Narcissists often show a mix of emotions depending on the situation, and their confusing behavior can leave you wondering if they care about you or your feelings at all. They can leave you feeling exhausted and as if you can’t be certain of anything. They certainly don’t seem to care about anything other than themselves, but is that true? Do they care about how you feel?
The truth is that narcissists have emotions just like anyone else, but they process them differently, and though they might truly care about you, it is hard for them to empathize with you or consider your feelings. They are too preoccupied with their narcissistic supply to be concerned about you.
To understand this better, it’s important to explore how childhood trauma has changed the way a narcissist processes their emotions and views the other people in their life. When you know more about how they think, you can better avoid the problems that are common in a relationship with a narcissist.
How Do Narcissists Experience Emotion?
Narcissists do experience emotions, but they repress them so deeply that they don’t play a conscious role in their lives. They don’t govern their behavior on a conscious level, but unconsciously, they affect them very strongly.
Part of the problem that narcissists have is that they bundle their positive and negative emotions together. That creates a lot of frustration for them which frequently becomes aggression. This has to do with the way they were raised.
Narcissist’s Emotional Repression and Grandiose Ideation
Narcissists weren’t provided with the unconditional love that children crave and deserve. Instead, the narcissist’s childhood was filled with unpredictable, confusing bouts of rage, envy, guilt, and other unhealthy emotions shown by their caregivers. Those experiences caused the narcissist to retreat into a private world, one where they could believe themselves to be omnipotent and omniscient, where they could be immune to that kind of abusive treatment.
To protect their true self, the narcissist stows it deep in their psyche, and to take its place, they construct a false self that they then present to the world. It’s this false self that performs the function of the ego. As the narcissist interacts with other people using this false self, they find it difficult to unbundle those combined negative and positive emotions.
Over time, they become phobic about feeling anything, and when they do experience positive emotions, that very fact provokes negative ones. Thus, they tamp down any true emotional stirrings until they are nothing more than distant sensations.
Even those ghost-like emotional stirrings are only felt when the narcissist is receiving their narcissistic supply. This usually happens when they are in the idealization phase of a relationship.
Why Can’t Narcissists Empathize?
The narcissist is constantly striving to feel what they know should have been able to feel with their abusive caregivers. In doing so with these transient, fake emotions, the only thing they can actually feel is rage, envy, and devaluation. This is the same pattern they experienced in their dysfunctional childhood.
The fact that they can’t feel true emotions also means they can’t empathize with the emotions of others. In fact, they come to hold the people in their lives who are capable of feeling true emotions with contempt and ridicule. They find them to be overly sentimental and irrational. They believe themselves to be the truly rational one.
What Do Narcissists Think of Other People’s Feelings?
Because of the way they have stashed their own emotions deep inside, narcissists believe that other people are really faking the emotions they feel to achieve a goal just like the narcissist does. Because they believe the emotions of others to be fake and grounded in some nefarious ulterior motive, narcissists are typically suspicious when someone seems emotional toward them. They may even become aggressive and respond with narcissistic rage.
All of this is related to the toxic shame the narcissist really feels inside. They may seem arrogant and confident on the outside, but inside they feel weak and vulnerable. They have to deny these feelings to function, and that’s also why they refuse to show any genuine emotion to those they claim to love.
This sense of vulnerability is also why they project a grandiose facade. Additionally, it’s why they devalue and criticize those around them. They can’t afford to let anyone get too close since that would make them vulnerable to genuine feelings of loss and grief when they are ultimately rejected as has happened so many times in their life.
Instead, the narcissist replaces any true emotions with feigned emotions which means they decide what they are supposed to feel and pretend to be feeling just that. Their true emotions, meanwhile, are stuffed deep inside their psyche. What they show to the world is carefully planned, goal-setting, and the result of careful cognitive analysis. The result is a rather empty affect, devoid of any true emotion.
Can a Narcissist Really Love You?
This is a difficult question to answer because no one can truly ever know what someone else is feeling. What is true is that the damage done to the narcissist that resulted in their undeveloped sense of self has altered the way they experience and project emotion.
They can’t trust the emotions someone claims to feel for them, and they can’t allow themselves to be vulnerable by showing the emotions they may feel for that person in return. Instead, they project what they have analyzed should be the proper emotional behaviors without truly engaging their genuine feelings.
The truth is that if they love you, they will likely be incapable of showing it, at least not in any way that would make them vulnerable to your rejection; something that despite their feelings of superiority, they fear. The fear of losing your love may be real, but it is also rooted in the fear that they will lose their narcissistic supply. Thus, their motives are ultimately rooted in their own self-interest.
Navigating the complexities of the emotions a narcissist may or may not be feeling is a frustrating endeavor, to say the least. It may be more useful to consider your own emotions and whether or not you can allow yourself to continue to be exposed to the pain of someone who is incapable of sharing their genuine emotions with you.
What’s more, you must be on alert because as Patricia R. Cooksey — who studied narcissism in relationships — states, to the narcissist, your positive emotions are uninteresting, “except as useful knowledge to control or manipulate you. If your feelings are negative toward the narc, be on guard!” That’s when the rage will appear. That’s part of why the narcissist’s emotional landscape is full of landmines!
If you’re trying to navigate the complexities of how a narcissist treats you and why they don’t seem to care about your feelings, a free copy of my “Narcissistic Rejection Guide” can help. It will help you learn to say no and protect your own feelings. Just click on the link and I’ll send it directly to your inbox for free!
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