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Narcissist's Cult

Uploaded 8/7/2010, approx. 5 minute read

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

The narcissist is a guru at the center of a cult. Like other gurus, he demands complete obedience from his flock, his spouse, his offspring, other family members, friends and colleagues. He feels entitled to adulation and special treatment by his followers. He punishes the wayward and the straying lambs. He enforces discipline and adherence to his teachings, and sets common goals.

The less accomplished the narcissist is in reality, the more stringent his mastery and the more pervasive the brainwashing.

Cult leaders are narcissists who failed in their mission to be someone, to become famous and to impress the world with their uniqueness, talents, traits and skills. Such disgruntled narcissists withdraw into a zone of comfort, which I call the pathological narcissistic space.

And this zone of comfort, this space, becomes the hallmarks of a cult.

The often involuntary members of the narcissist mini-cult inhabit a twilight zone of his own construction. He imposes on them a shared psychosis, replete with persecutory delusions, enemies, mythical narratives and apocalyptic scenarios if he is flouted.

The narcissist's control within this cult, within this space, is based on ambiguity, unpredictability, fuzziness and ambient abuse, on gaslighting. His ever-shifting whims exclusively define what is right versus what is wrong. What is desirable versus what is unwanted. What is to be pursued and what is to be avoided. He alone, the narcissist, determines the rights and obligations of his disciples and alters them at will.

The narcissist is a micromanager. He exerts control over the minutest details and behaviors. He punishes severely and abuses with holders of information and those who fail to conform to his wishes and to his goals.

The narcissist does not respect the boundaries and privacy of his reluctant adherents. He ignores their wishes, he treats them as objects and instruments of gratification or extensions of himself. He seeks to control both situations and people compulsively. He strongly disapproves of others' personal autonomy and independence. Even innocuous activities such as meeting a friend or visiting one's family require his permission.

Gradually, he isolates his nearest and dearest until they are fully dependent on him emotionally, sexually, financially and socially.

The narcissistic cult leader, and actually every narcissist, acts in a patronizing and condescending manner and criticizes often. He alternates between emphasizing the minutest faults, which is what I call devaluation, and exaggerating the talents, traits and skins of the members of his cult, which is called idealization.

He is wildly unrealistic in his expectations and this legitimizes his subsequent abusive conduct when he is disappointed or frustrated.

The narcissist claims to be infallible, superior, talented, skillful, all-powerful, omnipotent and all-knowing, omniscient. He often lies and confabulates to support these unfounded claims.

Within his cult, the narcissist expects all admiration, adulation and constant attention, commensurate with his outlandish stories and assertions. He reinterprets reality to feed his fantasies and expects everyone around him to adopt this distorted view.

The narcissist's thinking is dramatic, rigid and doctrinaire. He does not countenance free thought, pluralism or free speech, and he doesn't brook criticism or disagreement. The narcissist demands and often gets complete trust and a relegation to his capable hands of all decision-making.

The narcissist forces the participants in his cult to be hostile to critics, to the authorities, to institutions, to his personal enemies or to the media. If they try to uncover his actions and reveal the truth, these are cast as enemies.

He closely monitors, senses information from the outside, exposing his captive audience only to selective data and analysis, which conform to his narrative.

The narcissist's cult is missionary and imperialistic. He is always on the lookout for new recruits. He spouses friends, he's told his girlfriends, his neighbors, new colleagues at work. He immediately attempts to convert them to his creed, to convince them how wonderful and admirable he is.

In other words, the narcissist tries to render them sources of narcissistic supply.

Often, the narcissist's behavior on these recruiting missions is different to his conduct within the cult.

In the first phases of wooing new admirers and proselytizing to potential conscripts, the narcissist is attentive, compassionate and ethic, flexible, self-effacing and helpful.

At home, among the veterans, those he takes for granted, he is tyrannical, demanding, willful, opinionated, aggressive and exploitative.

As the leader of his congregation, the narcissist feels entitled to special amenities and benefits not accorded to the rank and file. He expects to be weighted on, hand and foot, to make free use of everyone's money and to dispose of their assets liberally and to be cynically exempt from the rules that he himself has established.

Of course, if such a violation is gainful or pleasurable. In extreme cases, the narcissist feels above the law, any kind of law.

