In her wonderful post Malignant Narcissists Get Worse With Age, Lisette delineates a list of characteristics of malignant narcissists, each with some brief, illustrative commentary. The list is an excellent one, as is the commentary, and each characteristic will be explored in greater, more personal depth on this blog. Lisette showcases Livia Soprano (The Sopranos) as an archetype of the aging malignant narcissist. Facing the end of her own life…running out of time, as it were…Livia takes out a contract on her own son, fully intending to have him killed. It does not trouble her that the action she takes is no less evil than his own narcissistic endeavours because she feels justified in her actions and she has therefore rationalized that what she is doing is a good thing. Livia is the embodiment of the malignant narcissist in extremis.
Normal people tend to think of others as “mellowing” with age. Our grandparents were more indulgent with us than they were with their own children, for example. Narcissists in general and malignant narcissists in particular, do not get more flexible and amenable with age, they get worse. Time is their enemy, it is running out, and they still don’t have it all!
Getting “better” would require the narcissist to acknowledge that all of her heretofore behaviour has been wrong and that a change in a more compassionate direction is in order. This is not going to happen for several reasons:
1) The narcissist is never wrong. Grandiosity being what it is, the narcissist truly believes that she is right, even when others don’t agree with her. In fact, if they disagree, it only proves to the narcissist how much smarter she is than they are because she can tell she’s right even if they can’t!
2) Such emotions as compassion and empathy are regarded by the narcissist as weaknesses. No narcissist—especially no malignant narcissist—wants anything to do with compassion or empathy except in others, because those emotions allow others to be exploited by the narcissist. It gives them a way to manipulate and ultimately control the compassionate person.
3) The narcissist would see nothing in it for her. Oh, she might feign some compassion and empathy when she thinks it will get her something she values, like attention or the esteem of others, but it will be an act, carried out for as long as the acclaim lasts. Once it ends, so do the tender behaviours.
Narcissists do what works for them. Because they have no boundaries where others are concerned, because they have no self-imposed limitations, no sense of shame, they do whatever they think they can get away with. Our society tends to be more lenient with the elderly, and a narcissist will take shameless advantage of that, doing whatever they can to garner sympathy and leeway from others, all the while secretly gloating that they have fooled yet another fool into doing their bidding.
The narcissist’s ability at self-deception is vast and it becomes more pronounced with age. What they consider good reasons for their behaviour normal people cannot even fathom. My former mother-in-law was the executor of her sister-in-law’s will. The family was very small, just the two women and my mother-in-law’s two sons, and the estate was more than a million dollars. When the old lady had a stroke and lay unconscious in her hospital bed, my mother-in-law wanted to pull the plug, reasoning that keeping her alive would just deplete Auntie’s assets and reduce the inheritance (of which she stood to gain a third). She could not seem to understand why her oldest son was horrified at the idea, since he stood to gain as much as she did. She was unable to manipulate him into agreeing to having the old woman disconnected from life support and furiously blamed me, his fiancée, for “influencing” him against her.
Anyone else would have been horrified at the idea of essentially killing a person in order to inherit a sizable estate, but this malignant narcissist, who was in her 70s at the time, considered us “stupid” for reducing the size of our inheritance by keeping the old lady alive long enough to regain consciousness and make her own wishes known. My mother-in-law was livid when the old lady decided to keep the life support and move to a pricey nursing home, further depleting her assets. At one point she blamed my husband (then my fiancé) for the reduced assets, saying she should deduct the cost of the nursing home from his share of the inheritance.
My husband’s younger brother, no less greedy than his mother, had the social acumen to keep his mouth shut, even though he agreed with her. He did not rail about the reduced inheritance but he voted in favour of pulling the plug. Interestingly, he was a millionaire and my mother-in-law was financially in good condition, it was my husband who worked a blue collar job, drove an old car, and lived in a working-class neighbourhood, living from payday to payday. Age had not mellowed the woman or brought her compassion for the sick, it merely made her impatient for the old woman to die so she could put her hands on her money while she still had time to spend it.
Why are they like this? Why cant they mellow out with age like normal people do? Lisette lists nine characteristics of narcissists that makes it difficult, if not impossible for them to change. Tomorrow I will debut the first of those characteristics and my take on it.
Next up: All Malignant Narcissists are a case of arrested development.
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.