Narcissism is a choice. Above all, it's a choice. There is no question that in individuals there is a genetic predisposition to this choice.
But like everything else in genetics, genes are templates. They can be activated and deactivated. They are subject to environmental influences and effects. They begin to operate and they cease to operate in accordance with environmental cues such as childhood abuse and childhood trauma.
So while the predisposition of the proclivity to develop pathological narcissism are there, still the question remains, why does a child in the case of an individual or why does a collective such as a nation or a club or a church, why do they decide to react with narcissism to a given set of circumstances where other individuals and other collectives choose to react differently, not necessarily with narcissism? What predisposes certain individuals and collectives to narcissism?
Or is it maybe not the individuals and the collectives, but the context in which they are embedded? Is it the context that determines narcissism?
If we regard narcissism as a choice, it must involve a cognitive element and an emotional element. Additionally, once the choice is made, narcissism has two basic aspects or dimensions.
One is the role play. Narcissism is a role play, very similar to an actor with a script acting on the stage or acting in a movie.
So the narcissist goes through the motions dictated by the narcissistic narrative.
And the narcissistic narrative has two components. One component is fact-based and the other component is confabulation-based because the narcissist is highly dissociative.
The narcissist tries to bridge between events. He tries to regain the time lost by inventing plausible, probable, acceptable narratives that could have happened, should have happened, might have happened, probably had happened. It's like Sherlock Holmes. When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
That is a very good definition of confabulation.
So the narcissistic narrative is founded partly on fact and partly on contribulation.
And in this sense, the narcissistic narrative is actually a conspiracy theory.
So now all narcissists are conspiracy theorists, which would explain why there is a very pronounced paranoid streak in narcissism. Why this, why this persecutory delusion, why this feeling that the narcissist is at the center of attention, the certain center of the universe, the center of the universe and everyone around him is referring to him, mocking him, talking about him, gossiping and conspiring out of envy or out of other ulterior motives or hidden agendas to do the narcissist ill.
The narcissist is like Indra's net. It is the bead that lifts or beads.
So the narcissistic narrative is partly fact based, partly confabulation based. And it goes hand in hand with a script, a derivative script, a script that derives from the narrative.
The narrative is like a screenplay. It tells the narcissist. It gives, it imbues the narcissist's life with meaning and sense. It's hermeneutic. It's exegetic. It's interpretative. It explains to the narcissist the why of his life. Why are you here? What are you here for? What is your cosmic mission?
Because it's always cosmic. So there is an element of the narcissistic narrative that has to do with imbuing life with meaning and significance.
And the second element is an organizing principle.
The narcissism organizes life, makes sense out of apparently disparate and random events, charts, a path forward, a course, a trajectory.
These are very powerful mental functions, usually carried out by the ego, but they are very powerful mental functions.
If you have a kind of a screenplay, which renders your life meaningful and significant and provides you with an organizing principle with a set of rules, boundaries, dictated behaviors, predictable routines, this is something that's addictive. It's very difficult to resist.
And that's why narcissism is so ubiquitous and all pervasive. That's why it's very difficult for the narcissist to give up on his narcissism.
This narcissism is not merely a mental illness. It's not merely a disorder. It's not merely an agglomeration or aggregation of cognitive deficits, emotional deficiencies, behavioral, kind of antisocial aspects and, and counterproductive traits.
This is the external facet. This is the facade of narcissism. This is what we would call in therapy, the presenting signs. This is what you see, but what you see is not what you get.
Narcissism is not merely this dysfunctional entity, this set of instructions with glitches and bugs, this broken down computer.
Narcissism is much more than that.
Narcissism in this sense is very much like a religion, very much like a philosophy, very much like an ideology. It makes sense of the world. It provides goals. It produces goals, produces meaning. It drives you forward. It structures your life.
It's like an exoskeleton. It gives you the incentive to get out of bed in the morning, to take on, to take on reality and its challenges, to prevail, to triumph and to attain your goals, your purpose in life and your aim.
And so if you think of narcissism as a religion or as an ideology, you would be far closer to the truth.
And this is precisely why narcissists are emotionally invested. They are affected. They're emotionally invested in their narcissism.
It's very difficult to divorce the narcissist from his disorder, from narcissism, because narcissism fulfills so many important psychological functions for the narcissist.
For the narcissist, it's not merely to be a jerk. It's not merely to torture people. It's not merely to be entitled. It's not merely to be grandiose. It's not merely to live in a fantasy.
All these are, of course, integral facets of narcissism. But I would argue that they are not the important facets of narcissism.
The important thing about narcissism is that it makes a narcissist feels alive and feels alive for a reason, feels alive for a purpose. It makes him part of a cosmic plan. It unites him with the world in a way.
