One of the byproducts of being around a narcissist for any significant portion of time is that you end up feeling a deep sense of self-loathing. This can be true in any category of relationship, such as intimate partner, parent-child, boss-employee, sibling, co-worker, or any other type of relationship involving an ongoing interaction with a narcissist.
If you are the child of a narcissist, you believe your parent(s) love you because they take care of you, right? They clean the house, take you to school, feed you dinner, and buy you clothes. You even have structure and rules to abide by. No one is hitting you or touching you in inappropriate ways. You live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood. But, in spite of all of these blessings and signs of care, inside you feel a deep sense of shame. Why is this?
If you grew up with at least one narcissistic parent you have experienced a consistent flow of emotional projection and implication that you are disgusting, disdainful, and contemptuous. How, exactly, did this occur? It was mainly done covertly and through a recurring posture of superiority and matter-of-factness presented by your parent that you, obviously, are a screw-up. “How could you be so stupid?” “What were you thinking?” “What idiot left the towel on the counter?”
And when you aren’t experiencing all of their projected disdain, contempt, and disgust, there’s always the envy to contend with. The envy isn’t usually directed at you, it is usually felt toward others, those not in your narcissist’s family. The narcissist is usually very envious of other people – the ones who have “good” children and spouses. Your narcissist will feel very sorry for him or herself for having to deal with his or her disappointing and lousy family, believing that if only s/he had a better spouse or different children, ones that could deliver, then s/he would be happy. As you observe and experience your narcissistic loved one comparing you to others and feeling wanting, you, by implication, take on the obvious understanding that you are an inadequate failure.
Why do narcissists particularly enjoy the emotions of disgust, contempt, disdain, and envy? Let’s dissect the former three emotions first, because they are all quite similar and projected outward in a judgmental way towards other people. Think about when you feel disgusted toward something or someone. Don’t you feel that you are in the non-disgusting position, capable of welding the “disgust” label outside of yourself? Don’t you feel in some ways above whatever it is you don’t like?
Think about the emotions of contempt and disdain for a minute. When you feel contemptuous toward someone, on the one hand you are angry with the target of your contempt, and on the other hand you are superior to that which is contemptuous. The same applies to the emotion of disdain. When your narcissistic loved one is displaying either overtly or covertly the emotions of contempt or disdain toward you, then he or she is obviously in the one-up position, smug and superior, able to impute judgments on you, the target of the projected feelings.
There are probably two main reasons that narcissists so often feel these contemptuous and negative emotions. One, is because someone in their youth (probably one or both of their parents did the same thing to them) projected this emotion on to them, and, in addition, he/she (the parent) “imprinted” this type of behavioral expression of negative emotions onto them (monkey see, monkey do,) which they replicated in adulthood.
The second explanation for this type of emotional display is due to projected shame and rage. The narcissist, incapable of experiencing any depth of vulnerability, projects his/her shame and rage outwards onto certain targets in order to not have to “carry’ his/her shame and rage within him/herself. This projection sometimes takes on the form of disdain, disgust, and contempt. Targets, not realizing what is happening, serve in the capacity of garbage dumps for their loved ones projected toxicity.
What role does envy play in the lives of narcissists? It serves as a constant symbolic scapegoat of why narcissists feel so empty. Because narcissist’s have an inability to self-reflect, they use over-compensatory coping strategies in order to feel okay about themselves. Envy is a very useful tool because it serves to convince narcissists that their problems do not exist within themselves, but reside in their failing loved ones’ inabilities to perform to their satisfaction.
This is why when you are around a narcissist for any significant length of time you feel a deep sense of self-loathing. Your narcissist has unwittingly brain-washed you with toxic shame interspersed with inconsistent bouts of normalcy. Your person does not have to blatantly tell you you’re a failure, you figure that out yourself by your inability to make him or her happy and satisfied. After all, if you were sufficient, your narc wouldn’t be experiencing disdain, disgust, contempt, or envy.
The dangerous web you get caught up in is the web of thinking that somehow if you can just figure out how to be “enough” for the other person, then he or she will be happy. The first step toward breaking out of this toxicity is to understand that you already are enough. The problem resides inside the other person and has absolutely nothing to do with you. You need to tell yourself and convince yourself that YOU CANNOT MAKE A NARCISSIST HAPPY. PERIOD. So you might as well stop trying.
If you grew up with a narcissistic mother and live in Southern California, we are offering a workshop for people interested in healing from the abuse caused by a narcissistic mother. Read the attached flyer for more info: narcmotherflyer09.11.16
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