This question has been coming up so much in the Community lately, and it is certainly always a really big theme in the Private Facebook 3 Keys Groups.
It is one of the most invasive reasons why people can stay hooked to narcissists and keep breaking No Contact, because they are trying to stop the agony of not feeling cared for, and can’t stop trying to make the narcissist care for them …
Or they give in to the massive emotional relief when the narcissist, after atrocious behaviour, hoovers and makes signs of caring for them.
What this article series is about, is a deep look into why the narcissist does not have the resources “to care” and how we can overcome the trauma and devastation of that.
Our Human Desire to Care and Be Cared For
When I posted to the three Facebook Groups asking people to comment and ask questions about this topic, one lady replied with this …
“Interesting to see this post this morning as I began module 1 (of the NARP Program) last night and THIS is what came up for me … over and over … Why couldn’t you love me … why couldn’t you care for me?”
As individuals it is normal for us to want to care for someone and have someone care for us … that’s what love, humanity and human connection is all about.
What is sooo painful about narcissistic relationships, is at the beginning they characterise the extremes of feeling totally cared for (idolised) and then they turn into not being cared for (devalued and discarded).
In the case of family members, the painful feelings are about knowing this person should care … at times may seem to … but then is just as capable of pulling the rug out from underneath their supposed loved one.
When the switch is thrown, by any narcissist, we bear witness to words, actions and acts of punishment that deliver the point blank evidence that not only are our emotions completely irrelevant to the narcissist, there is also no compassion or care for our “self” at all.
In fact, the cruel behaviours can even cause our very security and survival to be at jeopardy – via emotional, physical and / or financial abuse.
Most people find this incomprehensible, shocking and devastating. It is unfathomable to individuals whose own inherent human coding is to care for other people’s wellbeing.
Also, it is very painful when we discover that narcissists, sadly, feign “care”. In fact some narcissists, known as “altruistic narcissists” make “caring” their most powerful weapon to extract narcissistic supply from people … meaning the attention, acclaim and significance that allows them to emotional “exist”.
Devastatingly, many people have found that even genetic links – such as the narcissist’s own children – do not count, as far as caring, and that children are used primarily as pawns in the warfare of relationship breakup and power-plays, extensions of the narcissist to gain significance and acclaim, or are discarded altogether.
This is what Facebook Members wrote about narcissists and their children.
“I think the hard one is watching them not care about their children and trying to understand that.”
“It becomes even harder when the children notice and ask if Dad loves them.”
“His dad idolizes his son and has unrealistic goals and expectations that are about our son being a star! It comes across as being a snob or elitist. So I see my son putting pressure on himself to measure up to dad’s expectations.”
“He constantly tells people how incredible his son is. He puts him on a pedestal. But this is all about him looking good as the father. I know our son is going to come crashing down one day, because being the object of admiration for his father’s supply is not healthy.”
“As they grow into adults, they clearly see the lack of character/integrity of a narcissistic parent, and the affect their covert, underhanded cruelty had on everyone in the family, including themselves and their other parent. It is a tough, tough struggle.”
But even when we discover this, why do many of us hang on? Why do we stay whilst pining for the “care” that we originally wanted to believe was so genuine? Why can’t we just let go?
Why do we feel so hooked and addicted no matter how badly the narcissist abuses us and our children with actions which proclaim zero care?
The Agony of Not Being Cared For
Many Facebook Members responded to the devastation of discovering that the narcissist did not care for them.
Comments like …
“I experienced my most primitive wounds when he did not have any capacity to soothe me after triggering them. He could not ‘reach’ me on any level – even when I was displaying utter despair.”
“Oh my goodness you just summed things up for me! ESPECIALLY when my despair was caused by his ways! In that case he would simply flip things around and make his actions my fault!”
“I didn’t see who he is now until it was too late. And I want that feeling back – like when he did all that pretending and made me feel like a queen. I was made to feel as if he did, and then I had the carpet ripped out from under me.”
These woman all stayed attached– definitely long enough to suffer significant relationship agony.
In fact it can take men and women years to recover, if they ever do, (if they don’t take on Thriver Healing Methods) even after the termination of the relationship. The reality of not being loved and cared for, and having lived a lie with a narcissist, can understandably haunt individuals indefinitely.
And then of course there are the men and women who were in decade-long marriages with narcissists, who all of a sudden one day up and left and replaced them with someone else … without a backward glance and as if they never existed.
Many of these men and women made many emotional sacrifices spending decades with narcissist … yet thought this was their life. And after so much long sufferance they were shocked at how their loyalty to the narcissist was repaid.
