Ever wonder how the narcissist you know can live with himself? Well, the best weapon in his self-love arsenal is something I like to call Selective Editing.
The narcissist edits the past. He edits the present. He’ll tell himself things are exactly the way they need to be for him to have an unblemished, sterling image of himself, even if that involves saying you started an argument when you hadn’t even opened your mouth, or saying he was hurt that you avoided him yesterday when actually he’d told you a week ago he needed a break from you and not to call, or telling you he loves going out with you and that he loved the opera when the fact is he bitched about the opera from before you left until long after you got home. All with a straight face, a level eye and sometimes a clenched jaw.
If the two of you have a conflict, he’ll tweak the facts as much as he has to to make it all your fault. He’ll tell you how you feel and if, later in the day, he needs you to have felt different, he’ll tweak it again. He shapeshifts to suit his mood (remember the roiling chaos in his head?) and to appear the star of any moment, and any tiny or not-so-tiny adjustments to the facts that need to be made for him to be the star are fine. The facts are incidental. Your feelings are of no import. What truly counts is his thinking he’s perfect.
Some people call this “lying,” but there is actually a nuance of a difference in that as the words are leaving his mouth the narcissist actually believes what he’s saying. He not only thinks it’s true, he’ll defend it to the death.
Until he forgets it twenty seconds later.
Then, whatever is leaving his mouth THEN is the inviolable truth.
If he contradicts himself? Point this out to him. Some of the best narcissist lines ever uttered can come next.
“I know it can seem that way sometimes to you. It’s inevitable.”
“You weren’t listening the first time.”
“Not at all. Both are true, just in different ways.”
“I don’t have to be consistent to be right. Everyone knows that.”
“What, are you calling me a liar? Aren’t you projecting a little here?”
One can only watch in speechless wonder as the narcissist, endowed with the powers of the Great and Wonderful Oz, knits and weaves such fanciful fiction, such utter animal excrement, out of nowhere to “explain” his behavior, mood or inclination of the moment. If he needs you to have been inexplicably distant in the recent past, you were. If he needs to have been gushingly attentive while you were so distant, he was. He’ll take the tiniest, most unrelated detail and inflate it into an event of such import as to direct the rest of your future together. He’ll take a response on your part to his selfishness or manipulation (You: “I’m sorry, but if you’re going to always pull away from me like this when I need you the most, then I think we need to reassess our relationship”), and create a story around it that has him the victim of your senseless wrath, your fickle and arbitrary abuse. (Him, later, about the words above: “Like that time you broke us up– and, I’d like you to admit you did break us up– because of your unrealistic expectations of me, and blindsiding me when I needed you the most?”)
Reality is highly malleable in Narcissist World. What can’t be messed with is his pathological idea of his own unique perfection. And he needs YOU to reassure him of that perfection with a neverending flow of attention, adoration and praise. If you’re hopelessly stuck in reality like the boring boorish masses (that is, good, cool people with no psychiatric disorders to hide) and can’t spend your life in his world where it’s a privilege to help distort the truth to accommodate his self-image and worship his magnificent being, then there’s gonna be a problem.