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Narcissist Reacts to Criticism, Disagreement, Disapproval

Uploaded 1/4/2011, approx. 4 minute read

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

The narcissist is constantly on the lookout for slights and insults. He is hypervigilant. He perceives every disagreement as criticismand every critical comment as complete and humiliating rejection.

The narcissist perceives every disagreement, let alone criticism, as nothing short of a threat. He therefore reacts defensively. He becomes indignant, aggressive and cold. He detaches emotionally for fear of yet another narcissistic injury. He devalues the person who had made the disparaging remark, the critical comment, the unflattering observation, the innocuous joke at the narcissist expense.

By holding the critic in contempt, by diminishing the stature of the discordant conversant, the narcissist minimizes the impact of the disagreement and criticism on himself. This is a defense mechanism known as cognitive dissonance.

Like a trapped animal, the narcissist is forever on the lookout. In his mind, there is this dialogue or monologue, rather. Was this comment meant to demean me? Was this utterance a deliberate attack on me?

And gradually, the narcissist's mind turns into a chaotic battlefield of paranoia and ideas of reference until he loses touch with reality and retreats to his own world of fantasies and unchallenged grandiosity.

But here's the rub and the twist.

When the disagreement or criticism or disapproval or approbation become public, the narcissist tends to regard them as narcissistic supply.

Only when they are expressed in private does the narcissist rage against them. Public commentary, even unfavorable, even if negative, is narcissistic supply.

The cerebral narcissist is as competitive and intolerant of criticism and disagreement as is his somatic counterpart. The subjugation, subordination of others, demands the establishment of the narcissist's undisputed intellectual superiority or professional authority.

Alexander Lohan wrote an excellent exposition of this hidden or tacit competition. The cerebral narcissist aspires to perfection.

Thus, even the slightest and most inconsequential challenge to his authority is inflated by him, hence the disproportionality of his reactions.

When confronting adversity fails, some narcissists resort to denial, which they apply to their extensions, family, business, workplace, colleagues, friends.

Take, for example, the narcissistic or the narcissist's family. Narcissists often instruct, order, or threaten their children into hiding the truth of abuse, malfunction, maladaptation, dysfunction, fear, pervasive sadness, violence, mutual hatred, and mutual repulsion, which are the hallmarks of the narcissistic family.

Other sayings like not to wash the family's dirty linen in public, that's a common exhortation. Whole family conforms to the fantastic grandiose and perfect and superior narrative invented by the narcissist.

To the narcissistic confabulation, the family becomes an extension of the false self.

This is an important function of these sources of secondary narcissistic supply.

To comply, to affirm, to uphold, and to buttress the false self, if necessary, by denying reality and by pathologically and recurrently lying about it.

Criticizing, disagreeing, or exposing these fictions and lies, penetrating the family's facade, they are all considered to be mortal sins by the narcissist.

The sinner is immediately subjected to severe and constant emotional harassment, guilt and blame trips, and to abuse including physical abuse. This state of things is especially difficult for families where sexual abuse is prevalent.

Behavior modification techniques are liberally used by the narcissist to ensure that the skeletons do stay in the family cabinets.

An unexpected by-product of this atmosphere of concealment and falsity is mutiny, rebelliousness. The narcissist's spouse or his adolescent children are likely to expose the narcissist's vulnerabilities.

He is proneness to secrecy. His self-delusion is aversion to the truth, and they are likely to rebel against him sooner or later.

The first thing to crumble in the narcissist's family is this shared psychosis, the mass denial and the secretiveness so diligently cultivated by him.

The criticism and disagreement that he so avoids are bound to haunt him and catch up with him sooner or later.

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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.


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 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.


Predator Narcissist: YOU are the Prey!

Narcissists have the ability to see through other people's emotional shields and know when they are deviating from the truth. They can intuitively grasp other people's self-interested goals and accurately predict their strategies and tactics. Narcissists can't stand self-important, self-inflated, pompous, vigorous, self-righteous, sanctimonious, and hypocritical people because they recognize themselves in them. They expose people's vulnerabilities and force them to confront their true selves, their dead-end careers, their mundane lives, the death of their hopes and dreams and wishes, their shattered illusions.


Narcissistic Humiliation and Injury

Narcissists react to humiliation in the same way as normal people, only more so. They are regularly and strongly humiliated by things that normally do not constitute a humiliation. The emotional life of the narcissist is tinted by ubiquitous and recurrent insults, humiliations, and slights. The narcissist is constantly on the defensive, constantly being targeted, and is a kind of paranoid.


The Signs of the Narcissist

Narcissists are difficult to spot, but there are subtle signs that can be picked up on, such as entitlement markers, idealization and devaluation, and a lack of empathy. Narcissists are often perceived as anti-social and are unable to secure the sympathy of others. They are also prone to projecting a false self and using primitive defense mechanisms such as splitting, projection, projective identification, and intellectualization.


Narcissist Re-idealizes Discarded Sources of Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists keep discarded sources of supply in reserve and seek them out when they have no other supply source. They frantically try to recycle their old sources and re-idealize them without admitting to having been mistaken in the first place. To preserve their grandiosity, they come up with a narrative that accommodates both the devaluing content and the re-idealized image of the source. If you are an old source of narcissistic supply, simply ignore the narcissist as indifference is what they cannot stand.


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.

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