With total indifference, and without a backward glance after the discard.
This is what one Facebook Member wrote …
“I would like to know how they can be in a long time relationship … 30 plus years … And only say, “oh well … too bad!” and just pack their bags and the next day move in with their mistress. It’s been over two and a half years and I can’t even thing about another relationship. How can they do this and not bat an eyelash and act as if your life together meant nothing?”
My narcissistic relationships were nowhere near as long – I can’t even imagine what that would be like for these people – but I know for myself personally “not being cared for” was an enormous agony and hook with narcissists.
Both narcissists in my life appeared to be incredibly caring at the beginning – completely supportive, loving, devoted and such incredible contributors to my life.
Nothing was too much trouble.
This suited me perfectly – my wounds were to do with enmeshment more than anything. Over-involvement in my life was very comfortable for me (it felt normal). In fact men who backed off, showed no interest and made no effort, and did not “commit” always turned me off. They were never my thing.
Both narcissists seemed to be incredibly kind and caring and would go out of their way to “look after me”. This suited me perfectly too; I had wanted a “big strong man” to protect me.
Both narcissists naturally went from “caring and adoring”, to doing what most narcissists do – performing acts of vile, cruel and criminal-minded punishment. Narcissist number 2 was an altruistic narcissist and in-between narcissistic rages he would return to being doting and caring.
This made it very confusing at first, because up to that time I had only ever experienced narcissist number 1’s mask dropping lower and lower with progressively very rare times of “decency” and the battering just getting progressively worse.
What the commonalities were though in the times of not caring was both narcissists would behave atrociously (do things that should have been absolute deal breakers) and both had no ability to be remorseful and take responsibility at the time, or within a short amount of time after the violent narcissistic rages.
They only went to that place of remorse when nothing else would work to keep me connected.
Before I was able to heal the pieces in myself that were co-dependently assigning someone else to be my “carer”, I was beyond devastated in these bouts. Often I would panic and try to fix it. Often I would take the blame to keep the connection. At the times when I was really broken I would plead not to be discarded or abandoned.
And at times when I thought I was in my power (it was still anything but) I would lecture, prescribe and try to force them to “get it” regarding how terrible the “non-caring” behaviour was.
It took me two narcissists to realise that I was the first person (as my own adult) to be responsible for caring for me – and to assign that to someone else whilst I was not prepared to let go and care for myself, had left me in extremely precarious positions.
I also learnt that the greatest agonies, resentments and anxieties we ever have about other people is because they are not providing us with what we as yet don’t know how to provide for ourselves.
I didn’t realise I was still a broken child in an adult body wanting a caring male role model, but instead I was choosing other broken adult children who had no resources to care for me healthily.
I have just released a YouTube Video this week, which is very relevant to this topic … and how we can think we are standing up for ourselves – yet we are truly handing power away.
All whilst trying to get someone to care about us.
Not Caring About Your Health Issues
A very common trademark of narcissists is their weird, inhumane behaviour when someone else has a health issue.
They detach, they abandon, they are totally unavailable and they may project anger, or play “tit for tat” – meaning their issues / health is more important than what you are going through.
Please do not confuse what the altruistic narcissistic is very capable of – which is being incredibly “caring” and “supportive” almost to the point of the ridiculous.
The reasons for this is 1) because it gets attention, significance and acclaim from people and 2) it renders the person they do it for, reliant and enmeshed to the narcissist and even more helpless to generate their own life independently and 3) the giving comes at a hefty price – control.
You are then held accountable for all the things the narcissist demands from you, as well as guilts you with or punishes you for not doing.
The reasons for “caring” are definitely not wholesome and when the switch is flicked in a narcissistic rage, you will see “all care” go down the drain … the altruistic narcissist, to punish you, will do what every narcissist does in a narcissistic rage – which is throw you under the proverbial bus without a second thought.
This is what one Facebook Member wrote about her experience with an Altruistic Narcissist
“He comes off as the most generous caring man. He is the guy everyone calls when they are sick, in woe, in trouble, need help, etc. From the outside, he is the most Godly, sacrificing martyr and he beautifully, graciously cares for so many people.
In fact, had I not gone the most strict form of Mod Contact and Narped out the hooks, he would still be caring for me, after he moved in with his girlfriend, at the price of myself, my body, my mind, and my spirit.
Care is defined (verb) as to feel concern or interest; attach importance to something and look after and provide for the needs of. I would say that he has always cared for me. But his care is malignant and comes as a price because the definition of Care (noun) is the provision what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something and serious attention or consideration applied to doing something correctly or to avoid damage or risk.
