Explained: Why Narcissists Hate to See You Happy

covert narcissism i'm in the relationship narcissistic abuse narcissistic relationships understanding narcissism Jun 11, 2024

What if I told you that narcissists actively teach those around them not to be happy? Well, they do. The loss of joy is one of the most devastating effects of narcissistic abuse.

In this blog, I’m going to explain why narcissists can’t stand to see you happy, and the things they do to try to rob you of your happiness. At the end of this blog, I’ll share the practices my clients and I have used to protect and regain happiness. So make sure to stick around.

Before I jump into our topic for today, I always want to take a moment to clarify what I mean when I use the term “narcissist.” We hear this term a lot. It seems that everyone, left, right and center is a narcissist. However, when I refer to a narcissist, I’m referring to someone who chronically demonstrates not one, not two, but multiple narcissistic traits such as grandiosity, a sense of superiority, a willingness to use others for their gain, vindictiveness, irrational suspicion, a lack of empathy, an obsession with success, power or beauty and so on.

A narcissist’s entire mode of life is built on an unstable emotional foundation, resulting in the consistent manifestation of narcissistic tendencies throughout their life. To learn more about narcissism you can download my free ebook on the 7 signs of a narcissist here.

So let’s get into it!

Why Narcissists Hate to See You Happy

Why do narcissists hate to see you happy? The answer to this question is twofold. 

Reason # 1 Your Happiness Threatens Their Control

The first reason that narcissists can’t stand you being happy is that it threatens their control over you. Let me explain:

People who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder never fully develop their ability to emotionally regulate themselves. Because of this, they depend on other people, and outside circumstances to regulate their emotions. Since they can’t control their emotions from within, they try to control the emotions of the people around them. That’s why narcissists are so manipulative. They use all sorts of tactics to manipulate their way to the center of your life so that they can use you for their emotional needs.

When you find sources of joy, happiness, and fulfillment that the narcissist cannot control, they feel threatened. To them, your happiness is a sign that they are not fully in control of you and that they may lose the ability to regulate themselves through you.

Unfortunately, your happiness and the narcissist’s need to control you are mutually exclusive. That’s because control works through fear. Narcissists shape their relationships with cycles of love-bombing and withdrawal so that you live in constant fear of losing connection with them. They use manipulative tactics like the silent treatment, rage, threats, and more to instill fear in you. If you are constantly walking on eggshells, hoping to avoid triggering another episode, or living in constant fear of being emotionally or physically abandoned by the narcissist, they can be pretty sure you won’t leave them. Through this system of good times and bad times, doting and withdrawal, praise and punishment, the narcissist teaches you that as long as you fulfill their emotional needs, you can stay on their good side.

However, when you find sources of happiness, joy, or fulfillment that don’t depend on the narcissist, you are less vulnerable to the threat of the narcissist’s withdrawal. Your happiness is a declaration that life is big, bigger than the narcissist. Your passions and hobbies are a commitment to yourself, to the God-given ability to be curious, to learn, and to continue growing. Unfortunately, however, to the narcissist, this sets off all kinds of warning signs that you do not depend on them for emotional fulfillment like they depend on you. To regain control, and to teach you that being happy isn’t safe, the narcissist may make a habit of having rageful outbursts, silent treatments, or depressed episodes when you express happiness.

Reason # 2: Your Happiness Highlights Their Own Insecurities:

The second reason that narcissists can’t tolerate your happiness is that your happiness highlights their own insecurities. 

Although overt narcissists present themselves as grandiose, they are deeply fragile. Underneath the facade of superiority and future faking, they are incredibly insecure. To feel successful, they constantly compare themselves with others and they can’t afford to come out lacking. So, they find all kinds of ways to discount, minimize, and devalue the success, strengths, and happiness of other people. 

This can happen in many different ways, but here are a couple examples:

  • A child celebrates getting a merit-based scholarship, but the narcissistic parent berates them for not getting a larger amount.
  • A narcissistic partner responding to news of a promotion with “Well, it’s about time,” “I guess they must be lowering the standards over there,” or “Wow! Amazing you managed to persuade them you were worth it.” 

You get the idea. They might bring up irrelevant failures, or other difficulties you are facing to distract from your success.

Covert narcissists may respond in more subtle ways, trying to instill guilt in you for being happy or undermining your self-confidence. A covert narcissist may respond to your happiness with a lament of their own misfortune. They may indirectly guilt you for being happy when they are not and demand that you show loyalty and love by being just as miserable as they are.

Imagine this: You achieve a fitness goal and share it with the covert narcissist. But instead of truly celebrating you, the covert narcissist might distract from the achievement and try to undermine your confidence with phrases like, “Are you sure that’s healthy? It’s not like you’re naturally strong. Make sure not to injure yourself.” Or “You’re not going to quit now that you made an achievement, right? Not like you did last time?” or “That’s cool. But honestly, you’re still an amateur. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not such a big deal.”

In another situation, picture a coworker who presents a good idea at a team meeting, but after the team meeting, a covert narcissistic colleague comments: “I was surprised you had the courage to speak up since you’re just an assistant manager.” Or “Thanks for speaking up even though you don’t have much experience around here. It’s nice that you are willing to contribute to the conversation when the more qualified coworkers aren’t pulling their weight.” See how both examples subtly change the subject from an achievement to a criticism. Hearing this kind of response is discouraging. 

