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Why The Narcissist Who Abused You Now Claims To Be Your Victim

Hero or Victim

Narcissists thrive on others’ admiration and that is why they try to gain either empathy or the sympathy of others. If they cannot be the hero in anyone’s life, the narcissist plays the victim of others’ abuse. This is one of the best narcissistic manipulation tactics they use. Learn more about the narcissistic victim mentality.

Written By Dr. Elinor Greenberg


  • Narcissism can be viewed as a self-esteem regulation disorder plus a lack of emotional empathy.
  • Narcissists twist the truth to present themselves as either heroes or innocent victims of other people’s malice.
  • Narcissists lack whole object relations, which means they can only see themselves as perfect or worthless.
  • If narcissists cannot be your hero, they may claim to be your victim.

A simple way of understanding narcissistic personality disorder is to view it as a self-esteem regulation disorder plus a lack of emotional empathy. Most of what narcissists do that hurt other people are actually attempting to manage their shaky self-esteem.

Why Narcissist Plays The Victim And Hero? Split Narcissist
Why Narcissist Plays The Victim And Hero? Split Narcissist

Narcissists live in their own emotional world where their need to feel special and be validated by other people takes precedence over anything and anybody else.

While many narcissists appear to be extremely confident, this is a very thin façade that is easily disrupted. Narcissists are not as self-sufficient as they may seem. They need other people to validate them as special or else they feel insecure.

Related: How Do Narcissists Think And Work?

In this way, they are a bit like an outdoor thermometer. The thermometer itself does not control whether the mercury inside goes up or down.

The mercury is responding to conditions around the thermometer—going up in response to heat and down in response to cold. The narcissist’s self-esteem goes up in response to praise and down in response to being ignored or feeling disrespected.

Note: I am using the terms narcissistnarcissistic, and NPD as a shorthand way to refer to people who qualify for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder.

Split Narcissists Lack Whole Object Relations

From an object relations theoretical point of view, all people with personality disorders lack whole object relations (WOR). This lack of whole object relations means that they can only see themselves and other people as either all-good or all-bad.

They cannot form an integrated, stable, and realistic picture of people that simultaneously includes both liked and disliked qualities. This is also called “splitting” or black-and-white thinking with no shades of gray. Each of the different personality disorders has a different definition of all-good and all-bad. In the narcissistic type of splitting:

  • All-Good = Special, perfect, omnipotent, admirable, high status, idealizable, and entitled to special treatment.
  • All-Bad = Worthless, flawed, inadequate, average, wrong, and entitled to nothing.

This leads people with NPD to be hyper-focused on projecting an image that they feel is admirable and blameless. It also leads to them devaluing other people and not taking responsibility for their share of failures and faults.

Read: But Why Did the Narcissist Do That?

Why Narcissist Plays The Victim And Hero?

The Hero:

In myth, fairytales, action movies, and news stories, there are heroes who—through strength, bravery, cleverness, toughness, and persistence—save everyone else. The heroes in these stories are usually the main character and the focus of everyone’s admiring and grateful attention.

It is easy to see the overlap between the concept of the hero and the narcissist’s version of the all-good side of the split into special vs. worthless.

The Victim:

Narcissist claims to be the victim.
Victim Narcissist: Narcissist Split Personality

By definition, victims are not to blame for their situation. If they fail in some area, it is because someone else had it in for them or is taking advantage of them. The essence of embracing victimhood is embracing the idea that every bad thing that happens to you is actually someone else’s fault.

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Dr. Elinor Greenberg PhD, CGP

Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D., CGP, is an internationally renowned Gestalt therapy trainer who specializes in teaching the diagnosis and treatment of Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid adaptations in a lively and practical way. She has trained psychotherapists in her approach in the US, Norway, Sweden, Wales, England, Russia, and Mexico. Dr. Greenberg is the author of the book: Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration and Safety.View Author posts