Narcissists Cannot Really Love
Most narcissists cannot really love. Why? Because love has characteristics narcissists can’t appreciate or embrace. Love isn’t vain or self-centered. Neither is it grandiose or self-serving. Rather, love requires pure, selfless regard for another. And it requires one’s willingness to demonstrate that regard with behavior. A narcissist will find such things inherently difficult, if not impossible. That is, of course, depending on where he or she lies on the narcissism spectrum.
Narcissists can display behaviors that look an awful lot like love. For example, they can show immense interest in you. However, as I’ve asserted many times before, interest alone does not equal regard. (See also: (Abuse Victims Mistake Interest for Regard.)
Narcissists can also shower you with attention and apparent affection. These things can make it seem like they truly love you. Some narcissists are adept at the art of ego massage, too. This is especially true of the amorous type of narcissist. But affirmation is also not the same as love. And some narcissists affirm you purely to seduce you. (See also: The Emotional Romeo is a Thief of Hearts.)
Ultimately, narcissists cannot really love because they can’t get beyond themselves. Some can charm convincingly. They can make you think that it’s all about you. But when you scratch below the surface, you’ll find that it’s really about them. Sadly, it’s usually too late when you realize this. (See also: Sometimes Charm Should Sound An Alarm.)
Love’s Many Masquerades
For years, cultural factors have fostered an epidemic of character disturbance. That’s wreaked havoc with nature’s most powerful force for good: love. And it’s why I felt I had to write Essentials for the Journey. We simply have to turn things around. We have to learn to love again. But to do that we have to understand what love is and isn’t. That’s a topic I began discussing last week on Character Matters. Rediscovering what love is and instilling its capacity in our character will help bring this age of narcissism to an end.
These days, too many still mistake too many things for love. And they do so too routinely. Many equate love with attraction. And while attraction can certainly be a part of love, it is not itself love. People can be attracted for a myriad of reasons. And some of those reasons can actually be pretty unhealthy.
I’ve asserted that narcissists cannot really love. And that assertion extends to narcissists themselves! The mythical tale of Narcissus carries a powerful message. Being enamored of one’s image is not love. It’s vanity! It’s based on pretense and superficial appearances. You have to know a person to truly love them. And some narcissists don’t really know themselves well. Such narcissists are, to varying degrees, neurotic. But these days most narcissists know themselves quite well. And they know their inner ugliness. But they present a facade, for manipulative, exploitative purposes.
While a narcissist might laud who they are, they still cannot healthily self-love. They cannot “wish well” because they reject what “well” really entails. Understanding and committing to human welfare involves much more than satisfying one’s desires or perceived needs. It requires appreciation of something much bigger. And that’s where the haughty among us have the biggest problem. (See: Narcissists Can’t Recognize a Higher Power.)
I focus on the qualities of genuine love again this week on Character Matters.