I am Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
The narcissist lacks empathy. Consequently, he is not really interested in the lives, emotions, needs, preferences and hopes of people around him.
Even his nearest and dearest are to the narcissist mere instruments of gratification. They require his undivided attention only when they malfunction, when they become disobedient, independent, or critical of him.
The narcissist loses all interest in them if they cannot be fixed, for instance when they are terminally ill, or when they develop the modicum of personal autonomy and independence. When they stop being sources of narcissistic supply, they no longer exist, as far as the narcissist is concerned.
Once he gives up his erstwhile sources of supply, the narcissist proceeds to promptly and peremptorily devalue and discard them. This is often done by simply ignoring them, a facade of indifference that is known as a silent treatment, and is at heart a hostile, aggressive and sadistic reaction.
Indifference is therefore a form of devaluation.
People find the narcissist cold, inhuman, heartless, clueless, robotic or machine-like, precisely because of this inbred, in-depth, inherent apathy.
Early on in life, the narcissist learns to disguise his socially unacceptable indifference, and pretend that it is a form of benevolence, equanimity, cool-headedness, composure or superiority.
He says, it is not that I do not care about the others, I am simply more level-headed, more resilient, less emotional, more composed under pressure.
They mistake my equanimity for a lack of empathy and apathy.
The narcissist tries to convince people that he is compassionate.
His profound lack of interest in his spouse's life, occasion, interest, hobbies and whereabouts, he cloaks as benevolent altruism.
He says, I give my wife all the freedom she can wish for. I don't spy on her, follow her or nag her with endless questions. I don't bother her. I let her lead her life the way she sees and feels, and don't interfere in her affairs.
He makes a virtue of his own emotional truancy and absence. All very commendable, but when taken to extremes, such benign neglect turns malignant, signifies the avoidance of true love and attachment.
The narcissist's emotional and often physical absence from all his relationships is a form of aggression and defense against his own thoroughly repressed feelings.
In rare moments of self-awareness, the narcissist realizes that without his input, even in the form of feigned emotions, people will abandon him.
He then swings from cruel aloofness to maudlin and grandiose gestures intended to demonstrate the larger-than-life nature of his sentiments.
This bizarre pendulum only proves the narcissist's inadequacy at maintaining adult relationships. It convinces no one and it repels many.
The narcissist's guarded detachment is a said reaction to his unfortunate formative years, but the logic of narcissism is thought to be the result of a prolonged period of severe abuse by primary caregivers, parents, peers or authority figures.
In this sense, pathological narcissism is a reaction to trauma.
Narcissism is a form of post-traumatic stress disorder that got ossified and fixated and mutated into a personality disorder.
All narcissists are traumatized and all of them suffer from a variety of post-traumatic symptoms, abandonment, anxiety, reckless behaviors, anxiety and mood disorders, somatoform disorders and so on.
But the presenting signs of narcissism rarely indicate post-trauma. This is because pathological narcissism is an efficient coping and defense mechanism.
The narcissist presents to the world a facade of invincibility, equanimity, superiority, skillfulness, coolheadedness, unvulnerability and indifference.
But that's only a facade of course. The frond, this frond is penetrated only in times of great crisis. Crisis that threatens the narcissist's ability to obtain narcissistic supply.
The narcissist then on these occasions falls apart in the process of disintegration known as decompensation. The dynamic forces which render him paralyzed and fake. His vulnerabilities, weaknesses, frailties and fears are starkly exposed as his defenses crumble and become dysfunctional.
The narcissist's extreme dependence on his social milieu for the regulation of his sense of self-worth are painfully and pitifully evident as he is reduced to begging and controlling for narcissistic supply.
At such times the narcissist acts out self-destructively and antisocial. His mask of superior equanimity is pierced by displays of impotent rage. He becomes self-loathing. He displays self-pity and craves manipulation of his friends, family and colleagues. His ostensible benevolence and caring evaporate. He feels caged and threatened and he reacts as any animal does by striking back at his perceived tormentors and his hitherto nearest and dearest who with all narcissistic supply from him. He's a drug addict in cold turkey.