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Narcissists Are Looking For an Excuse - Don't Let It Be You!
It's not uncommon for people dealing with narcissists to feel that the narcissist in their lives seems to be waiting for a chance to pounce on them, or looking for an excuse to criticize, be offended or be angry. The truth is, they are. You're not just imagining things, that really is happening.
In order to understand this, it's important to understand why you are in the narcissist's life in the first place. Most people have someone in their lives because they like them. They want them around, they enjoy their company. They care about them and want to be near them. Narcissists do not have people around them for those reasons. They could care less about any of those things. People in a narcissist's life are there to do one of two things: either help the narcissist feel good about themselves, or help the narcissist feel bad about themselves. Others have no merit of their own in a narcissist's world. They exist solely to benefit the narcissist and for no other reason.
Narcissists generally suffer from deep-seated feelings of self-hatred and shame. Most have a brutal superego that savages them with internal abuse and negativity nonstop. Because they also suffer from arrested development - to put it mildly - they are unable to create positive self-esteem or regulate any feelings of self-worth. When most people feel negativity or self-doubt, they are able to balance that out internally. They are able to remember good things about themselves and take a more realistic view of the situation. Narcissists by and large are unable to do that. They have no ability to combat these negative feelings. They need other people for that. This is what some people call "narcissistic supply." Narcissists rely on other people to supply their self-worth and self-esteem, in other words.
This is of course not a sustainable situation. Other people wear out. They move on. They stop participating. Narcissists are aware of their inability to survive without other people, and they will generally try to take as much as they can for as long as they can in anticipation of the day that this person inevitably leaves the situation. This is why they are always looking for an excuse. There is no limit to the amount of bolstering this person's self-worth needs. Without a constant stream of energy and validation put into them from other people, they are thrown into a tailspin very quickly - sometimes within a matter of hours. It's like pouring water into a pitcher with a hole in the bottom. It never gets full and the second you stop pouring, it's empty again.
That's your job in the relationship: you have only one task and that is to make the narcissist feel like a real person. If they are in self-destruct mode and full of self-loathing, you will be used to make them feel bad. If they are in false-self mode, you will be used to shore up that fake image and make them feel better. Whether this is done by building you up or breaking you down does not matter to them and it's not supposed to matter to you, either. You are supposed to go along with it without question or complaint. After all, it's your job and - as far as they are concerned - the only reason you exist.
There are narcissists that do everything they can to build someone up so that they can say, "You see? I made you. I did this." And there are narcissists who do everything they can to tear you down so they can say, "I am so much better than you." These things, though seemingly very different, have the same goal in mind. That goal is the same goal they are always after: making themselves feel something. There's no trick to it. That's it in a nutshell.
Sometimes their behavior can seem puzzling. If they want validation of their self-worth, why are they so hostile and aggressive? Why do they provoke arguments and make people hate them? Wouldn't it make more sense to be really nice and make people love them instead? It would, but they don't think of things the way that other people do. They would all love that kind of validation and some do seek it. However, many are content to take any attention shown to them or energy spent on them as validation. If someone is expending energy hating them, they are still important. If someone is arguing with them, they matter. They exist. They are valid. This is all they care about.
It doesn't really matter what this other person actually thinks of them. Not really. The attention is enough and they will take it however they can. Many seek more positive forms of validation, especially in the beginning of a relationship, but it can't last because most become disillusioned with people very quickly. As soon as a person shows a flaw or betrays the narcissist by being just a regular human being and not the perfect accessory to the narcissist's endlessly needy ego, the bloom is off the rose. They cannot love someone who is not perfect because to the narcissist, anyone who is not perfect is a bad person - including themselves. They still need that person because they can't survive without other people, but instead of boosting their self-worth by believing this perfect, talented, amazing person loves them, they instead boost it by punishing and degrading the lying manipulator they now believe the other person to be. And if they find a new perfect accessory, they will often discard the old one.
The word "discard" is important here. It reminds everyone of what they are dealing with. You don't discard people, you end relationships with them. Discarding is what people do with objects they no longer want. Discarding is what narcissists do with human beings that no longer serve their purposes. They simply throw them away. They are not ending a relationship. What relationship? The word "relationship" implies another person is involved. Do you have a relationship with your refrigerator or your sofa? No. They are things you use when you need them. This is how pathologically narcissistic people view other humans.
So yes, they are always looking for a reason to pounce. They are always looking for an excuse to abuse or degrade you. They are always looking for a way to win. You don't want to compete but it doesn't matter. Nothing you want matters. It's all about them.