This grandiose and haughty conviction leads to criminal acts, incestuous or polygamous relationships and to recurrent friction with the authorities.

Hence, the narcissist panicking, sometimes violent reactions to dropouts from his cult. There's a lot going on that the narcissist want kept under wraps.

Moreover, the narcissist stabilizes his fluctuating sense of self-worth by deriving narcissistic supply from his victims.

Abandonment threatens the narcissist's precariously balanced personality. It is a rebuff and the narcissist cannot tolerate it.

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Communal, Prosocial Narcissist as Compulsive Giver

Compulsive givers are a type of narcissist who feel superior to those they give to, and feel exploited when they have to pay for the needs of others. They are people pleasers and co-dependents who force themselves on others and have unrealistic expectations of gratitude. They have alloplastic defenses with an external locus of control, meaning they rely on others to regulate their self-worth and blame the world for their failures. They keep a mental ledger of what they give and receive and use false asceticism and fake modesty to prove their nearest and dearest are ingrates.


Narcissist's Language as Weapon

Narcissists use language as a weapon of self-defense, to obscure, not to communicate, and to obtain narcissistic supply. They talk at others or lecture them, exchange subtexts, and spawn private languages, prejudices, superstitions, conspiracy theories, rumors, phobias, and hysterias. The rules that govern the narcissist universe are loopholeed, incomprehensible, open to interpretation so wide and so self-contradictory that it renders them meaningless. The narcissist, in this respect, is a great social menace, undermining language itself.


Narcissist Has No Friends

Narcissists treat their friends like Watson and Hastings, who are obsequious and unthreatening, and provide them with an adulating gallery. Narcissists cannot empathize or love, and therefore have no real friends. They are interested in securing narcissistic supply from narcissistic supply sources. The narcissist overvalues people when they are judged to be potential sources of supply, and devalues them when no longer able to supply him, ultimately leading to the alienation and distancing of people.


Narcissist Hates His Fans, Followers, and Admirers

Narcissists depend on their followers for narcissistic supply but resent their addictive dependence and hold their followers in contempt. They see themselves as beyond human comprehension and refuse to grant anyone special privileges. The narcissist demands complete obedience from their followers and punishes those who stray. Cult leaders are often narcissists who failed to become famous and impress the world with their uniqueness, and they resent their followers for witnessing their fraudulence and failure.


Narcissist's Objects and Possessions

Narcissists have a complex relationship with objects and possessions, with some being accumulators who jealously guard their belongings and others being discarders who give away their possessions to sustain their sense of control. Objects provide emotional decor and elicit narcissistic supply, and the narcissist often compares people to the inanimate. Narcissists collect proofs and trophies of their sexual prowess, dramatic talent, past wealth, or intellectual achievements, and these objects operate through the mechanism of narcissistic branding. The narcissist is a pathogen who transforms his human and non-human environment alike, objectifying people and anthropomorphizing objects to optimize or maximize narcissistic supply.


Narcissistic Boss or Employer: Coping and Survival Tactics

Narcissistic bosses or employers view their staff as sources of narcissistic supply and nothing else. They expect their employees to serve as an audience, adulate, and affirm their grandiose self-image. Any hint of equality, disagreement, or criticism threatens the narcissist profoundly. Narcissists feel suffocated by intimacy or routine and forever shift the blame, pass the buck, and engage in cognitive dissonance. Manipulating the narcissist is the only way an employee can survive in such a workplace.


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.


Narcissist in Court and Litigation

Narcissists are skilled at distorting reality and presenting plausible alternative scenarios, making it difficult to expose their lies in court. However, it is possible to break a narcissist by finding their weak spots and using them to inflict pain. The narcissist is likely to react with rage to any statement that contradicts their inflated perception of themselves or suggests they are not special. They feel entitled to be treated differently from others and cannot tolerate criticism or being told they are not as intelligent or successful as they think they are.


Narcissist: Loser and Failure

Narcissists have three traits that make them fail and become losers: a sense of entitlement, arrogance, and aversion to routine. Their sense of entitlement makes them lazy and believe that they should be spoon-fed. They are under-qualified and lack skills because they believe they are above mundane chores. Their arrogance and belief that they are superior to others hampers their ability to function in society. They become outcasts and are shunned by colleagues, employers, and family members.


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.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2023, under license to William DeGraaf
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