When I had confronted my narcissistic ex-husband about an affair I had uncovered, his response to me was, “That had nothing to do with you.” He couldn’t understand why I was so angry. Nevermind that he would have tried to kill me if I had done the same.
It was one of his rare honest moments. If there’s any truism about narcissists, it’s that none of their actions has anything to do with you.
Narcissists view the world through a myopic lens. Their need to inflate their own ego overrides any foresight into how their actions might affect the people closest to them. Despite all of the narcissist’s shameless self-promotion, chest-pounding and bragging, narcissists have not just low self esteem, but NO self esteem. As a maladaptive coping mechanism developed in childhood in response to abuse or neglect, the narcissist created a kind of second personality – one that is the opposite of the deflated and worthless True Self. As the narcissist ages, the True Self goes into an emotional coma and the False Self fully possesses his body. In fact, even at my lowest low, after taking years of abuse, my self esteem was still greater than that of the narcissist’s False Self. Every action the narcissist takes is about him/herself and the defense and fortification of the False Self that he has constructed to hide his True Self not only from the rest of the world, but from himself.
The problem with this False Self is that, subconsciously, the narcissist knows that the worthless True Self is still there. And he spends every waking moment terrified of being exposed for being a fraud. Exposing his True Self would result in annihilation of the False Self. To the narcissist, annihilation of the False Self would be a fate worse than death. To protect against exposure, the narcissist beats down the self esteem of those people he views as valuable to his ego, as a means to control them. Much the way that a spider injects a paralyzing serum into flies caught in his web, so that he can ingest them at his leisure. Because the narcissist, as he operates in the world around him, is not a real person, he is not capable of intimacy and he lacks empathy. He literally cannot put himself into other people’s shoes. The spider feels no empathy for the fly. And it really is nothing personal – to the spider, the fly is merely food.
There were many times when I would try to rationalize with the narcissist and ask him, “How would you feel if I did the same thing?” And I would be met with rage and blame shifting. Never an ounce of empathy or understanding. It was as if he couldn’t understand why his shoes were complaining about being on his feet. The narcissist views all people as sources of supply or tools used as a means to an end. If you have no value to the narcissist, you will be dumped and replaced with a new source.
And again, this will never have anything to do with you. Because you were never real to the narcissist in the first place.
Pam McCoy is a writer, author and co-host of Crazybusters.