Excerpts from the Archives of the Narcissism List - Part 6
Listowner: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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1. Narcissists and Ego Dystony
Recent, very surprising, research, shows that narcissists sometimes are ego-dystonic. Mostly they don't care about it, they consider it part of their uniqueness. But many narcissists do develop permanent "ego-dystony" (in human-speak: they constantly feel bad about themselves and their behaviour). But the narcissist feels that people are simply not worth the effort. The narcissist's time is of cosmic significance and should not be wasted on such trivia. Also, his narcissism is part of what makes him unique and he will not give it up easily. The narcissist brags of his insensitivity, lack of empathy, lack of emotions, "resilience", "character strength". He deplores "whining" and over-emoting ("histrionics"). This is part of his self definition.
2. VoNPD (Victims of NPD)
Victims of NPD experience shame and anger for their past helplessness and submissiveness.
They are hurt and sensitized by the harrowing experience of sharing a simulated existence with a simulated person, the narcissist.
They are scarred.
Some of them lash at others, offsetting their frustration with aggression (a classic mechanism).
Like his disorder, the narcissist is all-pervasive. Being the victim of a narcissist is a condition no less pernicious than being a narcissist. Great efforts are required to leave a narcissist and physical separation is only the first step. One can abandon a narcissist -but the narcissist is slow to abandon its victims. It is there, lurking, rendering existence unreal, twisting and distorting with no respite, an inner, remorseless voice, lacking in compassion and empathy for its victim. And the narcissist is there spiritually long after it has vanished physically.
This is the real danger that the victims of the narcissist face: that they will become like him, bitter, self-centered, lacking in empathy. This is the last bow of the narcissist, his curtain call, by proxy, as it were.
Stay away from the narcissist inside you - it is far more dangerous than the ones from without.
3. Surrounded by Inferiors
The narcissist does tend to surround himself and interact with his inferiors. This is the safest and fastest way to sustaining his grandiose fantasies of superiority, omnipotence and omniscience, brilliance, ideal traits, perfection and so on.
Humans are interchangeable and the narcissist anyhow does not distinguish one individual from another. To him they are all inanimate parts of "his audience" whose job is to reflect his False Self. This generates a perpetual and permanent cognitive dissonance:
The narcissist despises the very people who sustain his ego boundaries and functions. He cannot respect people so expressly and clearly inferior to him - yet he can never associate with people evidently on his level or superior to him, the risk to his self esteem being too high. Equipped with a fragile ego, precariously teetering on the brink of narcissistic injury - the narcissist prefers the safe route of associating with his inferiors. But he feels contempt to himself and to others for having preferred it.
4. Narcissists Hurting Others
Some NPDs are ALSO antisocial PDs (AsPDs) and / or sadists and so enjoy hurting others (mostly during sex but also without it).
Antisocials (psychopaths) don't really ENJOY hurting others - they simply don't care one way or the other. But sadists do enjoy it.
"Pure" NPDs do not enjoy hurting others - but they do enjoy the sensation of omnipotence, unlimited power, and the validation of their grandiose fantasies when they hurt others or are in the position to do so. It is more the POTENTIAL to hurt others than the actual act that turns them on.
5. Narcissists and Art
A narcissist would find it difficult to enjoy the emotional content, message and context of a work of art. This is because narcissists lack empathy. They are unable to put themselves in other people's "shoes". They are like islands with all lines of communications cut, with giant mirrors in which the islanders are reflected.
The narcissist will very likely appreciate a work of art in terms of its influence, technical mastery, monetary value, rarity, and other external aspects.
A narcissist will NOT accept criticism good-humoredly. A narcissistic artist will expect only praise and if criticised, he will belittle and devalue the critics, feel misunderstood, a giant in a land of Lilliputians, wronged and abused. He will react violently and aggressively and maybe stop creating altogether.
