When healthy attachment is missing, the development of empathy and reflectivity is inhibited. This leads to developmental failures that promote dissociation and internationalization of an unavailable and punitive object where the defense can become aggression and violence. Negative experiences may then become the only way of relating to others.Allcorn, Seth; Duncan, Carrie M. A Journey into the Heart of Darkness: Psychosocial Insights into Predatory Behavior. The Journal of PSychohistory; New York Vol. 50, Iss. 4 (Spring 2023).
- Could be considered to be the case that narcissists are unwilling to have empathy as opposed to be lacking or unable to have empathy: ”This accumulation of evidence spurred the description of empathic dysfunction to change from the inability to recognize how others feel in the DSM–III classification, to the unwillingness to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others in DSM–IV (APA, 1994). ”
- Little to no impairment of cognitive empathy, but compromised affective empathy. Although the experimental research on empathy and narcissism is limited, generally, it indicates a stronger deficit in emotional rather than cognitive empathy: ”Although results are mixed, there is growing evidence that individuals with pathological narcissism or NPD display significant impairments in emotional empathy, but display little to no impairment in cognitive empathy (Ritter et al., 2011; Wai & Tiliopoulos, 2012; Watson et al., 1984). “
- Theme that NPD individuals perceive what others feel, but don’t have emotional empathy: “On the one hand, despite being able to perceive emotions in a manner similar to psychopathy, individuals with NPD may have compromised empathic functioning because of a deficit in emotional empathy (e.g., neurobiological evidence) and a deliberate attempt to avoid feeling vulnerable (e.g., self-report data). On the other hand, it is also possible that those with NPD, like individuals with BPD, experience intense emotions (e.g., anger, shame, fear; Cooper, 1998; Gramzow & Tangney, 1992) that impair their ability to attend and react to other’s emotions (i.e., deficient emotion tolerance and regulation). Ultimately, the examination of psychobiological, behavioral, and neural underpinnings of empathy provides a basis for future research that may identify the specific dysfunction(s) responsible for the potential disingenuous and indifferent inter- and intrapersonal behaviors of narcissistic individuals.”
- Narcissists show empathy for their own interests: ”On the one hand, narcissistic people may be able to appropriately empathize when feeling in control, that is when their self-esteem is enhanced and when displaying empathy is in their best self-interest (Ronningstam, 2009). On the other hand, opportunities for self-enhancement or situations that may expose compromised emotion tolerance can result in self-serving empathic disengagement. To the extent that empathic processing can vary and fluctuate across and even within narcissistic individuals, it may be useful to consider the unique characterizations of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism.”
- People with NPD in their grandiose state may, like psychopathic individuals, possess the cognitive capacity to utilize empathy but have a motivation-based desire to disengage from empathic processing
- ”Ultimately, the self-serving focus of grandiose narcissistic individuals may influence fluctuations in empathy ranging from engagement to disengagement that respectively align with whether or not empathy is in service of their goal or interferes with attaining their goal.”
You won’t see the Narcissist in the therapeutic milieu – they don’t think there is anything wrong with them. When they do get into therapeutic situations with a couples counselor, they try to snow them (the therapist). They want to make themselves look good, even if they are cheating. They are never going to understand there is something wrong with them.Susan Elliott, Author of Getting Past Your Breakup
Narcissists crave approval from other people, which is why their outside life looks the way it does, which is many times successful and all together.