Dr. Brene Brown has defined narcissism as a “Shame based fear of being ordinary”. I don’t disagree. I would go farther, however, to say it is a shame-based fear of not being loved or loveable. People who are narcissistic are immensely insecure. Why else would they have to blow themselves up to be so important? Secure people are, well, secure. They don’t need to manufacture false security by grandiosity and egotism. Ironically the methods that narcissists use to be “extraordinary” are those very traits that most of us find obnoxious, dangerous and off-putting; grandiosity, egotism, self-promotion, insistence that they know best and are always right.
If we are to find compassion for the narcissist, we must understand how they became that way. Most traveled the unhappy road of not being loved enough, not being seen and never feeling that what they did was enough. Sound familiar? Yes, those are the very experiences of those who are and have been victims of narcissists. Narcissists and their victims both experience self-loathing and feelings of insufficiency. They just express those feelings differently. The narcissist manipulates, triangulates, lies and sets up alternate realities. The victim (often co-dependent) allows herself to be manipulated, believes the lies and alternate realities and participates in the triangulations. The narcissist abuses and the co-dependent/victim, suffers the abuse. Both victim and abuser experience shame. The narcissist, however, is so adept at psychological defenses, that he doesn’t directly experience the shame. He piles on layers and layers of false self so that he only sees the false image of himself and not the real self that is suffering and in desperate need of love.
Who is at an advantage in this sad scenario? Oddly, the victim. This is because the victim of narcissistic abuse has a much higher chance of change and healing. Their feelings aren’t totally deadened and their defenses are such that they can feel hurt and even rage and eventually seek help. They can more readily change their behaviors, their co-dependence and their thinking. They have the capacity of self-reflection and introspection, which is something the narcissist does not have. Most importantly, the victim can be free of the narcissist by divorce, separation or going no contact. Unfortunately, the narcissist cannot be free of himself.