Understanding Object Constancy is key to understanding the pathological Narcissist experience.
Learning about the full meaning of Object Constancy and all it implies, how it originates, and at what stage of early personality/ego development (this aspect explains the different ‘flavours’ of Narcissists, at what young age they get emotionally arrested reflects different stages of childhood ego development), assists in understanding that the narcissists actually DO feel what they are showing. Unless they are being sinister and acting towards an agenda they are playing out in the most cynical way — which is about half the time — they feel whatever they are feeling in the moment. With every fibre of their being, but nothing else — because all they are is in ‘that’ moment, only.
The energy generated by the target in the external moment is the supply for the Narcissist’s internal energy. Depending on their needs/agenda in the moment they will play the exact and perfect role to whoever is in the position to fulfill their needs — whoever, remember all they are is in ‘that’ moment, there is no Object Constancy. And, because passive/covert aggression is a strong part of their toolbox, it could be to triangulate, diminish or destroy you if you have done something they are angry about (but you would have no clue of this, because their avoidant nature makes them pretend that nothing is ever wrong and they instead act like they love and support everything about you instead of communicating honest feelings — this is why you are always blindsided when the truth finally comes to light). Or, if they have done something that is upsetting you (like the passive aggression described previously) but they still see you as beneficial to their lives for whatever reason they have (which, again, you will never know), or they are not prepared to exit yet because their new supply source is not lined up, then they can become the most sincerely apologetic and demonstrative partner — for as long as it takes to get you lulled into a sense of safety and you become more compliant once again.
Controlling every situation is the only way a Narcissist can get their needs met, and, always remember, because of the arrested development that generates the disorder, their needs are their only concern, they have no other coping skills. Their need to control every situation with an action for their audience is what fuels the ‘act’. So when they love us, they are the most perfect soulmate because in that moment they are feeling exactly like that — it’s why love bombing is so effective, it actually is sincere (but not for the reason that it would be for a nonNPD person who would be expressing genuine feelings of connection and attachment because the NPD does not have the ability for attachment and emotional connection, they only have needs and do what is needed to behave in a way to get their needs met.) The empathy they show can be real too — this explains why the experience is so disorienting and devastating to the discarded partner, who never know what to believe. Narcissism is an insidious disorder of emotional processing and expression, unless people have witnessed and experienced it in action they have no measure to comprehend how completely out of normal it can be.
Narcissists have an entirely different internal operating system and a partner’s need to understand to get closure, or to find ways to carry hope or feel compassion, can become a trap that many never get free of. Grief from loss combined with the confusion from having their world flipped, usually at the most vulnerable moments, creates a state of Cognitive Dissonance that is a common, profound, and difficult to overcome result of a relationship with a Narcissist. While we can come to finally understand the explanations and descriptions of specific behaviors the exercise is rooted to our intellectual level and our cognitive dissonance does not disappear. We are feeling our emotional memories, our brains have been changed by the experience — our neural pathways are altered, and some areas of the brain shrink and become atrophied by the trauma. Because we are ‘normal’, we cannot adjust our entire thinking/feeling pattern to experience the overriding corruption of emotional processing — we operate differently at the subconscious operating level. And it is when looking for all the answers and explanations to the various behaviors and outcomes that we can miss the seed of the toxic plant, because we are focussed on the leaves. Which is why people keep looking for answers to the same question — Can they change? Is there hope for them, for us? The overwhelming consensus is “No” and the reason is clear when the germ of the disorder is understood and accepted. Acceptance is key to surviving the experience and saving what is the rest of your life.
It is because they are real people and they do feel, and the emotions we are subject to are so intensely genuine when they love bomb us that they make a mark on and fulfill our deepest core needs, it becomes an impossible task for the heart to reconcile the inexplicable because none of it makes sense to an ordered mind. But it really does make sense to their disorder — when we understand Object Impermanence we get to the understanding of ‘why’ to all the permeations of Narcissistic behaviors. Because of their arrested ego-state, there is no connection to the needs of others, and because of that there is no attachment to others — there is no permanence with anyone or anything.
