My convenience comes first.This may look like simple selfishness and, of course, it is profoundly selfish. But the key feature of narcissism is that the principle goes all the way down. That is, it goes right down to what they tell themselves about what happens. The principle is:
My convenience comes first, including how I construe events, how I construe other people, how I construe myself.As is true generally of people with personality disorders, for narcissists feelings make facts. So, what is convenient for them to believe about something is what they believe.
This is what makes narcissism a personality disorder: that their sense of reality is driven pervasively and fundamentally by their personality needs. Of course, it also explains why creativity and narcissism often go together, since creativity is all about imposing your wishes and perspectives on aspects of reality.
It also means that narcissists can be profoundly charming. If you have something they want (even if it is just being a good “audience”) then they can be heaps of fun. The problem comes when reality conflicts with their reality principle of my convenience comes first.
Suddenly, they can become utterly unreliable. Promises mean nothing, friendship mean nothing. Unreliable, that is, in the sense of keeping to some general code: they remain utterly reliable in terms of my convenience comes first.
If one tries to call them on any of this, you find you can never really reach them. They live in a self-policing fortress of self-serving convenience. Everything gets re-construed to fit their convenience. And because the first person they lie to is themselves, they can be utterly sincere in what they spout.
Their “sincerity” is often what made them so attractive in the first place. And they remain “sincere”. So, clearly, you have to be really the problem if anything went wrong. That is, after all, the convenient thing for them to believe: so events, their actions, your actions, just get re-construed to maintain the principle that their convenience comes first.
Which means that their reality principle operates so they cannot see themselves. They really do live in a self-policing fortress of self-serving convenience.
It is hardly surprising that conventional psychotherapy is likely to make narcissists in particular worse, since it licenses them to take their feelings as being of central legitimacy and gives them better tools to make the self-deceptions—which are at the centre of their pathology—more plausible to themselves and others. Not they are likely to go to psychotherapy. As a friend said:
According to my shrink, however, narcissists rarely end up in therapy except of the most shallow variety. They don't believe there's anything wrong with them so they don't see the need to fix it - whatever problems they encounter are all someone else's fault.And if they do get treatment, their therapists often find it a deeply unpleasant experience.
The entire existence of human society rests on there being sufficient regularities in human nature to make sufficient reliability in interactions possible. These regularities may come from various aspects of being human—from common bodily form to deep cognitive structures to particular sets of belief. But, without them, human society cannot operate.
This presumption of reliability—including in what words and actions mean—is what makes people with personality disorders so destructive, so disorienting. For the hardest thing to realise is the principle writers on narcissism and personality disorders keep saying in so many different ways: they do not think as you do. Behaviours and words which you would normally construe in particular ways simply do not have the status and meaning you think they do, because the principle my convenience comes first trumps everything, including how they construe events, you and themselves. They are simply not operating on the same reality principle you are.
If you are in dispute with a narcissist, ask yourself the question do I have anything they want? If the answer is “no” then the interaction will have value only in a clinical sense—confirming what you have (hopefully) come to realise.
There are quite a lot of useful links on narcissism. In the more populist form, you can seek to test your own level of narcissism. People have assembled lists of the traits of a narcissist. There is some evidence that narcissism may be spreading.
There there are more serious pieces. Unsurprisingly, the children of narcissistic parents are likely to end up in therapy (pdf).
Narcissists tend to have big self-esteem issues, so big they sacrifice almost everything (and anyone) to shore themselves up. That is why their reality principle is their convenience comes first: in a real sense, there is not enough “there” to support anything else.
Which all fits in with narcissist celebrity implosion index.
The key fact about serial killers: they are narcissists. So, an extreme form of the same, sad dynamic. But, as an acquaintance so sagely put it, all narcissists are serial killers of the soul: see above comments about undermining reliability—including, and this can be the really destructive thing, confidence in your own judgement. After all, it is literally true that the normal cues just really do not apply.
But, if you have suffered from a narcissist, and am feeling vindictive, look on the bright side—narcissists tend to age badly.
ADDENDA The Thinker likes the post. Always good to have that sort of endorsement.