Excerpts from the Archives of the Narcissism List - Part 29

Listowner: Dr. Sam Vaknin


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1. Here You are, Madam

I was detained for questioning in 1990. I remember the sweaty excitement of the movie-like setting, the "bad cop, good cop" routines and all the time I kept saying to myself "another adventure" and shivering even though it was pretty hot.

When I exited their headquarters after 8 days of 13 hours interrogations, my world was no more. I went back to our office and stared at the theatrical chaos left behind by the police search. The new computers were papered over. Disembowelled drawers lay all over the wall to wall carpets criss-crossed by sun rays and shades. My partners and I sifted through the paper ruins and burned the incriminating evidence on a big stake. After that we calculated the damage, split it between us equally, as we always did and said polite and hushed goodbyes. The company was closed.

It took me three years of social leprosy, rejection and economic malaise to recover. In the absence of sufficient money for a bus fare I walked huge distances to business meetings. People used to stare at the torn and worn soles of my shoes, at the big armpitted salt stains, at my crumpled, badly odd fashioned suits. They said no. They refused to do business with me. I had a bad name which got only worse by the day. Gradually, I learned to stay at home and read the broadsheets. My wife studied photography and music. Her friends were buoyant and vivacious and creative. They all looked so young and ready. I envied her and them and in my envy, I withdrew further until I almost was no more, a fuzzy stain on our shabby leather loveseat, off focus, a bad piece of motion picture, only without the motion.

Then, I established a firm and found myself an office in a low ceilinged attic above a manpower agency. People came and went below. Phones rang and I occupied myself in holding the shreds of my grandiose fantasies together. It was a miracle, an awesome sight, this ability of mine to lie even to myself.

In total denial, cooped there in the shadows of the damp and smelly attic, I was planning my revenge, my comeback, the nightmare that will be my dream.

In 1993 my wife had an affair. I overheard her hesitantly enquiring about a suggested venue. I loved her the way only a narcissist knows how to, the way a junkie loves his drugs. I was attached to her, I idealized and adored her and, sure enough, she lost weight, became a stunningly beautiful woman, mature, talented. I felt as though I invented her, as though she were my creation now desecrated by another. I knew that I lost her long before I found out. I detached myself from the pain that she was, from the envy that she provoked, from the life that she exuded. I was dead and in the manner of the Pharaohs, I wanted her to die with me in my self-constructed tomb.

That night, we had a cold analysis (she crying, I opinionating), an even colder glass of wine each and some decisions reached, to stay together. And we did until I went to jail, two years later. There, in prison, she found the courage to abandon me or to free herself, depending on who tells the story.

In prison, I wrote a book of short stories, mostly about her and about my mother. It is a very painful book, it won awards, very unlike something a narcissist would ever write. It is the closest I ever got to feeling human or alive - and it very nearly killed me.

Propelled by the rude awakening, by blinding pain, that week I teamed up with a former business partner of mine and others and we embarked on a ferocious road which led us to riches in one year. I found an investor and we bought a company owned by the state in a privatization deal. I went on to buy factories, companies. In 12 months I owned my "empire" with an annual turnover of 10 million USD. Business journals were now reporting my activities daily. I felt empty, vacuous.

One weekend, in a luxurious hotel in Eilat, the southern sea resort in Israel, naked, glistening with sweat and ointments, we agreed to give it all away. I came back and gave it all away, as gifts, to my business partners, no questions asked, no money changing hands. I felt free, they felt rich, that was it.

The last company I stayed involved with was the computer firm. Our original investor, a prominent and wealthy Jew, succeeded to get the Chairman of a huge conglomerate interested in our firm. They sent a team over to talk to me. I was not consulted regarding the timetables. I went on a vacation, to attend a film festival. They came, were unable to meet me and went back furious. I never turned back. That was the end of that company as well.

I was again in debt. I re-invented my life. I began to publish a capital markets fax-zine. But this is yet another story and not sufficiently different to warrant writing it.

It was all meaningless, it still is. A series of automatic gestures performed by another man, not me. I bought, I sold, I gave away, I heard her planning he romance over the phone, I poured a glass of deep red wine, I read the paper, glossing uncomprehending over the lines, the words, the syllables. A dreamy quality. Psychologists would say I acted out but I can't remember acting out - or in. I can't remember being at all. Definitely no emotions, perhaps the odd rage. It was so very unreal I never grieved. I let go as we politely give our place in a queue to an old lady and smile and say: "Here you are, Madam".

