Narcissist's Constant Midlife Crisis

Uploaded 12/11/2010, approx. 5 minute read

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

Are narcissists likely to go through a midlife crisis? And if so, to what extent does such a crisis ameliorate or alleviate the condition?

The sometimes severe crisis experienced by persons of both sexes in middle age, also known as the midlife crisis or the change of life, is much discussed though little understood phenomenon.

It is not even certain that the beast exists at all.

It is true that women go through menopause between the ages of 42 to 55. The average age of onset in the USA is 51.3. The amount of the hormone estrogen in their bodies decreases sharply. Important parts of the reproductive system shrink and shut down, and menstruation ceases.

Many women suffer hot flashes and a thinning and fracturing of the bone. The main menopause is a more contentious issue.

Men do experience a gradual decline in testosterone levels, but nothing as sharp as the woman's deterioration of her estrogen supply.

No link has been found between these physiological and hormonal developments and the mythical midlife crisis. Its fabled turning point has to do with the gap between earlier plans, dreams and aspirations in one's drab and hopeless reality.

Come middle age, men are supposed to be less satisfied with life, career or spouse. People get more disappointed and disillusioned with age.

They understand that they are not likely to have a second chance, that they have largely missed the train, that their dreams will remain just that, dreams.

They have nothing to look forward to. They feel spent, bored, fatigued and trapped.

Some adults embark on a transition. They define new goals, they look for new partners, they form new families, engage in new hobbies, change vocations and avocations, or relocate. They regenerate and reinvent themselves and the structures of their lives.

Others just grow bitter, unable to face their shambles. They resort to alcoholism, war-commodism, emotional absence, abandonment, escapism, degeneration or a sedentary lifestyle.

Another pillar of discontent is the predictability of adults' life.

Following a brief flurry in early adulthood of excitement, vigor, dreams and hopes, fantasies and aspirations, we succumb to and sink into the mire of mediocrity.

The mundane engulfs us and digests us, routines consume our energy and leave us dilapidated and empty.

We know with adult certainty what awaits us and this ubiquitous rut is maddening.

Paradoxically, the narcissist is best equipped to successfully tackle this problem.

The narcissist suffers from mental progeria. Subject to childhood abuse, the narcissist ages prematurely and finds himself in a time warp, constantly in the throes of a mid-life crisis.

The narcissist keeps dreaming, hoping, planning, conspiring, scheming and fighting all his life. As far as he is concerned, reality with its sobering feedback does not exist. He occupies a world of his own making where hope springs eternal.

It is a universe of recurrent serendipity, inevitable fortuity, auspiciousness, lucky chances and coincidences, no downs and uplifting ups. It is an unpredictable, titillating and exciting world.

The narcissist may feel bored for long stretches of time but only because he cannot wait for the ultimate guaranteed thrill at the end of a tunnel.

The narcissist experiences a constant mid-life crisis. His reality is always way short of his dreams and aspirations. He suffers a constant grandiosity gap, the same gap that bleaches the healthy mid-life adults.

But the narcissist has one advantage. He is used to being disappointed and disillusioned. He inflicts setbacks and defeats upon himself by devaluing persons and situations that he had previously idealized.

The narcissist regularly employs a host of mechanisms to cope with his simmering, festering, incessant crisis.

Cognitive dissonance, over and devaluation cycles, abrupt mood changes, changes in behavior patterns, goals, companions, mates, jobs and locations. These are the narcissist's daily bread and escapist weapons.

Whereas the healthy and mature adult confronts the abyss between his image of himself and his real self, his dreams and his achievements, his fantasy land and his reality later on in life, the narcissist does this constantly and from a very early age.

The healthy and mature adult recovers from the predictability of his routine and abhors it.

The narcissist's life is not predictable or routine in any sense of the word. He makes sure of it to avoid the recurrent midlife crisis. He makes sure that his reality is unpredictable, unstable, exciting, thrilling, even exhilarating.

The mature 40 plus years old adult tries to remedy the structural and emotional deficits of his existence, either by renewed commitment to it or by a cataclysmic break with it.

The narcissist so regularly and habitually does both these things, that these decisions are rendered fleeting and insignificant.

The narcissist's personality is rigid, but his life is not. It is changeable, mutable and tumultuous.

His typical day, the narcissist's typical day is riddled with surprises. It's very unpredictable.

His grandiose fantasies are so far removed from his reality that even his disillusionment and disappointments are fantastic and thus easily overcome and equally thrilling and exciting.

Soon enough, the narcissist is engaged in a new project, as exciting, as grandiose and as impossible as the ones before. It's an adrenaline rush and the narcissist is an adrenaline junkie.

