Are they AWARE?

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#1 Sep 23 - 12AM
dulcinea441's picture

Are they AWARE?

I'm sure this question has been discussed endlessly, but I'd like to get some insight from you good people. Do narcissists know that they are predators? Do they know that they are abusive and hypocritical? Do they know they lack empathy?

I've been reading a lot about this online and the answer to this question is sort of all over the place. Some seem to think that narcissists are, for the most part, completely unaware of how they hurt and manipulate people. Others insist that the Narc is fully aware of his. yet others contend that the the truth lies somewhere in-between.

Trying to figure it out for oneself based on the past behavior of one's narcissistic partner is crazy-making and often yields no insight whatsoever.

This, to me, is one of the most troubling questions about what happened to us: was it intentional?

To know this answer seems as though it would help on the road to recovery and might allow for forgiveness.

I confess, the question tortures me.

What do you all think, especially those who have been studying this PD for a long time?

Sep 26 - 6PM
Tigerlily's picture

Dangerous Question

This is a question I`ve been asking myself a lot since I discovered narcissism - not so much "Are they aware" but "was MINE aware". And I think the question is dangerous because it masks deeper, unconscious questions along the lines of, "Could I forgive him" or "Do we still have a chance". And I`ve caught myself thinking along those lines often. It`s like a kind of hidden undertow, a pull. And it`s dangerous. I don`t think it`s so important to know if they`re aware of what they`re doing or not, actually. I guess those of us whose hidden agendas dictate that we would best like to forgive them and go back to them tend to believe that they`re NOT aware, whereas those whose survival depends on building really strong walls against them tend to believe that they are sadistic deliberately. I also don´t believe that we really need to known for certain if they`re narcs or not, though I personally spent over a month researching narcissism and it helped me a LOT to understand what had happened to me, because I was like a bird that had flown against a windowpane to start with. I researched abuse as well, trying to find a definition of it, trying to figure out if what I had suffered was really abuse. I think the bottom line is not, does he know what he`s doing/is he a narc/is this abuse but: do I want this? Do I like it? Do I feel good/safe/happy with him? And ultimately, Can I stand it? I couldn`t stand it, that`s why I left. And although all my research helped a lot to clarify and consolidate my reasons for leaving, the bottom line was - and is - this man is not good for ME. Love to all fellow sufferers.
Sep 26 - 6PM (Reply to #55)
Swan's picture


They know EXACTLY what they are doing. They are cold and calculating and manipulative and please don't think for one second that you have a chance of anything but misery with them!
Sep 26 - 8PM (Reply to #56)
CaminoReal's picture

I agree with you, Swan

They are crystal clear aware of their actions. Mine actually told me that he is cunning, calculating That he only appears to be mild mannered That I (me) have no idea who/what I am dealing with That he guarantees that I have never encountered anyone like him before Aware? I say, Of course they are! CR
Sep 26 - 11AM
MovingForward's picture

Mine Knew-

My Ex N knew what she was during "narcissistic Injury". During the 1st D&D she had not quite hooked the new supply but had to move due to legal reasons. I am assuming this was scary for her as she would have to be alone for a time while she secured supply. I messed things up with the new OW after having several conversations with the OW and "HER HUSBAND". There was a bitter divorce and stipulations that the 2 could not see each other due to the child. Anyway, the ExN wrote me a letter the day she moved out. The letter described how she was not able to love and give me, or anyone for that matter, what they needed in a relationship. She wrote that "I was another innocent victim in her disturbed world". That statement hit the nail on the head! I do believe there are moments that they know there is something wrong with them but only when THEY have lost something. That feeling only lasts until they get their next fix or know they have secured supply. My N did come back 6 mths after the 1st D&D. She could not secure the supply she was after. The 2nd D&D had nothing to indicate there was any "faked" remorse or compassion or that she had any issues. She already had supply secured and hooked that time.
Sep 25 - 3AM
deckard's picture