And because he lacks all the emotional and cognitive and psychological apparatus of a normal, healthy individual, that's the only way he can relate to the world via his narcissism.
We find the same mechanism exactly, the same set of specifications in cult members.
Cult members are the same. They interact with the world via the intermediation and the interface and the buffer of the cult, the cult leader, the cult principles, the cult goals and aims, the cult's paranoia, the cult's weeness and belonging and affiliation.
The cult is a surrogate family.
And so the narcissist is a one-man cult. He worships a god, which is the false self.
And he is both god and worshiper.
In a sense, it's a religion. But it's also an ideology, because the narcissist uses his narcissism to derive the principles underlying human existence.
When he tries to make sense of society and of social interactions, when he tries to make sense of sex, when he tries to make sense of the family, of intimate relationships, of intimacy, when he tries to make sense of business, when he tries to imbue many of his activities with meaning, when he tries to humanize himself, because he is part, he is part human. He is not fully human.
When he tries to humanize himself, the only tool that his disposal is his narcissism. This is the set of edicts, rules, stratagems, lessons, life lessons that he has at his disposal to implement and to derive, to derive meaning from the world.
When he tries to understand things, he automatically takes out theonly weapon in his arsenal, his narcissism. And he uses his narcissism to understand, to comprehend, to cope with, to interact.
And this is why when normal people, when healthy people interact with the narcissist, they feel they spot this microsecond delay. It's like the narcissist is a delayed person.
When you talk to the narcissist, there's always this nanosecond or microsecond delay.
And this delay is when the narcissist uses his narcissism to filter what you had said, to grasp what you had meant, to interpret, to translate your words into narcissist speak.
This narcissism has its own language. And there is a dictionary in every narcissist's mind. There's a dictionary that allows them to translate daily speech, daily gesture, daily behaviors, daily interactions, daily frameworks of reference, daily institutions, anything from the family to bureaucracy. They filter all these, they filter quotidian, pedestrian, daily existence and routines. They filter them through the narcissistic dictionary so that they convert them into a language that they can understand.
And this takes some time. And when you talk to the narcissist, and when you talk to the narcissist, you can feel, you can sense, you can discern this tiniest of delays before the narcissist reacts. It's like a badly programmed robot.
And, and this is also part of the narrative. The narrative, the narcissistic problem with the narcissistic narrative is that it is very, very cohesive, very coherent, very powerful. It's a powerful tool.
It does explain the world. It does give meaning. It does provide goals. It does make sense of other people and their behaviors.
And even when it's wrong and it's often wrong, even when it's fallacious, even when and if it relies on cognitive deficits, such as confirmation bias or dube, Kruger effect, even when it's totally off the mark, it is still very powerful in the sense that it makes sense to the narcissist. That's why the narcissistic narrative is very rigid, almost impossible to tinker with. And that's why the narcissist defends his narcissism violently and aggressively. That's why if you try to challenge the narcissist, he would fight you tooth and nail and claw because you're not challenging a specific trade or a specific behavior or a specific cognitive deficit or a misunderstanding or, or you're not just trying to reason with the narcissist or to negotiate with the narcissist. You are challenging, you're challenging his ideology. It's like challenging a communist about his communism, challenging a Nazi about his Nazism, challenging a Muslim about Islam. It's like challenging the mental framework that embeds you in the world.
Narcissism is the narcissist religion. It's a narcissist ideology. It's exactly the thing that allows the narcissist to survive.
So this role play, this role play coupled with the narrative does become a choice.
Maybe as a child, when you're four years old, six years old, nine years old, you don't have much of a choice. Your options are limited. There's very little you can do.
And you crucially depend for your life, actually for your survival on a specific set of adults, parents, grandparents, later teachers, and sometimes on peers.
But the dependence is there and you can't get rid of it by any successful means. Society itself, the legislation, the institutions of society are biased against children. They condition children. They make sure that children remain dependent on adults.
So in this sense, it's a power structure where adults perpetrate their power over children.
So as a child, trapped, you're trapped, you're embedded in a system of society with its institutions that make sure that you are disempowered. You have no power as a child.
And so to become a narcissist when you're six years old, when you're four years old, may not be a choice.
But what about when you are 40 years old? What about when you're 30 years old or 50 years old or worse, 60 years old like me? What then? Isn't narcissism a choice when you're 60 years old? Of course it is.
And when you're 30 and when you're 14, when you're 20, at a certain point in time, you do become independent. And the dead point, you definitely face the choice of getting rid of your narcissism or at the very least getting rid of your narcissistic behaviors and traits and deficits.
