A Look Inside the Mind of a Narcissist

Written by Dr. Eric Perry
Image Credit: Pixabay

” But that’s the thing about narcissists. They can try to fool you, with all their heart, but in the end, they’re just fooling themselves.” ~Ellie Fox

An individual with a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) has spent most of their life creating the illusion of a confident and self-assured individual. Tightly wound up in this facade is the desperate struggle to maintain this self-created image. Much like a toddler swimming in a grown-up’s suit, a narcissist has a difficult time filling out their personality with the essential characteristics of what they believe to be human. The narcissist’s eggshell ego is dependent on this armor for its very survival.

At the core of this personality disorder, there is a grandiose sense of self-worth, vanity, and entitlement. In order to feed their fragile egos, they seek out constant praise and admiration from others. They are unable to maintain healthy relationships and will deplete a source of positive energy only to move on to another person in order to re-fill their narcissistic supply. When a person is in a relationship with a narcissist there is always the phase of idealization. During this phase not only will the narcissist idealize their partner but they will also present their idealized version of themselves. All of the fantasies about their achievements, intelligence, success, and power get to be played out once again. Alas, this is short lived and it is only a matter of time before the narcissist reveals their true self. Once challenged the narcissist responds with rage that manifests in different ways.

Here are some of the ways a narcissist will react to different challenges:

Challenge to self-image
The key word here is idealization. The narcissist has an inflated sense of who they are and their capabilities. They have learned as a child that in order to be loved they must be perfect. The creation of a perfect alter ego serves two purposes. It is used to gain the admiration and love of others. It also serves as armor to hide how they truly feel about themselves. Underneath this false exterior exists a fragile ego that feels they are not capable of being loved. An intimate relationship is a dangerous place for a narcissist. When someone gets too close it may upset the balance of who they understand themselves to be. When they perceive their partner to be in disbelief about who they truly are, their narcissistic rage manifests itself. They may begin to verbally, emotionally and physically abuse their partner because they feel exposed and vulnerable. If their partner stays in the relationship, this stage may be followed by a re-initiating into the relationship. This will be done by hoovering and love bombing the individual in order to suck them back into the relationship.

Challenge authority
The key word here is control. A narcissist needs to control those around them. They will use their control to manipulate others to see them and the world in a certain way. If this authority is challenged the narcissist may resort to aggression to protect their fragile sense of self. They will use all tactics to protect the self-identity they have created. Often times they will gaslight their partners making them feel crazy for questioning their authority. In this case, narcissistic rage can be expressed interpersonally in condescending and overly critical attitudes towards others.

Challenge to superiority
The key word here is special. Appearances are everything to a narcissist. They need to feel special and superior to others in every way. They believe they deserve to be worshipped and recognized for this perceived superiority. Underlying the appearance is a person afflicted with inadequacy and insecurity. A narcissist often places unrealistic demands upon others in the course of their relationships. These demands often lead to being challenged by their partner. When challenged, the narcissist’s fragile ego is unable to accept the idea that they were wrong or seen as imperfect, which ultimately leads to a seething disdain for the challenger. In the instant of a perceived attack, the narcissist will respond with rage towards that person in order to regain feelings of superiority.

Challenge to entitlement
The narcissist believes that they are special and unique and can only be understood by or should associate with other special or high-status people. Narcissists believe they are inherently deserving of special treatment. They will project entitlement and self-importance often to unbelievable extremes. When a narcissist’s failures are observed and pointed out by others, the overwhelming sense of shame causes a backlash towards the person perceived as the perpetrator of the accusation of failure. The narcissist’s rage becomes focused towards getting revenge upon the person who slighted them. This often impairs the narcissist’s ability to think clearly and rationally in handling the situation. The need for revenge often called explosive rage does not subside until the narcissist has placed the appropriate punishment upon the accuser. This often leads to acts of violence.

The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a professional relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a medical professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.

Dr. Perry

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81 responses to A Look Inside the Mind of a Narcissist

  1. debracolby52 says:

    I have known way too many of these men…which makes me wonder, who the heck am I that I keep falling for them? This article was an eye-opener, thank you for posting it.

