The Narcissist's Time

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin


http://samvak.tripod.com/covers.jpg

Malignant Self Love - Buy the Book - Click HERE!!!

Relationships with Abusive Narcissists - Buy the e-Books - Click HERE!!!


READ THIS: Scroll down to review a complete list of the articles - Click on the blue-coloured text!
Bookmark this Page - and SHARE IT with Others!



Subscribe to narcissisticabuse
Powered by groups.yahoo.com


The narcissist inhabits an eternal present.

To the narcissist – and more so, to the psychopath – the future is either of two: a hazy, abstract, merely hypothesized concept, or an anticipated certainty, the preordained outcome of his magical thinking (he believes that he determines future events merely by thinking about them.) These two misperceptions of time – diffuse time and teleological time-inversion - are cognitive deficits and are owing to a confluence of several narcissistic traits.

I. Instability and Lability

The life of the narcissist is inherently unstable. This makes it difficult to perceive time as a linear flow of causes and their effects. The narcissist's time is cyclical, arbitrary, and magical.

A narcissist is a person who derives his Ego (and ego functions) from the reactions of his human environment to a projected, invented image called the False Self. Since no absolute control over such feedback of Narcissistic Supply is possible – it is bound to be volatile – the narcissist's view of himself and of his surroundings is correspondingly and equally volatile. As "public opinion" fluctuates, so do his self-confidence, self-esteem, generally, so does his self. Even his convictions are subject to a never-ending voting process by others.

The narcissistic personality is subject to instabilities in each and every one of its dimensions. It is the ultimate hybrid: rigidly amorphous, devoutly flexible, reliant for its sustenance on the opinion of people, whom the narcissist undervalues. A large part of this instability is subsumed under the Emotional Involvement Prevention Measures (EIPM) that I describe in the Essay. Instability is so ubiquitous, so all-pervasive, and so prevalent and dominant – that it might well be described as the ONLY stable feature of the narcissist's personality.

The narcissist does everything with one goal in mind: to attract Narcissistic Supply (attention).

An example of this kind of behaviour:

The narcissist may study a given subject diligently and in great depth in order to impress people later with this newly acquired erudition. But, having served its purpose, the narcissist lets the knowledge thus acquired evaporate. The narcissist maintains a sort of a "short-term" cell or warehouse where he stores whatever may come handy in the pursuit of Narcissistic Supply. But he is almost never really interested in what he does, studies, and experiences. From the outside, this might be perceived as instability. But think about it this way: the narcissist is constantly preparing for life's "exams" and feels that he is on a permanent trial. To forget material studied only in preparation for an examination or for a court appearance is normal. Short memory storage is a perfectly common behaviour. What sets the narcissist apart from others is the fact that for him this is a CONSTANT state of affairs and that it affects ALL his functions, not only those directly related to learning, or to emotions, or to experience, or to any single dimension of his life. Thus, the narcissist learns, remembers and forgets not in line with his real interests or hobbies, he loves and hates not the real subjects of his emotions but one dimensional, utilitarian, cartoons constructed by him. He judges, praises and condemns – all from the narrowest possible point of view: that of the potential amount of Narcissistic Supply. He asks not what he can do with the world and in it – but what can the world do for him as far as Narcissistic Supply goes. He falls in and out of love with people, workplaces, residences, vocations, hobbies, interests – because they seem to be able to provide more or less Narcissistic Supply and only because of that.

Still, narcissists belong to two broad categories: the "compensatory stability" and the "enhancing instability" types.

a. Compensatory Stability ("Classic") Narcissists

These narcissists isolate one or more (but never most) aspects of their lives and "make these aspect/s stable". They do not really invest themselves in it. The stability is maintained by artificial means: money, celebrity, power, fear. A typical example is a narcissist who changes numerous workplaces, a few careers, a myriad of hobbies, value systems or faiths. At the same time, he maintains (preserves) a relationship with a single woman (and even remains faithful to her). She is his "island of stability". To fulfil this role, she just needs to be there physically.

