Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Fear that Moves Them

If I was required to come up with one adjective to describe the internal life of a malignant narcissist...ummmmm...I couldn't do it. I require two.

Covetous and fearful--in that order.

I want to focus more on the latter descriptor. Fear. It is the outgrowth of the former. Fear is so pervasive in the psyche of the narcissist that they do not see it. They call it other things; they certainly don't call it fear. Usually those around them don't see it either. Yet nearly everything the narcissist does is an effort to outrun their fear.

Before I go further I want to explicitly state that an examination of the fear that moves the narcissist is not in any way a demand upon us to feel pity for them. Every single human being deals with fears. It is how we deal with our fears that largely determine what we become. I think we can safely label the narcissist as having pathological fear because it is so destructive to themselves and all those who have to deal with them. Their personal code of conduct, their broken coping mechanisms, their thinking patterns--all point to the fact that they have completely capitulated to their fears and are ruled by them. Another word for that is cowardice. Because I do not admire cowardice, my ruminations on the all-pervasive fears that move the narcissist do not inspire compassion or pity in me.

Fear that is caved to = cowardice.
Fear that is faced or fear that we act in spite of = courage.

Truly brave people are not fearless people. They are people who acted in spite of fear. It is bravery that inspires me and commands my respect.

I have observed the malignant narcissist's fear up close and very personally. You may think me hard for not pitying the fearful state of the narcissist. If so, consider this...the narcissist's efforts to forestall their fears is what motivates them to hurt you. You are expendable in their quest to evade their fears. You are the casualty of their fears. Their fears are slaked by your pain, your psychic injury. There...feel the pity evaporate like the morning dew? I hope so.

What is the narcissist afraid of?

Because of the need of the narcissist to garner all the attention and good will in the room, one of their most basic fears is loss of attention i.e. loss of narcissistic supply. The reason this fear is pathological is because of the pathological covetousness it springs from. It isn't enough for them to be satisfied with a portion of the human regard and attention in any given situation. They must have your share too. They perceive you getting attention as their losing attention. They must have it all. That is covetousness. Their most primal fear is the outgrowth of their infernal covetousness.


1. Excessively and culpably desirous of the possessions of another. See synonyms at jealous.
2. Marked by extreme desire to acquire or possess.

For the best explanation of what attention is, how we all need it to do well in life, and how the narcissist must have it all, see Kathy's site here. This is essential to understanding "what makes narcissists tick."

They can experience loss of attention (supply) as either you gaining some of their precious commodity through your real accomplishments or force of personality, etc., or through attrition of supply sources due to various reasons. This fear looms very large for the narcissist and motivates many (if not all) of their bad behaviors.

This is their most basic fear--loss of narcissistic supply.

Sam Vaknin identifies fear of abandonment as ever-present and directly connects that fear to the fear of losing a source of supply. All the other fears of the narcissist seem to tie into this one fear of losing supply. They fear emotional dependency even though they can be very dependent. They fear intimacy. (Both of these fears are linked to their need to see themselves as god-like and therefore better than the rest of humanity and entitled to whatever supply they demand.) They fear the loss of their looks or mental capacity (depending on whether they are somatic or cerebral narcissists). These are his/her stock in trade to gaining supply. They fear introspection (again, linked to the need to be god-like--introspection is detrimental to maintaining their sense of grandiosity. Being a god means they are entitled to their supply needs.) They fear being unmasked. They fear loss of status or reputation. These fears are all connected in some way to the loss of supply.

It is their covetousness and their fear of losing that which they covet (and must therefore steal from you), which inspire their predatory nature. They are thieves. They must steal what is by right yours and mine in order to feel any sense of equanimity or calm in the circumstance. But I digress.

