The Hollow Man – A Look at Narcissism

Written by Dr. Eric Perry, PhD
Image Credit: Pixabay


“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ~Carl Jung

The narcissist is much like the hollow plaster statues that are cast to look like those made of solid marble. The facade may be pleasing and alluring, much like Michelangelo’s David. But, if you look closely you will soon realize that the form is actually empty and shallow.

An individual with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has an inner frailty that they have tried very hard to disguise for most of their lives. They have been so successful at masquerading who they are that at a certain point they lost all presence or awareness of their true selves. They are unable to look inward for any positive insight. They learned early in life that how they felt and who they were as individuals did not matter. What mattered in their childhood is how they looked and how they presented themselves. They learned to portray a false self in order to be loved and cared for. Perhaps, it was a parental figure who taught them that to be worthy of love they had to be perfect. The child’s fragile ego was then lost and became part of a larger dysfunctional familial collective ego.

To the narcissist, all life is external. Over time, the ability to hide behind a false self soon becomes second nature. Their true self that was trampled on in early life lies hidden deep in the recess of their subconscious. The narcissist will travel through life much like a stone skimming across the surface of a lake. They possess no inner life and therefore rely only on external validation to form and support their identity. They do not possess the key to unlock the door to their inner self. The narcissist lacks the consciousness to be able to truly connect with the world in a meaningful way. Their entire identity is formed by external factors such as praise, adoration and compliments. The narcissist needs to be practically or literally idolized in order to feel good enough. 

One person alone cannot fill the empty ego of someone with NPD. If you are aware that your partner is a narcissist and choose to stay with them, you will soon discover that the narcissist’s palate is constantly changing. Your love, praise and compliments will soon not be enough because they will eventually tire of the type of fuel you are providing. Soon, they may seek others to provide them with a new flavor of fuel. Unfortunately, but luckily for the person with NPD, social media has made narcissistic supply or the fuel more readily available. If in need of a pick me up, the narcissist can easily post something on Instagram or share something on facebook to instantly receive feedback to feel better about themselves.

I like to remember the traits of someone with NPD with the simple acronym GASFEEEEE or GASFE(5). I like to think that there is a fee to the gas/fuel that you provide a narcissist. Like most of your interactions with a narcissist, you are getting short-changed.  Unfortunately, the fee is a high one, as this fee is usually, YOU.

Here is how I apply the acronym:

1. – Grandiosity

2. – Arrogant

3. – Special (the belief that they are special)

4. – Fantasies of wealth and power

5. – Entitled

6. – Exploitive

7. – Excessive need for admiration

8. – Empathy (lack of)

9. – Envious

Please see my post, “A Look Inside the Mind of a Narcissist” to learn more.

You may feel that the narcissist owes you something for the fuel that you provide. Perhaps, this fuel was in the form of endless encouragement and constantly praising them beyond their capabilities. Or, the fuel could be in the form of money or a place to live. Unfortunately, the narcissist will never be able to see things from your point of you. They are unable to have empathy because they are not able to escape themselves. They are trapped in an oversized persona that they must keep alive in order to feel good about themselves. Their identity is derived from the accolades given to the false persona that they have created; much like an empty suit filled up with air. If air is not constantly supplied, the suit will deflate and lose its form without someone to feed on.

Please note, I am not trying to vilify individuals with NPD. I think the mainstream media and the overall overuse of the word does this quite well already. Currently, there is no “cure” for someone with NPD, but individuals with this disorder can learn through behavior modification how to interact successfully with others. There are some studies that suggest that someone with NPD can learn empathy if it is reframed in a way where they are getting something out of feeling empathic. I feel that it is important to educate yourself if you feel you are involved with a narcissist. If you choose to stay in a relationship with a person with NPD, it is important that you go in with your eyes open and stay aware of their inability to function in a so-called normal way.

This article is meant to educate about how some may acquire NPD. There are other theories about the acquisition of NPD but they have not been discussed here.

The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader nor are they meant to be used for self-diagnosis. This write up is not all-inclusive and is only meant to provoke curiosity on the subject. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional.

Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health or psychology-related questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.

Kindly,
Dr. Perry


CREDENTIALS
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology


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132 responses to The Hollow Man – A Look at Narcissism

  1. Maria says:

    Great post! I tried to have a relationship with a self professed narcissist and it was the most exhausting experience. I felt as if I was being fed on! I would not recommend this to anyone.

