Narcissists are dime a dozen, and by now, almost everyone has a really good idea about who they are, and how they function. But what about narcissistically defended people? Who are they, and how do they fit in this scenario?
- Narcissists are grandiose personalities who have almost no ability to self-reflect.
- Those who are narcissistically defended worry about becoming narcissistic and are hypervigilant about anything focused on themselves.
- Narcissistically defended people often grew up with a narcissist in their family.
- A narcissistically defended person can start to become conscious by focusing on their own reactions and boundaries rather than the narcissist.
Recently, I’ve noticed the rise in social media about the topic of narcissism and then realized there’s been a lot said in recent years about narcissism, but nearly nothing about narcissistically defended people. In fact, most people have never heard the term.
First, let’s talk about the difference between these two personalities.
Narcissistic people have practically no ability to self-reflect. They are grandiose personalities and have a wildly inflated view of their intelligence, their abilities, are constantly critical of others, and have a largely negative view of anyone else. In fact, the very things that they’re critical of in others are disowned aspects of themselves, which they project onto others without realizing they are doing so, when in fact their criticisms can be viewed more as unconscious confessions of their own shortcomings.
They largely consider themselves to be victims of those who may rightly accuse them of lacking empathy for others and lash out in anger whenever they are criticized. They become manufacturers of victimhood—“I’m the most persecuted person in history” or even, “You never call me.” They never consider themselves to be accountable for any negative experiences they may have caused. Everything that doesn’t fit into their view of themselves is “fake news.”
These people, I believe, are born this way and are not likely to change.
This is a term that many therapists are familiar with but which few others are. It’s ironic that most of the psychological research out there is about narcissists and not their victims, kind of like research imitating life. The narcissist gets all the attention, their victims get little.
People who are narcissistically defended often come from families in which they have suffered the indignities of one or more narcissistic members of their family. They worry that they share these traits and become hypervigilant about anything that is focused on themselves. They, unlike the narcissists, worry that they may also be narcissistic and are quick to apologize for most criticisms that come their way.
When criticized for being arrogant, for instance, they may be willing to say, “Well, you may be right. Let me think about that.” Upon reflection, they may think that even though the criticism is unfounded, they might accept accountability even though they don’t believe they deserve it.
They are not victimizers. Rather, they are the real victims of the narcissistic abusers in their life. In their past, they have been erased, unheard, and silenced. When confronted with a situation in which they feel this is happening, they can have a big reaction emotionally because they’re reminded of how they tried and failed to be seen or heard in their family.
The Family Dynamic
When the narcissistically defended person grows up in a family with one or more narcissistic parents, often they have been gaslighted, meaning that when they bring up the obvious fact that the parent never acknowledges their achievements—their school grades were never posted on the refrigerator, their successes in sports were ignored, or that the parents may not even notice that they are gone— they are met with, “What are you talking about? We’ve given you a roof over your head, clothed and fed you, and now you’re saying we’ve neglected you? Are you crazy?”.
The parent(s) deny reality and have no empathy for the pain they’ve caused. As an adult, the person may discover that the parents don’t even know or care about their profession or achievements in life. Psychiatrists call this behavior “benign neglect.”