Several years before I knew anything about NPD I was startled to recognize what a fearful creature my mother is. I watched her behaviors and began to analyze past events and behaviors. It became stunningly obvious that my mother was animated entirely by her fears. The more clearly I could see this fact the more pathetic she looked to me. And, yes, I pitied her. It was an earth-shaking as well as eye-opening understanding for me. My mother presents herself as a Rock of Gibraltar. She is in control of herself and her world. She is the pinnacle of human strength. T'was all an act. A pitiful and cartoonish act which had fooled me for decades. Having pulled back the curtain I could see the 'little man' operating the levers while fooling everyone into thinking her to be the Great Oz. My pity was eventually eclipsed by the recognition of the evil which this woman stoops to in order to get what she wants. I now save all my pity for her many victims. My mother's pathological covetousness, which leads to her pathological fears, is what she uses to justify her pathological narcissism. Being fearful doesn't make her pitiable, it makes her malignant.

What does the understanding that narcissists are animated by their pathological fears do for us? Hopefully it can help to depersonalize for us the crimes they commit against us so we can more easily sever our affections and connections to them. Everything is about them; none of it is about us from their perspective. We are always just a means to an end. We are tools in their hand, objects in the room, a reflection in their mirror. The quest to slake their vast thirsty covetousness must be done at our expense. It must be done to try and find a moment's peace from their clamoring lusts. Again, to see the world of the narcissist you have to step far outside yourself. They are living in another galaxy. The ability to see that they are cravenly following their lusts, and that they constantly scramble to outrun their fear that they may not gain what they crave, can help you to step away from this destructive force. They are addicts; addicted to their narcissistic supply sources. Like addicts they will steal, kill, lie, cheat and manipulate to get their next fix. Seeing this, you can better protect yourself and those you care about. Leave the narcissist to his fears. You can't save him from his fears. Just step off the tracks so the train doesn't hit you.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I can SEE this clearly! My Nmom was/is a 'backward' person...always inept socially...and 'uninitiated' in how the world works. I attributed this to her early poverty and isolation during the Dustbowl years....(one of her often blamed issues for 'I can't do that....I don't know how.') I had a strong personality....a kind of 'quick-study-ness' on how the world worked...and she pushed me out there to learn and do things so she didn't have to. (I was always WAY IN OVER MY HEAD!!!) I would face my fears, her fears....find out how to do it or be it....constantly 'feeding' her so she could get on her feet, not be frightened, learn how etc. WHY? Because I was little and I NEEDED A REAL MOTHERRRRRR! Instead, she was my very first 'child' that I felt responsible to care for and try to raise to be a good, capable, confident person! But, NOOOOOOOOOoooooo....instead she just used me....stole everything I worked hard to learn and earn....took the credit...all that. Not till this blog...(and 55 years later) can I see it. She's 79 now....and not ONE thing has changed in her except an added excuse of 'I can't do that...I'm old now'. Haven't spoken to her since early October. Not going to.

Thanks for the 'rant'. Great post.


Anonymous said...

As a fruit of my Nmothers' inherent fear, every one of her children became neurotic and anxious. Yet, when faced with the fears of her children, her classic response was to smile or laugh and ridicule their weakness.

Yet she used to exhibit the same neuroticism. Small things would worry her intensely, like the fact that there was no air conditioning in the shopping centre and she 'couldn't breathe' because it was becoming stuffy. Of course, she would make out as though she was suffering terribly. As a child, I remember looking up at her like she was crazy. I knew even then that she was hamming it up.

Not long before my Dad passed away, she had her first 'panic attack' (her kids had been having them for years) where she truly lost control. Her husband was dying and finally her true fears of the loss of a supply of 50 years overcame her. An ambulance was called, and of course she made the most of it, but she was OK.

Now in her eighties, her fearfulness is becoming much more obvious. Like Anna, I have no pity for her. She would like us all to run around after her because she is apparently 'a frail old lady', but in fact she is as strong as an ox, and has been strangling the life out of everyone around her for years.

I started having panic attacks when I was 19. At 40 I finally worked out why and no longer suffer them. A book by an Australian therapist 'Don't Panic', proved what I already knew. No person who suffers from such things does so without cause, and that cause overwhelmingly in the therapists experience has been because of childhood trauma. Everything has come together for me. This site, and others like it have made it so much easier to make sense of the insanity.

Anonymous said...

