How Do Narcissists’ Internal Conflicts Drive Their Abuse: Uncovering the Hidden Truths

by | Jun 1, 2024 | Life in General, Relationships

Welcome back to our Narcissistic Abuse Awareness blog series. In our previous post, Behind Closed Doors: The Hidden Suffering of Narcissistic Abuse Victims,we explored the often invisible pain endured by victims. Today, we delve into the mind of the abuser in How Do Narcissists’ Internal Conflicts Drive Their Abuse: Uncovering the Hidden Truths, shedding light on the internal struggles that fuel their harmful actions.

Narcissistic abuse, a deeply manipulative and damaging form of emotional exploitation, often remains shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding. This blog series aims to peel back the layers of this covert behavior, particularly from the perspective that is less often discussed: that of the abuser. While the victims’ experiences are crucial and deeply moving, understanding the psyche of the narcissists themselves provides crucial insights into the mechanics of the abuse.

In this part of our exploration, we delve into the mind of the abuser. What drives their manipulative behavior? How do their internal conflicts and self-perceptions fuel the cycles of abuse? 

By examining the abuser’s perspective, we aim to uncover the underlying motivations and insecurities that lead to such destructive behavior patterns, offering a comprehensive look at both the actions and the deep-seated psychological underpinnings that sustain them.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the narcissistic mind, attempting to understand not just what makes the narcissist tick, but how their distorted self-view impacts those around them. Join us as we explore the complex, often hidden dynamics of narcissistic abuse from the other side.

Roots of the Narcissistic Behavior

The origins of narcissistic behavior are often deeply entrenched in early childhood experiences, which play a critical role in shaping the complex psyche of a narcissist. Many such behaviors can be traced back to two primary types of upbringing: one marked by neglect or emotional abuse, and the other characterized by excessive pampering and indulgence.

Some narcissists grow up in environments where they face emotional abuse or neglect. In these scenarios, narcissistic traits develop as a survival mechanism—ways for the child to garner attention and care that were otherwise inconsistently provided or denied. These individuals learn early on to manipulate emotionally to secure the love and attention they crave from their caregivers.

Conversely, some narcissists emerge from overly indulgent upbringings, where they are treated as thegolden child.In these environments, every achievement is exaggerated and every desire is immediately gratified. This breeds unrealistic expectations for similar treatment from the world at large. Individuals raised in such conditions often struggle to grasp the concept of reciprocity in relationships, as they are accustomed to their needs taking precedence, impairing their development of empathy and understanding of balanced, healthy interactions.

Additionally, some narcissists may have been raised by narcissistic parents themselves, mirroring behaviors modeled by their caregivers. Growing up with a narcissistic parent can reinforce either grandiosity or an excessive need for approval and attention, perpetuating a cycle of narcissistic behavior across generations.

Understanding these roots is crucial for comprehending the motivations behind a narcissist’s actions and provides insight into the psychological challenges they face. Recognizing the underlying causes can also help in developing more effective strategies for interaction and intervention.

Manipulative Tactics 

The narcissist’s playbook comprises various manipulative tactics aimed at upholding their superior image and controlling others. Some refer to this as the Narcissist’s Playbook, and once understood, it can serve as a shield against an abuser. Read more here. 

Masterful Acting and Deception: The Many Masks of a Narcissist

Narcissists are adept at wearing masks, skillfully shifting between personas to manipulate others’ perceptions and maintain control over their narrative. In public, they may appear as charismatic leaders or compassionate friends, or loving partners, or parents, while in private, they manipulate and gaslight their victims. This chameleon-like ability allows them to appear blameless, using their charm to deflect any accusations and maintain their carefully constructed image. 

To further secure their façade, narcissists invest heavily in discrediting any claims against them. They use their influence and the persona they have established to paint the victim as unstable or unreliable. This manipulation often includes preemptive strikes where the narcissist sows seeds of doubt about the victim’s mental health or character long before the victim might come forward with accusations. By combining their public charisma and private deceit, narcissists ensure they are seen as the victim or hero, never the villain.

