Why are narcissists so kind to others, yet so cruel with their loved ones?
Narcissists are able to fool every single person around them into believing they are the kindest souls on Earth. They have the evil superpower to control others’ perceptions, which helps them create a fake image they use to hide their toxic nature. But once they make sure there is no way out for you, they reveal their true colors, which are far less glamorous than they made you believe. And in the meantime, they continue to maintain the bogus image they have created to manipulate everyone else.
If you have been a victim of such a confusing situation, then you definitely know how hard it is to comprehend why narcissists act so gentle to others, yet so mean to the ones closest to them.
The answer lies in one word: Empathy. (Or the lack of it.)
People with narcissistic nature have no sense of empathy. They have no idea what it feels like to feel compassion for another human being. Therefore, they are unable to truly care for someone else but themselves. Dr. Erin Leonard, a psychotherapist, says it best:
“A narcissist’s extreme and unconscious defensive structure prevents him from experiencing the deep and uncomfortable emotions necessary to sustain closeness, such as empathy, insight, self-awareness, and sincere remorse.”
When it comes to relationships, narcissists have an extremely hard time feigning authenticity. Although they often use fake apologies that either help them escape taking responsibility or shift the blame onto their partners, they continue making the same mistakes over and over again. They proceed with hurting those closest to them, without considering the detrimental consequences, because they have zero empathy.
Empathy is essential when it comes to sustaining a healthy relationship. Without it, partners wouldn’t be able to make compromises, to put themselves in each other’s shoes, to understand one another’s emotions, fears, and aspirations. So, naturally, narcissists struggle with it, as they don’t know how to feel for another person or prioritize someone else’s needs for a change.
Why can’t narcissists empathize with anyone else but themselves?
Dr. Leonard notes:
“A narcissist often lacks empathy because he defends himself against uncomfortable emotions and thus fails to resonate with the other person’s emotional state.”
As narcissists are self-centered to the point where their own needs, desires, and feelings are much more important than anyone else’s, they see every situation as an opportunity to present themselves as the victim.
Playing the victim card puts them in a position where they must be cared for, understood, and even coddled, even though they should be the ones providing all of these things. So, instead of helping their partner get through a rough patch, they minimize the value of their pain and extend it, adding feelings of guilt, anxiety, and loneliness to it.
However, while narcissists have no sense of empathy, they are able to sympathize.
There is a fundamental difference between empathy and sympathy. While both include a certain level of compassion, sympathy involves feeling pity for someone else. In other words, being glad that the adversity the other person is going through is not happening to you. It does not require experiencing overwhelming emotions as empathy does. So, for someone high on narcissism, sympathizing would be quite doable.
What’s more, sympathy often comes hand-in-hand with the temptation of saving the person in need. And as a savior, you become a hero in others’ eyes. Your reputation benefits remarkably from such a selfless act. What more could a narcissist’s ego ask for?
Inevitably, narcissists struggle with the concept of empathy. Their nature doesn’t allow them to be truly compassionate with others. They might be able to maintain a positive image of a kindhearted person while interacting with certain people, but when it comes to the ones closest to them, they cannot hide their true colors. That’s why they can seem so gentle at first, but so cruel once you get to know them on a deeper level.
Do you think a narcissist can shift their perspective and become empathetic? Let us know in the comment section!