People who live, work or interact socially with a person who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder are often at a loss as to the way in which the latter’s mind works. They are more than selfish, they appear to have little or no social conscience, yet on the other hand can exude a sense of charm that other, more normal people, could never compete with. So just what makes these people tick?
People suffering from personality disorders in general have not gone through the same maturation processes that more well-balanced people normally do throughout the course of their childhood and early adulthood. Narcissists in particular suffer from a kind of developmental delay, where they have not successfully achieved the normal developmental milestone of recognizing that they as a person are separate from their primary caregiver, usually the mother.
In normal children, this developmental stage takes place early in infancy, and the emerging mind of the child learns that s/he is not the same person as the mother, and most importantly, that the mother is separate from them. This latter mechanism results in the common infant phenomenon where, by the age of about nine months, children become visibly upset when their mothers are out of sight. This is a normal manifestation of the fear that Mother may not come back. Soon, children born into stable households where Mother does come back, learn that although Mother is a separate entity to them, she is reliable and will return to serve their needs.
The sufferer of Narcissistic Personality Disorder has not successfully traversed this important milestone in development. They do not realize that other people are separate entities, with their own needs, lives and wants. Narcissists treat people as if they only exist to serve the narcissist’s needs, and they have little regard for those who do not pay court to their wishes. In fact, they often develop an active dislike for those they cannot control and manipulate. Even those who will do their bidding can fall out of favor in a heartbeat should they stand up to the narcissist and say “no.”
Narcissists don’t really “see” anyone else, only their potential use as an object to carry out their wishes. This is why children of narcissists often feel as though they are “invisible” and worthless.” Of course, they are neither invisible nor worthless, but the narcissistic parent has transferred that feeling onto them. In fact, it is the narcissist themselves who has a deep sense of worthlessness.