    Liked by 8 people

  2. Somewhereinlalaland says:

    “Their identity is derived from the accolades given to the false persona that they have created; much like an empty suit filled up with air. If air is not constantly supplied, the suit will deflate and lose its form without someone to feed on” I love what you wrote. It’s so true. Once I was able to escape from the narcissists in my life I was able to look back and feel pity for him. What an exhausting way to live.

    Liked by 9 people

  3. Almost 22 years of my life trying to fill that void in my ex. I feel sorry for him but I’m glad to be free.
    I also believe NPD is overused just like OCD and Bipolar disorders. It makes less of the real issues surrounding these disorders and the people affected by them.

    Liked by 10 people

  4. liberallin says:

    This is not only informative but written in a direct expositoryway without all the jibber jash of some medical writing related pieces. You have described my soon to be ex to a T. Of course, he would never own up to it but these people can reel you in and ultimately drown you. Thank you for bringing light to this subject.

    Liked by 10 people

  5. delphini510 says:

    Thank you for this interesting article. To many of us it brings clarity in what appears quite
    cruel at times. At the same time I also see that it must be a very sad and empty way to live.

    Miriam

    Liked by 8 people

  6. I’m pretty sure my mother was a narcissist. She had no business raising children. We were very isolated geographically and my sister and I suffered terribly in her care. She was completely ill equipped and incapable of nurturing anyone. Your article offers a compassionate perspective about how a person might become this way. I don’t know if that’s the way my mother developed her issues, but I appreciate your presenting this compassionately while still reminding us that these people are extremely dangerous to our own well being.

    Liked by 8 people

  7. Jill Bont says:

    I think what I find most touching here is the type of family dynamic suggested surrounding narcissism. When we aren’t honest with ourselves its part of all our relationships, but it hurts our families most, whichever side you are on.

    Liked by 7 people

  8. Rachel Joyce says:

    Well written and very informative. I recently loss someone very close to me through suicide who was someone with NPD. As I toil with the emotions left behind, I realize how very broken he was. Your insights are helpful!

    Liked by 7 people

  9. I grew up with a narcissist. Being related and the same age I believed that we were friends and accepted the way he was. Although when in public, for him, any attention; good, bad or indifferent, was attention and it was, more often than not, very humiliating to be in his company. When I actually Googled narcissism years ago and I read the description, I automatically thought of him and since then I’ve seen the true way he acts and truly treats people. We don’t speak anymore.
    Thank you for your posts.

    Liked by 8 people

  10. Kim McKinney says:

    You don’t often read about NPD that shows them as human beings….you did that beautifully. Still, you are also realistic about the difficulty/impossibility of having normal relationships with them. I’ve noticed that often anyone breaks up with someone these days that’s often a word that comes out as explanation. Sometimes it’s just a normal “you’re just not right for each other”….there doesn’t need to be a mental health diagnosis for either of you. I believe the term should be used sparingly. Even if they are, what a sad life they have. Say goodbye and move on.

    Liked by 8 people

  11. Great post Dr. Perry ! I’ve learned a lot about this disorder reading your pages. I think you’re right, the term is over applied. I guess I’ve seen what could maybe be better described as narcissistic tendencies versus full blown NPD. Still not good, but I’d like to think those individuals had a conscience. I’ve still had to limit contact with them, as they are destructive in their own ways.

    Liked by 7 people

  12. Claire S. says:

    Excellent post Dr. Perry. I really like the acronym. It’s easy to remember and so useful!

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Narcfree24/7 says:

    This is an insightful and compassionate look at someone with NPD. I too have compassion for them but I have to remember their lack of empathy makes them dangerous.

    Liked by 5 people

  14. Amorina Rose says:

    Such a good read. I was involved with someone like this. I can’t believe I walked away intact. I can’t help wondering why they are so many issues in this world of ours and many of them date back to forever.

    Liked by 5 people

  15. SomewhereinNY says:

    I love your blog and all the valuable insight you give into the mind of a person with NPD. I hope you always continue to share your wisdom.

    Liked by 4 people

  16. Maxime GE says:

    Hello Dr. Perry,

    Made me curious, as always, to read your own blog and I found it as interesting as it is carefully written (both in style but more importantly in content) and as you state yourself, is not meant to give solutions but awake curiosity on different matters. I think this is refreshing to see knowledge brought with humility on social media.

    On this particular subject, I believe I have dealt with one, at least, or a close specimen, and the worst of it is that I craved that relationship as much as he did, I believe. I’ve suffered from a lack of affection from my father, as I understood surprisingly late and I chased after different male authority figures pretty much all my life and career. It always brings me a bit of shame to admit that but I value transparency too much to hide it or lessen my responsibility in those relationships. As it turned out, I would go after narcissists, trying to get them to like me with a simple goal in mind : If someone that (only) seems to be adored by most around him (hypocrites or scared of him, I figured out later, as they sometimes make very crafty bullies) would like me, would value my skills, my intelligence, my thoughts, I believed, or maybe just hoped that It would bring me some sort of sense of belonging, that I was worth caring for, worth loving, simply.

