Masks of a Narcissist

A narcissist's mask refers to the different faces or masks that a narcissist shows in public and to the target, especially at the beginning of a relationship. These different masks are often socially acceptable and ideal, making them seem likable, and the furthest thing from an abusive person. When a narcissist switches masks or their mask slips, their true self is seen, which is often horrifying and different from the person the target knows. Over time, the narcissist's mask slips more often, and the target starts to view the narcissist as having a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" personality or having both kind and abusive sides to themselves.
 
Some masks they wear might be that of the great parent, the God-loving church-goer, the volunteer, the world's best spouse, or the charming and funny person. Those close to the narcissist know that their actions are very different from those of the people they pretend to be.
 
When a narcissist's mask slips, it is usually only the target who sees this, at least at first. The more the narcissist knows their target won't leave, the more often their mask comes off, until they may stop hiding their abusive behavior and become comfortable acting this way in public or in front of friends and family.

When the mask slips

 

When a mask slips or comes off completely, the narcissist's true self, composed of deception, manipulation, and cold, callous, or calculating behavior, is revealed. Many targets are terrified of the person they see when the mask slips and often describe them as dark, terrifying, or evil. At this point, the narcissist may try to get their mask back on and quickly switch back to a friendly, caring person. When their mask continues to slip, which tends to happen if they are being confronted with lie after lie, it's as though they are entirely unraveling. They might go from professions of love to threats of violence to trying to be friendly, to crying, to yelling, to apologizing, to claiming they hear voices or are suicidal, or even that they have cancer. When none of that works and they realize that they have "lost," they become enraged, and there are no more masks. What remains is their complete lack of empathy and remorse and unbridled rage.

Mask of a narcissist.jpg

It can be mind-boggling and terrifying to see a narcissist go from love bombing and professing that you are the love of their life to seeing their mask slip and realizing that they don't love you. They don't even like you and could potentially harm or kill you and feel entitled and justified in doing so.

Examples of the Masks of a Narcissist

Example #1

Raul and Maria had been married for five years. During this time, Raul was charming, likable, and came across to Maria and most other people as the world's greatest husband. However, once they had their first child, Raul became verbally and emotionally abusive. It was like a switch had flipped. Maria had never seen this side of him before, at least not to this extent. At first, she chalked it up to stress about the new baby, but as time went on, his behavior got worse. At Thanksgiving, he began cursing and yelling at her for not cutting the pumpkin pie in the right way. She was embarrassed and ashamed by the scene that he caused and apologized profusely. All of the family and friends who witnessed this scene felt awkward and ended up leaving early. Raul called them all the next day, being his charming, likable self, apologizing for his behavior, and blaming it on holiday stress and alcohol. Everyone except for Maria's aunt Marge, who'd been in an abusive relationship before, was quick to forgive him and seemed impressed with how accountable he was for his behavior. Marge wasn't impressed at all. She was concerned for Maria as she saw right through Raul's mask and fake apology.

 

 

A narcissist will generally take off their mask completely when they realize that their target fully sees them for the manipulative liar that they are. During this time, the target is in the most significant amount of danger, as the narcissist is no longer pretending to care. Even worse, because the narcissist lacks empathy and remorse and feels entitled to treat their target in whatever way they want, things can escalate quickly. When the target sees the emotional manipulator for what they are, they are usually terrified and are concerned they might be in danger.

Example #1

After being married to Raul for seven years, Maria was done. She was tired of riding the roller coaster of his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde moods and enduring the verbal and emotional abuse and apologies that followed. She filed for divorce and served Raul papers. He flew into a rage in front of their neighbors and their children. He didn't even try to hide his abusive behavior. Even though Raul didn't make any direct threats towards her or the children, she was terrified by his actions and the look in his eyes. He had this cold, dark look, and Maria felt she was seeing the devil himself. She'd never seen anything like that before in him or anyone else. She felt like he could kill her and the children and not even think twice about it. After he left the house, she realized she and the children needed to leave immediately and never go back. She called the police to come and do a civil stand-by if Raul came back because she was fearful of being in the house alone with him.

Example #2

After being married to Raul for seven years, Maria was done. She was tired of riding the roller coaster of his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde moods and enduring the verbal and emotional abuse and apologies that followed. She filed for divorce and served Raul papers. He flew into a rage in front of their neighbors and their children. He didn't even try to hide his abusive behavior. Even though Raul didn't make any direct threats towards her or the children, she was terrified by his actions and the look in his eyes. He had this cold, dark look, and Maria felt she was seeing the devil himself. She'd never seen anything like that before in him or anyone else. She felt like he could kill her and the children and not even think twice about it. After he left the house, she realized she and the children needed to leave immediately and never go back. She called the police to come and do a civil stand-by if Raul came back because she was fearful of being in the house alone with him.

Mask of a Narcissist Coming Off