The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.
Narcissists are some of the most maligned people on the planet. While many other provocative personalities might evoke sympathy in people, the pathological narcissist does not. People may initially feel pity for the narcissistic personality - especially if he presents himself as a helpless victim, the way many narcissists do - but this is extremely short-lived because the narcissist is so controlling, abusive and hateful. It is nearly impossible to feel pity or sympathy for a person who works so hard to consciously and purposely hurt you. In fact, the narcissist seems compelled to hurt only those who love them, making it even harder to feel sympathy for them. But why? Why are narcissists so abusive?
Narcissists do not view people as people
This can be hard for non-narcissistic people to understand. Of course narcissists see others as people. How could they not? But they don't. They know you are a person, just like they know a dog is a dog and a lamp is a lamp. However, that's where it ends; narcissists have no emotional connection to other humans, any more than a non-narcissist would have to that same lamp. People are viewed by narcissists as either objects to get to what the narcissist wants or as hurdles in the way of it. That's it. The pathological narcissist is unable to understand that other people have feelings. If they do understand, these feelings are considered totally unimportant when compared to the narcissist's own feelings and what they want. This is because the part of the brain that enables humans to care and empathize with other people is either missing in the narcissist or it's so dysfunctional and immature that it is completely ineffective.
Narcissists also enjoy manipulating, tricking and fooling people. It makes them feel smart and superior to have tricked or otherwised fooled people into doing, saying or acting the way the narcissist wants them too. This is made especially obvious by the way they will continuously provoke and insult someone - sometimes for hours - until the person reacts with anger, which the narcissist then reacts to by screaming that they are being abused. If this is pointed out, the narcissist will flat out deny they've done anything wrong, insisting that they are the ones who are being mistreated.
Narcissists are emotional and psychological vampires
These are people with no emotional lives of their own. They have no identities and because of this, they endeavor to steal other peoples' identity through a sort of "personality transplant." The narcissist has a very malformed and destructive self-image. They look in the mirror and see garbage, an ogre, an evil person who does not deserve to live. They resent anyone who is not as awful as they think themselves to be. They also envy that other person and want to steal all the person's good qualities for themselves. The only way the pathological narcissist can do this is to systematically degrade, demean and beat the person down nonstop until they don't have those good qualities anymore. If the person is caring, the narcissist calls them selfish. If the person is well-liked, the narcissist works to destroy the person's reputation and continuously tells the person all the reasons people don't really like him or her. If the person is smart, the narcissist works to humiliate them and make them look stupid. This is a crude form of brainwashing and a way to elevate themselves: if their loved one is stupid, the narcissist looks smart. If their loved one is told they are selfish, this means the narcissist is caring by comparison.
Of course, doing this does not transfer the good qualities to the narcissist as they'd hoped it would, but it is good enough for the narcissist to know that now nobody has the good qualities. In a very real sense, they want to bring everybody down to their level, because they feel desperately inadequate. They are unable to better themselves, so they choose instead to bring everybody else down. Their entire self-image is based on how they compare to other people, and since they always end up falling drastically short of even basic normal standards, the only way to boost their self-image is to drag other people down.
The narcissist effects the personality transplant not just by trying to steal someone's good qualities but also by forcing that person to carry all of the narcissist's bad qualities. This can only be achieved by repeatedly demeaning and degrading the person until they accept the things the pathological narcissist says as true. Once the narcissist has forced the victim to accept that the victim is a terrible, broken and evil person, the victim is then deserving of abuse for being terrible, broken and evil. The victim is forced to carry all of the qualities the narcissist hates about himself, and by doing so, the victim becomes the object of the narcissist's hatred.
