If there’s one hallmark of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), it’s that the narcissist will never take responsibility for anything they do that goes wrong. They will blame anyone else for something they have done. They will go through extensive, convoluted mental exercises to find a way to blame you for something they did, and it may not even be something that was avoidable. They still need a scapegoat, but why?
The nature of NPD is such that to accept responsibility for their actions would be to expose the narcissist’s own true self which they believe is hopelessly flawed and worthless. This is one of the following 7 reasons why narcissists need a scapegoat:
- Accepting responsibility would expose the narcissist’s true self;
- Narcissists feel superior by comparison to the person blamed;
- Narcissists feel powerful when they can escape blame;
- Narcissists use blame to distract from their own mistakes;
- Narcissists use blame as a gaslighting technique;
- Narcissists use blame as a devaluation tactic;
- Narcissists use blame to gain power in their profession.
If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you need to understand the motivation behind the narcissist’s propensity to blame others for their mistakes. Being the scapegoat of a narcissist can have serious consequences for your own self-esteem and it’s vital that you understand the reasons behind the behavior.
What About NPD Causes Narcissists to Blame Others?
During childhood, the young narcissist experiences trauma that causes them to believe they are unable to do things correctly. They feel worthless and hopelessly flawed. These feelings stunt the development of their sense of self or ego.
They feel a lot of shame about their true self, and it leads to self-loathing. Therefore, they bury their incompletely developed true self and replace it with a false self. They must do this because they need a mechanism with which they can interact with others in the world around them.
In healthy people, the sense of self is what enables them to self-soothe and maintain a sense of self-worth despite what might be going on in their life. They might make mistakes and even do bad things, but they can still maintain a feeling that they have value because they are human beings.
The problem for the narcissist is that their false self cannot do the job of a true ego. It can’t help them to feel they have value or help them soothe themselves. That’s why they need other people. They need people to supply them with an almost constant flow of adulation so that they can feel good about themselves. This so-called narcissistic supply props up their self-esteem.
If other people see they have made a mistake, it has a devastating effect on the narcissist. Even the most minor criticism makes the narcissist feel as though they are in jeopardy of being exposed for the worthless fraud they truly believe themselves to be.
This can even provoke what is called a narcissistic collapse. It’s a complete mental breakdown that can leave the narcissist unable to function at all. This is how the mental condition causes the narcissist to blame other people for anything that goes wrong.
Here Are 7 Reasons Why Narcissists Need A Scapegoat
1. Accepting responsibility would expose the narcissist’s true self
The narcissist lives in almost constant fear that their true self will be exposed for the world to see. Because of their childhood experiences, they believe they are essentially worthless and incapable of doing anything right. That’s why they bury that true self.
If someone can see that they make mistakes — even the most minor of mistakes — it risks bringing their whole fragile house of cards down. As a result, the narcissist becomes hypervigilant for anything that might expose them.
Part of their hypervigilance is always looking for anything they could possibly be blamed for having done. They can’t take the risk that once other people begin to see they are not the superior, perfect person they’ve claimed for most of their life, they might be exposed for the worthless person they truly believe themselves to be.
That’s why the narcissist must find a scapegoat to blame for even the most minor of offenses. It cannot be them…ever.
2. Narcissists feel superior by comparison to the person blamed
Another reason narcissists need a scapegoat is that if they can blame someone else for a mistake, they can feel superior both because they are not responsible and because they found the real culprit. Blaming others and comparing themselves to that person is a tactic narcissists often use to make themselves feel superior.
Even though others often see these actions as childish or even cruel, in the narcissist’s mind, it is showing everyone around them how intelligent they are and how superior they are by comparison. It’s a quality source of narcissistic supply to be able to point out the flaws of others and show everyone that they do not have those kinds of flaws.
You might not understand how they can think this way when to you, they seem so arrogant and rude. You have to remember, however, that the narcissist sees everything through the distorted lens of the false self. It’s an inherently imperfect identity mechanism, and its sole job is to protect the narcissist.
Narcissistic parents will even scapegoat their own children to feel superior and in total control. As psychotherapist Jay Reid explains, “They are only satiated when they feel superior to and in control over someone else.”
3. Narcissists feel powerful when they can escape blame
Another aspect of narcissistic personality disorder that causes the narcissist to lay blame on anyone other than themselves is that it makes them feel powerful. The one thing a developing narcissist never had in their life was power.