The reason that therapy and self-help is so ineffective with NPD is because any intellectual attempt to change their subconscious state with introspection, therapy and focus can never be permanent because the very essence of Narcissism subversively supersedes the possibility — and the stress of trying to override core needs makes them crack the mask eventually. There can be an intellectual and executional attempt to behave in a way they understand would be better for them but the elements they have to accept are too great — it is every element of life and the people in it. They can go through the motions very well, for a while (the length of which depends on their level of distress tolerance), but ultimately it will be those who are their closest partners that will be subjected to the Narcissistic experience as their mask cracks from the pressure of having to wear just another mask. Because it is just another mask, one they have chosen certainly in their attempt to ‘heal’ what has brought misery to their lives, but eventually the stress from the constant effort to be and feel other than what their internal processes automatically flow to will become too much. It is why, quite often, the unmasking can follow a life event or loss — it all becomes too much to cope with and they have to release the pressure, usually by blowing up their personal relationships or setting ‘new terms’ in the relationship where they do not have to pretend to be other than who they really are and the partner either takes it or leaves.
Narcissism is very complex to understand and it is why it is such an intimate form of abuse — it is only the very nearest and dearest who are subject to their rage and become an outlet for their internal torments. The rest of the world will not see anything but the false mask which the narcissist strives for and which undoes the narcissist internally at the same time. Most people believe what they see and experience, and very few have seen a pathological Narcissist in action — they only know their experiences, almost always very positive, with the False Mask. The Narcissist will be someone they like or admire in some way, they will be seen as good people who give to their community, gentle souls who would never hurt a fly, or easy going people who are fun to be around. The isolation caused in the aftermath is an additional devastation, as we can not explain our reality to anyone who can understand, or will even want to believe, what is beyond their experience. People who try to share such experiences are judged as unhinged in some way, histrionic, exaggerating, or just plain vindictive — you lose almost everyone you knew. The Narcissistic experience can taint almost every aspect of our lives because it taints every aspect of their thought processes.
The lack of Object Constancy explains how a Narcissist can go from promising you the earth, moon and stars with such conviction and passion one day and go on to abuse you or leave you the next without a backward glance or explanation. The essence of Narcissism is Lack of Object Constancy. Once we learn about this, the rest of what happens all makes perfect sense and we can understand better why the outlook is so poor for there to be improvement — and the only advice is the hardest for anyone to deal with because it can impact every aspect of their lives — and that advice is always to leave and go no contact for their own sanity and self-preservation.
People view those targeted by NPDers as somehow weaker then them — everyone thinks they’d see through it because they are smarter, stronger, have better boundaries, more self-love, they can see it in their eyes, the way they smile… the list goes on. The truth is that NPDs target people they get something from, it is our good qualities that are targeted — many highly successful, educated and previously happy people become victims of Narcissistic Abuse. Targets tend to be very intuned to reading people, which is another reason we can lose so much of our sense of trust in ourselves when we realize that what we believed was all wrong.
Once the mask is off, then hindsight puts all the flags waving, but we did not see them at the time. Because our love was matched by our empathetic nature and it was all mirrored back to us — this establishes the deepest love bonds, and we trust implicitly. The entire process of love bombing enslaves our brain, we are not just altered by the abuse, we are altered by the all-encompassing love we are experiencing. It speaks to every normal person’s deepest core need. We are loved, we are wanted, we are adored — for being exactly who we are. Everything about us is validated, supported and encouraged. This is why we let down our guards and trust them so entirely over time, and we share everything we are with them — they are not intentionally collecting ammunition to annihilate our spirit later, that’s an angry cynical view. But they are remembering everything about us for the purpose of mirroring our every need and desire, it just so happens all that info comes in very handy when the devaluation phase hits and is then is reprocessed from everything they loved about us to everything that is wrong and they hate about us. They flip internally, entirely, and the memories are truly overwritten to match their new emotional paradigm. We become the only carriers of the happy times when it was love, peace and contentment. They remember none of that, to hold two opposing views is impossible with their fragile egos and they split us — we are either all good or all bad. This allows them to move on almost immediately with no grieving and no remorse.
The only time a Narcissist circles back after a devalue and discard is because they are short on supply and their ego needs a fix. The best gift is a quick discard because the torture of reconciliations then escalation of abusive behaviors adds the dimension of trauma bonds to the healing needed in the aftermath. If it goes on long enough people develop Stockholm Syndrome.