My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
We all indulge in confabulating from time to time.
Father's wartime heroism, mother's youthful good looks, one's oft-recounted exploits, erstwhile alleged brilliance, past purported sexual irresistibility. They are all typical examples of confabulations. White, fuzzy, heartwarming lies, wrapped around a shriveled kernel of truth.
But the distinction between reality and fantasy is never lost. Deep inside, the healthy confabulator knows where facts end and wishful thinking or a rewriting of history begin.
Father acknowledges he was not really a war hero, though he did his share of fighting. Mother understands she was no ravishing beauty, though she may have been attractive.
The confabulator realizes that his recounted exploits are overblown, his brilliance exaggerated, and his sexual irresistibility only a myth.
Such distinctions never rise to the surface because everyone, the confabulator and his audience, have a common interest to maintain the confabulation.
To challenge the integrity of the confabulator or the veracity of his confabulations is to threaten the very fabric of family or society.
Human intercourse is built around such entertaining deviations from the truth.
But this is where the narcissist differs from others, from normal people. The narcissist's very self is a piece of fiction, concocted to fend off hurt and pain and to nurture the narcissist's grandiosity.
The narcissist fails in his reality test. He is unable to distinguish the actual from the imagined, the real from the fantasized. The narcissist fervently believes in his own infallibility, brilliance, omnipotence, omniscience, heroism, and perfection. He doesn't dare confront the truth and admit it, not even to himself.
Moreover, the narcissist imposes his personal mythology on his nearest, dearest and closest. Spouse, children, colleagues, friends, neighbors and sometimes even perfect strangers must abide by the narcissist's narrative or face his rage and wrath.
The narcissist's countenance, no disagreement, no alternative points of view, no criticism. To him, his confabulation is reality.
The coherence of the narcissist's dysfunctional and precariously balanced personality depends on the plausibility of his stories and on their acceptance by his sources of narcissistic supply.
The narcissist invests an inordinate amount of time in substantiating his tales and lies, in collecting so-called evidence in defending his version of events and in reinterpreting reality to fit his scenario.
As a result, most narcissists are self-delusional, obstinate, opinionated, argumentative, and all of them have largely fake biographies.
The narcissist's lies are not goal-orienting.
This is what makes his constant dishonesty both disconcerting and incomprehensible. The narcissist lies at the drop of a hat, needlessly and almost ceaselessly. He lies in order to avoid the grandiosity gap, the abyss between fact, drab reality, shape, shabby pedestrian existence and the narcissistic fiction, the false self, the narrative that is the narcissist.
This gap, this abyss between the real and the imagined is too big and the narcissist's bridges it with his confabulations.
We are all conditioned to let others indulge in pet delusions and get away with it. White, non-egregious lies are utterly acceptable, socially speaking.
The narcissist makes use of our socialization. He makes use of these lies. He abuses it.
We dare not confront or expose the narcissist despite the outlandishness of his claims, the improbability of his stories, the implosibility of his alleged accomplishments and conquests.
We simply turn the other cheek or meekly avert our eyes, often embarrassed for him.
Moreover, the narcissist makes clear from the very beginning that it is his way or the highway. His aggression, even his violent streak, are close to the surface, under the veneer.
He may be charming in a first encounter, but even then, there are telltale signs of pent-up abuse. His interlocutors sense this impending threat, this lurking intimidation, and they avoid conflict by acquiescing with the narcissist fairy tales.
This way, the narcissist imposes his private universe, his virtual reality, on his milieu, sometimes with disastrous consequences, especially with the narcissist attains positions of authority.