Brash and vulgar narcissists naturally offend us. So, we naturally want to keep our distance and watch our backs. But charming narcissists are in some ways more dangerous. Like I say in In Sheep’s Clothing, dealing with them can be like getting whiplash. You only fully realize who they are and what they’ve done to you after the fact.
Malignant narcissists disdain all the qualities most of us think make us decent human beings. They see them as signs of weakness. And they see them as proof of others’ inferiority. That’s what enables them to feel superior. And that’s why they feel entitled to prey.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about disturbed characters it’s this: They all-too-readily take ownership of what they haven’t earned or merited.
Researchers now know the reason disturbed characters have a hard time developing a healthy sense of obligation. When you feel entitled, you simply can’t feel obliged. You have to feel indebted before you can feel obliged. And you have to be deeply grateful before you can feel indebted.
Culture and character have an intertwined and interdependent relationship. And they impact each other in some very dynamic ways. More character-impaired individuals now populate the culture. And they have “enabled” the erosion of principles once widely revered and promoted.
The dominant thinking on bullies has changed dramatically over the years. Folks used to see bullies as insecure and cowardly underneath, with something to prove. But the truth is often much simpler: some people taunt and torture because it feels good. These folks enjoy fighting and provoking fights. To them, it’s fun.
You can confront compensatory grandiosity with relative ease and safety. The vulnerable narcissist merely seeks reassurance. So, the more you reassure them, the better they inwardly begin to feel about themselves. But you can’t deal with or confront the truly egomaniacal narcissist with the same ease or in the same way.
It’s hard for me to think of a human dilemma I’ve encountered that didn’t have at its root a lack of positive regard for a person and the preciousness of their life.
Grandiose narcissists so wantonly use and abuse because they have little heart. They lack empathy. And they have little shame. And the more lacking they are in these things, the more easily they exploit.
Vulnerable narcissists haven’t fashioned a balanced or well-grounded view of their own worth. Pay attention to them and revere them, and all is fine. Ask anything of them, and you’ll quickly learn how “shallow” they are. This makes true intimacy impossible. They may do all sorts of things to “prove” they’re love-worthy. But they don’t know their true worth. And they neither know how to love nor how to be loved.