The Narcissist’s Delusion

Caught in their delusion, narcissists genuinely believe in the reality they’ve constructed where they are flawless. This belief is so entrenched that even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, a narcissist will manipulate the narrative to uphold their image. Their delusion is not merely a shield but a fortress, within which they are perpetually justified, and from which they cast judgments and distortions upon others.

The Cold Calculations of the Narcissist

Narcissists perceive relationships not as avenues for mutual support and growth, but rather as opportunities to be manipulated for their own benefit. In their eyes, individuals are merely pieces in a grand strategy game, each interaction calculated for maximum personal advantage. This cold and calculated approach transforms genuine human connections into mere transactions, stripping them of real affection and empathy. Below, we explore the various manipulative tactics narcissists employ, detailing how they exploit these dynamics to their favor.

Using People as Tools

Narcissists strategically choose people in their lives to serve their needs, using them as tools for their own gain. Spouses might handle responsibilities the narcissist avoids or simply look good on their arm, while colleagues and subordinates in the workplace are manipulated to advance their career. No one is sacred, safe, or genuinely loved by the narcissist; they are all selected and used solely for the narcissist’s personal benefit. Every relationship is transactional, designed to provide the narcissist with admiration, status, or other forms of supply. This self-serving manipulation leaves victims feeling exploited and devalued.

 The Impact on their Victims

For victims, the difference between the private horrors they endure and the public charm their abuser displays is disorienting and isolating. When they attempt to reveal the abuse to others, their claims often clash starkly with the widely accepted image of the narcissist. Friends, family, and colleagues, unable to reconcile the accusations with their perception of the narcissist, may dismiss or doubt the victim’s stories. This disbelief is a devastating blow, compounding the victim’s feelings of isolation and despair.

The narcissist’s public demeanor serves as the perfect alibi, making it incredibly challenging for the victim to find support or even to trust their own experiences. It often leaves the victim questioning their reality, wondering if the abuse is as severe as they perceive or if, as the narcissist suggests, they are overreacting or imagining it….or worse….”crazy”. The duality of the narcissist’s character ensures that any outcry by the victim can easily be turned against them, portrayed as misinterpretation, hysteria, or malice.

Isolated Yet Oblivious

In their quest to maintain control, narcissists often end up isolating themselves from genuine human connections. Yet, they remain largely oblivious to the loneliness of their existence, focusing instead on the short-term gains from their manipulations. Their lives, rich in victories over others, are bankrupt of true companionship and the shared joys that come with honest relationships.

These sections expose the dual nature of the narcissist’s interaction with the world: a facade that hides deep vulnerabilities and a cold, calculating approach to relationships that serves only their interests. Understanding these aspects is crucial for those entangled with a narcissist, providing them with the insight needed to navigate the challenging dynamics and, hopefully, find a path to recovery and peace.

The Harsh Reality and Pitiful Existence of the Narcissist

Behind the grandiose facade of confidence and superiority that narcissists project lies a profound internal struggle marked by deep-seated insecurity and inferiority. This section delves into the inner turmoil and the sad irony of the narcissist’s existence, revealing why, despite their outward appearances, they warrant a measure of pity for the miserable state of their true selves.

The Facade of the Grandiose Self

Narcissists are often perceived as supremely confident and self-assured, displaying an air of superiority and command that can be both alluring and intimidating. However, this grandiosity is nothing more than a meticulously crafted facade, akin to the Wizard of Oz—impressive from a distance but flimsy and deceitful up close. Beneath this mask lies a highly insecure and inferior individual, plagued by jealousy and a perpetual sense of inadequacy.

The Toddler Within

Narcissists can be compared to emotionally immature toddlers trapped in adult bodies. They display tantrums, both silent and loud (known as Narcissistic Rage), impulsive reactions, and a simplistic, self-centered view of the world. They lack the emotional sophistication needed for complex adult relationships and struggle to understand the nuanced emotional needs of others. As a result, they are unable to form genuine human connections and end up isolated in a superficial world of their own making.

