9 minute read
Are you feeling sorry for the narcissist in your life? Do you excuse their behaviour because of this? Or perhaps you feel like you ‘ought’ to feel sorry for them?
My bet is that if you are a target of narcissistic abuse, at some point you have wrestled with these questions. If so, this article is for you.
If you are also busy researching about narcissism, you may have come across articles on why you should feel sorry for the narcissist.
How completely unhelpful and frankly absurd!
The major arguments for feeling sorry for the narcissist are:
- A cause of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is childhood abuse hence the narcissist is a victim
- NPD is an illness, therefore the narcissist cannot be held responsible for their symptoms
- The narcissist leads a stunted emotional life that no one would envy
Let’s check out the validity of these views, and why your care and compassion would be far better invested in yourself at this time. Feeling sorry for the perpetrator of your abuse, is only going to hold you back in setting yourself free.
Getting clear on why there is no excuse for narcissistic abuse will help you cut the ties that bind. Get your scissors out gorgeous one. No more feeling sorry for the narcissist, here’s why.
Devil’s advocate arguments: Feeling sorry for the narcissist
A) NPD evolves from abuse
A popular argument for feeling sorry for the narcissist is that they are the way they are because they suffered abuse as children.
During childhood a series of developmental phases occur for healthy maturation. Successful progress through phases, hinges on the relationship with primary caregivers, which is in most instances, the mother.
Determining the health of the relationship relates to whether the child’s emotional and physical needs are adequately met by the mother. When they are not, developmental progress is impaired. NPD may be a potential outcome of this damage, amongst other possible outcomes.
In feeling sorry for the narcissist, the crux of the assertion lies in the disruption borne: the child was not adequately cared for, rather was neglected, rejected and/or abandoned by its mother.
This emotional and/or physical abuse stunts the growth of the individual leaving them scarred.
The narcissist as a child when vulnerable, helpless, and dependent on the care, love and attention of their mother was deeply betrayed.
The depth of this pain, through a cause beyond their control, is indeed a tragedy and places them fairly in the role of victim.
B) Narcissists are ill, they cannot help what they do
NPD is classified as a type of mental illness, a personality disorder.
By definition mental illness refers to significant changes to thought, emotion and/or behaviour, which cause the individual distress and difficulties in daily life.
The case on this front, is that to hold an individual responsible for symptoms of illness is morally wrong as they cannot help being unwell. Consequently, two things follow:
- Since NPD is an illness, narcissists cannot help their cognitive and behavioural symptoms. So, narcissists should not be held responsible for their behaviours.
Because they do not choose to be unwell, nor to be wrought with these destructive symptoms, one should rightly feel sorry for those afflicted with the disorder. No one would elect to carry the burden of NPD, and those who have won the lottery on the NPD front are truly poor long-suffering creatures of misfortune.
- To hold NPD’d individuals responsible for their behaviours, as anything other than symptoms of an illness, is injurious and unfair for the narcissist.
Indeed some articles promote that to do so, is being discriminatory towards NPD and marginalising the narc for what they cannot help.
C) The difficulties faced being a narcissist
Highly destructive relationships that for many extend to abuse (as you well know gorgeous one) are a hallmark of NPD.
At the malignant end of the narcissistic spectrum we’re talking possible psychological, emotional, sexual, and/or physical abuse.
The cycle of narcissistic abuse from idealise, devalue to discard, and need for constant supply precludes capacity for long term, meaningful, and intimate relationships.
The drive for power and control pursued through manipulation, coupled with an absence of compassion, and arguably thus love, shackles the narcissist in a lonely & unsatisfying existence. They will never feel the connection that others enjoy.
This lack of internal emotional richness and inability to truly belong, causes a deep emptiness.
This picture of the emotionally barren landscape is apparently reason to make you, and the angels weep for the poor narc.
On top of this internal wasteland and following on from the view that they are ill and can’t help what they do, we should further feel sorry for the narc because of the increasing bad press they are copping.
Circulation of knowledge informing the abused about NPD is maligning the unfortunate narcissist and exacerbating their loneliness even further.
The pickle with these arguments
D) On abuse
So here’s the thing.
The original narcissistic injury of significant childhood disruptions through emotional and/or physical abuse is not ok.
Abuse, in any form, at any age, for any person, is never ok.
That this happens to children who are entirely vulnerable and dependent on those who cause the damage, and are helpless in a situation where they have no control, is quite simply heartbreaking.
There are few (really only those with some Cluster B personality disorders…just saying…) who would not feel a deep aching compassion and sadness for those starved of motherly love.
Yet, this is a separate issue to whether you should ‘feel sorry for the narcissist’ now. Please do not conflate the ideas as they are being presented!
They are no longer the vulnerable, dependent, and helpless child.
They are now, grown adults who are perpetuating the cycle of abuse by inflicting it on you.
If in agreement that abuse is not ok for the narcissist, indeed, never ok under any circumstances, then this surely applies to the narcissist in their treatment of you right now.
Feeling sorry for the narcissist for what they sustained then, is completely understandable and the inevitable place an empath and compassionate person will go. Which is fine, so long as you can separate this from the fact of who they are now: a person who imposes on others the very same harm they experienced in the past.
The pain of then, is no excuse for the pain they willingly inflict on others now.
E) On illness
Allow me to be quibbly for a moment…
Is the term, and therefore the concept of illness apt for NPD? And if it isn’t, doesn’t this argument crumble?
For illness to fit, the individual must experience distress as a result of their disorder.
This may well be the case for some who have a few narcissistic traits. For those who are diagnosable with NPD or at the higher end of the spectrum, particularly malignant narcissists, is this the case?
The anguish experienced is not felt by the ‘ill’ one, but rather by those that surround them.
How many individuals with NPD seek help to change their behaviours and alleviate ‘said distress’?
The answer to this question is, the number of narcs who have:
- Awareness and ownership of flaws
- Willingness to change and improve these imperfections
- Openness to constructive criticism
- A modicum of humility
So, this is where using ‘illness’ as the grand forgiver of all evils fails.
Overriding ‘symptoms’ of the ‘illness’ are superiority, grandiosity and entitlement. Feeling beyond reproach, ‘better than’ all others, is simply not congruent with the concept of distress needed to meet the requirements of ‘illness’.
F) On ‘being able to help it’
Oh the ludicrousness of the narcissist being helpless to control their behaviours because they are a victim of illness!
To be wiped clean of any responsibility of their behaviours, requires that they have no intentionality in how they treat others.
I’ve written on these topics in Proof the narcissist abuses you intentionally and they will never change – check it out.
Everything the narcissist does is designed to secure supply. To gain power and control over others and feed their belief that they are superior. Every. Thing. They. Do.
All the manipulating through gaslighting, isolating you, conducting intricate smear campaigns, triangulating you, threatening you and so on…
Do you really believe any of these happen outside the scope of their free will? That they truly couldn’t help it? In fact, in accordance with the definition of illness, that doing these things causes them distress?
Every single one of these acts is backed by awareness of what they are doing and the personal choice to make it happen. Cruelty is rarely accidental. And narcissistic abuse is always intentional.
Let me ask you this…
Remember the abuse the narcissist went through as a child?
How can it be that not all who have endured similar histories end up like the abusive narcissist? Indeed, why is it that some actively pursue a life of compassion and of helping others because of these very same hurts?
Because they made the choice, that’s why.
They give others the gift of care, because that is precisely what they intend on doing with the lessons they have learned in life.
Stop feeling sorry for the narcissist!
Let me be clear about my intention. My goal is not really about damning the narcissist, it is to support you realign any misguided good intentions that may be working against you. It’s about helping you de-fog your mind so you can reclaim your freedom.
At the outset, the probability of your being an empath or at the very least a super compassionate person was noted because of the high proportion targeted by narcissists.
If this is you, reclaiming your freedom can be hard won. You’re finding your way through a maze of such intricate complexity, including cutting the ties of trauma bonding, and the addiction to the relationship (read Why is it so hard to leave an abusive relationship with a narcissist? & Why narcissistic abuse and trauma bonding is so powerful for codependents for more on these topics).
And then there is the gorgeousness of who you are as an empath. Because of your innate capacity to care, empathise and have compassion for all beings, you may just be doing you in. Holding yourself back.
I have no doubt that you have felt sorry for the narcissist. Quite naturally. And that when they play the ‘poor me’ card to manipulate you it has been highly effective.
I’ll also wager that in waking and beginning to question the reality you are enduring, there is a ping pong championship from hell going on inside you with ‘but maybe I should feel sorry for the narc’ being the ball.
The quandary you face as an empath of stopping feeling sorry for the narcissist can be quite agonising. And a stumbling block in setting yourself free.
So, let’s make it simple.
Stop feeling sorry for the narcissist. There is no need to.
Instead, redirect all that care, empathy, and compassion back into you. There is a need there. You need you. So be there for you, set yourself free now.
As always, please share your insights, tips and thoughts on ‘feeling sorry for the narcissist’. Sharing and encouraging others is so very necessary to help all of us on our journey of recovery – so thank you!
- Hotchkiss, S. (2005). Key concepts in the theory and treatment of narcissistic phenomena. Clinical Social Work Journal, 33(2), 127-144.
- Vitek, J.A. (2000). Aggression and differentiation of self in narcissistic subtypes (Doctoral dissertation). The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations. (Order No. 9970787)
- Zosky, D. M. (2001). The role of projective identification with domestically violent males (Doctoral dissertation). Loyola University Chicago. Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations. (Order No. 3001640)