Helplessness is a great excuse to get others to do things so you don't have to. The narcissist must be very careful, though, for such may be a self-fulfilling prophecy and there's nothing worse than to be helpless when everyone has abandoned you to yourself. Your greatest fear has come true, and nobody feels any sympathy. Narcissists are soul-suckers, get them out of your life!!!

Anonymous said...

I am new to learning about N.... I have a grandmother who we have recently figured out is a N. She has been for years... she worries about things to the point it is ridiculous. We are constantly rushing her to the doctors for this or that... she obsesses over things.. will wear gloves so that she does not catch others' germs, however, does not mind passing germs on to other people by never washing her gloves... she manipulates my parents who care for her in their own home.. went to their church and one night (out of no where) told anyone who would listen to her that she was kicked out on the sreet and my parents were evil...did her wrong and mistreat her.... ordinarially she does not like to be around people or talk to people, but that night she did... these are just a few examples of many, many instances and ploys for attention and the "feeding" that is mentioned so many times on web pages about N's. Very interesting comments and info... thanks!

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of an animal who is dominant in the group but is always vigilant and worried about not getting the best food, mates, etc, or that some other lesser group member might get something that he alone feels entitled to. I remember watching a show about monkeys and how those who were more dominant were most fearful, while the others could enjoy life, eat, socialize and play peacefully, the big cheese could only worry about what the others were doing and ensuring they didn't have anything he wanted.

If an N lives long enough the time will come when the supply is threatened, either by aging, illness or people getting fed up. A lot of us have aging N's in our lives, and they often get worse with in later years. They tend to take their losses out on whoever they are dependent on.

It's interesting to watch enmeshed, co-dependent Ns worry about losing each other, for example an N with an elderly N parent. A narcissistic ACON has got to be terrified of losing that parent/co-N. I've seen them scampering around to find other sources in preparation for the loss. But it will never be the same and that must cause them great fear. My Ns have been found out by outsiders that they have tried to recruit, so they know they
cannot easily replace these sick relationships, if at all.

No pity here for the fearful N, in fact I think it would be most interesting to observe the N as he loses some supply. It might feel like just a little bit of justice. (Just watch from a distance.)

Normal people understand and accept loss as part of life, the N thinks he can't lose, yet he knows otherwise so he's got to be scared.


So, what IS in a heart? said...

Vaknin's right. Most Ns really are cowards, and even that's not an excuse for evil behavior.

jacqueline said...

Hello Anna Again another great post! I've often thought of getting a bumper sticker that reads "Narcissists Suck", however in some twisted way the N would get a little supply out of it!! No thanks! I've also joined the ranks of the No More Pity Group after 8 years with the STB-N ex..."Like addicts they will steal, kill, lie, cheat and manipulate to get their next fix"..sounds like evil incarnate to me! This Blog has truly been the best therapy for me, constantly re-reading past posts!! Keep on keeping on!!

Anonymous said...

I was reading something the other day over failed relationships and personality characteristics that often contribute to them not working out. One of the traits supposedly most toxic is the avoidant personality type. While not called a narcissist, most of the characteristics of the avoidant seemed to parallel those of the N. Fear of responsibility seems to fit both the N and the Avoidant person. Also, looking down upon those that are able to express basic human levels of emotion, expect to respected, etc..., were some other characteristics I felt the two types had in common. Has anyone else heard of the avoidant type and if it seems close to narcissism its expression?

Anonymous said...

The thing I find them all to be VERY fearful about?
Being exposed, caught, busted, their M.O. shown to the world for what it is, their sick little games pulled out into the sunshine.

My late N-mom got called out a couple times by my sibling and I - Oy! What a rage & tantrum. She NEVER forgave me for making my sibling (golden child) do it. LOL - he was the one who wanted to call her out.

Yup - being found out? The drama, the drama

Anonymous said...

Anna, I want to agree with what Jacqueline said, your post has been the best therapy for me and has given me the most strength. I am still fighting the battle, and more painfully to me, my kids are torn apart by their NPD father. But I am stronger now and I am fighting back. I hope it's not too late for my kids to use some of my strength for their own.

