Severe narcissism is one of the most complex and confusing psychological phenomena, and its complexity explains why so much is written about it, and why there remains a need to continue educating the public about it. The focus of this article will be to address one facet of the disorder that remains so mysterious. Specifically, people who are in close proximity to severe narcissists often can’t understand why the narcissist in their life can: be so mean; get so jealous of their success or happiness; and be so competitive with them, even when we’re talking about two romantic partners.
One word that will help you understand the narcissist
To begin, the most helpful word in framing an understanding of the narcissist is “counterintuitive.” The most crucial point is that how the narcissist presents on the surface is entirely different from how the narcissist feels underneath. There are two “selfs” at work in the mind of the narcissist: their real self, and the fraudulent, fantasy self they try to sell to the public. Severe narcissists have a predatory, score-keeping approach to the social world around them. The narcissist’s daily life is spent fighting off potential threats to their ego and proving themselves as superior to everyone around them, and they have little peace of mind as they move through life. To understand why the narcissist can be so mean in interpersonal relationships, you must understand the unique motivations of the narcissist’s intra-psychic world or, in lay terms, what goes on inside the mind of a narcissist.
Most, if not all, severe narcissists were likely emotionally injured at a crucial time in their development. Specifically, they were injured when they were young children, a time when a child is highly impressionable, and when that child hasn’t yet figured out how to shore up psychological guards (defenses) to ward off things that make them feel bad. When the young boy or girl was emotionally injured, it probably took the following form: An authority figure or even bullying kids at school humiliated them, subjugated them, knowingly neglected them, or otherwise exploited them. To become severely narcissistic later in life, the emotional injury in childhood had to be severe enough that the individual arrived at the following (unconscious) conclusion: No one will ever hurt me like that again; I will never let my guard down. Later in life, this way of relating to people and the world has been practiced over and over for so many years that the personality becomes largely locked into place, and it is extremely challenging for the narcissist to let themselves be exposed emotionally for very long at all. If someone or something threatens the narcissist’s ego, the narcissist abruptly shifts into predator mode.