Narcissistic Truth Distortion Is Just Manipulation

Narcissistic Truth Distortion

Narcissists engage in truth distortion a lot. And they do so in many different ways. Sometimes, they exaggerate the truth. Other times, they minimize the seriousness of their missteps. Still other times, they twist the truth to serve their agendas. The only constant with Narcissists is their disregard for the actual truth. As I’ve written about before, truth is the ultimate “higher power.” It’s what holds us accountable. But there are those among us who don’t feel accountable to anything or anyone but themselves. They consider themselves above the need for any governing higher power or principle.

Truth distortion is lying, plain and simple. But narcissists and other disturbed characters raise lying nearly to an art form. They do it in so varied and deviant ways. Narcissists lie to others, of course. They lie to themselves, too. And when they do, it’s not a case of what professionals call denial. True denial is an unconscious, primitive, but powerful defense against overwhelming pain. Sadly, professionals unskilled in dealing with character dysfunction often erroneously equate lying with unconscious denial. And this can cause some big and unnecessary problems in treatment.

Why They Do It

Truth distortion is almost a lifestyle for many narcissists. And distorting the truth can become so habitual and automatic that a person does it without thinking. That doesn’t mean the lying is unconscious. Narcissists know what they’re doing, even when they don’t give pause. And because they don’t give pause, they can easily end up lying when the truth might actually serve them better. They just don’t think about it. They don’t have enough conscience for that.

Why do they distort the truth so much? Tradtionalists would tell you they don’t really realize what they’re doing. They don’t understand the folly of it all, they say. Others say it’s because they’re inwardly afraid or insecure. Now, these notions can be valid to some extent when it comes to a certain type of narcissist. But in our character disturbed times, that type of narcissist is increasingly rare. (See also:  Character Disturbance, In Sheep’s Clothing.)

Therefore, the real reason most narcissists lie is that they have no regard for any kind higher power. They neither recognize one nor have any inclination to answer to one. The see themselves as the superior one. They set the rules. They also know what they want. And they lie to you as a tactical way to secure their ends.

Narcissists want to look great without doing the work it takes to merit being rightfully regarded as great. It’s part of the never-ending game of impression-management.  And some are very skilled at this game (e.g., “charmers). Others, are not. The truly great among us both recognize and find it in their hearts to serve something bigger than themselves.

Deluding Others, and Deluding Oneself

Narcissists can get to almost believing their own lies. They engage in so much truth distortion that it can become hard for them to tell what’s true and what isn’t. But at some level, most narcissists know the truth. But they lie because it’s so easy, even despite negative consequences that can occur. It’s a cheap way of shirking the inherent burden (i.e. “labor of love”) that comes with a grateful self-subordination to something greater and more important than themselves. Conning takes little effort if you have the skill. And it works sometimes, which reinforces you doing it. Serving something bigger than yourself takes more effort. It’s what defines real love. And you have to have the heart for it. Most narcissists do not. They simply don’t care about anything or anyone but themselves.

I use a rhyming phrase in my professional trainings. “It’s not that they don’t see, it’s that they disagree.” Similarly, I say: “It’s not that they’re unaware, they just don’t care.” And recently a famous person wondered out loud why they couldn’t get the adulation they felt they deserved when their subordinates easily did. “Must be my personality,” the person said. The person “sees” the dilemma just fine. It’s the way they style themselves that bugs people. Will they change it? They would have to care. Do they care? No. It’s as simple as that.

 

12 thoughts on “Narcissistic Truth Distortion Is Just Manipulation

  1. Another enlightening article. Some takeaways for me:

    “True denial is an unconscious, primitive, but powerful defense against overwhelming pain. Sadly, professionals unskilled in dealing with character dysfunction often erroneously equate lying with unconscious denial. ”

    “Narcissists want to look great without doing the work it takes to merit being rightfully regarded as great. It’s part of the never-ending game of impression-management. “

  2. I see so many o this guys nowadays, they are everywhere.
    And what disturbs me the most is how people do not see the reality about them and they go around making things difficult and creating problems where there could be dialog and cooperation.

    1. @Ce
      Yes it is disturbing, and yes they are everywhere.

      Fortunately I have a short list of people who I can confide in. We have been exposed to all the signs of what Dr. Simon speaks about. In my life I have had a brother who I disowned, a daughter-in-law, and a sister-in-law whom we have completely disengaged from. Are they narcissists? I don’t know. But, they have character disorders and personality problems. Their commonality is distorted truth & image management among others. So many in one family? Families are at the mercy to those who marry our siblings or our children. Especially to familial enablers who marry these CDs. The enablers become blind to alienation because it is so gradual. Everything can be fine within the family dynamic, not perfect but decent, and then kaboom a CD comes into the fold, and it is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. We saw it happening but there is not a thing to be done to prevent it, except to devalue ourselves.

