Why Narcissists Don't Pay Attention

Updated on December 14, 2017
SinDelle profile image

The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach and specialist in cluster B personality disorders.

You've probably noticed that narcissists seem to have pretty bad memories. They don't remember what you said or anything about you at all. They don't seem to remember that you were ever nice to them, that you ever did anything for them, and they certainly don't remember anything they did wrong. Some of this is just lying, but some of it is because they really don't remember these things.

One reason for this is because, without getting too technical here, the way their brains process information is different than the way non-narcissistic people process information. Their brains perceive almost everything as negative and threatening, therefore, they often don't realize good things have happened and, consequently, don't remember them that way—if they remember them at all. With most narcissists, if something does not fit into their all-negative perception of the world, it simply doesn't compute. It is not processed at all. It's often discounted or ignored completely. This is why, if a positive experience does manage to get through and be understood as a positive experience, they will often seem genuinely shocked by it, as if they cannot believe any good people exist. This is also why experiences that are perceived as positive or neutral one day will be "re-evaluated" as negative later.

This particular thing has to do with their emotions. Emotions run a narcissist's life, for the most part. They believe feelings are facts. It is the lens through which they perceive everything. Most of their emotions are negative, therefore so are most of their perceptions and consequently, their experiences. Someone asked me once if narcissists had positive experiences to counter-act the bad ones, couldn't that change their perception? My answer was that the problem isn't that narcissists don't have positive experiences. The problem is that they don't recognize them. The perception of the problem is the problem, in other words.

Now, most people's perception is colored by their experiences and things like that, but unlike narcissists, it's not completely clouded and controlled by these things. Most people don't rearrange events in their external reality to make them agree with their internal emotions and experiences. Most people will not insist something happened that did not happen just because they feel that's how it went. They won't insist someone is being abusive just because they feel the person doesn't like them. They won't insist someone doesn't care just because they don't care.

For example, most people will not say you are making fun of them or start screaming abuse and how you don't really care when you ask them what's wrong. Most people don't believe everyone in the world is a manipulative liar bent on self-gratification just because they are. This is how narcissists view the world. Whatever they feel, everyone else does too. Every time they look at another person, they are seeing a mirror with themselves reflected in it, either positively or negatively. They don't see another person at all.

This leads us to another reason they seem to have bad memories: because, plainly and simply, they are not listening. They don't remember the specifics of your new job or your son's age because they don't care. If you're not talking about them, they could care less. "But enough about me, what do you think about me?" This is why they often seem so put out when you "bother" them with something unrelated to them. They are. What is going on in their minds is far more interesting than anything you have to say. They don't care for conversation, they don't care for sharing ideas. They care about discussing themselves, and/or winning arguments. That's it.

This is not to say they can't fake it. They can, and some do it really well. For a time. They are often masters at appearing engaged, concerned and attentive when they want to. But it can't last and never does, because they simply have no true interest in anyone but themselves. The majority of them simply need other people around to prop up their non-existant self-esteem and to use as a punching bag. The ones farther down the spectrum toward psychopathy often don't even care about that. The "relationship" with any of these kinds of people is supremely selfish and completely one-sided. They seem like they aren't paying attention because they aren't. They don't care. This is why they might turn the TV up when you're talking, or why in conversations they can simply continue on with what they were saying as if you never even spoke. They don't hear you because they aren't interested in what you're saying. At all.

This can be very hurtful to people and it's hard not to take it personally, because when you care about somebody, blatant dismissal like that is painful. They don't understand why you're upset though. And they most certainly don't care. That's why we say it isn't personal. They'd have to see you as a person for it to be personal. You're there to be used when they need you. You're not supposed to bother them when they don't. Some narcissists get very angry at this intrusion. Who do you think you are, anyway? How dare you disrupt something they're doing with something that isn't about them? How selfish are you? Were they smiling too much for you? Did you see that they were happy and just have to ruin it? This is an unwinnable battle with a person who does not even understand the problem and wouldn't care even if they did. They are by and large not capable of having anything other than parasitic relationships, and you will never be as important to them as they are. Never.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, youmemindbody.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://youmemindbody.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)