How does the mind of a narcissist work?

Here are some helpful articles which capture the essence of this intense and complex insanity.

The Blind Maze and the Double Bind of the Narcissistically Abusive System

By Richard Grannon

The Discontinuous Narcissist (Narcissism and Dissociation)

By Sam Vaknin

“”But you hate kiwi!” – protests my girl – “How can anyone detest kiwi and then eat it so eagerly?”. She is baffled. She is hurt. To some extent, she is even frightened to find herself with this kiwi-guzzling stranger.

How can I tell her that, in the absence of a self, there are no likes or dislikes, preferences, predictable behaviour or characteristics? It is not possible to know the narcissist. There is no one there.

The narcissist was conditioned – from an early age of abuse and trauma – to expect the unexpected. His was a world in motion where (sometimes sadistically) capricious caretakers and peers often engaged in arbitrary behaviour. He was trained to deny his true self and nurture a false one.

Having invented himself, the narcissist sees no problem in re-inventing that which he designed in the first place. The Narcissist is his own creator.

Hence his grandiosity.

Moreover, the narcissist is a man for all seasons, forever adaptable, constantly imitating and emulating, a human sponge, a perfect mirror, a non-entity that is, at the same time, all entities combined.

The narcissist is best described by Heidegger’s phrase: “Being and Nothingness”. Into this reflective vacuum, this sucking black hole, the narcissist attracts the sources of his narcissistic supply.

To an observer, the narcissist appears to be fractured or discontinuous.

Pathological narcissism has been compared to the Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly the Multiple Personality Disorder). By definition, the narcissist has at least two selves. His personality is very primitive and disorganized. Living with a narcissist is a nauseating experience not only because of what he is – but because of what he is NOT. He is not a fully formed human – but a dizzyingly kaleidoscopic gallery of mercurial images, which melt into each other seamlessly. It is incredibly disorienting.

It is also exceedingly problematic. Promises made by the narcissist are easily disowned by him. His plans are ephemeral. His emotional ties – a simulacrum. Most narcissists have one island of stability in their life (spouse, family, their career, a hobby, their religion, country, or idol) – pounded by the turbulent currents of a disheveled existence.

Thus, to emotionally invest in a narcissist is a purposeless, futile and meaningless activity. To the narcissist, every day is a new beginning, a hunt, a new cycle of idealization or devaluation, a newly invented self.

There is no accumulation of credits or goodwill because the narcissist has no past and no future. He occupies an eternal and timeless present. He is a fossil caught in the frozen lava of a volcanic childhood.

The narcissist does not keep agreements, does not adhere to laws, regards consistency and predictability as demeaning traits. The narcissist hates kiwi one day – and devours it passionately the next.”

From NPDawareness, tumblr:

Traits of the Narcissist

  • Self-absorbed (acts like everything is about him)
  • Entitled (makes the rules; breaks the rules)
  • Demeaning (puts you down, bullyish)
  • Demanding (of whatever he wants)
  • Distrustful (suspicious of your motives when you’re being nice to him)
  • Perfectionists (rigidly high standards – his way or no way)
  • Snobbish (believes he is superior to you and others; gets bored easily)
  • Approval seeking (craves constant praise and recognition)
  • Unempathic (uninterested in understanding your inner experience, or unable to do so)
  • Unremorseful (cannot offer a genuine apology)
  • Compulsive (gets overly consumed with details and minutiae)
  • Addictive (cannot let go of bad habits; uses them to self-soothe)
  • Emotionally detached (steers clear of feelings)
  • Lack of empathy; inability to experience another person’s feelings and perception from that person’s point of view (“It’s all about me”)
  • Manipulative or exploitive behaviour (“I want what I want”)
  • Sense of entitlement (“You owe me”)
  • Inability to take direction (“I’m not doing anything wrong”)
  • Insatiable need for control (“My way or the highway”)
  • A haughty or judgemental spirit (“You’re so wrong”)
  • Unwillingness to acknowledge reality (“The truth according to me”)
  • An ability to create favourable public impressions (“Lethal charm”)

Narcissistic Demands

  • You must remain loyal to me
  • It’s never my fault
  • Don’t tell anyone about our problems
  • I’m not supposed to suffer
  • I’m the center of everything
  • The rules don’t apply to me
  • I know best – do it my way

Manipulative Behaviours

Admiration/Idealization – A dynamic involving the NPD person’s ability to draw you into a sense of awe and admiration for his unique qualities, abilities, status, power, etc., or to keep you at a distance until you are able to reflect back the proper level of appreciation that he expects. By contrast, if you have something he wants, he may court you with special attention, a seduction that often feels irresistible.

Martyr/Guilt – An ability of the NPD person to portray “special suffering” that enlists you as the “indispensable” caretaker and includes a subtle or overt reproach if you should let him down.

Distraction – The continual tendency for the NPD person to take the spotlight of discussion back to himself, or to defocus a conversation onto a subject that he feels will give him the upper hand.

Intimidation – The use of power in a subtle or overt display that induces you into conciliatory or deferring behaviours.

Devaluing – An effort to demean and diminish your thoughts, feelings, and abilities through subtle or overt criticism, alongside references that heighten his stature.

Repetitive Criticism – A cycle of dialogue that begins and ends with constant criticism of your opinions or choices when they depart from the NPD individual’s reality.

Double Message/Double Bind – The dynamic of conveying contradictory messages on the part of the NPD person. Often subtle and difficult to recognize (such as verbally communicating one thing while non-verbally expressing another), you may only discover the “set-up” after you attempt to satisfy one of the messages. In this moment, you receive a critical or devaluing response from the NPD person for not adequately responding to the opposite message.