Mine had some awareness

There were times that he was self-aware. This was very rare. He knew of course that he lied and manipulated because he always knew the truth about his real life. So when he was posing as what he was not, he was doing it intentionally. His self-awareness came in that he knew he had trouble dealing with emotions, especially love. He knew that he detached from people and was able to do this incredibly easily - even to his family members. He told me that he disliked this in himself. There were times I felt that he truly did love me as much as he was able to have any feelings for anyone. But it would never last. Not even within the same day. When the truth about everything came out (his lying and cheating and betrayal) he had no choice but to face it. He did tell me the truth about many things then but all of this truth was from before we were together. He could not face the truth of his infidelity in our relationship. He didn't deny it but didn't admit it either. At the end he called himself a piece of shit and garbage. I know on one level he was saying this so I would say no you aren't I love you but I know too that on another level this was what he already believed and had nothing to do with me being in his life. This was a long-held evaluation of himself as unworthy of love. I know that ER is a sensitive and caring man who is wounded to his core and unable of processing emotions. He has no empathy and no remorse for his cruel actions. This is how he has been toward women his entire life, beginning with the women in his family. This is how he still is with his mother, his Aunt, his wife, me, all the other women too. There has never been any reason for him to change because his wife will never leave him no matter that he has cheated on her since they were first married. As for the other women they are easily replaced and he does that regularly while keeping a handful of regulars as minor supply to keep him going in the interim. I am the anomaly who fits nowhere and this has caused him consternation. Usually he would have discarded me many months ago. I would have never become "the girlfriend" if it weren't for my money and support I've given him this entire time. He wants to be rid of me but needs my money. And needs me because I am there as this second wife-object since his wife is not a good source of supply for him. His daily mode of operation is based entirely upon routine and impulse. He does what his wife requires (takes care of the animals, picks up his daughter from school, babysits her while his wife goes to work)and then breaks free to go hunting, run errands (and in the past) to get away to come see me. Now he is probably seeing someone else who likely lives closer than me (I am 40 minutes away). But if he decides he wants to see me for whatever reason, he will. ER never does anything that he doesn't wish to. I have said many things here to him and he has not denied them, including his being a narcissist. I am certain he has been told this at least a couple of times before by other women. For me, the more I got into his pathology, the closer to his true self, the deeper I fell in love with him. I finally found him amidst all the lies and false personas and he hates me for it.
Sep 24 - 11PM
Sunafterrain's picture


With all the studying I've done about it, they know what they are doing and they do it intentionally. To believe otherwise is dangerous. This is why it takes so long for the survivors to recover or the get stuck in the LURING phase. The Honeymoon phase where the PD sucks the victim in in the first place. He puts on a mask and a fake persona. He knows he's lying. This is manipulation and the most dangerous of all the things he does that gets the victim into his web. his ENTIRE luring is all fake, all of it lies. So in answer to your question, I believe they do know exactly what they are doing and they do it for the purpose and intention of duping and harming. This is, BY FAR, the hardest thing to accept. But this is what predators do.
Sep 25 - 6AM (Reply to #51)
Nemesis's picture


I agree with you. They are aware of what they are doing when they are deceiving and manipulating others and they are also aware that others would be horrified if they knew what they were really doing so they actively and consciously conceal their true intentions from the rest of us. Whilst they are aware that other people would disapprove of their stealthy bad behaviour if they were savvy to their real motives, this does not mean that they themselves believe that they are doing anything wrong. They know it is "wrong" but only in the sense that the rest of the world says it is wrong. They do not actually believe this themselves. They know that they are hurting others but, from their perspective, they just don't think that this matters. Would you feel gulity for the rest of the day if you steppped on an ant and squashed it flat? The narcissist feels exactly the same way about hurting one of us. They do not think that they are doing anything wrong because they see themaselves as being above the law and therefore feel entitled to do anything that they want. It is this part of their complicated personality that stops them being "aware" that what they are doing is morally wrong because, in their eyes, they are God and can do no wrong. When they punish their victims with their bullying behaviour they see themselves as being like Zeus throwing a thunderbolt at the mere mortals below. VERY IMPORTANT: The real danger for us here is in the fact that we normal people with emotions feel that we can (or that we should) more easily forgive a person who is unaware that what thay have done is wrong. Their ignorance of moral values becomes their saving grace. But in this case, it is completely the reverse!!! The fact that they are totally and utterly incapable of seeing that what they do is morally wrong (because of their delusions of grandeur) is exactly what makes them so jaw-droppingly dangerous and to be avoided at all costs. xxx
Sep 24 - 9PM
tresor2's picture

