Aging is hard. For so many of us, losing our vitality and facing our mortality is a scary, painful grind. But we discover upsides, like knowing stuff, slowing down to listen, seeing our kids and grandkids thrive and helping them when they falter, enjoying long-term connections with family and friends, recognizing our core values and releasing shallow pursuits, reaping the fruits of our professional and personal labors.
The wise among us take time to reflect, savor, and continue finding ways to grow and give back, like deeply ringed trees breathing out life-giving oxygen.
Aging Narcissists: Big Sissies
Bette Davis aptly said, “growing old is not for sissies.” Pathetically, there is no bigger sissy than a narcissist. And as their sources of self-worth and identity dwindle, they become more brittle and weak, likely to wither at first frost rather than root in for winter and bloom again.
Instead of maturing, mellowing, and gaining wisdom, people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), unless helped with treatment (which is very rare), remain emotionally stunted children whose deficient empathy and self-centered neediness intensify with aging. They view growing old as a series of ravaging defeats that they struggle against with denial, rage, resentment, and/or depressed resignation.
Having relied heavily on externalities such as their looks, wealth, possessions, connections, fame, or professional achievement to fortify their fragile self-esteem, older narcissists find themselves increasingly stripped of their defenses and diminished in their ability to charm, influence, impress, manipulate, and otherwise control others. Since narcissists nearly always refuse to take responsibility for their actions or circumstances, they grow bitter and feel victimized by life, blaming others for their disappointments.
Going to Extremes
Narcissists tend to age into extreme versions of their worst selves. And when dementia comes into the picture, it only exacerbates matters. Aging narcissists typically become more
- mean, and
Because of narcissists’ lack of compassion and their antagonism, as they age their relationships and friendships often falter or fail, leaving them lonely and isolated:
- Spouses may have left or withdrawn to avoid their criticism and combativeness.
- Adult children may have pulled away or cut contact altogether because of their toxic influence.
- Their grandchildren may be estranged from them because their adult children have asserted boundaries to protect their kids.
- Friends may have pulled away because of their unmasked arrogance, selfishness, and envy.
- Neighbors and other community members may have rejected them because of their callous behavior and rude assertions of superiority and entitlement.
- Extended family may have excluded them because of their divisiveness.
As their personal power fades and their social sphere narrows, narcissists are more likely to look for scapegoats anywhere they can. Their increasingly desperate grandiose delusions often bring out bigotry and assertions of superiority over marginalized people, including other old people. Aging narcissists often express ageism, sexism, homophobia, and racism to bolster themselves against their tormented feelings of lost power over others.
Related Articles by Julie L. Hall
- Narcissism 101: A Glossary of Terms for Understanding the Madness
- How to Tell the Difference Between Your Average Jerk and a Narcissist
- How and Why Narcissists Are Highly Skilled Abusers
- The Narcissist Parent’s Psychological Warfare: Parentifying, Idealizing, and Scapegoating
- The Narcissism Mystique: Facts and Fictions You Need to Know
- 7 Defining Traits of the Narcissist
- Raised by a Narcissist? 11 Healing Things to Do for Yourself Right Now
- The Paradox of the Narcissist’s Unrequited Self-Love
- It’s You and Me Baby: Narcissist Head Games
- 7 Things a Narcissist Will Never Do
- The Narcissist as Human Parasite: Are You a Host?
- 4 Insidious Ways That Narcissistic Abuse Isolates the Victim
- Behind the Narcissist Mask: The Bully, Coward, Liar and Fraud
- How to Protect Your Child from Your Narcissist Spouse
- The Challenge of Setting Boundaries with Narcissist Parents
- Understanding Narcissistic Rage and Why It Is Not Your Fault
- Adult Children of Narcissists Face Trauma-Induced Health Risks
- Seven Sure Ways to Spot a Narcissist
- What Raging Narcissists Break: A Damage List
- More Horrid and Shocking Things Narcissists Say and Do
- The Dos and Don’ts of CoParenting with a Narcissist
- What the Narcissist Fears Most
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