As a noun or state of being, if you will, the embodiment of his care is solely for himself and his reputation.”
This is what other Facebook Members had to say about the weird, total lack of empathy and unavailability narcissists commonly display when people have health issues.
“I’d like to know why when we were physically ill the narc didn’t want to know and lets us struggle further.”
“The day I miscarried when I told him, his immediate reaction was, “Why do these things always happen to me? And he continued to go on about how unfair this was to him. He did not ask how I was at all. I ended up comforting him in the conversation. I thought that was so strange, and felt really hurt by it.”
“The N kicked me out of MY house while I was in hospital after surgery. Of course, he hoovered once I was recovered and the abuse continued for a year.
I want to share with you a friend of mine’s story which highlights the progressive exposure of her narcissist’s lack of care for her.
Her name is Angela.
Angela had grown up in a family of misogynistic men who had very little respect for women.
When Angela met Mark she adored that he was attentive. He pulled out chairs for her, he held the door open. She feel important. She was experiencing male caring in a way that she craved. She truly felt supported and protected.
It came as a terrible shock for her when one day she was ill – and she saw Mark visibly cringe. He immediately started talking about how he was not feeling well, even though she knew it was not him who was ill right now.
He was totally unavailable for her and did not offer to help her in any way.
Then another time when she sustained an injury, and had a serious neck problem, he got angry at her and told her it was her own fault.
Where has this beautiful man who cared so much for her gone? What was wrong with him?
Angela sucked it up – she didn’t want to rock the boat.
Then an event happened that left her reeling.
In the midst of an argument Mark told Angela to “f off”. She was in the city with him, he had driven her and he walked off and left her to fend for herself.
Angela had been drinking wine, she had shared a bottle with him over dinner, and she felt tipsy, disorientated and terrified about being left in a part of the city she did not know with limited money, all on her own.
Angela got herself home precariously and was devastated that he had done that to her, and realised then and there that he had no concern for her wellbeing and safety.
The next day, after he had not contacted her for hours she contacted him. He was not remorseful … in fact he had no comprehension that what he did that was wrong.
Angela was thrown into a panic … the horror and terror of “Why don’t you care about me?”
And rather than being able to recognise this as the deal-breaker it was, pull away from him and look after herself, she stayed attached … clinging to him wanting her original man to return.
At this point, before Angela did the inner work on WHY she was clinging, she did not realise that this was the little girl inside her wanting her father and brothers to care.
And sadly and tragically now that the precedent was set, more and more events happened where it was obvious that Mark had NO care or respect for Angela at all – yet she hung on trying to make him “get it” and she grew more disturbed, more hurt and more hopelessly addicted to him as things deteriorated.
Thank goodness Angela did the inner work to heal herself and could save herself before her total demise. She left Mark, went No Contact and worked NARP – developing her inner resources to care for and value herself.
Angela’s story is so many people’s stories … women and men connected to narcissists hanging on trying to get them to change and not realising the deeper reasons why we do this.
If You Get the Attention I’ll Get None
So what is it about narcissists that causes their strange behaviour toward someone who needs them at times of health or stress issues?
And why do they have such an incredible inability to experience genuine compassion and empathy when people are down?
And it’s important that we get very clear regarding the word “genuine”, because narcissists are capable of empathy that is feigned – when there is a payoff.
So to outside people and friends, the narcissist may be incredibly accommodating, opening up hearth and home to help others – but this if for appearances. This is to earn narcissistic supply and have people say “What a fantastic guy / gal – he / she is so wonderful.”
However with close intimates behind closed doors (other than the altruistic narcissist who is often very “caring” to the partner too) it is a completely different story, because this intimate is supposed to grant the narcissist acclaim, significance and energy – NOT take it away.
The narcissist is always low on energy to grant. There is no inner fullness that can be experienced for self, and if supply is not forthcoming as a result of getting sex, acclaim or significance (I must be VERY important to be able to effect someone so much) – the narcissist starts running very low on narcissistic supply.
When this happens the agony of the narcissist’s gaping inner unhealed wounds threatens to swamp him or her.
Narcissists are always positioning themselves to avoid this at all costs.
To have you be sick, or engrossed in an issue, or feeling down or needing support is a huge danger trigger for the narcissist.
He or she may not even consciously realise what is going on … which is this … on the inside there is a little wounded child screaming, “Oh no! If you get the attention there will be none for me! I’ll starve of energy and I will no longer exist!”