You can work on yourself. You can change. You can modify your behavior if nothing else.
Maybe you cannot get rid of the deep internal structures, the deep state of narcissism, but you can definitely get rid of all the external manifestations and expressions of narcissism. You can get rid of abrasive behaviors. You can get rid of antisocial misconduct. You can get rid of hurting people. You can get rid of being unreliable, not keeping your word and promises. You can get rid of manipulating people, etc.
There's a lot you can consciously decide not to do anymore.
But narcissists make this choice and the vast majority of them choose to remain narcissists.
And this raises the question, why? Why do individuals and collectives choose to become or even worse remain narcissists?
Again, in early childhood or in times of collective trauma, narcissism is not a choice. It's sometimes a default based on genetics in the case of the individual and based on the crumbling of institutions in case of collective trauma.
But when everything is well and when you are of an age as an individual or when the trauma is over and society is reconstructed, why do people, individuals and collectives choose to remain narcissists?
And the unpopular answer is that narcissism works.
Narcissism is a positive adaptation. Narcissism renders people more self efficacious.
In other words, by adopting narcissism, people are able to secure beneficial outcomes to extract and extricate benefits from their environment.
And this is a very crucial thing.
If you hit upon a strategy that works, that makes sure that you are a success, that you're accomplished, that you're a pillar of society, that you get the most beautiful girl and you have the most stunning family, that you end up rich, that you end up famous, that you end up a celebrity, or that you're a success in your neighborhood or in the local pub.
It doesn't matter. If you hit upon a strategy that allows you to secure your goals and to extricate and extract beneficial outcomes from a difficult environment, you never let go of this strategy.
You become emotionally invested in this strategy. You become wedded to the strategy and you never intend to divorce.
So the thing is that narcissism works and it is a vicious cycle because the more efficacious narcissism is, the more society and civilization become narcissistic. And the more society and civilization become narcissistic, the more reason you have to be a narcissist.
In highly psychopathic societies, cultures and civilizations and periods in history, where human solidarity broke down, where the jungle rule applied, where unbridled greed, avarice, envy, and other bad qualities reigned.
Well, in these kinds of societies, it pays to be a narcissist. It's the rational strategy to be a psychopath.
In Nazi Germany, to be an empathic altruistic person was insane. It was a mental health pathology. People who were altruistic and empathic in Nazi Germany should have been treated by psychiatrists to get rid of these undesired qualities.
In Nazi Germany, what paid was to be a narcissist, a psychopath. In modern western civilization, what pays is to be a narcissist, a grandiose narcissist.
Grandiose narcissist become multi billionaires. They become famous coaches. They become public intellectuals. They become TV stars. They become cinematic stars. They become celebrities. They become famous singers. They make money. They get the girls. They live the good life.
Why would someone like Donald Trump have an incentive to get rid of his grandiose pronounced narcissism? Why would he have an incentive?
It is his narcissism that carried him all the way to the White House. It is his narcissism that made him famous and rich and powerful.
In the case of Donald Trump, for example, his narcissism was definitely an extremely positive adaptation.
And people are beginning to recognize this.
And in academia, where I work in universities, there are many, many scholars who are not talking about high functioning narcissism. There's high functioning psychopathy even. There are some scholars like Kevin Dutton and others.
They say to be a psychopath is a good thing. We need psychopaths because psychopaths are good politicians. Psychopaths are good leaders. Psychopaths are good surgeons. Psychopaths are good chief executive officers. Where would we be without psychopaths?
There's a whole body of scholarly literature that insists that narcissism and psychopathy are good things. There was even a cover story in New Scientist, a famous academic, famous science magazine. There was a cover story in July 2016.
Parents teach your children to be narcissists.
So when you live in a narcissistic ambience and in a society that rewards psychopathy and narcissism, you have very little incentive to stop being a narcissist.
And every incentive to exaggerate your narcissism, to outdo the next guy, to escalate, to radicalize, to become even more extreme, and to seamlessly transition, traverse the border between narcissism and psychopathy.
So today's narcissist, they have an incentive to become psychopaths. And today's psychopaths, they have incentive to become meaningless.
Society pushes narcissists and psychopaths to radicalize and pushes the average normal person, healthy person, to become more and more narcissistic, just in order to survive, just in order to thrive, just in order to realize personal goals and personal agendas, which are totally legitimate.
In a healthy society, this would be done via negotiation, via compromise, via empathy, via altruism, and so on. In a sick society and sick civilization, this must be done via pathological means, like narcissism.
So narcissism works.
And this presents a serious problem, because narcissism used to be an individual ideology and an individual private religion.
