Despite superficial indicators of the polar opposite, internally narcissists are wracked by intense feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, vulnerability, fragility, worthlessness and self-loathing; in essence, their internal, camouflaged self is that of a highly anxious, uncertain, frightened and deeply insecure child.
And, because it is so painful to live in a state of mind which is acutely conscious of these weaknesses, the narcissist desperately needs to defend him/herself, psychologically, from living in a state of perpetual awareness of them and so, unconsciously, develops defensive psychological mechanisms in an attempt to keep them mentally subjugated and prevent them impinging upon and dominating his / her conscious awareness.
Below, I list some examples of the kinds of psychological defence mechanisms the narcissist employs (on an unconscious level) in order to be able to keep his / her potentially paralyzing, self-denigrating inner feelings at bay.
PSYCHOLOGICAL DEFENSE MECHANISMS EMPLOYED BY THE NARCISSIST :
GRANDIOSITY: The defence mechanism of ‘grandiosity’ serves to protect the narcissist from his / her inner feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy.
PROJECTION: Projection is a psychological defence mechanism employed by individuals to deny and repudiate faults that exist in themselves by attributing them, instead, to other people. For example, a narcissist who is controlling and demanding may accuse others of being controlling and demanding.
ENTITLEMENT: This defence mechanism, a kind of ‘the-world-owes-me-a-living’ attitude is used to disguise inner feelings of being fundamentally undeserving of anything good in life.
FANTASIES OF GREAT SUCCESS: Internally, the narcissist feels deeply inferior to others and an object of scorn and contempt; fantasies of great success help to defend against this. S/he may, for example, believe they are, as yet, an undiscovered genius who will, sooner or later, achieve the recognition of which s/he has, thus far (due to the imbecility of others, naturally), been so cruelly deprived, and become the object envy, jealousy, worship and devotion (i.e. his/her rightful place in the world). Or, the narcissist may fantasize about having great power and control over others to protect against feelings of impotence and incompetence.
ARROGANCE AND SANCTIMONY: Narcissists can hide behind attitudes of ‘better-than-you’ and ‘holier-than-thou’ to ward off inner feelings of inferiority and shame. Taking all of the above into account, one way to view narcissism itself is as a psychological defence to distance awareness from an inner, psychological reality that is too emotionally painful, distressing and potentially catastrophic to confront directly.
How Narcissistic Mothers Can Invalidate Us
One of the most frustrating and upsetting things about how the narcissistic mother may respond to us is that if we try to explain how much we have been psychologically injured by her, she is very likely to respond by INVALIDATING this view as, essentially, she tends to view herself as someone who can do no wrong; by constantly undermining our strongly held belief, she can lead us to question our perception of very reality.
Having our perception of reality unremittingly called into question in this insidious manner is known to be PARTICULARLY DAMAGING TO OUR MENTAL HEALTH, thus compounding, massively, the harm already down to us.
Indeed, in my own family, not only does my mother not acknowledge that I was damaged by my childhood but so, too, do not (or have not) its other members. Their keeping up of this absurd pretence has, over the years, amounted to a highly corrosive and invidious ‘conspiracy of silence.’
WHAT FORM DOES SUCH INVALIDATION TAKE?
This invalidation involves our thoughts, experiences and feelings being denied or, even, scorned and held in contempt; it can, and, not infrequently does, amount to a kind of re-writing of history and brain-washing. We can be placed in an Orwellian hell in which we are forced to believe two and two really does make five, that black really is white.
Examples of things that might be said to us in an attempt to invalidate us:
– you’re over-sensitive
– for god’s sake stop harping on about that, it’s ancient history
– turn off the water-works, you’re getting upset over absolutely nothing
– I think you’re a very horrible person for bearing grudges
– Jesus told us to forgive, perhaps you should take a leaf out of his book
– you’re blowing all this massively out of proportion
– stop wallowing in this revolting self-pity
– you’re always whinging
– get over yourself!
– oh, shut up – I do listen to you!
– I was just teasing you – can’t you take a joke, for god’s sake?!
– stop taking this ‘holier than thou’ attitude, you’re far too judgmental
– don’t you think it’s time you climbed down from your high-horse?
– you’ve completely misinterpreted what I was saying
– stop criticizing me, I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong
– it’s your fault I did/said that – you drove me to it!
– I never did that
– I never said that
– that never happened
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).