The narcissist is dependent upon "his" woman to maintain the stability lacking in all other areas of his life (to compensate for his instability). Yet, emotional closeness is bound to threaten the narcissist. Thus, he is likely to distance himself from her and to remain detached and indifferent to most of her needs. Despite this cruel emotional treatment, the narcissist considers her to be a point of exit, a form of sustenance, a fountain of empowerment. This mismatch between what he wishes to receive and what he is able to give, the narcissist prefers to deny, repress and bury deep in his unconscious. This is why he is always shocked and devastated to learn of his wife's estrangement, infidelity, or divorce intentions. Possessed of no emotional depth, being completely one track minded – he cannot fathom the needs of others. In other words, he cannot empathise.

Another – even more common – case is the "career narcissist". This narcissist marries, divorces and remarries with dizzying speed. Everything in his life is in constant flux: friends, emotions, judgements, values, beliefs, place of residence, affiliations, hobbies. Everything, that is, except his work. His career is the island of compensating stability in his volatile existence. This kind of narcissist doggedly pursues it with unmitigated ambition and devotion. He perseveres in one workplace or one job, patiently, persistently and blindly climbing up the ladder or treading the career path. In his pursuit of job fulfilment and achievements, the narcissist is ruthless and unscrupulous – and, very often, most successful.

b. Enhancing Instability ("Borderline") Narcissist

The other kind of narcissist enhances instability in one aspect or dimension of his life – by introducing instability in others. Thus, if such a narcissist resigns (or, more likely, is made redundant) – he also relocates to another city or country. If he divorces, he is also likely to resign his job. This added instability gives these narcissists the feeling that all the dimensions of their life are changing simultaneously, that they are being "unshackled", that a transformation is in progress. This, of course, is an illusion. Those who know the narcissist, no longer trust his frequent "conversions", "decisions", "crises", "transformations", "developments" and "periods". They see through his pretensions and declarations into the core of his instability. They know that he is not to be relied upon. They know that with narcissists, temporariness is the only permanence.

Narcissists hate routine. When a narcissist finds himself doing the same things over and over again, he gets depressed. He oversleeps, over-eats, over-drinks and, in general, engages in addictive, impulsive, reckless, and compulsive behaviours. This is his way of re-introducing risk and excitement into what he (emotionally) perceives to be a barren life.

The problem is that even the most exciting and varied existence becomes routine after a while. Living in the same country or apartment, meeting the same people, doing essentially the same things (even with changing content) – all "qualify" as stultifying rote.

The narcissist feels entitled to more. He feels it is his right – due to his intellectual superiority – to lead a thrilling, rewarding, kaleidoscopic life. He feels entitled to force life itself, or, at least, people around him, to yield to his wishes and needs, supreme among them the need for stimulating variety.

This rejection of habit is part of a larger pattern of aggressive entitlement. The narcissist feels that the very existence of a sublime intellect (such as himself) warrants concessions and allowances by others. Standing in line is a waste of time better spent pursuing knowledge, inventing and creating. The narcissist should avail himself of the best medical treatment proffered by the most prominent medical authorities – lest the asset that he is lost to Mankind. He should not be bothered with trivial pursuits – these lowly functions are best assigned to the less gifted. The devil is in paying precious attention to detail.

Entitlement is sometimes justified in a Picasso or an Einstein. But few narcissists are either. Their achievements are grotesquely incommensurate with their overwhelming sense of entitlement and with their grandiose self-image.

Of course, the feeling of superiority often serves to mask a cancerous complex of inferiority. Moreover, the narcissist infects others with his projected grandiosity and their feedback constitutes the edifice upon which he constructs his self-esteem. He regulates his sense of self-worth by rigidly insisting that he is above the madding crowd while deriving his Narcissistic Supply from this very source.

But there is a second angle to this abhorrence of the predictable. Narcissists employ a host of Emotional Involvement Prevention Measures (EIPM). Despising routine and avoiding it is one of these mechanisms. Their function is to prevent the narcissist from getting emotionally involved and, subsequently, hurt. Their application results in an "approach-avoidance repetition complex". The narcissist, fearing and loathing intimacy, stability and security – yet craving them – approaches and then avoids significant others or important tasks in a rapid succession of apparently inconsistent and disconnected behaviours.

