Core shame

Core shame

Learn more about narcissist's behavior and why his main emotion is shame. A narcissist depends on the opinion of others and is not able to be himself.

Into The Mind Of a Narcissist: Why Shame is At The Core of His Behavior

*This post was written by Emilia Nagy and adapted from Christine Hammond’s article.* The main weakness of a narcissist is their extreme fear of being vulnerable. There are few things worse for them than having someone point out even the slightest mistake. The narcissist feels shame for who they really are, thus, they create a false self. This false self’s job is to keep others from discovering the truth – the real self – because the narcissist’s perception is that the real self is unworthy of love and belonging thus, shameful. To protect the real self from being exposed, they feel the need to be in control of others at all times and they use shame as a method of keeping others subservient or off balance. This method of feeling superior ensures that they will not be made vulnerable and therefore their “secret” will not get out. Here are eleven ways a narcissist uses shame to control others:

1. Historical Revisionism.

A narcissist will tell another person’s story without permission, from their own distorted point of view. Their view is generally distorted in a competitive and “needing to make others seem small” way, so you can imagine the version of the story told would not be the most glowing one. They are brewing humiliation for the subject of the story, whether present or not, because someone else’s humiliation serves as a temporary bandaid for their inner shame and destroyed self-esteem.

2. Confidence Breaking.

They may tell someone else’s personal story (again without permission) that is inappropriate or confidential, feeling entitled to share it by their supposed closeness to that person. The goal of telling the story in an inappropriate manner is to make themselves feel like they are in charge of the public perception of the person they are talking about and therefore in control of their own “public perception.” They imagine they are “safe” if they are in control of their own public perception because then no one can reveal the truth they are trying to hide – that they are shameful and unworthy of love and belonging (or so they think).

3. Exaggerating Faults.

Everyone is broken, but not the narcissist. The narcissist is very good at identifying the faults of others and even better at passively aggressively commenting on them. This is a way of putting the other person ‘in their place.’ When confronted, they often say, “I was only joking,” or that person “can’t take a joke.” Keeping the person “off balance” or on their “emotional toes” is motivated by the need to feel superior because feeling superior is the closest thing they have to self-esteem.

4. Victim Card.

Narcissists are talented at exasperating others and then using the reaction as justification for becoming “the victim”. Also if you think about it, this kind of treatment that they provoke only serves to internally affirm their worst fear that they are unworthy and unlovable. They are so afraid that they are unworthy and unlovable that they act out to test others. When others react in anger, it just affirms to the narcissist that they are in fact unworthy of love and belonging and they must therefore continue their false act. In other words, the narcissist will provoke someone and then blame the person for his or her response and take no responsibility for their provocation. Regardless of how hard the narcissist incited the other person, the angry reaction to the provocation is viewed as inappropriate and “wrong”. The other person who usually feels bad about their reaction, may allow the narcissist to play the victim card. This is because continuing to call them out on their lack of accountability further escalates a distorted argument and enlarges the exasperation. Usually the narcissist wins the argument. But if the other person is healthy, will lose yet another relationship.

5. Blame Shifting

Narcissists tend to shift all of the blame onto others. They use black/white thinking as a norm and cannot see that in most situations, if something goes wrong, it is a co-creation between all involved, including themselves. They need all of the blame to be on others because that means that they are not faulted and since they are not faulted they are not unworthy and therefore they are OK and acceptable . Which is what they are trying to prove every second of their life.

6. Baby Talk

In many narcissistic relationships, the narcissist needs to be seen as the “adult” and the other person as the “child”. This belittlement is done in several condescending ways such as literally talking down, calling the other person immature, and saying the other person needs to grow up. The implication is that the narcissist is more mature and has developed beyond the level of the other person.

7. Religious Guilt

The narcissist will use the other person’s religious beliefs to guilt them into acting a certain way. They might even go as far to say, “God told me you need to…” This is, yep you guessed it, to feel in control.

8. Offensive Play

The narcissist will use personal attacks to put the other person on the defense. The other person will get so caught up in defending themselves that they will miss the next attack. “Look how defensive you are, you must have done something wrong,” the narcissist will say. This is a checkmate position because the other person has nowhere to go. They are being set up to be of-center so that the narcissist can feel superior and in control. 9. Talking Above Instead of talking down (baby talk), the narcissist will pretend – if only to themselves – that they are above the other person’s knowledge level. Even if the other person is more intelligent, educated, whatever, the narcissist will talk in circles with an air of authority to force the other person into an inferior position. They may use sophisticated vocabulary, physical posturing such as looking down at the other person, and embellishment of details to disguise the real point: shaming, belittling and humiliating the other person.

10. Comparing Accomplishments

It doesn’t matter what the other person has accomplished, the narcissist did it first, better, and more efficiently. That is if they are simple. But some narcissists are stealth. They will craftily steal the attention from your accomplishment and place it on themselves instead. You will feel weird but you won’t know why. Not unless you know what behavior trait clusters are narcissistic. By outperforming the other person, the narcissist minimizes the other person’s accomplishments in comparison to their own. This produces an ‘I can never be good enough,’ feeling in the other person.

11. First Impression

A narcissist is very aware of how they look and appear to others. Frequently they are dressed in designer clothing with immaculate grooming. Not a hair is ever out of place. This is not just for the narcissist; rather their perfect appearance is used to demean others. Comments like, “They don’t take care of themselves,” or “It doesn’t take a lot of effort to look better” are typical.

All in all, shame is the main emotion that a narcissist will experience. Due to this shame, he is unable to experience any kind of vulnerability, thus he is perceived as lacking empathy by others. Without empathy, a relationship will suffer. Moreover, if the narcissist engages in the above behaviors, all his relationships will end, sooner or later.


Core shame


Core shame

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Written by American News

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