Narcissist: The Impulse to Be Perfect (Fear of Failure and Success)

Uploaded 3/31/2013, approx. 5 minute read

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

Most people who fear failure try hard not to fail.

Since, as we have shown, not failing amounts to failing to succeed, such people equally dread success and therefore try not to succeed.

They opt, in other words, for mediocrity. Not a failure, but not a success.

In order to not succeed, one needs to not apply oneself to one's tasks or to not embark on new ventures and other dakings.

Often, such avoidant and constricted behaviors are not a matter of choice, but the outcomes of inner, very strong psychological dynamics that compel them.

Narcissists cannot tell the difference between freewill choices and irresistible compulsions, because they regard themselves as omnipotent and therefore not subject to any forces, external or internal, greater than their own willpower.

Narcissists tend to claim that both their successes and their failures are exclusively the inevitable and predictable outcomes of their choices and decisions. No other force is involved except the narcissist.

Okay, the preference to not fail is trivial. No one wants to fail.

But why the propensity to not succeed? It's crucial to understand that not succeeding actually abates the fear of failure. After all, a one-time success calls for increasingly more unattainable repeat performances.

Success just means that one has got more to lose, more ways to fail.

Deliberately not succeeding also buttresses the narcissist's sense of omnipotence, because he is able to say, Iand only I, choose to what extent and whether I succeed or fail.

Similarly, the narcissist's grandiose conviction that he is perfect is supported by his self-inflicted lack of success, because he can tell himself, I could have succeeded had I only chose to and applied myself to it. Better to fantasize than to test this theory in reality.

The narcissist always says, I elect not to manifest my perfection by a success. I could have been a success if I really wanted to.

Indeed, as a philosopher, Benedict Spinoza observed, perfect beings have no wants and no needs. They don't have to try and prove anything. They are perfect.

In an imperfect world, such as ours is, the mere continued existence of a perfect being constitutes a success. I cannot fail as long as I merely survive.

It's the perfect entity's narcissist's motto.

Many narcissistic defenses, traits and behaviors revolve around this compulsive need to sustain a grandiose self-image of perfection, colloquially known as perfectionism.

Colloquially, deficient impulse control, inability to control one's impulses, helps achieve this crucial goal.

Impulsive actions and addictive behaviors render failure impossible, as they suggest a lack of premeditation and planning.

If you don't plan anything, if you don't premeditate, you can't fail.

Moreover, to the narcissistic patient, these kinds of decisions and deeds feel imminent and intuitive, an emanation of his core self.

The true expression of his quiddity is being, his essence.

This association of the patient's implied uniqueness with the exuberance and elation of involved in impulsive and addictive acts is intoxicating. It also offers support to the narcissist's view of himself as superior, invincible and immune to the consequences of his actions.

So, when the narcissist gambles compulsively, shops, drives recklessly or abuses substances, he feels godlike and thoroughly happy, at least for a fraction of the same.

Instant gratification, the infinitesimal delay between volition and desire and fulfillment. This small delay, short delay, enhances this overpowering sense of omnipotence.

The patient, the narcissist, inhabits an eternal present, actively suppressing the reasoned anticipation of the future consequences of his own actions.

Failure is an artifact of a future tense. You anticipate failure, you start something in the present and you fail in the future.

In the absence of such a horizon, in the absence of a future tense, success is invariably guarantee or at least imply.

Some narcissists, admittedly, are egodystonic. They loathe their lack of self-control. They berate themselves for their self-defeating profligacy and self-destructive immaturity.

But even then, their very ability to carry out the impulsive or addictive feat is, by definition, a success. If you succeed to gamble, succeed to shop, succeed to drive recklessly, you succeed. You are a success. The patient is accomplished at behaving irresponsibly and erratically. His labile self-ruination is his forte and his achievement as he masterfully navigates his own apocalyptic path to doom.

Even by failing to control his irresistible impulses and by succumbing to his addictions, is this kind of narcissistic patient able to act at all, otherwise it is paralyzed. His submission to these internal higher powers provides him with the perfect substitute to a constructive, productive, stable, truly satisfactory engagement with the world at all.

Thus, even when he is angry at himself, the narcissist castigates the ominous success of his dissolute ways, not his own failure.

He says, I am very good at destroying myself. I am very good at defeating my own purposes and goals.

But there is this sentence, I am very good at. I am a success at.

