intent comes in. If your ‘man’ (and I use the term loosely) does something that is rude, disrespectful, or just plain mean, then in his mind, he feels he is justified in doing it. The way he sees it, no matter what bad thing he did, you basically forced him into it, in some way.The narcissist is a master at rationalization.
This constant refusal to admit error, causes major frustration because, basically, that means that EVERYTHING is YOUR fault...your responsibility. In addition, frustration can quickly turn to pain, when someone does something that hurts you, and refuses to take responsibility for it, and even goes so far as to blame you for it.
To understand how this all gets tangled up, in the mind of the narcissist, let’s look at how “normal” people handle a situation where they have done something that inadvertently caused another person pain.
Usually, the first thing that happens is we notice that someone is reacting negatively to something we’ve said or done- or they’ve come right out and said “Hey, what you just did really hurt me.” At that point, our empathy kicks in. We look at things from the other person’s perspective, and if we can understand how we might be upset, if we were in their position, then we feel remorse.
Remorse makes us want to comfort, soothe, or generally make things right, for the other person. We also make a mental note of the offending words, or deeds, so that we don’t make the same mistake again, in the future. We sincerely apologize to the person we hurt, they feel validated and respected, and so they forgive us. We’ve strengthened a bond with someone in our life, and we’ve grown into a little better version of ourselves, having learned from our mistake.
The narcissist, on the other hand, has a completely different script going on in their head. One that does NOT allow for accountability, or growth. So, let’s go through the same scenario, from the narcissist’s perspective.
First, the narcissist is confronted with something he has done, that hurt your feelings. Immediately, he recognizes your words as a criticism, and attack. He feels his very character (and not just a single behavior) is being put on trial. This means that, if he is found to be guilty of the alleged wrong-doing, then he is not perfect. He does not have god-like omnipotence.
The narcissist’s false self survives ONLY on the delusion of his own perfection. To admit that he is not perfect is to admit that he is a fraud- defective- worthless- unlovable. Taking responsibility for his wrong actions, is tantamount is complete emotional annihilation. If the narcissist is forced to admit he is wrong, then the delusion of the false self cracks open, and he feels the void- the emptiness- of the abandoned and rejected true self buried deep within himself.
In order to avoid the despair and anguish, that is his inner world, the narcissist will do, or say, anything. If you happen to be hurt by the actions he is forced to take, in order to defend the false self, then oh well. No way around it.
So, you see…your narcissist doesn’t intentionally set out to cause you any pain, frustration, or harm. He is simply acting automatically, and unconsciously, in defense of his false self. Not that that makes your pain any less… or his behavior any more acceptable. Not at all. But I hope it, at least, gives you an understanding of WHY the narcissist simply CAN NOT be held accountable for his shitty, hurtful actions.
You should also beware… the harder you push him, to take responsibility for his actions…to see what he has done…the harder he will defend (i.e. the more cruel and heartless his defenses and tactics of avoidance, will become). It just isn’t worth it.
As a woman with integrity, I know it’s so very hard to let these things go. You feel a strong sense of justice, and you feel great frustration when you experience injustice. That’s a very good thing, really, unless you’re dealing with a narcissist. They just don’t abide by the same rules that the rest of us do.
So, what should you do? Well…let me ask you this:
Would you be mad at a 4-year-old for not understanding calculus? Would you be frustrated, or hurt, if a mentally handicapped child called you a name? Would you demand that a 19-month old infant be held accountable for anything he did?
If you said ‘No’ to all of the above, then you should also answer ‘No’ to the following question, as well; “Are you going to get frustrated when your narcissist can’t take responsibility for his actions?”
Why on earth should you answer ‘No’ to THAT??? Because, emotionally speaking, your husband (boyfriend/partner/etc.) is LITERALLY about 19-22 months old. They simply do NOT have the maturity, or cognitive functioning, to handle everyday adult emotional responsibilities.
If you can start thinking of your narcissist as an infant- emotionally, that is- you will save yourself a LOT of heartache and frustration. You will lower your expectations of him, and stop expecting him to meet your needs (you wouldn’t expect a 1-year-old to meet your needs, would you?). Once you do this, you will find that life gets significantly easier- and more peaceful.
No, it’s not ideal. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But it is better than getting hammered by the narcissist every time he disappoints you, or fails to follow through, or whatever else, and you continue to try to make him “SEE” the error of his ways.