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If Narcissism is Caused by Childhood Trauma, Do Narcissists Deserve Compassion?

Compassion is a big word. Compassion embodies a tangible expression of love for those who are suffering. We all deserve it, but life is all about cause and effect. It’s hard to love those that instead of loving, abuse those who love them. That creates resentment and takes the person away from their own capacity to love. That’s also very detrimental, but someone that has been abused, needs to find protection, and compassion may not be the first way to achieve safety.

Compassion is a quality that we can experience when we are out of survival needs. It’s a much higher order experience. I have observed that most people feel pity first, once they feel safer from the narcissistic influence, and at some point, once they have taken advantage of the lessons of having survived a pwNPD (person with NPD), they could even feel compassion for them. But it takes time.

The other reason we, in general, lack compassion for pwNPD is that even when it’s kind of a general consensus that there is at least some trauma in all the personality disorders, NPD (Narcissistic PD) is the one that probably suffered the less in childhood.

Narcissism is a very strange manifestation of an unhealthy pride. pwNPD were children that may have been criticized, but they were also praised. They may have been neglected emotionally but they had many other resources. pwNPD have a lot of attributes that are higher than average compared to others (in general or compared to those around). Narcissism is cocreated between the person with positive attributes and the group of people that values those attributes, and therefore make them feel more important, special, unique, etc. There is always something that makes these individuals feel special before they developed the disorder; they were either: charismatic or good looking, smarter, more creative, better with words, attractive, intelligent, charming, wealthier, had leadership, more educated, stronger, more muscular, taller, better singers, “whiter,” etc, etc, etc. I have never met a pwNPD that doesn’t stand out at one or more things.

They suffer because they built that inflated sense of self as a strategy developed to hide the deficiencies/limitation they had, and/or to satisfy the demands of overachiever parents/teachers/classmates. It normally works that way because they unconsciously assume or know that if they show their “poor” side, they will not be loved or they will disappoint those they depend on. They had to build that “false” self because the “real” self was forgotten in the name of the attribute.

In any case, that inflated sense of who they are, gets on their way to see the normalcy of their limitations, and to accept them. And because they have more of something, the false self develops the belief that they deserve more of everything, and the distortion continues until they develop the disorder.

Narcissism is not necessarily developed out of pure misery as some of the others, but a disorder enabled by our society. We praise celebrities even if they have no values or real qualities; we praise wealth and power even if they were achieved by means that we prefer to ignore; we praise beauty to the extreme of objectifying our own family members (and ourselves); we praise titles over real safety and contentment.

pwNPD are normally successful. pwNPD get most of what they want and they suffer because they always want more and never feel satisfied. That’s probably why they don’t get as much compassion for their suffering; first, because they either deny their suffering, or they exaggerate it; second, because they take more than they give; third because they seem to be able to choose to become better persons and they normally decide not to. Every time I get a request from a pwNPD recommended by the partner or a friend, they come to “comply” maybe an ultimatum or to promote reconciliation, but they don’t commit to therapy the same way that they don't commit to their relationship. They like the “power” that the disorder gives them.

Also, they normally leave skeletons on their way to success. Their lack of empathy for others causes others to lack empathy towards them; their abuse creates resentment; and probably, their success creates derision more than sympathy.

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