The narcissist's rage is displaced. Rather than confront his avoidant misconduct, he tries to cope with the symptoms of his underlying or pervasive and pernicious psychodynamics.

Ironically, it is this ineluctable failure of his life as a whole that endows the narcissist with a feeling of self-control. He is the one who brings about his own demise, inexorably but knowingly.

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Idealized, Devalued, Dumped

Narcissists have a cycle of overvaluation and devaluation, which is more prevalent in borderline personality disorder than in narcissistic personality disorder. The cycle reflects the need to be protected against the whims, needs, and choices of other people, shielded from the hurt that they can inflict on the narcissist. The overvaluation and devaluation mechanism is the most efficient one available to the narcissist, as the narcissist's personality is precariously balanced and requires inordinate amounts of energy to maintain. The narcissist's energies are all focused and dedicated to the task concentrated upon the source of supply he had identified.

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.

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.

Narcissists and Codependents: Same Problems, Different Solutions

Codependence and narcissism are pathological reactions to childhood abuse and trauma. The codependent has a realistic assessment of herself but a fantastic view of others, while the narcissist has a fantastic view of himself but a penetrating view of others. The codependent seeks validation to restore a sense of reality, while the narcissist seeks narcissistic supply to enhance his grandiosity. Inverted narcissists are a subtype of covert narcissists who team up with classic narcissists to obtain vicarious supply. The overwhelming majority of narcissists have codependent traits and are dependent on other people for their sense of self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-image.

Narcissism: Blessing or Dysfunction?

Pathological narcissism is an addictive behavior that involves an impaired, dysfunctional, and immature true self coupled with a compensatory piece of fiction known as the false self. Narcissists are obsessed with delusions of fantastic grandeur and superiority, and they are very competitive. They are driven, relentless, tireless, and often ruthless. However, three traits conspire to render the narcissist a failure and a loser: his sense of entitlement, his haughtiness and innate conviction of his own superiority, and his aversion to routine.

Narcissist’s 3 Depressions

Narcissists experience three types of depression: loss-induced dysphoria, deficiency-induced dysphoria, and self-worth dysregulation dysphoria. Loss-induced dysphoria occurs when sources of narcissistic supply gradually fade away, while deficiency-induced dysphoria is an acute response to abrupt loss of supply. Self-worth dysregulation dysphoria is a reaction to a sudden drop in self-esteem and self-worth due to criticism or humiliation. Narcissists are not happy-go-lucky individuals; they are heavily wounded, traumatized, and grieving people who try to compensate for their sadness with a facade of happiness and grandiosity.

Inner Voices, Narcissism, and Codependence

Narcissists and codependents possess introgets, which are inner voices that are mostly negative and sadistic. These voices enhance the narcissist's underlying ego destiny, rendering them unhappy with who they are and discontent with the way they act. The narcissist's sense of self-worth is affected by their sadistic and uncompromising superego, which affects their sense of self-worth and worthiness, self-knowledge, and self-confidence. The narcissist's whole life is an attempt to satisfy the demands of their inner tribunal and to prove their judgment wrong, which is at the root of their unresolved and unresolvable conflicts.

How Narcissist Experiences/Reacts to No Contact, Grey Rock, Mirroring, Coping, Survival Techniques

Narcissists are victims of post-traumatic conditions caused by their parents, leading to ontological insecurity, dissociation, and confabulation. They have no core identity and construct their sense of self by reflecting themselves from other people. Narcissists have empathy, but it is cold empathy, which is goal-oriented and used to find vulnerabilities to obtain goals. Narcissism becomes a religion when a child is abused by their parents, particularly their mother, and not allowed to develop their own boundaries. The false self demands human sacrifice, and the narcissist must sacrifice others to the false self to gratify and satisfy it.

Narcissist Father: Save Your Child

Parents who are worried about their children becoming narcissists under the influence of a narcissistic parent should stop trying to insulate their children from the other parent's influence. Instead, they should make themselves available to their children and present themselves as a non-narcissistic role model. Narcissistic parents regard their children as a source of narcissistic supply and try to control their lives through guilt-driven, dependence-driven, goal-driven, and explicit mechanisms. The child is the ultimate secondary source of narcissistic supply, and the narcissistic parent tries to perpetuate the child's dependence using control mechanisms. The narcissistic parent tends to produce another narcissist in some of their children, but this outcome can be effectively countered by loving, empathic, predictable, just, and positive upbringing, which encourages a

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.

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