Compulsive Narcissist

Uploaded 10/28/2010, approx. 6 minute read

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

There is a strong compulsive strand in the narcissist's behavior. The narcissist is driven to exercise internal demons by means of ritualistic acts.

The narcissist's very pursuit of narcissistic supply is compulsive. The narcissist seeks to recreate and reenact old traumas, ancient, unresolved conflicts with figures of primary importance in his life, mainly his parents.

The narcissist feels that he is bad and diffusely guilty, and that therefore he should be punished, so he makes sure that he is disciplined.

These cycles possess the tint and hue of compulsion.

In many respects, narcissism can be defined as an all-pervasive obsessive compulsive disorder.

The narcissist is faced with difficult conditions in his childhood. Either neglect, abandonment, capriciousness, arbitrariness, strictness, sadistic behavior, abuse physical, psychological, sexual, or verbal, or on the other hand, doting, smothering, annexation, and appropriation by narcissistic and frustrated parents.

The narcissist develops a unique defense mechanism. He constructs a story, a narrative, another self. This false self is possessed of all the qualities that can insulate a child from an ominous and hostile world. It is perfect, brilliant, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

In short, the false self is divine.

The narcissist develops a private religion, with the false self as its divinity. This religion is replete with rites, mantras, scriptures, and spiritual and physical exercises.

The child worships this new deity. He succumbs to what he perceives to be the false self's wishes and needs. He makes sacrifices of narcissistic supply to the false self. He is awed by the false self because it possesses many of the traits of the hallowed tormentors, his parents.

The child reduces his true self, minimizes it, he is looking to appease the new divinity, the false self, not to incur its wrath.

The child does this by adhering to strict schedules, ceremonies, by reciting texts, by self-imposition of self-discipline.

Hitherto, the child is transformed into the servant of his false self. The child, daily, caters to the needs of the false self and offers it narcissistic supply.

He is rewarded for these efforts. He feels elated when in compliance with the creed. He emulates the characteristics of this newfangled identity. Suffused with narcissistic supply, his false self content, the child feels omnipotent, untouchable, invulnerable, immune to threats and insults and omniscient.

On the other hand, when narcissistic supply is lacking, the child feels guilty, miserable, and unworthy. The superego then takes over, and this is an inner judge which is sadistic, ominous, cruel, and even suicidal.

It chastises the child for having failed, for having sinned, for being guilty. It demands a self-inflicted penalty to cleanse, to atone, to let go.

Caught between these two deities, the false self on one hand and the superego on the other, the child is compulsively forced to seek narcissistic supply.

Success in this pursuit holds both promise and emotional reward and protection from the murderous superego.

Throughout, the child maintains the rhythms of regenerating his conflicts and traumas in order to try to resolve them. Such resolution can be either in the form of punishment or in the form of healing.

But since healing means letting go of his system of beliefs and deities, the child is more likely to choose punishment every time.

The narcissist tries to re-enact all traumas and to open old wounds. For instance, he behaves in ways that make people abandon him, or he becomes rebellious in order to be chastised and punished by figures of authority, or re-engages in criminal or antisocial activities.

These types of self-defeating and self-destructive behaviors are in permanent interaction with the false self, and they are compulsive.

The false self breeds compulsive acts.

The narcissist seeks for his narcissistic supply, compulsively. He wants to be punished compulsively. He generates resentment or hatred, switches sexual partners, becomes eccentric, writes articles, makes scientific discoveries, all compulsively.

There is no joy in his life or in his actions. Just relieved anxiety, the moment of liberation, and soothing protection. And he enjoys these only following the enactment of compulsive acts.

As pressure builds inside the narcissist, threatening the precarious balance of his personality, something inside warns him that danger is imminent. He reacts by developing an acute anxiety, which can be alleviated only with a compulsive act.

If this act fails to materialize, the emotional outcome can be anything from absolute terror to deep-set depression.

The narcissist knows that his very life is at stake, that in his superego lurks a mortal enemy. He knows that only his false self stands between him and his superego, because the true self is warped, depleted, immature, ossified, and dilapidated.

The narcissistic personality disorder is an obsessive-compulsive disorder writ large, where the false self is empowered to fight the superego and to maintain the life of the narcissist, to protect him.

Narcissists are characterized by reckless and impulsive behaviors, binge eating, compulsive shopping, pathological gambling, drinking, reckless driving.

But what sets them apart from non-narcissistic compulsives is two things.

One, with a narcissist, the compulsive acts constitute a part of a larger grandiose picture. If the narcissist shops, it is in order to build up a unique collection.

If he gambles, it is to prove right a method that he has developed or to demonstrate his amazing mental or psychic powers. If he climbs mountains, if he races cars, it is to establish new records. If he binges on food, it is part of constructing a universal diet or bodybuilding method.

The narcissist never does simple, straightforward things. These are to mundane, to pedestrian, to insufficiently grandiose.

He invents a context, a narrative within which his actions acquire outstanding proportions, outstanding perspectives and a purpose, a messianic cosmic purpose.

And thereby, they are rendered non-compulsive but part of a larger picture, part of a larger scheme, where the regular compulsive patient feels that the compulsive act restores his control over himself and over his life, the narcissist feels that the compulsive act restores his control over his environment and secures his future non-arcissistic supply.

Compulsive goes inward, the narcissist goes outward.

Second difference is that with the narcissist, the compulsive acts enhance the reward penalty cycle.

At their inception and for as long as they are committed, these compulsive acts reward the narcissist emotionally in the ways described above.

But they also provide him with fresh ammunition against himself. His sins of indulgence lead the narcissist down the path of yet another self-inflicted punishment.