Both overt and covert narcissists use tactics like these to distract from your happiness and make you feel guilty for or unworthy of being happy. Regardless of how openly a narcissist undermines your happiness, over time, your neurological system and your subconscious mind learn that being happy isn’t a good idea. And so, with time, your body shuts down the happiness emotion.

Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies for narcissists is that from their perspective, relationships are competition. Either relationships serve their interest, or they are a loss. It has to be incredibly lonely to live that way, and to miss out on the joy of celebrating other people.

When the Narcissist Tries To Make You Happy

Now, you may be thinking about times when the narcissist has been very generous to you, giving gifts, and lots of affirmation. They tell you how wonderful and capable you are. During those good days, they seem to want to contribute to your happiness. What’s going on then?

This is called love-bombing. During this phase of the cycle of narcissistic relationships, the narcissist may go to great lengths to make you happy. However, what they are really trying to accomplish is to become your main source of happiness. If they are your main source of affirmation and happiness, it makes their withdrawal from you even more shocking and painful. This then gives them more control.

On the other hand, if you have ended a relationship with a narcissist, you may find that during the hoovering stage, they emphasize their desire to see you happy. However, when you definitively state that your happiness does not include them, they are no longer so benevolent.

How to Protect Your Happiness While in a Narcissistic Relationship

So what can you do? Whether you are at the beginning of a relationship where you can feel your partner trying to become the center of your emotions, or you are being punished for your happiness, or you have ended a toxic relationship but can’t seem to find joy, these are some practices that I and the many men and women I have worked with have used to rebuild joy.

#1 Find Other People Who Celebrate You.

Fear and control work best when you are isolated. Do not allow the narcissist to cut you off from people who know and celebrate you. If you don’t have that community yet, seek it out. These might be friends from church, moms from your kid’s school, colleagues who know just how smart and capable you are, a gym buddy who is there cheering on your every rep and celebrating every set, or for a season that might be a professional therapist or counselor who can support you as you build other healthy relationships.

Share your wins with these people who can celebrate with you, and who will encourage you towards your goals. Don’t allow the narcissist to become your only source of validation. 

# 2 Keep a Record of Your Wins.

Keep a record of your wins, achievements, and happy moments in a journal. Narcissists can use all sorts of manipulative tactics to minimize, distract from, or even reverse the things that bring you joy. Over time, this results in a loss of identity. Many of the victims of narcissistic abuse that I’ve worked with have a hard time remembering what they enjoy doing. They struggle to feel joy when they do achieve their goals. These are all the side effects of having your joy undermined by a narcissist.

In constant gaslighting and minimization, it is important to have written proof that you can be happy and that you are worth being happy. These records remind you that, no matter what the narcissist says, there are things you have achieved, can achieve, and will achieve that are worth celebrating. If you can’t think of anything to write down for now, try asking a friend to help you start off.

# 3 Spend Time in Worship

The Bible says that the greatest source of joy is in Jesus Christ. In John 15:11, Jesus says, “I came that your joy may be full.” In Psalms 4:7, the psalmist says, “ You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season when the grain and wine increased.” Isn’t that beautiful? God’s joy is so big and unlimited that it completely outshines the joy that comes from natural success. And he’s willing to share that joy with us. Throughout scripture, we see people find that joy in many different ways: through meditation on the scripture, through prayer, through worship, dance, and song. How you worship isn’t the point, what matters is that all these expressions are focused on being in the presence of God, where there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11)

# 4 Don’t Try to Change the Narcissist

Unfortunately, no matter how much we try, we cannot change another person. Don’t sacrifice your happiness by trying to convince the narcissist to be happy with you. It’s natural and normal to grieve that they are unable to share in your joy. However, don’t let them steal all your energy as you try to make them happy. 

# 5 Practice Gratitude

As cliché as it might be, practice gratitude. Set a daily reminder on your phone to list 5 things you are grateful for. Practice turning observations into explicit thankfulness. For example, when you check the weather, and it’s lovely, don’t stop at the observation; take a moment to think, or even better, say out loud, “Thank you, God, for such a beautiful day.” Or “I’m so grateful to have the sun on my skin today.” With time, this will become more natural, and gratitude will slowly plant the seeds of joy in your mind.

# 6 See Happiness as a Habit

Emotions are like muscles. The more we use one emotion, the easier it is to rely on. When we haven’t used our happy muscle in a long time, it can take a while to train it back up to the strength it used to have. Don’t rush the process. Just like you would need to be consistent at the gym with safe weights, don’t try to force yourself to be happy all the time all of a sudden. The speed of your healing is not a reflection on your character or your worth. Be patient with yourself as you rebuild happiness.

Related Resources

  • How to Stay Your Course in the Face of Manipulation [Watch]
  • Top 10 Mind Games that Narcissists Play to Throw You Off Balance and Control You [Watch] [Read]
  • Scapegoat Supply: Why Narcissists Obsessively Depend on Scapegoats to Maintain Their Image [Watch] [Read]
  • Fake Apologies and How to Spot Them: 5 Ways Manipulative People Apologize [Watch]
  • Deceptive Apologies. 5 Crafty Ways Narcissists Try to Make You Think They're Sorry [Watch]
  • Narcissistic Rage in the Bible. What Triggers Narcissistic Rage? It Is Not About You. [Watch] [Read]
  • When Narcissistic Rage Becomes Dangerous. How Do You Protect Yourself without Dishonoring God? [Watch] [Read]

Downloadable Resources 

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