An infant in a crib is unaware of the fundamental difference between people and the other objects that revolve around it in its world. Both its mother and the mobile overhead are just objects to it. It quickly learns that when it cries, the mother-object appears and fulfills all its needs. Ooh, power!
It assumes that the mother-object exists for its sake. It quickly learns how to operate the mother-object. It pushes the buttons on her control panel largely through big demonstrations of displeasure whenever she does not anticipate and fulfill its needs in advance. She is just one object in a world that revolves around it, for it. Mark Twain delightfully reminds us of what we are at this stage of human development:
|I do not remember my first lie, it is too far back; but I remember my second one very well. I was nine days old at the time, and had noticed that if a pin was sticking in me and I advertised it in the usual fashion, I was lovingly petted and coddled and pitied in a most agreeable way and got a ration between meals besides. It was human nature to want to get these riches, and I fell. I lied about the pin — advertising one when there wasn’t any. You would have done it; George Washington did it, anyone would have done it. During the first half of my life I never knew a child that was able to rise above that temptation and keep from telling that lie.
|— Mark Twain
A narcissist remains forever such an infant. His world revolves around him. The people in it are but objects for him to use and control — existing for his sake, not their own. Like levers on a control panel or tools to be damaged through heavy use or livestock to be consumed. There to fulfill his needs and enhance his image. Beyond that, they have no importance. It never occurs to him that he owes them anything in return or that he should consider the effects of his actions on them.
An object has no feelings. It is not a person. It is not even a being in the usual sense of the word. You might grab an object like a screwdriver and abuse it by using it to pry something open, knowing that by using it this way you might break it. But you think nothing of breaking a screwdriver. Damaging that screwdriver is nothing. There are plenty more where that one came from.
That screwdriver is of no account. It would be absurd to regard it as a having a right to better treatment. In fact, it has no right to be: it exists for your sake, for you to use and abuse as you please. It’s basically just an extension of yourself, a tool, an executioner of your will, not its own.
Narcissists (and psychopaths) just use other people, all other people. Any way they please. In other words, they don’t relate to other people. Which is an abbreviated way of saying that they don’t relate to other human beings as a human being.
To relate to other human beings as a human being (i.e., humanly), you have to be a human being. You must experience your own humanity and know it. Only then can you recognize the image and likeness of humanity in others and relate to it in them as our common humanity — something we share with all other human beings, even mortal enemies. We relate to it.
Relating to it IS humanity. Otherwise known as empathy. It’s what prompts soldiers who were fighting ferociously a minute ago to kneel down and tenderly care for the enemy’s wounds. In fact, because the extremity of battle often makes it hard to switch gears the moment the fighting stops, humanity toward the fallen foe was regarded as the Christian soldier’s highest virtue. In Italian it is called pieta, which sublimely shows that piety and pity (empathy) are two sides of the same coin.
But ours isn’t the only species that relates in a special manner to its own kind. Many species of higher animals do. And it’s easy to see why: that’s how Nature keeps them from preying on their own kind (as sometimes happens, especially among lower species of animals). Even when they do fight, once one contestant for what they’re fighting over backs off, the fight is instantly over and all hostility vanishes.
To illustrate: You’ve certainly seen a toddler delighted with some chick or puppy or bunny or other cute little animal you place before her. Then, on a whim, she shocks you by grabbing a stick and pounding the poor thing. The look in her eyes is the most shocking part — nothing there but fascination with the effect she’s having on it = fascination with its agony.
|The narcissist feels entitled, and when he is thwarted, he acts out, just as young children, who are supremely narcissistic, act out. “Think of a toddler raging against an object that won’t do what he wants,” says [forensic psychologist J. Reid] Meloy. “I have this image in my mind of a 2-year-old squeezing a puppy’s feet. He’s attempting to control the animal’s behavior, and probably deriving some pleasure from that.”
|— by Stephen G. Michaud
A little child does this because her person-ality isn’t fully developed. Her sense of person-hood isn’t differentiated so that she distinguishes between your personhood and hers. Between that puppy’s living soul and hers. She’s so brutal because while pounding Puppy she feels no pain. All she feels is powerful. So Puppy might as well be a nail she’s hitting with a hammer.
This is why parents must closely supervise that little child, especially when vulnerable animals or other small children are around, and teach her that other living beings have feelings of their own and feel like she would if someone did that to her. She must be taught to respect other living beings as beings in their own right and to empathize with them.
How could they? They identify with their image — a work of fiction — not their true selves. So, they don’t relate to themselves as human beings. They don’t know the human being within. They don’t know human being. So, how can they recognize humanity in others? How can they relate humanly to human beings?
The narcissist doesn’t conceive herself as of our kind: What god with nothing but contempt for mere mortals does? So, expect no more regard for your feelings from her alien mentality than you should expect from an extra-terrestrial who abducts you to use as a specimen for an experiment. No more than a lamb should expect from a wolf, a mouse from a cat, a baby seal from a killer whale, or a cockroach from you.
And so perhaps they are right: they are NOT of our kind, humankind. For, except in primitive species, predators don’t prey on their own kind. Because they identify with their own kind. They like their own kind. That affinity makes predation unthinkable. What use of force we observe among the members of a species is limited to what’s necessary to protect individual interests and goes not one step further.
True, narcissists and psychopaths are not the only people who can turn off their humanity. All people can turn it off like a light-switch, thus becoming guilty of inhumanity. In fact, Man’s inhumanity to Man is an age-old theme of literature, and history is full of examples of people turning off their human sensibilities en-masse, as during the Holocaust or the Inquisition. What makes people with narcissistic personality disorder (and psychopathy) different is that they have theirs turned off permanently for everyone but themselves.
And everyone means even their own children. Narcissists are as unfeeling toward whomever they abuse as you or I are toward a spike we are pounding with a sledgehammer. This is a hard truth to accept.
The good thing about accepting it is that there is no hating such a person. You can’t hate what you can’t relate to. You can no more hate a narcissist for being a narcissist than you can hate a snake for being a snake. You don’t take it personally when a snake bites you. Don’t take it personally when a narcissist does, either. It wasn’t you. It wasn’t anything you did. You were just there, that’s all. Handy.