Projection – Rooted in the NPD person’s unconscious sense of selfhate (self as inadequate), this perception becomes directed outward as the narcissist sees others as flawed instead. He then reacts to these flaws with a righteous zeal that fuels his critique and aggression towards others.

Emotional Hostage – The final phase of “victimization”, evidenced when your self-esteem has waned such a degree that you are dispirited, drained, and unable to validate your reality. The result of being subjected to this treatment is your inability to set limits, act on your on behalf, and ultimately make important decisions about the worthiness of your relationship with the NPD person.

Key Characteristics of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Limited or no ability to:

  • Self-reflect and take ownership of a problem
  • Tolerate anything perceived as a criticism, oversight, or dismissal
  • Recognize others as separate selves – free agents with free will
  • Feel genuine empathy for others
  • Recognize the needs of others
  • Negotiate anger – periodic loss of control of anger, outbursts of rage
  • Acknowledge or praise other people’s accomplishments – due to envy
  • Genuinely apologize or feel remorse


  • Requires attention, admiration, special consideration, or recognition
  • Demonstrates a grandiose sense of entitlement – a hallmark!
  • Controls and manipulates others to achieve his goals – tenacious and persuasive
  • Criticizes self and others
  • Holds unrealistic expectations of self and others
  • Holds an over-estimation of self an his needs – maintain the belief that he is more unique and special than others – grandiose self-image
  • Manifests compulsive behaviours
  • Demonstrates an all or nothing approach to life
  • Compulsively pursue status, power, money, beauty, recognition etc.

The overt type gains narcissistic supplies through charm and a public persona that allows fbr the grandiose displays of high status, money and power.

The covert type gains narcissistic supplies of admiration, status, and control through his or her role connected to a larger than life cause.

In my interactions with the person I would describe him as

  • Needing to be the center of attention.
  • Competing for attention.
  • Fishing for flattery, external validation, and approval.
  • Engaging in one-upmanship.
  • Seeking favors but not returning them.
  • Insensitive and indifferent to others’ concerns.
  • Knowing what’s best for others and is not reluctant in telling others what to do and feel.
  • Having contempt for others who are not as accomplished, successful, handsome, and so on.
  • Having the correct words for feelings, but not conveying the genuine feeling behind the words.
  • Having an unrealistic perception of personal competencies, and can take on too many tasks.
  • Expecting others to cater to his demands or desires.
  • Expecting others to read his mind and fulfill needs, desires, and wishes.
  • Having an attitude that others should subjugate their needs for them.
  • Feeling free to make cutting, sarcastic, demeaning, or devaluing remarks to and about others.
  • Easily offended by others’ comments, taking them personally, and not accepting that the comments are not attacks.
  • Someone who lies, distorts, and misleads.
  • Perceiving everything and everyone in terms of self.
  • Overcontrolling, blaming others for their mistakes, and overly critical of others.
  • Unable to be pleased by anyone or anything.
  • Mistrustful, resentful, and envious.

Explanations of the Characteristics of a Narcissist

  • An inflated view of oneself is one of the primary ways narcissists give themselves permission to dominate and control others. A narcissist believes his/her priorities, interests, opinions, and beliefs have more value and are more important than anyone else’s. Not all narcissists fling their grandiosity around the world; some actually appear quite humble or even shy to the outside world, but when they are at home with family, watch out.
  • Narcissists often have active fantasy lives and are rarely satisfied with merely ordinary, no matter how satisfying or wonderful it may be. This preoccupation with fantasy stops the narcissistic personality from living a real, grounded life.
  • Narcissists are invested in the belief that they are special people. This is typically part and parcel of a coping mechanism that helps them deal with the world. They often define themselves by what they see as their special qualities and let you know about these qualities as soon as you meet them.
  • Love me, watch me, pay attention to me. Narcissists tend to be self-referential and self-aggrandizing.
  • Rules, regulations, and expected standards of behaviour often infuriate narcissists, who believe they are so unique that they don’t need to conform to normal expectations or honour appropriate boundaries. They can be equally distressed by hard work, illness, or injury. When something negative happens to a person with narcissistic issues, the refrain in his/her brain is, “This shouldn’t be happening to me! Not to ME!!” If someone puts up a DO NOT ENTER sign up, the narcissist thinks, That doesn’t apply to ME!
  • Depending upon his/her other personality quirks, a narcissist can induce you to do all work, take your money, or leave you waiting for hours on street corners in the rain without understanding that this behaviour is hurtful and disrespectful.
  • The narcissist has little capacity to step into the shoes of another. His pain, his problems, and his point of view dominate his universe. Perhaps nothing is more reflective of narcissistic behaviour than the inability to understand and identify with what others are experiencing. This is particularly true when the person needs understanding is someone the narcissist is exploiting.
  • It’s difficult for narcissists to adjust to a world in which others appear to have “more” or “better”. Narcissists frequently fail to acknowledge their envy and instead convert it into contempt. Instead of admiring another person’s superior education or greater earning capacity, for example, a narcissist might a contemptuous spin on it: “Don’t you think there is something geeky or nerdy about a person who gets good grades?” or “Anybody who earns that kind of money must have inferior values.”
  • Narcissists are often condescending to those who they think don’t meet their “high” standard of intelligence, accomplishment, values, or lifestyle. Believing the “other guy” is inferior helps them bolster and inflate their belief in their own superiority. Being judgemental about others helps them feel good about themselves.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s