Narcissistic people generalise too much.
It’s so excessive, that when you look at it from a distance, you can’t help but feel sorry for them.
First of all: bear in mind I said “narcissistic people”. I did not say “narcissists”. The distinction is important, because I want you to know I’m talking about a wider range of people: not just those who possibly have NPD, but also those who don’t have it, and nonetheless carry narcissistic traits and vices (either because of familiarity with narcissists, ie, raised by narcissists; or because of innate immaturity or other factors). You don’t need a full diagnosis to have toxic traits every now and then… So, no, I’m not just talking about personality disorders. I’m also talking about your normal neighbour; your coworker; your friend; you and I. Nobody is perfect last time I checked, so don’t be thinking this article is about “others”. No! It’s also about YOU. Self-awareness, please. Stay humble.
The phenomenon I’ll discuss today is better understood through a metaphor. See the photo above? Well… A narcissistic behaviour people sometimes have is comparable to pretending to have a telescope when in fact what they have is a microscope. They speak of objects and people “far away and all around us” as if they were SEEING objects and people far away and all around us; In fact, they aren’t. They’re just looking at a much smaller sample under their noses: their own small bubble. They look at this teeny tiny circle of people they’ve in fact known and interacted with, and project it onto a bigger scope, trying to fool others (and themselves too, probably) into buying that illusion.
By the way, this is a natural tendency humans have; there’s even a name for it, and an Ancient one at that: “inductive reasoning”. The term was first coined by Cicero, translating Aristotle’s epagogé into Latin as inductio in his Posterior Analytics essay. (This is where Aristotle first registered his thoughts on the difference of science vs opinion, it’s available in the public domain and you can find a useful translation here). Essentially, inductive thought does what the metaphor above illustrated: it takes a conclusion from a small sample and extrapolates it beyond the limits of this small sample, as if it applied to everything else around it. The opposite of inductive reasoning is deductive reasoning: testing a large sample, taking a conclusion from it, and applying it into smaller bits of the population that still fall within the larger circle where research was conducted. Needless to say, deductive reasoning is behind science as we know it; the former (inductive) is behind personal opinions that may or may not agree with science.
Deductive reasoning is when the results of the census come out and you find out your city is full of vegans, THEREFORE it’s likely some of your neighbours are vegan; inductive reasoning is when your uncle Peter who lives in the same city stubbornly insists that most people who live there are actually very into meat, just because HE and the people he knows (let’s say 20… out of several thousands) are meat eaters. I mean… sure… in HIS experience, the assertion is true; But his experience does not reflect or represent the objective truth if you look at “the city” from a more impersonal and all-encompassing perspective (for example, with a census). Very simplistic example, but I hope you see my point. Sometimes we’re not as right as we’d like to think; we’re looking at a sample far too small to tell for sure. But we live in this small sample, right? It feels personal, it feels familiar, it feels right. I don’t mean to invalidate all these “feels” but… Nonetheless, if we’re going to get objective, your conclusion based only on personal feelings is wrong. Sorry.
Narcissistic people, however, don’t care. They’ll keep insisting their understanding of “the world” (based on nothing but a very close-knit circle of people they keep around) is an absolute truth, because deep down they don’t give a fuck whether it’s accurate or not. They just want to keep the delusion going. It’s too painful not to, and in all honesty, I get it. I get it so much, that I’ll tell you a bit of a personal story about it:
I’ve never had friends. But if you met me (literally!) a year ago, I’d have lied to you “this is my best friend”, “that one is another friend I can count on”, “that other person over there is a friend too”, and on and on it’d go.
I grew up sheltered from anyone and everyone by what would appear to be an overprotective mother. Behind closed doors, what people didn’t know is that she wasn’t REALLY protecting me from anything; She was trying to isolate me in order to keep me forever dependent on her saying-so. I wasn’t allowed sleepovers (even well into my teenage years), school trips anywhere outside the city, any kind of entertainment where she couldn’t be personally in the same room, or… Basically anything a normal child WOULD be allowed.
This came to such an extreme that she’d keep me from seeing family members too; None of them had any record of anything dodgy like drug addiction or inappropriate behaviour with kids or anything like that. They were all pretty normal people. Nonetheless, she isolated me from them too.
She staged a friendship for me, with the daughter of a coworker of hers who was an extremely devout (bordering on cult-like) Christian. We were young kids and ended up getting on well, but eventually we grew apart because — let me stress again — this girl was in an extremely repressive Christian household (which mother probably viewed as “normal and proper”), while my cultural background involved all sorts of mysticism and animistic/spiritualistic traditions (Afro-diasporic on one side, Swedenborg/Kardecist/German spiritualist on the other. I think there were Jews too. It’s like fruit salad). It’s a nice mix, but obviously as a narcissist my mother was ashamed of it solely because it wasn’t “normal” enough. She wanted really bad to fit in wherever she went. And for no-one’s surprise, my friend’s family got increasingly suspicious of me when I’d talk to her naturally about keeping ancestor spirits and shooing away “monsters”. I can almost imagine the conversations behind my back: “this child is a bad influence. Teaching my girl to see ghosts. All demons! The insolence!” I laugh now, but at the time it wasn’t funny. It was utterly confusing and heart-breaking when she just flat-out stopped talking to me.
