How can we understand the evil at the core of narcissism? Is it even correct to call it “evil”? If it is indeed evil we are facing; where does it come from? Whatever we want to call ourselves: victims, survivors or targets, we all sit with the burning question; Why? Why was this evil done to me? What is wrong with this person who can act in such cruel ways, and then shrug and yawn about it?
Let’s try to look into this. First of all: is it correct to call narcissism evil? (I’m not talking healthy narcissism as in self love, here, but the pathological, cruel type of narcissism).
“elements that are commonly associated with evil involve unbalanced behavior involving expediency, selfishness, ignorance or neglect” (wikipedia)
So, it seems that selfishness and not caring about others, can be factors that are considered being the core of Evil. Does that sound like some body we know? (Oh hello, mr. Narc, didn’t see you standing there. No, we weren’t talking ’bout you, honest!)
Then what is the root of all this evil? This total lack of concern for your feelings? This extreme selfishness and lack of conscience and empathy?
I’ve read so many articles on this subject, like you wouldn’t believe if I told you. They all blend together in my memory. So I won’t quote anything, but only tell what I remember.
Scientists do not seem to be entirely sure of the causes of narcissism and the closely related psychopathy/anti-social personality disorder. There has been a tradition of explaining narcissism as being created in childhood, in abusive homes. A child who is abused and neglected could develop narcissistic personality disorder as a sort of defense mechanism.
There has also been another explanation; that a child can be too spoiled; given too much attention and admiration, by the parents. That would lead to the child developing an unhealthy sense of entitlement and knowing no limits; their every whim would be catered to by the caregivers.
In both of these cases, the child would develop a false self, that is “perfect”. All the other (uncomfortable/inappropriate) feelings, character flaws, etc, would be hidden deep inside, never to come to the surface again.
Scientists have apparently also seen differences in the brains of people with anti-social personality disorder, compared to the general population. It seems unclear still, if these differences in the brain, are there from birth, or if they somehow form from the damaging experiences during the individual’s childhood.
The research about the brain, while interesting, doesn’t offer us much when it comes to practical guidance. We’re not likely to be able to get the suspected narcissist to go and scan his brain. And even if he did, we’d need someone to interpret the images correctly, which will be quite hard to achieve. So I think the childhood holds the key.
What sort of childhood did your partner have? I sure as hell know that this will be a major topic of conversation for me, with any new potential love interest. I’ll try to get them to talk about their childhood, so I can in a sneaky way get a sense if there was some dysfunction there.
Don’t get me wrong, a dysfunctional childhood doesn’t have to mean anything. The adult person may have dealt with that and moved on to being a healthy, loving adult. But, a dysfunctional childhood, combined with several other red flags, could give us the facts we need, to get away before we are too deeply involved with the person.
A special warning sign that I want to mention also; If you ask your new potential partner (or your steady partner for that matter) about their childhood, and you get vague answers, beware. I’ve read many times in different articles that a narcissist often has very few clear memories of their childhood. They can make sweeping statements, or paint it all as an idealised picture. “Oh, it was wonderful times, you know, my parents are the most amazing people ever”. (OR; they are the worst people ever).
This was exactly how Hero talked about his childhood; everything was wonderful, his parents were “the best” etc. When I scraped the surface, there were very few stories about specific situations. I did find out that his parents both cheated on each other. And that he committed a petty crime once, and his parents were so “supportive”, just telling him everything would be OK, and this thing didn’t matter at all. I frowned upon hearing that. I started understanding why he didn’t have any limits to his behaviors; he’d never had parents to give him any limits or consequences!
It was also clear to me that there were dysfunctional patterns between the siblings. Apparently Hero was “the golden child” who could do no wrong, while his sister was the “impossible child”, the scapegoat in the family.
Upon meeting the mother, I also found that she seemed quite narcissistic herself! She had very poor boundaries, instantly when meeting me, she started gossiping to me (a stranger) about another family member. I also found that she pampered and spoiled Hero like a brat, still. She would come home to his house and do the laundry and clean for him, still! (He was 35 years old..).
She also had a terribly sharp tongue and massive criticism against her husband, most of the time. In the light of all the information about Hero’s background, I can now start to understand a bit about where he’s coming from, and what may have formed him to be so self-centered and uncaring about the needs of others. He learned in childhood that he could do no wrong and deserved to be pampered and viewed as above other people.
Now, while we can use all this information to better understand how and why the narcissist is formed, the question is if that really helps us. It helps us in the way that it is always good to get an understanding of the “why”, when bad things happen to us.
But the next burning question will naturally be; What can be done about this? Can this person be healed from their evil? Can evil redeem itself and even become good? I am very skeptic about that. But that’s for another post!
“…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”.
(The Lord’s prayer)
*Darth Vader-pic by Rarmando456