The Secret Lie of Narcissism
By Christine Hammond, LMHC
Beneath all of that bravado and charm lies a hidden secret the narcissist doesn’t want you to find. They will do anything to protect their secret from you.
They might lie about it. Or they might divert your attention with an innovative story. Or they might project their secret onto you. Come close to figuring it out and the result is warfare for control.
Narcissists will use all types of abuse to dominate you. They use verbal (i.e. threats, intimidation), physical (i.e. restraining, choking), emotional (i.e. fear or guilt tactics), mental (i.e. gaslighting, silent treatment), financial (i.e. withholding, exploitation), sexual (i.e. forced, coerced) or spiritual (i.e. isolation from family, legalism) forms of abuse.
Their fear is this… information equals power. If you know their secret, you will then embarrass or humiliate them. This is the worst thing they can imagine... others thinking less of them.
So what is this precious secret? Hidden deep inside, all narcissists have an overwhelming feeling of insecurity. Their lack of self-worth stems from some unmet need. Find the unmet need and you have discovered the Achilles’ heel. Here are a few examples.
Need for love. Many narcissists are raised by narcissists who practice conditional instead of unconditional love. This uncertainty of love often manifests in the insatiable desire for affirmation, attention, intimacy, or sex. When they don’t feel loved, narcissists seek out anyone who will satisfy their need.
Need for safety. When a narcissist has been traumatized as a child and hurt by someone they love, the need for future safety becomes myopic. They are consumed by the need for security and protection for themselves and family members. Unsafe environments breed the desire for greater control and stronger intensity.
Need for acceptance. Repeated bullying at a young age can cause a narcissist to feel like they don’t belong. This can create a sense of isolation in peer groups. Or instead some narcissists strive in vain to appear to be all things to everyone in order to be accepted. A lack of acceptance often brings out offensive behavior and overreaction to others.
Need for respect. Over use of the phrase, “That is disrespectful” indicates the narcissist feels everyone is against them. Their strong sense of entitlement and favorable treatment creates a tense atmosphere whenever they feel impertinence. Whenever they report being disrespected, expect a verbal or even physical attack as demonstration of their intolerance.
Need for fundamentals. This is not as common in younger narcissists because they have not endured an economical depression. But for the older generation who grew up during the Great Depression, the need for food, shelter, and clothing became a driving force. Not having the fundamentals leads to hording and miserly attitudes.
So what do you do with the new found Achilles’ heel? Recognize that at the heart of a narcissist is a very broken person with the same needs as everyone else. The difference is that their secret need is concealed because of their deep shame and guilt. This is no way justifies their poor behavior but it can help to explain it. How you handle the information is your choice.