Narcissism Myths: Suicide, Types, Crises

Uploaded 1/12/2011, approx. 6 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin. I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

I would like to dispel a few myths and hidden assumptions about narcissism and narcissism.

The first is that there is such a thing as a typical narcissist. One must always specify whether one is referring to a cerebral narcissist or to a somatic one. A cerebral narcissist uses his intelligence, intellect and knowledge to obtain narcissistic supply. A somatic narcissist uses his body, his looks and his sexuality.

Inevitably, each type is likely to react very differently to life and its circumstances.

Somatic narcissists are a variation on another personality disorder known as histrionic personality disorder. They are seductive, provocative. They are obsessive compulsive when it comes to their bodies, their sexual activities and their health. They are likely to be hypochondriacs as well.

While I dispute the existence of a typical narcissist, I do accept that certain behavioral and character traits are common to all narcissists.

For example, pathological lying. Even the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 4 defines narcissistic personality disorder using words such as fantasy, grandiose and exploit, which imply the usage of half-truths, inaccuracies and lies on a regular basis.

Scholars such as Kernberg and others coined the term false self, not in vain. Narcissist is false and fake. Narcissists are not gregarious.

Actually, many narcissists are schizoids, recluses and they are paranoid, they are hermits.

Narcissists love to have an audience but only because and as long as the members of the audience provide them with narcissistic supply.

Otherwise, narcissists are not interested in people as such. All narcissists lack empathy, which makes others much less fascinating than they appear to be to empathic people.

Narcissists are terrified of introspection. I am not referring to intellectualization or rationalization or the straightforward application of their intelligence, they do that.

But this would not constitute introspection. Proper introspection must include an emotional element, an insight and the ability to emotionally integrate the insight so that it affects behavior.

Narcissists lack all that. Some of them may even be aware of narcissistic personality disorder and of their own problems, their own chaotic behavior and disorganized personality.

But this self-awareness has no impact because it lacks emotional resonance within the narcissist.

Some people are narcissists and they know it cognitively. They even think about it from time to time, but this does not amount to useful introspection.

Narcissists do some real introspection and even attend therapy sessions following a life crisis only.

So to summarize, while there are no typical narcissists, there are traits and behavior patterns typical to all narcissists.

The second myth is that pathological narcissism is a pure phenomenon that can be dealt with experimentally.

Well, this is not the case. Actually, due to the fuzziness of the whole field, diagnosticians are both forced and encouraged to render multiple diagnosis with the same patient. This is called comorbidity.

Narcissistic personality disorder usually appears in tandem with some other cluster B disorder, such as antisocial, histrionic and most often borderline personality disorder.

This is why in the next version of the DSM, the DSM-5, all personality disorders are going to be amalgamated and instead of separate diagnosis, we're going to have one diagnosis of personality disorder with emphasized dimensions or traits.

Regarding the third myth that narcissists are prone to suicide, especially in the wake of a life crisis involving a grave narcissistic injury, I have a few things to say.

Narcissists rarely, very rarely, commit suicide. They react with suicidal ideation and reactive psychosis to severe stress, but to commit suicide runs against the grain, the very essence of narcissism.

Suicide is more of a borderline behavior, borderline personality disorder.

The differential diagnosis of narcissistic from borderline personality disorder rests on the absence of attempted suicide and self-mutilation. In other words, narcissists do not attempt suicide and self-mutilation while people with borderline personality disorder do.

In response to a life crisis, divorce, public disgrace, imprisonment, accident, bankruptcy, terminal illness, and so on, the narcissist is likely to adopt either of two reactions.

The narcissist can finally refer himself to therapy, realizing that something is dangerously wrong with him. That's one possibility.

Or he can frantically grope for alternative sources of narcissistic supply.

Statistics show that talk therapies are rather ineffective with narcissism. Soon enough, the therapist is bored, fed up or actively repelled by the grandiose fantasies and open contempt of the narcissist.

The therapeutic alliance crumbles and the narcissist emerges triumphant, having sucked the therapy's energy dry.

So narcissists prefer usually to try to find alternative sources of supply. They're very creative. If all else fails, they exhibitionistically make use of their own misery. Or they lie.

They create a fantasy, confabulate, harp on other people's emotions, fake a medical condition – it's known as Minkowski disorder – fool a stunt, fall in ideal love, make a provocative move or commit a crime.

The narcissist is bound to come up with something, a surprising angle to extract new narcissistic supply from a begrudging and mean and hostile world.

The exposure of the false self is a major narcissistic injury. The narcissist is likely to react with severe depression, self-deprecation and self-flagellation. And yes, even to the point of considering suicide. This is known as suicidal ideation.

All this happens inside the narcissist in his inner landscape. On the outside, the narcissist is likely to appear assertive and confident. This is his way of channeling his life-threatening aggression.

Rather than endure the assault of this inner sadistic judge and his frightening outcomes, the narcissist redirects his aggression and rage, transforms them and hurls them at others.

