What Happens When a Narcissist Has to Face Reality
Sometimes it’s hard to face reality. Especially if you are living in a permanent narcissistic bubble.
We all have or narcissistic moments. Sometimes being praised for your achievements or having someone else take care of everything instead of you just feels nice. Getting caught up in the feeling is perfectly normal. But only if it is for a little while. Because if it becomes your permanent state, you might lose touch with reality.
In times when you acquire influence over others, getting absorbed by the power is almost inevitable. The thought of having the opportunity to control someone else’s life consumes you. That’s when the narcissistic bubble takes over. And the more power you gain, the larger it grows.
But in life, everything has its limits. Including the bubble you live in. It bursts in the most unexpected, shocking way, completely out of the blue.
One of the factors that may lead to this abrupt event is aging.
As Psychology Today remarks, the process itself can bring about a withering, if not bursting, of the narcissistic bubble. It happens suddenly, without a warning.
One day you wake up, you look at the mirror, and you no longer see the young, fresh, vibrant face you once had. Your favorite pair of skinny jeans don’t fit anymore. People start calling you “ma’am” or “sir.” When all of these little transitions add up, it is more than normal to feel disheartened for a while. Everyone needs time to get used to the change.
According to Eda Goldstein, author of the study “When the bubble bursts: Narcissistic vulnerability in mid-life,” the bubble in question usually pops somewhere in the middle years. That’s when narcissists can become both ashamed and infuriated, as they face their own failings and uncover their true weaknesses. In other words, they finally see their flawed selves, which inevitably takes a toll on their mental stability.
Goldstein, who conducted the research in 1995, explains:
“Believing that they should be able to control life and be strong and self-sufficient, individuals with severe narcissistic vulnerability do not allow for human limitations or the effects of life’s vicissitudes… indignation, bitterness, envy, disbelief, and humiliation are commonly expressed and may, in some extreme instances, result in vengeful acts of violence.”
The more self-absorbed you are, the more detrimental it is to experience the burst of your narcissistic bubble.
Becoming conscious of the fact that you are not the special snowflake you believed you are can be tough. However, there are ways to overcome the damage this sudden realization causes.
Goldstein believes that it takes empathy to help someone survive the vicious combination of shame and anger they feel following the bursting of their narcissistic bubble. The psychologist claims that therapists must be compassionate with their patients and accept their complex feelings. She notes:
“They may begin to grieve the childhood that never was, the roads not taken, the lives not led, aspects of the self that have changed, relationships that never were or have been lost, and the future that will never be.”
Mirroring is another method to help an individual deal with the consequences of their narcissism.
According to the expert, those struggling with this issue need encouragement to restore their self-esteem. In a way, being applauded by others helps them get over their past selves.
The third approach Goldstein recommends is seeking out role models. They should be able to help you accept the change and navigate you through the process of aging, for example. Instead of feeling jealous, you should make an effort to understand what they seem to be doing right and implement their ways into your life.
Aging does not necessarily have to include a midlife crisis, as well as the bursting of the narcissistic bubble doesn’t always happen in the middle years. Still, your past can lead you to that turning point, but it can also help you overcome it.
Learning from your past while practicing empathy, mirroring, and following role models can guide you towards the gratification you long for. All you need to do is give yourself time, arm yourself with patience, and try to embrace those changes, instead of denying them. The rest will follow.