How well can narcissists hide their true self?

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  • Once formed and functioning, the False Self stifles the growth of the True Self and paralyses it. Henceforth, the True Self is virtually non-existent and plays no role (active or passive) in the conscious life of the narcissist. I do not believe in the ability to "resuscitate" it through therapy. It is not only a question of alienation, as Horney observed. She said that because the Idealised (=False) Self sets impossible goals to attain -- the results are frustration and self hate which grow with every setback or failure. I assign the constant sadistic judgement, the self-berating, the suicidal ideation to another source: to an idealised, sadistic, Superego. There is no conflict between the True Self and the False Self. First, the True Self is much too weak to engage in conflict with the overbearing False. Second, the False Self is adaptive (though maladaptive). It helps the True Self to cope with the world. Without the False Self, the True Self would be subjected to so much hurt that it will disintegrate. This happens to narcissists who go through a life crisis: their False Ego becomes dysfunctional and they experience a harrowing feeling of annulment.

  • The False Self has many functions, described at great length below. The two most important are: It serves as a decoy, it "attracts the fire". It is a proxy for the True Self. It is tough and hard and can absorb any amount of pain, hurt and negative emotions. By externalising it, the child develops immunity to the indifference, manipulation, sadism, or exploitation -- in short: to the abuse -- inflicted on him by his parents (or by other Primary Objects in his life). It is a shell, protecting him, rendering him invisible and omnipotent at the same time. The False Self is misrepresented by the narcissist as his True Self. The narcissist is saying, in effect: "I am not who you think that I am. I am someone else. I am that (False) Self. Therefore, I deserve a better, painless, more considerate treatment." The False Self, thus, is a contraption intended to alter the attitude of the (human) environment towards the narcissist. These roles are crucial to survival and to the proper psychological functioning of the narcissist. The False Self is by far more important to the narcissist than his dilapidated, dysfunctional, True Self. As opposed to the neo-Freudians, I do not think that the two are part of a continuum. I do not think that healthy people have a "milder" case of False Self which differs from its pathological equivalent in that it is more realistic and closer to the True Self. I do think that even healthy people have a mask [Guffman], a persona [Jung] which they CONSCIOUSLY present to the outside world. This is a far cry from the False Self, which is mostly unconscious, depends on the maintenance of an image but is not synonymous with it and is compulsive.

  • The False Self is a reaction to pathological circumstances (maybe even a healthy reaction). But its dynamics make it predominate, devour the psyche and prey upon both the True Self and the efficient, flexible functioning of the personality.

  • I was with a narcissist and no one, not even I knew he was one until after. I've been told he never showed himself because he hadn't secured me yet. Most of the people in his life saw him as a loving albeit irresponsible person, who was so "great" but VERY moody and the side I saw of him after the relationship ended was one where he took on the role of the victim while victimizing me. He would come up with the most insane lies you've ever heard to make it look as if he'd moved on, I had never seen anyone so egotistical and unreal. I've found they can hide themselves so well you can't even know. It's a scary thing actually.

  • In public, they are gentlemen. They pull out your chair. At home, they don't. Everyone else thinks they are nice so when you first have doubts you think you must be wrong. You will doubt yourself first.

  • My N hid his true self very well and could put on quite the act in public as well. I also was unaware of NPD till I left him and the Nfog lifted. As is typical with N's, he had no long-term friends and I attribute this to the fact that once he got too close to them his mask started to slip and they began to see the cracks.
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