From: House of mirrors
Let’s take a look at why malignant narcissists not only don't change but become worse. Keep in mind, they have mastered a lifetime of this twisted way of being in the world, and are always pushing their warped behavior to the limits.
Narcissists are delusional. They refuse to confront reality. Like a child, they use illusions and distortions to maintain their fantasy about themselves and the world around them. And everyone is expected to play along. If you refuse to play your role in the narcissist's fantasy production then the narcissist child screams, cries, and stomps her feet declaring that something is wrong with you.
Narcissists are not delusional in the sense that they see little green men or hear disembodied voices telling them to kill the local sports team or have worms living under their skin. They aren’t schizophrenic or hallucinating. No, narcissists simply don’t deal in the truth. They have fantasy perceptions of themselves and the world around them (and the people in it) that they convince themselves are real. Rather like a child, they live in a pretend world. And like a child with an invisible friend, it is very, very real to them.
Narcissists are very good at projection. They are good at rewriting history to suit their ends. They are masters of taking a grain or two of truth and cooking up a huge messy pot of lies. And they are positively brilliant at making themselves believe it all, even to the point of trying to destroy those who would drag them kicking and screaming into reality.
James (my N-ex) was brilliant at projecting. I used to walk around the house feeling like I didn’t really exist, that when he looked at me he saw someone entirely different, someone I didn’t recognize, but someone he did. One day we were going to take the kids up over one of the local mountains to a valley park that had picnic tables, a small lake and riding stables. Since my car was too small, we were going to take his.
Because he was too busy with TV and some financial program he was watching, we were running late. If James had been obsessed with these financial programs and magazines as a way to grow some investments and wealth, that would be one thing, but James was focussed on “one big score,” to use his phrase. It would be too mundane, too ignominious of him to simply earn and wisely invest to make money. No, he had to find an edge, an angle, a way to make others gasp in awe at his brilliance in coming up with a viable get-rich quick scheme…that, or he had to find a way to do it illegally and not get caught so he could gloat over it. Knowing this about James, I had little patience with him sacrificing time with the kids for yet another foray into the fantasy of being a sudden zillionaire.
The plan had been for me to get the kids ready while he took the car out and filled the gas tank and, because the car had a slow leak, top up the radiator. He was then to stop by a sandwich shop and pick up our order. Meanwhile, I would be getting ready and gathering up the rest of the stuff we would need like blankets, hats, sunscreen, drinks, etc. He groused and mumbled when I insisted he turn off the TV and get going because we were almost ready. He left and came back in amazingly quick time.
With the kids in the back seat and the picnic in the trunk, we headed up the mountain. But only a third of the way up the car started to misbehave. It was making rattling sounds in the engine and losing speed. But James kept driving. After it became obvious that the car was definitely in trouble and I yelled at him to pull over, James gave me a sidelong glance and his mouth formed into a sly smirk and he did. I slid into the driver’s seat, only to see that the temperature gauge was pegged to one side—the car was grossly overheated!
When I asked him if he had put water into the radiator, he said he had not. When I asked him why, he said he had not had time, and since I was in such an all-fired hurry, he gave me what I wanted. When I asked if he realized that running the car dry could seize up the engine, he gave me a contemptuous look and said “of course.” I was so flabbergasted, I couldn’t speak.
My oldest son and I saved the day by getting water from a helpful nearby farmer and filling the radiator before we resume the chug up the mountain. Despite James’ effort to derail the day, the kids had a good time and we made it home safely. But I was still angry with James and still baffled as to what he was thinking when he decided to strand us on a mountainside with a car he had deliberately caused to malfunction. I got answers, but it was the shock of my life!
Once the kids were in bed I asked him what was going on with him that afternoon. He professed to not know what I was talking about. So I asked him point-blank why he had not put water in the car.
“To teach you a lesson,” he said with a completely straight face.
“Huh?” I asked. “What do you mean?”
What came out of his mouth next made the hair on my neck stand on end, it was so creepy. While he had been gone getting the gas and the sandwiches, he had had an entire conversation with me in his head! It was of the “if I said this, then you would say that, and then I would say this and you would reply that” variety, and I listened slack-jawed as he recounted his fantasy conversation. And it made him very, very angry with me!
“Who were you really talking to, James?” I finally asked him. “I would never say those kinds of things—that’s nothing like me. I actually asked you to get water in the car, so why would I get angry with you for taking the time to do that?”
“Well, that is what my mother would do to my father…” I didn’t hear the rest of his sentence—I didn’t need to. The alarm bells were going off in my head, epiphanies were falling like dominoes behind my eyes, realization was creeping over me like a cold chill. I was no more to him than a blank screen upon which he projected his mother. Every word I had spoken, every opinion or belief or value I had voiced in the previous six years were never heard by him, never taken on board because they were drowned out by his projection of his mother onto me. I did not exist!! He knew nothing about me or who I was or how I felt or what I believed because none of that could pierce that projection of his mother. We were together for another seven years and he never did find out who I really was.
