My name is Sam Vaknin and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
We need to obtain narcissistic supply, attention.
In extremis, when all his default behaviors and solutions fail, or when only negative, fake, low-grade and static narcissistic supplies to be had, the narcissist falls apart in a process of disintegration known as decompensation.
Decompensation is simply the inability to maintain psychological defenses in the face of mounting stress.
But in the case of the narcissist, decompensation is accompanied by another type of behavior known as acting out.
Acting out is when an inner conflict, most often frustration, translates into aggression.
Acting out involves acting with little or no insight or reflection and only in order to attract attention or disrupt other people's cozy lives.
The dynamic forces which render the narcissist paralyzed and fake, his vulnerabilities, weaknesses and fears, are starkly exposed as his defenses crumble and become dysfunctional.
The narcissist's extreme dependence on his social milieu for the regulation of his sense of self-worth is painfully and pitifully evident as he is reduced to begging and controlling.
Narcissists then engage in temper tantrums, similar to children. They rage. They attack others. Their aggression wears many forms.
At such times, the narcissist acts out self-destructively as well and antisocially. His mask of superior equanimity is pierced by displays of impotent rage, self-loathing, self-pity, passive aggressiveness and crass attempts at manipulation of his friends, family and colleagues.
The narcissist's ostensible benevolence and caring evaporate overnight. The narcissist feels caged and threatened and he reacts as any animal would do by striking back at his perceived tormentors, at his hitherto nearest and dearest.
Often people describe the narcissist as a spoiled brat, but it far exceeds this description.
Narcissists at the extreme are horrified to behold.
But this is the extreme.
In the majority of cases, narcissists react to deficient or fake or low-grade or negative narcissistic supply by resorting to several adaptive solutions, solutions which allow them to continue to function.
First there's the delusional narrative solution.
The narcissist constructs a narrative, a story, in which he figures as the hero in the protagonist. He is brilliant, perfect, irresistibly handsome, testing for great things entitled, powerful, wealthy, center of attention, etc.
The bigger the strain on this delusional charade, the greater the gap between fantasy and reality. The more the delusion coalesces and solidifies and ossifies and encases the narcissist.
Finally, if it is sufficiently protracted, this delusion replaces reality and the narcissist's reality test deteriorates even onto the point of psychosis.
Narcissist withdraws his bridges and may become schizotypal, catatonic, schizoid, or, as I just said, psychotic.
This is one solution.
Another is the antisocial solution.
The narcissist, faced with a discrepancy between his reality and his self-perception, renounces reality.
To his mind, those who pusillanimously fail to recognize his unbound talents, innate superiority, overarching brilliance, benevolent nature, entitlement, cosmically significant mission, etc. Those people do not deserve consideration.
Narcissist's natural affinity with a criminal, his lack of empathy and compassion, his deficient social skills, his disregard for social laws and mores and morals, all these now erupt and blossom in this solution.
Narcissist becomes a full-fledged antisocial, known as sociopath or psychopath. He ignores the wishes and needs of others. He breaks the law. He violates all rights, natural and legal. He holds people in contempt and disdain. He derides society and its codes. He punishes the ignorant ingrates that to his mind drove him to this state. He does that by acting criminally and by jeopardizing the safety, lives or property.
A variant of this pattern of antisocial conduct is known as passive-aggressive solution.
The passive-aggressive solution wears a multitude of guises, procrastination, delingery, perfectionism, forgetfulness, neglect, truancy, intentional inefficiency, stubbornness and outright sabotage. This repeated and inadvertent misconduct has far-reaching consequences and effects.
Consider the passive-aggressive narcissist in the workplace. He or she invests time and efforts in obstructing their own chores and in undermining relationships in the workplace.
But these self-destructive and self-defeating behaviors wreak havoc throughout the office, throughout the workshop, throughout the workplace.
Despite the obstructive role they play, passive-aggressives feel unappreciated, underpaid, cheated and misunderstood. They chronically complain, whine, carp and criticize. They blame their failures and defeats on others, posing as martyrs and victims of a corrupt, inefficient and harmless system.
In other words, they have alloplastic defenses and an external locus of control.
Passive-aggressive narcissists sulk and give the silent treatment in reaction to real or imagined slights. They suffer from ideas of reference. They believe that they are the part of derision, contempt and condemnation and are mildly paranoid. They believe that the world is out to get them, which explains their personal misfortune, of course.
