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Narcissist: Confabulations, Lies

Uploaded 11/13/2010, approx. 4 minute read

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.

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

Narcissist: Confabulates, Gaslights, Or Lies?

Narcissists often make you doubt your sanity and perception of reality, but this is not gaslighting. Narcissists confabulate, creating false memories to bridge gaps in their memory, but they believe these fabrications are true and are not consciously trying to deceive others. Confabulation is a way for narcissists to maintain their grandiosity and protect themselves from the realization of their imperfections. It also helps them reconcile their internal and external worlds and allocate roles to people in their lives within the shared fantasy. Confabulation is a critical psychodynamic function in the economy of the narcissist's mind.


Narcissist's False Self vs. True Self: Soul-snatching

The narcissist's life is a spectacle, with free access to all, constantly on display. The narcissist flaunts a false self to solicit narcissistic supply, attention, and admiration from his audience. The false self is an adaptive reaction to pathological circumstances, but its dynamics make it predominate. The false self is far more important to the narcissist than his dilapidated, dysfunctional, shameful true self.


Narcissist's Routines

Narcissists have a series of routines that are developed through rote learning and repetitive patterns of experience. These routines are used to reduce anxiety and transform the world into a manageable and controllable one. The narcissist is a creature of habit and finds change unsettling. The narcissist's routines are often broken down when they are breached or can no longer be defended, leading to a narcissistic injury.


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 False Narrative and False Self

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.


Narcissist's False Modesty

False modesty is a defense mechanism used by narcissists to protect their grandiosity from scrutiny and to extract narcissistic supply from others. The narcissist publicly chastises themselves for being unfit, unworthy, lacking, and not formally schooled, but this is only to hedge their bets and secure adoring, admiring, approving, or applauding protestations from the listener. False modesty is a bet, and having received the narcissistic supply, the narcissist feels much better. The narcissist is a pathological liar, and with false modesty, they seek to involve others in their mind games and manipulate them.


Narcissistic Grandiosity Bubbles

Grandiosity bubbles are a rare event in the life of a narcissist. They involve the creation of an imagined, self-aggrandizing narrative that the narcissist weaves around elements of his real life. The narcissist modifies his behavior to conform to the newly adopted roles and gradually morphs into the fabricated character he has created. The deflation of a grandiosity bubble is met with relief by the narcissist, who views it as an experiment at being someone else for a while.


Narcissist's Language as Weapon

Narcissists use language as a weapon of self-defense, to obscure, not to communicate, and to obtain narcissistic supply. They talk at others or lecture them, exchange subtexts, and spawn private languages, prejudices, superstitions, conspiracy theories, rumors, phobias, and hysterias. The rules that govern the narcissist universe are loopholeed, incomprehensible, open to interpretation so wide and so self-contradictory that it renders them meaningless. The narcissist, in this respect, is a great social menace, undermining language itself.


Narcissist: Bumbling Fool, Incapable of Learning?

Narcissists can appear to be stupid for several reasons. They have no impulse control, act out, and engage in self-defeating actions. They also use pseudo-stupidity to avoid the consequences of their misdeeds. Narcissists are gullible, have an impaired reality test, and cannot read social cues or the intentions of others. They also use false modesty to fish for compliments, but their attempts are so transparent that people react with repulsion. Finally, the narcissist regards learning something new or getting advice as narcissistic injuries, which renders them appear profoundly stupid.


Loser Narcissist: Failure as Success

Narcissists are often anxious about their performance and feel like frauds, which leads them to be comfortable in their failures. They become experts at floundering and are adept at the art of blundering. They use projective identification to coerce people around them to help them fail and recreate their spectacular downfalls. Being a loser becomes an identity, and they are proud of their mishaps with fortune and institutions.

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