When it comes to narcissists and their irrational behaviors, one of THE most frequently asked questions posed by victims of narcissistic abuse is whether the narcissist is aware of what they’re doing.
A common misconception is that if they’re not aware of what they’re doing, then we shouldn’t hold them accountable for their seemingly unintentional wrongdoings. Instead, we should offer them compassion and try to help them through whatever “pain” they’re suffering that is making them behave in such a hurtful way. After all, hurt people hurt people, right?
There is one major flaw in the question – are narcissists aware of their disorder? – in that it assumes all narcissists fall under the same location on the spectrum of the disorder. They don’t. When it comes to narcissism, there are individuals who have few enough traits that they might not be identified as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder (which is a huge defect in the DSM criteria, since it only takes one pathological trait to completely ruin another person’s life).
There are also people who fall so far on the other end that they possess the dark traits of Machiavellianism and psychopathy. These individuals are highly cunning and engage in dangerous forms of deception and manipulation. These are the people who can live two or three different lives behind their partners’ backs and rig the heaters in the winter to emit carbon monoxide, hoping to collect on their family members’ life insurance policies.
In contrast, most “garden-variety” narcissists aren’t sitting around strategizing about what they will do next to their unsuspecting partners. That would take too much time away from their self-fulfilling agendas. All they’re concerned with is what they need minute by minute in order to gain the most narcissistic supply — whether from you or another supply source. It doesn’t matter which. If what they desire is being reflected back to them in the form of gratifying experiences or admiration, it doesn’t matter to them which mirror they are looking into.
Inside the mind of the garden-variety narcissist
Narcissists typically act upon their emotions, which are greatly stunted. They have very low emotional intelligence and never developed any form of emotional resilience.
This partly explains why they can appear loving and caring one minute, yet seem to hate you the next. This generally happens when they’ve experienced a narcissistic injury, which is evident in their tendency to snap at the most innocent of comments or questions.
Since one can never know what’s going on in the narcissist’s mind at any given moment, what they consider injurious one minute could be completely ignored the next. Do yourself a favor and don’t try to analyze it. As soon as you think you’ve come up with a solution, the rules will have changed.
…and don’t make the mistake of believing that sharing your findings that they could be a narcissist will help. It won’t. This will only instill righteous indignation in them because they are unique and special. If you dare to insinuate there is something wrong with them, be prepared for the explosive outcome.
While a non-disordered person considers how their words and actions affect other people, narcissists do not. Because of this, many of their behaviors are spur of the moment. There are some very deliberate actions they engage in, such as hiding evidence of an extramarital affair or forging another person’s name on a loan application, but they think it’s all warranted because by that point, the person they entered into a relationship with stopped seeing their greatness or began requiring too much damage control.
Many narcissists, at some point or other, do become aware of the effect their behaviors have on other people, but they are completely indifferent to it.
One way to comprehend how narcissists feel about their deceptive and manipulative behaviors against others is to compare it to a person’s penchant for steak or pork chops. Most people are aware that cows and pigs are sentient beings, yet generally don’t reflect on what the animals go through before they appear as a tidy meal on the dinner table.
If a vegetarian were to point out to a meat-eater how horribly these animals suffer, the meat-eater would shrug their shoulders because they like steak and don’t plan to stop eating steak.
This is precisely how narcissists feel about abusing the people closest to them.
The difference is that we generally don’t see what happens to animals that are processed for consumption unless we search for it. Narcissists see the results of their manipulation and abuse every day and still remain completely indifferent. By the time the love-bombing phase is over and you are being devalued, you’ve become their opponent and so to them, any pain or distress you experience is your own fault.
Are narcissists aware of their disorder?
Day in and day out, you observe their obnoxious behavior. You watch as they hurt people, preserve their egos, and dismiss reality.
It can be as shocking as it is disturbing.
It’s a dangerous misconception to assume narcissists don’t recognize how their actions affect others. It’s not that they don’t see it- it’s usually that they just don’t care.
Indeed, the current research reveals some interesting results:
• Narcissists generally understand people perceive them less positively than they perceive themselves.
• Narcissists recognize that the power of their positive impressions may fade with time.
• Narcissists have some insight into their personality (they’ll describe themselves as confident, narcissist, etc.)
At first glance, these results may seem confusing. If narcissists have some insight into their patterns, why would they keep engaging in these ways?
Narcissists don’t identify their behaviors as problematic. In other words, even if they think other people don’t like them, they still think they are entitled to play by their own rules. The biggest indicator that narcissists have the awareness that their behaviors are unacceptable and generally looked down upon by society is the fact that they hide their abusive behaviors from most people, but save them for you.
This is the most compelling proof that they know what they’re doing. If they weren’t aware or didn’t have control over themselves, they would behave the same way with everyone else as they do with you.
But they don’t.
If they hide their behavior, then they know it’s wrong.
How to Finally Break Free From the Narcissistic Spell
Until I let go of the idea that narcissists couldn’t help themselves, I was powerless to stop the crippling doubts and traumatization I experienced through trauma bonding.
Today, after healing myself through the exact steps in The Essential Break Free Bootcamp, I experience healthy happy relationships that are kind, supportive, and fulfilling, and I have absolutely no trouble in walking away from anyone who is manipulative or abusive because I feel safe and in ownership of my worth and power.
I want the same for you too.
If you want to become aligned with these truths to actualize your recovery out of the pain and into truly healthy, wholesome, and fulfilling connections, then I’d love to help you.
You can start this journey today by clicking this link.
As always, I eagerly look forward to answering your comments and questions below.