Excerpts from the Archives of the Narcissism List - Part 3

Listowner: Dr. Sam Vaknin


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1. Narcissists and Chemical Imbalances

The narcissist does have mood swings. But his moods do not swing, pendulum wise, on a regular, almost predictable basis, from depression to elation.

On the one hand, the Narcissist endures mega-cycles which last months or even years (see my book and website). These cannot, of course, be attributed to blood sugar levels.

The narcissist's moods do change suddenly as a result of narcissistic injury. One can easily manipulate the moods of a narcissist by making a disparaging remark about him, by disagreeing with him, by criticising him, by doubting his grandiosity, or claims, etc.

Such mood shifts cannot correlate to blood sugar levels which are cyclical in nature. It is possible to reduce the narcissist to a state of rage and depression AT ANY MOMENT, simply by employing the above "technique". He can be elated, even manic - and in a split second, following a narcissistic injury, depressed, sulking or rageful.

The reverse is also true. The narcissist can be catapulted from the bleakest despair to utter mania (or at least to an increased and marked feeling of well being) by providing him with Narcissistic Supply (attention, adulation, etc.).

Because these swings are totally correlated to external events (narcissistic injury or Narcissistic Supply) I find it impossible to attribute them to cycles of blood sugar.

What is possible, though, is that a THIRD problem causes chemical imbalances, diabetes, narcissism and perhaps more. There might be a common cause, a hidden common denominator.

Other disorders, like Bi-polar (mania-depression), are characterized by mood swings NOT brought about by external events (endogenic, not exogenic). The narcissist's mood swings are only the results of external events (as he perceives and interprets them, of course).

Narcissists are NOT emotional. They are absolutely insulated from their emotions. They are emotionally flat or numb.

All mental health disorders exhibit a mood alternation component. But there is a specific mental health category of mood disorders and narcissism is not one of them.

2. Personal Anecdote

Just to show you how all-pervasive narcissism is and how ill-effected it is by insight:

Yesterday I downloaded all the messages posted to the list.

Being a narcissist, I was under the impression that I am THE main contributor (quantitatively). I expected to find that 600-700 of the 1200 messages we all exchanged over the past three months to have either originated from me or included me as a correspondent.

I am a VERY self-aware narcissist. I have VERY deep insights regarding my condition. I can identify every twist and turn of my disorder. I thought that I was immune to narcissistic excesses of grandiosity.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that less than 170 of the messages "met my criteria". ALL the other 1050 messages HAD NOTHING TO DO with ME. I was not a part of them, nor were they originated by me.

See what I mean by "incurable"?

3. Should I Leave Him?

First, you have to establish clear priorities. Who is more important to you (you or he)? What is more important to you (emotional wellness or something else)? What is your time frame ( can you tolerate another 3 weeks like the past few ones?). Armed with the results, you should gather information: if you adopt behaviour A - what will be the emotional, legal and material effects? And what about behaviour B?

The result of all these deliberations should be a plan of action executed unhesitatingly and irreversibly.

IF you are not likely to be effected legally and materially, my advice to you would be: leave NOW. Pack your things and go. Contact him through your lawyers. Narcissists are poisonous. Stay away. There is no way to leave such a situation in stages. There is no respectable retreat.

Many women are worried about the possible consequences of such an act. "Will he not commit suicide?" is a frequent concern.

Narcissists do entertain suicide thoughts (suicidal ideation) in such cases. They usually do not act on them or act half-heartedly so as to fail. BUT, you should take into consideration a possible suicide and you should teach yourself, internalize, until you FULLY accept it, without ANY reservations that you have NOTHING to do with a possible suicide. The narcissist is autistic. He lives in a world all his own. You exist merely as a reflecting mirror. To think that your leaving would have anything to do with his suicide would be to flatter yourself. Morally, you owe nothing to such a person. But you owe everything to yourself.

4. Significant Others, Significant Roles

I have no interest in intellectual stimulation by significant others (it is perceived by me as a threat). Significant others have very clear roles:  accumulation and dispensation of past Primary Narcissistic Supply in order to regulate current NS. Nothing less but definitely nothing more. Proximity and intimacy breed contempt for reasons that I elucidate in my work. A  process of devaluation is always in full operation.

All the above and a passive witness to my past grandiosity, a dispenser of accumulated NS, a punching bag for my rages, a co-dependent, a possession (though not prized but taken for granted) and much more. Being my partner is an ungrateful, FULL TIME, draining job.

5. Lasch, the Cultural Narcissist

See my: https://samvak.tripod.com/lasch.html

Kernberg made a very pertinent distinction between:

  1. Saying that a specific society/culture is sick (pathologising culture);
  2. Saying that because a culture is sick - all its members are sick;
  3. Saying that in a specific society, certain disorders can be manifested more easily and find more fertile ground, as it were.

I support the third assertion and find the first two untenable.

Freud was the first to study the link between culture/society and pathology. Horney pursued it (as did Mead and many others). Specific pathologies, specific psychopathologies, and the very notion of pathology were always used as metaphors (Sontag) or as tools for social coercion (see Foucault, Szasz, Althusser and many others. See my: https://samvak.tripod.com/althusser.html).

(continued below)

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To my mind, the following two statements are NOT equivalent, let alone identical:

  1. Societal values are internalised by the child in the process of socialisation and formation of his personality (structures, such as the SuperEgo, to use psychoanalytic parlance), AND
  2. A whole culture is internalised and BECOMES (=takes over) the individual.

