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.