I was watching The core emotion of narcissism.
He says the underlying, core emotion of narcissism is envy.
I have my own take on this, but it makes my parents make sense to me. It explains their malevolence in a way I could not grasp before.
The difference in my take is that I think the core problem is essentially not knowing how to live, not knowing how to get along with people, not knowing how to regulate themselves and the system of themselves and the other so that it feels comfortable for both people, not being able to articulate one’s internal state in a way that prompts the other person to want to be with you and help you rather than wanting to flee or attack you.
There is an enormous frustration about being unable to connect, never being able to trust anyone to be safe to connect to, but also unable to kind of get it right–under or over-reacting, under or over-aggressing, not knowing where boundaries are and being run over or hurting other people.
Not knowing why you can’t get the connection you need, and not understanding this is about skills, I think actually anyone from an environment like this assumes it’s about worthiness rather than skills that can be acquired. Narcissists live in worlds of punishment and retribution, and if you were raised by one or even two (like me), that’s your world two.
So the first idea, subconsciously, that I think narcissists have is that they aren’t getting what they need because they didn’t earn it or don’t deserve it, and so they are constantly fending off this feeling that they aren’t good enough.
The second schema that arises for the narcissist, I think, is the idea of scarcity. Maybe I am not getting what I need as a human being because there isn’t enough to go around.
They are false ideas. Obviously, there is only so much time, money and even attention to go around, but as I have discovered even giving your time, money and attention to others gives back, unless you are not able to form connections with others during that process of giving.
The upshot is that a narcissist, first of all, looks at someone happier, more contented, more fulfilled or really more of anything, and defends themselves against the idea that maybe they aren’t that happy because they didn’t deserve it. Then, second of all, they may defend themselves against that feeling of scarcity, basically by lashing out.
So that is envy.
But it leads to an urge to destroy everything that might be good unless they feel they possess that thing which is good. So you might be tolerated for having something good, so long as the narcissist believes they own you.
Anyway, it is the only way I have ever been able to explain my parents’ behaviour towards me. All children need to be disciplined. All children make mistakes and are selfish, out-of-line, disruptive and willful at times. But disciplining a child who is misbehaving and needs to learn via manageable consequences is far different from systematic interference with every attempt on the part of the child to feel fulfilled, experience joy and wonder in the world, or even feel safe.
It’s illuminating, because I think the fall-out of that for the child who grows up to be an adult, but perhaps has a few more emotional skills, is to continue to see the world in some of the same terms as the parent: that it’s all about punishment.
If you are good and worthy and wonders will fall into your lap, or you are bad and unworthy and deserve to be physically or psychically murdered, rather than having a more manageable view of the world in which there are some good and bad things that happen somewhat randomly, but a lot of it is about work.
So if I don’t have the relationships I want in my life, the answer might not be to punish myself mercilessly, but to try to learn how to have the relationship skills which will make fulfillment possible for me.