Narcissist, the Machine

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

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“My mind is like a calculating machine.”

(Adolf Hitler)

I always think of myself as a machine. I say to myself things like "You have an amazing brain" or "You are not functioning today, your efficiency is low". I measure things, I constantly compare performance. I am acutely aware of time and how it is utilized. There is a meter in my head, it ticks and tocks, a metronome of self-reproach and grandiose assertions. I talk to myself in third person singular. It lends objectivity to what I think, as though it comes from an external source, from someone else. That low is my self-esteem that, to be trusted, I have to disguise myself, to hide myself from myself. It is the pernicious and all-pervasive art of unbeing.

I like to think about myself in terms of automata. There is something so aesthetically compelling in their precision, in their impartiality, in their harmonious embodiment of the abstract. Machines are so powerful and so emotionless, not prone to be hurting weaklings like me. Machines don't bleed. Often I find myself agonizing over the destruction of a laptop in a movie, as its owner is blown to smithereens as well. Machines are my folk and kin. They are my family. They allow me the tranquil luxury of unbeing.

And then there is data. My childhood dream of unlimited access to information has come true and I am the happiest for it. I have been blessed by the Internet. Information was power and not only figuratively.

Information was the dream, reality the nightmare. My knowledge was my flying info-carpet. It took me away from the slums of my childhood, from the atavistic social milieu of my adolescence, from the sweat and stench of the army - and into the perfumed existence of international finance and media exposure.

So, even in the darkness of my deepest valleys I was not afraid. I carried with me my metal constitution, my robot countenance, my superhuman knowledge, my inner timekeeper, my theory of morality and my very own divinity - myself.

When my ex-wife left me, I discovered the hollowness of it all. It was the first time that I experienced my True Self consciously. It was a void,  annulment, a gaping abyss, almost audible, an hellish iron fist gripping, tearing my chest apart. It was horror. A transubstantiation of my blood and flesh into something primordial and screaming.

It was then that I came to realized that my childhood was difficult. At the time, it seemed to me to be as natural as sunrise and as inevitable as pain.

But in hindsight, it was devoid of emotional expression and abusive to the extreme. I was not sexually abused - but I was physically, verbally and psychologically tormented for 16 years without one minute of respite.

Thus, I grew up to be a narcissist, a paranoid and a schizoid. At least that's what I wanted to believe. Narcissists have alloplastic defences - they tend to blame others for their troubles. In this case, psychological theory itself was on my side. The message was clear: people who are abused in their formative years (0-6) tend to adapt by developing personality disorders, amongst them the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I was absolved, an unmitigated relief.

I want to tell you how much I am afraid of pain. To me, it is a pebble in Indra's Net - lift it and the whole net revives. My pains do not come isolated - they live in families of anguish, in tribes of hurt, whole races of agony. I cannot experience them insulated from their kin. They rush to drown me through the demolished floodgates of my childhood. These floodgates, my inner dams - this is my narcissism, there to contain the ominous onslaught of stale emotions, repressed rage, a child's injuries.

(continued below)

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

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Amazon