    Liked by 8 people

  2. granny1947 says:

    My goodness.
    I don’t think I know one.
    Thank heavens.
    They sound dreadful.
    I do however, seem to have a pathological liar in my midst.
    Would love to hear more about them.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Velmeran says:

    A beautiful and apt description. It is often difficult to know you are dealing with a narcissist because you are convinced the problem is you…which is just how they want it.

    Liked by 9 people

  4. katemantis says:

    When watching them from a safe distance (both in space and emotionally), I feel sorry for them because they keep undermining their own chance for real happiness. When not inside their circle of “magic”, you might see them as alien sea creatures left ashore: vulnerable, helpless but deadly non-the-less. Thank you for sharing your enlightening and helpful article!

    Liked by 9 people

    • Very apt description, I feel sorry for them too.
      I think people with NPD get a really bad wrap that’s unfair to them and doesn’t help them heal.
      They’re really just lost children inside and need compassion like the rest of us (of course you have to be careful they don’t suck you in to their circle of magic).

      Liked by 2 people

  5. One of the best books I ever read was “Malignant Self-Love” and it was written by a narcissist. I didn’t even know what narcissism was until that point almost 10 years ago. I thought I was the crazy one. I am thankful to be able to have post like yours to help remind me how destructive narcissists are to themselves, but most importantly to others. They almost broke me, almost. ❤

    Liked by 6 people

  6. SamanthaDee says:

    Gosh, Dr. Perry, I have definitely known people like that in the past! The one I knew used to do online personality tests and thought it was hilarious that she came out Narcissistic 🙂 great informative article – thanks!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Been married to one for 5 years now. Deflect, gaslight, belittle….I’ve questioned my sanity many times. But it’s not me. In his world he has to believe it is, and make it that way. You’re right-unrealistic expectations, hipocrisy, and the demanding that they are better than everyone else.

    Liked by 7 people

  8. Pamela says:

    I appreciate your insightful articles. After you live through it for so many years, it’s easy to forget the intentionality. I still question myself excessively as a result. Your reminders are a form of validation for me–THANKS!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I lived with a narcissist for 34 years until she died however at the time I did not know that is what she was. But I have been told lately by many professionals that this is what they think my mother suffered with from the way I describe our relationship. It is a bitter pill to swallow when you have spent two thirds of your life believing you were the problem. Still trying to come to terms with the realisation.

    Liked by 7 people

  10. I find your previous two posts to be very informative and thought provoking. I am reblogging them on my sights with hopes of sharing the wealth of knowledge and insights. Thank you for sharing and God Bless You!

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Smriti says:

    I have lived and suffered through all that you have written. Thank God I am out of it now. But more people should know about it before they get involved with such people. I wish I had known what I was getting myself into then.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. This all to familiar journey has literally been one of the worst snd most rewarding journeys of my life..the narcissists splits you open so wide..you either rise or die as I experienced it. It took a near inner death to rise and it took my son IN HEAVEN to intervene. There was no mistaking it took support, love, understanding, patience, perseverence, hope, strength at the depths you dont even know you have. Losing friends, family and a literal house cleaning of all areas of my life to escape, healing is reaching areas you fidnt know were wounded so never to be preyed in again.
    Oh I feel my cells rumbling with tenacity to stay above this cloud forever!

    Liked by 5 people

  13. Gritty Momma says:

    This is ***excellent***. Thank you so much for the highly descriptive and specific post. This is a great resource for me and, hopefully, some other family members who lived with a narcissist for decades (my father). If you get a chance, btw, I would love to read thoughts on coping with a narcissistic parent, and especially the intersection of narcissism and misogyny in a father, as opposed to a narcissistic romantic partner. Thank you again.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. mychaoticbrain says:

    I know a few; this article is quite informative and describes many to a T. What I have found, is while perhaps loving them as a human (especially if family), it’s best to remain a healthy distance away. Their toxic behavior can suck the life out of you. Don’t wait until it is too late. Keep your eyes and ears open if it’s a new relationship, the signs are there.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. laidbackntx says:

    Whew. I was in an off/on relationship with one for about ten years that started online and then moved to offline, much to the narcissist’s surprise. I was not expected to move several states, and boy, I didn’t expect what I thought was pretty good to go south in such a hurry. Took a few years, but I got out for good. I learned so much that I don’t feel it was a waste. The knowledge I gained about myself, my family dynamic, and how to spot one of these people was invaluable.


