Someone recently asked on Quora what would be the main thing survivors of narcissistic relationships would want the world to understand about narcissism.
I knew immediately what that would be and I feel I should give that topic a bit more love here on my blog.
The most important thing that everyone should understand about narcissism is the narcissist’s mask, how it operates and how it differs from what the narcissist’s scapegoat (child, partner, sibling) is experiencing.
Because of this mask, which frequently seriously is an Oscar-worthy act, targets of narcissists get further victimised and punished by the society. They are being judged as crazy and emotionally unstable because they react to the narcissist’s mind-fuck behaviour. The narcissist (or a psychopath by that matter) remains cool and composed and somehow people believe him or her.
Lessons from serial killers
I will use an example of a very extreme group to help you see how deceitful the narcissist’s or psychopath’s mask can be. It is completely possible for someone to act like the most composed likeable person and yet be deeply messed up inside and capable of the most horrific deeds.
The first video that I want you to look at is of a man that has been described as the definition of pure evil by his own lawyer. His name was Ted Bundy and he is believed to have brutally murdered dozens of women (some estimates go up to a hundred). He managed to do all that during a rather short criminal career – he was captured at the age of only 31.
Bundy was a handsome psychology graduate who had worked at a suicide hotline crisis centre, where his colleagues described him as kind, solicitous, and empathetic. He frequently lured his victims into his car under clever ruses before slamming them over their heads with a baseball bat. He would sexually assault the young women, murder them and keep returning to their corpses to enjoy further sexual pleasures until the bodies started decomposing.
Now watch the video, which was filmed the night before his execution.
He sounds and looks pretty reasonable, doesn’t he? You would believe he is a reformed man. Except for the fact that there is no real remorse. He is in no pain whatsoever over his deeds and in fact blames it on pornography. Some narcissists and psychopaths can fake remorse but it usually comes across as not totally genuine. That’s when you need to trust your instinct – this sort of ‘something is odd’ feeling that many of us feel but frequently dismiss.
The second video contains some footage of Bundy before and during his trial.
What an actor! And genuinely likeable! I bet many of those slaughtered girls entered his car voluntarily. In fact, at the time of the trial he was described as ‘America’s handsome nightmare’. Bundy was originally removed from the list of suspects because of his likeability and the fact that he had been quite successful professionally. Some of his acquaintances believed he was on track to becoming a state governor one day.
Bundy is by no means the only ‘likeable’ evil psycho in the history. In fact – superficial charm and likeability are among the criteria on the Hare checklist, against which psychiatrists and psychologists assess criminals for psychopathy.
I don’t intend to say that every likeable person is a psychopath. The emphasis here is on the word superficial. Since the narcissist’s likeable persona is just a mask, it has no real depth. That is, however, quite difficult to detect. We live in the age of superficial and the majority of people are very susceptible to subtle manipulation at which narcissists and psychopaths excel. Flattery, pretending that they are just like you, liking the same things, disliking the same people and having the same values, oozing kindness and helpfulness – these are all their powerful weapons. The problem is that there is an agenda behind all that and the person really is not what they pretend to be.
The following video is of another deranged murderer. Kevin Dahlgren brutally slaughtered four members of a family that hosted him in the Czech Republic. His mother sent him to stay with his distant relatives as he was struggling in his home environment in Paolo Alto, California. She thought that spending time in the slow-paced world of the post-communist country would do him good. Well, it didn’t.
His sojourn in Brno ended with a frantic escape to the US after he had, one by one, murdered his relatives in a crazed knife attack, after which he tried to set the bodies afire to erase evidence.
The evidence against him was pretty conclusive. He confessed but blamed the entire atrocity on ‘voices in his head.’ He may well have been hearing those voices. But if you listen to his speech – you will probably ask yourself – where is the remorse, the regret at the horrifying death of four innocent people that he had caused?
Dahlgren sounds very composed and reasonable. He speaks of all the healing he has accomplished since the murders and how he wants to become a valuable member of the society. It sounds quite calculated if you measure his words against his horrific act.
Dahlgren, by the way, was diagnosed narcissistic by a Czech expert. And if there is something that narcissists and psychopaths know how to do, then it is tailoring their behaviour to what people want to see. The Czech judge didn’t let him self be fooled. Dahlgren got a life-sentence and eventually committed suicide in a Czech prison.
The mask of your next-door narcissist
Not every narcissist or psychopath is a murderer, obviously. Your regular next-door narcissist would most likely be an expert at covert psychological abuse. But he or she will be hiding behind exactly the same likeable persona. This persona, or a mask, is the exact reason why the recipients of narcissistic mind-fuck have a really hard time explaining what’s going on. The target appears confused and emotional, is branded unstable and forced to either accept the narc’s version of reality or be ostracized by the common social circle.
