Narcissists live in terror of being exposed.
Narcs hone in on high sensitivity and are both attracted to it and despise it. The vulnerability of an HSP and the Narc’s ability to bully them temporarily makes them feel better about themselves (the only way they can feel good about themselves is by putting others down because they know they have no “true self”–more on this later), but they also hate it and envy it, because it’s this very quality of high sensitivity and empathy they know they do not possess, and worse yet, they know it’s possible the HSP could one day use that quality to expose the narcissist.
Narcissists do not feel anxiety the way most people do, but the prospect of being “outed” one day for the monsters they actually are behind their mask of normality and sanity is incredibly terrifying to them.
But why is the psychopathic narcissist living in such terror of being exposed? After all, they think they’re better than everyone else, so why would it bother them?
The answer is horrifying. If they are exposed or “outed,” they are forced to look into the mirror–and what looks back at them in that mirror is not a monster, not an ideal self, not a demon, but something worse: a black, endless void of nothingness.
There is nothing there, under the mask they wear. In effect, the masks they wear are what they have become because inside they don’t exist. And yes they are evil. Evil isn’t bad; it isn’t the opposite of good. Evil is the opposite of somethings; evil is pure black nothingness. In their desperate attempts to fill the void, they take on superficial behaviors and attitudes they think they “should” show the world–but they are fake. There is no real self there. Ergo, everything they think they are, and everything they say is a lie. They are the People of the lie.
Are Narcissists born that way, were they made that way, or did they choose their path?
I don’t believe psychopathic narcissists were born this way. I don’t believe in “bad seeds,” like the demon child Damien in “The Omen.” In fact, I think all children start out as blank slates with the potential to become good (or bad).
I think Narcs often have abusive or neglectful parents who fail to mirror the child in a positive way when they are very young, and as a result, not being able to mirror the parent in return, they don’t develop a true self and spend their lives trying to mirror the people they come in contact with and HSPs make this mirroring easier for them.
Unfortunately, by this point, it’s far too late for them to internalize the mirroring of the other person, and so it never infiltrates beyond the surface.
This explains why the Narc will act like they are the most understanding and caring person in the world when the HSP first meets them, but since they never internalized the behavior, it’s not really part of them and they quickly move on to abusing the HSP because deep inside they envy and hate the same behaviors they have so recently “mirrored.”
Narcs cannot be helped in traditional therapy because, in order to reach them, there has to be a self there to be reached, but Narcs have lost their true self, or it’s become so deeply buried it can never be accessed in any normal way, if ever.
There’s another way a person can become a psychopath. Some people cross a line at some point in life, a line where they seriously violate some inner (but maybe not fully developed) moral code. For example, in “People of the Lie,” Dr. Peck talks about a man who almost became evil. The man, who was by all accounts a good man, a devoted husband, and father, suffered terrible panic attacks when crossing certain bridges as a requirement of his job.
To help alleviate his anxiety attacks, the man-made a deal with the Devil: he told the Devil if he could make it across the bridge without a panic attack, then he’d give the Devil permission to allow something terrible to happen to his son. The man said he didn’t really believe in the Devil, so he knew nothing would actually happen and therefore really wasn’t that bad a thing. But it’s still a deal with the devil, and Peck was horrified. The fact the man felt remorse and shame (and confessed his “sin” to Dr. Peck) saved him from crossing the line into becoming evil himself.