Producing a work of art IS working to the benefit of mankind. Does a narcissistic artist INTEND to benefit mankind with his work? To this the answer is an unequivocal NO. The narcissist is interested ONLY in ONE thing: narcissistic supply. If he can obtain it by creating art - he will. It's simply another way of obtaining his drug. In most cases, he is not even emotionally involved in what he does.
6. Narcissists are Misogynists
Narcissists are misogynists. To them women as mere Sources of SNS (Secondary Narcissistic Supply). The feminine chores are to accumulate past NS and release it in an orderly manner, so as to regulate the fluctuating flow of Primary Supply. Otherwise, cerebral narcissists are not interested in women. Most of them (myself included) are a-sexual (engage in sexual acts very rarely, if at all). They hold women in contempt and abhor the thought of being really intimate with them. Usually, they choose submissive women, well below their level, to perform these functions. This leads to a vicious cycle of neediness, self contempt (how come I need this inferior woman), and abuse directed at the woman. When Primary NS is available - the woman is hardly tolerated, as one would reluctantly pay the premium of an insurance policy in good times.
Now, this would hardly constitute an attraction to a "sexy, smart and powerful woman" would it?
7. Narcissists and Group Therapy
Narcissists are notoriously unsuitable for group activities of ANY kind, let alone group therapy. They immediately size up others as potential Sources of Narcissistic Supply - or potential competitors for such. They idealise the first (suppliers) and devalue the latter (competitors). This, obviously, is not very conducive to group therapy.
Moreover, the dynamic of the group is bound to reflect the combined dynamics of its members. Narcissists are individualists. They regard coalitions with disdain and contempt. The need to resort to coalitions is perceived by them to be humiliating and degrading (a contemptible weakness). Thus, the group is likely to fluctuate between short term, very small size, coalitions (undermined by "superiority" and contempt) and outbreaks (acting outs) of rage and coercion.
8. Degrees of Narcissism
Pathological narcissism occurs in varying degrees and its culmination is "full criteria NPD" - a narcissist who responds to all the criteria in the DSM-IV.
There is a story about Buddha. He was walking with his disciples and saw a butterfly. "Are we the butterfly's dream" - he asked his disciples. Put differently by others, the question became: "Are we dreaming that we are awake?". My life is like a long dream (or nightmare) interrupted by short awakenings (only one or two hitherto). I am not sure whether I am the subject of my dream or whether my dream is dreamt by me. This is an existential fog which is difficult to penetrate.
Recent research discovered that NPDs are less ego-syntonic than thought before. In other words, they don't feel that great most of the time and even have something like a conscience. The way to make a narcissist respond to your wish is to present it either as an intellectual challenge (no cerebral narcissist can resist that) - or as a plea for help. YOU are in need of help and you ask your omnipotent, omniscient narcissist to help you. Make it that something is wrong with YOU (you feel bad, you want to understand him or, better still, yourself) and you need his help and collaboration (for instance, in going to marital therapy).
Narcissists are very easy to dupe because they constantly try to dupe others. The most gullible and suggestible people on earth are con-artists. Living in a world of lie is bi-directional, the liar loses his grip on reality at least as much as the person being lied to.
Narcissists of ALL shades can usually control their behavior and actions. They simply don't want to, they regard it as a waste of their precious time, a degradation. The narcissist feels both superior and entitled - regardless of his real gifts or achievements. To narcissists, all others are their inferiors, their slaves, there to cater to their needs and make their existence seamless, flowing and smooth. The narcissist feels cosmically significant and he must be accorded the conditions needed for him to realize his talents and to successfully complete his mission (which changes fluidly and of which he has no clue except that it has to do with brilliance and ideal something).
This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"
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What narcissists CANNOT control is the void in their midst, the emotional black hole, the fact that they don't know what it is like to be human (they lack empathy). As a result, they are awkward, tactless, painful, taciturn, and abrasive.
