One of the great sources of distress in people’s lives is that we don’t get to be the narrator of other people’s stories about us. That we don’t get to control what other people are thinking and saying about how we are, what we do, and the kind of person we are.
We’ve all been there in some way at some point.
“If he really knew me he’d like me.”
“If they’d understood what I meant by that joke they wouldn’t have gotten offended.”
“If she could see my heart and my intentions she’d understand why I did what I did.”
“No no, that’s not what happened; they’re getting it all wrong and it’s making me look like the bad guy.”
It’s pretty normal to feel misunderstood or mischaracterized by the people in our lives from time to time. But there are some people who take that experience to very unhealthy extremes and respond to it in very unhealthy ways.
People with an underdeveloped sense of empathy, like those with narcissistic and antisocial personality disorders, don’t experience other human beings the way normal people do. To whatever extent they lack empathy for others, they see them not as sovereign people but as tools to be used to get whatever it is they want, whether that’s power, wealth, sex, respect, etc.