The Pain of Narcissism

The Pain of Narcissism

What we can say with some certainty after listening to Mr. Gibson’s painful tirade is that he is suffering…and suffering quite a bit. As a psychotherapist, my heart clearly goes out to Oksana Grigorieva. Mr. Gibson allegedly admits to having struck her, and the barrage of profanities he hurls at Ms. Grigorieva, in these few recorded dialogues, is in itself enough to cause anyone severe pain, and this is probably not the extent of it.

But my heart also goes out to Mr. Gibson, and although I do not in any way condone his behavior, it is evident that he is expressing quite a bit of confusion, pain, and suffering. Whether it is rational and justifiable behavior or not, pain is pain, and we can all empathize with the hurt and fear that is brought about by such a blinding anger.

Narcissism is a serious and prevalent condition in our culture. Individuals suffering from this debilitating disorder have a very difficult time relating to the “other”…i.e., anyone or thing that is external to themselves. They have through their development effectively extended themselves onto other human beings and essentially see other human beings as themselves.

Needless to say if a person sees their partners in relationships as extensions of themselves they would be very much compelled to control those partners to a degree that assured themselves safety and security. The fear of losing the admiration and idolization of others is tantamount to the fear of literally losing themselves. Of course they do not consciously see it this way, but it is generally the underlying impetus that creates the rage they experience when they lose control of this self-extension. They simply cannot comprehend that a piece of themselves (or even what they perceive as their entire self) has gone against them. They are instantly betrayed by none other than their own being, and can do nothing but denigrate and attempt to destroy what has not been loyal.

A narcissist essentially feels him or herself as devalued and ashamed. They are nothing without the external self that surrounds them, and they continually grab onto the admiration and idolization of others in order to feel whole. Often the pain of narcissists is hidden as this need for grandiosity and admiration is transferred from person to person if rejected. But the rage that we often see with narcissists does express when the fear of fragmenting and losing oneself becomes apparent.

It is impossible to control another in the same manner in which we have control over ourselves, therefore ultimately the narcissist will always perceive betrayal by those they claim to give their all to, expecting all to then be returned. When it is not, they then feel the ultimate of betrayal.

Narcissists can indeed benefit from professional help, although it is rare for a narcissist to seek therapy as they more often than not do not believe they have any sort of mental dysfunction. Although the causes of narcissism are unknown, many theories regarding its origins have been presented including emotional, sexual or physical abuse as children, as well as other factors in early development.

As we continue to see the Gibson saga unfold I believe it is important to hold empathy for all parties involved and realize that most people are capable of feeling pain, fear, and suffering. Victims of abuse in any form must certainly be cared for, and clearly in some circumstances the perpetrators should be dealt with through our legal system. However, pain suffered by any individual should be treated with compassion and empathy.


By | 2017-08-13T11:04:37+00:00 July 2nd, 2010|Categories: Narcissism|Tags: , , , , |20 Comments

About the Author:

Todd Hayen is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Aurora, Ontario. He is also an author of books, articles and blog posts and frequents his own website writing blogs there...


  1. Cindy July 21, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Wonderful post and right on the mark! I will definitely bookmark this blog to return to over and over again.

    • Todd Hayen July 21, 2010 at 2:29 pm

      Thank you Cindy! I will look forward to future comments! You have a wonderful website…good luck with your practice!

  2. Tara July 22, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Well done and understandable. I am sending to my therapists friends. Thank you for such a good article and blog. I look forward to more!

  3. Rhoda August 21, 2010 at 10:35 am

    I loved your post so much that I wrote a post to link to yours. I haven’t published it yet, probably Monday. Check it out at:
    Glad to have been in the class with you. The post is called
    Narcissism & Relationships.

    • Todd Hayen August 21, 2010 at 5:10 pm

      Cool Rhoda! I will check out your blog on Monday. Thanks so much for the compliment! I have been out of town for a while so haven’t participated in the class the last couple of weeks. I guess it is finished!

