The answer is a resounding YES!!!
Narcisissts are absolutely aware of what they are doing & the damage they cause. And, they are well able to control their actions.
Anyone who has spent time around a narcissist knows that they act entirely differently around people they want to impress versus people they don’t care about impressing. That is painfull obvious. The fact is though that they also are very aware when they have gone too far over the top in their actions.
Recently, I posted about my narcissistic mother’s fake concern, get well card & cookies for my (also narcissistic) mother in-law, even though she knows perfectly well that I haven’t spoken to the woman since 2002 due to her abusive ways. (I posted about that here). This betrayal by my mother & her flaunting it in my face hurt me more than it usually does when she feigns concern for my mother in-law’s failing health. It made me physically sick for over a week. I also ignored the phone several times since then when my mother called, which I normally don’t do. (periodically yes, but not several in a row). Apparently, she noticed, & this made an impression…
I finally took my mother’s call yesterday. She tried to be pleasant. Even attempted to give me a complement. She also mentioned something hurtful her mother told her once. The call was quite odd to say the least. I was thinking about it & I think it was to “apologize” to me for her behavior regarding my mother in-law. She is very aware of when her behavior is too over the top, like most narcissists. Besides, I realized I’ve seen this kind of thing before with my father. At one point, when I didn’t answer his call, he called my cousin who lives 450 miles away & my father in-law looking for me. I was livid & let him know that. After, he began being gentler & kinder with me, & even mirroring me in an attempt to regain my trust.
This is very typical of narcissistic behavior. They know when they have gone just too far, & rather than take responsibility for their behavior & apologize (like normal people), they engage in various behaviors.
- Mirroring: People naturally feel most comfortable with those who share many similiarities. Narcissists will mirror your behavior & likes/dislikes in order to regain your trust. (“See how much alike we are? How can you be mad at me??”)
- Minimizing or temporarily foregoing the criticisms: In order to get you to forgive & forget their bad behavior, they will stifle their nastiness temporarily until they believe you have forgiven them. (“See what I nice person I am? You can’t be mad at me- I’m too nice!”)
- Feigning thoughtfulness: The narcissist will call you to let you know a movie you like is coming on TV shortly, for example. They will perform small acts of showing they were thinking of you to prove how nice they are.
- Giving you distance, respecting your space: For the narcissist who insists on constant attention such as an engulfing narcissistic mother, this is the hardest thing for her to do. However, she will do it if it will get her back in your good graces. If she calls you daily or near daily, she will skip calling for a few days after the incident, then call you, acting much meeker than usual. She will employ one of the above tactics during that conversation. If she believes that you have forgiven/forgotten her, this is the last pleasant conversation you will have with the narcissist. If she believes you’re still upset, the routine will happen repeatedly until she believes you are over what she has done to you.
Always remember- the narcissist in your life upsets you, remember- do NOT tell her! Explaining your hurt feelings to a narcissist only gives them ammunition to hurt you further. However, if you become angry & the narcissist picks up on your feelings, be aware- the games will begin! Remember these things & you can be prepared for what to expect.