A Holiday Grudge: Narcissists and Happiness
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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Holiday blues are a common occurrence even among the mentally sound. In me they provoke a particularly virulent strain of pathological envy. I am jealous at others for having a family, or for being able to celebrate lavishly, or for being in the right, festive mood. My cognitive dissonances crumble. I keep telling myself: "Look at those inferior imitations of humans, slaves of their animated corpses, wasting their time, pretending to be happy". Yet, deep inside, I know that I am the defective one. I realize that my inability to rejoice is a protracted and unusual punishment meted out to me by my very self. I am sad and enraged. I want to spoil it for those who can. I want them to share my misery, to reduce them to my level of emotional abstinence and absence.
I hate humans because I am unable to be one.
A long time ago, I wrote (http://samvak.tripod.com/archive22.html ):
"I hate holidays and birthdays, including my birthday. It is because I hate it when other people are happy if I am not the cause of it. I have to be the prime mover and shaker of EVERYONE's mood. And no one will tell me HOW I should feel. I am my own master. I feel that their happiness is false, fake, forced. I feel that they are hypocrites, dissimulating joy where there is none. I feel envious, humiliated by my envy, and enraged by my humiliation. I feel that they are the recipients of a gift I will never have: the ability to enjoy life and to feel joy.
And then I do my best to destroy their mood: I bring bad news, provoke a fight, make a disparaging remark, project a dire future, sow uncertainty in the relationship, and when the other person is sour and sad, I feel relieved.
It's back to normal. My mood improves dramatically and I try to cheer her up. Now if she does cheer up - it is REAL. It is my doing. I controlled it.
And I controlled HER."
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Holidays remind me of my childhood, of the supportive and loving family I never had, of what could have been, and never was, and, as I grow older, I know, will never be. I feel deprived and, coupled with my rampant paranoia, I feel cheated and persecuted. I rail against the indifferent injustice of a faceless, cold world. Holidays are a conspiracy of the emotional haves against the emotional haves not.
Birthdays are an injury, an imposition, a reminder of vulnerability, a fake event artificially construed. I destroy in order to equalize the misery. I rage in order to induce rage. Holidays create in me an abandon of negative, nihilistic emotions, the only ones I consciously possess.
On holidays and on my birthday, I make it a point to carry on routinely.
I accept no gifts, I do not celebrate, I work till the wee hours of the night. It is a demonstrative refusal to participate, a rejection of social norms, an "in your face" statement of withdrawal. It makes me feel unique. It makes me feel even more deprived and punished. It feeds the furnace of hatred, the bestial anger, the all engulfing scorn I harbour. I want to be drawn out of my sulk and pouting - yet, I decline any such offer, evade any such attempt, hurt those who try to make me smile and to forget. In times like that, in holidays and birthdays, I am reminded of this fundamental truth: my voluptuous, virulent, spiteful, hissing and spitting grudge is all I have. Those who threaten to take it away from me - with their love, affection, compassion, or care - are my mortal enemies indeed.
“I Fear the Holidays: It is the Worst Time of the Year!”
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The holidays season should be a time of family get-togethers, love shared, and relatives and friends brought up to date. Holidays are supposed to be the reification of that contradiction in terms: mass or group intimacy.
Instead, for victims of family violence and abuse, the holidays are recurring nightmares, replete with danger and duplicity, a theater of the absurd with menacing overtones. This is especially true when the offender also has Narcissistic or Antisocial Personality Disorders. It is important to understand the mindset of such abusers.
Holiday blues are a common occurrence even among the mentally sound. In abusers with narcissistic or antisocial personalities, they provoke a particularly virulent strain of pathological envy. The psychopathic narcissist is jealous at others for having a family, or for being able to celebrate, or for possessing the right, festive mood. He keeps telling himself: "look at these inferior people, wasting their time, pretending to be happy".
