The Image and the Real Person
When interacting with a narcissist, how could one ever tell, at any given moment, whether one was interacting with the IMAGE, or with the REAL PERSON? Or is it ALWAYS the image that one interacts with, and NEVER the real person?
The short and the long of it is that one always interacts with the False Self (=the Image, in your question) and not with the True Self or (luckily) with the Superego (=the "real man", to use your coinage).
The latter emerge and become observable and discernible only in times of severe stress induced by life crises. The maintenance of the False Self is so demanding and takes up so much energy that it crumbles when that energy is used up by another situation.
A much more detailed description can be found in: "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited".
Staff, H. (2008, November 9). The Image and the Real Person, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/personality-disorders/malignant-self-love/image-and-the-real-person