In the words of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, they may be sullen, irritable, impatient, argumentative, cynical, skeptical and contrary. They are also hostile, explosive, lack impulse control and sometimes reckless.
And then there is the paranoid schizoid solution.
When narcissism fails as a defense mechanism, the narcissist develops paranoid narratives, self-directed confabulations which place him at the center of others allegedly malign attention.
The narcissist becomes his own audience and self-sufficient as his own, sometimes exclusive, source of narcissistic supply.
The narcissist develops persecutory delusions. He perceives slights and insults where none were intended. He becomes subject to ideas of reference, that people are gossiping about him, mocking him, frying into his affairs, cracking his email or stalking him.
The narcissist is then convinced that he is at the center of malign and malintentioned attention. People are conspiring to humiliate him, to punish him, to abscond with his property, to delude him, to impoverish him, to confine him physically or intellectually, to censor him, impose on his time, to force him to action or to inaction, to frighten him, to coerce him, to surround and beseech him, to change his mind, part with his values, victimize or even in extreme cases, assassinate or murder him.
Some narcissists who adopt a paranoid schizoid solution withdraw completely from a world populated with such menacious and ominous objects.
Really, these objects are their projections of internal processes and objects.
Such narcissists, schizoid narcissists, avoid all social contact except the most necessary. They refrain from meeting people, falling in love, having sex, talking to others or even corresponding with them. In short, they become schizoids, not out of social shyness, but out of what they feel to be their choice.
This evil, hopeless world does not deserve me, goes the inner refrainand I shall waste none of my time and resources on these ingrates.
But paranoid narcissists could also be aggressive, and indeed we have the paranoid aggressive or explosive solution.
Only narcissists and other narcissists who develop persecutory delusions resort to an aggressive stance, a more violent resolution of their internal conflict.
They become verbally, psychologically, situationallyand very rarely physically abusive. They insult, castigate, chastise, berate, demean and deride the nearest and dearest, often well-wishers and loved ones. They explode in unprovoked displays of indignation, righteousness, condemnation and blame.
Theirs is an exegetic bedlam. They interpret everything, even the most innocuous, inadvertent and innocent comment is designed to provoke and humiliate. They sow fear, revulsion, hate and malignant envy. They flail against the windmills of reality, pathetic for law and sight.
But often they cause real and lasting damage, unfortunately mainly to themselves.
And so these are the two types of paranoid solution, schizoid and aggressive.
But finallywe have a more rare breed of narcissists who choose the masochistic avoidance solution.
This type of narcissist is angered by the lack of narcissistic supply and he directs some of this fury, some of this rage, inwards, punishing himself for his failure to elicit supply.
This masochistic behavior has the added benefit of forcing the narcissist closest to assume the roles of dismayed spectators or of persecutors and thus either way to pay him the attention that he so craves.
Self-administered punishment often manifests as self-handicapping masochism, sort of a narcissistic cop-out.
By undermining his work, his relationships and his efforts, the increasingly fragile narcissist avoids additional criticism and censure, negative supply.
Self-inflicted failure is the narcissist doing and thus proves that the narcissist is the only master of his own fate.
If I choose to fail, it's my choice. I'm in control. It was not brought about by anyone outside my ambient remit of rule of control.
Masochistic narcissists keep finding themselves in self-defeating circumstances which render success impossible.
And as Millon says, also make an objective assessment of their performance improbable.
They act carelessly, withdraw in mid-effort, are constantly fatigued, bored or disaffected and thus passive-aggressively sabotage your own lives. Their suffering is defined and by deciding to abort, they reassert their omnipotence.
The narcissist's pronouns and public misery and self-pity are compensatory.
Again, as Millon says, they reinforce the narcissist's search esteem against overwhelming convictions of worthlessness.
The narcissist's tribulations and anguish render him in his own eyes unique, saintly, virtuous, righteous, resilient and significant.
Narcissists, in other words, their own source of narcissistic supply.
All these behaviors are self-generated, narcissistic supply.
Paradoxically, this type of narcissist, the masochist, the worse his anguish and unhappiness, the more relieved and elated he feels because the more narcissistic supply he gets, either from himself or from those around him.