Excerpts from the Archives of the Narcissism List - Part 16
Listowner: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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1. Self-Destructing Narcissists
Lately, I am encountering severe opposition to my assertion that narcissists very rarely heal and that - while I AM a VERY insightful and self-aware narcissist - I am far from being "cured"...
The reactions range from mere disbelief to the occasional accusation of ... yet another narcissistic ploy...
I have been aware of my predicament for five years now. Not only am I acquainted with most of the intricate quirks of narcissism - I even have the dubious distinction of coining a few of the phrases. If there is an "enlightened", self-conscious, and insight-ridden narcissist - with all narcissistic grandiosity, it would be me.
So, controlling my impulses, both self-destructive and other-destructive, should be a piece of cake, shouldn't it?
It is not.
Upon my release from jail (1996), I left Israel never to return and proceeded to Macedonia.
When I arrived there, five years ago, it was a corrupt country, ruled by unreformed communists. I organized lectures, seminars, and media events in which I protested against the conduct of the government. I swept the youth and became a real nuisance to the regime. Following threats on my life and the arrest of one of my collaborators I fled Macedonia.
There was a happy ending, though: the ruling party was ousted in the October elections. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade (and, later, Finance) have invited me to serve as an economic consultant.
This offer (to become Economic Advisor) had the following merits, as far as I was concerned:
Instead of accepting this excellent, generous, panacea-like proposal - I rejected it, insulted almost all the members of the government (the PM included) as "corrupt incompetents", turned down the offer rudely, and in a manner humiliating to the offeror, selected a certain figure there and decided that he is my mortal enemy and, in general, succeeded to humiliate, alienate, and distance myself from formerly fervent and zealous admirers of mine. Though I renewed contact with them - their answers to my pleas were so cold and hurt that I felt compelled to resign my position.
On the face of it these can be construed as either anti-narcissistic behaviours or as extreme acts of self-destruction.
But, actually, these are CLASSICAL narcissistic behaviour patterns. They serve to demonstrate that I am VERY far from "healing". Actually, these acts so resemble previous cases in my biography that they represent a major REGRESSION to earlier, more primitive, less controlled, narcissistic behaviours.
Let us see why I did what I did to ruin my only viable chance:
These contraptions serve a dual purpose:
They legitimize self-defeating and self-destructive behaviours by replacing the perceived TARGET of these behaviours. For instance, I told myself and others that I refused to come back because I was afraid of my enemies there and especially of one particular person. That person probably scarcely heard of me and had no reason in the world to be my enemy. But once I singled him out, that was it. I unilaterally judged him to be a vile, corrupt, and dangerous foe and I behaved accordingly by "avoiding" his territory and by trying to undermine him.
The second function is to prospectively legitimize any and all acts and decisions intended to prevent emotional involvement. "Whenever I get (emotionally) involved, I create enemies and hurt myself. So, why should I get involved?" Cloaked in the mantle of "self-preservation" and the pursuit of one's best interest, this kind of reasoning, based on totally fabricated figments of the narcissist's thwarted imagination - leads once more to self-destruction.
This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"
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2. The Fear of Being Loved
I know I am loved by many.
I don't feel loveable at all.
I attribute the FACT that people love me to their stupidity, naiveté, gullibility, ignorance, or pathology.
Had they known me, the REAL me - I assure myself - they would have never been able to love me.
As it is, it is only a question of time before they get to know me better and turn to hatred and repulsion.
So, I am on a constant state of alert, awaiting the inevitable rejection/abandonment and trying to maintain my image (False Self) half-heartedly (this being a doomed effort).
3. Narcissists Feel Deceitful
Narcissists very often feel like criminals. Being, in essence, FAKES, they are deeply convinced of their culpability. They feel as though they are constantly engaged in a major scam, deceiving their nearest and dearest. This conviction stems from the primordial sin of their emotional auto-cide. Prone to neologisms, I invented this word recently to describe the murder of the True Self by its False distant relative. The guilt fostered by this act festers and yields a rich concoction of fear and self-loathing.
Kafka described an inexplicable, arbitrary universe in which punishment is meted out for no apparent crime. The punishment is the trial itself: its indefiniteness, its vagueness, its ambiguity, the equivocation of all of its participants, its rigid structure which serves to cover a void, an emotional black hole, sucking the vitality and functionality of the defendant. This is a typical narcissistic reaction. Narcissists compartmentalize their life.
