My name is Sam Vaknin, I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
The narcissist has no criminal intent, mens rea. He may commit criminal acts, act irate, but there is no intentional planning behind him. He does not victimize or plunder or terrorize or abuse others in a cold, calculating, programmable manner. The narcissist does victimize, does plunder, terrorize and abuse others, but he does it off-handedly, as a manifestation of his genuine character, as a by-product.
To be morally repugnant, one needs to be purposeful, to deliberate and contemplate the options, and then to prefer evil to good, to choose wrong or the right. No ethical or moral judgment is possible without an act of choice on behalf of the perpetrator.
But narcissists do not choose, they simply are. The narcissist's perception of life and his existence is discontinuous. The narcissist is a walking compilation of personalities. Each of these personalities has its personal history.
The narcissist does not feel that he is in any way related to his former selves.
He, therefore, does not understand why he has to be punished for actions or inaction by these former selves. To him, they are someone else.
This injustice surprises, hurts and enrages him. The narcissist is taken aback by society's insistence that he should be held accountable and be punished for his past transgressions. He feels wrong, hurt, the victim of pettiness, bigotry, bias, discrimination and injustice. He rebells, he rages.
As far as a narcissist is concerned, any acts he may have committed in the past were perpetrated by a previous phase of his self. And this phase is alien to his current self.
So the narcissist is unable to link his past acts or inaction with their outcomes in the present.
The narcissist is constantly baffled by this incongruous link between what his previous personalities have done and what his current personality may suffer.
Depending how pervasive his magical thinking is, the narcissist may develop persecutory delusions of paranoia, making him the quarry of powers cosmic and intrinsically ominous. The narcissist may develop compulsive needs to fend off these impending threats and this persecution.
The narcissist is an assemblage. He plays host to many personas.
In this way, the narcissist has DID, dissociative identity disorder, or what used to be called multiple personality disorder.
One of the narcissist's personas is always in the limelight. This is the persona, the fourth self, which interfaces with the outside world and which guarantees an optimal inflow of narcissistic supply. This is the persona which minimizes friction and resistance to the narcissist's daily dealings and thus the energy which the narcissist needs to expend in the process of obtaining said narcissistic supply.
The limelight persona is surrounded by shade personas. The shade personas are potential personas ready to surface as soon as needed by the narcissist. Their emergence to the forefront depends on their usefulness. As long as they are not useful, they are suppressed. They are out of touch and usually out of consciousness.
But the minute they are needed, the limelight shifts, the limelight persona vanishes and a new persona emerges. An old persona might be rendered useless or less useful by a confluence of events.
The narcissist is in the habit of constantly and erratically changing his circumstances. He switches between vocations, marriages, friendships, countries, residences, lovers and even enemies with startling and dazzling swiftness.
The narcissist is a machine whose sole aim is to optimize the input rather than the output, the input of narcissistic supply.
To achieve its goal, this machine stops at nothing and does not hesitate to alter itself to recombine beyond recognition.
The narcissist is therefore the truest shapeshifter. To achieve egosyntony, to feel good despite all his appeals, the narcissist uses the twin mechanisms of idealization and devaluation.
In addition, he is intended to help the narcissist to tenaciously attach to his newfound sources of supply. Devaluation helps the narcissist to detach from these sources of supply once their usefulness has been exhausted.
This is why and how the narcissist is able to pick up where he left off so easily.
It is common for a narcissist to return to old homes or to defunct pathological narcissistic spaces, the hunting grounds of the narcissist. It is common for a narcissist to revive connections with all sources of narcissistic supply, long discarded.
This happens when the narcissist can no longer occupy physically or emotionally his current pathological narcissistic supply and can no longer extract narcissistic supply from his existing sources.
Consider for instance a narcissist who is imprisoned or exiled, divorced, fired. He can no longer obtain narcissistic supply from his own sources. He has to reinvent and reshape a new pathological narcissistic space, a new stomping ground.
In these new settings, new family, new country, different city, new neighborhood, new workplace, in these new settings, the narcissist tries out a few of the personas until he strikes gold and finds the one persona that provides him with the best and maximum narcissistic supply.
But if the narcissist is forced by circumstances to return to his previous narcissistic space, he has no difficulty adjusting. He immediately assumes his own persona and begins to extract narcissistic supply from old sources.
The personas of the narcissist in other words bond with his respective narcissistic spaces. Each persona corresponds to narcissistic space.
These couplets are often interchangeable and inseparable in the narcissist's mind. Every time the narcissist relocates, moves, changes, shifts, the narcissist changes, and the narcissist is a couplet. Every time he finds himself in a new pathological narcissistic space, he immediately raises from the dead the corresponding persona.
That's the narcissist's spatially and temporally discontinuous. His different personas are mostly in cold storage. He does not feel that they are part and parcel of his current identity. They are warehoused. They are repressed, rigidly attached to other narcissistic spaces, pathological narcissistic spaces.
To a narcissist, the pathological narcissistic space is frozen both in time and in space and with it, the persona that is attached to it is also frozen. It's kind of a cryogenic mental space.
The slicing of the narcissist's life is what stands behind the narcissist's apparent inability to predict the inevitable outcomes of his actions. Coupled with his inability to empathize, he renders the narcissist both amoral and resilient, in short, a psychopathic survivor.
The narcissist's dead-level approach to life, his callousness, his ruthlessness, his maverickness, and above all, his shock at being held accountable. They are all partly the results of his uncanny ability to reinvent himself so completely that he is truly a new person.