  16. frenella99 says:

    This is so interesting. Luckily I haven’t really come across any personalities like this… a few borderline… but no full blown narcissists.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Lizzy says:

    This completely outlined my entire relationship with my ex-husband. I always thought that I wasn’t doing enough to make him happy and I see him repeating the same obsession stage with his current girlfriend. This was very eye opening

    Liked by 2 people

  18. John says:

    Fascinating. I believe I have a few family members that fit this description. If you are going to challenge a narcissist you better bring your A game.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Elena says:

    Hello Dr. Perry this reminds me of my boss. I appreciate all of the posts you write on this subject. They are extremely helpful to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thank you, Dr Perry, for your writings on narcissism and what goes on inside of a narcissist. It is alarming to realize the growth of narcissism in recent years. It’s not often something that is talked about, despite its prevalence, and despite the hugely detrimental impact of a narcissist on his/her loved ones. Therefore, it MUST be talked about, discussed, and read. Your writings on it are very informative and true. Yet another post of yours I have really enjoyed.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Jeremy Vogan says:

    “Feels they are not capable of being loved”
    These words are exactly on point, thanks for your wise treatment of the subject. Someone who struggles with narcissism and is in a position of authority can inflict an almost incredible amount of damage on others. The willingness to tell lies and maintain false assertions that are so bold that they do not seem able to be challenged even by the most credible of witnesses can create an impenetrable position, so vague that no truth is ever allowed to enter into the dialogue. It takes real love to refuse the manipulation and continue seeking heart relationship with the narcissist, establishing healthy boundaries and stipulating that accountability will be the condition of reconciliation, to love them well. And it takes great patience. Thanks again for your thoughts. JV

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Thankyou Dr Perry, I find this very interesting. It sounds like a very sad state to be caught up in, like a desperate pursuite for loving acceptance, and fear of its withdrawal. But then I do n’t really know.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Excellently informative article!

    I have so much compassion (from a distance) for those who have NPD.

    From being in a relationship with someone who had the traits, they really are like lost children pretending to be adults. It’s heartbreaking to watch.

    I think a lot of people avoid them because of their behaviors which is fair, but isolating. There’s so much shame lumped on them because of their behavior and that keeps many from seeking treatment.

    For anyone who comes across this personality in the wild-remember two things: one to set very (very) solid boundaries in order not to get drawn in.

    And two, they are just messed up people like the rest of us. No more no less, just a different expression. Have compassion 💖

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Vihani says:

    “But that’s the thing about narcissists. They can try to fool you, with all their heart, but in the end, they’re just fooling themselves.”

    Quote says it all! Very well written Dr Perry, thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Narcissists are blood-sucking vampires. I’ve been drained by a few. I try as much as possible to be on the lookout for that behavior in myself since much of it was around me growing up. As the Zen books say, don’t want to water the seeds of that store consciousness. Be aware of it, but don’t water the seeds in the root cellar.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Ajay says:

    Great view on how Narcissist thinks. I do have couple of friends, and I keep telling them to grow up or control but they don’t. Is there any treatment or practices to follow which reduces narcissist behavior?

    Liked by 2 people

      • greatmorningsun says:

        Awesome, A lot of content on youtube, and the internet in general, is how to avoid or get rid of narcissist, but not how to treat it. I have grandiose and narcissistic fantasies that I’d like to wash away. Just reading this and bring awareness to behavioral patterns is very illuminating. Will check out the podcast, thank you

        Liked by 1 person

  27. hubbydogme says:

    I have an issue with a covert, passive/aggressive narcissist. I feel as if I’m drowning, or being smothered somehow. My Buddhist practice has been enormously helpful in that I can pull back from the clutches of his chronic defensiveness and retire to my altar to get “re-set”, and get my perspective back. There are financial constictions, so leaving is out, for now. I have great compassion for his suffering. In that way, I can feel the love I have always had for him w/o being sucked in b the codependency. It is not easy, but I certainly have plenty of myown issues too.

    Liked by 1 person

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