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The Paranoid Narcissist
Narcissistic people are very self-centered, in the most literal sense this can be said. They feel that the universe revolves around them. Because of this, they see themselves as the motive for everything that happens. If something affects them, even tangentially, they believe it has happened because of them. They generally believe they are the target and the purpose of just about everything happening around them, and they often interpret these things as negative. Narcissists believe people have bad intentions or malicious motives because they project their own feelings onto the world and onto others. They usually suffer from feelings of self-hatred and shame, so the feelings they believe others have for them mirrors this.
Narcissistic people can come across as paranoid and even delusional, especially when they are upset. When they become angry, feel hurt or betrayed, when they feel rejected or abandoned or when they have sustained a blow to their ego - which is often called a narcissistic injury - this creates a tidal wave of negativity and shame inside of pathologically narcissistic people. Their self-worth and self-esteem disappears. The only way to escape these horribly unbearable feelings is to project them outward. It's a way of denying their feelings, but it doesn't work as well as they'd like it to. They still notice the hurt and the shame. It's still there and it cannot be ignored. So rather than being forced to accept that they are the ones who feel these feelings about themselves, narcissists believe these feelings are coming from outside themselves. "I don't feel this way. You feel this way and I can feel it!"
This is often very hard for people to understand. How could someone be in such denial of their own feelings that they would feel they are coming from someone else? It's a very primitive, convoluted network of denial and defense mechanisms designed to defend and protect the ego - which is to say the self - at all costs, by any means necessary. It's all subconscious and basically automatic. This is just the way they work. It's how a pathologically narcissistic person's mind protects itself. Unfortunately, it overreacts, constantly searching for insults, criticisms, betrayals, plots, evidence that they are not loved... and as is usually the case, when you are looking for something, you will find it. Especially when it's something you already believe with all your heart.
Now, this is not an excuse for the behavior of pathologically narcissistic people. Nothing is. They are not generally psychotic. They can become psychotic under stress, but so can anyone else. Their mind works a certain way, yes, but they are able to control their behavior if they feel they need to. In most cases, narcissists are like children: the severity of their behavior is directly proportional to what they believe they can get away with. There are some narcissists that are much lower-functioning or may have other problems that need to be considered, but for the most part, in situations where they believe they will face unpleasant consequences, narcissists are able to control their behavior .
The paranoia of the narcissistic person is just like everything else about them. It stems from their idea that everything revolves around them. It comes across as delusional to others, but it actually fits into the context of their reality perfectly. They believe they are the sole motivation for everything that happens in one way or another. If the boss calls a meeting at work, the narcissist is sure it's secretly because of them. If the clerk at the store will not give them a refund, the narcissist is sure that it's because the clerk is somehow personally biased against them. If someone puts a song on in the car, the narcissist is sure it's a secret message for them. This sounds crazy, but in the context of the way their mind works, it makes perfect sense: they believe literally every thing that happens is because of them somehow. If the power goes out, it's because they're cursed. If they get an extra dollar with their change, it's because they're blessed. The random person who smiles at everyone has a special smile for them because they are secretly attracted to the narcissist. Or they didn't smile as big because they believe the narcissist is hideous. And on and on and on.
These are the types of accusations that people dealing with narcissists are constantly trying to defend against. It's exhausting and pointless, because how can you prove you're not doing something you're not doing? How can you prove you don't feel a way you don't feel? How can you prove you didn't say something you didn't say? The fact that you didn't say or do these things should be enough. By default, it should mean that you don't need to prove it, but somehow, when dealing with a narcissist this does not matter. This often keeps people hanging on for a long time, trying to convince the narcissist that they are mistaken. It's maddening, it's unfair and more than that, it's useless because narcissists believe feelings are facts. As far as they are concerned, they feel it so it's true. No amount of proof will change that. It can take people a long time to realize this, and they may drive themselves crazy trying to find that special, perfect way to explain that will unlock the narcissist's understanding.
This is futile. There is no special way. If someone cannot understand what you are telling them after months or even years of being told, it's not likely they ever will. If proof does not convince somebody of something, it's doubtful anything else will either. The truth is, when dealing with pathologically narcissistic people, you are dealing with beliefs and behavior that are illogical. This is why we say stop explaining to pathologically narcissistic people. It doesn't work. You will only frustrate yourself, which hurts even more. Work on building your self-esteem and self-worth up so that, instead of chasing validation from an abusive person, you will recognize that this person is treating you badly.