They are Aware but Cannot Relate

I think they are aware because many of them are sadistic and they get great pleasure at seeing others suffer. The problem is that they have no empathy and are so disconnected that they can't relate to the depth of suffering they cause. To them, it's all about sucking energy out of their victims. I also think they are aware that there's something wrong with them. Mine eluded to it many times without actually saying it. He explained that he was having sex at age 3 and that he was raised by a by a bunch of female relatives. When I called him a narcissist and psychopath, he didn't defend it; it was almost like he knew I was correct.
Sep 24 - 5PM
Nemesis's picture


They are very complicated people and so there is no simple, straightforward answer to this question. I think they are aware that they are different from other people. In fact, mine once said as much to me. This was said to me during a heated conversation where I had asked him to explain how it was possible that he could be totally in love with me and planning to spend the rest of his life with me one minute and, the next, discarding me forever like I was nobody. I told him (through my tears of agony) that this was just not normal behaviour. He became angry and retorted "Well it's normal for me". He then said to me "I'm not like other people, I'm different". Never a truer word spoken! However, whilst they may be aware that they are different, this still does not mean that they are able to acknowledge that they are reponsible for hurting others. Part of their condition involves them seeing themselves as perfect, in a God-like way, so they cannot ever see that their behaviour is wrong in any way. Everything has to be someone else's fault. In this sense, they are living a lie. Their whole life is a confabulation. The narcissist operates using personas and has no real personality of his own. For this reason, he is incapable of connecting with himself or reflecting on himself at all. Imagine you are an actor playing the part of a character who has done something wrong (e.g murder). Would you feel guilty? Of course not, because it is the character that you were playing that has committed the crime, not you. The narcissist/psychopath feels the same way about the personas that he displays to other people. It is all an act, therefore it was not really "him" that did it. They are so far removed from the rest of us and that makes it very hard to get into their mindset. Ultimetely, from my point of view, whether the narcissist/psychopath deliberately kept hurting me purely for sadistic pleasure or did it absent-mindedly whilst being completely and utterly self-centred, is irrelevant to me. The fact that he did at all makes me certain that neither he, nor that relationship, were right for me. However confusing the rest of it gets, that is a fact that is not up for debate. xxx
Sep 28 - 12AM (Reply to #48)
ifinallygotit's picture

knew he was 'different"

but no interest in changing or making amends to those he hurt - he was very afraid I would find out about his awful past and leave him - he was sweet but just not quite human - I have said this before - kind of like a stray dog who is glad for the attention but still bites you and runs off to repeat his pattern. My opinion is the awareness is at a very very low level with zero interest in change
Sep 26 - 7PM (Reply to #47)
blindfaith's picture


Your post was just what I needed right now, thankyou!
Sep 25 - 4AM (Reply to #46)
Sea's picture

