The narcissist feels a compelling need to control people in his (or her) environment; his spouse or partner, work mates, friends and neighbors. That is because in his own mind he doesn’t feel in control; because he lacks feelings of internal control he has the strong urge to control whomever he can externally. He (or she) will seek to dominate every individual and every group with which he interacts. The narcissist’s obsessive desire for control is actually not about control for control’s sake; it is essentially a defense against the risk of receiving a “narcissistic injury” (a blow to the ego or self-esteem).
A major component of narcissism is gaining control over others. This behavior is often a reaction to a childhood completely dominated by a narcissistic parent (or parents)- controlled in all aspects of his young life and not allowed to develop control over his own life. Healthy parenting involves allowing children to learn where the boundaries lie, whereas narcissistic parenting involves the parent(s) establishing complete emotional control over their offspring.
The narcissist lives in fear of losing control
He sees other people in his environment – at home, at work, friends, relatives and neighbors – as extensions of himself. He sees himself at the center of the world- the controller, an idol to be adored and admired; in his mind this makes it acceptable for him to control and abuse others. He continually tries to rearrange the ‘others’ in his life to look toward only him and admire him. An expert in knowing best how things should turn out and how people should behave, the narcissist tries to control them.
Significant others who don’t immediately do as the narcissist wishes are subjected to manipulation, threats, coercion advice giving, guilt, manipulation, domination or any other means at the narcissist’s disposal. Narcissists have an obsessive need to control others due to their fear of abandonment. Abandonment is the ultimate narcissistic injury.
The connection between narcissism and control is strong and represents one of the diagnostic tools used by psychologists to define the personality disorder (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). People suffering from narcissism attempt to control others in order to enhance their own sense of power and entitlement. Narcissism and the need to control relate to their self image as does the tendency to devalue others to increase their own sense of self-worth. Controlling others also relates to a lack of empathy, a tell-tale trait seen in people with narcissism. Narcissists typically believe they deserve special recognition for their superior talent or intelligence, which they feel gives them the right to exploit, demean, and use others.
In intimate relationships, narcissism and control might be exhibited in the narcissist’s attempt to determine a partner’s choice of friends or how a loved one dresses. The narcissist might become jealous or possessive and resort to aggressive behavior to exert control. He or she might resent a partner who does not focus constant attention on the narcissist or defer to his or her desires. The narcissist feels he must control his significant others in order to have a steady, reliable source of Narcissistic Supply.
What happens if the narcissist loses control?
If he loses control of others he will fail to find Narcissistic Supply sources, just like a drug addict that can’t find any drugs. This precipitates a narcissistic crisis. The narcissist becomes more desperate and more compulsive in looking for his drug. The more he fails, the more he is hurt and expresses his emotional turmoil by acting out (not uncommonly with ‘narcissistic rage’).
The narcissist initiates his own abandonment (by demeaning, devaluing and even discarding others) because of his fear. He is so afraid of losing his sources (and of unconsciously being emotionally hurt) – that he would rather “control”, “master”, or “direct” the potentially destabilizing situation – than confront the effects if initiated by the significant other. The personality of the narcissist has a low level of organization. It is precariously balanced.
Being abandoned could cause a narcissistic injury so grave that the whole edifice can come crumbling down. Narcissists usually entertain suicidal ideation in such cases. But, if the narcissist initiated his abandonment, if HE directed the scenes, if the abandonment is perceived by him to be a goal HE set himself to achieve – he can and does avoid all these troublesome consequences.
Narcissists and Abandonment
Narcissists are terrified of being abandoned yet their solution is mind boggling. Narcissists facilitate the abandonment. They MAKE SURE that they are abandoned. This way they secure the achievement of two goals:
(1) Getting it over with – The narcissist has a very low threshold of tolerance to uncertainty and inconvenience, emotional or material. Narcissists are very impatient and “spoiled”. They cannot delay gratification OR impending doom. They must have it all NOW, good or bad.
(2) By bringing the feared abandonment about, the narcissist can lie to himself persuasively. “She didn’t abandon me; it is I who abandoned her. I controlled the situation. It was all my doing, In time, the narcissist adopts this “official version” as the truth. He might say: “I deserted her emotionally and sexually long before she left”.
Narcissists HATE happiness, joy and vivaciousness – in short, they hate life itself. The roots of this bizarre tendency can be traced to three psychological dynamics, which operate at the same time (it is very confusing to be a narcissist):
First, there is pathological envy.
The Narcissist is constantly envious of other people: their successes, their property, their character, their education, their children, their ideas, their ability to feel, their good mood, their past, their future, their present, their spouses, their mistresses or lovers, their location…
Almost ANYTHING can be the trigger of a bout of biting, acidulous envy. But there is nothing which reminds the narcissist more of his envious experiences than happiness. Narcissists lash out at happy people out of their own deprivation.
Second is narcissistic hurt.
The narcissist regards himself as the center of the world and the lives of those surrounding him. He is the source of all emotions, responsible for all developments- positive and negatives alike, the axis, the prime cause, the broker, the pillar, forever indispensable. It is therefore a bitter and sharp rebuke to this grandiose fantasy to see someone else happy. It painfully serves to illustrate to him that he is but one of many causes, triggers and catalysts. It is shocking to his ego to see that there are things happening outside the orbit of his control.
The narcissist uses “projective identification”. He feels bad through other people, his proxies. He induces unhappiness and gloom in others to enable him to experience his own misery. Inevitably, he attributes the source of such sadness either to himself, as its cause – or to the “pathology” of the sad person. “You are constantly depressed, you should really see a therapist” is a common sentence. The narcissist – in an effort to maintain the depressive state until it serves some cathartic purposes – strives to perpetuate it by sowing constant reminders of its existence. “You look sad/bad/pale today. Is anything wrong?
Last, but not least, is the exaggerated fear of losing control.
The narcissist feels that he controls his human environment mostly by manipulation and mainly by emotional extortion and distortion. This is not far from reality. He suppresses any sign of emotional autonomy. He feels threatened and belittled by an emotion fostered not by him or by his actions directly or indirectly. Counteracting someone else’s happiness is the narcissist’s way of reminding everyone: I am here, I am omnipotent, you are at my mercy and you will feel happy only when I tell you to.