It doesn’t take long to realize that narcissists are very childish in their behavioral patterns. They are selfish, needy, and lack any empathy or understanding of the experiences of other people. When they are challenged or frustrated, they through a rageful fit, and they don’t seem to understand the consequences of their actions. All of these are childish characteristics, but why do adult narcissists act the same way?
The reasons for the childish actions of a narcissist are all related to the root causes of this Cluster B personality disorder. Here are 9 reasons why narcissists are so childish. These all result from the childhood trauma that caused their mental disorder:
- Narcissists Dissociate;
- Narcissists Confabulate;
- Narcissists Lack Self-Awareness;
- Narcissists are Focused Solely on Self;
- Narcissists Were Never Allowed to Make Choices;
- Narcissists Were Convinced They are Entitled;
- Narcissists Lack Self-Esteem and Confidence;
- Narcissists Experience Reality Through a Distorted Lens;
- Narcissists live in almost constant fear.
You need to understand how narcissism develops to truly understand how that particular mental disorder causes the narcissist to act in childish ways. Let’s explore the causes for narcissism and each of these resulting behaviors.
What Causes Narcissism?
Narcissism develops from certain childhood experiences that arrest the development of a healthy sense of self. All children are narcissistic because they haven’t yet learned the qualities of empathy and compassion, and they haven’t yet learned that actions have consequences.
When parents abuse their children in certain ways, they stunt the healthy development of that child’s ego or sense of self, and their children never learn those important life lessons. There are two types of parenting styles that produce narcissistic children.
The first is narcissistic parents. The constant criticism a narcissist doles out to their children and the strict control they exert over their child’s life, causes the child to view their true self as hopelessly flawed. They bury it deep inside to hide it from the world because of their shame and sense of self-loathing.
The other type of parenting effectively produces the same results. This is the overprotective parent who never lets the child do anything. The child comes to the same conclusion as the child of narcissists — they see themselves as inept and worthless. These children also bury what they perceive as their worthless true self.
In both cases, these children need something with which they can interact with the outside world. They construct a false self for that purpose, but the problem is that the false self cannot do the work of a true ego. As a result, narcissists cannot self-soothe and they can’t internally support their sense of self-value.
They need other people — i.e., external validation — to feel good about themselves. This all happens in childhood, and so, these young children infuse the false self with grandiose ideas. They tell themselves they are omnipotent and omniscient in the sad attempt to feel as though they have value. That results in the following behaviors.
1. Narcissists Dissociate
As explained by Sam Vaknin, a professor of psychology at two universities, dissociation refers to the erasing of memories or the amnesia that many narcissists experience. Narcissists need the constant feedback of the people around them to regulate their own identity, self-worth, boundaries, and even their sense of reality.
In other words, the loved ones in the narcissist’s life act as external memories and flux regulators to help the narcissist maintain a stable flow of positive, affirming, and cohering data. They rely on this for their sense of continuity.
The reason for this is that the narcissist was conditioned from their childhood abuse to always be prepared for the unexpected. This is what they learned from their capricious caretakers.
Given that and the fact that the narcissist invented their false self, the narcissist becomes, in a sense, their own creator. That’s why they have such grandiose ideas about themselves. But this unstable structure calls for almost constant adaptation.
The narcissist meets this need by emulating, mirroring, and adapting almost constantly. They are at once nothing and everything. The narcissist simply discards that which doesn’t match their grandiose ideas, but to the observer, the incoherence and constant change appear as a fractured, discontinuous reality.
This is dissociation, and it results in a childish insistence on a reality that others do not perceive and find incoherent and illogical.
2. Narcissists Confabulate
The fractured nature of the narcissist’s reality results in yawning gaps in memory, and to compensate for those gaps, the narcissist confabulates. They invent plausible scenarios of how things occurred.
You see these confabulations as lies, but the narcissist is necessarily able to convince themselves of their invented reality. Not doing so would mean facing the possibility that something is grievously wrong, and that is not something the fragile self-esteem of the narcissist can withstand.
The narcissist will be quite staunch in their assertion that what happened could not have happened in any other way. For the outsider, this is a frustrating contradiction to what they know happened, and it is made even more maddening by the fact that the narcissist won’t even consider an alternate version of reality.
3. Narcissists Lack Self-Awareness
The narcissist’s precarious relationship with their own true self means that they can’t possibly be introspective. Digging deep, as healthy people tend to do, is a risky endeavor for the narcissist.
Coming face-to-face with their flawed sense of self would risk what is known as a narcissistic collapse. That’s a complete mental breakdown. To avoid that, the narcissist avoids any kind of self-awareness. They don’t want to look inside because they not only fear what they will learn about themselves, they fear their true self will also be revealed to the world.