My exN said the same thing to

My exN said the same thing to me too. He thinks there is something wrong him. All his past relationships last a max of 3mths. After the chase, the gal moved in and he got bored. His long term ex always on n off with him was 2 yrs cos she pleaded him to stay on n on. She is still hanging around him after bring downgraded from gf to ex gf to now friends-on-call (no sex but whenever N is bored). My relationship with him 3 yrs longest in the 50+ years of his life. He admitted the only reason it could last this long is bacause we are not living together n we dont see each other daily. It is not about love or anything. Infact he has been brutally honest that he never love any woman except his mum. I did ask him before why he doesnt love me? I am his woman. He asked me back what is love? I said things like be with me when i am sad, care for me when i am sick, do stuff together enjoy closeness etc. He said ok he can "practice that" while we are still a couple. So overall I think he is aware. He just cannot understand cos he cannot feel, never experience love before never feel it before.
Sep 24 - 7PM (Reply to #45)
dulcinea441's picture

Thanks. That answer is

Thanks. That answer is incredibly insightful and seems spot on.
Sep 24 - 3PM
tresor2's picture

Bad at Relationships - Psycho Liars

Mine told me in the beginning that he was "bad" at relationships. Eight years ago, I didn't know exactly what that statement meant. He was divorced twice after two lengthy marriages with kids, 14yrs and 20yrs. Both wives left. "Bad" at relationships means cheater, liar, jerk, asshole, sicko, psycho, pervert, etc... I figured it out, wow... He also told me all he cares about is money and that he intends on remaining "single" and loves living alone, but, of course, he "loves me." He said that we were going to the moon in a "used spaceship" LOL. Fast forward several years...after losing millions in real estate, he moved in someone and justified it by stating that "I can't do it alone" and that "I've lived alone for 6 years." Maybe she has money, I don't know. This was a year after he anounced that the only person he loved was his childhood girlfriend from High School, who he had not seen for 50 years!!!!, and, who he eventually got to divorce her husband. Incredible!! (This fool is 65) If this isn't psycho, I don't know what is. Actually, I do know; it's me tolerating the shit for 8 years. Nothing they say means anything!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!What hurts the most is that he's happily living with someone and that he doesn't care. He's rich and continues to make money, dispite his losses. Even at his age, getting women is not a problem. I cant' even fanthom being with anyone at this point, and I'm no spring chicken either. It's all so devistating.
Sep 23 - 9PM
gettinbetter's picture

The short answer in my

The short answer in my opinion is some do and some dont. I think the high functioning one are quite aware that something isnt quite right with them. Mine said I wish I had lived my life differently and then after months of I love you's said he's gonna treat you better than I will (referring to my husband). You see some of them warn you of whats about to come but at the time you dont see it that way.
Sep 23 - 5PM
juliamarie's picture

Mine is an idiot

He has no idea what he's doing...ever. I have come to the conclusion that he's completely unaware of the damage he inflicts. He thinks he's totally in the right at all times and the rest of the world is out to get him. He says he hates his life, but he has no idea how to change it. Those of us who don't have NPD have the ability to self-assess, change and go forth and be happy. They don't. Most of them won't seek therapy, and if they do, it is short lived because they get disillusioned the second the therapist says they might need to take some responsibility for their behavior. I can't speak for anyone else, but I truly think mine is the most unaware person I've ever met. The only thing he does know is that he doesn't know who he is...and that he has to pretend to be someone other people will like. Must be exhausting.
Sep 23 - 9PM (Reply to #41)
dulcinea441's picture

God, it's depressing either

God, it's depressing either way. It's depressing if they have some measure of self-awareness and know, but don't care, how they've hurt you. It's depressing if they have NO self-awareness and will NEVER admit responsibility for a single thing, EVER. It's pretty much just depressing however you look at it.
Sep 23 - 2PM
rosedewittbukater's picture


Mine is a therapist with a masters degree...completely self-aware. Scary huh?
Sep 24 - 5AM (Reply to #38)
TNR1's picture

My father is a

My father is a psychiatrist..I don't think he has a clue that he is a Narc. He is too busy judging everyone else's psychological health.
Sep 24 - 4PM (Reply to #39)
tresor2's picture

Very Common

I work in the mental health field and I've noticed how prevalent Narcissism is.
Sep 23 - 4PM (Reply to #37)
dulcinea441's picture

