Narcissism needs to be redefined. Its premise is a virtual attack on truth. Telling lies to con and exploit others with no remorse forms the basis for the criminal mind, or antisocial personality disorder (APD), also known as sociopathology or psychopathology.
Sociopathology may be viewed as a more severe form of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD); however, there is a lot overlap. The main difference lies in the severity of the symptoms, which isn’t always clear because of the extent both APDs and NPDs willfully lie.
What also makes these two disorders distinct in the DSM is that, unlike most other mental disorders listed, APDs and NPDs willfully seek to cause harm to others (to prove superiority and dominance), and do so in varying degrees, ranging from emotional and mental trauma on one end, to sexual and physical assault, and in more extreme cases, a threat to others’ lives on the other.
For this reason, the terms “narcissism” and “narcissist” in this post refer to those that meet the criteria for APD and, or NPD.
As human beings, it is only natural to be in disbelief that anyone would lie just to lie! Yet narcissists do. “When someone shows you who they are,” Maya Angelou noted, “believe them the first time.”
Practioners and clients alike must seek to better identify and understand what narcissists mean by the things they say and do!
By definition, it is not reasonable for practitioners or researchers to expect to identify narcissism through interviews or self-completion measures. Instead looking past the words they speak, and impressions they seek to make, narcissists self-identify, in couples and family counseling, for example, with a set of distinct behaviors.
As in the dystopian world of George Orwell’s 1984, the narcissist regards the truth as his biggest enemy, and takes pride in honing con artistry skills to ensure “the lie replaces the truth.”
To take this seriously, it’s important to note the power of beliefs, in activating the neurochemistry of the human brain, to literally shape, start and stop behaviors. The cells of the body are designed to “listen” to our stream of thoughts 24/7. A narcissist targets the thoughts of another for takeover. Narcissists believe they are entitled to use whatever means necessary to maintain status quo power over another. In their worldview, those in status positions are entitled to lie.
The good news is that, no one can make you feel less than the amazing human being you are without your permission. Arm yourself with this and other truths.
The narcissist holds beliefs that disdain the core tenets of what it means to be human in human relationships, and thus lying is an imperative, critical to prop up their fragile wounded-egos, and house of cards illusions and false-self image as “truth.”
Where do these life-limiting beliefs come from? For the most part, they are widely spread by the values that a society’s major institutions promote in the socialization of children, family of origin experiences in particular.
In a study of the upbringing of an infamous criminal mind, Adolph Hitler, and the harsh parenting practices that prevailed in the decades leading to Nazi Germany, Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, Swiss psychologist Alice Miller notes the following:
“The capacity of the human organism to bear pain is, for our own protection, limited. All attempts to overstep this natural threshold by resolving repression [of core human emotions of compassion, empathy] in a violent manner will, as with every other form of violence, have negative and often dangerous consequences.”
There are at least 15 reasons lying is a lifestyle habit for narcissists. They lie:
1. To confuse others and prevent them from thinking clearly.
A narcissist lies knowing that confusion elevates cortisol in the brain and body. When this occurs, the body’s survival system is activated, and automatically, thinking areas of the brain go offline. In other words, fear and confusion cripples the brain’s otherwise amazing capacity to think reflectively. This makes it easier for the narcissist to get away with lies and illusions. Narcissists learned many of these tactics of dominance from exposure to narcissists in childhood. They also typically study methods of persuasion, and the use of words and language to exploit others. Today, we have nearly a century’s worth of science-based methods in thought control available, perfected in the last few decades with studies of neurolinguistic programming. These are commonly used in training workforces in most all industries and sectors, among others, advertising, sales, military, politics, and so on.
2. To deny another’s reality and human response.
Human beings are hardwired to emotionally connect, to form empathy-based relationships with others. Our behaviors are shaped by powerful emotion-drives to matter and contribute value, to learn, and grow and thrive in our personal lives and relationships. Narcissists can’t stand the idea, to say the least, that humans are moral at heart, that we thrive in enriching social environments, and our capacity to form relationships is harmed, or damaged, when exposed to continuous assault and trauma. In their worldview, this is merely evidence of who’s superior and meant to rule, to play god, and to alter nature however they wish, regardless of the effects on actual life around them. They view science as a tool to control life, rather than as it is: a study of how things are and designed to work. So they use tactics of lying, such as gaslighting, to tear away at their others’ sense of self, to make them feel their wants and human needs are weaknesses, that nobody cares; to cause them to doubt their own capacity to love others, that no one loves or is there for them; to get them to question their beliefs in human ideals, common sense wisdom and the Golden Rule, ethical treatment of others — as if all of these are irrelevant.
