How does lacking object constancy affect memory?
During a fight, as soon as people with a narcissistic personality disorder get mad at you, they will now see you as all-bad and “forget” their past positive feelings for you—or explain them away as mistakes in an attempt to resolve the discrepancy between their current feelings towards you and any past positive feelings.
You are a terrible human being. If I ever said otherwise, it was because I was taken in by your ‘nice’ act.
They can say something as nonsensical as the above because they do not realize that they have not yet developed the capacity to form an integrated view of people—something that most other people learn by the age of 6. Therefore, they have to rationalize away the inconsistency between their current view of you and their past view because they can only alternate between seeing you as either all-good or all-bad.
When narcissists are emotionally triggered, they only focus on how they feel in the moment.
People with narcissistic personality disorder are usually focused on their current thoughts and feelings, not how they felt twenty minutes ago or how they might feel in the future. Once something triggers a strong negative or positive response, that reaction takes center stage. People with NPD then act as if their current emotional state and way of thinking is all there is and will last forever.
Thus, if you are dating someone with NPD, when your lover feels great about you, he or she may start making plans for the future with you—even though the two of you hardly know each other. “Let’s go to Rome together. I can’t wait to show you my favorite restaurant.” Then something you do triggers a negative reaction and suddenly those plans are history.
Narcissists are overly focused on making their point right now and the larger context is unimportant to them.
Again, this is a case where the person with NPD loses perspective because what they feel and want now is all that matters to them.
How does this affect memory?
Narcissists prioritize the memories that are important to them. Because they lack emotional empathy, memories about how you feel are much less important to them than whatever is on their mind right now.
For example, twenty minutes ago you came home from work exhausted. You told your narcissistic mate that you were heading into the bedroom to take a nap. But, your mate acts like he or she never heard that and also seems to have forgotten that you did not sleep well last night.
What is going on?
They have something they want to talk with you about right now. They have not lost their memory; they just do not care how tired you are. All they care about is making their point right now—even when it is as trivial as: “We need to find a new dry cleaner” or “I don’t like the way you loaded the dishwasher.”
Punchline: People with narcissistic personality disorder can seem to have memory problems. They may have trouble remembering the past or the big picture when they are feeling strong emotions in the present. They can forget that they ever said, “I will love you forever” or that they happily agreed to be your plus one at your cousin’s wedding because right now they are angry with you for being late to dinner. Similarly, although they were incredibly mean to you last night, they woke up in a good mood and expect you to be just as cheerful.
Memory problems? No. These are problems of self-centeredness.
Do you agree?
Written by: Elinor Greenberg
Originally appeared on: Psychology Today