A narcissistic mother would let everyone know how her scapegoat daughter is difficult and ungrateful, a narc man would start preparing the ground for the discard of his partner by making sure everybody gets the idea that she is ‘a nagging crazy bitch’, and since she reacts emotionally to his covert abuse, everyone would believe him. A psychopath colleague that would covertly sabotage cooperation with a co-worker would, of course, blame the whole situation on the other person and persuade the boss that the scapegoat is, indeed, high-strung, unreasonable and uncooperative. And again, since the scapegoat gets understandably emotional, or even angry, bang – of course she or he is the problem.
How to spot the mask?
You should want to get better at spotting masks for two reasons. First of all you want to see through them before they make you their target. Second, I am sure that as a good person you don’t want to participate in further victimisation of victims.
So how exactly do you become better at spotting masks? What I have noticed with many of these types that have crossed my path over the years is that frequently, I would have an immediate odd feeling, which I would dismiss, only for it to later be confirmed.
I once had to move out of a flat share because a flatmate, whom I believe was a psychopath, disliked me for a reason I will never understand. She successfully turned the other flatmate against me. “Magdalena is such a nice person, I don’t understand why are you not getting along with her,” I would hear, while the lovely Magdalena was busy smearing me for an array of made up transgressions. I remember the first moment my eyes met Magdalena’s. I had this ‘oops, this is not good,’ feeling. Back then I decided to do my best to get along with her – it totally backfired against me.
I experienced the same first instance feeling with a work-colleague who later pretty much turned an OK workplace into a nightmare.
In fact, even with the narcissistic ex, I remember my first thought at seeing him was ‘high-school bully’. Of course, the narc employed his arsenal of flattery and mirroring and I totally forgot this first feeling only to have to learn the hard way what this individual really was.
So this is the lesson – really do listen to your gut feeling. But you don’t need to rely just on the gut feeling. Listen to what the people say – narcissists’ and psychopaths’ words frequently don’t match actions and they are not too eager to share details or explain situations. Vagueness is king when it comes to narcissists and psychopaths. Remember that and don’t accept it. Narcissists and psychopaths thrive in conflict, which they manufacture and refuse to resolve. They play a game of smoke and mirrors, they are deliberately confusing the situation.
Whenever there is a conflict, where one person is desperate and at wits end, while the other ‘doesn’t understand what’s going on’, stop and think. Just because someone appears to be nice doesn’t mean that they really are. They really might be playing a sneaky game. The majority of us find it difficult to comprehend simply because we don’t act like this.
The lessons to be learned
As I said in my original post on Quora, it is my wish that people were able to stop and think about the whole situation instead of outright dismissing the victim.
For now, the only way out is to help the victims. Empower them and educate them so that they stop reacting in emotional ways to the covert narcissistic abuse and find the strength to walk away from toxic relationships.
A sufficiently recovered and empowered victim usually stops fighting against the narcissist’s mask and leaves the circles under the narc’s influence altogether. It is much easier to find yourself a healthier environment – one, where you are not ‘the problem’ – than make people see. If they are not psychologically ready to see, they will not see, no matter how hard you try to explain. They will not get it and only invalidate you further.
I have chosen to cut communication with most of my relatives. I will never forget one of my aunts telling me that my childhood was great and that it was only me perceiving it as problematic. That given aunt, brainwashed by my narc mother, clearly accepted my mother’s narrative and assigned me the role of the oversensitive and difficult one. (Good riddance, aunt. I really don’t benefit in any way from having you in my life. And I let you take care of my mother once she drinks her way to dementia. It’s been you encouraging her alcohol habit either way).
The world will only become a better place when people start really understanding psychology and learn and grow psychologically beyond their initial codependent states. As scapegoats and narc targets, we have been sort of forced to learn these lessons. For me, psychology was very much a survival skill. And you know what? No one helped me on this journey. I had to figure it out all by myself (until I had enough money to pay for a good therapist). I don’t want to live in the toxic narc-dominated world anymore and I have no time for those who are not able to see. We all have to learn our lessons in our very own time. And I accept that some never will. At least not in this lifetime.
This was a very clear concise article on the subject of the Narcissistic mask how it slips through the defences of people in general and they take it as truth from the narcissists facade alone ,they want to believe what they are hearing how could this nice person so simple an honest poor poor person be a villian and you in the workplace or social setting be smearing their own actions upon another party and telling you about their own acts to get your comments of empathy sympathy advice and emotional responsive fuel.they know it is their own behavior upon their spouse they are telling you about they love your concerned remarks thats horrible how can somebody treat this nice person so bad so disrespecful stripping their very human dignity from them this horrible person to treat you this way they think.opening their homes they offer the beast refuge and money treat them to dinners and hold their hand in pathetic theatrics _They will many never know they fed a FAKE a MASK a disguise to use you to further yry to destroy a person they have never met _all the while the Narcissistic disordered nice person was enjoying hearing you groan and sorrow while they tell you how THEY treat people who encounter them marry them date them and work with them . and in that way they see just how Powerful you think they are and how superior they are too you They Know _the others do not -They have you_convinced How superior this makes them feel , How great the public thinks they are _never one of them questioning the fact they have never met the one being smeared all the professed high moral valued people assist them in their campaign to destroy a human life with their help , that is perhaps more cruel and devastating than the psychological warfare you continually deal with with the narc themself ! The Narcississt is the kind Character Assassin You call Friend _Co-worker_ Husband_Wife or Clent _the poor simple Killer of the people they profess undying loyalty protection care friendship dedication honesty and Un-Conditional Love -When they Leave a human life in ruins Those upstanding people carry on stabbing what is left of the Narcs victim -whispering -and staring at These people hide their cheating cover their lies and excuse their behavior as justified most do not even know you apart from a name_The Narcs Mask has them sold and those people defend the Narc and many never believe otherwise nor can they ever rectify even to God in Silence That They Judged wrong THEY PREFER THE LIE and GUSH at the Mask _The sweet Flattery The Narc Gives them is as much Laughter the Narc enjoys Besting them all their gullibility and swallowing The Narcs Lies like honey !