Internal Misery and Jealousy

The internal world of a narcissist is one of constant turmoil and darkness. They are driven by an insatiable need for admiration and attention, yet no amount of external validation can quell their inner shame and self-doubt. This results in a cycle of dissatisfaction, where temporary highs from achievements or accolades quickly give way to an overwhelming sense of emptiness. Deep down, narcissists are profoundly jealous of others who experience genuine happiness and contentment, emotions that are forever elusive to them due to their emotional deficits.

The Sad Irony of Their Existence

There is a tragic irony in the life of a narcissist. Despite their outward success and the facade of happiness they project, they are prisoners of their own making. Their life is a continuous loop of manipulation and dissatisfaction, where every relationship and interaction is a means to an end—a desperate attempt to fill the void within with fleeting moments of pleasure or superiority. The more they try to assert their grandiosity, the more they expose the depth of their internal misery and neediness.

A Cycle of Desperation

Narcissists are perpetually dissatisfied, always searching for the next source of narcissistic supply, which they believe will finally bring them the contentment they crave. However, this is a fruitless endeavor, as their fundamental inability to self-soothe or find satisfaction from within leads them back to the same manipulative and destructive behaviors. Their lives are a paradox: the more they strive for admiration and victory, the deeper they sink into their cycle of despair and dissatisfaction.

Pity for the Narcissist

Understanding the harsh reality of what it means to be a narcissist is not about excusing their behavior but about recognizing the profound sadness of their existence. It is a life devoid of true joy, authentic connections, and self-acceptance—elements of the human experience that are essential for genuine happiness. The narcissist, trapped by their own defenses and unable to break free from their inner demons, deserve a measure of pity for the dark, isolated life they lead, unaware of the full richness of life that lies beyond their self-imposed barriers.

If Narcissist’s Inner Child Could Speak

Deep within the fortress of grandiosity and manipulation constructed by a narcissist lies a hidden, vulnerable inner child—a fragment of their true self, stifled and buried under years of unaddressed pain and scars from early childhood, perhaps even from as early as in utero experiences. This inner child, though often silenced by the louder voices of anger and fear, has a quiet, desperate plea for understanding and compassion.

A Wounded Existence

“I am the shadow behind the armor, the hurt beneath the haughtiness, the child who never quite healed,the inner child might say. This part of the narcissist’s psyche is deeply wounded, jaded from the early betrayals and cold dismissals that shaped their understanding of love and trust. Their emotions and hearts have been guarded with an impenetrable shield, not out of a desire to inflict pain, but as a means of survival.

The Reluctance to Lower the Sword

The protective mechanisms—this armor—developed by the narcissistic inner child are so ingrained that setting them aside to reflect, heal, and develop empathy seems an insurmountable task. Depending on where they fall on the spectrum of narcissism, many may never reach a point where they can put their swords down long enough to see the world through a lens unclouded by their defenses. The possibility of receiving help, of genuinely engaging in the work needed to heal, is slim; few possess the awareness, intelligence, and strength to embark on such a challenging journey of self-discovery and change.

A Call for Compassion and Distance

Given the high probability that they may never seek or receive help, the inner child of a narcissist begs not for intervention, but for compassion, pity, and necessary distance.Recognize the demons I battle are not of my making but are inherited from the deep wounds inflicted by those I once loved and trusted,they would implore. These individuals, regardless of their relationship to us—be they family members, partners, or friends—cannot be trusted in the intimate, vulnerable spaces of our lives without risking our emotional safety and peace.

Maintaining Safe Boundaries

Engaging with someone deeply entrenched in narcissistic patterns can lead to significant pain and suffering. The plea from the narcissist’s inner child is not just a request for understanding but also a warning: keep a safe distance. This distance is crucial, not as a punishment, but as a protective measure for both the narcissist and those around them. No one is sacred enough to avoid their wrath, mirroring how they, too, were not spared from the cruelty of someone they once loved and trusted.

Forgiveness and Solitude

“Ask for forgiveness for us, for I am lost in a maze of my own making, and leave me to my solitude,the inner child might conclude. This plea highlights a tragic recognition—that their path is one of isolation, not out of desire, but necessity, and that forgiveness might be the only bridge left unburned in the wake of their tumultuous interactions.

