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Communal, Prosocial Narcissist as Compulsive Giver

Uploaded 9/14/2010, approx. 4 minute read

I am Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

There are two types of narcissists, the stingy and mean, and those who are compulsive givers.

Most narcissists feel abused and exploited when they have to pay money in order to satisfy the needs and wishes of their so-called nearest and dearest.

But the compulsive giver is different.

To all appearances, the compulsive giver is an altruistic, empathic, and caring person, but in reality he or she is a people pleaser and a co-dependent. The compulsive giver is trapped in the narrative of his own confabulation. He tells himself that his nearest and dearest need him because they are poor or inexperienced, young, or lacking in intelligence and good looks.

In other words, he tells himself that the recipients of his handouts are inferior to him.

In this sense, compulsive giving is a kind, a variant of pathological narcissism where the giver feels superior. In reality, it is the compulsive giver who coerces, cajoles and tempts people around him to avail themselves of his services or his money.

He forces himself on the recipients of his ostentatious lodges. He forces the beneficiaries of his generosity and magnanimity to play the role. He is unable to deny anyone their wishes or requests even when these are not explicit or expressed and are the mere figments of his own neediness and grandiose imagination.

Inevitably, such a person, the compulsive giver, develops unrealistic expectations. He feels that people should be immensely grateful to him and that their gratitude should translate into a kind of obsequiousness. Internally, the compulsive giver rages against the lack of reciprocity he perceives in his relationships with family, friends and colleagues. He mutely castigates everyone around him for being so ungenerous and so ungrateful.

To the compulsive giver, giving is perceived as a sacrifice and taking is always a form of exploitation. Thus, the compulsive giver gives without grace, always with visible strings attached.

No wonder he is frustrated and often aggressive.

In psychological jargon, we would say that the compulsive giver has alloplastic defenses with an external locus of control. This simply means that the compulsive giver relies on input from people around him to regulate his fluctuating sense of self-worth, his precarious self-esteem and his ever-shifting moods. It also means that he blames the world for his failures.

Compulsive giver feels imprisoned in a hostile and mystifying universe, entirely unable to influence events, circumstances and outcomes. Compulsive giver thus avoids assuming responsibility for the consequences of his actions. Yet it is important to realize that the compulsive giver cherishes and relishes his self-conferred victimhood and he nurtures his grudges by maintaining a meticulous accounting of everything he gives and everything he receives.

It is a kind of a psychological ledger. This mental operation of masochistic bookkeeping is a background process of which compulsive givers are sometimes completely unaware. The compulsive giver is likely to vehemently deny such meanness and narrow-mindedness. He is an artist of projective identification. Compulsive giver manipulates his closest into behaving exactly the way he expects him to. It keeps lying to them and telling them that the act of giving is the only reward that he seeks, all the while he secretly yearns for reciprocity.

He rejects any attempt to rob him of his sacrificial status, and so he won't accept gifts or money and he avoids being the recipient or beneficiary of health or even compliments. This false asceticism and fake modesty are mere baits. He uses them to prove to himself that his nearest and dearest are nasty ingrates. He says, had they wanted to give me a present or to help me, they would have insisted on it. They would have ignored my protestations.

His worst fears and suspicions are thus confirmed yet again.

And gradually people get tired and exhausted by his behavior and they fall into line.

They begin to feel that they are the ones who are doing the compulsive giver a favor by succumbing to his endless and over-winning charity.

"What can we do?" they say.

It means so much to him and he has put so much effort into it. I just couldn't say no, I had to take what was on offer.

The roles are thus reversed, and everyone is happy. The beneficiary's benefit, the compulsive giver, goes on feeling that the world is unjust, that people are self-centered exploiters.

He always suspected that to be the truth and their behavior confirms it, once and for all.

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