My mother had her own kind of delusions. She was the neighbourhood paragon (pretty ironic, considering we had to leave our small town in Oregon under the cloud of scandal she had created!). Judgmental to the nth degree, mother took it upon herself to save the neighbourhood from the woman next door, Mrs. McKenzie. The war she waged on that poor woman was awful! Narcissists think that they way they think is the way we all should think, that their likes, dislikes, beliefs and values should be shared by ALL of us. But most of all, they think they are the centre of the universe and any attention given to others is attention taken away from them.
At the time we moved into our house (I was in the first grade), Mrs. McKenzie was the object of neighbourhood sympathy. A war widow with two young girls to raise, she worked nights as a registered nurse to support them. The girls were a couple of years older than I was and, like their mother, tall and rail thin. People on the block felt sorry for Mrs. McKenzie and, because she had no husband to do the work (and precious little income), her house was a little shabby and the front garden rather unkempt.
My mother, however, did not share the neighbourhood sympathy and went out of her way to blacken the woman’s reputation, spying on her and making up the most outrageous lies and spreading them up and down the street. By the time she was done, Mrs. McKenzie sold her house and moved away and my mother was basking in the glow of having saved our neighbourhood from what she had eventually convinced herself was a terrible danger.
In later years she convinced herself that my children would be better off in the custody of her brother, despite the fact that he and his wife had failed their state’s home study for adoption on three separate occasions. That I had a welfare worker investigate my home and write a letter for the court that my home was fit and so was I, NM convinced herself she was “rescuing” my children from me. She went to her grave believing herself a “hero” and the champion of those poor kids, even though the reality was her entire family stopped talking to her and the damage she did to those kids continues on to the present day, fourteen years after her death.
Narcissists do not see anything they do not want to see and when they can’t find what they want to see, they make it up. This can make the people around them crazy. Because they can be charming and glib, narcissists often bring a lot of people to their point of view, even professionals like therapists, social workers, judges, law enforcement. In the hearings I had in juvenile court, we drew a judge who could see right through her…and she knew it. The judge told me to return to court in three weeks with a letter from my local social services agency, attesting to my fitness, and custody would be settled in my favour…he had NM sussed out! So what did she do? She filed an emergency petition for guardianship in another (higher ranking) court before the juvenile court hearing was scheduled, and drew a judge who was taken in by her false sincerity and the perjured testimony of my uncle. (This uncle, BTW, apologized to me years later with the truth finally came out.) When she could not persuade the juvenile court judge to take up her delusions, when the judge required more than unsubstantiated accusations and asked for proof from a trusted source, NM knew she had to change the venue and find someone to corroborate her accusations (among others, that I was a drug addicted prostitute). By the time it was all over, eight years later and I had regained custody of my children, NM believed her own lies and, despite most of the family finally embracing the truth, my daughter continues to believe them. “Why would a mother lie about her own daughter?” she once asked me. Indeed…when that mother is a narcissist, she will lie about anything and anybody—and believe those lies—in order to get what she wants.
This propensity for creating and believing their own reality can make the people around them crazy. It alters the perception of reality and sucks people into things they might never have otherwise entertained. When practiced on children, it can interfere with their ability to trust, to apply critical thinking, to make good decisions. When a child’s life is based on and guided by lies, that child grows up unable to tell lies from truth and their ability to function is compromised.
Narcissists have no peers. In their delusional world, no one is equal to them. The world is made of entirely of inferiors (most of us) and superiors (those whom they aspire to be like). Narcissists, for all they are full of themselves, do have people they admire. James once had a boss he admired so much he dressed like him and angled for assignments that allowed him to travel internationally, like his boss did. Unfortunately (for James), none of his get rich schemes came to fruition so he was unable to be as rich as his boss and therefore was never able to relegate him to “inferior” status.
Narcissists truly believe they are above the law…and that they are so clever that they can fool the police and therefore are not in danger of getting caught. In the months leading up to our separation and divorce, James began leaving things around that were highly incriminating…but proved he truly believed that even his most outrageous scheme was “doable,” meaning he could get away with it. I seldom entered his home office—he was an egregious slob—but went in one morning to vacuum. Collecting dirty coffee cups and glasses from the desk, my eyes feel on some drawings and notes left on the desktop in his precise, draftsman-like hand printing. Basically, he was drawing up plans to turn our huge family room (larger than a two-car garage) into a marijuana farm and to use the neighbourhood teen agers as his sales agents! Conspicuous by its absence was any mention of me, causing me to wonder what his plans were: either he was planning to get rid of me or his delusion of wealth via drugs included me going along with the scheme.
James loved porn and simply refused to acknowledge that not everybody else did. It was his firm belief that everybody liked porn, he was just one of the morally superior who admitted it. We had dinner guests one night and he ended the evening by putting on an XXX rated video for the guests, one of whom was a female co-worker, to watch! They excused themselves early and never accepted another invitation to get together, and he couldn’t seem to understand why. When I told him they were probably offended by the porn video, he didn’t believe me, and if they left because of it, it was because they were hypocrites.
The ways in which a narcissist can delude him/herself are limitless. Because they live inside their delusions—these delusions are their “reality,”—any attempt to deal with them on a rational basis is futile. The delusions narcissists engage in are not harmless fantasies but dangerous to those around them, because trying to reason with a narcissist is like stepping through the Looking Glass—remember, Alice was the only rational one in there.
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.