The Ubiquitous Narcissist

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin


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The narcissist feels omnipresent, all-pervasive, the prime mover and shaker, the cause of all things. Hence his constant projection of his own traits, fears, behaviour patterns, beliefs, and plans onto others. The narcissist is firmly convinced that he is the generator of other people's emotions, that they depend on him for their well-being, that without him their lives will crumble into grey mediocrity. He regards himself as the most important part in the life of his nearest and dearest. To avoid painful contradictions with reality, the narcissist aims to micromanage and control his human environment.

But this only one aspect of the pathology.

The second aspect is malignant cynicism. A healthy modicum of doubt and caution is... well... healthy. But the narcissist is addicted to excess doses of both. To the narcissist, all people are narcissists - others are simply hypocritical when they pretend to be "normal". They are weak and fear society's reactions, so they adhere to its edicts and behavioural-moral codes. The narcissist magically feels strong, immune to punishment, and invincible and thus able to express his true nature fearlessly and openly.

Consider generosity and altruism, the daughters of empathy - that which the narcissist is absolutely devoid of.

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I cannot digest or fathom true generosity. I immediately suspect ulterior motives (though not necessarily sinister ones). I ask myself: Why the helping hand? How come the trust placed in me? What do they really want from me? How (unbeknownst to me) do I benefit them? What is the disguised self-interest which drives their perplexing behaviour? Don't these people know better? Don't they realize that people are all, without exception, self-centred, interest-driven, unnecessarily malevolent, ignorant, and abusive? In other words, I am surprised that my true nature does not show instantly. I feel like an incandescent lamp. I feel that people can see through my transparent defences and that what they see must surely horrify and repel them.

When this does not happen, I am shocked.

I am shocked because altruistic, loving, caring, and generous behaviours expose as false the hidden assumptions underlying my mental edifice. Not everyone is a narcissist. People do care for each other for no immediate reward. And, most damaging of all, I am loveable.


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