II. Recurrent Losses

Narcissists are accustomed to loss. Their obnoxious personality and intolerable behaviours makes them lose friends and spouses, mates and colleagues, jobs and family. Their peripatetic nature, their constant mobility and instability causes them to lose everything else: their place of residence, their property, their businesses, their country, and their language.

There is always a locus of loss in the narcissist's life. He may be faithful to his wife and a model family man – but then he is likely to change jobs frequently and renege on his financial and social obligations. Or, he may be a brilliant achiever – scientist, doctor, CEO, actor, pastor, politician, journalist – with a steady, long-term and successful career – but a lousy homemaker, thrice divorced, unfaithful, unstable, always on the lookout for better Narcissistic Supply.

The narcissist is aware of his propensity to lose everything that could have been of value, meaning, and significance in his life. If he is inclined to magical thinking and alloplastic defences, he blames life, or fate, or country, or his boss, or his nearest and dearest for his uninterrupted string of losses. Otherwise, he attributes it to people's inability to cope with his outstanding talents, towering intellect, or rare abilities. His losses, he convinces himself, are the outcomes of pettiness, pusillanimity, envy, malice, and ignorance. It would have turned out the same way even had he behaved differently, he consoles himself.

In time, the narcissist develops defence mechanisms against the inevitable pain and hurt he incurs with every loss and defeat. He ensconces himself in an ever thicker skin, an impenetrable shell, a make belief environment in which his sense of in-bred superiority and entitlement is preserved. He appears indifferent to the most harrowing and agonising experiences, not human in his unperturbed composure, emotionally detached and cold, inaccessible, and invulnerable. Deep inside, he, indeed, feels nothing.

The narcissist cruises through his life as a tourist would through an exotic island. He observes events and people, his own experiences and loved ones – as a spectator would a movie that at times is mildly exciting and at others mildly boring. He is never fully there, entirely present, irreversibly committed. He is constantly with one hand on his emotional escape hatch, ready to bail out, to absent himself, to re-invent his life in another place, with other people. The narcissist is a coward, terrified of his True Self and protective of the deceit that is his new existence. He feels no pain. He feels no love. He feels no life.

III. Immunity and Magical Thinking

The narcissist's magical thinking and his alloplastic defences (his tendency to blame others for his failures, defeats, and misfortune) make him feel immune to the consequences of his actions. The narcissist does not feel the need to plan ahead. He believes that things will "sort themselves out" under the aegis of some cosmic plan which revolves around him and his role in history.

In many respects, narcissists are children. Like children, they engage in magical thinking. They feel omnipotent. They feel that there is nothing they couldn't do or achieve had they only really wanted to. They feel omniscient – they rarely admit that there is anything that they do not know. They believe that all knowledge resides within them. They are haughtily convinced that introspection is a more important and more efficient (not to mention easier to accomplish) method of obtaining knowledge than the systematic study of outside sources of information in accordance with strict (read: tedious) curricula. To some extent, they believe that they are omnipresent because they are either famous or about to become famous. Deeply immersed in their delusions of grandeur, they firmly believe that their acts have – or will have – a great influence on mankind, on their firm, on their country, on others. Having learned to manipulate their human environment to a masterly extent – they believe that they will always "get away with it".

Narcissistic immunity is the (erroneous) feeling, harboured by the narcissist, that he is immune to the consequences of his actions. That he will never be effected by the results of his own decisions, opinions, beliefs, deeds and misdeeds, acts, inaction and by his membership of certain groups of people. That he is above reproach and punishment (though not above adulation). That, magically, he is protected and will miraculously be saved at the last moment.

What are the sources of this unrealistic appraisal of situations and chains of events?

