The Serious Narcissist
Frequently Asked Question # 52
The narcissist is self-important: he takes himself seriously and believes that he is unique and that his life is of cosmic significance.
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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Do narcissists have an exceptional sense of humour?
I am sure that some of them do. In this, they are no different than healthier specimen of the human species. The narcissist, though, rarely engages in self-directed, self-deprecating humour. If he does, feigning self-effacing modesty, he expects to be contradicted, rebuked and rebuffed by his listeners ("Come on, you are actually quite handsome!"), or to be commended or admired for his courage or for his wit and intellectual acerbity ("I envy your ability to laugh at yourself!").
The narcissist is prone to ideas of reference (the delusional conviction that he is the butt of opprobrium and mockery behind his back), which makes him react with consternation, indignation and even rage to humour and laughter (some narcissists are gelotophobic.)
As everything else in a narcissist's life, his sense of humour is deployed in the interminable pursuit of Narcissistic Supply.
The absence of Narcissistic Supply (or the impending threat of such an absence) is, indeed, a serious matter. It is the narcissistic equivalent of mental death. If prolonged and unmitigated, such absence can lead to the real thing: physical death, a result of suicide, or of a psychosomatic deterioration of the narcissist's health.
Yet, to obtain Narcissistic Supply, one must be taken seriously and to be taken seriously one must be the first to take oneself seriously. Hence the gravity with which the narcissist contemplates himself. This lack of levity and of perspective and proportion characterise the narcissist and set him apart.
The narcissist firmly believes that he is unique and that he has a mission to fulfil, a destined life. The narcissist's biography is part of Mankind's legacy, spun by a cosmic plot which constantly thickens. Such a life deserves only the most serious consideration.
Moreover, every particle of the narcissist's existence, every action or inaction, every utterance, creation, or composition, indeed every thought, are bathed in this universal significance. The narcissist treads the ideal paths of glory, of achievement, of perfection, or of brilliance. It is all part of a design, a pattern, a plot, which inexorably lead the narcissist on to the fulfilment of his task.
This article appears in my book "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"
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The narcissist may subscribe to a religion, to a belief, or to an ideology in his effort to understand the source of this ubiquitous conviction of uniqueness. He may attribute his sense of direction to God, to history, to society, to culture, to a calling, to his profession, to a value system. But he always does so with a straight face and with deadly seriousness.
And because, to the narcissist, the part is a reflection of the whole – he tends to generalise, to resort to stereotypes, to induct (to learn about the whole from the detail), to exaggerate, finally to pathologically lie to himself and to others. This self-importance, this belief in a grand design, in an all embracing and all-pervasive pattern – make him an easy prey to all manner of logical fallacies and con artistry. Despite his avowed and proudly expressed rationality the narcissist is besieged by superstition and prejudice. Above all, he is a captive of the false conviction that his uniqueness destines him to fulfil a mission of cosmic significance.
All these make the narcissist a volatile person. Not merely mercurial – but fluctuating, histrionic, unreliable, and disproportional. That which has cosmic implications calls for cosmic reactions. A person with an inflated sense of self-import, reacts with exaggeration to threats, greatly inflated by his imagination and by his personal mythology.
On the narcissist's cosmic scale, the daily vagaries of life, the mundane, the routine are not important, even damagingly distracting. This is the source of his feeling of exceptional entitlement. Surely, engaged as he is in benefiting humanity through the exercise of his unique faculties – the narcissist deserves special treatment!
This is the source of his violent swings between opposite behaviour patterns and between devaluation and idealisation of others. To the narcissist, every minor development is nothing less than a portentous omen, every adversity is a conspiracy to upset his progress, every setback an apocalyptic calamity, every irritation the cause for outlandish outbursts of rage.
He is a man of the extremes and only of the extremes. He may learn to efficiently suppress or hide his feelings or reactions – but never for long. In the most inappropriate and inopportune moment, you can count on the narcissist to explode, like a wrongly wound time bomb. And in between eruptions, the narcissistic volcano daydreams, indulges in delusions, plans his victories over an increasingly hostile and alienated environment. Gradually, the narcissist becomes paranoid, aloof, detached and dissociative.
In such a setting, you must admit, there is not much room for a sense of humour.
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