Narcissists and Denigration
Denigration is a favorite hobby of narcissists. These folks love belittling others. And when they do, they often claim victim status. They justify treating others unfairly by claiming unfair treatment by others. But do they really believe what they claim? Do they only denigrate because they truly feel unfairly treated?
The very manner of grandiose narcissists invites others to cut them down to size. But narcissists don’t denigrate because they feel denigrated. They belittle because they enjoy it. Firstly, it makes them feel big – important, superior. It bolsters their already inflated sense of worth. Secondly, they feel powerful when they degrade and humiliate those not inclined to fight back. That felt rush of power is almost intoxicating.
Because they lack empathy, denigration is pure sport for narcissists. And they readily aggrandize or otherwise gratify themselves at the expense of others. They particularly like to pick on those they perceive as weak. And they regard folks with mature consciences and scruples as the weakest and most foolish.
A Real Life Example of Hurting for Sport
Many years ago, I witnessed a truly instructive event. A young man forced into treatment for antisocial behavior was sitting behind an acquaintance during a meeting. And the young man was flicking his finger at the ear of the other youngster. Despite the other person’s clear irritation with this, he kept doing it. Later, several professionals weighed in about why he did such things. “He has a lot of pent-up anger,” one person offered. “He was relieving his anxiety without thinking,” offered another. The explanations went on and on.
I spoke with the young man for some time afterward. And I offered him some of the many interpretations made of his behavior. He looked at me and laughed, mockingly. “I was just having some fun, stupid!,” he proudly proclaimed. I then asked if he frequently felt okay about gratifying himself at someone else’s expense. “Sure,” he calmly replied. “Why not?”
The Lie at the Heart of It All
Some narcissists will try to justify the denigration they heap on others by claiming others started things. But narcissists are notorious liars. And at some level, they know how dishonest they are. Still, they construct their own reality. Reality for them is what they say it is. That’s not because they can’t tell what’s real from what’s not. It’s because they respect no higher power. However, narcissists can lie so much, so egregiously, and so often that they begin believing their lies. That’s when their pathology transforms into something even more malignant. But generally, narcissists know better. They know their claims are a sham. And their shams are all about getting them what they want and not looking quite so bad in the demeaning way they do it.
A Disturbing Lifestyle
Denigration of others is more of a lifestyle for malignant narcissists. Actually, they know they’re not all that, even if they assert otherwise. And they know they’re not really superior even though they regard themselves so. But they refuse to give any credit to fortuitive circumstance. That would make them indebted. And if there’s anything the entitled among us hate most, it’s that.
Most narcissists feel the world owes them and they owe nothing. Feeling obliged would necessarily mean serving a higher power. And actually paying the debt would demand a certain kind of labor. It’s the labor on another’s behalf we call love. Narcissists detest that kind of labor. That makes them incapable of genuine love. They’ll gladly relish in attention, praise, and adulation as a substitute. You don’t have to do anything but charm and seduce people to get that. To earn genuine respect and positive regard, you have to first love. And you have to work on the behalf of others. Narcissists refuse to do that. They’re concerned only with their own image and welfare. (See also: Chapter in Character Disturbance.)
Frequent denigration of others is a hallmark sign of narcissism. And it’s a big red flag for the most serious character disturbances. When vetting a potential relationship partner, notice how often they criticize, demean, or belittle. A narcissist can make this behavior look benign, even funny. But you probably won’t be laughing very long once you really get to know this character type. (See also: Character Vetting Is Crucial for Intimate Relationships.)
Follow this link to the latest “New” Character Matters podcast. The topic is bitterness.