The above is also why I roll my eyes to the max whenever I hear Neopagans blame everything evil on Christianity alone. I feel like saying “well yes, but don’t generalise. I come from this mystical background you guys wish you had and lo and behold, cut contact with them because of narcissism. So… Let’s maybe come back to Earth a wee bit, stop daydreaming so much”. But I digress.
My point is: I had personal opinions about “friendship” that came from my very exceptional, very abnormal childhood, and I projected them (inducted, if you will) onto the wider world just in order to feel like I was right. The alternative — actually LOOKING and SEEING the wider world for what it is — would be too painful because it’d mean facing the fact I am not fully welcome in it.
Namely: the opinion that it’s normal for friends to suddenly ghost me and there’s nothing to worry about; The opinion that in order to MAKE friends I should just force-fit myself into the normalest circle possible (like fitting a square into a round peg); The opinion that I could just name-drop a random person as a “best friend” if our connection goes as far as maybe exchanging a few texts every now and then. The list is non-exhaustive, but by god am I exhausted! Pun intended.
It’s like that meme with a dog in a house catching fire, casually having coffee. “Oh, nothing to see here. All good. Smile and wave”.
I can’t keep lying to myself like that. Admitting that I’ve never had friends is painful, but it’s the truth. I’ve never had any friends (until now? Until recently? So far? Early to tell? Who knows…), and regardless of what is still to come, it’s still an open wound.
I’m an oracle today (this feels like a very SATISFYING middle finger to my mother, by the way — look mam, you couldn’t keep me from continuing the “family stuff” you wanted to suppress and hide in shame. What now?), but this also means I need to pursue the truth whenever I can. Even if it hurts. Comfortable lies are out of my scope. Sorry. It is what it is.
I’m not telling this story for pity points. I don’t need your commiseration — keep it to yourself. I’m telling it because when I say “I understand” what narcissistic people go through, I mean it. I would never downplay how hard and painful it is to get out of that fantasy world full of self-aggrandising lies these people like to tell themselves. And if I ridiculed it, I’d be a hypocrite.
Nonetheless, the only way out is through. I know it, I’ve been there.
Blissful ignorance is the whole objective of a narcissistic fantasy. They don’t want to look at the ugly, face the painful, confront the uncomfortable.
There are many strategies human beings use for coping with a difficult situation. Some cry; others have anger issues; others, even, give up too early (and there can be more I forgot to mention). Narcissistic people, on the other hand, pretend all is fine. In my view, it’s the worst possible coping strategy, because it ensures you’ll never ACTUALLY get out of the pit. How could you? You’re closing your eyes to it. Ever tried climbing with a blindfold over your eyes? Near impossible.
The fatalistic people who cry or get angry at least recognise where they are. They’re not blindfolded. They go like “well, shit. I’ve hit rock bottom”. A narcissist in the exact same place would instead just lie to themselves that “oh, this isn’t rock bottom. It’s the top of a beautiful mountain. I’m awesome. All is good. All is fine. Not to worry. Nothing to see” — is the anxiety palpable yet?
This is what I was doing when I lied to myself that “this person is a best friend” (IS IT though? No. The truth is “no”. But did I listen? Haha. All I wanted was to be seen as normal. Yeah, sure, I do have friends, even a best friend, *nervous laugh* only losers are friendless. I’m no loser. I can’t be. I refuse to confront that).
This is why people who have narcissistic traits give bad or “inaccurate” advice.
I’ll reference the original title again: they generalise too much. But it’s not because they’re “evil”, it’s just because they’re weak (sorry, NOT sorry this time). Strong people face the rock bottom head-on; average people just feel the negative feelings that come from it; weak people run away from the truth. No, I’m not generalising (don’t touché me at the comments, lol. Or do. Whatever), I’m in fact provoking you. I’m distributing tough love. Because when you’re talking to someone with narcissistic tendencies, the person is ALREADY prone to escape to their rose-tinted fantasy world. If you sugarcoat things, you’ll just enable that.
Often times, the human tendency to narcissistically pass on their delusions to another (instead of giving actually USEFUL and ACCURATE advice) is not malicious. It’s just… What people are used to doing. It happens out of habit. Some years ago, I was like that too. Now I know better, but the lesson didn’t come without pain.
In a way, I’m sick of talking to random people who *on the surface look like* they know their stuff… Only to realise they were coming from a narcissistic place all along. But on the other hand, I know the kind of pain that lurks behind their “pretend” games. (Pretend to know things, then I fact-check and find out they don’t; Pretend to see a pattern in a community, then I fact-check and find out they were just projecting their inner circle stuff; Etc). And I empathise; but I’m not the motherly kind of empathy-giver. I won’t enable you to stay in the pit because “mommy understands, this is uncomfy”. I’m still a warrior and will still try to give you a lil’ push in the right direction even if you resent me for it.
(And deep down, I know you guys like it. You keep coming back to my blog, after all. Cheers to that).