The Pathological Narcissist in Friendships
What they surround themselves with are mere acquaintances that are there to serve their constant need for narcissistic supply, just like they do with their spouse and their children.
Rather than being a friend, they are a ‘frenemy’ (a person who combines the characteristics of a friend and an enemy), so always they end up treating their friends badly. Consequently, these so-called friends come and go in the narcissist’s life with great regularity.
When a victim is targeted, you can be sure that there is something the narcissist is after, and they will go out of their way to get it.
The chosen victim will be charmed and seduced for the express purpose of providing oxygen, and a host of residual benefits that serve as narcissistic supply. In the beginning of the relationship (The Idealisation Phase) the pathological narcissist will give all the appearances of being a good friend. The victim will find themselves entering a whirlwind of attentiveness; where they will be lavished with the narcissists total attention, praise, admiration, time, and showered with gifts. But nothing is as it seems.
If the victim is chosen to be part of the narcissist’s “inner sanctum”, in a way it is a backhanded compliment. It means that the narcissist sees something special in you because they only like to be seen mixing with special people who mirror back their specialness to onlookers.
It could be that you have beauty, intelligence, or are successful in your own right. This makes them look even more powerful, besides, reveling in your glory helps them to draw more influential people into their sphere for further supply.
They want their “special new friend” to appear fascinating to others, and for a while, they will even help them to shine by telling everybody how beautiful, or smart, or successful they are.
But a word of caution, this will only work if the friend does not attempt to shine brighter than them, always they must be the brightest and shiniest star, so the friend must be willing to stay in the shadows.
Because the narcissist is completely self-absorbed, everything in the friendship is all about them and their needs.
When they know they have their victim hooked for giving them supply, their warm charismatic demeanour changes. The narcissist’s interpersonal relationships do not usually last long before their ego feels threatened by the victim (usually within four months). Once that happens the narcissist’s rage will be triggered, and their mask will slip to reveal the aggressive fake hiding behind the mask.
This shift in the relationship causes a hidden panic in the narcissist, simply because they know from experience that their house of cards will soon collapse, and with it their source of supply. Their equilibrium is so delicate that even the slightest disagreement or hint of criticism from the victim will cause their shame-proneness to be triggered.
Once that happens the relationship shifts into the second stage (The Devalue Phase) that will take the victim by complete surprise.
For a while, the new friend may be revered as being superior, but once the narcissist manages to extract what they want, they will then demote the victim to an inferior position. The unsuspecting victim may think that they are good friends for a while, but eventually, they become aware that they are in a one-sided relationship, devoted only to the narcissist’s needs.
Inevitably they are reduced to mere objects to be used for as long as they are willing to give adequate praise and admiration to the narcissist. However, should they complain, or dare to look for a reciprocal relationship, the narcissist will react with hostility and rejection.
This is the beginning of the end of the friendship, and the narcissist will then become very bored with the friend quickly. Suddenly the narcissist becomes cold, uninterested and remote, and to the bewilderment of the victim friend, the friendship comes to an abrupt and inexplicable end.
When it comes to envy, there is no one more envious than a pathological narcissist. Their envy is a rage reaction whenever they are unable to control or possess something another person has, especially when they are a “considered friend”. They bare intense resentment for anybody who they think has any form of advantage over them (it may be their educational abilities, their social status, their physical looks, their creativity, their success, their wealth, their popularity, or anything in fact).
Whatever the narcissist perceives another of having (the very something that they do not possess), their shame-proneness will be triggered, and they will be driven by an insatiable need to covet that asset.
The root cause of their narcissistic envy can be traced, most likely, back to the serious inadequacies found in the mother/child or other caregiving relationships that they experienced.
Sadly, the dysfunctional relationship between the young child and their caregivers, especially if it was their mother, leads the child to experience a strong surge of aggression that manifests itself in the form of envy. Furthermore, when the child feels rejected by its primary caregivers for being too needy, the child learns to experience their needs as shameful. As adults, to protect themselves from further shameful feelings, the pathological narcissist convinces themselves that they do not have to depend on anyone but themselves.
To feel safe, the narcissistic personality strives for superiority, and the drive for perfectionism, grandiosity, and self-entitlement begins.
Unfortunately, the narcissist’s superiority is juxtaposed to an “inferiority complex” that harbours unconscious feelings of low self-esteem and inadequacy.
So, to maintain their superior position, they devalue other people who they imagine may have more prestige than themselves. But before they do this, they will go out of their way to become like that person, to learn what they can from them, to model them so that they feel more powerful than them, and finally, they discard that person by projecting “envy” on to them.
It is through these methods of projection or projective identification, that the narcissist gets rid of their own painful envious emotions so that they can maintain their feeling of superiority. There are no rules as to how they achieve this, they will do this any way they can, for example, by ruining the other person’s reputation, or breaking the person psychologically and financially, etc.
At this phase of the game, the friend has become the enemy.
It is not unusual for the narcissist to target their ex-supply’s personal friends as a new source of supply, and then use them to turn on the ex-friend with the lies they feed them with. They then coolly move on to the next cycle of hot pursuit, engorgement, and elimination which is endless.