  4. Rhoda August 21, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    I’m publishing it on the 30th instead of Monday, because I’m out of town soon. Its cool to publish even while gone. I’ve got 4 all set. Glad I checked back to tell you that, there is a bonus class on sept.16th. Rhoda

  5. […] It would not have been enough for Picasso to recognize he manipulates. It would be just as important for Olga, Eva, Gaby, Ferdinand etc. to recognize that they had a part in what happened, they allowed themselves to be manipulated. Picasso said that “women are machines for suffering.” Run from someone who believes that, instead of fooling yourself that you will be the special one that won’t happen to. If you want to understand more about Mel Gibson; try this post by a colleague who also blogs: […]

  6. Mike August 3, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    I am a Narcissist, and I just recently came out of a relationship – and I have to say you are right on the money…I didnt consciously abuse this person, and I knew going in I was a Narcissist but I thought I could change…I thought maybe I could be a real person and not what I am….which is complete piece of garbage, just human garbage which like you said cannot relate to women or others in any kind of effective or meaninful way for very long at all…maybe a few months at best – but I was were right on the money when you say that I feel now (3 months later and still feeling this way) totally devalued, totally deprived and and totally out of control of my life since this person made the right decision for herself of leaving me…when she left it was like a bomb dropped on my life and I was no longer myself…I am no longer myself at all…I walk through life now as a half zombie..lost in the past, lost in my mistakes and the regrets I have over losing her admiration and idiolization…Youre so right…theres a piece of me thats gone, and she fulfilled me and made me something…when in reality I was nothing – I was a lie she believed for a short time…..And all you need to know about narcissim is that it IS caused by severe unbearable abuse in children…I was abused emotionally, psychologically, and physically past a point that I could tolerate in my psyche – you have no idea and I could never explain to you the kind of abuse I suffered…it was surreal and like nothing on earth what my father did to me…But narcissism saved saved me and it destroyed me at the same time…it was the only thing that kept me from killing myself at a very young age…and now? Its the crux of my life and the reason and I will never, ever be happy…never….Your blog is so true it brings tears to my eyes….Narcissism is pain, thats all..its pain forever, and pain that never a never ending, ever sickening nightmare…To know that the people you love and want around you? Are the people you are going to push the furthest away with your psychotic, incurable pathology…and that in reality? They are so much better off without you in their lives its scary…I wish everyday now that I was dead, and that this would end…but it never does and it never will…the shadow of my past and the abuse I suffered will follow me forever, and narcissism is that shadow…my savior and my destruction all at once…I’m already dead…I just wish i had the balls to pull the trigger…thats narcissism…

    • Todd Hayen August 5, 2012 at 9:05 am

      Mike…thank you for sharing your very heartfelt comment. I would have to say that you have already won a big part of the battle: recognizing that you have a problem. I would highly recommend that you seek out a good psychotherapist that specializes in NPD or any of the personality “disorders” and get into therapy…and thus begin getting your life back. There IS help out there, and someone who recognizes that they have issues, such as yourself, could benefit greatly from such help. Good luck to you and don’t give up.

      • mike August 16, 2012 at 8:48 pm

        thank you…but I dont believe I can be helped…I really feel its too late for me….I cant live a real life like you or real people…I’m a ghost looking in the window of real live peope, like all narcissist…we simply arent there emotionally…we truly are the dead walking amoung the living…the saddest most pathetic person you will ever meet in your life is a narcissist…thats because weve already been killed…its like interacting with a corpse with a pulse…therapy is useless on the dead

        • Pete September 8, 2013 at 2:04 am

          Hey Mike,

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I admit I struggle to understand the immediate source and nature of pain in a narc’s life, and why they can’t develop mental tools to resolve it. I ask because we have a young narc in our family, and i’d really like to help him if I could: do you have any advice? He’s from a loving family, so it’s not like he’s suffered abuse of any sort. But I do feel that it’s a defence for something. I just can’t figure what and how to alleviate it.

        • Freda July 18, 2015 at 7:41 am

          OK that’s what they suffer from but what keeps them going? What helps them to feel happy or feel accomplished?

      • Sally October 12, 2015 at 3:38 am

        Dr. Hayen: How do you get an N to see he is an N like Mike sees, and how do you get them to get help? How is it that some N’s see they have the problem, but others do not?

