In the comments section of the post on self-esteem vs. self-respect I made this statement,
I have been witness to both. I have seen what were obviously real periods of self-loathing by Ns. I have also seen the theatrical versions. The "feel" of the fake version is quite different to the observant witness.I was asked to explain the difference between the faked self-loathing and the real demonstrations. I will try.
First, it is important to not mistake a malignant narcissist's self-loathing as being connected with remorse. Do they have regrets? Oh, yes. But not for your sake. Only for their own sake. They only regret not getting what they think they deserve.
Sam Vaknin, the most verbose of narcissists, contends that narcissists are, "immersed in self-loathing and self-pity. He is under duress and distress most of his waking life." Ref. Cry me a frakking river. Life is tough when you're always on the run from reality. If you read Vaknin's answer to the question "Is the Narcissist Ever Sorry?" (link above) you get treated to an eyeful of self-pity and a wide dodge of the general question itself. Whatever.
Here's the deal. A malignant narcissist's life sucks. I'll grant Vaknin's point on that. But his self-loathing, however briefly experienced, is earned. It is the narcissist's just desserts for being so despicable in his treatment of others and even how he treats himself. I wish a narcissist was constantly tortured by self-loathing, but the truth is, they aren't. The narcissist's self-loathing is very intimately connected with self-pity. They only really hate themselves when they aren't getting what they want! The narcissist's sense of self-loathing is very quickly turned into being the fault of someone else or the fault of circumstance. In practical reality this means they don't truly feel self-loathing. It is a fleeting thing instantly transferred into his wallow of self-pity. Boo hoo. Never waste your pity on a narcissist...they have plenty of that for themselves.
Here is what the evidence tells me: narcissists never feel self-loathing to any real depth or degree. I believe it is more of a dispassionate observation they make about themselves devoid of the crushing emotion we associate with the term.
I saw a very good demonstration of this in a movie recently. It was a period piece titled, "Daniel Deronda". A movie I liked, by the way. There are two characters in the film who are narcissists. Well, one is most definitely a narcissist...the other is well on her way to being totally corrupted. The female, younger and very narcissistic character, Gwendolyn Harleth, more than once dispassionately admits to her heartlessness, her corrupt character, her utter selfishness, her abuse and use of others. It was intriguing to see her admit to these flaws of character without a tinge of discernable shame or remorse. Or any real emotion. It was just a fact she was stating with no more emotion than we would quote statistics. This I found a very accurate representation of the utterly self-involved. I have seen this type of admission in narcissists which has always lacked emotional depth. It is just an undeniable fact that the narcissist may sometimes be willing to admit. They are not feeling the pain of having inflicted pain on you even if you get such an admission from them.
If they do feel the pain of self-loathing it is inextricably linked to their own self-interests and their ever-present self-pity. It is about how they are down on their luck. It is about how they can't support their sense of grandiosity at the moment and therefore are feeling persecuted by the universe. It is about how unfair everyone and every thing is and how the narcissist doesn't have what they deserve. Of course, in their minds they deserve what they want, not what they get.
Okay. So, down to the difference between a real demonstration of self-loathing and a faked one. In my opinion you can detect the difference between the two in the level of emotion involved in the expression. Is there a lack of emotion in the admission? Or are you being treated to a full display of tears, weeping and gnashing of teeth?
The more emotion displayed the bigger fake you're witnessing.
The more dispassionate the expression, the closer you are to seeing a narcissist acknowledging a truth about themselves.
But, again, this self-loathing is greatly tempered for the narcissist. He or she has powerful defenses against truly feeling the depth this emotion would call forth in someone who isn't a malignant narcissist. The narcissist's ever-present self-pity and sense of absolute entitlement blunt their ability to really feel the self-loathing they should be experiencing. They relate to it as we relate to a scientific fact. It is an intellectual assent to the truth but it never gets down to the seat of their emotions. It can't. They have rendered themselves unable to truly feel anything. Like Vaknin says somewhere else, narcissists confuse their wants with emotions. That simple statement hints at the enormous mis-wiring the brain of the narcissist has been subject to. Let's be clear...this re-wiring was a job the narcissist did on their own brain. Temper your pity with that fact.
The upshot of this is that the narcissist never truly experiences self-loathing in the way we would. It is a very different experience for the malignant narcissist than for you or me. When a decent person with an uncorrupted conscience feels self-loathing it is intensely excruciating because the decent person won't allow themself to shift the blame to someone or something else. They have to feel the full force of the emotion. Hence, we are actually capable of feeling the full spectrum of painful emotions normally associated with the term 'self-loathing'. Which is one reason I spit on Vaknin's appeal to the 'pain' the narcissist is always in. I only wish he was in more pain.
The narcissist, of course, is sure that no one has ever felt pain they way they feel it. They have no idea that only a decent, good-hearted and empathetic person with a fully functioning conscience is capable of feeling the depths of human emotions be they happy or negative emotions. He gives himself far too much credit for being able to feel anything. And there is no nobilty in feeling self-pity. Anyone can feel sorry for themselves. Only decent people can rise above self-pity without trampling someone else to get there. The narcissist assuages his self-pity by finding another source, i.e. victim, to give him what he wants.
I'll quote a larger portion of Vaknin from the same reference above,
But he has a diminished capacity to empathise, so he rarely feels sorry for what he does. He almost never puts himself in the shoes of his "victims". Sure, he feels distressed because he is intelligent enough to realise that something is wrong with him in a major way. He compares himself to others and the outcome is never favourable. His grandiosity is one of the defence mechanisms that he uses to cover up for this disagreeable state of things. But its efficacy is partial and intermittent. The rest of the time, the narcissist is immersed in self-loathing and self-pity. He is under duress and distress most of his waking life. In a vague way, he is also sorry for those upon whom he inflicts the consequences of his personality disorder. He knows that they are not happy and he understands that it has something to do with him. Mostly, he uses even this to aggrandise himself: poor things, they can never fully understand him, they are so inferior. It is no wonder that they are so depressed. (from Narcissism FAQ #14: Is the Narcissist Ever Sorry)
The stench from this load of self-serving crap is damn near overwhelming. Please read his words carefully. Even though he uses the term "self-loathing" there is not one description of true self-loathing in his self-serving answer. It is all self-pity. The most he hates himself for is that he's in pain from his lack of getting what he wants. Your pain? It is a vague concept to him. It is nearly not an entity of any form to his mind. It is incidental at best.
My conclusion of this topic is that the narcissist is completely incapable of true self-loathing. The only pain he'll let himself feel is the pain of being denied what the selfish little three year old wants. Take away his toy and watch the tears and tantrums and self-pity begin.
He saves all his loathing for the poor victims of his predations and abuses. He can loathe you utterly...meaning having complete disdain and disregard for you as a person. As for himself, he only loathes momentarily...right before he shifts into a full blown pity party. Big, fat babies.
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