That is scary. Self-aware and

That is scary. Self-aware and likely pleased by or indifferent to the cruelty she inflicts. Chilling.
Sep 23 - 2PM
rosedewittbukater's picture


Mine is a therapist with a masters degree...completely self-aware. Scary huh?
Sep 23 - 2PM (Reply to #34)
megamillion's picture


Rose, I had no idea she was a therapist (!!) - that's terrifying. I got a chill when I read that. All I can imagine is her manipulating others in therapy/playing an omnipotent role...*shakes off heebee jeebees*
Sep 26 - 7PM (Reply to #35)
rosedewittbukater's picture


Oh yeah, she thinks she is God.
Sep 23 - 2PM
alicat's picture

Mine admitted to his boss

Mine admitted to his boss that he is an alcoholic/pill popper so he cannot get fired. He works for the city. He knows he is an alcoholic and has problems. He has also told me that I have problems and I have made him the way he is because I am crazy! I haven't felt on edge or angry since he left!! Yes I am angry at the way he treated me and made me feel! Yes I am sad for the loss at what I thought was real. I stood by him through a lot of shit and now I am D & D. I believe he knows what he put me through. He told me I will begging for him back!!! Just can't believe how sick these people are.
Sep 23 - 1PM
greengirl91's picture

My dear Dulcinea (nice name

My dear Dulcinea (nice name btway :-) it is VERY, VERY intentional. I lived with N mother, and kept bumping into Narcs all my life, starting from teachers to lovers. They prey on people`s vulnerabilities. They view LOVE and the ability to love, as a weakness. Many of them had grew with abusive parents, and most of all, abusive mothers. They turn all the hate and frustration into the closest who dare to love them. Yes, you guessed, all the other women in their lives..if they know it? certainely. After one devalue & discard treatment, mine smiled. SMILED! He knew, they know, exactly what they are doing. And have no remorse, doing it again.
Sep 23 - 4PM (Reply to #27)
dulcinea441's picture

I sense that they know that

I sense that they know that they are causing pain but feel entitled to do so because, in their minds, we have wronged, betrayed, and failed them. They are aware that they make us suffer but believe that it is our deserved punishment for being evil. Sometimes, after receiving and accepting a diagnosis of NPD, they become aware of themselves in the sense that they now know they have a condition that others regard as abnormal. It may make them modify their outward behaviors if they think that in doing so, there will be some benefit to them, but they only do it when they perceive that THEY have something to gain for themselves. They will never change their behavior for the sake of another person, and they will certainly never do it out of guilt.
Sep 23 - 4PM (Reply to #31)
foreverfun1's picture

omg you got it right on, i

omg you got it right on, i think what you said was a perfect explanation. its hard to fathom that they consider us the evil one after all we've done for them and how evil they treat us but thats exactly how they think.they want us to serve them without any needs of our own and if we make the slightest peep that its unfair they turn on us and call us selfish. lol so sick! its confusing and makes no sense thats why i think we keep going over it in our minds
Sep 23 - 4PM (Reply to #28)
dulcinea441's picture

LOL. The moment I finished

LOL. The moment I finished writing the above, that nagging question returned as to whether they are capable of some small amount of guilt that they completely repress. Maddening. I don't think they possess "self-awareness" as we understand it, if they possess it at all. But I can definitely see how, if he smiled at you after inflicting punishment, that you would be certain that they know exactly what they do in a cold, calculated and cruel way. In that moment you feel purposely preyed upon by something evil.
Sep 23 - 4PM (Reply to #29)
Pride and Shame
Pride and Shame's picture

It's all twisted

It's all twisted up in their minds. Honestly, I think I'm driving people crazy here with my questions, but it is fascinating. I would like to watch a video or read an interview where someone is asking an N these kinds of questions, and hear their responses. Please let me know if anyone has resources for that. I do know of the Sam Vaknin material.