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Narcissist's Cognitive Deficits

Uploaded 11/10/2010, approx. 3 minute read

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

As we all know, the narcissist lacks sympathy, is therefore unable to meaningfully relate to other people and to truly appreciate what it is to be human.

Instead, the narcissist withdraws inside into a universe populated by avatars, simple or complex representations of parents, peers, role models, authoritative figures, and other members of his social milieu.

There, inside, in his inner landscape, in this twilight zone of simulacra, he develops relationships and maintains an ongoing internal dialogue with his introgectors, with his internal representations.

All of us generate such representations of meaningful others and internalize these objects that we have invented. This is a process called introjection.

We adopt and assimilate, and later we manifest their traits and their attitudes. This is completely normal. It is part of personal development and growth, especially in early childhood and up to early adolescence.

But the narcissist is different. He is incapable of holding an external dialogue. All his dialogues are completely internal.

Even when he seems to be interacting with someone else, the narcissist is actually engaged in a self-referential discourse.

To the narcissist, all other people are cardboard cuddles. They are merely two-dimensional animated cartoon characters.

It does not perceive other people, because of his lack of empathy, as three-dimensional entities with their own needs, preferences, wishes, priorities, hopes.

To him, everyone is a mere symbol. People exist only in his mind.

He is startled when people deviate from the script and prove to be complex and autonomous.

But this is not the narcissist's only or sole cognitive deficit.

The narcissist attributes his failures and mistakes to circumstances and external causes.

This propensity to blame the world for one's mishaps and misfortunes is called alloplastic defense.

At the same time, the narcissist regards his successes and his achievements, some of which of course are completely imaginary, as proofs of his own omnipotence and omniscience.

So if he fails, it's someone else's fault. If he succeeds, it's his own doing.

This is known in attribution theory as defensive attribution.

Cversely, the narcissist traces other people's errors and defeats to their inherent inferiority, stupidity and weakness.

Their successes, he dismisses as being in the right place at the right time, the outcome of life, luck and circumstance.

So if they succeed, it's an accident of fate. If they fail, it's their own fault, exactly the opposite of what the narcissist attributes to himself.

The narcissist does false prey to an exaggerated form of what is known in attribution theory as fundamental attribution error.

These policies and the narcissist's magical thinking are not dependent on objective data, on tests of distinctiveness and consistency and consensus.

He is not rational, it's an irrational thing, raging inside him. The narcissist never questions his reflexive judgments. He never stops to ask himself, are these events distinct? Are they typical? Do they repeat themselves consistently? Are they unprecedented? What do others have to say about all this?

The narcissist learns nothing because he regards himself as born and being perfect.

Even when he fails a thousand times, the narcissist still feels the victim of happenstance. Someone else has repeated outstanding accomplishments are never proof of mettle or merit.

People who disagree with the narcissist and try to teach him differently, to improve him, to help him, are to his mind biased or morons or both or people with evil intentions because the narcissist is also paranoid and enmeshed and immersed in the miniscule delusions.

But the narcissist pays a dear price for these distortions of perception.

Unable to gorge his environment with accuracy, he develops paranoid ideation and he fades the reality test.

Finally, the narcissist lifts the draw bridges, vanishes into a state of mind that can best be described as borderline psychosis.

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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.


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