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Narcissist: Drama Queen in Pathological Narcissistic Space

Uploaded 8/5/2012, approx. 7 minute read

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

The behavior of the narcissist is very inconsistent. It is as though the narcissist has many personalities, not to say multiple personalities.

How can this be explained?

It is important to understand the deep inside behind the facade and behind all the acting. The narcissist is chronically less and unhedonic. He is unable to find pleasure in love, he is unable to love, and in the long run as a result, he is never truly loved.

The narcissist is forever in the pursuit of excitement and drama, intended to alleviate his all-pervasive boredom and melancholy. The narcissist, put less charitably, is a drama queen.

Needless to say that both the pursuit itself and its goals must conform to the grandiose vision that the narcissist has of his false self.

The pursuit and the goals must be commensurate with the narcissist's view of his own uniqueness and entitlement.

The process of seeking excitement and drama cannot be deemed by the narcissist or by others to be humiliating, belittling, or common, or pathetic.

The excitement and the drama generated by the narcissist must be truly unique, groundbreaking, breathtaking, overwhelming, unprecedented, and under no circumstances routine or pedestrian.

Actually, the very act of dramatization is intended to secure what we call egosyntony, a good feeling.

The narcissist says to himself, surely the dramatic is also special, it's also meaningful, eternal, memorable. I, myself, am also dramatic and therefore I exist and have meaning and am memorable and am special.

The drama supports the narcissist's sense of being unique.

The narcissist, always a pathological liar and the chief victim of his own stratagems and deceit, can and does convince himself that his antics and exploits are cosmically significant.

Thus, existential boredom, self-directed aggression, known as depression, and the compulsive quest for excitement and titillating drama lead to the relentless pursuit of narcissistic supply, attention, adulation, admiration, or barring these, being feared and hated.

The processes of obtaining, preserving, accumulating, and recalling narcissistic supply take place in something called the pathological narcissistic space. This is an imaginary environment, a profit zone, invented by the narcissist himself. It has clear geographical and physical boundaries, it's a home, it's a neighborhood, it's a workplace, a city, a country.

And the narcissist tries to maximize the amount of narcissistic supply that he derives from people within the pathological narcissistic space.

There, in the pathological narcissistic space, the narcissist seeks admiration, adoration, approval, applause, or as a minimum attention. If not fame, then notoriety, if not real achievements, then contrived and imagined ones, if not real distinction, then concocted and forced uniqueness. If not to be loved, then to be feared or to be hated.

Narcissistic supply substitutes for having a real vocation or avocation and actual achievements. It displaces the emotional rewards of intimacy in mature relationships and supplants them, substitutes for them.

The narcissist is ruefully aware of this substitutive nature of narcissistic supply, of his own inability to have a go at the real thing.

His permanent existence is in fantasy land, intended to shield him from his self-destructive urges.

And paradoxically, this very faint and fake existence only enhances his self-defeating and self-destructive behavior.

This state of things makes the narcissist feel sad, depressed, and ranged at his own helplessness in the face of his disorder, and furious at the discrepancy between his delusions of grandeur and reality, what I call the grandiosephic act.

This state of things is the engine of his growing disappointment and disillusionment, his anhedonia, his inipotence, his degeneration and ultimate ugly decadence as it grows old.

Narcissist ages disgracefully and graciously. He is not a becoming saint as his defenses crumble and harsh reality intrudes the reality of his own self-imposed mediocrity and wasted life.

These flickers of sanity, his reminders of his downhill path, get more ubiquitous with every passing day of confabulated existence.

The narcissist has a dam, fending off reality, but gradually, as he grows older, cracks a tear, some water drops penetrate, and then the flood, the avalanche, as he completely collapses in the face of overwhelming evidence of decay, mediocrity, lack of achievements, and complete ruination.

The more fiercely the narcissist fights this painfully realistic appraisal of himself, the more apparent its veracity. Infiltrated by the Trojan horse of his intelligence, the narcissist's defenses are overwhelmed, and this is followed by either spontaneous healing or a complete mental breakdown.

The narcissist's anthropological narcissistic space incorporates people whose role is to applaud, admire, adore, approve, and attend to the narcissist.

Extracting narcissistic supply from these people calls for emotional and cognitive investments, stability, perseverance, long-term presence, attachment, collaboration, emotional agility, people skills, and so on. All these things are in short supply with the narcissist.

But all this inevitable toil contradicts the deeply ingrained conviction of the narcissist that he is entitled to special and immediate preferential treatment.

The narcissist expects to be instantaneously recognized and is outstanding, talented, and unique. He does not see why this recognition should depend on his achievements and efforts. He feels that he is unique by virtue of his sheer existence. All he has to do is be there to be recognized. He feels that his very life is meaningful, that it encapsulates some cosmic message, mission, or process.

Narcissistic supply obtained through the investment of efforts and resources, such as time, money, and energy, is to be expected, routine, mundane.