There is a cyclical argument in Lasch's writings. He is a determinist. If we adopt determinism, consciousness or will become meaningless. If a person is determined by his culture or society and later determines it - Lasch's approach becomes a tautology. Moreover: if psychopathology mirrors culture/society - how can its subject matter be determined by it?

6. Humans as Instruments

Humans are not instruments. To regard them as such is to devalue them, to reduce them, to constrain them, to prevent them from materialising their potential. Narcissists lose interest in their paintbrushes (no matter how valuable) if they cannot serve them in their pursuit of glory and fame through painting. Narcissists do not care about others (especially competitors).

7. NPD and Dual Diagnoses

NPD almost never comes isolated. It is usually diagnosed with other Cluster B Personality Disorders (especially Histrionic PD and Antisocial PD). A single, clearly delineated personality disorder is exceedingly rare. The norm is double or triple diagnoses from various axes (with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, for instance).

But a seductive behaviour is not an NPD trait.

Here is what the authoritative "Review of General Psychiatry" has to say:

"HPD must be differentiated from ... NPD. These disorders may coexist in some combination with HPD, in which case all relevant diagnoses may be assigned."


"... (NPDs) have far greater contempt for the sensitivities of others than those with HPD ..."

8. Narcissists Imitating Emotions

Narcissists are excellent at imitating emotions. They maintain (sometimes consciously) "resonance tables" in their minds. They monitor the reactions of others. They see which behaviour, gesture, mannerism, phrase, or expression evoke, provoke and elicit which kind of empathic reaction from their conversant or counter party. They map these correlations and store them. Then they download them in the right circumstances to obtain maximum impact and manipulative effect. The whole process is highly "computerised" and has NO emotional correlate, no INNER resonance. The narcissist uses procedures: " this is what  I should say, this is how I must behave, this should be the expression on my face, this should be the pressure of this handshake to obtain this reaction". Narcissists are capable of sentimentality - but not of (experiencing) emotions.

9. From "Narcissism and the Search for Interiority" by Donald Kalsched

"In the family backgrounds of narcissistic personalities we find many variations of this pattern where the child is not 'seen' in his or her own spontaneous expressiveness but rather serves a particular function within the psychic 'economy' of the family system, for example, as mother's darling or father's 'queen'. This is especially true where there is a great deal of unlived life in one or another parent. Under these conditions, the child's frequently endless need for attention ... may arouse an envious or wrathful response... Or, the parent will simply ignore the independent needs of the child and respond adoringly to those special abilities, talents, or endearing set of attributes with which he/she can identify and perhaps obtain vicariously, through the child, the needed appreciative mirroring from others. It very often happens that the 'audience' from whom appreciation is wanted is the spouse, as for example, in the case of a father who appropriates his son's endearing qualities and 'shows him off' to his own wife from whom he feels otherwise estranged. Or, the audience maybe the grandfather or grandmother from whom the narcissistically deprived parent may be able to evoke the appreciative 'gleam in the parent's eye' that was never seen in response to his or her own personal accomplishments but now appears as a ready mirror for 'my son' or 'my daughter'. Sometimes it is the very expressive lovingness of the child which is appropriated.

Andras Angyal has made a vital contribution to our understanding of the personality by reminding us that among the spontaneous capacities of normal children is a deep capacity for loving.

Children who have experienced what Winnicott calls 'good enough' mothering have to be carefully taught not to love or not to love totally. Such total expressiveness may be gobbled up by the emotionally deprived parent so that the child quickly realizes that his loving does not come back to him ... it does not make an impact 'out there' and return. It disappears. The parent cannot get enough. Or, what is often worse, the parent appropriates the very lovingness of the child itself as the earliest of the many special talents the parent eventually sees in the child. The parent calls attention to the child's loving gestures and asks others to watch. This is another way of taking the love away. Without knowing it, the child becomes aware that his very warmth and affection itself is made into something for the parents' aggrandizement. This is often the precursor to the superficial warmth and charm of the narcissistic individual, so frequently noted in the literature."

10. Sam Vaknin, NPD

Philosophically, an narcissist, who "warns" others about his disorder (most narcissists are men) is a paradox.

Remember the ancient Greek liar's paradox? "I constantly and invariably lie" says I. If I am telling the truth - than the sentence is a lie and so on.

Narcissists do EVERYTHING in search and pursuit of Narcissistic Supply. There is no other motive or motivation in their lives. If warning others is what's going to get them the attention they are seeking (or the adulation, in some cases) they will do it. Fame is better than notoriety but notoriety is preferable to lack of attention. A narcissist describing his NPD is seeking to secure Narcissistic Supply by doing so. Narcissists are primitive "machines".

It might be difficult to ignore the fact that I am a narcissist. But two observations may make it easier:

  1. A narcissistic discussing NPD "scientifically" and in a "detached" manner will always be objective. It is his reputation that he is trying to preserve by becoming known as "an authority on ...". You can TRUST the narcissist if this is the role that he plays to be completely honest, open and objective.
  1. Intentions don't count - actions do. What does it matter WHY I do what I do, as long as I am able to constructively contribute to the dialogue? By exposing myself I am asking to be accepted as I am. If I am accepted unconditionally - this, indeed, may be a first in my life.

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Lasch - The Cultural Narcissist

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