To be needed to serve, without a payoff, could render the narcissist so low on narcissistic supply that he or she literally feels the terror of possible emotional annihilation.
This is why when you are sick or in need, the narcissist has to switch off, pull away and at the very least pretend it’s not happening.
Or the narcissist’s tactic may be to retaliate with his or her own maladies (blown up in proportion or fabricated), or downright attack you and belittle you for making “a mountain out of a molehill” – or whatever it takes to minimalize your experience and hopefully stop you doing it.
Point blank – the narcissist cannot cope with you being unwell and requiring energy and attention … and you will be astounded at what the narcissist is capable of doing at these times.
Why Doesn’t a Narcissistic Parent Care About Their Child?
It’s bad enough when it happens to you, but as a parent it can reach a whole other level of devastation to see the lack of care and concern narcissists can have for your children when suffering physical illnesses or injuries.
This is what Facebook Members wrote about this …
“My son was in an accident and needed reconstructive surgery. As his surgery progressed and he went into post op I contacted his dad (the N) to give him an update on how our son was doing. I texted him with 3 separate updates on his progress and NEVER received a response?! This is not even about ME… it’s about our son. I was shocked and disappointed but I should have known better. He doesn’t acknowledge me any longer because I left him. Like how dare I leave him. But really?? This is our son! My assumption is that he didn’t want to acknowledge me and was trying to punish me by not responding?”
“My son was in a terrible accident and paramedics said they expected to find him dead because the accident was so bad. He was severely injured and could have died. His dad said he wouldn’t go to the ER if I was going to be there. We told him to suck it up. It is his son. My sister and I stayed there in the ER all day. His dad didn’t even call to ask what was going in. Melanie … I would love answers on how an N can do this to his son?”
Truly, we have to understand that narcissists sadly are simply not brain-wired the same way we are. They have so much inner unhealed traumas and dysfunction that they are constantly in emotional survival trying to live on the dwindling narcissistic supply they last received, and working out how they are going to get their next dose.
They don’t have the resources to put those levels of anxiety and self-absorption aside to be available for someone else – even their children. As such, they literally do NOT feel concern or care at these times.
Even feigning concern may be too much effort – if there is no return.
What return of “acclaim” and “significance” would there be for a parent just doing what a normal parent would do?
Being highly involved with an acquaintance in hospital would be a much better narcissistic supply payoff for a narcissist – because this would be a “charitable deed” “out of the ordinary” and “above the call of duty” rather than just a bland low on narcissistic supply “expected family duty”.
I hope this helps you understand … and can give you some relief.
I know it’s horrendous, shocking and unimaginable to a “normal” human being … but this is not personal, and it doesn’t mean your children are not of value or are not worth loving.
The narcissist’s behaviour does not define your children – even though you may think it does.
It is up to you to make sure as the healthy parent that your children know they are worthy and of value regardless of how someone – even their incapable parent – treats them.
When you stop being so dismayed by the narcissist’s lack of resources – so will your children.
It is what it is … you cannot force someone to do something that they simply do not have the resources to do. But what YOU can change is how you chose to feel about it and then you will change how you react to it.
That’s the healing goal for you and your children.
I hope that this article has helped explain why narcissists don’t care, and please know if you have circumstances regarding “non-caring” that you feel wasn’t covered off in this article – I have written previous articles that I think can help …
I have said it many times and I will say it again – that the whole enigma of narcissistic abuse can be peeled back to one certain fact …
Narcissists detect our weak spots, and they appeal to us as if they are going to relieve us of these fears, and they end up being the deliverer of even more pain on that original wound.
And a very strange phenomenon happens with us … that is NOT logical …
Rather than pull away from someone who delivers more of what has always hurt us, our unconscious tendencies are to cling harder.
What we don’t realise that we are doing is trying THIS TIME to make the original person do it differently.
We are trying to unconsciously re-write our painful history.
The truth for all of us is – when we are hooked to someone when all logic says we shouldn’t be – there is a deeper reason.
These are unhealed wound within us, that match exactly what the narcissist delivers to us (the abuse).
Until we resolve these wounds, we are hooked to the narcissist trying to force him / her to resolve it. Of course all of this is going on unconsciously and is incredibly powerful.
This is what trying to work it out cognitively can’t address or reach in a way that frees us from the original wound and then the narcissist.
It isn’t until we resolve the original wound that we come out of the trance and the powerful emotional drivers that keep us hooked.
Next week in Part 2 we are going to deeply investigate … how, when we have been narcissistically abused, to pull away and care for ourselves.
I look forward to answering your comments and question as always!
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