2. Human Supply

I know what is the value of Narcissistic Supply. I can measure it. I can weigh it. I can compare it and trade it and convert it. I have done it all my life more or less successfully.

Being human is a new experience.

The first time it happened, it was terrifying. It felt like disintegrating, like being annulled. Do you remember the Dali paintings (a swirl of molecules)? It felt the same.

This was when I was in prison and wrote my short stories.

Then it got better. I thought I had regained my narcissistic composure. My defences seemed to function again. I was protected.

Then I began doing these things. The book, the list, corresponding with thousands of people in need and helping them here and there.

Deep inside I know that Narcissistic Supply is a very inadequate - nay, poor - explanation.

But I don't know how to weigh this new factor. In what units to measure it. How to quantify it and trade it against the Narcissistic Supply lost in its acquisition. In economics it is called the "opportunity cost". You give up so much butter to manufacture so many guns. Only I gave up the guns. And now I am demilitarized and I am not sure that there is no enemy.

Coming back to the particular event:

I gave up a senior position with wide foreign media exposure. This is Narcissistic Supply. I have been there before. Giving it up was a price I paid.

To do WHAT?

To sit at home and correspond 16 hours a day with people. To help, to soothe, to cajole and chastise and preach. And this also sounds like Narcissistic Supply.

And it is.

But the transaction is skewed. I gave up a huge amount of very familiar Narcissistic Supply - for a small, amorphous amount of a new type of supply.

Bad business?

I am envious of what I could have been. I am enraged when I apply old, decrepit principles to new situations. And I say to myself: "Look what you missed. Look how you destroyed your life once more by ruining this new opportunity for yourself."

And then I say: "But look what you gained in return".

And I am appeased and content and full of energy again.

3. The Time of the Narcissist

I want to talk about Time and about Making It from an unusual angle: self-defeating behaviours.

The first time I had sex was 25. It was so alien to me that I thought that sex was love and so I fell in love with my next sexual partner virtually overnight. I used to live in a monkish room with white walls, no paintings or decorations, army bed and one shelf with a few books. I was surrounded by my offices in a two story villa. The bedroom was at the end of a corridor and all around (and downstairs) were offices. I did not have a TV set. I was very rich and very famous at the time and a perfect cinderella story and I knew everything about life and nothing about myself. So, there I was, listening to a twig broaching the windowpane and rapidly and deliberately falling in love with the dormant body by my side. Much later I learned that she was repelled by my body. I was fat and flabby, not at all what one would expect judging by my in-clothes external appearance.

So, I fell in love and we moved to London, to Marble Arch, where all the rich Saudi Sheikhs lived and rented a mansion with five floors and a butler. We never had sex and she spent most of her days sleeping or staring gloomily at defrocked trees or crying or on shopping sprees. Once we bought records at the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street for 4000 USD. It was announced on the radio. And then she left and me, among the ruins of my fantasy, unshaven, unkempt, sobbing uncontrollably.

(continued below)


This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"

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I abandoned it all: the butler, the antique furniture, the promising business - and followed her to Israel where we tried to live together and revive our flagging sexual fortunes in group sex, in Parisian orgy clubs (in the days before AIDS) and all the time I knew that I was losing her and I did, to a radio musical editor. When she went away, she said goodbye publicly, on one of his shows and I tore at the armchair with bent fingers, wet with tears and white with leather tearing rage. I had no money, lost all of it in London. I had no love. all I had was a few shabby replacement leather armchairs (the furniture store went out of business the day after I paid them).

Then I established a brokerage firm and transformed it into the biggest private financial services firm in Israel in two years. I met another woman who were to become my wife and I settled. But I was numb. I knew something was wrong, like the echoes of a distant war. I did not know the enemy, though and I wasn't sure this was my war, anyhow. I just listened at night with fascination to the rumblings. Piece by piece I was falling apart and I had no idea, no acquaintance with my own disembowellment. I watched the disintegration with morbid fascination.

