High Expectations Of Others In Narcissism

Q: "Why do narcissists expect such high levels of tolerance for their behavior from others? Especially when their tolerance for others is way below healthy levels?"

A: "Many people who developed narcissistic tendencies are just acting out what was modeled to them in childhood, like most people do. When a child watches an older relative regularly blow up or treat others with disdain, disrespect, and arrogance, or even abuse, he or she is being taught that this behavior is within the bounds of "normal". When this older relative's behavior is tolerated by adults, the child is being taught that "unconditional love" means "Tolerance of abusive, disrespectful, grandiose behavior". They are also taught this when they are the ones expected to tolerate the behavior toward themselves from this person.

It is completely normal for a human child to learn how humans behave from the adults around him or her. If the child sees a person acting like a disrespectful, abusive, spoiled King or Queen, and getting away with it, it often looks to the child like THAT is the behavior to mimic in order to be treated well and have a secure place in the family, or in the community. The child of course wants to be seen as the highest possible status when he or she grows up, and if the "head of the family" rules over everyone like a bratty schoolyard bully, then that's what the child sees as how the "head of the family" is supposed to behave. 

Also, the person or people who display this behavior and get away with it might be a sibling, an uncle or an aunt, a grandparent, a cousin, or even a friend of the family. When everyone is tolerating untoward behavior from a person, it looks to a child that this person is held in higher regard than everyone else, that this person has a higher status, and is respected more. It would easily make sense to a child that mimicking this person's behavior would cause everyone to give him or her the same special treatment.

The child is also being taught that it's NORMAL to have a hierarchy within the family like a Gorilla Troupe. All it takes is for the child to watch this person behaving this way and not receive appropriate consequences for them to get the impression that it's "okay" to act this way. They often even come to believe that "mastering" this behavior is an indication of Coming of Age, of becoming a Real Man or a Real Woman. Whoever throws their weight around the most to get their way, and GETS their way, looks to a child like a powerful person. Children do not yet know the difference between entitled, spoiled, bully behavior and strength, confidence, and respect.

When this belief is formed early from this modeling, the child may internalize it so much that he or she does not see that it is not his or her own identity. The child may believe that this behavior is actually the way they should act, and that anyone who opposes their behavior or stands up to them is putting them down, disrespecting THEM, and trying to SHAME THEM for "Who They Are".

Basically, the child was taught to expect tolerance FROM others no matter what, and that means the others love and respect him or her. They were also taught that treating others with condescension and DISrespect is their right and privilege as one of the "Real" or "Elite People" like they saw the abusive person as. 

 Even being put on a pedestal and treated like a Golden Child, above others, is a form of abuse; the child is not taught any bearings on reality, the child is not given real mirroring as a real person, and does not feel like he or she belongs in the world. It also pits others against the child, making the child even more isolated.

 It is important to understand that any child who grew up with an abusive person or persons in their lives was a victim of abuse whether they developed narcissistic tendencies or not. This means their natural boundaries were probably torn down, and they had to compensate and cope without them in place. Our boundaries are what allow us to cope with day to day challenges, trials and tribulations, other people's behavior, and with large scale problems as well. Without intact boundaries, when abuse and trauma have damaged them, we humans feel buffeted and beaten by life. People develop all kinds of coping mechanisms and skills to get through life without intact boundaries, including displaying aggression, building walls, self-destruction, becoming submissive, or arrogance and entitlement.  It can be compared in a physical way to skin; if a person's skin was damaged, they would protect themselves by covering it with something, keeping people away, telling people they need to be extra-aware of them so they don't hurt their damaged skin, expecting people to treat them with extra care, and going to higher ground to be above the fray, to avoid injury. A person may also take something regularly to ease the pain. If they healed the damaged skin back to full health, they would not need to do any of those things, and would live life without so much worry, expectation of others, and self-protection.

It is a tragic scenario, a child being modeled entitled, abusive, narcissistic behavior as "Adult Behavior", but there is hope for the adult child to heal completely if they can grasp the concept of humility and healing. Since it's common for Narcissists to teach a child a false concept of humility, that it's the same as submission to others and destruction of self-worth, the person would need to RELEARN the real definition of humility. Also if they can grasp the concept that they don't have to reject and hate the person(s) who modeled the behavior, that they don't have to be ashamed of the person or of themselves in order to feel remorse, guilt, or love for themselves and others, then healing can begin.