3. To trap others by morphing or saying whatever works to dupe.
A narcissist hones master of disguise and con artistry skills, and regards this as evidence of his superior intellect and entitlement rights to dominate others. They regard this as full time job; they’re on 24/7. They study their prey, their biggest wants and fears, and morph accordingly to trap them into believing the narcissist is a dream come true. They put up smokescreens and illusions to hide the reality that he lusts to turn into their nightmare. Lies are used to lure prey, to emotionally manipulate them, to put them on emotional roller coasters, and to get their hopes up only to later snatch them away, again and again.
Lies and illusions big and small are how a narcissist’s props up their false image of themselves as a supreme dream fulfiller — and traps others into believing their “lies,” so much so, that they get others to collude with them, and join in duping and fooling new converts, such as occurs in cults. Predators know what to morph into, what to say, and when. They relish fabricating illusions of promises they never intend to keep.
4. To control others with fear-activating illusions.
A narcissist is skilled in thought control tactics, such as gaslighting, which derails the focus away from any matter that a partner wishes to discuss. The result is always conversation from hell. The overarching goal of gaslighting is to break a partner’s will, to train them to silence themselves, and to feel scared to bring up or feel their own pain or wants, conditioned instead to solely focus on feeling the pain and misery of the narcissist. This way, to avoid upsetting the narcissist further, a partner overlooks any mistreatment — and is trained to behave much like an object or possession.
High levels of fear are used to condition this response. Every time the partner brings up a concern, the narcissist derails the focus to something the partner should feel bad about, that the narcissist blames on them. This puts the partner on the defensive, but the more they defend and explain, the deeper the hold of the narcissist, and their frustration. Because narcissists are cowards, they don’t just prey on anyone, they seek unsuspecting codependents, overly kind souls and empathic women looking for “spiritual” partners and “soulmates” to please and make happy. Predators know where to hang out, to bait potential prey.
5. To cover up and get away with wrongdoings.
A narcissist lives in a topsy-turvy world. They exist without a moral code, but often appear to have one because they rigidly hold others to them. Deep down, it’s not about moral conduct. They have rigid rules for others so that they can control, terrorize and punish. He looks for ways to hide and justify and excuse their abusive behaviors as “deserved,” for example, and a partner is made to feel they “owe” the narcissist for some past real or imagined harm. The partner is trained to feel her pain and feelings are invisible, will never be addressed, no one cares, and all of this covers up the narcissist’s wrongdoings. Whatever the partner says or does, gaslighting is used to shift the focus away from the narcissist’s cruel actions, to some reason the partner should feel bad, defend themselves, their loyalty, their fidelity, their integrity and so on.
They are not human in the sense that humans naturally are wired to think and feel. Most humans are connected to empathy for others, for example. Thus, apart from moments when they are triggered, they do not derive pleasure from tormenting another for no other reason than it gives them pleasure, makes them feel superior. Narcissists do. And whereas most persons are angered by lies, narcissists are angered by the truth. That means, to anger an forthright person, lie to them! To anger a narcissist, tell them the truth! Instantly, they will rant, rage and, or accuse the other of doing what they do, lie all the time.
6. To prop up might-makes-right norms.
The narcissist lies about things, big and small. Research shows that when lies are big, and constant, they work to discombobulate the thinking capacity of human brain. It’s the “Emperor Has No Clothes” effect. The lies a narcissist tells, however, are not just “regular” lies most persons resort to at least from time to time. Regular lies are defensive in nature, serving to protect one’s sense of agency, power to make choices.
In contrast, a narcissist’s lies are offensive in nature. They lie because it works to promote a worldview that normalizes dominance and cruel violence as a means to maintain dominance. In a narcissist’s world view, humans exist in dichotomous and adversarial categories of superior versus inferior, strong versus weak, meant-to-rule versus meant-to-be-ruled, male versus female, white versus nonwhite, and so on. They are active illusionists, and their strategize to stay in control of “the truth,” how they want others to think, believe, etc., how they want the world to be. In a world of peace promoting, mutually enriching collaborative, partnership relationships and communities — narcissists and their false-self images as superior and entitled do not exist! This explains why a narcissist’s greatest fear is intimacy, closeness, collaboration in their couple relationship.
