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.