      I can go for very long periods of time without being triggered by thoughts of injustice. And, what I mean by this; these people have torn our family apart without a care in the world. Instead they have satisfaction for a job well done. We have lost our son and when I get triggered it is hell to get my thoughts off of that hamster wheel. It plays over and over in my mind. The thought of even an impending family wedding is our idea of Nightmare on Elm Street/Halloween Part XI, and The Hills have Eyes all rolled into one. The emotional cost is covert and damaging. You get my drift. And then I settle down until the next trigger.

      “they go around making things difficult and creating problems where there could be dialog and cooperation.”

      Dialogue and cooperation is but a pipe dream when referring to a CD.

      1. @Anonymous

        I think you have given me a glimpse of what the future holds for me. In my case it will be my mother, two brothers, a sister-in-law, possibly a niece and a sister, and two nephews, who have already been lost to alienation. It’s like a highly contagious virus that has infected almost my entire family. My sister was due to be married in June, but thankfully Covid forced them to cancel. I know I dodged a bullet.

        1. @anon,
          One commonality I have experienced with both covert and overt CDs is their ability to publicly treat me nicely, compliment me on something I’m wearing or a dish I had brought to a pot luck family gathering. But then treat me like I’m invisible at the same time. And when I am physically touched or complimented I have gasped as if I touched a hot stove or I’m stone faced because I know what they’ve done. It did not help my cause one bit. If you can take my advice don’t wear your feelings just react to them in an incredibly gracious way. Because mark my words the CDs in your life have already marked YOU as the virulent one. By public ally being kind they are saying to others “see look how hard I try, and she is still being mean.”
          They are such sneaky buggers.

  3. “Must be my personality.” When I read this the first time outside of this article, I did a slight double-take. Could he have had a moment of humility there? A crack in the fissure? Too early to tell, or perhaps, just jealously…. It’s never too late, though. Current events are definitely putting him up against the wall, because the usual tactics are failing badly it seems. Perhaps reality has caught up with him. Thanks again for your article, books, and work, Dr. Simon.

  4. “Must be my personality.” When I read this the first time outside of this article, I did a slight double-take. Could he have had a moment of humility there? A crack in the fissure? Too early to tell, or perhaps, just jealously…. It’s never too late, though. Current events are definitely putting him up against the wall, because the usual tactics are failing badly it seems. Perhaps reality has caught up with him. Thanks again for your article, books, and work, Dr. Simon.

    1. Actually, not the first time at all that he’s said such a thing. Suffice it to say, he’s been very aware, and for a long time how his manner of relating and self-styling is percieved by others. He is and has always been very aware. Just limited in his ability/willingness, to care.

      1. Ha, ha! As soon as I posted this I thought of that line. I guess I just haven’t seen him say such things, probably because I tend to ignore him as I think it’s a waste of time to get worked up about anything he says (as much as I respect those who refute him with their best effort at the truth). I mostly concern myself with what’s ACTUALLY going on. At least, with HIM, I found it easy to see through things. Much harder with people close in your life. Thanks for you work, as always, Dr. Simon.

        P.S. I do think, however: Would this not be a moment to encourage in such a person? To openly acknowledge, however, briefly, what may actually be going on? Thanks, again.

  5. “It’s part of the never-ending game of impression-management.”

    Does a narcissist ever have a “wardrobe malfunction” when it comes to his sheep’s clothing? Does his mask ever accidently slip off in front of people that he does not intend to show his true face to?

    Is there a point in which people see that the claims of the abused person were real?

  6. Recently my H and I were invited to sit down with our covert manipulative daughter in law and our son. Our son gave us an ultimatum and had distorted the history of our relationship. His email was full of contradictions and deflection. We did not recognize his writing style and we suspect she was in control of the dialogue but with his permission.

    At first the conversation was to be between my H and son but because I called son out on something the four of us were to be included.

    Seriously, my H and I looked at each other after reading the invitation and said “hell no.”

    It was before the invitation that they mistakenly laid out their agenda and we were blamed for everything. We’ve gone through so many silent treatments we can’t keep track, chaos on special occasions so there is a cancellation at the last minute but son says “you’d understand”, projecting who he is onto us like being angry, juvenile and the kicker, “not proving we are there for him.” ( who is this person??)

    We felt we would be subjected to even more disrespect and our DIL is most definitely committed to misunderstanding our conversations. She can spin everything the wrong way!

    I’d like to know if there are other parents who found themselves in this situation? Parents or parent who knew who they were dealing with and how it worked out for them?

    We have been estranged for going on 3 years now. The only way it would’ve ended differently is if we had devalued ourselves, and that wasn’t going to happen.

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