Neil J Lavender Ph.D.

Impossible to Please

Narcissism

The Narcissistic Wound

The first cut is always the deepest.

Posted Jan 10, 2014

In this “Impossible to Please” blog, we have been presenting information about individuals with Personality Disorders and how their behaviors can be detrimental in both personal relationships and in the workplace. The vast majority of our postings talk about these relationships utilizing a general, informative and scientific approach.

I would like to change that today and communicate in a more personal manner.

From my heart.

Being a psychotherapist, I work with narcissistic individuals regularly. I have been trained to help them heal in a professional relationship.

But being a professional psychologist does not exempt me from having contact with them in my personal life as well. Indeed, I have to admit that I have been hurt by several narcissists in my lifetime. And I can tell you that the feeling that you get from interacting with a narcissist is one of getting sucked in, of being used, something like “I bought into all the hype, I believed in you. And you know what? All I was to you was a fan, one of your minions. Just someone who existed in your life to boost your ego. You didn’t treat me like a person; but rather just something used to gratify your need for admiration. I am just another trophy on your shelf.”

Just recently, I have had this experience with such an individual and I really feel used. Big time. I should’ve known better. And this really makes me want to hurt them back. Yes, I know it’s wrong and I know it won’t get me anywhere. But that doesn’t change the way I feel.

It is all kind of nasty business.

So I asked myself the questions, “What is it that drives him? Why does he have to use me to feel admired? Can’t he see that he is acting like an overinflated and entitled bully?”

And I come to the conclusion that he really doesn’t. As Bob Dylan once sang, “You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and clowns and when they all come down and they all did tricks for you.” Falsely believing that they are God’s gift to the human race, narcissistic individuals in general seem oblivious to the fact that people all around them find their behavior obnoxious.

So what keeps them going? Why this incredible desire to always be the top dog?

What seems to drive narcissistic individuals is something called “the Narcissistic Wound.” At some time in their life, the narcissistic individual is shamed or disgraced in such a way that they can never again truly feel good about who they are. Perhaps it is a parent or a critical coach or teacher. Perhaps a superbly timed and well-targeted putdown just at the moment when the young narcissist is acting like the star that he thinks he is.

So, believe it or not, this impressive, larger-than-life compliment magnet is really a wounded little child who constantly needs the veneration of those around him just to give himself the energy to get up in the morning and face the day.

Without it, they feel that they are just losers, failures, zeros; this realization profoundly hurts. It cuts them to the very quick. And they once again experience that cut, that devastation to their pride, in the same way they did when they felt that first epic humiliation.

Yes, it doesn’t just hurt once, it hurts each and every time they don’t meet those incredibly high expectations they have for themselves. Worse yet, each and every time they fail, they feel an even greater need to puff themselves up even more and set their goals even higher in a desperate desire to “go for the glory” in a much greater manner. Like Charlie Brown trying to kick the elusive football that Lucy is holding, each new life experience is an opportunity to prove themselves wonderful and, once and for all, magically heal that narcissistic wound.

But alas, only to fail again.

So what about my own personal situation with the narcissist in my own life? I know that to confront him about his inadequacies would hurt him even more. It could add to his scrapbook of hurts and humiliations, reactivating that Narcissistic Wound, and I don’t want to do this to him.

And this is the very reason I won’t strike back.

At least not today...