Anonymous said...

I am having to deal with an entire family of Ns which included my NH, MIL (dead now) and his siblings! It is what they do which is so evil. As if that was not enough, my NH also have, not one, but two mistresses, who for all intents, appear to be Ns too! I was walking on egg-shells for a very long time, and could not understand why, until I started reading about N. Then one day, I just put my foot down and said to my NH that enough is enough. This was because he would beat the children just to feel superior. The paradox is that he apologies so profusely afterwards and was able to present a very pitiful self. That was how I was suckered in each time. They really know how to milk your kindness and compassion. It is so true that that is how they target their victims! My NH would plead for another chance, that he would change and that he did not mean to beat the kids. It got so bad that I had to threaten him that I would call the police if he even touch one hair on their heads! That threat worked and that was the only way I could have peace at home. But his antics just got worse as they just cannot change. Normal people learn from their mistakes. Not Ns! It goes against their grain to admit they made any mistakes. My NH even blamed his affairs on me! I kicked him out of the house finally. That is the only way to get peace! You cannot show Ns that you are afraid of them! And whatever you do, do it within the law. That is what they are afraid of. Now the entire clan have ganged up against me ... !!! they are siding my NH mistresses etc...

Anna, how do one deal with an entire family of Ns? Their spouses are aware of the problem, but they are further enabling them!

I feel anger. At times, I sense my anger is getting the better of me ... it is the injustice of it all!

Anna, help!

Anna Valerious said...

Anna, how do one deal with an entire family of Ns?

Of course, there is no way for me to know how to answer to your specific situation because I'm not in a position to know details. If I had a family of Ns to wreak havoc on my life I would find a way to move far, far away, change my name, cut off all contact. There really is no way to "deal" with Ns. You have to "go along to get along" if you want a sort of peace with Ns. Or you go to war...all the time. The choices are few. Only you can decide the amount of effort you're willing to go through to rid yourself of a pack of Ns.

As for your anger...see my most recent post. You can't expect to not be angry when the insults and abuse are ongoing. Going no contact is about the only way to resolve the anger you have. Fresh attacks and perpetual abuses will result in anger. You may even be angry with yourself for continuing to stay where they can get to you. I hope you can find a way to extricate yourself as much as possible so you can have some semblance of peace in your life.

Anonymous said...

Anna, thank you for your words of wisdom. In fact it was because there was minimal contact with the family of Ns in the past that peace prevailed until my NH switched camps as he probably see no more NS from me and he wanted others (like his N siblings) to do things for him.

No I do not want to waste my time on them or my NH anymore. When I did react, it was because the injustice was just too much to ignore and it was to protect myself. I have to find a way out of the senseless games they play.

Do Ns, even siblings, fight amongst themselves once they are out of victims/N supply from their usual sources? It does not matter what one have done for them in the past, N just discard. No conscience. No remorse. Period.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading here anonomously for about a year, trying to make sense of my 17 year dance with the devil, and I just had to reply to this post. It shouldn't be surprising to realize you're dealing with a family of narcissists....the are products of the same environment. I always thought my husband was the sanest out of the bunch, in retrospect, he was the worst, because he was the slickest about disguising it. his youngest brother was completely delusional, but the family calls him "eccentric" and humors him. He finally married (at a woman with non existent self esteem)and i tried very hard to be supportive and create a good relationship with her. They had been evicted from 3 houses in 5 years, he changed businesses about 4 times in that same period. The guy is an absolute CLOWN. They were days away from being physically removed from the last house they were in, and she and i were discussing her situation. She told me he had said this to her " i am one of God's elite chosen few...therefore the devil turns his full wrath upon us, and that is why all these horrible things keep happening to us" I almost choked laughing, i though for sure she must be kidding....but no, he had actually said that...even worse, she was convinced he was right. (keep in mind, this guy never attends church, and in fact, he and me ex husband cleaned out my late mother in law's bank accounts the moment their father died - she had alzheimers and they were executors of the estate, in charge of caring for her until her death....they cleaned her out completely, then left her to die, terrified and alone in the throes of dimensia, while they ran through her estate in record time) the nursing home has been chasing them for two years trying to get paid, but they are an elusive breed, no? When i realized what was going on, that was the last straw for me...i just couldn't make excuses or look the other way any more...I'm getting past the ptsd and starting to live again, greatful to have escaped and saved my son, still harboring some lingering anger over the injustice of so many things, but finally letting go of some of the toxic sludge that was killing me. But no matter what's going on in my life when my ex passes away, I'll be sneaking into the cemetary with a chisel to immortalize the quote from anna valerious "No life is ever a complete can always serve as a bad example" If only it were legal to exterminate these vile creatures and save the souls they destroy....