        • Todd Hayen November 3, 2016 at 11:31 am

          Actually Mike’s experience and self reflection is rather rare. NPD is rarely “cured” not because it is exceptionally difficult to treat (it IS difficult!) but because people suffering narcissism seldom recognize it as their problem…for THEM to solve. The most common reason a narcissist may end up in therapy is to seek a therapist to tell them how to deal with all of the “crazy” people in their own life that may be causing it to fall apart. A therapist then can recognize the NPD present in the patient and work with them without accusing them of having a mental illness themselves. Sometimes a narcissist’s loved one, who recognizes their narcissism and wants them to go therapy, can suggest that maybe seeing a therapist would shed light on the other people’s problems in their life they feel are causing them trouble (assuming there is trouble!)

  7. Vip29 August 28, 2013 at 9:06 am

    I just came out of a five year relationship and I was so devastated.i sill am.only after she dumped i realised I am a narcissist.i realised how big a douchebag I was after she left..I only want her now and I would change everything.but it’s too late.i may now b suffering from depression.she gave me millions of chances she was so good to me and I still hurt her badly.i mean really really bad.i am so ashamed of myself and it doesn’t seem to end.its am ongoing battle.i would advise all those who still have a chance to try to change and make the person as happy as you can.because when it all ends you will suffer terribly..try to value the other person are not what you think you are.accept criticism accept that you make mistakes.try to control the rage try relaxation.i wish I knew what I suffer from since the beginning.i knew I was wrong many times but you cannot stop the rage.i tried to make her happy but after a while I get back to being harsh.its your brain it’s the way you think.its me me me.thats the main problem..I really hope she is happy now..funny thing is that she was so pretty so kind and I still destroyed her life.i wish god would give me another chance but I know I don’t deserve it.i never saw her pain never saw her tears.i am the biggest asshole ever.i probably loved her a lot but I didn’t know it because I was so consumed by myself.its hard now but what makes me happy now is that she is happy with someone else now.i am trying hard to be happy for her.i wish I knew I had this problem.o would do anything to have her back but it is impossible.why does it exist why can’t we change even though we try

  8. Denise September 18, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    I stumbled across this web site, while trying to make some sense of the world i now find my-self in. I read with tears rolling down my cheeks, Mike’s post. I have after five years ended my relationship, with i beleive a Narcissist. When i meet this man five years ago i knew nothing about narcissist men, i knew they could be very selfish, but this is some thing else. I was once a happy fit working mum, kind loving and caring, funny, made friends every where, made the best of what i had. Love my children with all my heart, did not get angry much, enjoyed my garden, worked with animals and in Aged care.
    I am now just a shell of my former self. Cry alot, feel like i have been to hell and back. I am ashamed of myself, have no convidence no self-esteem, beat my self up every day because i should of known better. I have suffered months of depression the one thing that stopped me from taking my own life, was my children who like me are loving kind and gentle souls. My son 25years lives away from home, but my daughter 12 years lives with me, and the N tried for years to make me give her to her Dad, so he could spend the time with me. Then when she went on week-ends, he would go out drinking or riding all weekend and leave me any-way. This N has cut me so deep, i wonder if i will ever be ME again. I too was abused as a child, and use to cry my-self to sleep at night, and long to grow up and meet my prince who would love me. I never let go of the dream, i always saw the best in poeple, i never judge and i always gave my very best, with kindness. The dream has now long gone, i loved the N with all my heart and i gave and gave untill there was nothing left. When i think of the things he did and said, i feel like nothing, i did not have a voice i did not love and protect the person i should have- my-self.
    To Mike and Vip29 thank you for the things you said, you have helped me, more than you will ever know. I am so sorry for the way you feel, as i too feel like the walking dead, i have no trust, no faith have lost my love for mankind. Thank the Lord for my children and animals. Mike/vip29 the fist step of any journey is always the hardest, the fact that you know your a N and way is half the battle. My heart goes out to you, we are all damaged, and all looking for love and acceptance. As for me, they say time will heal.

