In reality, losing everything can be emotionally devastating to anyone whether they have a personality disorder like narcissism or not. However, the difference between narcissists and normal people is that a narcissist’s whole identity, self-worth, happiness, or even mental health can depend on external factors such as their wealth or popularity. This means that for some narcissists, the only reason why they feel like worthy human beings is because of what they own or what they achieved
So what do you think will happen if such a person lost everything? How will they react, and how will it change their personality?
Here’s what happens when a narcissist loses everything
1. At first, they will be in denial
If losing everything happened suddenly rather than happening gradually, the narcissist will find it hard to accept the new reality. He will try to convince himself that what happened was just a temporary problem and everything will get back to normal soon.
At this stage you may not notice any significant change in the narcissist’s temper and personality simply because they still believe that they still have everything.
2. His ego will get crushed and his self-esteem will follow
What’s the difference between an inflated ego and a high self-esteem anyway?. In simple terms, a person who has an inflated ego is a person who has an exaggerated opinion about their own importance. In other words, they think that they are more important than everybody else. On the other hand a person who has high self-esteem is a person who believes that he is worthy, lovable, important, and capable of dealing with problems. High self-esteem is healthy while an inflated ego is not.
Let’s say a narcissist develops a big ego after accumulating wealth and becoming popular. His ego will be built on these two things. What do you think will happen if he lost those two things? As you might have already guessed, his ego will get crushed and he will start feeling worthless. However, this does not mean that he will start being submissive or humble. Actually the opposite might happen.
3. They may become very abusive
As I mentioned above a crushed ego doesn’t make a narcissist humble. In some of my previous articles, I said that a narcissist who has lost control over his own life usually turns into a control freak. He will try to control his partner or anyone close to him through criticism, gaslighting, or even physical abuse in order to feel in control once again.
When a narcissist has lost everything, they will be experiencing deep anger and frustration. While a normal person will channel these negative emotions towards the real problem, a mentally unstable person usually directs these emotions to those close to him, especially his partner or children. See: why do narcissists blame you for everything.
4. They may develop a bad habit or an addiction
When you have a headache and take a painkiller, the headache disappears. Similarly, when some people have emotional pain or stress and drink alcohol or drugs, the emotional pain disappears, but temporarily. Most of the time, people don’t get addicted to drugs and alcohol just because of the addictive substances but rather they become addicts because of the emotional pain they are experiencing in their life.
When a narcissist loses everything, they may develop a bad habit such as heavy drinking. gambling or binge eating, in order to numb the pain and escape from the problem temporarily.
5. They will be extremely sensitive
When a person is already experiencing a certain bad emotion, they become extremely intolerant of anything that may trigger the same emotion. For example, when you are so stressed, maybe because you have a lot of work to do, you may find even a little noise so irritating.
A narcissist who has lost everything will be experiencing a lot of negative emotions including shame and anger. This may make them so impatient and hostile. If you’re dealing with such a narcissist, you should avoid criticizing them, even if it was constructive criticism.
6. They may start feeling empathy
This might sound contradicting to what I said in the points above but that’s because human psychology is anything but linear. For example, when you are depressed, you might find yourself binge eating and gaining weight. But other times, you might lack appetite and lose weight when you are experiencing the same amount of depression.
While narcissists are likely to have hostile behavior when they are facing a serious life problem, they can also react in the exact opposite way when they are facing the same problem. If the narcissist believed that people who are not rich are stupid and incompetent and suddenly found himself in the same situation, he might develop empathy and become humble. After all, empathy is the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes. In my article: Do narcissists ever feel guilty, I said that narcissists are capable of feeling guilty and have empathy provided that their defense mechanism is not active at the moment.