They were either denied the power to make their own choices because their parents were narcissists themselves and controlled every aspect of their life or their parents were overprotective and never let them try anything.
In either case, the child comes to see themselves as being worthless and incapable, and that generates a strong sense of self-loathing. When they can successfully escape blame, particularly if they secretly know it was their fault, they feel powerful. They feel as though they truly are superior.
They feel like they truly can control any situation they might have to confront. They can convince anyone and everyone that they are never wrong.
4. Narcissists use blame to distract from their own mistakes
Another common reason narcissists blame others is that they are trying to distract from their own mistakes. When they are ultimately cornered into admitting they made a mistake, they will go to extreme lengths to find a reason why it really wasn’t their fault.
Did your narcissistic spouse cheat on you? Well, yes, they can admit they did that, but it was the other woman or man who manipulated them into doing it. They weren’t really to blame. It was all the other person’s fault. Or it was your fault for having done something you did to them, even if it was years earlier.
Did your narcissistic colleague screw up a presentation? It wasn’t them, it was their inept assistant who provided them with the wrong information. They may even blame the people to whom they were making the presentation. Perhaps they weren’t attentive enough, and it ruined their concentration.
Whenever the narcissist might realistically be blamed for something, they will blame others even for things unrelated to the problem at hand. They use blame as a way to distract from anything they might have actually done.
5. Narcissists use blame as a gaslighting technique
Gaslighting is a manipulation technique that narcissists use to make you feel like you’re the problem, not them. They want to make you doubt your own perceptions and interpretation of reality.
When you confront a narcissist with something they’ve done, they are quite likely to downplay their role in the problem. They might say, for example, that you took what they said wrong. They were just joking. This is gaslighting — making you think you’re the one with the problem.
Blaming is another way they can gaslight you. If you confront them with a broken promise, for example, they might tell you that it’s your fault because you weren’t excited enough or trusting enough that they would do what they said they would do. It’s your fault in the end.
They can have you questioning your own sanity using this kind of technique, and they can cause some people to start blaming themselves. You see this with other kinds of abuse where the victim may claim they deserved the way they were being treated.
6. Narcissists use blame as a devaluation tactic
Whatever other reasons narcissists might have for laying blame on other people, they are also using it as a devaluation tactic. They are ultimately making the claim that it is other people who are flawed or worthless. It isn’t them.
They will typically begin to devalue almost anyone in their life with whom they are in regular contact. If you are around a narcissist long enough, you will experience their devaluation. It’s part of the relationship cycle of abuse with a narcissist.
It can be a very effective technique that affects their target’s self-esteem. It can also lead to depression and anxiety. The narcissist’s constant criticism has their targets walking on eggshells around them just waiting for the next criticism they know is coming.
7. Narcissists use blame to gain power in their profession
Another common reason narcissists need a scapegoat to blame for their mistakes is that they are seeking more power in their profession. Narcissistic coworkers can create many problems in the workplace.
They will take credit for the good work of their colleagues and blame those same colleagues for any mistakes. They do this consistently, and because they can be charming and convincing, it often works well for them.
It’s not uncommon for narcissists to rise to positions of power in the workplace, and they are truly horrible bosses. If you think you have a narcissistic boss, you might have to carefully consider whether you should seek employment elsewhere.
The narcissistic boss will blame their underlings for all mistakes, and they will take credit for their work. They see other people as mere extensions of themselves, and thus, they feel you should be willing to help them get ahead. But they will never reciprocate.
They won’t help you get ahead, and they won’t acknowledge the efforts of the team. Instead, they will take credit for every part of a successful project. If they can’t claim credit directly, they will point out it was their leadership that enabled their team to do so well.
If you’re in a relationship of any kind with a narcissist, you can expect to be blamed for something the narcissist did at some point. It’s only a matter of time, and in fact, most people feel the sting of the narcissist’s criticism quite frequently and often for things they are only tangentially involved with. A narcissist can, quite simply, never accept responsibility for anything they have done.
To accept blame would risk exposure of the true self and the revelation that all the grandiose ideas they infused into the false self are just that — false. They will do almost anything to avoid that because it seriously threatens their mental stability.
If you know a narcissist, you’ve probably experienced being blamed for something they did. They will even blame their partner for their own infidelity. Check out the article about whether or not they will ever admit to cheating to fully understand how far they will go to avoid being blamed.
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