7. To demoralize others into surrendering their will.
A narcissist lies to demoralize and terrorize a partner into giving up her sense of self and agency, and divorcing herself from her (human) true-self, which is wired to grow and learn, to empathically connect with self and others, to self-actualize and contribute to the well being of others, to cultivate common sense and wisdom, and to create mutually enriching relationships, family units, communities. They feel entitled to play god, and be treated like gods, or judges and a jury, with rights to decide the moment by moment fate of another, and terrorize them with threats and other fear-based tactics. (In other words for others to live in misery and self- and other-hatred as the narcissist does.)
Remember the long term goal is to deny the factual truth of what it means to be human — that humans are hardwired, as neuroscience now substantiates, to thrive in collaborative relationships, loving and meaning seeking by nature — and to replace this with lies and illusions (that our mainstream schoolbooks support by the way) that humans are aggressive by nature, much like animals, dangerous and untrustworthy, and thus, must be broken and domesticated from childhood, by those with status in order to establish dominance and obedience without questioning.
8. To prove (in their mind) who’s superior versus who’s stupid.
Narcissists take pleasure in gaslighting their partners with a continuous stream of lies, with just enough truth, to keep them confused. In their mind, the ability to make others feel stupid is a sign of intelligence. It’s quite the opposite of course! Intelligent persons are usually in awe of the intelligence and strengths of human intelligence. They do not feel threatened, or shadowed. Trying to make heads and tails of the nonsense a narcissist spews is a waste of time. Most of us have been raised to be trusting of others, to give others the benefit of doubt, and thus have a hard time believing someone would act to intentionally deceive, con, exploit as a lifestyle. We do not want to believe that someone is telling lies to keep others confused, to more easily exploit and control them (their thinking, beliefs, choices, feelings etc.).
Narcissists crave to take over, and alter the another’s reality, to convert them to accept the narcissist’s topsy-turvy world of master and slave relations as normal “love,” based on “spiritual” teachings and illusions, and “ordained” by god or biology. We know from studying cults that, the bigger the lie, the greater the chance unsuspecting others will be conned, duped. This is not a mark of intelligence however; it is the desperate attempts of a weak and fragile ego, divorced from their ability to feel human, who seeks to blame and punish others to alleviate the pain and numbness they feel inside (caused by their lack of courage to face their fear of being human).
9. To trap spiritual believers and idealists in their schemes.
Narcissists and sociopaths do not believe in god or a higher power. It’s mostly nonsense to them. However, they often profess, go along, or even take leadership roles in church organizations, and cults, playing god to relish the power to abuse and exploit and terrorize, using their master of disguise skills to attract unsuspecting believers and make them loyal followers.
This tactic of professing to be gods or godly is as old as Ancient Greece. The writings of Aristotle, before the advent of the printing press, were mostly read by aristocrats, like him, and later monarchs and church leaders. Aristotle shaped Western politics and taught that tyranny was necessary to preserve the rule of aristocracy, in his words, “A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.”
10. To discredit and deny what they fear most — human ideals.
A narcissist most fears his inner true-self human, humanism, human ideals. He fears this, naturally, because this means his false-self image of himself does not exist. He’s learned in traumatizing experiences of early childhood, where he either witnessed violence personally or vicariously, learned to hate and associate traits of weakness or inferiority with women, shamed into feeling disgust for emotions of empathy and other vulnerable emotions in self and others, and trained to associate violence and misogyny with strength and entitlements. For the narcissist, human ideals for harmonious, collaborative relationships are dangerous because, literally, this means he does not exist as he currently believes as superior and entitled to exploit and mistreat others. In his mind, a person either has worth or no worth, and there is no worth without superiority; no worth without rightful dominance. The truth threatens to expose the lies upon which his reality of the world of relationships is built.
11. To get their “fix” like an addict.
A narcissist’s lies to get the drug he’s hooked on. He’s always on, working to get others to question their reality, and to buy into the narcissist’s might-makes-right view of the world as normal, to make excuses for him. They are hooked on altering another sense of self, disturbing their capacity to think clearly and separate truth from lies in particular.