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Thank you for your comment. Yeah, the feeling of superiority of the narc – I remember it very well. When he was discarding me, he always had this patronising expression on his face. I couldn’t understand it. Back then I didn’t know what he was – well, he was looking down at me because how easy it was for him to play me. Sick fuck. They are really subhuman. But I believe in karma. It’s going to get them sooner or later. And for those who abuse the victim unwillingly by buying the narc’s shit – well they are idiots and sooner or later their very own narc is going to get them. And then they will be in the same situation. We are blessed to have learned all this. Now we can surround ourselves with healthy authentic wholesome people.
I am emotionally abused by my daughter, who I believe Narcissists. ( by Reading many article associated with their persona ) she’ll talk,act toward me as I’m nothing. nobody, below her..I’ve been hurt,confused many times by her..yet,when she wants something’s I’m always available, do,gives, as mother.. yet,she shows no appreciation, or greadattidue by all means,no word’s, or gestures. I also have 3 more kids.let me tell you,how Good she is to me,respectful,Sweet, in front of her siblings/ in front of other peoples around ( she’s the oldest, age’s in 40’s,30’s.) I’ve tried to let my other daughter see how she is,who she is.as you know I’m the crazy one,with overly sensitive, overly emotional, etc..merely, she’s kept me far distant from her kids..I’m never been invited to any school gathering (grand parents day,graduations, etc.3-kids,age’s 16-12) I was good enough to baby sit,when they were much younger..
I just wanted to tell you about it. since no one will believe me..I’m just hoping I’ll live long enough to see the “KARMA”
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Hi Aki, and thank you for your comment. I am wondering – was your husband a narcissist? Someone must have taught your daughter to treat you this way. For example my sister learned from my mother to use me as a scapegoat. I think you need to remember that it’s us who have to set boundaries with others. If we allow them to treat us poorly, they will. (check my article on boundaries: https://terezashealthblog.com/2018/03/30/how-to-set-boundaries-with-narcissists-and-stop-getting-hurt-by-their-behaviour/
In this overly emotional overly sensitive stage, it would be best for your to remove yourself from this environment until you are strong enough to face them calmly. Your other children – they have to see for themselves – but you should not allow their invalidating behaviour. Maybe you really need to distance yourself from all of them for a while. I had to do this with my family. Do you have a chance to join a local codependents anonymous group? You might find people there with similar problems. I think you might benefit from some support. I am not sure whether therapy is an option for you but you need to put yourself first. Understand that you have worth and value and that you have the right to expect to be treated well. Put yourself first, focus on your healing, create your life away from them…. You can do it… A big hug and thank you for reading my blog….
Believe me, I know how CRAZY these narrcissistic lunatics are!!! They are very sick individuals & only God can help them… If even He can🤔 They are above God, or @ least they think they are….. In the end, all we can hope for, is that they will be punished for all the terrible things that they have done to their victims…. Their time will come….. Until then, get the help & Therapy that is needed, to heal the best u can & live ur life in the best way, possible…. They hate happy people, so, be happy & be free of these Messed Up, losers…… U deserve 2 be treated with love & respect ….. 😊 Don’t ever let anyone treat you less than you deserve!!!!!❤
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Reblogged this on No Way Back and commented:
I aspire to write such a cohesive and explanatory manner. I have the emotional knowledge just not the ‘jargon’ to adequately describe what I understand of my ex partners behaviour and life techniques.
I now understand more about myself psychologically. Through his abuse I am reclaiming myself and understanding the the world is not the same for everyone, our thought processes are influenced by our childhoods and how we were treated. The feelings we were left with follow us into adulthood. Many of us do not realise to what extent until it is too late.
Talking about our issues helps. Sweeping them under the carpet perpetuates the mystery, suffering and loneliness.
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Thank you for your comment and for re-blogging my posts. I think you should write in the manner that suits you 🙂 There is room for all types of voices and they are all important. They complement each other. You are very right in your assessment of the situation – yes, our childhoods totally determine our thought processes. It’s not easy breaking through that. Sometimes it takes a narc to rip us apart to access all that…
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