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The Mindset of Narcissism, an Off-Balance Addictive Relating Pattern, 1 of 2


1 instabilityNarcissism and codependency are highly addictive relating patterns that keep both partners off balance. That’s because they are driven by toxic thinking patterns, or mindsets, which spawn survival-love fears, illusions of power, limiting views of love, and unrealistic expectations for what it means to be human, male or female.

To the extent one partner is off-balance, lost in their own fear-based mindsets and illusions, the other is thrown off, and both get locked into an inevitable dance that keeps them spinning in orbit, hooked on either using the other like a drug, or being their drug.

In this post, a look at the mindset of a narcissist, and why this leaves their ego wounded and fragile, keeping them on guard and ever scanning for evidence, to keep the image they have of themselves and others propped up like a “house of cards” life, which they desperately guard and fight to keep propped up around the clock, which forces them farther and farther away from their human capacity to create meaningful connections with others.

The mindset of narcissism?

Narcissism is a set of socially learned behaviors that are based on a belief system that associates “strength” and “superiority” with an overall callous, cruel and emotionally detached treatment of others, in particular, with those deemed weak, inferior, lower status or in situations where “weakness” is expressed.

The narcissist believes the worth of people is determined superior or inferior, and this proven on the basis of exhibiting emotions of strength, such as anger, rage, vindictiveness, and simultaneously showing disdain and keeping distance from emotions of vulnerability that are associated with weakness, such as empathy, closeness, compassion, tenderness and shared communications, etc.

This explains why when a female partner expresses hurt feelings, a male often responds with cold detachment, ridicule or shame. To him, talking about hurt feelings is proof of weakness and inferiority.

This trained ability to detach from caring about their partner’s feelings and pain is regarded as evidence of one’s superiority and status. A narcissist believes it’s their job to train their partner away from this “emotional craziness” so that they never complain about their hurt feelings or mistreatment, and thus they regularly instill the codependent with doses of fear and shame, to keep them in their place and spinning their wheels. They not only seek to silence their partner’s complaints, they also like to entertain the illusion that the codependent, like a child, “needs” and finds pleasure and benefit in being trained, subjugated, through punitive tactics.

This mindset or attitude explains why a narcissist compulsively dismisses any complaints coming from their partner, and without flinching, will flagrantly lie, deny, never admit to wrongdoing on their part, unless they absolutely have to, in which case they find someway to minimize their wrong doing, and blame their partner. It also explains why a narcissist relies on the communication tactic of gaslighting to silence their partner, and derail any attempts they make to express their concerns or hurt feelings.

In effect, gaslighting makes it possible so that, regardless the topic, both partners stay focused on the narcissist’s complaints, disappointment, insecurities, unfulfilled expectations, and so on.

For the narcissist, in their mind, their is no such thing as a partnership in a couple relationship. A relationship between two people always consists of two hierarchical positions — the topdog and the underdog. In other words, there are only two options, who will prove to be the superior one and who will prove to be the inferior one, the strong one and the weak one, and so on.

Because the narcissist believes human beings are born either to rule or be ruled, having deemed themselves superior, they feel totally entitled to being treated as both infallible and self sufficient. Thus, they never admit to “needing” anything from the codependent. They get their needs met be shaming, making others feel small for their own misery.

In their mind, the purpose of a partner in a couple relationship is to serve their needs and comfort, alone. Specifically, that means the partner should never have needs that are not aligned with what pleases and improves the life of the narcissist. If it’s not something the narcissist “needs” or “wants” — they use gaslighting to derail the focus of the conversation, back to how their partner is failing, crazy, confused, and so on.

It should be the sole purpose and pleasure of their partner to serve, to provide comfort, to take away discomfort, to make him feel infallible, valued, adored, and so on. (And if the codependent asks for the same treatment, it’s viewed and dismissed as “emotional craziness” or being needy, weak.)

Thus, from their worldview, a narcissist approaches views their partners, and their relationship, as a fierce life or death competition, and whether they admit it or not, they view their codependent partner as a potential enemy, who is continually strategizing to take over, to make them look bad (emasculate), and take control.

The narcissist makes it their job to remain alert, to remain on top, to constantly prove superiority, and and there is no rest. They never drop their guard, and because they demand this from themselves, in their mind, they believe their “displays of superiority” are critical, that this is what makes them attractive and desirable to their codependent partner, and that she expects to see these displays otherwise she will not “respect” or view them as a “real” man.

They make it their job to remain on the offensive to ensure: they “get” the codependent before she “gets” them. That’s because, according to their mindset, the person with lower status is always looking for opportunities to take control. And what’s the main way that “the weak sex” takes control of “the strong sex” according to their mindset? Women …attempt to lure men into their traps of control by persuading them to do things that, based on this mindset, only the inferiror sex has interest in, such as the empathy, emotional connection, nonsexual love stuff, etc.

The empathy and love stuff are the most dangerous, threatening, disempowering ideas to the existence of narcissism — as they threaten the foundation of “male dominance” and “superiority.” The “love fluff” ideas must be viewed as dangerous to masculinity, and a man must never allow himself to get ensnared, though they can dabble here and there, especially to capture a “new” female victim. Thus, no matter how much she keeps nagging, whining, complaining, the only way a “real” man can stay in control is to ensure his masculinity is never contaminated.

A man has to be continually on guard to ensure a woman’s emotional “craziness” does not trap them, and their best defenses are to out-strategize her with consistent doses of cold, detached, punitive actions, and of course  … gaslighting.

Love, in the narcissist’s mind, is defined as limited to the physical act of sex, and the pleasure that comes from stimulating body parts, and leads to erection, penetration, orgasm, and so on. To them, only the weak and inferior has a “neediness” for nonsexual affection, romantic gestures, tenderness, emotional sharing, and the like. The only time it is permissible to “play along” with what the weaker sex wants is to impress, ensnare, and in general deceive a perceived victim.