When the relationship goes wrong (as it inevitably will), the narcissist’s typical and much-used excuse is to say that their friend was “jealous and envious of them”; therefore, they had no option than to end the relationship.
This, of course, is a pack of lies. The truth of the matter is, that without their investment in the other person, the relationship begins to fold, and this folding is experienced by the pathological narcissist’s fragile ego as rejection (a reminder of unemphatic and inconsistent early childhood interactions by their caregivers), which of course, fills them with dread and shame.
So, at the slightest whiff of rejection (real or imagined), the narcissist gives the so-called “friendship’ the chop. In this way, they are spared the intolerable shameful feelings of abandonment that they cannot tolerate in any relationship.
If you are a friend of a pathological narcissist, then you need to understand that it is nothing that you have done; their acts are because they respond to some events with extreme fear of abandonment – events that would have little meaning to a healthy person.
However, all of this leads to a lot of confusion for those unlucky enough to be in a committed friendship with someone with a narcissistic personality disorder. Once the pathological narcissist decides that the friendship is coming to its end, they now go on to hunt for another source of narcissistic supply to fill the gap of the so-called friend, and so the cycle continues.
Unfortunately, what the friend generally fails to work out is that they have been experiencing a utilitarian relationship (an absence of mutual involvement between friends).
Each loss the pathological narcissist experiences is yet another shameful narcissistic wound to their system, and to cope with the shame, they explain their deficit away by rationalising that friends always disappoint them, and in their mind, they are the one that has become the abused victim in the friendship.
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Thank God for you…. I had made a comment and tried to post it but because this monster has control of anything I do on the computer…i guess he deleted it…Christine I am a follower of yours now…! keep up your awesome work!
OMG… this is so generational it is sick that this type of a person repopulates this world continually. What got me interested in finding out more is the fact that being the scapegoat I saw how others were acting as if it were normal. I used to say that ‘we’ put the funk in dysfunctional families… I was wrong. I basically raised myself and grew up thinking that was all there was…man was I wrong. I am now 58 and started to figure the whole mess out that these people think is normal and of course I am looked at as the crazy one ….
They say to never confront a narc., well that is very true but I am one that has to put all the cards out and I will most definatly call you on your lie, especially if you are trying to get one over on anyone! EVERYTHING you say makes more sense in trying to explain to any type of therapist, whom ever your trying to explain insanity and madness to….I am dealing with an ex bf for 9 yrs has been obsessively stalking me and has hired help doing this to worsen the trauma on me. I grew up in a family of them and didn’t even realize these monsters walked the earth. I am trying to make it a mission to make this illness ‘seen’ by people that can do things about it. Being right in the middle of this abuse makes it very hard to even breathe but when I come out of this madness… there is no stopping me until I get someone to listen to me. This illness will shatter the victims and most likely is the cause of most suicides!!! I just stumbled onto your page and I WILL read more from you…thank you for your knowledge and sharing your wisdom, it is needed!
Christine…please help make this known to authorities in the Judicial Systems so that the victims are more understood. These monsters are everywhere….
Thank you so much for your amazing insights into this bizarre personality disorder.
It is so reassuring to be able to learn from these horrible experiences; learn the red flags and cycles
and move on. instead of being victimized over and over again. God Bless you in your work.
Spot on. Former “friend”, copycat, pathological narc, and “victim” is punishing me AGAIN with silence, The first time, I assumed her silence was related to her grieving her “husband”‘s death. So when she approached me last year, dangling “friendship” as bait, I erroneously accepted her offer. Looking back, I should have seen it coming – everything about the friendship revolved around her needs and wants. She eventually admitted being jealous of me and my creativity, looks, etc. Then suddenly, she started walking past me and my house/yard without a word or a glance. This has been going on for over a year now. I’ve known for a couple of years now what she is, and I say GOOD RIDDANCE. Just wish she would move away, or stop walking past my house.
Another great article by Christine. While I have not experienced this with friends (maybe lucky), it a perfect example of my marriage of 27 yrs. ending in divorce @ 41 yrs. The mask slipped not in (4) months but within a few weeks. Shocked at what appeared, (dated 6 yrs.) went running to the priest that married us. No family to speak to as they seemed to love the drama of abuse. Had never heard of NPD (1974) & took the advise of the priest to handle him with “kid gloves” in spite of him being (6) years older. Oh my, what a joyride for all those years – such a job removing the arrows & bullets after I ended it. This guy was definitely in for the long haul & I was an “insane” rescuer. What a shock when that “rage” first appears but over time it seems like the “target” can develop some bit of immunity while they try to straighten up their “kids gloves”.
Thank goodness this topic is dealt with today. Christine & others that have walked through these fires are the best teachers out there. Love them all in their efforts to heal the world.
Wow, what a perfect description of some of the friendships I’ve had. Thanks again, Christine.
Hi Bonnie, Yes unfortunately, you are not alone. It even happened to me. Christine
Wow you nailed it. Have had more than one person like this in my life!