Do Narcissists Have Feelings?

Updated on November 24, 2017
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The Little Shaman is a bodywork healer, spiritual counselor, hypnotherapist, and a specialist in Cluster B personality disorders.

There is a common misconception that narcissists don't have feelings. This isn't true. Narcissists often lack empathy, but they have feelings of their own. Everyone has feelings, and in a way, narcissists have stronger feelings than most other people. Because what's called the narcissistic wound—the trauma or series of traumas that caused them to be a narcissist in the first place—usually occurred at a very early stage in the narcissist's development, they have never learned to control or understand their own emotions.

The invalidating environment most of them grew up in further compounded this problem, making it impossible for the narcissist to ever learn to trust or believe in their own feelings or be able to validate themselves. This means they now exist in a world of swirling, overwhelming, out of control emotions. Regardless of what you see or how well they hide it, unless they are an end scale narcissist, which we often call a psychopath, they are filled with these raging emotions all the time. Narcissists are guided solely by emotion. Emotion dictates their reality. They are almost never rational or unemotional. That is how strong their feelings are. So yes, narcissists definitely have feelings. Even the calm, cold narcissist has feelings. Under the right (or wrong!) circumstances, you will eventually see them.

The thing is, the narcissist's feelings only revolve around themselves. They only have feelings for themselves. Consequently, any feelings they seem to have for others are revealed to actually be for themselves upon closer examination. Narcissists use other people as emotional pack mules. Because their feelings are so strong and so overwhelming to them, they cannot handle these feelings. They need other people to carry the burden for them. So they project them on to other people and say the other person is the host of the feeling: "I don't feel this way! You do!" But in reality, these are simply their own feelings that they are trying to deny.

For example, narcissists are usually filled with smothering self-hatred. This is a very hard emotion to deal with and impossible to deny. So they give it away. They don't hate themselves. You hate them. This makes it easier for them to defend against the horrible way this self-hatred makes them feel. They can deny this hatred and therefore defeat it. But as you can see, this feeling has nothing to do with you. It is not about you. It is not related to you. They are simply projecting it on to you because you're there. People who love narcissists find themselves in this position all the time. They are virtually human baggage carts, carrying around all of the narcissist's pathological self-hatred, rage and shame because the narcissist cannot carry it themselves.

It works the same way for positive feelings, too. A narcissist who says they love someone is usually referring to loving how somebody makes them feel, or what someone does for them. These, again, are feelings that revolve around and relate to the narcissist only, not the other person. This is one of the reasons narcissists lack empathy. It isn't that they don't understand emotion, exactly, but that even if they did it wouldn't matter because they can't see anything but their own emotions. Every single they do, see, think and say is colored by their feelings. The narcissist's perception and their feelings are inseparable. Emotion is the barrier between them and every other person—every other thing they are trying to do. It's why many of them can't hold jobs, can't sustain relationships, can't get along with people—it's the single driving force behind their entire being. Some of them realize this and some of them don't, but it is the same problem for virtually all of them.

There is one exception to this, and that is the psychopath. Psychopaths are what we can call "end stage" narcissists. Narcissism is a spectrum, and psychopaths are what you end up with when narcissism has reached it's absolute peak—when it is not possible to be any more narcissistic. Psychopaths do not seem to have any emotions at all, even for themselves. This is one reason they can fool lie detector tests. Their physical reactions to stress are so low that they do not register on the machine. Psychopaths are not afraid of things, they are not upset by things, they don't get sad and they don't feel love. They may feel a very primitive type of rage if denied something and perhaps an instinctual fear related to self-preservation that keeps them from, say, walking out in front of a bus but that's it. The more sophisticated or evolved emotions seem to simply not be there for the psychopath.

This is the most dangerous type of narcissist. Many narcissists do not engage in certain behaviors, such as killing people, because though they may find no moral qualms with it, they fear an injury or humiliation of the self if they were to be caught. Even if they don't care about people, they value their perpetrated, public image. Psychopaths do not function this way. They fear nothing. They value nothing. If they want, they take. Unlike most other types of narcissists, psychopaths don't care about feelings. They care about fulfilment.

Narcissists, in general, do have very strong, very dominant emotions. Even those that appear to never get ruffled have them and if you are around this person long enough, you will undoubtedly see them. However, if the supposed narcissist in your life seems to have zero emotion whatsoever, even for themselves, you might be dealing with a psychopath.

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