Excerpts from the Archives of the Narcissism List - Part 5

Listowner: Dr. Sam Vaknin


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1. Jeffrey Satinover on the Myth of Narcissus

This second version of the Narcissus legend was first told by Pausanias. Jeffrey Satinover in his excellent essay "Puer Aeternus - The Narcissistic Relation to the Self" (he is a Jungian) elaborates:

"The core of Puer (=eternal adolescent - SV) relationships is this: the puer seeks relationships that provide him the kind of reflection he is unable to perform for himself. What appears as extroversion in the puer is not that at all. In effect, the puer does not relate to objects (in the analytic sense); he relates instead to a missing part of himself which he either sees in another or makes another perform. Objects function for the puer primarily as an indirect means of introversion.
(Here Satinover quotes Pausanias and proceeds:)
If we take this myth simply as a reflection of the puer's anima problem, we see right away that he seeks not so much his mother as, through the anima, himself."

2. Pathological Envy

Pathological envy is a strong motive in narcissism. Additionally, to cast themselves in the role of "master" (Jeffrey Satinover's term), narcissists cast others in the roles of disciples. They transform others into patients, assigning to themselves the role of psychiatrist. And so on. Actually, they firmly and fully believe that they are working towards the improvement and personal betterment and welfare of the other (I call it: the "mobilization" of their motives and behaviour). This is why they are shocked when these others "ungratefully" rebel, release themselves from the straight jacket of their assigned "roles" and confront them. They are narcissistically injured to the core when this happens and react with rage and paranoia. It only serves to enforce their belief in an unjust world, far inferior and oblivious to their talents and contributions.

3. Narcissism as Self-Definition

"Victim of a narcissist" is a label that does NOT capture the entirety of the person being thus labeled. But this does not apply to narcissism and by extension to other personality disorders (my view). Being a narcissist DOES capture my ENTIRE existence and being. It permeates every one of my cells. As the DSM so aptly puts it, it is "all pervasive". I experience my illusions of grandeur, for instance, on a second by second basis. I don't have a personality - I have a personality disorder. My very personality is disordered. Every aspect, nook and cranny of my personality is disordered. Can we separate the crookedness of a tree from the tree? No, it is a crooked tree. A personality is not like having a tumor, it is like being a tumor. There are developmental reasons why I say this (see: http://samvak.tripod.com/faq64.html).

4. Narcissistic Ups and Downs

Narcissists do have highs reminiscent of those induced by drugs and associated with the obtaining of Narcissistic Supply. Recent research shows that narcissists do experience periods of "ego dystony" (feeling bad about themselves, their behaviour and what they do to others). But their defence mechanisms are so trained, their personality so rigid - that they revert immediately to their previous existence. I write a lot about narcissistic dysphorias (dysphoria is like a less pervasive depression) in my book and in my websites.

5. Narcissists and the Order of the World

We are conditioned to believe in law, order, justice, cause and effect, and a host of other principles which make our mental world inhabitable. The narcissist replicates the treatment that he received earlier in life. He is unduly and destructively critical, arbitrary, capricious, sadistic and fluctuates between TOTAL idealisation and TOTAL devaluation with no apparent cause.

Sometimes we try to decipher the patterns even in a natural catastrophe. We ask who is to blame, why, who is responsible. We address God, Nature, Science, the Government. A narcissist is a natural catastrophe brought about by a human being. We have an identifiable person, entity to blame. And we demand to know why. Until we are satisfied that the world is a safe, predictable place - how can we continue to live in it? This is the "achievement" of the narcissist: to demonstrate to us that there is no justice, or order, that there are no laws, it's all an arbitrary and cruel game. We have to cope with this (his) worldview, not only with him.

6. Devaluing the Significant Other

Regarding women with whom the narcissist is "intimate" (as he defines intimacy): a woman CAN be a Source of PRIMARY NS - IF and only as long as no intimacy is involved. The moment intimacy - however thwarted and distorted - sets in, the woman is transformed into a Source of Secondary Supply and, thereby, devalued.

Just a reminder:

Primary Narcissistic Supply (NS) - adulation, adoration, attention, affirmation, approbation derived by the narcissist from others (Narcissistic Supply Sources). I wrote dozens of pages on the mechanisms of identification of sources and the derivation of NS thereof.

Secondary Narcissistic Supply - the retention, accumulation, amplification and reflection of PAST Primary NS. This helps the narcissist to regulate his Narcissistic Supply and its ebbs and flows. The source is considered inferior and is often devalued. It is devalued REGARDLESS of objective reality. Even a strong, sexy and highly intelligent woman will be devalued because of her function in the narcissist's universe: a secondary, devaluing function. One cannot hold an instrument in high regard.

7. Should the Narcissist be Held Accountable for his Actions?

I think that the narcissist should be held accountable for most of his actions. The list of what he should NOT be held accountable to is shorter: his rage and his grandiose fantasies. These are two exceptions which could allow us to make the rule clearer.

The narcissist CANNOT control his rage and, therefore, should not be held accountable for it. BUT, if he attacks someone physically, he should be held accountable because:

  1. He can tell right from wrong.
  2. He simply didn't care about the other person sufficiently to refrain from action.

Similarly, the Narcissist cannot "control" his grandiose fantasies. He firmly believes that they constitute an accurate representation of reality. BUT, if he lies about his education, he should be held accountable because:

  1. He knows that lying is wrong and should not be done.
  2. He simply didn't care enough about society and others to refrain from doing so.

Narcissists should be held accountable for most of what they do because they can tell wrong from right AND they can refrain from taking the actions they do take. They simply don't care enough about others to put to good use these twin abilities. A narcissist can be held responsible for some of his actions because he can tell right from wrong and can control most of his actions. He simply doesn't care to do so. Others are not important enough to him.