He scapegoats others in order to avoid his inner conflict. What form this conversion assumes is nigh impossible to predict without knowing the narcissist in question intimately.

It could be anything from cynical humor, brutal honesty, verbal abuse, passive-aggressive behaviors frustrating others and down to actual physical violence. There's no telling.

But one thing is for sure. Are the people going to pay the price for the narcissist's inner toy, turmoil? What else is new?

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

The Signs of the Narcissist

Narcissists are difficult to spot, but there are subtle signs that can be picked up on, such as entitlement markers, idealization and devaluation, and a lack of empathy. Narcissists are often perceived as anti-social and are unable to secure the sympathy of others. They are also prone to projecting a false self and using primitive defense mechanisms such as splitting, projection, projective identification, and intellectualization.

Raging Narcissist: Merely Pissed-off?

Narcissistic rage is a phenomenon that occurs when a narcissist is frustrated in their pursuit of narcissistic supply, causing narcissistic injury. The narcissist then projects a bad object onto the source of their frustration and rages against a perceived evil entity that has injured and frustrated them. Narcissistic rage is not the same as normal anger and has two forms: explosive and pernicious or passive-aggressive. People with personality disorders are in a constant state of anger, which is effectively suppressed most of the time, and they are afraid to show that they are angry to meaningful others because they are afraid to lose them.

Old-age Narcissist

Narcissists age without grace, unable to accept their fallibility and mortality. They suffer from mental progeria, aging prematurely and finding themselves in a time warp. The longer they live, the more average they become, and the wider the gulf between their pretensions and accomplishments. Few narcissists save for rainy days, and those who succeed in their vocation end up bitterly alone, having squandered the love of family, offspring, and mates.

Narcissism is Tiring Energy-depleting

Personality is a dynamic, ongoing process that is ever-evolving. The more primitive the personality, the less organized, the more disordered, the greater the amount of energy required to maintain it in a semblance of balance and function. Narcissists externalize most of the available energy in an effort to secure a narcissistic supply. The narcissist's constant fatigue and ennui, his short attention span, his tendency to devalue sources of supply, even his transformed aggression.

Narcissist: Loser and Failure

Narcissists have three traits that make them fail and become losers: a sense of entitlement, arrogance, and aversion to routine. Their sense of entitlement makes them lazy and believe that they should be spoon-fed. They are under-qualified and lack skills because they believe they are above mundane chores. Their arrogance and belief that they are superior to others hampers their ability to function in society. They become outcasts and are shunned by colleagues, employers, and family members.

Narcissist's Impossible Jigsaw Puzzle

Narcissists are fascinating due to their contradictory traits and behaviors. They can be highly intelligent and creative, yet emotionally immature and self-destructive. They can appear self-sufficient but are extremely dependent on others for validation. These disconnects challenge our understanding of psychology, as narcissists seem to defy the typical integration of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral aspects of a person. Narcissism remains a perplexing and unchanging phenomenon, providing valuable insights into the human mind.

Narcissist Hates Happy People and Holidays

Holidays and birthdays are a difficult time for narcissists, as they provoke a stream of pathological envy. The narcissist is jealous of others for having a family, being able to celebrate lavishly, or being in the right mood. They hate humans because they are unable to be one and want to spoil it for those who can enjoy. Holidays remind the narcissist of their childhood, the supportive and loving family they never had, and what could have been.

Narcissists: Their Professions, Jobs, and Vocations

Narcissists are over-represented in certain professions, including teaching, the clergy, show business, corporate management, medicine, the military, law enforcement, politics, and sports. They gravitate towards these professions to construct self-enclosed spaces where they are divine, god-like figures with a coterie of fans, admirers, followers, and devotees. Narcissists are dangerous in these professions as they lack empathy and ethical standards, and are prone to immorally, cynically, callously, and consistently abuse and misuse their position. Their socialization process is often disturbed, perturbed, and this results in social dysfunctioning.

Narcissist's Cycles of Ups and Downs

Narcissists go through cycles of mania and depression, which are caused by external events or circumstances known as triggers. The cycles are different from manic depressive cycles in bipolar disorder, which are endogenous. The narcissist is addicted to narcissistic supply and seeks admiration, adoration, approval, attention, and so on. The narcissist goes through ups and downs, including a depressive phase, a hibernation phase, and a manic phase, which are all part of the process of obtaining and securing narcissistic supply.

Narcissist Never Sorry

Narcissists sometimes feel bad and experience depressive episodes and dysphoric moods, but they have a diminished capacity to empathize and rarely feel sorry for what they have done or for their victims. They often project their own emotions and actions onto others and attribute to others what they hate in themselves. When confronted with major crises, the narcissist experiences real excruciating pain, but this is only a fleeting moment, and they recover their former self and embark on a new hunt for narcissistic supply. They are hunters, predators, and their victims are prey.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2024, under license to William DeGraaf
Website Copyright © William DeGraaf 2022-2024
Get it on Google Play
Privacy policy