The narcissist is attracted to a partner who lets them dominate and adoringly seeks to make them feel superior, more competent and knowledgeable. In other words, the narcissist seeks a partner that is inclined to accommodate their neediness, to “need” to give them what they want, need, to make them feel they are all that matter, etc. In most cases they look for partners with low self-worth, confidence and self-esteem — however, in other cases, narcissists look for partners who would pose a challenge, presenting themselves as strong, courageous, decisive, at least at the start of the relationship.

In nutshell, the narcissist believes feeling worthwhile and alive means proving they are superior and have superhuman abilities to control the mind and will of the codependent, to exploit and use them for own gain, indeed, to train them to feel their concerns are crazy, puny or irrelevant, thus, to learn to never question or bother with expressing their wants and feelings. They seek to train the codependent to view their demands, expectations and the inhumane relating patterns between them as “normal”; sadly, in some circles, they are promoted as “God-ordained.”

Balance is both their greatest need, yet also what their mindset most actively and desperately fights against, nevermind the outer calm the narcissist presents — this mindset keeps the narcissist’s ego fragile, wounded, self-loathing, anxiously fearing they will be perceived as weak and inferior.

The narcissist’s behaviors are destabilizing because, unless it serves their interests and status in some way, they not only refuse to act in ways that would make their codependent partner feel valued, appreciated, good about themselves, etc., they strategize for ways to attack and tear down their partner’s sense of self, worth, and value. In their mind, the ability or the power to dominate is proof of their superiority. For them, the choice is between controlling the other’s mind, or being controlled, in other words, winning or losing.

Sadly, this is what makes it impossible for a codependent to please a narcissist. In their mind, they must deprive the codependent of ever feeling good about themselves, except in superficial ways. This is what brings them pleasure — their drug, you may say.

Like a drug, they have a “neediness” to hurt others, to cut them down to size; it is what makes them “feel” superior. It is also what makes them toxic and dangerous to themselves, but also to those around them.

And of course, this is what keeps them feeling miserable inside. They are the cause of their own suffering.

The reality is that our brains are hardwired with “mirror neurons,” and that it is impossible to feel scorn and disdain for another, without releasing the same chemicals and “feeling” the same feelings toward ourselves. Based on these recent findings in neuroscience, we now have hard science evidence that the principle of “do unto others,” also known as the “Ethic of Reciprocity” or “Golden Rule,” which appears in at least 20 different religions and philosophies across the world, is a driving reality of who we are as human beings.

Truth be told, at deeper levels all human beings reject the notion of being dominated, whether they say so or not.

There is a world of difference in the experience of “following” a narcissistic dictator out of fear, and genuinely following an inspirational leader that values the dignity, intelligence and contribution of those they lead. In an authoritarian regime, people have no option but to confirm to limiting roles and ideas of a ruling few, who keep tight control over the expression of ideas and the freedom to make choices. In a democracy, in contrast, intelligent leaders surround themselves by other intelligent leaders, and thoughtfully consider and include the wisdom of other leaders and citizenry alike, for the highest good and benefit of all sectors of society, however imperfect.

In a democratic society, every man, woman and child, is treated like a leader-in-the-making. Power is defined as the power, at any given moment, to make optimal choices to create personal and relational health and happiness.

Similarly, nature seems to love partnerships, and a healthy couple relationship, by design, is a democratic partnership between two leaders, each bringing unique strengths, intelligence and wisdom to the relationship.

Whereas to feel balanced is to feel human, warts and graces, a narcissist mindset wars against feelings of vulnerability, associating this with weakness. What’s really happening, that they cannot see, is that their own mindset denies them the experience and realization of the strength, healing and wholeness that comes from knowing how to feel and handle vulnerable feelings in relation to self and another — which is essential to feeling open to engage in the balancing acts of giving and receiving, transforming fears into assets, loving self and the other wholeheartedly — to experience the full benefits of synergy when two work together to form a healthy, vibrant partnership.

Whereas a healthy relationship naturally expands the capacity of each partner to love self and other wholeheartedly, and to grow to become an ever better versions of themselves, the limiting beliefs that underlie the mindsets of narcissism and codependency can be said to be the real cause of their fears of failure and personal inadequacy, leading to prolonged suffering in many couple relationships.

Overall, narcissism and codependency are a complimentary set of behavior norms for men and women, respectively based on romanticized (and eroticized) notions of male dominance and superiority versus female passivity and inferiority associated with a might-makes-right value system. Each gender is expected to stay within their respective roles, or face some level of shaming and disapproval, depending on the social milieu.

In truth, it’s a set up for each partner to fail as their fear-based mindsets keep their brains and bodies primarily in survival-love mode when they interact. From this place, elevated fear releases high levels of cortisol in the brain and body, and automatically, the subconscious mind activates the body’s survival system and preprogrammed defenses. In survival mode of mind and body, protective strategies “feel” like the only option to restore a sense of security and safety. Elevated fear always limits performance, whether at work, at play or at home. In couple relationships, it seriously limits ability of men and women to fully access the inner capacity and resources they have, as human beings, to synergistically create personal and relational happiness, wholeness and meaning.

In Part 2, the addictive relating pattern and mindset of the codependent.

The Mindset of Narcissism, an Off-Balance Addictive Relating Pattern, 1 of 2

Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik motivates clients to break free of anxiety, emotion reactivity, and other addictive patterns, to awaken wholehearted relating to self and other. She is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

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APA Reference
Staik, A. (2017). The Mindset of Narcissism, an Off-Balance Addictive Relating Pattern, 1 of 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Jan 2017
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