Finally I acted out. I orchestrated a criminal take-over of a state bank, I cheated on my partners, they cheated on me, I sued the government, drawing the fire closer, drawing the war to myself, making it real. I was arrested a month after my wedding. My company was gone. My money was gone. I was back at square one. I was terrified, lonely and married. The ceremony was poor. I wanted to punish her for pushing me into a marriage so I sadistically imposed on her a grubby home wedding with almost no invitees. I didn't know what I was doing, who I was, the world was swirling erratically: marriages, high crimes, mortal fears and the inevitable crash. Five years later I was sentenced to go to prison and I did and the same woman left me while there and we divorced in a civilized manner (almost) fighting only over the music CDs, which I, too, wanted. When she left me, I planned to die. I schemed to grab the Chief Warden's gun and use it. I also compiled lists of lethal doses of medication in the prison library of which I was made in charge. But I didn't die. I wrote books, I saved my sanity, I saved my life.

4. Abuse

I hate the words "physical abuse". It is such a clinical term. My mother used to burrow her fingernails into the soft, inner part of my arm, the "back" of my elbow and drag them, well inside the flesh and veins and everything. You can't imagine the blood and the pain. She hit me with belts and buckles and sticks and heels and shoes and sandals and thrust my skull into sharp angles until it cracked. When I was four she threw a massive metal vase at me. It missed me and shattered a wall sized cupboard. To very small pieces. She did this for 14 years. Every day. Since the age of four.

She tore my books and threw them out the window of our fourth floor apartment. She shredded everything I wrote, consistently, relentlessly.

She cursed and humiliated me 10-15 times an hour, every hour, every day, every month, for 14 years. She called me "my little Eichman" after a well known Nazi mass murderer. She convinced me that I am ugly (I am not. I am considered very good looking and attractive. Other women tell me so and I don't believe them). She invented my personality disorder, meticulously, systematically. She tortured all my brothers as well. She hated it when I cracked jokes. She made my father do all these things to me as well. This is not clinical, this is my life. Or, rather, was. I inherited her ferocious cruelty, her lack of empathy, some of her obsessions and compulsions and her feet. Why I am mentioning the latter - in some other post.

I never felt anger. I felt fear, most of the time. A dull, pervasive, permanent sensation, like an aching tooth. And I tried to get away. I looked for other parents to adopt me. I toured the country looking for a foster home, only to come back humiliated with my dusty backpack. I volunteered to join the army a year before my time. At 17 I felt free. It is a sad "tribute" to my childhood that the happiest period in my life was in jail. The peaceful, most serene, clearest period. It has all been downhill since my release.

But, above all, I felt shame and pity. I was ashamed of my parents: primitive freaks, lost, frightened, incompetent. I could smell their inadequacy. It wasn't like this at the beginning. I was proud of my father, a construction worker turned site manager, a self-made man who self-destructed later in his life. But this pride eroded, metamorphesized to a malignant form of awe of a depressive tyrant. Much later I understood how socially inept he was, disliked by authority figures, a morbid hypochondriac with narcissistic disdain for others. Father-hate became self-hate the more I realized how much like my father I am despite all my pretensions and grandiose illusions: schizoid-asocial, hated by authority figures, depressive, self-destructive, a defeatist.

But above all I kept asking myself two questions:

WHY?

Why did they do it? Why for so long? Why so thoroughly?

I said to myself that I must have frightened them. A firstborn, a "genius" (IQ-wise), a freak of nature, frustrating, overly-independent, unchildlike Martian. The natural repulsion they must have felt having given birth to an alien, to a monstrosity.

Or that my birth fouled their plans somehow. My mother was just becoming a stage actress in her fertile, narcissistic, imagination (actually, she worked as a lowly salesperson in a tiny shoe shop). My father was saving money for one of an endless string of houses he built, sold and rebuilt. I was in the way. My birth was probably an accident. Not much later, my mother aborted my could-have-been-brother. The certificate describes how difficult the economic situation is with the one born child (that's me).

Or that I deserve to be punished that way because I was naturally agitating, disruptive, bad, corrupt, vile, mean, cunning and what else.

Or that they were both mentally ill (and they were) and what was to be expected of them anyhow.

And the second question:

WAS IT REALLY ABUSE?

Isn't "abuse" our invention, a figment of our febrile imagination when we embark upon an effort to explain that which cannot be explained (our life)?

Isn't this a "false memory", a "narrative", a "fable", a "construct", a "tale"?

Everyone in our neighbourhood hit their children. So what? And our parents' parents hit their children as well and most of them (our parents) came out normal. My father's father used to wake him up and dispatch him through hostile Arab neighbourhoods in the dangerous city they lived in to buy for him his daily ration of alcohol. My mother's mother went to bed one night and refused to get out of it until she died, 20 odd years later. I could see these behaviours replicated and handed down the generations.