(continued below)


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8. Narcissists Getting Tired of Their Sources of Supply

There is no mathematical formula which governs this. It depends on numerous variables. Usually, the narcissist persists in the relationship until he "gets used" to the source and the its stimulating effects wear off OR until a better Source of Supply becomes available.

9. Narcissists Put on a Show Regarding Their "Emotions"?

Well, yes, except some basic, primitive emotional modalities, transformations of aggression: rage, pathological envy, hate, sadistic pleasure, masochistic pleasure, fear.

10. Narcissists Facing Their Diagnosis

The narcissist's reaction depends on WHO does the diagnosis. If an unqualified person does it, the narcissist will go into a rage attack, berate the "diagnostician" and devalue him, doubt his qualification, personality, integrity, past and so on. He will become cold and aloof and disconnect from the diagnostician, the former having lost its supply source status by daring to make such a diagnosis. The reaction would be no different to a verbal confrontation unless intimidation is involved. If intimidated, the narcissist will recoil and become submissive, overly sentimental, dependent and idealising.

11. Narcissists and Happy Marriages

All generalisations are false. I discuss the narcissistic couple in one of my FAQs. This is one example of such a happy marriage (when the narcissist teams up with another narcissist of a different kind). Narcissists can be happily married to submissive, subservient, self-deprecating, echoing, mirroring and indiscriminately supportive spouses. They will also do well with masochists. But I find it difficult to imagine that a healthy, normal person would be happy in such a folie a deux ("madness in twosome"). Read about "Inverted Narcissists" here.

Narcissists are rarely influenced by psychotherapy, so I also find it difficult to imagine a benign and sustained influenced of a stable, healthy mate / spouse / partner. One of my FAQs is dedicated to this issue ("The Narcissist's Spouse / Mate / Partner").

BUT

Many a spouse / friend / Mate / Partner like to BELIEVE that - given sufficient time and patience - they will be the ones to release the narcissist from his wrenching bondage. They think that they can "rescue" the narcissist, shield him from his (distorted) self, as it were. The narcissist makes use of this naivete and exploits it to his benefit. The natural protective mechanisms which are provoked in normal people by love - are cold bloodedly used by the narcissist to extract yet more Narcissistic Supply from his writhing victim.

12. Male Narcissists and Women

Narcissists abhor and dread getting emotionally intimate and they regard sex as a maintenance chore, something they have to do in order to keep their Source of Secondary Supply content.

Moreover, many narcissists tend to engage in FRUSTRATING behaviours towards women. They will refrain from having sex with them, tease them and then leave them, resist flirtatious and seductive behaviours and so on. Often, they will invoke the existence of a girlfriend/fiancée/spouse (or boyfriend/etc. - male and female are interchangeable in my texts) as the "reason" why they cannot have sex/develop a relationship. But this is not out of loyalty and fidelity in the empathic and loving sense. This is because they wish (and often succeed) to sadistically frustrate the potential partner.

BUT

This pertains ONLY to cerebral narcissists. NOT to somatic narcissists and HPDs who use their BODY, sex and seduction/flirtation to extract narcissistic supply from others.

13. The Internalised Voice of the Narcissist

We all run constant dialogues inside our heads. We argue and try to convince and apologize and soothe ourselves. All you have to do is identify that OTHER voice. Who are you talking to right now: your parents? your boss? or maybe your narcissist ex? Write down in which circumstances you are having dialogues with her, the contents of the dialogues, their dynamics.

Slowly and gradually, you will discover patterns. Patterns of evasion and self justification and outright lies. Try to avoid these patterns, to invert them, to convert them. After all, these are YOUR dialogues now. Win every argument, mock your ex, and ridicule her positions, expose her narcissistic traits and her preposterous grandiosity. Deprived of Narcissistic Supply, she will vanish in your head as she has done in your life.

14. My Role in the List

My aim is to provide the victims of narcissism with an available figure of transference, with a substitute-narcissist, someone to take it out on. I am happy that you do. BUT this does not mean that I should be mute, deaf and blind. I intend to fight back if I feel that the attacks are uncalled for. By doing so, I hope to restore to you the sense of three-dimensionality of other humans (even narcissists). The narcissists in your lives deprived you of it (or tried to do so).

15. This Paradoxical List...

Narcissists use EVERYTHING at their disposal (logic included) to further their narcissistic causes.

Narcissists are halls of mirrors. No sense applying logic to them. No sense applying empathy, emotions, straight thinking. It's all useless.

This list is the embodiment of the most ancient logical paradox: a liar who reveals himself as such: "I always lie" is an impossible sentence. It is also the premise of this list.

It is through this crude mechanism that I am trying to help you all, victims of narcissism, cope with your past. I allow you to get close to a narcissist - without being harmed. You re-enact your conflicts and resolve them with a real life narcissist - but without the usual risks. I am burning fire - but behind a glass, safely.

16. The Narcissist as Body Snatcher

The narcissist affects his victims by infiltrating their psyche, by penetrating their defenses. Like a virus, it establishes a new strain within his/her victims. It echoes through them, it talks through them, it walks through them. It is like the invasion of the body snatchers. You should be careful to separate your selves from the narcissist inside you, this alien growth, this spiritual cancer that is the result of living with a narcissist. You should be able to tell apart your real you and the YOU assigned to you by the narcissist. To cope with him/her, the narcissist forces you to "walk on eggshells" and develop a false self of your own. It is nothing as elaborate as his False Self - but it is there, in you, as a result of the trauma and abuse inflicted upon you by the narcissist.

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