In the end, their biggest fear is abandonment. They fear that when the people they love learn about how flawed and worthless they are, and if that happens, the narcissist will lose them and the narcissistic supply they provide.
This all results in childish behavior where the narcissist refuses to acknowledge any responsibility for their actions. That would be tantamount to admitting they are hopelessly flawed.
4. Narcissists are Focused Solely on Self
To maintain their fragile equilibrium, the narcissist must remain focused solely on their own needs. They don’t have the time or energy to think about other people. Not only must they constantly manipulate their loved ones, but they must also be constantly vigilant for any threats to expose them and their truly flawed nature.
This means they have to be on the lookout all the time for any threatening behavior, and they have to be ready to respond at a moment’s notice. They are always watching, and they are always manipulating to ensure they can maintain their fragile self-esteem.
This results in childish self-centered behaviors. They can only focus on their own needs and how to get those met, particularly given their constant demand for narcissistic supply.
5. Narcissists Were Never Allowed to Make Choices
Whether their parents were narcissists or overprotective, the narcissistic child was never allowed to make their own choices. This led to their feelings of worthlessness and arrested the development of their sense of self.
But it also resulted in a sense of helplessness. In some cases, their parents may have reinforced that notion by telling them they should never have to do things for themselves or that they are unable to do things for themselves. That’s why the adult narcissist doesn’t feel they can do things for themselves. They believe they need other people to meet their needs, both emotionally and physically.
When that doesn’t happen, it stimulates a fierce rage that results from fear the narcissist feels that their needs won’t be met. They respond by yelling, calling you names, and sometimes, physical abuse. They are just like a child throwing a temper tantrum.
6. Narcissists Were Convinced They are Entitled
In many cases, the narcissistic or overprotective parents of a narcissistic child have convinced the child that they should not have to do things for themselves. Narcissistic parents will often convince their children they belong to a special family and are entitled to all the good things in life.
Overprotective parents leave their children with the sense that it is up to other people to keep the child safe and provide for their needs. Either way, the child feels entitled, and they carry that sense of entitlement into their adult life.
You’ve probably encountered some of these entitled adults who believe that everyone should do whatever they feel is right. Everyone should provide them with whatever they need.
Children need everyone to provide for them, but healthy children grow out of that and develop a sense of pride in being able to do for themselves. The narcissistic child is denied that sense of self-empowerment, and as a result, they feel helpless for their entire life.
7. Narcissists Lack Self-Esteem and Confidence
Because the young narcissist is never allowed to do anything for themselves, they never develop a healthy self-esteem and sense of self-confidence. Their entire lives are controlled by their parents.
The narcissist is denied the sense of pride that comes with accomplishment, and they also never develop a sense of empowerment that healthy children experience as they are successful in completing tasks and making choices for themselves.
This lack of self-esteem and self-confidence makes them react to situations in a childish way. They manipulate others in helping them or they complain endlessly about being a victim.
8. Narcissists Experience Reality Through a Distorted Lens
Narcissists experience reality through the distorted lens of their false self. They created this for the purpose of interacting with the outer world, and they infused it with the grandiose ideas of an emotionally battered child.
They never developed a realistic view of themselves or life in general. They feel entitled because of the grandiose ideas they created to feel good about themselves. In reality, it’s a tragedy because it is borne of neglect and emotional abuse.
That distorted lens, however, causes the narcissist to see the world in childish terms. They exaggerate, simplify, and lie to try to make sense of their environment and to manipulate others into making them feel good about themselves.
9. Narcissists Live in Almost Constant Fear
Finally, the narcissist lives in almost constant fear of being exposed as a fraud and worthless person. They are always afraid people will see through to what they believe is their hopelessly flawed true self.
That fear drives their every move. They must control everyone in their life to prevent their worst fear from becoming a reality. If things get too real for them, they face narcissistic collapse, that is, a complete mental breakdown.
Fear makes anyone do things that seem childish and selfish, and for the narcissist, that is compounded by the fact that they don’t have a fully developed sense of self.
The reasons why the narcissist acts so childishly are all tied to the development of this Cluster B personality disorder. It’s really a sad story because it is the result of abusive childhood experiences that effectively left the narcissist emotionally disabled.
It’s a sad story, but one that can have profound effects on the loved ones of a narcissist. Understanding this devastating mental condition is necessary for the development of compassion. That compassion may be the only thing sustaining the narcissist’s mental stability.
You might reasonably wonder how this abuse affects the longevity of the narcissist. It’s a lot of stress to withstand and to get some important information about how this kind of life affects the long-term health of the narcissist, you’ll need to read this blog.
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