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:

Two Narcissists in a Couple

Two narcissists of the same type cannot maintain a stable, long-term, full-fledged and functional relationship. Two narcissists of different types or opposing types can, often do, maintain long-term, stable and rather happy relationships. There are two main types of narcissists, somatic and cerebral. The somatic type of narcissist relies on his body and sexuality to generate attention, adulation and admiration, while the cerebral narcissist leverages his intellect, his intelligence and his professional achievements to obtain the same. Stable and enduring relationships can and often do develop between dissimilar narcissists.

Why Narcissist Devalues YOU (Hint: Wants YOU "Dead")

Narcissists devalue their partners as a form of self-defense and control. There are two types of devaluation: preemptive and reactive. Preemptive devaluation occurs when a narcissist is in a transitional state between overt and covert narcissism, and they devalue potential sources of supply to prevent the overt side from using them against the covert side. Reactive devaluation is a response to a perceived threat to the narcissist's grandiosity or control. Both types of devaluation are harmful to the victim and serve to maintain the narcissist's sense of power and control.

Narcissist's Victims' Many Faces

Everyone around the narcissist is bound to become a victim, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. There are three categories of victims: those who suffer from the narcissist's instability, those who are misled by the narcissist's deceiving messages, and those who are intentionally targeted by the narcissist. The narcissist is both sadistic and masochistic, and in hurting others, he always seeks to also hurt himself. The narcissist is ruinous and destructive, and no amount of punishment can restore the balance or provide closure and vindication.

Discontinuous Narcissist's Multiple Personas

Narcissists do not have criminal intent, but they do victimize, plunder, terrorize, and abuse others as a manifestation of their genuine character. The narcissist is a walking compilation of personalities, and each of these personalities has its personal history. The narcissist is unable to link his past acts or inaction with their outcomes in the present. The slicing of the narcissist's life is what stands behind the narcissist's apparent inability to predict the inevitable outcomes of his actions.

Narcissists: Somatic vs. Cerebral

Narcissists are addicted to narcissistic supply, which is attention, adoration, admiration, and adulation. There are two types of narcissists: somatic and cerebral. Somatic narcissists leverage their body and sexual prowess to garner attention, while cerebral narcissists use their intellect and knowledge to secure admiration. Both types prefer self-satisfaction to adult, mature, interactive, multidimensional, and emotion-laden relationships. Narcissists often fluctuate between the two types, especially after a life crisis.

When the Narcissist's Parents Die

The death of a narcissist's parents can be a complicated experience. The narcissist has a mixed reaction to their passing, feeling both elation and grief. The parents are often the source of the narcissist's trauma and continue to haunt them long after they die. The death of the parents also represents a loss of a reliable source of narcissistic supply, which can lead to severe depression. Additionally, the narcissist's unfinished business with their parents can lead to unresolved conflicts and pressure that deforms their personality.

Narcissists Have Emotions

Narcissists do have emotions, but they tend to repress them so deeply that they play no conscious role in their lives or conduct. The narcissist's positive emotions come bundled with very negative ones, and they become phobic of feeling anything lest it be accompanied by negative emotions. The narcissist is reduced to experiencing down-steerings in their soul that they identify to themselves and to others as emotions. Narcissists are not envious of others for having emotions, they disdain feelings and sentimental people because they find them to be weak and vulnerable.

Somatic Narcissist: Not Sex, But Pursuit and Conquest

Somatic narcissists derive their narcissistic supply from the process of securing sex, rather than the act itself. They are often health freaks, bodybuilders, or hypochondriacs, and regard their bodies as objects to be sculpted and honed. The cerebral narcissist, on the other hand, is haughty and uses their intellect or knowledge to secure admiration. Both types are auto-erotic and prefer masturbation to interactive sex. It is a mistake to assume type constancy, as the narcissist swings between their dominant and recessive types.

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.

Narcissist's Pain: Narcissism, Sadism, and Masochism

Narcissists experience a sense of relief after suffering emotionally, enduring a narcissistic injury, or sustaining a loss. This elation is so addictive that the narcissist often seeks pain, humiliation, punishment, scorn, and contempt. The narcissist is also a sadist, albeit a bit of an unusual sadist. The narcissist pendulum swings between the extremes of torturing others and then empathically soothing the resulting pain.

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