Anonymous said...

Sweetkara said:
But no matter what's going on in my life when my ex passes away, I'll be sneaking into the cemetary with a chisel to immortalize the quote from anna valerious "No life is ever a complete can always serve as a bad example"

This was the best laugh I've had in a long time. It led me to an immediate fantasy of speaking at my Nmothers future funeral (although she'll probably outlive me - so NOT fair!) and simply quoting that same line and then just walking out. I truly believe that the only reason anyone would come to her funeral is to just make damn sure she's dead! That's the only reason I'd go.

lynsey7lou said... dealing with my Nex..who just lost custody of his children by the way...i came across these postings regarding Nmoms! while i finally had put the pieces together with my own mother...i had yet to come across anyone who had written about having the same experiences with theirs! im an only child..who now, at 55..yes,55, is finally in a place where i won't allow her to hurt me anymore. yes she's old..and i have to do for her the things she physically and truly cannot, etc., but what i WON"T DO is to let any of her emotionally manipulative garbage penetrate even the most surface layer of my being. I had to laugh at the posting that someone wrote who was exactly my age...who thought the same thing..that their Nmom will most likely outlive them. I've thought the same thing many times...but as there's really no one else around, I just wonder who she'll work next to go do her grocery shopping???

taba said...

I am married to an N for almost 13 years now. He non stop cheats, lie, manipulates and schemes me over his sick affair with another woman. He enjoys cheating especially when I am on the phone with him. He plays a game by having me on the phone while he questions me over and over then distracts me and does whatever he does mysteriously in our vehicle on his way to work and from work. he knows how to disguise and really hides his affair. He pathologically lies. He cheats so bad but afraid to be cheated. he screams and cries loudly whenever we argue. he overacts on almost everything. if he runs to you for an advice or help and if you turn him down, you are his worst enemy. when i don't pay attention to him, he follows me like a puppy asking me over and over what went wrong and states that he did not do anything and that I don't have the right to treat him and give him a cold shoulder. he cries and begs me to hold him. before, i used to buy the drama, now I have gotten so used to it that when he cries or scream loudly, I look at him like he is a fool. I used to get lured by his drama, his cries and non stop convincing lies, but not anymore. My only problem right now is that, living with him for many years, the pain he caused me taught me how to fight back verbally. It is hard not to get angry when he does this to me. he s pretends as a good husband when need be and is very convincing. I don't know what to do, I hate him and his ways. the more he sees me get angry and he gets to me, the more he likes it by acting like he is such an innocent victim of mine because I get angry with what he does. I am still lost right now. the sad thing is this, he is so ugly and seven years older than me. How can such a creep have a strong control on me...I hate him and his creepy ways especially his irremorseful atittude towards the ugly things he does. He is just like his mother and father. btw, he does not have any good relationship with his exes and former friends. he also don't have a good relationship with his mother who is exactly like him. they are sick individuals and it is congtagious. His mistress seems to act exactly like him too. she prowls at my house to meet him in the middle of the night and have sex. they are sick.

Melanie said...

I've been 'exposing' a classic narcissist who also happens to be quite famous. He doesn't want his fans to know what he's like of course. Now he's playing the poor innocent victim, writing on his facebook that "he has to forgive his haters and show compassion because FEAR is their affliction". I found it so interesting he'd use the word 'fear' as a form of projection.