The first and foremost source is, of course, the False Self. It is constructed as a childish response to abuse and trauma. It is possessed of everything that the child wishes he had in order to retaliate: power, wisdom, magic – all of them unlimited and instantaneously available. The False Self, this Superman, is indifferent to abuse and punishment inflicted upon it. This way, the True Self is shielded from the harsh realities experienced by the child. This artificial, maladaptive separation between a vulnerable (but not punishable) True Self and a punishable (but invulnerable) False Self is an effective mechanism. It isolates the child from the unjust, capricious, emotionally dangerous world that he occupies. But, at the same time, it fosters a false sense of "nothing can happen to me, because I am not there, I cannot be punished because I am immune".

The second source is the sense of entitlement possessed by every narcissist. In his grandiose delusions, the narcissist is a rare specimen, a gift to humanity, a precious, fragile, object. Moreover, the narcissist is convinced both that this uniqueness is immediately discernible – and that it gives him special rights. The narcissist feels that he is protected under some cosmological law pertaining to "endangered species". He is convinced that his future contribution to humanity should (and does) exempt him from the mundane: daily chores, boring jobs, recurrent tasks, personal exertion, orderly investment of resources and efforts and so on. The narcissist is entitled to "special treatment": high living standards, constant and immediate catering to his needs, the avoidance of any encounter with the mundane and the routine, an all-engulfing absolution of his sins, fast track privileges (to higher education, in his encounters with the bureaucracy). Punishment is for ordinary people (where no great loss to humanity is involved). Narcissists are entitled to a different treatment and they are above it all.

The third source has to do with their ability to manipulate their (human) environment. Narcissists develop their manipulative skills to the level of an art form because that is the only way they could have survived their poisoned and dangerous childhood. Yet, they use this "gift" long after its usefulness is over. Narcissists are possessed of inordinate abilities to charm, to convince, to seduce and to persuade. They are gifted orators. In many cases, they ARE intellectually endowed. They put all this to the bad use of obtaining Narcissistic Supply. Many of them are con-men, politicians, or artists. Many of them do belong to the social and economic privileged classes. They mostly do get exempted many times by virtue of their standing in society, their charisma, or their ability to find the willing scapegoats. Having "got away with it" so many times – they develop a theory of personal immunity, which rests on some kind of societal and even cosmic "order of things". Some people are just above punishment, the "special ones", the "endowed or gifted ones". This is the "narcissistic hierarchy".

But there is a fourth, simpler, explanation:

(continued below)


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

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Barnes and Noble

Click HERE to buy the print edition from the publisher and receive a BONUS PACK

Click HERE to buy electronic books (e-books) and video lectures (DVDs) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships

Click HERE to buy the ENTIRE SERIES of sixteen electronic books (e-books) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships

 

Click HERE for SPECIAL OFFER 1 and HERE for SPECIAL OFFER 2

 

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook (my personal page or the book’s), YouTube

 


The narcissist just does not know what he is doing. Divorced from his True Self, unable to empathise (to understand what it is like to be someone else), unwilling to empathise (to constrain his actions in accordance with the feelings and needs of others) – he is in a constant dreamlike state. His life to him is a movie, autonomously unfolding, guided by a sublime (even divine) director. He is a mere spectator, mildly interested, greatly entertained at times. He does not feel that his actions are his. He, therefore, emotionally, cannot understand why he should be punished and when he is, he feels grossly wronged.

To be a narcissist is to be convinced of a great, inevitable personal destiny. The narcissist is preoccupied with ideal love, the construction of brilliant, revolutionary scientific theories, the composition or authoring or painting of the greatest work of art ever, the founding of a new school of thought, the attainment of fabulous wealth, the reshaping of the fate of a nation, becoming immortalised and so on. The narcissist never sets realistic goals to himself. He is forever floating amidst fantasies of uniqueness, record breaking, or breathtaking achievements. His speech reflects this grandiosity and is interlaced with such expressions. So convinced is the narcissist that he is destined to great things – that he refuses to accept setbacks, failures and punishments. He regards them as temporary, as someone else's errors, as part of the future mythology of his rise to power/brilliance/wealth/ideal love, etc. A punishment is a diversion of scarce energy and resources from the all-important task of fulfilling his mission in life. This over-riding goal is a divine certainty: a higher order has pre-ordained the narcissist to achieve something lasting, of substance, of import in this world, in this life. How could mere mortals interfere with the cosmic, the divine, scheme of things? Therefore, punishment is impossible and will not happen – is the narcissist's conclusion.

