What Narcissists Are Afraid of
Odd as it may seem, pathologically narcissistic people are often very preoccupied with fear. They may fear many things. They often fear being controlled by others, exposure, humiliation, loss of power and control over others and more. At the bottom of all of these things though is probably the fear of rejection and abandonment. Pathologically narcissistic people fear rejection and the subsequent abandonment more than anything else. Usually, all the other fears and paranoid fantasies that they have revolve around this one thing.
Narcissists are generally pretty insecure people - to put it mildly. They fear being controlled by others because they don't truly feel in control of themselves. They often express what seem like paranoid fantasies about others plotting to control and engulf them, as if they are some very important prize that other people are just lining up to steal. They often believe they are being oppressed or somehow subjugated by others and may rage against this imagined offense repeatedly. This is because not only do they not feel in control of themselves or their surroundings, but because they mirror other people and mimic them as a way to counteract and support their lack of identity. The more they mimic another person, the more they feel this person is controlling them - even though the person isn't actually doing anything at all. They may fear engulfment, which is the idea that their own identity will be swallowed up by the other person's and lost.
Lastly, narcissists may fear being controlled because they are selfish, childish people who don't appreciate being told they have to do things they don't want to do or follow someone else's rules. This can be very threatening to them and their image of themselves. Accusing someone of trying to control them or control the situation can be a form of projection, because it is actually the narcissist who is trying to control things and they feel controlled by others because they are not being allowed to control everything themselves. In their minds, it is either control or be controlled, and if they are not in control, they feel manipulated and oppressed. This is one of the reasons they feel the need to control others.
Controlling others is something that is very important to narcissistic people. They fear that others are endeavoring to control and subjugate them, so they strike first and attempt to cut that off at the knees. They manipulate, threaten, bully and do whatever else they need to do so that they can keep control over the situation and more importantly, the people in the situation. The reason is very simple. Being in control feeds their need for power. Narcissists are by design very weak and fragile individuals. The superficial and often manufactured appearance of power over things and people bolsters their idea of themselves so that they can keep denying their weakness and fragility, which they are both terrified of and disgusted by. It's a classic distraction technique. People are supposed to be so dazzled or intimidated by the power of the narcissist that they could never notice the inherent weakness of the narcissist. It apparently never occurs to the narcissist that people who have true power and strength don't need it to be validated by others in this way, and that anyone who has true strength will know that.
The fear of exposure is related to all of the narcissistic person's other fears. Underneath all of their posturing, distraction, misdirection, deception and projection lies the fear that people will see them as they really are. They do everything they can to prevent themselves from being exposed. Now, many people believe that narcissists are trying to hide their abusive side so they can take advantage of others but though this is what often ends up happening, this is not generally the motive for their behavior. The abusive behavior they engage in is usually just another misdirection, designed to take the attention away from the real thing they are hiding. Pathologically narcissistic people have delusional negative beliefs about themselves and nearly all of their behavior - including their false image - is a self-defense mechanism put in place so that they can deny and avoid what they think is the truth about themselves - both to others and to themselves. They fear exposure because they fear it will result in the rejection and abandonment they fear the most.
The fear of rejection and abandonment is often a very big problem for pathologically narcissistic people, as well. It's deep and very powerful. Nearly everything they do is designed in some way to prevent themselves from being rejected or abandoned. The lies they tell, the manipulations they employ, even discarding people are all ways of avoiding rejection or abandonment. Most narcissistic people believe at their core that they are defective and unlovable. They believe that unless they can appear perfect, they will be rejected and ultimately devalued. That is what their fake facade is for.
Rejection and abandonment represent the ultimate failure of the narcissist. It validates all of their delusional and paranoid beliefs, and therefore it is intolerable. Narcissists cannot create their own self-esteem. Their perception of their own value is solely dependent on other people buying into their false image and believing they are perfect. They then reflect this back to the narcissist and the narcissist can believe it. When other people see through the facade, they no longer reflect the narcissist's perfection back to them. This usually results in the narcissist interpreting that as a rejection, which they believe will lead to abandonment. It doesn't matter whether the person is actually rejecting the narcissist or not. They are paranoid they will be seen through because they live with this ugly, defective, shameful secret every minute of every day. They believe they will be rejected because they believe if someone is not perfect, they are worthless and they believe themselves to be almost monstrously defective and unlovable. The certainty that they will be rejected usually leads to a reaction from the narcissist, whether it's rage or hysteria or guilt or cold silence or simply disappearing. The purpose of these things is to avoid the pain of rejection and the humiliation of abandonment, which is the narcissistic person's biggest fear.
Fear is a powerful motivator and when actions are taken out of fear, they are often illogical and unreasonable. Beliefs born out of fear are the same. It is no wonder then that the pathologically narcissistic person is so hard to deal with and to understand.