The Silver Pieces of the Narcissist
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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When I have money, I can exercise my sadistic urges freely and with little fear of repercussions. Money shields me from life itself, from the outcomes of my actions, it insulates me warmly and safely, like a benevolent blanket, like a mother's good night kiss. Yes, money is undoubtedly a love substitute. And it allows me to be my ugly, corrupt, and dilapidated self. Money buys me absolution and my own friendship, forgiveness, and acceptance. With money in the bank, I feel at ease with myself, free, arrogantly soaring supreme above the contemptible masses.
I can always find people poorer than I, a cause for great disdain and bumptiousness on my part.
I rarely use money to buy, corrupt, and intimidate. I wear 15 year old tattered clothes, I have no car, no house, no property. It is so even when I am wealthy. Money has nothing to do with my physical needs or with my social interactions. I never deploy it to acquire status, or to impress others. I hide it, hoard it, accumulate it and, like the proverbial miser, count it daily and in the dark. It is my licence to sin, my narcissistic permit, a promise and its fulfillment all at once. It unleashes the beast in me and, with abandon, encourages it - nay, seduces it - to be itself.
I am not tight-fisted. I spend money on restaurants and trips abroad and books and health products. I buy gifts (though reluctantly). I speculate and have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in wanton gambling in the stock exchanges. I am insatiable, always want more, always lose the little that I have. But I do all this not for the love of money, for I do not use it to gratify my self or to cater to my needs. No, I do not crave money, nor care for it. I need the power that it bestows on me to dare, to flare, to conquer, to oppose, to resist, to taunt, and to torment.
In all my relationships, I am either the vanquished or the vanquisher, either the haughty master, or his abject slave, either the dominant, or the recessive. I interact along the up-down axis, rather than along the left-right one. My world is rigidly hierarchical and abusively stratified. When submissive, I am contemptibly so. When domineering, I am contemptuously so. My life is a pendulum swinging between oppressed and oppressor.
This article appears in my book "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"
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To subjugate another, one must be capricious, unscrupulous, ruthless, obsessive, hateful, vindictive, and penetrating. One must spot the cracks of vulnerability, the crumbling foundations of susceptibility, the pains, the trigger mechanisms, the Pavlovian reactions of hate, and fear, and hope, and anger. Money liberates my mind. It endows it with the tranquillity, detachment, and incisiveness of a natural scientist. With my mind free of the quotidian, I can concentrate on attaining the desired position - on top, dreaded, derided, avoided - yet obeyed and deferred to. I then proceed with cool disinterest to unscramble the human jigsaw puzzles, to manipulate their parts, to enjoy their writhing as I expose their petty misbehaviors, harp on their failures, compare them to their betters, and mock their incompetence, hypocrisy, and cupidity. Oh, I disguise it in socially acceptable cloak - only to draw the dagger. I cast myself in the role of a brave, incorruptible iconoclast, a fighter for social justice, for a better future, for more efficiency, for good causes. But it is all about my sadistic urges, really. It is all about death, not life.
Still, antagonizing and alienating my potential benefactors is a pleasure that I cannot afford on an empty purse. When impoverished, I am altruism embodied - the best of friends, the most caring of tutors, a benevolent guide, a lover of humanity, and a fierce fighter against narcissism, sadism, and abuse in all their myriad forms. I adhere, I obey, I succumb, I agree wholeheartedly, I praise, condone, idolize, and applaud. I am the perfect audience, an admirer and an adulator, a worm and an amoeba - spineless, adaptable in form, slithery flexibility itself. To behave so is unbearable for a narcissist, hence my addiction to money (really, to freedom) in all its forms. It is my evolutionary ladder from slime to the sublime - to mastery.
Those scarred by economic and financial
traumas let money dictate their lives. In the pursuit of safety and luxury they
sacrifice love, happiness, and self-actualization. Money also provides an
escape hatch akin to the oblivion afforded by drugs. In time, profligacy
becomes an addiction.
For some people money makes life meaningful and reifies its sense: moneymaking provides a reason to get up in the morning. Money is an explanatory and organizing principle which renders the world and human actions comprehensible. Money helps regulate one's sense of self-worth: it is a measure of how much one is appreciated and loved.
Possessing money is a shorthand testament to one's natural endowments, acquired skills, sagacious and perspicacious choices, Darwinian fitness, and even moral righteousness.
People feel that they deserve to have earned their money. If they end up wealthy by some coincidence or stroke of luck, it is proof that both the gods and the Universe favor them, that they have been singled out. Money is, therefore, a form of quantifiable narcissistic supply and an utterly bias-free ranking algorithm: alpha makes make more money than their beta brethren.
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