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Narcissism is Tiring Energy-depleting

Uploaded 9/12/2010, approx. 4 minute read

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

The personality is not a static structure which immutably permeates our being.

Personality is a dynamic, ongoing process. It is a series of cognitive and emotional interactions compounded by extraneous, external input, and endogenous internal feedback.

The personality is ever-evolving, though following our formative years, all subsequent personality changes are subtle and infinitesimal.

This labyrinthine complex of reactions, behavior patterns, beliefs, and defense mechanisms consumes a lot of psychic energy. We invest a lot of energy in maintaining our personality.

And so, the more primitive the personality is, the less organized, the more disordered, the greater the amount of energy required to maintain it in a semblance of balance and function, however precarious.

The predicament of the narcissist is even more multifarious.

People suffering from this all-pervasive and pernicious condition externalize most of the available energy in an effort to secure a narcissistic supply.

These people have a fluctuating, vicissitudinal sense of self-worth. They never know what they are really worth.

In order to regulate this fluctuating sense of self-worth, they consume narcissistic supply from the outside. They seek attention, admiration, adulation, and generally, feedback.

But to secure this narcissistic supply, the provision of this supply requires investing a lot of energy in constructing and then projecting a false self.

So these people have very little energy left for the functioning of their own personality, for the daily ego functions, for the daily routine of maintaining their personality in some kind of balance.

All their energy goes outside to secure a narcissistic supply.

Normally, one's energy, as I said, is expended on the proper functioning of one's personality.

The personality disordered devote any shred of vitality to the projection and maintenance of a false self, whose sole purpose is to elicit attention, admiration, approval, acknowledgment, fear, or adulation from others.

The narcissistic supply, thus obtained, helps these unfortunates to calibrate a wildly fluctuating self-esteem, and thus, as I said, fulfills critical ego functions.

Yet the constant pursuit of this drug, this narcissistic supply, the need to stay permanently attuned to one's human environment and to manipulate it ceaselessly by projecting a false self, all these activities inevitably deplete the narcissist's vigor, his emotional exoskeleton, his emotional outside skeleton, outside scaffold, is derived and Sisyphically constructed from the outside.

This is far more demanding than the normal endoskeletons, inner scaffolding, inner skeletons that healthy people possess.

The personality of healthy people relies on an internal structure that is well balanced and well constructed, agile, flexible, adaptive, and reacts to the environment.

The personality of narcissists relies on an external scaffolding, an external structure whose maintenance requires enormous amounts of energy in securing narcissistic supply.

The narcissist is an artist with himself as his sole creation. His entire energy is committed to the theater production that is his false self.

Hence, the narcissist's constant fatigue and ennui, his short attention span, his tendency to devalue sources of supply, even his transformed aggression.

The narcissist can afford to dedicate resources only to the most promising founts of narcissistic supply. He doesn't have energy to spare. He can't dedicate energy to people who may not be or are not sources of supply.

The path of least investment or the path of least resistance, if you wish, is very tempting because it conserves energy, scares energy, which the narcissist needs to secure supply.

So, narcissist resort to criminal shortcuts, violence, cheating, con artistry, lies, and confabulations.

This is because these shortcuts ostensibly help the narcissist keep a larger share of his energy available to other ends, the ends of securing narcissistic supply.

The narcissist's elan, force of life, life force, is run down, his vitality is drenched, and his verve is exhausted by the unusual need to secure from the outside what most people effortlessly produce internally and take for granted.

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Narcissist as Spoiled Brat

Narcissists require attention and narcissistic supply, and when they cannot obtain it, they may experience decompensation, which can lead to acting out in various ways. Narcissists may resort to several adaptive solutions, including delusional narratives, antisocial behavior, passive-aggressive behavior, paranoid narratives, and masochistic avoidance. These behaviors are all self-generated sources of narcissistic supply. Masochistic narcissists may direct their fury inwards, punishing themselves for their failure to elicit supply, and this behavior has the added benefit of forcing those closest to them to pay attention to them.


Narcissist: Is He or Isn't He?

Narcissism is a spectrum of behaviors, from healthy to pathological, and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual specifies nine diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). A malignant narcissist is someone who has NPD and wreaks havoc on themselves and their surroundings. They feel grandiose and self-important, exaggerate accomplishments, and demand recognition as superior without commensurate achievements. They require excessive admiration, adulation, attention, and affirmation, and are interpersonally exploitative, devoid of empathy, and constantly envious of others.


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.


Collapsed Narcissist, Collapsed Histrionic

Pathological narcissism is a post-traumatic condition that is a result of severe abuse by primary caregivers, peers, or authority figures. Narcissists require a form of narcissistic supply, and when the supply is deficient, they resort to several adaptive solutions. These solutions include the delusional narrative solution, the antisocial solution, the paranoid schizoid solution, the paranoid, aggressive or explosive solution, and the masochistic avoidance solution. In extreme cases, the collapsed narcissist or collapsed histrionic falls apart in a process of disintegration known as decompensation, which is accompanied by acting out.


Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Misdiagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Narcissists are anxious for social approval and seek narcissistic supply compulsively, which creates attendant anxiety. They require external feedback to regulate their sense of self-worth, self-confidence, and self-esteem, making them irritable. Narcissists are terrified of being embarrassed or criticized in public, and they fail to function well in various settings. It is easy to mistake the presenting symptoms of certain anxiety disorders with pathological narcissism, but the narcissist is egosyntonic, while the anxious patient is distressed and looking for help.


Narcissist Loves his Disorder and Narcissistic Personality

Narcissists may modify their behavior to become more socially acceptable, but they never heal or get better because they have an emotional investment in their disorder. Narcissistic personality disorder serves two critical functions: it endows the narcissist with a sense of uniqueness and provides an alibi for their misconduct. Narcissists reject the notion that they are mentally ill or disturbed, and their disorder becomes an integral and inseparable part of their inflated self-esteem and grandiose fantasies. The narcissist is emotionally attached to their narcissistic personality disorder and loves their disorder passionately.


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.


Zombie Narcissist: Deficient Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists are constantly seeking praise, adoration, admiration, approval, applause, attention, and other forms of narcissistic supply. When they fail to obtain sufficient supply, they react much like a drug addict would. They become dysphoric, depressed, and may resort to alternative addictions. In extreme cases of deprivation, they may even entertain suicidal thoughts. Narcissists also have a sense of magical thinking, believing that they will always prevail and that good things will always happen to them, rendering them fearless and cloaked in divine and cosmic immunity.


Narcissistic Defences and Personality

Narcissistic personalities are prone to depression, anxiety, shame, self-destructiveness, or rage when their habitual gratifications are threatened. Narcissism is an evolved version of the psychological defense mechanism known as splitting, where the narcissist either idealizes or devalues objects. The narcissist is obsessed with securing a reliable and continuous source of admiration, adulation, affirmation, and attention, and will become an evil person if they cannot secure positive supply. Narcissistic personalities slide the meanings of events to place themselves in a better light and maintain logical consistency while minimizing evil or weakness and exaggerating innocence or control.


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.

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