    I realised (later, again, it always take so much time) that the only signs of affection he would send my way were at the expense of my constant adoration of him, sometimes even faked to continue feeding the supply line.
    The conclusion was inevitable : I needed to surround myself with “simpler” people, less extreme and find affection somewhere else, in a truer form. I did and, ultimately, finding what I think is the root of one of my many searches for affection, for validation : my self absorbed father; helped me understand all the cycles I was an active part of as well as a captive from.

    I see psychology as this peephole through which we can contemplate the beautiful and scary cogs of the complex machines we call minds.

    See, your text inspired me to write and made me want to share, well done. 😉

    Best,
    Maxime GE

    Liked by 5 people

  17. Lizzie K. says:

    Hi Dr. Perry! I have learned so much about narcissism from your blog. I am lucky I have not encountered one in my life BUT sooner or later I am sure I am going to meet one. I feel I will be well prepared to handle one because of your blog. Thank you!

    Liked by 5 people

  18. Wilma Rose says:

    Oh, my! This hits so close to home because a former employer was a narcissist. I discovered this a few months into my employment. I learned to “survive”, but fled A.S.A.P. for my own mental health and well-being. The silver lining is I learned how to deal with a narcissist when forced to. In the end I really felt sorry for him and what it was in his past that made him that way. Such a sad way to live one’s life….what a waste.

    Liked by 6 people

  19. Hey Dr. Perry! On this one you have expounded so well the hollowness of NPD. I have encountered one and according to me they are the most difficult to deal with. Waiting for more from you.

    Liked by 5 people

  20. amleta says:

    I have been very intimate with a narcopic psychopathic manipulative person for 4 years and it was very destructive for me. Fortunately I have a strong character and I recovered. But he already had contacts with another woman he had started to exploit and who had taken me as his friend. I didn’t believe him and then I looked for the right moment to break our relationship. He had been to the psychiatrist and had lied to him too. He lies to everyone, even his parents. He is also obsessive. If you want to ask me some questions about my experience I am available. You can contact me in private. I would be very happy to be useful for your research. There still are too many women victims of narcisistic men and I would help them to get free from these monsters.

    Liked by 4 people

  21. quandolibet says:

    Thank you for sharing your expertise. I am married to someone like this. I love him, but find it difficult to deal with the denial and the false world he’s created. But I can sense how he’s been broken, and needs this false persona to survive. I have committed myself to loving him and nurturing him, and maybe someday he’ll have the courage to accept himself and do the hard work of being true to himself, and maybe our marriage.

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Hutch says:

    Incredibly insightful and helpful as my wife and I are attempting to better understand a relative to whom we had already applied the label (based on our very limited knowledge and experience.)

    Liked by 4 people

  23. jonicaggiano says:

    “Like a stone skimming across the top of a lake”. Wow great article Dr. Perry. I love your acronyms also. Your empathy for the narcissist and the way they likely grew up is kind and should be remembered. No one can feel good, live life to the fullest when living like this. It is sad for the person who is involved with a person who has been damaged in this way. It is also no fun to be involved with a narcissist. Thank you for sharing and explaining in such a kind way. Love ❤️ J

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Hi there Dr. Perry! Thank you so much for an insightful post! This was a reassuring read for me, as I was committed to a Narcissist for a duration of 2 years. Even now, with almost a year of us being separated, I’m struggling to overcome many of the damages he’s caused. Seeking therapy and surrounding myself with loved ones has been helping immensely. Reading through your article reminded that I’m certainly not alone and that many others, like myself, have shared in similar experiences of loving a Narcissist. Your work is always so informative and greatly appreciated. Sending you all the best, and thank you again for raising awareness to such an important topic. The more educated we are on things like this, the better we become at understanding and helping one another.