He views his relationships through a lens of “get them before they get you.” They believe they are genetically superior, thus they can play gods, and shape the world, nature and even human brains to serve at their pleasure. Narcissist are always listening, although not to understand the other, rather to exploit and use them. They listen carefully to accrue knowledge on how the human brain works, and what others like, want, dream, wish, and deeply desire. They also listen to learn what their weaknesses are.
12. To prop up illusions of their false-self image as true.
A narcissist craves to alter the reality of “non-believers” as proof, first of his superiority over them, then as proof that others are “stupid.” He looks on others with scorn, and believes humans fall into dichotomous categories of either superior or inferior, strong and weak, etc. Narcissists are hooked on a fantasy reality of the world, in which they desperate look for evidence that there is such a thing as a “superior” race and sex, and so on. They are constantly seeking proof, whether real or false, that they are superior, entitled, and thus that everyone else should conform to their norms, religious or political beliefs, etc.
13. To play god and be treated as if they’re infallible.
To get his fix, a narcissist lies to deceive and con others into accepting “the lie” that, due to their proven superiority, they are entitled to make up the very rules that govern life and nature. And this means they can also say and do anything they wish. If they do, it’s “truth.” A narcissist feels it’s his job to convert others into their cult of lies, and to get them to collude with him in propping up the lies regarding their infallibility, entitlements, superiority, and so on. It’s an entitlement, based on “boys will be boys” illusion, for example, that men and women alike must protect men’s ego and “masculinity” and thus not criticize them when they abuse, exploit and mistreat women. This is of course an absurd notion. Narcissists want to play gods, with rights to domesticate and have others serve their needs alone. To realize this, they make it their job to attack truth, and eradicate any evidence to the contrary.
14. To hide and deny “the truth” about gender relations.
A narcissist lies in order to turn human common sense and wisdom — of what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman, what it means for a man and a woman in a couple relationship, and what it means to be human — on its head. Narcissist males enter their couple relationship as they would a fierce competition. It’s a fight to prove who’s superior and inferior — and he regards it his job to fix and keep his partner in her place, and her “emotional craziness” at bay, so that she feels only his pain, never hers, thus cannot complain regardless how she’s treated. Narcissists do not believe partnership couple relations are possible. To them, a man is either the dominant one, the top dog, or is dominated. Many boys are conditioned to believe this. It’s an idea that is later reinforced in middle school; it’s how boys relate to other boys. Any evidence to the contrary is mistrusted, and women are viewed as potentially dangerous or contaminating (emasculating) influence to masculinity. A narcissist’s ideal woman is either a prostitute or saint; both are focused on serving his needs.
15. To discredit truth-tellers, sages and prophets.
From the beginning of recorded history, the powers that be have feared truth-tellers. In the words of Joseph Goebbels, minister of “enlightenment” for Hitler:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
What poets and sages once proclaimed is now hard science based on the latest findings in neuroscience: the human brain is relationship organ that is moral in nature. Moral treatment of self and others is a self-evident truth. Human beings thrive in every dimension in relationships and social structures that are nourishing, empathy-based, collaborative. In contrast, mainstream school books continue to promote ideas of male dominance, survival of the fittest, fierce and aggressive competitions over scarce resources as norms.
Around the globe, the notion of male dominance as a norm in early civilizations has been disproved by cross cultural findings since the 1970s. To the contrary, all around the globe in early civilizations, to include Native Indian tribes of North America before colonization (i.e., writings of Thomas Jefferson, which describe Iroquois Federation of States all across Eastern coast), women and men held leadership roles, and enjoyed peaceful, partnership relations in all spheres.
Closer to home and modern times, for example, we know from the writings of Thomas Jefferson that Native Indian women played key roles in the political governance of the Iroquois Federation of States all across the Eastern Seaboard. With awe, Jefferson described their three part checks-and-balances government, judicial, legislative and executive branches, and in particular how — unlike the “wolves and sheep” governance structures of Europe — the Native Indians treated one another, life and nature, with reverence, as sacred beings. The executive branch did not consist of one chief, rather a group of matrons who, among their other duties, appointed the chiefs of tribes, and deposed those who became warlike.
Native Indians knew then, what neuroscience proves today, that all human beings by nature are self-governing, that they seek to pursuit life, liberty and happiness, and that aggressive competitions for dominance directly traumatize, and interfere, with human personal and relational health and development. Today, notions of male dominance and superiority pose a threat to human survival.