Narcissism: Not Self-love!

Uploaded 9/10/2010, approx. 4 minute read

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

There are two crucial differences between healthy self-love and malignant or pathological narcissism.

The first difference is in the ability to tell apart reality from fantasy, and the second one lies in the ability to empathize and indeed to maturely and fully love another person.

The narcissist does not love himself. This is because he has very little true self to love.

Instead, a monstrous, malignant construct, the false self, encroaches upon the narcissist's true self and devours it.

The false self is a piece of fiction, a figment, an invention, and yet, its body snatches and soul snatches the narcissist until there is nothing left to love.

The narcissist loves instead this image that he projects unto others, the false self.

He expects other people to reflect this image, and this process of inventing and then projecting and then recovering the false self through the gaze of other people, this process reassures the narcissist of both the objective existence of the false self and of the boundaries of his own ego.

It blurs all distinctions between reality and fantasy. The false self leads to false assumptions and to a contorted, personal narrative. It leads to a false worldview and to a grandiose-inflated sense of being.

These grandiose fantasies are rarely grounded in real achievements or merit. The narcissist's feeling of entitlement is all-pervasive, demanding and aggressive. It easily deteriorates into open, verbal, psychological and physical abuse of others. Contitlement breeds aggression.

But this entitlement is not grounded in reality.

It is fantastic. It is only in the narcissist's head and in the personal mythology that he constructs.

Maintaining a distinction between what we are really and what we dream of becoming, knowing our limits, our advantages and faults, having a sense of true, realistic accomplishments in our life, all these are of paramount importance in the establishment and maintenance of our self-esteem, our sense of self-worth and self-confidence.

The narcissist lacks all these.

Hence his addiction to narcissistic supply. Reliant as the narcissist is on outside judgment and on the provision of narcissistic supply, the narcissist feels miserably inferior and dependent.

He rebels against this degrading state of things by escaping into a world of make-believe, daydreaming, pretensions and delusions of grandeur.

The narcissist knows little about himself and finds what he knows to be abhorrent, unacceptable and repulsive.

Our experience of what it is like to be human, of our very humanity or humanness, depends largely on our self-knowledge and on our experience of our selves.

In other words, only through being himself and through experiencing his self can a human being fully appreciate the humanity or humanness of others.

The narcissist has precious little experience of his self.

Instead, he lives in an invented world of his own design where he is a fictitious figure in a grandeur script.

The narcissist, therefore, possesses no tools to enable him to cope with other human beings, to share their emotions, to put himself in their place, to empathize and, of course, to love them.

He has no instruments. He doesn't have the apparatus required for the emotion of love. Love is a demanding task of inter-relating, interpersonal space, and the narcissist is not equipped to traverse this space and connect with another human being.

The narcissist just does not know what it means and what it is to be human.

He is a predator, rapaciously praying on others for the satisfaction of his narcissistic cravings and appetites. He seeks relentlessly admiration, adoration, applause, affirmation and attention, like a heat-seeking missile.

Humans are merely narcissistic sources of supply, and he overvalues, idealizes or devalues and discards them according to their contributions to this end, of provision of narcissistic supply.

Self-love is a precondition for the experience and expression of mature love.

One cannot truly love someone else if one does not first love one's true self.

If we had never loved ourselves, we had never experienced unconditional love and if we had never experienced unconditional love, we do not know how to love.

We are incapable of loving others.

If we keep living like the narcissist does in a world of fantasy, how can we notice the very real people around us who ask for our love and who deserve it?

The narcissist wants to love.

In his rare moments of self-awareness, the narcissist feels egodystonic, he is unhappy with this situation and with his relationships with others. This is his predicament.

The narcissist is sentenced to isolation precisely because his need for other people is so great and all engulfing and all consuming.

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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.

Do Narcissists Truly Hate?

Narcissists are often adult versions of abused children who fear intimacy and seek to provoke hatred in parents, caregivers, and authority figures. They act out antisocially and seek to destroy the source of frustration. The narcissist's hatred is not a stable experiential state, but rather a transformation of resentment and an aggressive reaction to frustration. The narcissist is heavily dependent on other people for the regulation of their sense of self-worth, and they resent this dependence.

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.

Narcissist's Wonderboy Mask

Narcissists have a conflicted relationship with their emotions, investing in things they feel they have full control over, such as themselves. To protect themselves from emotional contamination, they construct a false self, which insulates them from the risks of intimacy. The narcissist also creates a second mask, the wunderkind mask, which broadcasts to the world that they are both a child and a genius, making them less emotionally vulnerable. However, the indiscriminate use of these two masks can be detrimental to the narcissist's well-being, leading to emotional devastation and abandonment.

Narcissist's Cognitive Deficits

Narcissists lack empathy and are unable to relate to others, instead withdrawing into a universe populated by avatars. They are incapable of holding an external dialogue and all their dialogues are completely internal. The narcissist attributes their failures and mistakes to circumstances and external causes, while regarding their successes and achievements as proofs of their own omnipotence and omniscience. The narcissist pays a dear price for these distortions of perception, developing paranoid ideation and fading the reality test.

Is Narcissist Self-aware, Introspective? (Global Meeting on Stress Management, March 2021)

Narcissists often have a false self that takes over their true self, leading to a lack of self-awareness and an inability to change. They may gain cognitive understanding of their disorder, but without an emotional connection, this knowledge does not lead to transformation or healing. The narcissist's introspection is often emotionless and focused on maintaining their false self, rather than addressing their true emotions and experiences. As they grow older, their sources of narcissistic supply dwindle, leading them to withdraw further into a dreamland of grandiosity and potentially develop paranoia.

Narcissist's Routines

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The narcissist constructs a false self that is godlike and seeks admiration, adulation, and attention from others. They create a narrative of their life that is partly confabulated to prove the veracity of their grandiose claims. However, reality intrudes, and a gap opens between their self-perception and their pedestrian existence. The narcissist copes with this by denying reality and inventing a new narrative that accommodates the intrusive data.

Embarrassing Narcissist

Narcissists lack self-awareness and are only intimate with their false self, which is constructed from years of lying and deceit. Their overpowering sense of entitlement is rarely commensurate with their accomplishments in real life or with their traits. They often make inflated and inane claims about their sexual prowess, wealth, connections, history, or achievements. This failure of the reality test can have serious and irreversible consequences, as narcissists may make life and death decisions in fields they are academically unqualified for.

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.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2024, under license to William DeGraaf
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