Yet, deep inside, the narcissist knows that he is defective. He realizes that his inability to rejoice is a protracted and unusual punishment meted out to him by his own hands. Though he will never admit it, the narcissistic or psychopathic abuser is actually sad and enraged. Consequently, he wants to spoil the party for everyone else. He wants them to share his misery, to reduce them to his level of emotional abstinence and absence.
Holidays remind the narcissist of his childhood, of the supportive and loving family he never had. The narcissistic and psychopathic abuser feels deprived and, coupled with his rampant paranoia, he feels cheated and persecuted. To him, holidays are a conspiracy of the emotional haves against the emotional haves not.
Holidays and birthdays are injurious impositions and reminders of vulnerability. The abuser ruins such events in order to make everyone else as miserable as he is. He rages in order to induce rage. Holidays create in the narcissist an abandon of negative, nihilistic emotions, the only type of feelings he is intimately acquainted with.
On holidays, on birthdays and even on his own birthday, the narcissist makes it a point to carry on routinely: he accepts no gifts, does not celebrate, or obstructively and passive-aggressively works till the wee hours of the night. Such pointed withdrawal is a demonstrative refusal to participate, a rejection of social norms, an "in your face" statement. While such unusual conduct emphasizes the narcissist's uniqueness, it also makes him feel even more deprived and punished. It feeds the furnace of hatred, the anger, the all engulfing scorn that he harbors.
The narcissist-abuser wants to be drawn out of his sulk and pouting - yet, he declines all offers and opportunities and evades all attempts to draw him out. He hurts those who try to make him smile and to forget. In times like these, in holidays and birthdays, the narcissist is reminded of a fundamental truth: his voluptuous, virulent, spiteful, hissing, and spitting grudge is all he has. Those who threaten to take it away from him - with their love, affection, compassion, or care - are nothing short of his enemies.
III. Control Freakery
Psychopathic and narcissistic abusers hate it when other people are happy if they are not the cause of such jubilation and joy. They have to be the prime movers and shakers, the center of attention, and the cause of everybody's moods. In contrast, the narcissist believes that only he should determine how he should feel. He should be the sole source and cause of his emotions. He, therefore, perceives holidays as prescriptions, impositions, instructions coming from high above as to how he should behave and feel on given days. Narcissists abhor authority and resent it (they are counter-dependent).
The psychopathic narcissist projects his own desolate inner landscape onto others: he is convinced that people are faking and feigning their happiness - that it is false and forced. He feels that they are hypocrites, dissimulating joy where there is none. Envious as he is, the narcissist is humiliated by his envy, and enraged by his humiliation. He feels that other people are the recipients of gifts that he has been deprived of: the ability to enjoy life and to feel joy.
Besieged by gnawing inadequacy, the narcissistic abuser does his best to destroy everybody else's celebratory mood: he brings bad news and tidings, provokes a fight, makes disparaging, or snide remarks, projects a dire future, and sows uncertainty in relationships. When he has rendered his family and social circles sour and sad, the narcissist is at last elated and relieved. His mood improves dramatically and he tries to cheer everyone up (in other words: to control how they feel). Now any joy would be real, his own doing, and controlled by him.
What can you do about it?
Act against your better instincts: do not try to involve your abuser in festivities, family events, birthdays, special occasions, and gatherings. Such attempts will only infuriate him further. Instead, leave him be, let him sulk, mired and immersed as he is in his self-pity, seething envy, and martyrdom complex. Go out, join friends and family at their abodes, and celebrate to your heart's content. Chances are that by the time you have returned your abuser will have forgotten all about it and things will revert to "normal".
Admittedly, some abusive intimate partners will be spoiling for a fight no matter what. There is nothing you can do about it except set boundaries and punish misbehavior and maltreatment. Whether you choose to involve your abuser in holiday activities or not is immaterial: he will torment and haunt you all the same. With the narcissistic and psychopathic abuser no good deed goes unpunished.
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