The narcissist is pathologically envious of people – and projects his feelings unto them. He is always over-suspicious, on guard, ready to fend off an imminent attack. A punishment to the narcissist is a major surprise and a nuisance but it also proves to him and validates what he suspected all the time: that he is being persecuted. Strong forces are poised against him. People are envious of his achievements, angry at him, out to get him. He constitutes a threat to the accepted order. When required to account for his (mis)deeds, the narcissist is always disdainful and bitter. He feels like Gulliver, a giant, chained to the ground by teeming dwarves while his soul soars to a future, in which people will recognise his greatness and applaud it.

IV. Depersonalisation and Derealisation

Time is a quality of the physical world – or, at least, of the way we perceive it. Many narcissists do not feel a part of reality. They feel "unreal", fake facsimiles of "tangible", normal, people. This dents their perception of time and causality.

That the narcissist possesses a prominent False Self as well as a suppressed and dilapidated True Self is common knowledge. Yet, how intertwined and inseparable are these two? Do they interact? How do they influence each other? And what behaviours can be attributed squarely to one or the other of these protagonists? Moreover, does the False Self assume traits and attributes of the True Self in order to deceive?

Two years ago, I suggested a methodological framework. I compared the narcissist to a person suffering from the Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – formerly known as the Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD).

Here is what I wrote:

"A debate is starting to stir: is the False Self an alter? In other words: Is the True Self of a narcissist the equivalent of a host personality in a DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) – and the False Self one of the fragmented personalities, also known as 'alters'?

My personal opinion is that the False Self is a mental construct, not a self in the full sense. It is the locus of the fantasies of grandiosity, the feelings of entitlements, omnipotence, magical thinking, omniscience and magical immunity of the narcissist. It lacks so many elements that it can hardly be called a 'self'.

Moreover, it has no 'cut-off' date. DID alters have a date of inception, being reactions to trauma or abuse. The False Self is a process, not an entity, it is a reactive pattern and a reactive formation. All taken into account, the choice of words was poor. The False Self is not a Self, nor is it False. It is very real, more real to the narcissist than his True Self. A better choice would have been 'abuse reactive self' or something like this.

This is the core of my work. I say that narcissists have vanished and have been replaced by a False Self (bad term, but not my fault, write to Kernberg). There is NO True Self in there. It's gone. The narcissist is a hall of mirrors – but the hall itself is an optical illusion created by the mirrors... This is a little like the paintings of Escher.

MPD (DID) is more common than believed. The emotions are the ones to get segregated. The notion of 'unique separate multiple whole personalities' is primitive and untrue. DID is a continuum. The inner language breaks down into a polyglot chaos. Emotions cannot communicate with each other for fear of the pain (and its fatal results). So, they are kept apart by various mechanisms (a host or birth personality, a facilitator, a moderator and so on).

And here we come to the crux of the matter: All PDs – except NPD – suffer from a modicum of DID, or incorporate it. Only the narcissists don't. This is because the narcissistic solution is to emotionally disappear so thoroughly that not one personality/emotion is left. Hence, the tremendous, insatiable need of the narcissist for external approval. He exists ONLY as a reflection. Since he is forbidden from loving his True Self – he chooses to have no self at all. It is not dissociation – it is a vanishing act.

This is why I regard pathological narcissism as THE source of all PDs. The total, 'pure' solution is NPD: self-extinguishing, self-abolishing, totally fake. Then come variations on the self-hate and perpetuated self-abuse themes: HPD (NPD with sex or the body as the Source of Narcissistic Supply), BPD (emotional lability, movement between poles of life wish and death wish) and so on.

Why are narcissists not prone to suicide? Simple: they died a long time ago. They are the true zombies of the world. Read vampire and zombie legends and you will see how narcissistic these creatures are."

