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When The Narcissist is Nice

Updated on February 15, 2018
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The Little Shaman is a spiritual counselor, hypnotherapist, and a specialist in Cluster B personality disorders.

Sometimes after people have been in a devalue or discard phase for a while, they can forget that narcissists are not always cruel and horrible. If they were, they would never get anybody to stay around. For most people, the times when the narcissist is nice are what keep them hanging on. There is no one more charming and sincere than a narcissist when things are going their way. The problem is that it doesn't last.

Is their good behavior sincere? That's a hard one. In a way, all of their emotions are equally sincere, which means they are also all equally insincere. Their love is as sincere as their hate, and since both are actually projections of their feelings for or about themselves and since both change with their mood - which turns on a dime, you can draw your own conclusions about that. True love or true hate does not change when your mood changes. Most people don't stop loving someone just because they are angry at that person. If they did, we would say that probably they did not really love the person at all then.

But if their feelings are so shallow and insincere, and if they change so much, why are there some pathological narcissists that are nice to certain people all the time? Narcissists are fragmented, shattered people walking around trying to imagine a life for themselves where that isn't true. They can only bring themselves to be kind to those who do not threaten this illusion. People who do not challenge or threaten the narcissist might never see the narcissist's bad side because there is no reason they would have to. The bad guy only shows up when there is a threat to the narcissist's illusions. And just to clarify, the word illusion is used here because a delusion is something a person believes is real, but an illusion is something a person has created that they know is false. Narcissists know who and what they are pretending to be is not real. It's not a delusion. That's why they get so angry at perceived challenges to their narrative, and why they will treat people nicely who cannot do so.

For example, we will often hear about people who present as extremely narcissistic in most areas of their lives, yet they may treat their young children with kindness and positive regard. This is because young children cannot expose the narcissist, challenge their authority or dismantle the narcissist's illusions. They are no threat and they love the narcissist unconditionally. They believe whatever the narcissist says and accept what the narcissist is presenting without question. When they get older, this can and often does change as children grow and assert their independence from the narcissist, but when they are young, it is not possible. It is often the same with co-workers or other people who are not in a position to know about the narcissist's private life. They don't necessarily love the narcissist, but they often have positive feelings for the narcissist. They cannot expose them, challenge their authority or dismantle their illusions. It is easy for narcissists to be kind and have positive feelings for people who have positive feelings for them, who do not challenge them and who cannot expose them. They are living in a feedback loop, remember. They don't see other people, just their own selves reflected back to them.

The problem is that it will not remain positive forever because the facade is thin and very fragile. People who enter into a more intimate relationship with the pathological narcissist - even superficially - will find themselves in a difficult situation, because as they are privy to more and more of the narcissist's life, the narcissist fears exposure more and more. Their behavior becomes abusive because of this fear and because their illusions are being challenged, so the person's positive regard for the narcissist changes to a more and more negative opinion, and what is reflected back to the narcissist about themselves becomes more and more damaging. Oblivious to the fact that they are causing this themselves because of the way they treat other people, the narcissist simply feels that the other person has turned on them and is now untrustworthy, malicious and evil. They are hurt by this, they are afraid, they feel betrayed and they are angry. They become perpetually defensive and offended. They feel threatened and attacked.

The list of things a narcissist can feel threatened or attacked by is very long; essentially, everything is on it. When they fear that you have seen through them, everything is seen as a threat because you have learned their secret, and they will do anything to keep from having to face that. They are like The Wizard of Oz turning knobs, pushing levers to keep his terrifying, powerful facade intact and frantically screaming, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!" What has been seen cannot be unseen and the narcissist knows it. This is one of the biggest reasons they discard people. The person has seen the truth and the narcissist believes it is now only a matter of time before they will be discarded themselves. Once you've seen the truth of what they are, they believe it's so awful, so repulsive and so horrific that you will hate them as much as they hate themselves and they project that self-hatred onto you. As I've stated before in other episodes of the show, once this has happened, the relationship is essentially over. It may continue but it has changed irrevocably. You have seen through them. You have challenged their narrative just by being an individual human being with needs and they will never forgive you for it.

This is not to say pathologically narcissistic people can never be nice again. They can and often are, especially when they want something. This is the candy trap that many people find themselves stuck in. They choose to believe this is who the narcissist really is, and to write the abusive monster or hysterical child off as an aberration. This is not the case. The nice one is not who they really are. Contrary to what many believe, the abusive one isn't either. There is no "who they really are." Narcissists are shattered personas walking around trying to fake it in a world that is constantly endeavoring to expose them. None of the faces they show you are real. They are true nobodies, with no identity and they know it. Everything they do is an exercise in hiding that fact.

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