So compulsive act is self-reinforcing.

Finally, normal compulsions are usually effectively treatable. The behaviorist or cognitive behavioral therapist reconditions the patient and helps him get rid of his constricting rituals.

This works only partly with the narcissist. His compulsive acts are merely an element in his complicated personality.

Compulsive acts of the narcissist are the sick tips of very abnormal icebergs. Shaving them off does nothing to ameliorate the narcissist's titanic inner struggle for survival.

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Narcissist as Spoiled Brat

Narcissists require attention and narcissistic supply, and when they cannot obtain it, they may experience decompensation, which can lead to acting out in various ways. Narcissists may resort to several adaptive solutions, including delusional narratives, antisocial behavior, passive-aggressive behavior, paranoid narratives, and masochistic avoidance. These behaviors are all self-generated sources of narcissistic supply. Masochistic narcissists may direct their fury inwards, punishing themselves for their failure to elicit supply, and this behavior has the added benefit of forcing those closest to them to pay attention to them.

Collapsed Narcissist, Collapsed Histrionic

Pathological narcissism is a post-traumatic condition that is a result of severe abuse by primary caregivers, peers, or authority figures. Narcissists require a form of narcissistic supply, and when the supply is deficient, they resort to several adaptive solutions. These solutions include the delusional narrative solution, the antisocial solution, the paranoid schizoid solution, the paranoid, aggressive or explosive solution, and the masochistic avoidance solution. In extreme cases, the collapsed narcissist or collapsed histrionic falls apart in a process of disintegration known as decompensation, which is accompanied by acting out.

How Narcissist Experiences/Reacts to No Contact, Grey Rock, Mirroring, Coping, Survival Techniques

Narcissists are victims of post-traumatic conditions caused by their parents, leading to ontological insecurity, dissociation, and confabulation. They have no core identity and construct their sense of self by reflecting themselves from other people. Narcissists have empathy, but it is cold empathy, which is goal-oriented and used to find vulnerabilities to obtain goals. Narcissism becomes a religion when a child is abused by their parents, particularly their mother, and not allowed to develop their own boundaries. The false self demands human sacrifice, and the narcissist must sacrifice others to the false self to gratify and satisfy it.

Narcissist's Psychological Defense Mechanisms

The psyche is a battlefield between instinctual urges and drives, the id, the constraints imposed by reality on the gratification of his impulses, ego, and the norms of society, the superego. Narcissism is a defense mechanism, and narcissists have a monopoly of other defense mechanisms. There are dozens of defense mechanisms, including acting out, denial, devaluation, displacement, dissociation, fantasy, idealization, isolation of affect, omnipotence, projection, projective identification, rationalization, cognitive dissonance, reaction formation, repression, splitting, sublimation, and undoing. All these defense mechanisms operate within the narcissist.

Narcissists: Achievers and Failures

Narcissists are either compulsively driven overachievers or chronic underachieving wastrels. The disparity between the accomplishments of the narcissist and his grandiose fantasies and inflated self-image is what is called the grandiosity gap. It is a staggering abyss and in the long run, it is insupportable and unsustainable. The narcissist's false self is so unrealistic and his expectations of himself are so way out there, his superego is so sadistic, these inner voices that criticize him, that there is nothing the narcissist can do to extricate himself from the Kafkaesque trial that is his life.

Addict Narcissists: Substance Abuse and Reckless Behaviors

Pathological narcissism is an addiction to narcissistic supply, which is the narcissist's drug of choice. Other addictive and reckless behaviors such as war-camelism, alcoholism, drug abuse, pathological gambling, compulsory shopping, reckless driving, and even compulsive lying, piggyback on this primary dependence on narcissistic supply. The narcissist's addictive behaviors take his mind off his inherent limitations and bridge the gap between his unrealistic expectations of life and his inflated self-image. There is no point in treating the dependence and recklessness of the narcissist without first treating the underlying personality disorder.

Narcissist: Your Pain is his Healing, Your Crucifixion - His Resurrection

Narcissists need their victims to suffer to regulate their own emotions and feel a sense of control. They keep a mental ledger of positive and negative behaviors, with negative behaviors weighing more heavily. Narcissists need counterfactual statements to maintain their delusion of being special and superior. The grandiosity gap is the major vulnerability of the narcissist, and they are often in denial about their limitations and failures.

Idealized, Devalued, Dumped

Narcissists have a cycle of overvaluation and devaluation, which is more prevalent in borderline personality disorder than in narcissistic personality disorder. The cycle reflects the need to be protected against the whims, needs, and choices of other people, shielded from the hurt that they can inflict on the narcissist. The overvaluation and devaluation mechanism is the most efficient one available to the narcissist, as the narcissist's personality is precariously balanced and requires inordinate amounts of energy to maintain. The narcissist's energies are all focused and dedicated to the task concentrated upon the source of supply he had identified.

Narcissism: Blessing or Dysfunction?

Pathological narcissism is an addictive behavior that involves an impaired, dysfunctional, and immature true self coupled with a compensatory piece of fiction known as the false self. Narcissists are obsessed with delusions of fantastic grandeur and superiority, and they are very competitive. They are driven, relentless, tireless, and often ruthless. However, three traits conspire to render the narcissist a failure and a loser: his sense of entitlement, his haughtiness and innate conviction of his own superiority, and his aversion to routine.

Narcissist's Routines

Narcissists have a series of routines that are developed through rote learning and repetitive patterns of experience. These routines are used to reduce anxiety and transform the world into a manageable and controllable one. The narcissist is a creature of habit and finds change unsettling. The narcissist's routines are often broken down when they are breached or can no longer be defended, leading to a narcissistic injury.

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