  9. Orly August 12, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    I’ve read quite a bit on narcissism and never have I read such a dead on accurate depiction of how a narcissist operates. Thank you so much for helping me understand the mind set and driving force behind people who have this horrible disorder.

  10. Sally September 3, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    This is to Mike and Vip29: I was in a relationship with a narc, and finally had enough and did what I had to do to get away. I have suffered months of depression and great sadness because in my narc I saw such potential and beauty, and I loved so much the Dr. Jekyll (he was the good one), moments when he was very good to me. However, the Mr. Hyde was very strong, and sought to triangulate at every turn. He did some pretty outlandish things, and is completely addicted to attention. He does seem to be able to have some friendships with men, but according to Sam Vaknin most narcs hate women, and I could see this very plainly with my narc. There was one outstanding characteristic in my narc and that was that nothing was his fault — it was always the women that were too stupid, or dumb, or as he would say f***ed. He did the same thing over and over expecting different results: find, seduce, idealize, devaluate, discard, repeat. I think this gets worse as they get older. He lied about everything, and those who knew him well, (the real him — overbearing, unkind, liar, abusive), did not like him much.

    This being said, you two RECOGNIZE that you have had something to do with the failure of your relationships, you have INSIGHT into what you have done, and you KNOW what is wrong, and you know the NAME of it. PLEASE SEE CLEARLY that this is HUGE. I urge you, as others have on this post to seek professional help from someone that knows what they are doing. I urge you to pick up a book on DBT, which is being used for many things today, I ahve read even for physical problems, might help with the rage, make you more aware and help you with mindfulness. It helps you see a different way, it helps retrain your brain. There is also something called IFS which stands for Inner Family Systems therapy. It apparently can be helpful. PLEASE DO NOT GIVE UP, and please continue sharing with others what you know. I wish my ex boyfriend had he ability to recognize what he does, but he is completely BLIND to it. Don’t give up. You are survivors of the worst kind of horrors, you are strong, please believe you can change.

    You need to give yourselves the love you were not given at the proper time in your lives, and I believe you can adjust, make changes, and find some healing.

  11. Sally October 12, 2015 at 3:29 am

    Mike, I read your post and it was as if I was reading my N’s “mind”. I could see the workings of the narcissism in his words and actions. Now that you are aware of being a narcissist, you say you do not believe you can be helped. I know this seems to be the general consensus on the blogs and posts I have read. However, I am not so sure it is totally hopeless. There is one thing I noticed about my N. In the presence of others he could hold it together and appear as normal. It was only when we were alone together that Mr. Hyde would make his appearance. So, I am wondering what have you actually tried to improve or treat or “cure” your narcissism. I’d really like to know. I have h eard that DBT and CBT might help with the rage. That in itself would be quite helpful, as it’s one of the most unpleasant things about being with an N. The rage goes right through the body, the words wound horribly. If the N could get that under control… please, again, what therapies or treatments have you tried? The same question directed to you VIP29. What have you tried to do to change?

  12. Jonathan Zielinski April 9, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I think I have been dating a Narc and was a sort-of Golden Child, but without any sort of stability whatsoever, like, not even feigned attempts for stability. My mother was bipolar and, undiagnosed, schizophrenic – I would walk into the kitchen and catch her in full trances, with finger gesticulation and lip movement, talking to something she called God which later killed her because this – being – told her that chemo and mastectomies were mutilating her body in “His eyes”.

    Because my parents both passed very early – my mother right before I graduated HS at 16, father at 14 – I started my own path of self-destruction to age 22, I’m almost 23 now. I had a huge realization and started facing my idealized self, my idealized view of my childhood and what I see looking back, taking responsibility for my own actions without shrouds of dishonesty. I think my viewpoint is very, very clear because it was somewhat of a ‘religious’ experience for me. That’s my only word for it.

    I have just started a blog called ‘The Real Perspective’ because I want other deeply damaged people, who wear the mask of normality, to know that, at a certain point, you are only how good you affect other people – those sums of your actions are what define your self-worth and that self-value has no point if it cannot be used in the economy of social relationships.

    At the moment, I am facing a lot of challenge, but I am going through a process of, kind of, rebirth of what I feel is valuable inside of my own sphere of influence.

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