The Narcissist's Multiple Grandiosity
Frequently Asked Question # 35
Narcissists hedge their bets by trying to excel in a variety of fields. Yet, this strategy fails as deficient narcissistic supply tends to impact the narcissist’s mood and ability to function on all fronts.
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Is the narcissist confined in his grandiose fantasies to one subject?
This apparently simple question is more complex than it sounds. The narcissist is bound to make use of his more pronounced traits and qualities in both the design of his False Self and the extraction of Narcissistic Supply from others. Thus, a cerebral narcissist is likely to emphasise his intellect, his brainpower, his analytical skills and his rich and varied fund of knowledge. A somatic narcissist accentuates his body, his physical strength, his appearance, his sex appeal and so on. But this is only one facet of the answer. It seems that narcissists engage in what could best be described as Narcissistic Hedges.
A Narcissistic Hedge is when a narcissist colours more than one field of activity with his narcissistic hues. He infuses the selected subjects with narcissistic investment. He prepares them as auxiliary Sources of Narcissistic Supply and as backup options in case of a major system failure. Another type of narcissistic hedge involves a charm offensive that it is intended to forestall or ameliorate the consequences of the disclosure of embarrassing, demeaning, or damaging information about the narcissist and his misconduct by “re-acquiring” the source of narcissistic supply that is most likely to be disenchanted and disillusioned by such revelations.
These ostensibly redundant activities and interests constitute a fallback option during a life crisis. In the majority of cases, the chosen subjects or fields all belong to the same "family". A cerebral narcissist might select mathematics and art, but not mountain climbing. A sportsman might choose to be a radio sports commentator but not a philosopher of science and so on. Still, the correlation between the various selections may not be very strong (which is why they can be used as hedges).
Experience shows that this hedging mechanism is not very effective. The narcissist responds to events in his life as a one rigid unit. His reactions are not differentiated or scaled. A failure (or a success) in one domain contagiously spreads to all the others. This narcissistic contagion effect dominates the narcissist's life.
The narcissist measures his personal history in terms of fluctuations in Narcissistic Supply. He is blind to all other aspects, angles and points of view. He is like a thermometer which reacts to human warmth, admiration, adoration, approval, applause and attention.
The narcissist perceives his life in gradations of narcissistic temperature. When a Source of Supply ceases to exist or is threatened or diminished, all the other parts of the narcissist's world (including his backup options) are affected. The dysphoric and euphoric moods, which are related to the absence or to the presence of Narcissistic Supply, engulf the entire personality and consume it.
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A case study to illustrate these economic principles of the narcissist's soul:
A narcissist has a successful career as an economic commentator in several mass media. As a result of his criticism of the policies of the government, he is threatened and there are signs that a book that he was about to publish, will not be published after all. The narcissist has other subjects from which he is able to derive Narcissistic Supply ("narcissistic hedges"). What would the likely reaction of such a narcissist be?
Being threatened endangers this narcissist's feelings of omnipotence and superiority. He is "reduced to size". The special treatment that he believed himself to be entitled to has all but evaporated. This is a narcissistic injury. Worse, it looks as if the very availability and existence of his main and "serious" Narcissistic Supply Sources (the media, the book) are at risk.
Dysphoria ensues. The narcissist counters hysterically and with paranoia. The paranoid streaks in his reaction serve to re-establish the perturbed balance of his own grandiosity. Only important people are persecuted, he soothes himself. The hysteria is the result of panic at the prospect of remaining bereft of Narcissistic Supply Sources. A drug addict would have reacted the same way.
In theory, this would be the perfect time to revert to the alternatives, to the hedges. But the narcissist's energy is too depleted to make this switch. He is depressed, dysphoric, anhedonic, in extreme cases even suicidal. He jumps to radical and sweeping conclusions ("If this happened to me once, it could well happen again"). His output and achievements deteriorate. As a result, his Narcissistic Supply is further reduced and a vicious circle is set in motion.
This is the absurdity of the narcissistic mental household: the hedges brought into play only when they are not needed. Once a crisis erupts, the violently reduced narcissist, a faltering shadow of his former False Self, is too depleted to make use of them.
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