The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.
Pathologically narcissistic people are unable to distinguish the self from external objects. This means that people around them are seen as parts of themselves emotionally. This is something we see in very young children. Babies experience their parents as not separate from themselves. Parents are not only experienced as mirrors, but as suppliers of worth, validation and all things related to the child's internal self. A child does not understand or realize that a parent is an individual with their own needs or desires or problems or anything else. They understand the parent's existence to be inextricably related to - and perhaps justified by - their own existence. The child can only experience or understand the parent's existence through themselves: this person exists because they take care of me.
Through normal development, the child eventually separates from the parent and asserts their own identity, becoming a cohesive individual who has a stable sense of self. For whatever reason, this does not seem to happen with pathologically narcissistic people. It could be because they are not given the support and care that they need and are unable to resolve things within themselves as children so that they can progress developmentally, it could be that they are genetically predisposed to this kind of thing, it could be that they are simply born needing more. For whatever reason, the step in development that is required for them to understand other people as separate individuals does not seem to take place in pathologically narcissistic people. Even as adults, they seem to be stuck in this infantile understanding of others.
This type of arrested development often creates very serious problems with the way those who are pathologically narcissistic relate to other people. If your only understanding of the existence of other people is predicated on what it is they are doing for you, you are going to believe that you and you alone are important here. Not just the brightest star but the only star. It results in a mindset that reflects the self as the only thing that matters. To that end, they seem to regard other people as tools they own, rather than as feeling individuals. The only way other people are understood or experienced is as far as what they can do for the narcissistic person. They are expected to exist for the narcissist, care for and cater to the narcissist and to stick to the script at all times.
As with any tool, use dictates value. People who are very useful will often be treated as more valuable. Those who give the narcissist admiration or positive means of regulating their self-worth will often be put on a pedestal or even pandered to, because the narcissist wants to keep this line open. These are commonly people that don't know the narcissistic person very well, who don't see them except in certain lights or circumstances and cannot expose the narcissist. Those who question the narcissistic person, challenge them or don't otherwise reflect the false positive image narcissists insist that everyone around them buy into may be devalued and discarded because they represent a threat to the narcissistic person's denial. Their use is limited, because they are "defective" in the narcissist's estimation. They are tools which don't work the way they are supposed to work.
This can create frustration in pathologically narcissistic people, and that is likely very real. It's the same as the frustration anyone would feel when something they own does not work correctly. Again, you are expected to stick to the script and exist only for them. Deviations from this generally cause enormous anger and frustration within the narcissist. They don't understand that their expectations are unreasonable and they likely wouldn't care if they did know. They need their needs fulfilled and it is up to the people who claim they care about the narcissist to take care of this - exactly the same way children look to their parents. It is not acceptable for you to ever question or contradict this. It is not acceptable for you to have needs of your own and it is not acceptable for you to ask them for anything.
There is no grey area here. To the narcissist, you exist to fulfill their needs and that's all. They understand other people to be responsible for their emotions and their well-being, the same way that children understand this. In a way, we could say that the narcissist re-creates the parent/child relationship over and over again in their life - even if the narcissist is themselves the parent and the victim is their child. They are unable to take care of their own needs and insist that other people do this for them. When other people fail them - and they always will, because it is not possible to meet these expectations - the narcissistic person flies into a rage. They are angry, hurt, betrayed, let down. They want revenge, they want what they believe they are entitled to. They have no way to do or get any of these things themselves, so all they can do is act out their frustration like a child having a tantrum.
Even those who don't rage outwardly will punish the other person for their failure. There may be sulking, silent treatment, there may be disappearing or discarding, there may be emotional manipulations and guilt used, there could be a crisis that results in suicidal threats... Pathologically narcissistic people are controlled by their emotions and their needs, even if they don't always express them outwardly. They also expect other people to be controlled by their emotions as well, and when people do not treat a narcissist's feelings with the importance that the narcissist believes they deserve, there is going to be a problem.
The truth is that regardless of what anyone says, actions speak louder than words. Pathologically narcissistic people tell you who they really are. The question is, will you hear them before it's too late?
Dianne Gower on January 15, 2019:
How do you solve the problem of a 33year old old daughter like that she is using her 2 children against us because we wont say yes
Morghanna-1 on January 13, 2019:
Really excellent article. Exactly what I have experienced with the covert narcissists I have known in my life. Thank you for presenting such accurate information about narcissists.