Narcissists Can Believe Their Own Fictions

Why Narcissists Lie

Narcissists lie. And they lie a lot. They lie to others. And perhaps worse, they lie to themselves. Why? Because objective truth represents a “higher power” of sorts. And narcissists refuse to recognize, let alone respect, any higher power. (See also: Narcissists Can’t Recognize a Higher Power.)

For the narcissist, truth is what they say it is. That’s why they claim they’re always right. As a preeminent psychologist once asserted, for them, “thinking makes it so.” What they believe is real, is real. And what they say is so, is so. Objective reality holds no sway with them. They simply have no respect for it. They’re like a spoiled, entitled child insisting on their way. And, of course, their twisted way of thinking borders on the delusional.

Sometimes, the conviction narcissists display shakes your own sense of reality. They can act so sure of themselves that you begin to doubt. You doubt the validity of your position. And you can even doubt your sense of reality. Their apparent certainty produces what has been called the “gaslighting” effect. (See also: Gaslighting Victims Question Their Sanity.)

How They Lie

Narcissists distort the truth in several characteristic ways:

  • Hyperbole and exaggeration. Narcissists play fast and loose with the truth.  But they’re particularly fond of superlatives. They always have the “best” ideas. And they’ve accomplished “great” things. Just ask them! Sometimes, they actually have a history to brag about. However, they can also have little to show for themselves. Still, they can’t help embellishing. They can’t be satisfied being an average success. They want to be seen as “special” and superior.
  • Distorting the facts. Narcissists will “twist” the facts to fit their narrative. They go beyond putting their own “spin” on things. They actually try to manipulate reality. And their purpose is clear. They want to manipulate you, too. They care nothing for the real truth. It matters only that you revere them. And if you accept they’re always right, you may actually buy into their vision of greatness.
How They Lie to Themselves

It’s bad enough that narcissists lie to others. It’s worse that they lie so liberally to themselves. And they and do so so egregiously they start believing their lies. That’s when they can become truly delusional. Some mental habits reinforce their self-dishonesty:

  • Unbridled fantasy and imagination: There’s nothing inherently wrong with an active imagination. But narcissists carry things too far. They just know they can be anything or do anything. They place no limits on their imagination. Moreover, they see no limit to their power. Of course, that’s because, to them, no higher power exists.
  • Denial: When something challenges their fictions, narcissists simply deny it’s true. We used to think they did this completely unconsciously. And we used to think it was to assuage anxiety and pain. But narcissists can’t tolerate challenges to their perceptions. That only puts them in the one-down position they detest. So, they’d just as soon pretend it isn’t so. Remember, for the narcissist, reality is what they say it is!
  • Projection: Sometimes, reality becomes virtually undeniable. And sometimes, circumstances expose not only the truth but also a person’s nature and character. That’s when narcissists need a scapegoat the most. We used to think they unconsciously attributed to others what was too painful for them to accept in themselves. But that would assume they actually care. And we now know well that their problems stem from their lack of caring. Narcissists simply refuse to allow anyone or anything else to diminish their inflated opinion of themselves. And that’s why they readily blame any personal failures on others.

(Read more about denial and projection in Character Disturbance and In Sheep’s Clothing.)

Becoming Delusional

A person can become delusional when their brain chemistry simply goes awry. But this is rare. More often, narcissists become delusional when their lying gets out of hand. By their very nature, narcissists are dangerous enough. But delusional narcissists are extremely dangerous. There’s no telling what they’re capable of in the face of irrefutable failure. (Some folks term these failures a “narcissistic insult.”) Sometimes you just can’t deny anymore. Reality becomes too clear, present, and obvious. And sometimes you also run out of people, places, and things to blame. Things can get very dicey then.

Narcissists are at risk for self-harm when their world of fantasy crumbles and they can’t blame anyone but themselves. And others face harm when they’re determined to have a scapegoat to save their own necks. That’s why it’s so important to confront narcissistic behavior before things get out of hand.

I’ll have more to say on how narcissists respond to various “insults” next week.

Character Matters

The second pilot episode for the new Character Matters program will be recorded next week. I’ll likely include a link to the podcast in next week’s post.

 

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13 thoughts on “Narcissists Can Believe Their Own Fictions

  1. Dr. Simon,

    I have some lies my father told about me in his last months. His motivations are also quite easy to detect when the expected responses are considered.

    I would like to share these with you somehow. Maybe you can use them in your writing.

  2. Sometimes, reality becomes virtually undeniable. And sometimes, circumstances expose not only the truth but also a person’s nature and character.

    That’s when narcissists need a scapegoat the most.

    And that’s what I was

  3. Dr. Simon and Fellow Readers,

    I think Mr. Trump falls into this category. It’s painful and terrifying to see what lengths he’s willing to go to, how delusional he is and how he completely lacks empathy. His choices, behaviors and policies are very destructive and will likely have damaging effects for many decades.

    I’ve had many Mr. Trumps as bosses and would appreciate tips on effective ways of confronting/responding to narcissistic behavior with these types, especially when they are in positions of power and are abusing it. It’s too dangerous to take them head on as I’ve found they are the most likely to easily and successfully scapegoat/sabotage others.

    Thank you Dr. Simon for your continued work, it is so important and so helpful. For me, your work helps me to make sense of the seemingly senselss.

    1. We have over a dozen murder trials going on right now in our smallish California city–most of them are MS-13 or other gang related. Our politicians created a de facto Sanctuary City.
      When ideology doesn’t work, but people promote it anyway–is that narcissisic delusion–or just a case of severe cognitive dissonance?

