Losing for Granted: Narcissism, Losses, and Life Crises

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

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The narcissist is goal-orientated. Like a sophisticated cruise missile it homes in on Sources of Narcissistic Supply, "conquers" them, conditions and moulds them and proceeds to extract from them attention, adulation, admiration and affirmation. This process demands the persistent investment of inordinate amounts of energy and time. The narcissist appears to be hell-bent, obsessed, smitten and addicted to the pursuit of his Sources of Supply.

Yet, a curious transformation occurs once he has secured and "chained" them.

The narcissist - often abruptly - loses all interest. It is as though, having acquired them, the narcissist takes his sources for granted. He treats them as he would inanimate objects, devoid of will and unable to free themselves from his mesmerizing mental grip.

Many Sources of Supply, weighed down by the tiring relationship with the narcissist, break loose and escape his venomous influence. The delusion that he is in total control crumbles as the narcissist is abandoned time and again by spouses, mates, friends and colleagues.

It is then - when loss is rendered tangible - that the narcissist regains his former zeal and erstwhile fervour. He courts a long neglected wife, invests himself in a hated job, befriends spurned colleagues, or engulfs with unnatural warmth and empathy offended friends.

It is very common, for instance, for a narcissist to rediscover the joy of sex with an adulterous intimate partner or spouse. It is as though being cheated by his wife rekindles in the narcissist a competitive urge, a possessive streak, and a perverted carnal pleasure. Cerebral narcissists then become somatic narcissists (type-switching) for as long as it takes to “re-acquire” (hoover) the “target” (the source of supply).

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The narcissist professes to being shocked by the untoward behaviour of a hitherto faithful spouse, loyal friend, or patient neighbour. "Whatever happened to them?" - He wonders - "What brought this on?" Why did his wife cheat on him? Why did his colleagues demand his resignation? Why did his neighbour turn violent all of a sudden? The narcissist is genuinely puzzled, very much as you would if your personal computer refused to obey your instructions for no good reason.

Aware of impending loss and doom, the narcissist embarks on a charm offensive, parading the most irresistible, brilliant, captivating, titillating, promising and thrilling aspects of his False Self. The aim is to reacquire that which has been forfeited to neglect and indifference, to rebuild relationships ruined by contempt and abuse and, thus, to regain the mislaid fount of Narcissistic Supply.

Needless to add that once these targets are achieved, the narcissist reverts to old form and goes back to being impatient, negligent, emotionally absent, indifferent and abusive. Until another round of losses looms and reanimates the narcissist - a sad, repetitive automaton, forever imprisoned by his own repetition complexes.

This odd, self-defeating pattern is the outcome of a deep-set abandonment or separation anxiety. The narcissist precipitates his losses because he fears them and seeks to preempt them. He emotionally disengages and detaches in order to minimize the pain and hurt which are the ineluctable consequences of said, unavoidable losses: a divorce, death, a breakup, or the growing apart brought on by the personal transformations of his sources of supply. By provoking that which he fears most, the narcissist deludes himself into believing that he is in control, that it was his doing and, therefore, that he can reverse at will that which he has wrought.

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