How Narcissists Play the Victim and Twist the Story
People with strong narcissistic tendencies are known for certain destructive social patterns. Anybody who has had the misfortune of dealing with these types of people may notice that whenever there’s a conflict or any type of disagreement, they tend to act in an abhorrent yet predictable manner.
In this article we will explore the common behaviors and scenarios where narcissistic and otherwise toxic people (hereafter narcissists) play the victim and manipulate the narrative.
Delusion and denial
Narcissists can’t deal with reality because it contradicts what they want to be true, and this creates painful emotions. As a coping mechanism, they learn to delude themselves that what is real is actually not real, and however they see the situation is real, even though it isn’t.
Sometimes they truly see it that way. Other times it’s just a story they tell themselves and others. And often the longer you tell a story, the more you believe it, even if initially you know it’s not true. And so eventually they may start truly believing it.
Either way, the first step is to create a version of events that is an alternative to what actually happened or what’s going on.
While delusion is more of an internal process, lying and denial is often in the context of other people.
Regular people deal with their problems by themselves, internally. Or they discuss it in a very private setting: in therapy or among very close, healthy people. Narcissists don’t have people like that in their life and are not really interested in actually resolving anything or being introspective.
Narcissists simply want to know that they are in the right. For that, they need other people’s false validation to regulate their shaky self-esteem. They need to find people who would agree with them. And in order for others to agree with them, these other people either need to be terribly unhealthy and unable to recognize their toxic tendencies, or the narcissist needs to lie and present a different story than what is actually true.
Here, they tend to flip the roles where they are good, noble, caring, virtuous and the other person is evil, cruel, selfish, and immoral. Which brings us to the next point….
The most common way narcissists create alternative narratives is by projecting. We’ve talked about narcissistic projection in a separate article but to extract the main point, narcissists love to project.
If they say that the other person is jealous of them, then you know that the narcissist is jealous. If they say that the other person was cruel to them, then you know that the narcissist was cruel to the other person. If they say that the other person was lying and cheating, then you know they were the one lying and cheating.
Yes, sometimes it’s not as simple and there could be unhealthy behavior on both sides, but more often than not whatever the narcissist is presenting the other person as is a much more accurate description of the narcissist.
Whatever the case may be, the mechanism here is that in the narcissist’s mind they try to attribute their own unhealthy behavior, perspective, and character traits to the other person because it shifts attention and responsibility from them. And if the other person “is” all these bad things then it can’t be that I am these things—thinks the narcissist—I’m the good guy here.
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