  4. Healing,
    I totally agree with the Trump statement. If you watch Trump, it’s a narc digging his heels in harder the more he’s cornered. He just won’t let it, won’t admit, lies lies lies. It’s incredible to watch.
    The X was a malignant narc (my diagnosis ) and I lived through those behaviors, barely made it through the divorce with any sanity left as his behaviors worsened, against me.
    That’s a tough one having a supervisor with these traits. You’re right, they’ll take you down before they go down and make your life hell.
    I have no idea how to confront them. I only know how to ignore them.

    1. Lucy,
      Yes, it is incredible to watch. It’s interesting to see the responses to this behavior too. So many folks fleeing for their sanity and security. So many with the power to actually do something instead protecting their interests. I applaud those that have been standing up to him.

      So glad you made it out, Lucy. He sounds awful. It’s an uphill battle when, like your X, he has more money and expertise than you. I think too that if they are going down they are determined to take you with them.

      Yes, my x was also very malignant. I didn’t fully recognize it until I was out, unfortunately . I pretty much gave him everything in material terms. My priority was getting my daughter and I out of there and I knew enough that he would make our lives a living hell if I didn’t. Every time I asserted my rights, needs, etc. he would lie, undermine, sabotage, punish, guilt, shame, etc.. It was all about him.

      I tend to get away from them when I can and ignore when I can. I’ve found that my unwillingness to go along with their shadiness makes me a (threat) target. Of course I do not broadcast my unwillingness! But, when they attempt to force me to break the law or do something against my principles, and I say no, then I am the enemy.

      1. Healing,

        Knowing how a narc will react is half the battle right there. You’re armed. But they sure can make life difficult and stressful, always trying to figure out what their next move will be according to what move you make. It’s not normal to have to function in that way.
        Good thing you and your daughter got out. They will damage you till the bitter end, till they get what they want. I just had to cut my losses. I had no $$$ to continue the fight.
        On a better note, I’ve purchased a home and will be closing on it this month. It took three and a half years to get back on my feet. But I did it.

        1. Lucy,

          That’s a huge piece of it, it’s incredibly stressful trying to figure out what their next move will be (how they are going to punish you)! It isn’t normal and normal people don’t know what to do! My go to move is to get the H out! 🙂

          WooHoo! Congrats on getting your new home and on your own terms!!! That’s fantastic! So happy for you.

        2. Don’t react respond or ignore narcersitic feed off of attention good or bad it doesn’t matter their attention whores as long as they can and anyway they can it is as if they live on a planet that only evolves around them if you cut off their supply they get very angry they will get coming back like felix the cat and his bag of tricks until they get what they want or have no more use for you if you don’t feed their narct. Addiction they will get their supply elsewhere..but trust me they will return. Do not feed the animals.

        3. Don’t react respond or ignore narcersitic feed off of attention good or bad it doesn’t matter their attention whores as long as they can and anyway they can it is as if they live on a planet that only evolves around them if you cut off their supply they will get very angry and trust me they will return like felix the cat and his bag of tricks until they get what they want or have no more use for you if you do not feed their narcts. Addiction they will get their supply elsewhere..but trust me they will return. Do not feed the animals.

          1. Kktn,

            I am sorry that you got lured back into the den of deceit once you got out. I did many of the same things not knowing what I was dealing with. The CDN can be so captivating, charming, seductive and above all perceptive of our gifts of empathy. The CDN actually turn our empathy nature against us. We never want to hurt others, we want to help others and this is used to manipulate us in thinking it is us.

            Also, the bag of tricks, illusions are put to work to see a false narrative. This narrative can come across as reality and in fact is a lie, the CDN are masters at conning. Knowledge is power and when we see the truth of it all it can be devastating to our being.

            The truth slowly is unveiled, the gut retching truth of who is truly behind the mask is revealed. The internals of the CDN is a hideous sight to behold, once the mask drops and they have no fear of losing control they are free to be who they really are. The question becomes, do we stay or do we go? How many more rage attacks can we endure, how many more attacks on our spirit, how many more emotional battles and how much toxic waste heaped on us can we survive?

            Sometimes we need to feed the animal, to play the part in order to survive or to plan our getaway.. Once away, the only way is to go No Contact and then cut off all supply, none, nada….

            Yes, they always return, when this happens we must always deal in integrity, truth and a position of strength. If we decide to stay the same applies. However, it will be draining as it will be a will of the minds. The CDN will never let themselves succumb to a position of the lesser, the CDN must always be One Up, the supreme ruler.

            Ktn, welcome and I encourage you to continue to post to draw strength and support from Dr. Simons blog. We have many knowledgeable posters who are willing to share, encourage and offer support.

            Hugs

  5. “When something challenges their fictions, narcissists simply deny it’s true.”
    What a true and insightful statement. I’ve learned this painful lesson. Recently, I brought something up in an email exchange that another person did not want to admit or even discuss. It went around in circles, and ended with me receiving a letter where she denied that we’d even had the exchange! That’s something so easily verified that I knew for sure what was going on, and I did not respond. Recently, I got another letter saying I was supposed to tell her what she did. Ironically, another lie, since the whole thing started with me telling her what she did. She then vilified me for casting her aside and telling me what a worthwhile person she is and I therefore had no right to do this to her. They truly live in a world where the truth is what they make it.

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