So, WHERE was the abuse? The culture I grew in condoned frequent beatings.

It was a sign of stern, right, upbringing. What was different with US?

I think it was the hate in my mother's eyes.

5. Success

Research shows that education IS a determinant in how much money you make (it seems that this is your way of measuring success) - but less than people believe it to be. Intelligence matters much more - and of this latter commodity you have aplenty.

Unfortunately, intelligence is only one of the parameters. To be consistently successful in the long term (and you and I have been successful - scales are irrelevant to the discussion) one needs more. One needs stamina, perseverance, self-awareness, self-love, self-nurturing, some egotism, a modicum of ruthlessness, some hypocrisy, some narrow-mindedness, and so on.

You and I have a "bad" cocktail inasmuch as "classically defined success" goes.

You are good hearted, almost altruistic. Too altruistic. The word is sacrificial. You sacrifice some of your health and sleep and food to maintain your support lists. Sure, part of it is narcissistic. You like gratitude and adulation - who doesn't? But the bigger part is that you love people, you are generous and you feel compelled to help because you know that there are some things that you know and others don't.

You cannot be hypocritical. You are real. You stand up to "authority" because you know it is unadulterated BS in most cases. So, you get into conflicts with the system, with the establishment, and with its representatives. But the system is omnipotent. It holds all the rewards and metes out all the punishments. It eliminates "perturbations".

You are curious, like a child (it's a huge compliment. Einstein compared himself to a child on the seashore). To become an "expert", a "professional", one needs to kill parts of oneself, limit one's curiosity, deaden one's tendency to sample the variety of life. You can't do that. you are too alert, too full of life, too aware of what you are missing. You can't bury yourself intellectually.

(continued below)


This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Amazon (click HERE to buy a copy dedicated by the author)

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Barnes and Noble

Click HERE to buy the print edition from the publisher and receive a BONUS PACK

Click HERE to buy electronic books (e-books) and video lectures (DVDs) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships

Click HERE to buy the ENTIRE SERIES of sixteen electronic books (e-books) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships

 

Click HERE for SPECIAL OFFER 1 and HERE for SPECIAL OFFER 2

 

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook (my personal page or the book’s), YouTube

 


And you are not ruthless, lacking in conscience, egotistical, and narrow minded. You do have self-awareness but I am not sure how much you internalized what you know, how much you have assimilated your vast fund of knowledge about yourself and the human psyche. I do get the impression that you know yourself - I don't get the impression that you love yourself, or that you nurture yourself - at least not sufficiently.

So, what does all this add up to?

Superficially: you lack some important components on the road to success.

You lack the necessary stamina, you are too non-conformist and anti-establishment, you are too generous, you are not sufficiently selfish perhaps because you don't love yourself (though you know yourself), you are not narrow-minded, etc.

But this is not the way I see it at all.

I believe in making a list. WHAT am I. Then finding the profession/vocation/occupation/avocation that fits best my traits, inclinations, propensities, properties and predilections. Success is then guaranteed. If you have a good match between what you pursue and your ability to pursue it - you can't fail. You simply can't go wrong.

Following success there is the question of self-defeating and self-destructive behaviours, true. But this is a separate issue.

A personal tale:

For YEARS I tried to settle down. Bought a home, married, establish businesses, paid taxes. Went nuts. Acted out. My then p-doc (a brief affair) told me: why do you fight your nature? You are NOT built to lead a stable life. Find an unstable life which you can lead successfully. And I did. I became a roving financial consultant, roaming the globe. This way I balanced my inherent instability with my craving for stability.

I think that the first step is to take an inventory of the phenomenon called YOU. Then find the best match professionally. Then go for it. Then success will follow. Then try to avoid the pitfalls of self-destruction.

6. Rejection

I am afraid to write, yes, even to you because I am afraid to be rejected. I do not a pretty picture make. I feel estranged from myself. I love and pity humans while virulently holding them in contempt. I adore and cherish women while being a misogynist. I am a narcissist who failed. So many contradictions tend to put people off. People want clear definitions and tiny boxes and the clarity that comes only when life itself stops. So, all my life I experienced the cautious looks of others, their repulsion, their rage. People react with fear to the exceptional and then they get angry for having feared.