But now it's becoming more of a collective ideology and a collective religion. It's becoming the organizing principle of all our collective human activities.
Today, people analyze politics, for instance, in terms of narcissism. They analyze the mass media and mass entertainment in terms of narcissism. They even analyze the functioning of the medical establishment in terms of narcissism.
Narcissism today serves to explain, make sense of a very senseless, sometimes nonsensical world.
So narcissism is taking over, taking over as the main feature of modern life, as the single buzzword and keyword that you can fling about and would explain everything in an instant.
This is very similar to the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages, the equivalent of narcissism was God.
If you wanted to explain something in the Middle Ages, why a famine happened, why a plague happened, why a war happened, why this king is ascendant upon the other king, why? If you wanted to explain why in the Middle Ages, you did it by evoking the name of God. You just said, ah, God, God did it. And that was enough. No one questioned the sentence. No one said, are you sure it was God? Can you explain how God did it? Can you explain why God? No one asked this question. It was enough to say God. God was the word. God was the key that unlocked the mysteries of human existence. God was the key to all the unexplained, to all the occult, to all the arcane, to all the unresolved, to all the questions which puzzled us and perplexed us. All we had to say was God and everything was in its place. Calm and peace, especially inner peace, were restored. People self-medicated with God. God was an anxiolytic, an anxietyreducing medicine.
So the same with narcissism today. Today, if you ask what makes politicians think, you don't say God anymore. You say narcissism. What makes celebrities celebrities? Narcissism. What makes Wall Street bankers rob the rest of the population? Narcissism. Narcissism is the new God. Narcissism is the word that explains it all. That's all you need to say. One word. And with this one word, within this one word, you have the whole world. You know, the New Testament, the New Testament opens with a sentence.
At the beginning there was the word. At the beginning there was logos. Beginning there was the word. And today I can say, to explain the world, you can do it with a word. And the word is narcissism. Narcissism is a perfect, almost perfect explanation of everything that's happening around us, everything that's happening to us, and everything we do to each other. And why would the narcissist give up on this wonderful elixir, on this fruit of the tree of knowledge? Why would he give up on his privileged access to this key, to the cosmos, to this universal organizing mechanism and principle?
Narcissists are in a privileged position, because they know more about narcissism than anyone else. They have a competitive advantage. They have a competitive edge over everyone else. They have experienced narcissism since childhood. They know what makes things work. They know what makes people tick. They know what makes society function. Why would you expect them to give up on this precious knowledge, which provides them with the edge to win, to prevail, to survive, to conquer? That is an unreasonable and irrational request.
And most narcissists regard the attempts to eradicate narcissism and to cure them of their narcissism with derision and contempt and anger.
Because what they feel, narcissists feel, that the average people, the disadvantaged people, the inferior people, the people who have no access to narcissism, they want to take the narcissism away from them. They feel that people want to reduce them to their level. Narcissists feel that narcissism gives them an advantage, an edge. Narcissism makes them superior and creative. Narcissism gives them the way to take over the world.
And here come average Joe, the pedestrian day-to-day person, the failure, the loser, and they want to take the narcissism away from the narcissist because they are jealous. They're envious of the narcissism. They envy the narcissist's narcissism.
Narcissists regard his narcissism as an asset, as an asset, as a gift. And he says to himself, people are jealous of my narcissism. They're envious of my narcissism because it's a gift. God gave me a gift. My parents gave me a gift. I gave myself a gift.
And they want to take this gift away from me. They want to take this endowment. They want to take away my edge, my advantage. They want to reduce me to their level. They want me to be as inferior and weak and stupid as they are.
And I will never let this happen. I will never let this happen because I'm a narcissist. I belong to a master race. I belong to a superior phase of human evolution. I am the future. I am the future and I will not let the present and the past drag me back to the primitive swamps of the beginning of humanity.
Because the future is narcissism and it's here in my figure, in my essence. I am the future, reified and embodied.
Therefore, I'm entitled to special treatment and I'm entitled to take as much as I want from as many people as I want, whenever I want.
And anyone who objects to this, anyone who resists me, anyone who criticizes and disagrees with me, anyone who tries to heal me and cure me, they're just envious of me. They want to be like me, but they cannot.
So they are trying to shapeshift me. They're trying to mold me. They're trying to remove whatever is special about me, whatever makes me unique, my idiosyncrasy.
They are trying to homogenize me and I will never let this happen. I will never let this happen, no matter what the cost in human life and human suffering.
I will fight for my right to be a God because I am a God. I'm a God because I've discovered the heart of the world. I've discovered the engine of the universe. I've discovered the mechanism behind the Wizard of Oz.
I've discovered narcissism.