Many researchers and scholars and therapists tried to grapple with the void at the core of the narcissist. The common view is that the remnants of the True Self are so ossified, shredded, cowed into submission and repressed – that, for all practical purposes, they are functionless and useless. In treating the narcissist, the therapist often tries to invent a healthy self, rather than build upon the distorted wreckage strewn across the narcissist's psyche.

But what of the rare glimpses of True Self that the unfortunates who interact with narcissists keep reporting?

If the pathological narcissistic element is but one of many other disorders – the True Self may well have survived. Gradations and shades of narcissism occupy the narcissistic spectrum. Narcissistic traits (overlay) are often co-diagnosed with other disorders (co-morbidity). Some people have a narcissistic personality – but NOT NPD! These distinctions are important.

A person may well appear to be a narcissist – but is not, in the strict, psychiatric, sense of the word.

In a full-fledged narcissist, the False Self IMITATES the True Self.

To do so artfully, it deploys two mechanisms:

Re-Interpretation

It causes the narcissist to re-interpret certain emotions and reactions in a flattering, True Self-compatible, light. A narcissist may, for instance, interpret FEAR – as compassion. If I hurt someone I fear (e.g., an authority figure) – I may feel bad afterwards and interpret my discomfort as EMPATHY and COMPASSION. To be afraid is humiliating – to be compassionate is commendable and earns me social acceptance and understanding.

Emulation

The narcissist is possessed of an uncanny ability to psychologically penetrate others. Often, this gift is abused and put at the service of the narcissist's control freakery and sadism. The narcissist uses it liberally to annihilate the natural defences of his victims by faking unprecedented, almost inhuman, empathy.

This capacity is coupled with the narcissist's ability to frighteningly imitate emotions and their attendant behaviours. The narcissist possesses "resonance tables". He keeps records of every action and reaction, every utterance and consequence, every datum provided by others regarding their state of mind and emotional make-up. From these, he then constructs a set of formulas which often result in impeccably and eerily accurate renditions of emotional behaviour. This is enormously deceiving.

The narcissist experiences his own life as a prolonged, incomprehensible, unpredictable, frequently terrifying and deeply saddening nightmare. This is a result of the functional dichotomy – fostered by the narcissist himself – between his False Self and his True Self. The latter – the fossilised ashes of the original, immature, personality – is the one that does the experiencing.

The False Self is nothing but a concoction, a figment of the narcissist's disorder, a reflection in the narcissist's hall of mirrors. It is incapable of feeling, or experiencing. Yet, it is fully the master of the psychodynamic processes, which rage within the narcissist's psyche. The inner battle is so fierce that the True Self experiences it as a diffuse, though imminent and eminently ominous, threat. Anxiety ensues and the narcissist finds himself constantly ready for the next blow. He does things and he knows not why or wherefrom. He says things, acts and behaves in ways, which, he knows, endanger him and put him in line for punishment. Otherwise he hurts people around him, or breaks the law, or violates accepted morality. He knows that he is in the wrong and feels ill at ease on the rare moments that he does feel. He wants to stop but knows not how. Gradually, he feels estranged from himself, possessed by some kind of demon, a puppet on invisible, mental strings. He resents this feeling, he wants to rebel, he is repelled by this part in him with which he is not acquainted. In his efforts to exorcise this devil from his soul, he dissociates.

An eerie sensation sets in and pervades the psyche of the narcissist. At times of crisis, of danger, of depression, of narcissistic failure – he feels that he is watching himself from the outside. This is not a physical description of an ethereal voyage. The narcissist does not really "exit" his body. It is just that he assumes, involuntarily, the position of a spectator, a polite observer mildly interested in the whereabouts of one, Mr. Narcissist. It is akin to watching a movie, the illusion is not complete, nor is it precise. This detachment continues for as long as the unwanted behaviour persists, for as long as the crisis goes on, for as long as the narcissist cannot face who he is, what he is doing and the consequences of his deeds. Since this is the case most of the time, the narcissist gets used to seeing himself in the role of the hero of a motion picture or of a novel. It also sits well with his grandiosity and fantasies. Sometimes, he talks about himself in the third person singular. Sometimes he calls his "other", narcissistic, self by a different name. He describes his life, its events, ups and downs, pains, elation and disappointments in the most remote voice, "professional" and coldly analytical, as though describing (though with a modicum of involvement) the life of some exotic insect (yes, Kafka).