9. Narcissism and Evil (2)
Narcissists are "evil" in an absent-minded, indifferent manner. It is not that they occupy Transylvanian castles, or plot to gorge on the blood of the innocent. They wound and hurt as a by-product of their firm belief that they are unique, that they deserve more and better, that they should not be subjected to other people's laws and should no be consumed by the mundane. Others to them are mere pawns, tools in the cosmically significant chessboard of their lives. In other words: dispensable. Narcissists are addicted to the Narcissistic Supply provided by crowds and by exerting authority. Narcissism drives the narcissistically afflicted to achievements. In their pursuit of Narcissistic Supply, narcissists will do anything - even benefit humanity.
10. Why Do Narcissists Exist?
No one knows if there is a genetic propensity or predisposition to becoming a narcissist. But one asks "why do they exist at all".
There are two possibilities:
To some extent narcissism thrives more easily and is accepted more readily in societies with a specific profile. This is Lasch's main thesis regarding the American society (see: http://samvak.tripod.com/lasch.html).
My solution is different and more humane: educate people to beware of narcissists. Safe sex prevents AIDS or minimises its prevalence. A Safe Emotions Regime (if you fall in love perhaps you love to fall - that is if you fall in love too fast and too indiscriminately). Teach people how to identify narcissists, how to cope with them, how to avoid them, how to divorce them. This is also a more practical approach.
11. I am Very Sad
I am very sad most of the time if I am not busy. It is not the superficial sadness of satiated people after a good meal. It is not the existential threat of depression. It is a foggy haze, a curtain behind which everything looks yellow and aged, liked crumpled, liver-stained photos. When my ex-wife left me (I was in jail), all my defences fell apart and I FELT - for the first time in my life I felt in colour. I wanted to die, the pain was so consuming, so all-pervasive. But instead of dying, I wrote dozens of very emotional short stories which won prizes and praises. It spilled over into another book and then I felt the walls closing in again, like living through a film scrolled backwards. I ossified in stages: first a hand, a leg, my neck. Like a perverse Galathea, I went from life to stone, a speechless Pygmalion. I was emotionless again, my world in shades of gray as before, with only dim memories of colour. In those last minutes of emotional sanity, I wrote "Malignant Self Love", engulfed by the harrowing realization that I am dying once more.
Did you see the play "The White Mouse"? A retarded person is transformed into a genius under the influence of a miraculous substance. When the influence wanes, he reverts to idiocy but with the added cruelty of KNOWING it. In "Awakenings" by Sachs, patients are awakened after decades of disease-induced lethargy only to discover that they are receding again into the same sculpture-like state. I felt that way and I wanted to leave a testimonial behind. This testimony is my book.
12. The Narcissistic Hunt
Your friend didn't "go" from any phase to any other phase. He didn't change at all. He was simply pretending, lying, putting on his best face to get you hooked. For some reason, you represented Narcissistic Supply to him. It was crucial for him to get his supply from you - so he set out to do it. Narcissists are relentless exterminators when it comes to obtaining supply. Deep inside they are misanthropes and, if men, mostly misogynists. They hate the fact that they are dependent on others for sustenance, that they stand to crumble if not supplied properly, that they are mere reflections. They resent it. So, they are critical, contemptuous, insulting, and lack any empathy. BUT when they are out to get you, they can be the MOST charming, stunning, captivating, wonderfully-sensitive things. It is THE great deception. And you are not the first person to fall prey to it - nor, I am afraid, the last one. OF COURSE he lost all interest to you. Why should he invest his scarce and cosmically significant resources in a has-been Source of Supply?
And THIS is the victimisation process. This sudden loss of interest, respect, "love", sensitivity and compassion. The transparentisation of the "meaningful" other. The dawning and shocking realisation that you have been used and ab-used and mis-used, that you were no better than any domestic appliance to him. Becoming an object is what drives the victims to near insanity.
To avoid a proliferation of "he/she", I will use "it" to denote a unisex narcissist.