While upholding sadistically rigid and ideal moral standards in one area (e.g., money) - they are capable of behaving immorally in another area (sex, for instance) while, all the time, claiming the moral high ground.
4. Healing through Hatred
It is more difficult to hate someone because of what he IS - than because of what he DID.
A non-abuser may be deserving of a generalized sort of repulsion or reticence (call it hate, if you wish) - but the abuser DID things to you. He is deserving of a focused, directed, intensive hate.
A tremendous difference.
Philosophically, morally, ethically (and legally) one should not confuse impulses with responsibility.
That we have no control over our actions diminishes our responsibility.
But drives ARE controllable. So are impulses. The control can be primitive (fear) or high level (a moral conviction). Had you really felt that the abuser had no control over what he did, you would not have hated him. That you hate him is PROOF that he had control over his actions. Hate is the direct result of culpability. Do we hate tornadoes? Do we hate sandstorms or avalanches or timely and dignified death? We hate disease because we intuitively feel that there MUST be something we can do or could have done about it. We feel GUILTY. We hate collapsing bridges and train accidents - because they can be PREVENTED. Not perversely, we feel that they are AVOIDABLE.
We hate what could have been prevented by the exercise of judgment, including moral judgment, emotional judgment (love), or rational considerations.
We never hate what no amount of judgment and distinction between right and wrong could have prevented.
The abuser is GUILTY. He could have PREVENTED the abuse. He KNOWINGLY did what he did. He is CULPABLE. You hate him JUSTLY.
Here is a thought experiment:
If someone were to threaten to report the abuser to the police - would he have still committed his acts?
The answer is no, he wouldn't. This means that he could have controlled his actions, given the right incentives (or, rather, disincentives).
Hating yourself is a way of assuming the abuser's guilt. The abused child thinks: A parent can never be guilty. Parents are perfect, above reproach, above vile thoughts. It is prohibited to think badly about a parent. It must be I who is wrong and guilty and corrupt in hating my parents. I should be ashamed of myself.
It is a conflict. It is the confusion that you are experiencing. Especially since you have always been an extension of the parent and hating yourself is, therefore, no real solution.
Very often we feel that perhaps we collaborated with the abusing parent, seduced or tempted or angered or provoked him or her.
This is the crux of your problem. Your inability to distinguish the child that the abuser once was (deserving of pity and empathy) - from the monstrous adult that the abuser became, which is deserving of condemnation, contempt, hate, punishment, repulsion, and reticence. As long as you do not cease confusing these two - you will be immersed in conflict, confusion, and pain. You HAVE to sacrifice the image of your parent if you want to get better. You have to let go. You must hate in order to be able to love again. You must place guilt, blame, rage, contempt where they belong.
You cannot prevent PAST bad things from happening by feeling in the PRESENT.
Understanding, loving, compassion, empathy - must be directed at the deserving. Not to love an Hitler - is NOT EQUAL to fostering a world without feelings. One can HATE and detest Hitler passionately, vehemently, wholeheartedly - and still be loving, compassionate, full of emotions and beauty. Actually I think that hating Hitler is a PRECONDITION to experiencing true feelings. If you do not hate an Hitler something is very wrong with your emotional equipment. If you do not despise a monster - you are INCAPABLE of adult feelings, your emotional intelligence is infantile and immature. Hating an abuser - is a sign of emotional maturity, not of emotional retardation.
It is wrong to UNIVERSALIZE your feelings. Can't you SEGREGATE them? For instance: can't you love your spouse WHILE hating your abusive parent? Must you love EVERYONE, all the time? Are you so terrified of being rejected?
You love monsters. You try to understand abusers. You make excuses for the inexcusable. You mitigate your private holocaust. You legitimize abhorrent crimes. You lie to yourself. You are immorally not in touch with your real emotions. And, this way, you perpetuate your own abuse, your own torture, you collaborate with the terrorists that are and were your family.
I am an Israeli. When we encounter a terrorist with hostages, we kill him first, we ask questions later. NOTHING can justify, mitigate, explain, account for, ameliorate, or alleviate what your parent did to you. I judiciously refrain from using the phrase "what WAS DONE to you". Instead, I repeat the sentence: "What HE DID to you". It was pre-meditated.
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