The metaphor of "life as a movie", gaining control by "writing a scenario" or by "inventing a narrative" is, therefore, not a modern invention. Cavemen narcissists have, probably, done the same. But this is only the external, superficial, facet. The problem is that the narcissist FEELS this way. He really experiences his life as belonging to someone else, his body as dead weight (or as an instrument in the service of some entity), his deeds as a-moral and not immoral (he cannot be judged for something that he hasn't done, can he?). As time passes, the narcissist accumulates a mountain of mishaps, conflicts unresolved, pains well hidden, abrupt separations and bitter disappointments. He is subjected to a constant barrage of social criticism and condemnation. He is ashamed and fearful. He knows that something is wrong but there is no correlation between his cognition and his emotions. He prefers to run away and hide, as he did when he was an infant. Only this time he hides behind another self, the false one. People reflect to him this mask of his creation, until even he believes its very existence and acknowledges its dominance, until he forgets the truth and knows no better. The narcissist is only dimly aware of the decisive battle, which rages inside him. He feels threatened, very sad, suicidal – but there seems to be no outside cause of all this and it makes it even more mysteriously ominous.

This dissonance, these negative feelings, these nagging anxieties, transform the "motion picture" solution into a permanent one. It becomes a feature of the narcissist's life. Whenever confronted by an emotional threat or by an existential one – he retreats into this haven, this mode of coping. He relegates responsibility, submissively assuming the passive role of "the one acted upon". He who is not responsible cannot be punished – runs the subtext of this capitulation. The narcissist is thus classically conditioned to annihilate himself – both in order to avoid (emotional) pain and to bask in the light of his grandiose dreams. This he does with fanatic zeal and with efficacy. Prospectively, he assigns his very life (decisions to be made, judgements to be passed, agreements to be reached) to the False Self. Retroactively, he interprets his past life in a manner consistent with the current needs of the False Self. It is no wonder that there is no connection between what the narcissist did feel in a given period in his life, or in relation to a specific event or happening – and the way he sees or remembers these later on in his life. He describes certain occurrences or periods in his life as "tedious, painful, sad, burdening" – even though he felt entirely differently at the time. The same retroactive colouring occurs with regards to people. The narcissist completely distorts the way he regarded certain people and felt towards them. His inclination is directly and fully derived from the requirements of his False Self during the process of recasting and re-writing.

In sum, the narcissist does not occupy his own soul, nor does he inhabit his own body. He is the servant of an apparition, of a reflection, of an Ego function. To please and appease his Master, the narcissist sacrifices to it his very life. From that moment onwards, the narcissist lives vicariously, through the good offices of the False Self. He feels detached, alienated and estranged from his (False) Self. He constantly harbours the sensation that he is watching a movie with a plot of which he has but little control. It is with certain interest – even bemusement, fascination – that he does the watching. Still, watching it is and only that. The narcissist also engages in permanent Orwellian alterations to the emotional content, which accompanied certain events and people in his life. He re-writes his emotional history according to instructions emanating from the False Self. Thus, not only does the narcissist lose control of his future life (the movie) – he is gradually losing ground to the False Self in the battle to preserve the integrity and genuineness of his past experiences. Eroded between these two poles, the narcissist gradually disappears and is replaced by his disorder to the most complete extent.


Copyright Notice

This material is copyrighted. Free, unrestricted use is allowed on a non commercial basis.
The author's name and a link to this Website must be incorporated in any reproduction of the material for any use and by any means.


Go Back to Home Page!

More Journal Entries

Frequently Asked Questions about Pathological Narcissism

Excerpts from the Archive of the Narcissism List

The Narcissism List Home Page

Philosophical Musings

After the Rain - How the West Lost the East

Internet: A Medium or a Message?

Write to me: palma@unet.com.mk  or narcissisticabuse-owner@yahoogroups.com