The Wasted Lives of the Narcissists
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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I think a lot about the desultory waste that is my biography. Ask anyone who shared a life with a narcissist, or knew one and they are likely to sigh: "What a waste". Waste of potential, waste of opportunities, waste of emotions, a wasteland of arid addiction and futile pursuit.
Narcissists are as gifted as they come. The problem is to disentangle their tales of fantastic grandiosity from the reality of their talents and skills.
They always tend either to over-estimate or to devalue their potency. They often emphasize the wrong traits and invest in their mediocre or (dare I say) less than average capacities. Concomitantly, they ignore their real potential, squander their advantage and under-rate their gifts.
The narcissist decides which aspects of his self to nurture and which to neglect. He gravitates towards activities commensurate with his pompous auto-portrait. He suppresses these tendencies and aptitudes in him which don't conform to his inflated view of his uniqueness, brilliance, might, sexual prowess, or standing in society. He cultivates these flairs and predilections which he regards as befitting his overweening self-image and ultimate grandeur.
A slave to this pressing need to preserve a fake and demanding self, I dedicated years to commerce. I projected the spectre of a rich man (I never came close) of great power (I never had) and multitudinous connections throughout the world (mostly shallow and ephemeral). I hated every minute of wheeling and dealing, of cutting throats and second guessing, of the nauseatingly boring repetition that is the essence of this world. But I kept on trudging, unable to forsake the fear and adulation and media attention and frivolous gossip that gave me sustenance and constituted my very self-worth.
It took a catastrophic, Job-like, turn of events to wean me from this self-made dependency. Having emerged from prison, with nothing but the proverbial shirt on my back, I finally was able to be me. I finally decided to partake of both the joys and the successes of writing, my true skill and knack. Thus, I became an author.
But, the narcissist, no matter how self-aware and well-meaning is accursed.
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His grandiosity, his fantasies, the compelling, overriding urge to feel unique, invested with some cosmic significance, unprecedentedly bestowed - these thwart the best intentions. These structures of obsession and compulsion, these deposits of insecurity and pain, the stalactites and stalagmites of years of abuse and then abandonment - they all conspire to frustrate the gratification, however circumspect, of the narcissist's true nature.
Consider, yet again, my writing. I am at my most effective when I write "from the heart", about my personal experiences and in a thoughtful-reminiscing mode. But, to my mind, such style serves the purpose of showcasing my sparkling intellect and my remarkable brilliance poorly. I need to impress and inspire awe more than I need to communicate with my readers and affect them. I act the academic which my laziness and sense of entitlement and lack of commitment prevented me from being. I am looking, once more, for a short cut.
I am blind to the fact that my prolix and babblative prose inspires more ridicule than awe. I ignore my incomprehensibility and the irritation I provoke with my moribund vocabulary, convoluted syntax and tortured grammar.
I present my half-baked ideas, based on a shaky and fragmented foundation of knowledge haphazardly gleaned, with the certitude of confidence of an authority - or a trickster.
Tis a waste. I have written heart-rending short fiction and powerful poetry.
I have touched the hearts of people. I have made them cry and rage and smile. But I have laid this part of my writing to rest because it does injustice to my grandiose perception of myself. Anyone can write a short story or a poem. Only the few - the unique, the erudite, the brilliant - can comment on the Measurement Problem, analyse Church-Turing machines and use words such as "atrabilious", "sesquipedalian" and "apothegm". I count myself among those few. By doing so, I betray my inner sanctum, my real potential, my gift.
This betrayal and the helpless rage that it provokes in one, if you ask me, is the very essence of narcissism.
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