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Games Narcissists Play
Most people would probably think this means games the narcissist is playing with you, but it's not. Why? Because the narcissist is not playing games with you. They are playing games with themselves. You are not the opponent. You are one of the game pieces.
This can be hard for many people to understand. "Of course the narcissist is playing games with me! I'm the one they are doing things to!" That's true. But the narcissist is at war, and in war, you don't attack your opponent directly. You attack your opponent's representatives. You attack their possessions. Yes, innocent people are harmed in the battle, but they are collateral damage. They've been sacrificed to get at the real enemy. Imagine if two kings are at war. The first king does not go to the opposing palace and attack the other king face to face. He attacks the village and burns it down. He kills every person in that village. Those people are innocent. They are not the opponent. They were killed only to hurt the true opponent. The same thing is happening to you. The narcissist is at war with themselves and you are just another tool they are using to fight that war.
Narcissists do not see other people as actual people with their own thoughts, feelings, needs, wants and goals. They view other people only as reflections of themselves. They don't see you. They see a mirror reflecting their own feelings and images back to themselves. The sole purpose that other people have in a narcissist's life is how the narcissist can use that person to make themselves either feel good or feel bad. That's it. The games they seem to be playing with you are really games they are playing with themselves, because the goal or point of the behavior has nothing to do with you. You are just a tool being used to create whatever they are trying to create in themselves. How this manipulative abuse affects you is not considered or even acknowledged. It just doesn't matter.
This is why we say that you shouldn't take it personal. To put bluntly, it's not about you and never will be. In order for the narcissist to make it personal, you would have to be viewed as a person. It just doesn't work that way. It is perhaps impossible to really understand this unless and until someone truly understands that pathologically narcissistic people don't see other people as people, but as objects. They know you are a person, the same way they know a lamp is a lamp and a cat is a cat. But emotionally there is no understanding, no connection there. The fact that you are a human being is just information with no actual meaning for them. It's a categorization and that's all. "Bob is a person" means the same to a narcissist as "This is a table, this is a chair" means to you. There are no emotions attached to these things. They are just things. All the feelings they seem to have for or about you - both good and bad - are really just projected feelings for or about themselves, and if you examine them even a little bit you will see that clearly. You as an individual human being do not exist to the narcissist. You are a container for emotions they cannot handle.
They don't love you. They love the way you make them feel. They don't hate you. They hate themselves and need someone to take it out on. You are the stage dressing in the never-ending play they are performing. Contrary to popular belief, you're not the audience. They are their own audience. The performance is for themselves. You are just the prop that makes it more believable. They will manipulate you, arrange you, place you and remove you as the script demands, and not one thought will ever be spared for how this affects you because you are an object with no feelings.
When you use your car, you don't think about how it feels to be driving or whether it wants to go on a trip. That would never cross your mind. You get in the car and you go where you want to go. This is similar to how a narcissist views others. Now you might think, "But the narcissist does seem to at least acknowledge my feelings! They are constantly accusing me of being angry or hating them or things that have to do with my feelings! They must know I have them!" They do, but this information is only understood as far as how it pertains to them and no other way. Remember, feelings control pathologically narcissistic people. Your feelings are important only because of how they make the narcissist feel. How your feelings make you feel is not important or even considered. You pay attention to how much gas your car has, right? But not because you care about how your car feels or what your car wants. You pay attention to how much gas your car has because if you run out, you can't get to where you want to go. You care because it affects you. If your car stops working, you can't use it anymore, so anything that happens which affects that will be important. This is how your feelings matter to a narcissist.
It really is an alien way to look at things, and it's often very difficult for people to understand because most people aren't like that. Most of us don't see others as objects. We understand that people have feelings and we care. Narcissists do not. It's just not the way they operate. They have no empathy. The games that seem to be about wearing your self-esteem down or making you seem crazy or hurting you or gaslighting you aren't really about that at all. They are about making the narcissist feel better. The games that seem to be about accusing you or hating you aren't really about that. They are about making the narcissist feel bad. Haven't you ever noticed that none of it really seems to have anything to do with you personally? It's all a bunch of crazy stuff you would never do or never said or that never happened. That's because it's about them and their feelings, not you or anything you are doing. That's why so many people say things like, "I lost a game I never even knew I was playing!" You didn't lose, because you aren't playing. You are not the other player in this tennis match from hell. You are the ball.
This is the reason you cannot get through to them or make them understand your side, your feelings, your opinions or anything else about you. It's a waste of time. Everything that pathologically narcissistic people do is for themselves and about themselves. People's pain often prevents them from being able to see this when they are close to the situation but often, time and distance lend people a better perspective and they can see it a little more clearly. Narcissists aren't really trying to destroy you. How can they be, when you don't exist? They are using you to try to destroy or rebuild themselves. It's like using a hammer to pound in a stubborn nail. You aren't trying to destroy the hammer by banging it repeatedly on a hard surface. That's what it's for. If you break it on accident, hey man. It happens sometimes. Well... You're the hammer. To the narcissist, that is what you're for and that is how you will be used. That sounds harsh, but find the lie.
This of course does not excuse their behavior in any way, nor does it negate the horrible damage they cause. But I think it's important to explain that it isn't personal because this helps people to understand why - and how - narcissists are able to behave that way. It illustrates how self-centered and self-focused they truly are, that they can destroy people and not only not care but never even notice. They abuse, torture, ruin, devalue and discard as a matter of course. It's personal, sure. To you. It is not personal to the narcissist. The only person they will ever acknowledge is themselves.