I Love to be Hated: the Masochistic Narcissist
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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If I had to distil my quotidian existence in two pithy sentences, I would say: I love to be hated and I hate to be loved. Hate is the complement of fear and I like being feared. It imbues me with an intoxicating sensation of omnipotence. I am veritably inebriated by the looks of horror or repulsion on people's faces. They know that I am capable of anything. Godlike, I am ruthless and devoid of scruples, capricious and unfathomable, emotion-less and asexual, omniscient, omnipotent and omni-present, a plague, a devastation, an inescapable verdict. I nurture my ill-repute, stoking it and fanning the flames of gossip. It is an enduring asset.
The English Paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott suggested that abused children need to hate and to be hated as a defense against the false hope of ever being loved. They not only act out anti-socially but also seek to provoke hatred in parents, caregivers, and authority figures. At least in this comfort zone of mutual antagonism there is no risk of being shattered by the disappointment and frustration that are the ineluctable outcomes of hope.
Of course, he who loves to be hated and hates to be loved also loves to hate and hates to love (fears intimacy). The narcissist’s emotional complexity (ambivalence) towards significant others is notorious: his “love” often comes laced with bouts of vitriolic or even violent abuse and aggression.
But, the narcissist’s hatred is atypical. Rempel and Burris suggested in 2005 that hate is a stable experiential state; that it is an emotion; and that it involves a goal-driven motivation to diminish or utterly eradicate the well-being of the target of hate.
In contradistinction, the narcissist’s hatred is not stable; it is a transformation of resentment and, therefore, an aggressive reaction to frustration; and the narcissist does not care about his victim’s well-being: he just wishes to remove the fount of frustration altogether and expediently. So, by the lights on Rempel and Burris it does not qualify as hate at all.
The narcissist resents his abject dependence on his sources of narcissistic supply and by ridding himself of their constant presence he seeks to ameliorate the irritation that they cause him. Of course, even as he hatefully acts against his sources of supply, he is terrified of losing them and attempts to placate and bribe them into staying and fulfilling their function.
But, hate and fear are also sure generators of attention. It is all about Narcissistic Supply, of course - the drug which we, the narcissists consume and which consumes us in return. So, I attack sadistically authority figures, institutions, my hosts and I make sure they know about my eruptions.
I purvey only the truth and nothing but the truth - but I tell it bluntly told in an orgy of evocative baroque English.
The blind rage that this induces in the targets of my vitriolic diatribes provokes in me a surge of satisfaction and inner tranquillity not obtainable by any other means. I like to think about their pain, of course - but that is the lesser part of the equation.
It is my horrid future and inescapable punishment that carries the irresistible appeal. Like some strain of alien virus, it infects my better judgement and I succumb.
In general, my weapon is the truth and human propensity to avoid it. In tactless breaching of every etiquette, I chastise and berate and snub and offer vitriolic opprobrium. A self-proclaimed Jeremiah, I hector and harangue from my many self-made pulpits. I understand the prophets. I understand Torquemada.
I bask in the incomparable pleasure of being RIGHT. I derive my grandiose superiority from the contrast between my righteousness and the humanness of others.
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But it is not that simple. It never is with narcissists. Fostering public revolt and the inevitable ensuing social sanctions fulfils two other psychodynamic goals.
The first one I alluded to. It is the burning desire - nay, NEED - to be punished.
In the grotesque mind of the narcissist, his punishment is equally his vindication.
By being permanently on trial, the narcissist claims high moral ground and the position of the martyr: misunderstood, discriminated against, unjustly roughed, outcast by his very towering genius or other outstanding qualities. To conform to the cultural stereotype of the "tormented artist" - the narcissist provokes his own suffering. He is thus validated.
His grandiose fantasies acquire a modicum of substance. "If I were not so special - they wouldn't have persecuted me so."
The persecution of the narcissist IS his uniqueness. He must be different, for better or for worse. The streak of paranoia embedded in him, makes the outcome inevitable. He is in constant conflict with lesser beings: his spouse, his shrink, his boss, his colleagues. Forced to stoop to their intellectual level, the narcissist feels like Gulliver: a giant strapped by Lilliputians. His life is a constant struggle against the self-contented mediocrity of his surroundings. This is his fate which he accepts, though never stoically. It is a calling, a mission and a recurrence in his stormy life.
Deeper still, the narcissist has an image of himself as a worthless, bad and dysfunctional extension of others. In constant need of Narcissistic Supply, he feels humiliated. The contrast between his cosmic fantasies and the reality of his dependence, neediness and, often, failure (the "Grandiosity Gap") is an emotionally harrowing experience. It is a constant background noise of devilish, demeaning laughter. The voices say: "You are a fraud", "You are a zero", "You deserve nothing", "If only they knew how worthless you are".
The narcissist attempts to silence these tormenting voices not by fighting them but by agreeing with them. Unconsciously - sometimes consciously - he says to them: "I do agree with you. I am bad and worthless and deserving of the most severe punishment for my rotten character, bad habits, addiction and the constant fraud that is my life. I will go out and seek my doom. Now that I have complied - will you leave me be? Will you leave me alone"?
Of course, they never do.
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