In short, sub-supply is near useless.

Useful narcissistic supply is obtained miraculously, dramatically, excitingly, surprisingly, shockingly, unexpectedly, and simply by virtue of the narcissist being there. No action is called for as far as the narcissist is concerned.

Controlling, requesting, initiating, convincing, demonstrating, and begging for supply are all acts which starkly contrast with the grandiose delusions of the narcissist and his self-perception.

Narcissist feels that he should not have to beg, or to ask, or to initiate, or to convince, or to cajole, or to beg for supply. He has to come his way automatically. He has to flow merely because he exists.

Additionally, the narcissist is simply unable to behave in certain ways, even if he wants to. He cannot get attached. He cannot be intimate, persevere, destabilize, predictable, or reliable, because such conduct contradicts his emotional involvement prevention mechanisms, or measures.

This is a group of destabilizing behaviors intended to forestall future emotional pain inflicted on the narcissist when he is inevitably abandoned, or when he fades.

If the narcissist does not get attached, he cannot be hurt. He will not endure pain. If he is not intimate, he cannot be emotionally blackmailed, and he will not go through the pangs and pines of abandonment. If he does not persevere, he has nothing to lose. If he does not stay put, he cannot be expelled. If he rejects or abandons, he cannot be rejected or abandoned, better to be active than passive.

The narcissist anticipates the inevitable schisms and emotional abysses in a life fraught with gross dishonesty.

And so, the narcissist shoots first.

Indeed, it is only when the narcissist is physically mobile and besieged by problems that the narcissist has a risk from his maddeningly nagging addiction to narcissistic supply.

And this is the basic conflict of the narcissist. The two mechanisms underline his distorted personality are completely incompatible.

One mechanism calls for the establishment of a morphological narcissistic space and for the continuous gratification that is entailed in such a space by extracting narcissistic supply regularly, predictably, reliably.

And the other mechanism urges the narcissist not to embark on any long-term project, to move continuously, to disconnect, to dissociate, to abandon.

Only other people can provide the narcissist with his badly needed doses of narcissistic supply.

But the narcissist is loathe to communicate and to associate with these people in an emotionally meaningful way.

The narcissist lacks the basic skills required in order to obtain his drug.

The very people who are supposed to sustain his grandiose fantasies through their adoration and attention mostly find the narcissist repulsive, eccentric, weird, dangerous. They prefer not to interact with him.

And this predicament can be aptly called the narcissistic condition.

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

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.


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.


Narcissist as Adrenaline Junkie

Narcissistic supply is the drug of choice for narcissists, and they become addicted to the gratifying effects of it. When they are unable to secure normal narcissistic supply, they resort to abnormal narcissistic supply, such as behaving recklessly or succumbing to substance abuse. Narcissists faced with a chronic state of deficient narcissistic supply become criminals or race car drivers or gamblers or soldiers or investigative journalists or police officers. The prognosis for this particular behavior in narcissism, reckless behavior, adrenaline seeking, thrill seeking, is pretty good since the brain is plastic, and these processes are reversible.


Narcissist's Addiction to Fame and Celebrity

Narcissists are addicted to being famous as it provides them with power, constant narcissistic supply, and fulfills important ego functions. The narcissist's only bad emotional stretches are during periods of lack of attention, publicity, or exposure. The more the narcissist fails to secure the attention of the target group, the more daring, eccentric, and outlandish the narcissist becomes. The narcissist is not really interested in publicity per se, but with the reactions to his fame and celebrity.


Narcissist's Cycles of Ups and Downs

Narcissists go through cycles of mania and depression, which are caused by external events or circumstances known as triggers. The cycles are different from manic depressive cycles in bipolar disorder, which are endogenous. The narcissist is addicted to narcissistic supply and seeks admiration, adoration, approval, attention, and so on. The narcissist goes through ups and downs, including a depressive phase, a hibernation phase, and a manic phase, which are all part of the process of obtaining and securing narcissistic supply.


Narcissist Reacts to Criticism, Disagreement, Disapproval

Narcissists are hypervigilant and perceive every disagreement as criticism and every critical comment as complete and humiliating rejection. They react defensively, becoming indignant, aggressive, and cold. The narcissist minimizes the impact of the disagreement and criticism on himself by holding the critic in contempt, by diminishing the stature of the discordant conversant. When the disagreement or criticism or disapproval or approbation become public, the narcissist tends to regard them as narcissistic supply.


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.


Old-age Narcissist

Narcissists age without grace, unable to accept their fallibility and mortality. They suffer from mental progeria, aging prematurely and finding themselves in a time warp. The longer they live, the more average they become, and the wider the gulf between their pretensions and accomplishments. Few narcissists save for rainy days, and those who succeed in their vocation end up bitterly alone, having squandered the love of family, offspring, and mates.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2023, under license to William DeGraaf
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