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.

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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.

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.

So, Is My Narcissist a Covert Narcissist? Nonsense vs. Scholarship

Covert narcissists are individuals who suffer from an in-depth sense of inferiority, have a marked propensity towards feeling ashamed, and are shy and fragile. They are unable to genuinely depend on others or trust them, suffer from chronic envy of others, and have a lack of regard for generational boundaries. Covert narcissists are not goal-orientated, have shallow vocational commitment, and are forgetful of details, especially names. Inverted narcissists are a subspecies of covert narcissism and are self-centered, sensitive, vulnerable, and defensive, sometimes hostile and paranoid.

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.

Confessions of Codependent Inverted Narcissists - Part 2 of 3

Inverted narcissists react positively to compliments and rewards, but can sometimes get stuck in bitterness and self-pity. They contest the diagnosis of inverted narcissism, seeing it as a partial form of the disorder with healthy parts still intact. Inverted narcissists experience self-pity and depression, and regret their behavior and admit mistakes. Their rage comes from feeling humiliated and inferior, not from repressed self-contempt.

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: Star of Own Theater of Conspicuous Existence

Narcissists engage in conspicuous existence, a form of conspicuous consumption where the consumed commodity is narcissistic supply. They stage-manage their every movement, tone of voice, posture, inflection, poise, text, subtext, and context to garner the most attention. Narcissists are excess embodied, and their constant invention of self is not limited to outward appearances. They are incessantly engaged in energy draining, gorging of other people and their possible reactions to him, and their exhaustion is all-consuming.

Narcissist of Substance vs. Narcissist of Appearances

There are two types of narcissists: those who derive ample narcissistic supply from mere appearances and those whose narcissistic supply consists of doing substantial deeds. The former type of narcissist aims for celebrity, defined as being famous for being famous, while the latter type aims for careers in the limelight. The celebrity narcissist has a short attention span, is indolent, and prefers the path of least resistance. The career substantial narcissist is very concerned with leaving his mark and stamp of the world with his legacy, is a natural-born leader, and is willing and able to negotiate, compromise, and network.

Negative, Fake, Low-grade Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists crave attention, both positive and negative, and use it to regulate their sense of self-worth. They construct a false self and project it onto others to elicit admiration, adulation, and fear. Negative supply can become narcissistic supply when positive supply is scarce. Narcissists also crave punishment, which confirms their view of themselves as worthless and relieves them of the inner conflict they endure when they are successful.

Narcissist's Sadistic Inner Judge and Critic

The narcissist is tormented by a sadistic superego, which is an amalgamation of negative evaluations, criticisms, angry or disappointed voices and disparagement meted out in the narcissist's formative years and adolescence by parents, peers, role models and authority figures. The narcissist's sense of self-worth is catapulted from one pole to another, from an inflated view of himself to utter despair and self-denigration. The narcissist needs narcissistic supply to regulate this wild pendulum. The narcissist's whole life is a two-fold attempt to both satisfy the inexorable demands of his inner tribunal and to prove wrong its harsh and merciless criticism.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2024, under license to William DeGraaf
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