I am Sam. I am 40+, am the first born, followed, in intervals of 4 years, by one sister and three brothers. I am in touch only with my youngest brother (16 years apart). I seem to be his hero, untarnished by my constant failures and glaring failings. He has a personality disorder as well (Schizotypal, I think, or mild BPD) and an OCD.

My mother was a narcissist (spontaneously healed in her forties) and an OCD.

She was physically, psychologically and verbally abusive towards me and to my brothers. This shattered my sense of self-worth and perceived ability to cope with the world - for which I compensated by developing NPD (though mild). I am a narcissist ever since I remember myself. My mother regarded me as a supreme venue of entertainment and I performed for our neighbours, acquaintances and family daily.  Until a few years ago, most of what I did was aimed at impressing her and changing her mind about me.

Paradoxically, her judgement regarding the personality that she helped foster is accurate: I AM vain, in pursuit of appearances rather than of substance, dangerously pretentious, pathological liar, obdurate to the point of stupidity, highly intelligent but very unwise, shallow in everything I do, no perseverance and so on. But I feel the same about her: that Loving to her is a series of tedious chores, that she pretends, constantly lies and denies, still compulsive, opinionated to the point of rigidity.

My father is chronically depressed and hypochondriac. He comes from a violent family and is a self-made man broken by adverse economic circumstances. But he suffered from depression and anxiety long before his economic demise. He was also physically, verbally and psychologically abusive but less so than my mother (he was absent during daytime). I strongly envied him in my early childhood and wished him ill.

My life is a pattern of renunciation of everything this couple stands for: petite bourgeois values, small town mentality, moral conservatism, family, home ownership, attachment. I have no roots. In the last 5 months I changed 3 domiciles (in 3 countries). All told, I lived in 11 countries in the last 16 years. I have no family (divorced, no children) - though I do maintain long and loyal relationships with women, no property to speak of, I am a gambler in disguise (stock options - respectable gambling), no continuous relationships with friends (but yes with my brother), no career (impossible with such mobility) or academic edge (the Ph.D. is of the correspondence type), I served one prison term, have consistently associated with the underworld in fascination mixed with mortal fear.

I do achieve things: I published books (my latest one, a book of short stories, won acclaim and a prestigious award, I just published a book about narcissism) and am in the process of publishing a few more (mostly reference), have my websites (which, I believe contain original material in philosophy and economics), my commentaries are published in papers all over the world and I appear intermittently in the electronic media. But my "achievements" are ephemeral. They do not last because I am never there to follow up on them. I lose interest very quickly, move physically and disconnect emotionally. This is all an on-going mutiny against my parents.

Another area which was effected by my parents is my sexual life. To them sex was ugly and dirty. My rebellion led me to experience orgies and group sex, on the one hand - and (most of the time) asceticism. In between bouts of promiscuity (once a decade for a few weeks, after major life crises) I engage in sex very rarely (despite long term relationships with women). My non-availability is intended to frustrate women who are attracted to me (I use the fact that I have a girlfriend as an alibi). I prefer autoerotic sex (masturbation with fantasies). I am a conscious misogynist :  fear and loathe women and tend to ignore them to the best of my ability. To me, they are a mixture of hunter and parasite. Of course, this is not my STATED position (I am truly a liberal - for instance, I will not dream of depriving women of their career opportunities or suffrage). This conflict between emotional and cognitive leads to express hostility in my encounters with women, which they detect, in some cases. Alternatively, I "desexualize" them and treat them as functions.

I constantly need Narcissistic Supply.

I probably could get a Ph.D. in psychology, treat patients (sorry, clients) a few years and then come out with a first monograph. But this is not what Narcissistic Supply is about. NS is absolutely comparable to drugs, without any reservations. To maintain the high one must increase the dose, do the drug more often and pursue it in a any manner open to one. It is useless to try and postpone satisfaction. The reward must be stronger than before, immediate and exciting. The pursuit of Narcissistic Supply spirals towards depths of degradation, humiliation and abuse - both of self and of others. Anxiety is a product, not a cause. Really, it is (justified) FEAR: what if there will be no NS available? How will I obtain the next shot? What if I will get caught? Actually, the symptoms are so similar, that I believe that NPD has some biochemical fundament. This biochemical disorder is CREATED by life circumstances, rather than the converse.

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