Well, one might be pressed to ask, what’s their definition of fun?
Since narcissists see the world differently than most of us—through the lens of their own distorted self-perception—then you could argue that, certainly, they can have fun.
It just might not be what the rest of us would think is very fun, as it typically involves deriving some pleasure from others’ pain. Part of the problem is that they are filled with a lot of hate and fear because of their disorder.
On the other hand, since narcissists live in a state of delusion and exaggeration, tinged with paranoia and insecurity, we might conclude that their capacity for happiness is greatly diminished. We can already see that their capacity for love is diminished, and there’s no reason their feelings of happiness would be any different.
They might get some pleasure out of momentary events, fleeting circumstances that fill them with contentment. But their ability to frolic with freedom, without agenda, and to attain a lasting sense of happiness is limited by their disorder.
If you’ve often wondered about how a narcissist experiences fun or other positive emotions, continue reading.
Narcissism and the Capacity for Joy
I have witnessed firsthand the strange emotional reactions of a narcissist. At first, they appear to be happy, to be pleased with themselves for “winning.” They are able to manipulate others to get what they want, and their satisfaction comes not only from achieving their ends but also from exercising power over others.
That is, the thing that they want is ultimately not the point. It’s that they can influence others to get it.
With regard to relationships, narcissists rarely have fun, unless they are playing “mind games.” Their ability to form lasting commitments and true connections is compromised by their desire to always be at the center of attention. They lack the capacity to identify with their partner and engage in meaningful conversations.
With regard to their professional success, narcissists also rarely have fun. They are too concerned with getting ahead of others or demonstrating their superiority to enjoy their accomplishments. In addition, they are often suspicious and envious of their colleagues, believing that others are out to undermine them. It makes work a constant struggle.
From the narcissist’s perspective, fun can only be had at the expense of others. They can experience a significant rush of joy from demeaning others or demonstrating control over them, but it doesn’t last. Selfish and cruel behavior ultimately leave the narcissist bereft of joy and hollow at their core.
Contentment vs. Happiness
Psychologically speaking, there is a clear difference between contentment and happiness. Contentment is derived from the attaining of sensory pleasures, such as the satisfaction of a good meal, an intimate encounter, or the acquiring of material wealth.
Narcissists crave that kind of contentment. They want the kind of luxury and attention that fits their view of their superior entitlement.
Happiness, to the contrary, is something much more elusive, much more ephemeral. It requires connection to others, feelings of love, and the ability to value others as much as you value yourself.
Happiness takes more work than contentment, and its rewards are more lasting. Contentment is fleeting; you may enjoy that steak dinner, but you will ultimately need to eat again.
Happiness is something that can be sustained only through good deeds, good actions, and good thoughts. It requires a sense of self-worth and an ethical engagement with the world around you.
Narcissists are too busy plotting their next “win.” Their condition only reinforces itself, as the narcissist believes that happiness eludes them because they don’t have enough money or material objects or power. There is not much fun in that worldview.
Pleasure from Pain
Another feature of the disorder is that narcissists often derive great pleasure from other people’s pain. The German word “schadenfreude,” or “shameful joy,” is frequently used to express this concept.
Narcissists enjoy seeing other people fail or get hurt. Thus, this may represent a lot of fun for the narcissist, but it doesn’t feel like that much fun to their victims.
This tendency to feel pleasure from others’ pain is linked to aggression, the need the narcissist has to dominate others. If you fail, the narcissist wins. If you fall, the narcissist laughs. It is also connected to jealousy. The narcissist cannot abide witnessing others’ successes. His enormous ego demands that he come out on top.
This “shameful joy” also points to the narcissist’s inability to feel empathy with others, even with those closest to them. They would rather see you humiliated and dehumanized than to acknowledge that your desires, needs, and feelings are equally as important as their own. This also reveals the narcissist’s typical lack of shame and guilt.
Fun for Narcissists
There is, however, another take on the narcissist’s ability to have fun. Perhaps, the argument goes, all narcissists do is have fun. That is, the narcissist seeks attention and admiration, feels no guilt about their actions, and regardless of others’ responses, feels superior at the end of the day. Think about it: wouldn’t life be fun if you didn’t have a care in the world but yourself?
Some studies have shown that narcissists report that they are happier in general than those not on the narcissism spectrum. Evidence also reveals that narcissists are more successful in their professional lives and more popular in their social lives. This makes sense if you consider that narcissists are charismatic and overly confident.
If you believe that you are superior to everyone around you, then you can quite easily convince yourself that you deserve all the rewards. Your capacity for fun isn’t limited by feelings of obligation to others or thwarted by feelings of guilt or shame. Whatever your idea of fun is, as a narcissist, becomes fun, because you are always right.
Besides, whenever a narcissist is rejected or prevented from fulfilling their unpredictable whims, they simply blame the problem on others. Instead of dwelling on why they aren’t happy or immediately gratified, they simply move on to the next object of desire. It’s fun never to be accountable for your actions.
While a narcissist is fully capable of having fun and indulging their desires, it doesn’t amount to attaining a more satisfying level of happiness. Non-narcissists require more than the mere fulfillment of their every desire to experience true joy.
They need love and connection, tenderness and friendship, and they derive happiness from behaving generously and expressing gratitude.
The narcissist might experience moments of joy—and they certainly have a devil-may-care approach to fun—but in the end, their lives aren’t quite as fulfilling. The upsetting part is that they may never understand why.
While their moments of fun might be limited, narcissists frequently experience great rage. This article offers some tips for dealing with that rage in a narcissistic husband.
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