Narcissists are looking to escape punishment themselves
The narcissistic personality is being assaulted and degraded, too - by himself. The pathological narcissist possesses a dysfunctional superego that savages him day and night with awful, terrible things about himself. He gets no rest from it. Every vicious, horrible thing he is saying to you is what he actually thinks of himself. That's why he says it. He is under attack 24 hours a day. The only thing he can do to try and get any respite from it at all is to attack someone else. These things aren't really true about him - they're true about you! You are the bad one, the evil one, the broken one, the human garbage. It's obviously true because he said so. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is, underneath it all, a set of malfunctioning defense mechanisms. The defense mechanisms that the child pre-narcissist needed to protect him from more damage have grown into pathological thought processes and behaviors. These defense mechanisms have turned on him and instead of protecting him, they now assault him nonstop with an endless tirade of how awful he is. At the same time, they prevent him from accepting or even hearing any criticism or taking any blame at all, ensuring that he will never be able to change. He really does think it's everybody else and he derives actual pleasure from punishing those he thinks deserve it.
This is why the narcissist is abusive; not only is he looking to simply pass the punishment along, but he believes himself to be so terrible that anyone who loves him must be irretrievably flawed themselves. The narcissist cannot accept any flaws in people who care about him; flaws render them a terrible, crushing disappointment to him. Since the very act of loving the narcissist convinces the narcissist that the person who loves him is hopelessly flawed, anyone who loves him is a target for his abuse just because they love him.
Narcissists are unable to change
As we can see, it is imperative that the pathological narcissist abuse his or her loved ones. It is literally interpreted by them as a life or death situation, and they belief they are acting in self-defense by abusing other people. For a narcissist to stop abusing their family members would be tantamount to emotional suicide. It would require the narcissist to admit that their needs are only as important as everybody else's needs, and to do that would be stating the narcissist's needs don't matter at all. It would be the same as being invisible. For a person whose every waking thought centers around how much attention they can get from other people, this is a fate worse than death.
Chris Wise on April 23, 2020:
This I believe describes both my parents and me at some points in my life.
I don't believe I'm like that these days due to seeing how my parents acted with each other and other people has made me change. But I still do from time to time struggle with other people's feelings, mostly people I don't know and these days other than my wife and few family members I have a tendancy to be a loner.
Is this normal?
Ellie on March 08, 2020:
Brilliant article. Perfectly describes my ex-husband who has extreme NPD. I can’t believe that I didn’t see what was happening right before my very eyes, narcissists are so manipulative. Thankfully, with the support of family, friends and even our own children, I found the strength to divorce him. It wasn’t easy, but we are all so much happier now that he is no longer in our lives.
No one deserves to suffer mental and emotional abuse. If you are married to or in a relationship with a narcissist, if you can - RUN! You only have one life, don’t waste it on someone who doesn’t deserve you.
Jason Baumbach Cambodia from Cambodia on September 04, 2019:
congrat, great article ever
Sandra on July 02, 2019:
They will take your last breath away if they could and we allow them. The most difficult animals on the planet. Sure wish there was a cage for them!
Louise on June 04, 2019:
Fantadtic article describes my ex to a t. Hes a monsyer and unfortunately he will csrry this on through life
Teresa Manning on April 23, 2019:
This is an excellent article, describing my ex-husband to a T. I was so naive to what abuse was and to narcissists. I was a confident person who worked but after 18 months, I felt stupid, ugly, ignorant and doubted every thought that crossed my mind. It was thanks to a book that crossed my path and him almost killing the baby inside of me that gave me the courage to slowly seek help and it took 3 years to get rid of him (he had money) but the justice system backed me up and I escaped and now 20 years later, I still have PTSD but I fight those days and I am still learning about this. Great article.
Mason on March 08, 2019:
Thid may be the most insightful and detailed information i ever read. It is abusive cruelty beyond belief people.
Louise Elcross from Preston on May 09, 2017:
Thanks for writing this. X
malky on September 21, 2016:
excellent eye opener
The Little Shaman (author) from Macon, GA on June 19, 2015:
Thank you so much, Dr. Bill. :)
Bill Tollefson from Southwest Florida on June 18, 2015: