8 minute read
Ever wondered why the narcissist chose you? Course, you have. It is a question most survivors wrestle with at some point. It is a natural part of sense making & trying to understand what you have endured.
At the outset of healing, because of the effects of narcissistic abuse, we tend to frame the question as a negative reflection of ourselves: “How did I end up with someone like this? What’s wrong with me? I thought I was a strong/intelligent person, but maybe they chose me because I’m actually a pushover/stupid?” etc…
My central purpose in this piece is to flip this way of thinking.
In your journey through research or therapy, you may have come across the view that targets are generally intelligent, attractive, accomplished and/or strong people.
But I know you gorgeous one. I know how quickly you’ll dismiss this perspective as a glib effort on behalf of well-wishers to raise the spirits of survivors when reeling from the psychological pounding suffered at the hands of the narc.
But what if these characteristics are actually closer descriptors of who you are, than those the narcissist would have you believe?
Not likely you think?
I put to you gorgeous one, that these qualities are not merely ‘nice-things-people-say-to-lift-your-spirits’. Academic research evidences that these and other highly valuable & positive qualities are actively sought out by pathological narcissists in intimate relationships. Indeed, some go so far as to state that the narcissist views themselves as superior/perfect, and that they are attracted to similar others (Campbell, 1999; Lange, Crusius & Hagmeyer, 2016)…ergo, you must be pretty damned fine.
Sure, you may not be perfect, but without doubt, the reason why the narcissist chose you, is because you have a lot going for you.
Let’s help you find your way to remembering that you DO have a lot going for you. In actual fact, you are gold baby.
I recognise that accepting scientific findings that narcissists do seek out people with positive attributes, at the outset of healing, can be quite the challenge. After all, you’ve been programmed to believe the opposite through narcissistic abuse.
My plan therefore is to convince you in a circuitous way. I figure recognising the narcissist’s behaviour will be easier at this point than owning your beauty.
In answering ‘why the narcissist chose you’ and proving you are gold; we’re going to apply the lens of envy to their behaviours. Because if you ain’t got nothing going for you, there shouldn’t be anything to envy, right?
Let’s get cracking.
The narcissist’s divided self
First up, the basics.
Pathological narcissism can arise from developmental disruptions in early childhood, where a cohesive self-concept, or identity is never fully realised. Through ‘splitting’, a divided self is created comprised of the true-self & false-self (for more on splitting read From ‘soul mate’ to worthless: What’s behind the narcissist’s 180? and How the narcissist hooks you: Hoovering & baiting).
The true-self is rejected, and in its stead, the false-self is fabricated to protect the narcissist from what they are psychologically unable to allow: that they are flawed just like the rest of us.
This false-self encompasses those traits of superiority, omnipotence & entitlement. To the mind of the pathological narcissist, by assuming these attributes, the less desirable characteristics of humanity which inevitably reside in us all, are nullified since the good & the bad cannot coexist within their schema.
Aside from their perfection being patently ridiculous & contrary to the human condition, this false-self has one helluva job.
Want to know why?
Because the narcissist’s psychological survival is contingent on securing external validation through supply that their mythological perfection is reality. Clearly this is fraught with problems, being unattainable and all that. Hence, the host of behavioural patterns which form their disorder.
Making the madness ‘work’
To make the madness ‘work’, they endlessly chase substantiation that they are ‘more than’ all others (for the remainder of this piece we will refer to the bundle of narcissistic traits as the need to be ‘more than’ – for more on this concept read Proof the narcissist abuses you intentionally and will never change).
The thing with being ‘more than’, is that it requires a reference point. As without comparison to some other, being ‘more than’ cannot be assessed.
And this is why, the narcissist chose you. Integral to feeding the narc’s ego is social comparison. And you, gorgeous one, were chosen as the narcissist’s reference point.
Pathological envy was the magnet that drew them to you & kick-started idealisation. Equally though, envy inevitably also leads to devaluation & finally, discard.
Here’s how it works.
Recognising envy during idealisation
The narcissist selected you because they were attracted to your qualities. As with any relationship, whatever it is about you that is special, is what drew them in.
And this is where the parallel with emotionally healthy relationships ends.
For the pathological narcissist, relationships serve a functional purpose as it relates to being ‘more than’. They are a self-enhancement strategy, and “an opportunity to increase the positivity of the self-concept” (Campbell, 1999, p.1256).
By identifying with you and those gifts of yours that are special, they bolster the favoured view of themselves, successfully renouncing that ever present true-self (at first…).
The thing with the pathological narcissist is that beyond the complicated internal landscape of smoke & mirrors, there lies hollowness. By abandoning their true-selves, & adopting that false-self, at their core they experience emptiness.
As stated, the psychological survival of the narcissist hinges on validating the veracity of those traits that make up their false-self. Having denied their true-self, their identity beyond simply being ‘more than’ is at best, limited.
So, in addition to rejecting their true-selves causing emptiness, it means that through the obsessive need to prove themselves ‘more than’ others, their identity at any given time is significantly defined by those they surround themselves with.
In choosing you, they are also selecting the next evolution of their ‘identity’, given relationships for pathological narcissist’s are in part about constructing their desired self (Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001).
Here’s the thing.
The void they experience & poor sense of identity, are not solely due to setting their true-selves aside. It is also about lacking depth & breadth of emotional range. And whether subconsciously or not, the pathological narcissist sniffs out targets who possess what is absent in them: empathy, compassion, strength, courage, kindness etc.
And you dear heart, I know down to the marrow in my bones, have these beautiful qualities in spades.
Sadly, as you no doubt well know, whilst drawn to these attributes in you, it was never for the sake of valuing them as part of your gorgeous self, and for this reason alone.
You were serving the purpose of mirroring for them what they so desperately needed to believe of themselves. By merging with you and mirroring your specialness, they bolstered their fragile belief system & created the identity they wish they had.
Not so sure?
Reflect on that frenzied torrent you once heard ‘we are twin flames…cut from the same wood…two peas in a pod…soul mates etc.’ (for more on love-bombing read The narcissist’s ‘soul mate’ effect: How & why they do it and Narcissists love boundaries: Exposing the truth).
From their very own lips to your ears. These were the narc’s attempts to convince not only you, but themselves, how very much alike the two of you are.
Relationships as a strategy for self-regulation
What we’ve just checked out through self-enhancement & self-construction, are why relationships are a strategy for the narcissist.
They are a way of regulating the chaos within. For as long as the relationship feeds them by feeling ‘more than’, they are psychologically OK.
Their internal rage is on hiatus. They have temporarily suppressed the beast of envy.
And this is why they went into overdrive in needing to ‘lock you in’. What we are referring to here is, of course, love bombing & idealisation.
Recognising envy in devaluation & discard
When the beast awakens
So, what happens through that process of social comparison with you as the reference point, when feeling ‘more than’ is compromised?
When whispers of what lies at the root of their polarised nature sneaks past their denial, the envy which during idealisation was less conscious, becomes more palpable…and the beast of envy wakes: “a painful emotion ensuing from the envier’s lack of another’s quality, achievement, or possession” (Lange, Delroy & Crusius, 2018 p.601).
At the outset, your special traits enhanced their self-image. Up until this point, through identification with you, they have managed to delude themselves into believing you are ‘same, same’. If you are superior, then so too, must they be.
Untenable inferiority leads to rivalry
But you are not. Never were. Never will be.
And your beauty is so lovely, that even the strength of the narcissist’s denial begins to crack.
Through that comparative process embedded in their DNA, and your gorgeousness, you begin triggering their inferiority. Suddenly, feelings of being ‘less than’ are elicited, because the standard you set becomes a threat.
By possessing traits & qualities that they do not have, you are directly jeopardising their self-concept, that false-self they cling to. And in turn, to combat this, and the possibility of narcissistic injury through feelings of untenable inferiority, the narcissist becomes your rival.
For the narc, this is the great levelling, the only way they know to re-establish their equilibrium. This is, of course, self-regulation in action once more. But this time, you are the victim.
To reclaim their balance through supremacy, you are devalued, invalidated, abused.
The sickness of the narcissist is that enhancing the self comes at the cost of the diminishment of others. To correct the discomfort elicited, they must level the differences (Lange et. al., 2016; Zlatan & Johar, 2012).
Enter schadenfreude: self-regulation through the malicious, intentional sabotage of the target of envy.
It is the pleasure derived from the pain of another. You know that smirk you catch on their faces every now & then when the mask slips, & they know they’ve hit the jackpot in hurting you?
That’s it. That’s schadenfreude.
Put differently, your misfortune, makes them feel better.
Combine rivalry & schadenfreude in a big old festering pot of poisonous narcissistic self-regulation, and what do you get? Hate bombs.
You get ALL the invalidation tactics you know so well. We’re talking dominance, derogation, intimidation, emotional blackmail, gaslighting, smear campaigns, lying, violence, manipulation, isolation, stonewalling, silent treatment, ghosting, projection etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum.
There’s not one bit that didn’t resonate, right? ALL this. You have lived it. You have SURVIVED it.
Why the narcissist chose you
By recognising the narcissist’s pathological envy at work during idealisation, devaluation & discard, you must also accept this.
You were not randomly chosen. Gorgeous one, they picked you because you ARE all that. All that they will never be. And all that not one person on this planet can take from you.
You are entirely gorgeous. From your generous, warm, kind, loving, heart & soul; to that beautiful mind of yours that wanted to believe in the essential goodness of all people.
Don’t you give the narcissist one more ounce of power in prolonging your disconnect from who you really are. Remember you. Reclaim you. Celebrate you.
You are gold baby.
For more tools & knowledge building pieces on the issues in this article read:
- What happens when the narcissist knows you’ve figured them out
- When hope is killing you: Narcissistic abuse
- No Contact vs. the narcissist’s silent treatment & ghosting: The differences
- The narcissist’s ‘soul mate’ effect: How & why they do it
- Stop feeling sorry for the narcissist now
- Why narcissistic abuse and trauma bonding is so powerful for codependents
- Narc Speak: Words as weapons
- Getting past fear & leaving the narcissist
As always, please share your thoughts, experiences, and insights on the issues in this article in the comments below. The more we share, the more we teach & help others in reclaiming freedom.
References & bibliography
Campbell, W. K. (1999). Narcissism and Romantic Attraction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1254-1270.
Campbell, W.K., & Foster, C.A. (2002). Narcissism and commitment in romantic relationships: An investment model analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 484-495.
Campbell, K.C., Reeder, G.D., Sedikides, S., & Elliot, A.J. (2000). Narcissism and comparative self-enhancement strategies. Journal of Research in Personality, 34, 329-347.
Cichocka, A. (2016). Understanding defensive and secure in-group positivity: The role of collectivism narcissism. European Review of Social Psychology, 27(1), 283-317.
Grijalva, E., & Zhang, L. (2016). Narcissism and self-insight: A review and meta-analysis of narcissists’ self-enhancement tendencies. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(1), 3-34.
Lange, J., Crusius, J. & Hagmeyer, B. (2016). The evil queen’s dilemma: Linking narcissistic admiration and rivalry to benign and malicious envy. European Journal of Personality, 30, 168-188.
Lange, J., Delroy, L.P., & Crusius, J. (2018). Elucidating the dark side of envy: Distinctive links of benign and malicious envy with dark personalities. Personality and Social Psychology Bulleting, 44(4), 601-614.
Morf, C.C., & Rhodewalt, F., (2001). Unravelling the paradoxes of narcissism: A dynamic self-regulatory processing model. Psychological Inquiry, 12(4), 177-196.
Neufeld, D.C. & Johnson, E.A. (2015). Burning with envy? Dispositional and situational influences on envy in grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. Journal of Personality. DOI: 10.1111/jopy.12192
Portr, S., Bhanwer, A., Woodworth, M., & Black, P.J. (2014). Soldiers of misfortune: An examination of the Dark Triad and he experience of schadenfreude. Personality and Individual Differences, 67, 64-68.
Van Dijk, W.W., & van Koningsbruggen, G. M., (2011). Self-esteem, self-affirmation, and schadenfreude. Emotion, 11(6), 1445-1449.
Wurst, S. N., Gerlach, T.M., Dufner, M., Rauthmann, J.F., Grosz, M.P., Kufner, A. C. P., Denissen, J. J. A., & Back, M.D. Narcissism and romantic relationships: The differential impact of narcissistic admiration and rivalry. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000113
Zlatan, K., & Johar, O. (2012). Envy divides the two faces of narcissism. Journal of Personality, 80(5), 1415-1451.
Hungry for more?
As with most topics I write on that expose the ugliness of true NPD (at the malignant end of the spectrum), I recommend the following key works on malignant narcissism/ Antisocial Personality Disorder’d (APD) individuals: The Sociopath Next Door by Dr, Martha Stout, and Psychopath Free by Jackson Mackenzie. Check them out, they are eye openers on spotting those to stay away from, and how to protect yourself. Mackenzie’s work also explores the path to healing.
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