    Liked by 3 people

  25. nikhop320 says:

    Great post, thank you! My mom is NPD and bipolar, untreated. It’s literally beyond exhausting. I’ve had to set boundaries, limit my contact with her and stop cleaning up her messes. Right now she’s in the biggest mess of her life and I (as well as my husband and children) have decided to no longer participate and go running to her beckon call.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. cowpattymt says:

    My mother is textbook, unfortunately it has taken me 62 years to start understanding her and the treatment she has showered on her eight children.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Amber says:

    Great post. Recently, I got to know someone possessed many similar behaviors. One thing which I didn’t find here was a Narcissists tendency to lie. This person has been constantly lying to me, quite comfortably and without any guilt whatsoever. The thing to be considered here is he didn’t really had to lie as well. However, when I asked him, he told me he is a selfish person and does not think about others before doing something. so I am wasting my time trying to reason why he lied. I realized my questioning was actually disturbing him and that’s what made him say that he is a selfish person,basically to avoid the confrontation. Because all this while he was a self praising person, he wanted to be liked and praised. But indeed he is selfish. I am just trying to understand whether such lack of empathy is a NPD or a personality of a pathological liar.

    Liked by 3 people

  28. Jay says:

    Thank you so much for this write-up! It’s really great for those trying to make sense of their relationship with a narcissist without, as you said, vilifying the person. Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 3 people

  29. glennwdavis says:

    Very interesting & informative.

    I especially liked the line: “The narcissist will travel through life much like a stone skimming across the surface of a lake.”

    Liked by 3 people

  30. terri0729 says:

    Very informative post, I’d say eye-opening but I had pretty concluded as much. My youngest daughter is a narcissist that was reared by, in my opinion, a psychotic megalomaniac. He got her away from me when she was 5. She finally admitted to me that he was physically and mentally abusing her at the age of 13. My second husband and I did our best to countermand the damage he had done but, as I’m sure you can guess, it was too late.
    She always claimed to love Mark as the only true father she ever had. I believed her until she failed to show up for his funeral last January. I was heartbroken, her older siblings by 11 & 18 years have washed their hands of her. What’s a mother to do? I said I would two. However, I’m left to raise her 4 yr. old son (that we adopted at 9 months) alone after having one hip replaced in January and the other in April; next going in for surgery on my hands and elbows soon; so when she found herself homeless 5 months ago, I was desperate for the help.
    Of course, you already know I’m sure, that was a big mistake. The stress she brings with her isn’t worth what little help I get from her. I told her a week ago that I will not allow her to damage Sebastian like her father did her.
    I just pray for a miracle before I have to kick her out on the street. It will crush me to do so, but I will for the sake of my now “youngest baby!”
    Thank you for insightful post, I’m off to read the other one you noted.
    God bless,
    Teresa

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Lahla says:

    Great post, Dr. Perry. Your words brought forth my empathy, not my judgement and I really appreciate that. Things are much better and easier when we learn about people we otherwise don’t understand. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. pointsofsue says:

    Sadly a relative of mine has this and I have watched a change in her over the years. I cant remember what she was like before 18 as it seems to have just been this since forever, but I know that since then the world must revolve around her and it is hard to understand, and sadly it was too much for her children.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Sharda says:

    Hello Dr. Perry. Thank you for this insightful post. I had a friend, long time back, who behaved in a similar way. I got rid of that friendship, however, the experience disturbed me. When I read your post I realized that this person is suffering from NPD. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. kelleyfrank says:

    Thank you for this! I’ve unfortunately known a handful of narcissists and it never turned out well. This is a great resource to share with anyone trapped in an abusive relationship with one.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. W.S.Thompson says:

    I could relate to this post greatly. As I dealt with vary degrees of this disorder in myself and through extended family members. I did have a thought while reading, in the rise of social media outlets, aren’t we all in various degrees challenged with NPD? Would that be a fair question to ask?

    In any case, I appreciate your thoughtful analysis on the topic. It’s a conversation that’s not had enough. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  36. I’m an empath and got stuck in a 8 year marriage with a Narcissist. Not very fun times I’ll tell ya. It just became worse and worse until the very end when he became more physically abusive than verbally. Stayed for the kids. I’m happier now more than ever since finding my awakening and learning about the law of attraction and how to detach. Thanks for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. peaceof8 says:

    This was a good honest talk about narcissism explaining some of how they got to be this way that made me want to weep about their childhood. Sad. I hope as a parent I have not helped build this way of existence in any of my kids. So far so good😅

    Liked by 1 person

  38. It came to mind as I read this that if it quacks like a duck it is probably a duck! I appreciate your writing style and finally an article about NPD not setting out to vilify. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  39. This actually makes me really sad. I’ve lived with a narcissist….he was abusive on every level. The most painful part though was that he couldn’t love himself the way I loved him. Can’t save em all. 🙁

    Liked by 2 people

  40. Emma Berley says:

    Your blog looks great, I love the topics it is all stuff I am very interested in! I will be reader 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  41. Unfortunately it took me a few wasted years to figure out the love bombing- devalue and 10000 discard phases before I realized I was completely changed as a person. Your article is very true.. my advice is RUN the minute you see one cycle .. never return after the discard . The cycles only get closer and closer together leaving you being blamed for everything in the end . Love yourself enough to give up short term pleasure for longterm gain.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. lovebug1323 says:

    You are a wonderful writer and what you have stated is so very true! I am so happy that I have remained “no contact” with certain individuals it has helped me gain a lot of inner peace.

