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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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.

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 Grooms Sources of Narcissistic Supply: Exploits Tragedy, Crisis, and Misfortune

Narcissists are callous and ruthless enough to exploit the tragedy of others. They are obsessed with the maintenance of their delicate inner balance through the ever-increasing consumption of narcissistic supply. The narcissist regards and treats his sources of narcissistic supply as full-fledged human beings, but only as long as they can provide him with what he needs. The narcissist always evaluates the victims of tragedies to see if they can become sources of supply or can be used as props in the theater of his life.

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.

Recluse Narcissist

Narcissists do not have friends in the usual sense of the word, as they are only interested in securing the provision of narcissistic supply from others. They overvalue people when they are judged to be potential sources of supply, but discard them nonchalantly when they are no longer able or willing to supply them. The narcissist's behavior, choices, acts, attitudes, beliefs, interests, and life are curtailed by their sensitivity to outside opinion, and they avoid situations where they are likely to encounter opposition, criticism, or competition. The fear of flying is at the heart of narcissism.

Narcissistic Humiliation and Injury

Narcissists react to humiliation in the same way as normal people, only more so. They are regularly and strongly humiliated by things that normally do not constitute a humiliation. The emotional life of the narcissist is tinted by ubiquitous and recurrent insults, humiliations, and slights. The narcissist is constantly on the defensive, constantly being targeted, and is a kind of paranoid.

The Signs of the Narcissist

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.

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.

How Narcissist's Victims Deceive Themselves

Narcissists cannot be cured and are a threat to those around them. Victims of narcissists often confuse shame with guilt and attribute remorsefulness to the narcissist when they are actually feeling shame for failing. Narcissists are attracted to vulnerable people who offer them a secure source of narcissistic supply. Healing is dependent on a sense of security in a relationship, but the narcissist is not interested in healing and would rather invest their energy in obtaining narcissistic supply. Narcissists lack empathy and cannot understand others, making them a danger to those around them.

Narcissist Never Sorry

Narcissists sometimes feel bad and experience depressive episodes and dysphoric moods, but they have a diminished capacity to empathize and rarely feel sorry for what they have done or for their victims. They often project their own emotions and actions onto others and attribute to others what they hate in themselves. When confronted with major crises, the narcissist experiences real excruciating pain, but this is only a fleeting moment, and they recover their former self and embark on a new hunt for narcissistic supply. They are hunters, predators, and their victims are prey.

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