The gap between his confabulations and the truth is so yawning that he chooses to ignore his reality. He recruits people around him to affirm this choice and to confirm to him that reality is illusory and that his fantasy land is the real thing.

Such pretensions are counterproductive and self-defeating, but they also serve as perfect defenses against pedestrianism.

The narcissist does not go through a midlife crisis because he is forever the child, forever dreaming and fantasizing, forever enamored with himself, with a narrative and confabulation that are his life.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

Old-age Narcissist

Narcissists age without grace, unable to accept their fallibility and mortality. They suffer from mental progeria, aging prematurely and finding themselves in a time warp. The longer they live, the more average they become, and the wider the gulf between their pretensions and accomplishments. Few narcissists save for rainy days, and those who succeed in their vocation end up bitterly alone, having squandered the love of family, offspring, and mates.

Narcissists Hate Children and Envy Them

Narcissists hate children because they envy them. Children's feigned innocence, manipulation, and lack of empathy are disarming in their directness. Narcissists see children as both mirrors and competitors, reflecting their constant need for adulation and attention. Children are loved by mothers, which makes narcissists jealous and infuriated by their deprivation. Narcissists hate children for being them.

Raging Narcissist: Merely Pissed-off?

Narcissistic rage is a phenomenon that occurs when a narcissist is frustrated in their pursuit of narcissistic supply, causing narcissistic injury. The narcissist then projects a bad object onto the source of their frustration and rages against a perceived evil entity that has injured and frustrated them. Narcissistic rage is not the same as normal anger and has two forms: explosive and pernicious or passive-aggressive. People with personality disorders are in a constant state of anger, which is effectively suppressed most of the time, and they are afraid to show that they are angry to meaningful others because they are afraid to lose them.

Narcissist as Eternal Child

Narcissists often refuse to grow up and remain in a state of infantilization, avoiding adult responsibilities and functions. This is because remaining a child caters to their narcissistic needs and defenses. Narcissists are often envious of children and try to emulate them, as children are forgiven for narcissistic traits and behaviors that adults are not. By remaining a child, the narcissist can indulge in these behaviors and not be punished for them.

Narcissist Hates Happy People and Holidays

Holidays and birthdays are a difficult time for narcissists, as they provoke a stream of pathological envy. The narcissist is jealous of others for having a family, being able to celebrate lavishly, or being in the right mood. They hate humans because they are unable to be one and want to spoil it for those who can enjoy. Holidays remind the narcissist of their childhood, the supportive and loving family they never had, and what could have been.

Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury

Narcissistic injury is any threat to the narcissist's grandiose self-perception, and the narcissist actively solicits narcissistic supply to regulate and sustain their ego. The narcissist is caught between their habit and frustration, leading to disproportionate reactions to perceived insults. Narcissistic rage has two forms: explosive and passive-aggressive. The narcissist's aggression is directed outside and inside themselves, and they often become vindictive and harass those they perceive as sources of their frustration.

Narcissistic, Passive-aggressive Organizations and Bureaucracies

Bureaucracies tend to behave passive-aggressively, frustrating their own constituencies and fostering dependence. This behavior is similar to pathological narcissism, with a lack of impulse control and deficient ability to empathize. Collectives perpetuate their existence regardless of whether they have any role left and how well they function. The measure of success of these institutions is in how many failures they have had to endure or have fostered, not how many successes.

Narcissism, Friendship, Egoism: Self-Interest is not Self-Welfare

Narcissists fail to meet the criteria for friendship, as they lack empathy, have cognitive deficits, and are impulsive and predictable. True egoism is the active pursuit of self-welfare, not just self-interest, and altruism is the outcome of social conditioning to avoid anxiety. The optimal mix of self-interest and altruism exists for individuals and society, and the narcissist fails to understand this due to their lack of empathy and inability to optimize their behavior.

Anxiety, Depression, and Narcissism

Depression is a form of aggression that is directed at the depressed person rather than at their environment. This regime of repressed and mutated aggression is a characteristic of both narcissism and depression. Narcissism is sometimes described as a form of low-intensity depression. Depression is how this kind of patient experiences their overflowing reservoir of aggression.

Histrionic Woman's Guide to Men

Histrionic women respond differently to two types of men. The first type is men who openly desire the histrionic woman, but after a brief affair, they begin to bore her. The second type is men who are visibly attracted to the histrionic, but are very avoidant emotionally, or even absent emotionally. Histrionic women abhor intimacy and love, but they need mind games. With these men, there is always some game going on.

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