    Liked by 2 people

  43. Thank you for your insightful article. I was connected for many years to a person who was labeled by some as a narcissist. The idea of that did not sit well with me at all, but on doing a bit of research I decided to accept that this was a possibility. Once separated from him, and with the passing of time, I came to the understanding that he just did not have the capacity that was needed to step away from image consciousness, among other things. This understanding gave me relief from my own victimhood, and now reading your article has given me even greater insight, understanding and sympathy. I am grateful to be free of that unhappy and negative situation and hope that I can be vigilant about safeguarding myself against the attitudes and perspectives that lead down the path to NPD. I do enjoy your writing. It is clear but also kind. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  44. Uzma Haq says:

    I have a special folder in my inbox with articles about narcissism to understand this disorder,of all the articles I have read so far, this post has given a very meaningful inside in simple words that makes it easy to understand. Look forward to read your previous posts about Narcissism to know it more through your perspective. Glad to find your blog👍🏻

    Liked by 2 people

  45. I really appreciate the balance in this post. I have two family members that have NPD and I think you handle this fairly…both with caution and with compassion. Thanks for a new angle in a hard topic 👏

    Liked by 2 people

  46. I really appreciate the way you presented that information. It is really helping me understand my Mother whom is not aware she has it or is clinically diagnosed with it. But definitely fits all the markers. I have had my suspicions but would never approach her with that. It has been a challenge to accept her acts of behaviour relating to NPD. I am sorry to realize there is no cure. I guess I will just continue to accept and love her with this condition, but not get involved in the dramatics she often portrays. I wish she would see what she is creating as it is often difficult to accept. Thank you for that great article… it has given me the confirmation
    AJ

    Liked by 1 person

  47. mashandaishe says:

    i am just realising i had no idea what the word meant . indeed it is overused .i have heard it multiple times on social media and in movies but was ignorant of what it meant. this article really brought clarity to the problems most people in society seem to have ,especially in this social media era. thanks Doc.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. jamesmatter says:

    I particularly reacted to the following line: “The narcissist will travel through life much like a stone skimming across the surface of a lake.” It reminded me of happy times I have spent– both when a boy and older– skipping stones across lakes or streams. But no matter how well shaped or thrown, the stone always loses momentum and sinks. So your metaphor works well in more ways than one. In an era dominated by CBT it is rare for someone to engage in the kind of long term depth therapy that can really heal personality disorders. And, of course, people have to have an inkling that the problem is within, rather than a problem that will solve itself by the whole rest of the world magically becoming different.

    Liked by 1 person

  49. Conna Bond says:

    Interesting! My experience has been with narcissists who probably possess these qualities below the surface but definitely wouldn’t self-profess them. I’d rather deal with a self-professed narcissist than the more subtle kind!

    Liked by 1 person

  50. This was so well written and informational. I would love to re-post this on my site in the future with your permission and credit given. Or, perhaps permission to attach the link? Thank you for your consideration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Yes you may – please use the reblog WordPress button or share the link. Thank you for asking

      Like

  51. trufflesteph says:

    I’m just out of a 17 year marriage – and a 3 year court battle with a narcissist – and your post just gave me an aha moment. I didn’t realize he was a narcissist until I left him, and I only left him because I couldn’t handle how he treated our kids from the moment they were born. But reading your description of what happens in childhood to create a narcissist gave me chills, and actually helped me feel more empathy toward my ex. I can see now exactly what you describe – his father (a pastor) certainly expected him to look and behave perfectly, and taught him that his feelings didn’t matter. I know that he lives in a world of fear all the time. I’m glad to be out of that world, and to be showing my kids a different path.

    Liked by 1 person

  52. sundaydutro says:

    This was fascinating, thank you. Definitely shed some light on a few people I’ve known over the years. I didn’t realize they could learn empathy…not that I’m willing to go back and teach them; ha!

    Liked by 1 person

  53. You have laser-sharp insights into the nature of narcissism. My Mom sure was a challenge in this regard. “Trapped in an oversized persona that they must keep alive in order to feel good about themselves.” A seeker of audiences, on her soap box all the time, critical of a person’s outward appearance. It is a miracle I survived!

    Liked by 1 person

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