This vulnerable insight into the inner workings of a narcissist’s injured psyche does not excuse the behaviors that cause so much harm but seeks to illuminate the profound sadness and complexity of their emotional landscape. It is a call for us to foster empathy, maintain healthy boundaries, and protect our well-being in the face of their unresolved trauma.

At the conclusion of this part in our blog series on narcissistic abuse, we face a critical challenge: balancing awareness and vigilance with compassion and understanding. While we strive to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the harmful impacts of narcissistic behaviors, we must also recognize that narcissists are often themselves victims of past traumas. This acknowledgment does not excuse their actions but provides a broader context that can foster empathy and promote a more informed response to the issue.

Call to Action

We encourage everyone to join us in spreading awareness about narcissistic abuse and its profound effects on individuals and relationships. Educate yourself and others on the signs of such abuse and the dynamics that empower it. At the same time, cultivate compassion and understanding for those who exhibit these behaviors, recognizing their own underlying struggles.

However, maintaining a safe distance is crucial. Set boundaries that protect you and your family from the destructive patterns narcissists often perpetuate. If you or someone you know is dealing with narcissistic abuse, seek support from professionals who can offer guidance tailored to these complex situations.

Together, by fostering an environment of awareness, understanding, and proper boundary-setting, we can mitigate the impact of narcissistic abuse while extending compassion to all involved. Let’s work towards a community where empathy and respect guide our actions, even in the face of challenging relationships. 

We hope How Do Narcissists’ Internal Conflicts Drive Their Abuse: Uncovering the Hidden Truthshas provided valuable insights. Next, we will differentiate between general toxic behaviors and narcissistic abuse. Be sure to read our upcoming post: Toxic vs. Narcissism: Understanding the Difference to learn more about these critical distinctions.


  1. The Narcissist Playbook by Dana Morningstar
    • This book provides insights into the tactics narcissists use to manipulate and control their victims, offering strategies to recognize and counteract these behaviors.
  2. Divorcing and Healing from a Narcissist by Dr. Theresa J. Covert
    • This guide helps victims navigate the difficult process of divorcing a narcissist and offers tools for healing and rebuilding their lives.
  3. Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist by Dr. Ramani Durvasula
    • Dr. Ramani offers advice on recognizing narcissistic behaviors and making informed decisions about whether to stay in or leave the relationship.
  4. Whole Again: Healing Your Heart and Rediscovering Your True Self After Toxic Relationships and Emotional Abuse by Jackson MacKenzie
    • This book offers practical steps for healing and finding peace after experiencing toxic relationships and emotional abuse.
  5. Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection by Sharon Salzberg
    • While not specifically about narcissism, this book offers insights into forming healthy relationships based on mindfulness and compassion, which can be beneficial for those recovering from narcissistic abuse.

YouTube Channels

  1. Dr. Ramani Durvasula
    • A clinical psychologist specializing in narcissistic behavior, Dr. Ramani provides detailed insights into understanding and managing relationships with narcissists. Dr. Ramani’s YouTube Channel
  2. Surviving Narcissism by Dr. Les Carter
  3. Rebecca Zung
    • Rebecca Zung offers practical advice for dealing with narcissists, particularly in legal scenarios, helping victims recognize and counteract manipulative tactics. Rebecca Zung’s YouTube Channel
  4. Michelle Lee Nieves Coaching

Support Groups and Websites

  1. Psychology Today
    • Provides numerous articles and resources on narcissistic abuse and finding professional help. Psychology Today
  2. Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Programs
    • There are various online support groups and recovery programs that offer community support and validation. Examples include groups on Facebook and forums like Reddit’s r/raisedbynarcissists.

Additional Books

  1. Healing from Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas
    • This book offers a recovery framework for those dealing with the aftermath of psychological abuse.
  2. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
    • While not exclusively about narcissistic abuse, this book provides valuable insights into how trauma affects the body and mind, which can be crucial for understanding the impact of long-term emotional abuse.

Legal Resources

  1. Domestic Violence Legal Help
    • Websites like the National Domestic Violence Hotline offer resources and legal advice for those dealing with narcissistic abuse and other forms of domestic violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline

These resources provide comprehensive information and support for understanding, coping with, and recovering from narcissistic abuse.



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