The Labors of the Narcissist
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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I can't hold a job or even run my own business for very long. People - co-workers, clients, suppliers - complain that I create a "bad atmosphere", that I am a "difficult person", that they have to walk on brittle eggshells lest I explode, humiliate them, expose their errors and their weaknesses, or simply walk away.
At the workplace, I connive and collude and spread malicious gossip and complain and grumble and insult profusely and make everyone utterly miserable. I project my fears and foibles unto others. I impose my paranoid set of mind. I am full with ideas of reference - convinced that people are talking about me, conspiring against me, berating me behind my back, out to get me.
I have caused the disintegration of teams and dreams and firms too many to enumerate. Like a ghost, like a poison, I permeated everything, destabilizing, provoking, sowing fear and doubt and mutual suspicion, leading inexorably to recriminations and internecine fighting.
Yet, I have done none of this intentionally or with deliberation. These are the unwanted and inadvertent outcomes of my disorder. My grandiose fantasies make me undertake tasks far beyond my capabilities - and then flunk them spectacularly. My sense of entitlement - never commensurate with my achievements - breeds in me a deep-seated conviction of deprivation and discrimination and a wrathful attitude towards those who will not kowtow and instantaneously cater to my inflated needs. My paranoia paints the world in the penumbral hues of suspicion and intrigue.
There is no way to appease me or to stop me. I am the terminator - ever in flux, ever evasive, omnipresent, and all- pervasive. I am the shadow on the wall, the whisper behind the water cooler, the muffled smirking in the corner. I am the traitorous employee, the snitch, the industrial spy, the venomous co-worker, the malicious on-looker. I desert the sinking ship first.
Despite my grandiose self-image, I constantly feel like a cheat. I know that the self people perceive is my FALSE Self. I know that I am false and vain and prone to modulation by the vicissitudes of my Narcissistic Supply. I realize how frivolous, how ephemeral, how unreal I am. In an effort to cover up for these shortcomings I lie and I exaggerate. I dent my credibility and risk my reputation daily in my struggle to sustain a figment of my own pathology. I crush and violently demean any doubter of my skills, any questioner of my qualifications, any threat - perceived or real - to my facade.
I wrote this about the Narcissist in the Workplace:
"The narcissist always seeks new thrills and stimuli.
The narcissist is notorious for his low threshold of and lack of resistance to boredom. His behaviour is impulsive and his biography tumultuous precisely because of his need to introduce uncertainty and risk to what he regards as 'stagnation' or 'slow death' (i.e., routine). Most interactions in the workplace are part of the rut - and thus constitute a reminder of this routine - deflating the narcissist's grandiose fantasies.
Narcissists do many unnecessary, wrong and even dangerous things in pursuit of the stabilization of their inflated self-image.
Narcissists forever shift the blame, pass the buck, and engage in cognitive dissonance. They 'pathologize' the other, foster feelings of guilt and shame in her, demean, debase and humiliate in order to preserve their sense of grandiosity and their compulsive control.
Narcissists are pathological liars. They think nothing of it because their very Self is FALSE, an invention.
This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"
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Here are a few useful guidelines:
· Never disagree with the narcissist or contradict him;
· Never offer him any intimacy;
· Look awed by whatever attribute matters to him (for instance: by his professional achievements or by his good looks, or by his success with women and so on);
· Never remind him of life out there and if you do, connect it somehow to his sense of grandiosity. If the narcissist bought new office equipment - a mundane, drab, and dreary job - so unworthy of the narcissist's time - aggrandize the purchase thus: 'This is the BEST equipment I have ever seen in ANY workplace', 'We got this fax EXCLUSIVELY - it is the FIRST ever sold here', etc.;
· Do not make any comment, which might directly or indirectly impinge on the narcissist's self-image, omnipotence, judgment, omniscience, skills, capabilities, professional record, or even omnipresence;
· Bad sentences start with: 'I think you overlooked ... made a mistake here ... you don't know ... do you know ... you were not here yesterday so ... you cannot ... you should ...';
· 'Should' and 'ought to' are perceived as rude impositions. Narcissists react very badly to instructions, however helpful and given with the best intentions. They interpret them as restrictions on their freedom;
· Sentences starting with 'I' are equally disastrous. Never mention the fact that you are a separate, autonomous entity. Narcissists regard others as extensions of their selves."
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