Didn't you feel something was wrong from the very first minute when it couldn't stop talking about itself, bragging, outlining grandiose schemes, and ignoring you altogether?
Couldn't you penetrate the torrential charm, the incisive intelligence, the baby face, the "need to be protected", the "no one understands me" facade?
Didn't you ask yourself "is this for real" with growing intensity?
Weren't you repelled and upset by its haughtiness, venomous diatribes, constant criticism, self pity and "ne'er do wrong" attitude?
Didn't you sense that it was vacuous despite its academic degrees, vain despite its professed modesty, vicious despite its exhibitionistic altruism?
Ever wonder why it humiliates and then melts into a saccharinic show of unbearable sentimentality?
Had you no suspicion that something was awfully wrong when it exhibited abnormal attachment to Mommy/Daddy?
Did you feel that you had to compete and do battle to gain minimal acknowledgement, a modicum of attention, a fleeting (insincere, absent-minded) smile?
Then WHY, on earth, WHY did you stay?
WHAT were you looking for and how can you be convinced that you did not get it?
14. Unified Dysfunction Theory
Ever since Freud and Josef Breuer there has been an overt effort to "scientify" psychology. Freud - a medical doctor (neuorology, as it was known then) tried to invent a "physics of the mind" with structures and drives in lieu of molecules and forces in Newtonian mechanics (a.k.a. "Psychodynamics"). He used "scientific" language and believed that he was "objectifying" the subjective (=analysis).
Psychology and psychologists are beset by an inferiority complex given to them by physicists. They also want to be considered "an accurate science" with predictions, falsifications, repeatable experiments, the whole smorgasbord of respectability (not to mention budgets and prestige). Just compare the status of physicists and psychologists in courts of law...
So, when quantum mechanics developed - there was a movement of "quantum and the mind" or the mind as a physical field. Now, in physics, physicists are self-importantly discussing the next illusion of grandeur (=narcissistic grandiose fantasy): TOE - A Theory of Everything (formerly known as a Unified Field Theory). Immediately the ugly, statistical, stepdaughter, psychology, also wants to have a TOE. What life does a discipline have without a TOE of its own? In comes the "Unified Dysfunction Theory" (which - on pure philosophical grounds - is impossible as long as the psychophysical problem has not been solved).
Humans are not atoms. The brain is more complex than any cluster of galaxies. The processes of energy conversion in the body far outweigh in complexity anything happening in the stars, to mention but one basic issue. We know very little about the brain (contrary to scientific claims. There are texts from 1900 which claimed as confidently that we know everything there is to know about the brain). We know even less about mental processes. Psychology is made up of one third fairy tales (psychoanalysis), one third educated guesses (object relations, behaviorism), one third prejudices and superstitions and some primitive ability to manipulate moods (psychopharmacology). Psychology today is where physics was when Plato was roaming the Earth. One should not succumb so lightly to the proposition of a unified theory pertaining to such a little understood phenomena and based on such fragmented knowledge.
15. Humbling Oneself
I recommend to you to HUMBLE yourselves. This way, you will not only be offering NS (which WILL be rejected if the source is "wrong") - but also vindication and validation of the PERSONAL MYTHOLOGY of the narcissist as a giant, misunderstood and wronged by the Lilliputians. The combination is irresistible and the narcissist will easily fall into this double trap.
16. The Time before Narcissism
That a condition has a beginning does not necessarily mean that it has an end. That its roots can be traced does not imply that it can be uprooted. Not only do I remember a time without narcissism (up to the age of 4, I believe) - but I remember INVENTING the d**n thing. I remember creating narratives of omnipotence, of brilliance and ideal heroism in which I was either the main character or able to manipulate the main character.
How was the time before narcissism? Terrorizing, unpredictable, arbitrary, violent, capricious, unjust. I hated it. I still do.
I would be surprised to learn that a complex, interacting set of behaviour and reaction patterns (known as personality) can be the result of a single biochemical or genetic cause, though.
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