I am Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
Narcissists are like children in many senses. For instance, they possess magical thinking. They believe that they are omnipotent or powerful, omniscient or knowing, and omnipresent, everywhere.
Narcissistic immunity is the narcissist's erroneous feeling that he is immune to the consequences of his actions, that he will never be affected by the outcomes of his own decisions, opinions, beliefs, deeds and misdeeds, that his acts in action or membership of a certain group have no meaning, no consequences, that he is above reproach, above punishment, though not above being feared and being notorious, and that magically he is protected and will miraculously be saved at the last moment.
What are the sources of this fantastic misappraisal of situations and chains of events?
Well, the first and foremost source is of course the false self. The false self is constructed as a childish response to abuse and trauma.
The false self is possessed of everything that the child wishes he had in order to retaliate – power, wisdom, magic, all of them unlimited and instantaneously available to the child.
The false self, this Superman, is indifferent to abuse and punishment. It shields the vulnerable true self of the narcissist from the harsh realities experienced by the child.
This artificial, maladaptive separation between a vulnerable but not punishable true self and a punishable but invulnerable false self is a very effective mechanism. It isolates the child from an unjust, capricious, emotionally dangerous world, but at the same time it fosters a false sense of nothing can happen to me because I am not here, I cannot be punished because I am immune.
The second source of this sensation of immunity has to do with a sense of entitlement possessed by every narcissist.
In his grandiose delusions, the narcissist is sui generis, unique, a gift to humanity, a precious, fragile object.
Moreover, the narcissist is convinced both that his uniqueness is immediately discernible and that it gives him special rights in society.
The narcissist feels that he is shunted by some cosmological law pertaining to endangered species. He is convinced that his future contribution to humanity should and does exempt him from the mundane. He should be exempt from daily chores, boring jobs, recurrent tasks, personal exertion, orderly investment of resources and efforts, and even aging and death.
The narcissist feels entitled to special treatment, high living standards, constant and immediate catering to his ever shifting needs, the avoidance of the mundane and the routine, an absolution of his sins, fast track privileges to higher education or in his encounters with bureaucracy.
Punishment is for ordinary people where no great loss to humanity is involved.
Narcissists feel that they are above the law.
The third source of this feeling of immunity has to do with the narcissist's ability to manipulate his human environment.
Narcissists develop their manipulative skills to the level of an art form because that is the only way they could have survived their poisoned and dangerous childhood by manipulating their environment.
Yet they use this gift long after its expiry date, long after it's no longer needed.
Narcissists are possessed of inordinate abilities to charm, to convince, to seduce, to persuade. They are gifted orators and great thespians.
In many cases, they are intellectually endowed. They put all these endowments to the limited use of obtaining narcissistic supply with startling results.
They become pillars of society and members of the upper class, the foundation of the community. They mostly do get exempted many times by virtue of their standing in society, by virtue of their charisma, their ability to find willing scapegoats.
Having got away with it so many times, they develop a theory of personal immunity which rests on some kind of societal or even cosmic order of things. Some people are just above punishment. They are the chosen, the special ones, the endowed, the gifted ones.
And this is the narcissistic hierarchy. The narcissist above everyone, everyone under the narcissist, the narcissist immune, everyone else punishable and should be held responsible.
But there is a fourth, simpler explanation. The narcissist just does not know what he is doing.
Divorced from his true self, unable to empathize, to understand what it is like to be someone else, unwilling to act empathically, to constrain his actions in accordance with the feelings and needs of others, the narcissist is in a constant dreamlike state.
The narcissist experiences his life like a movie, autonomously unfolding, guided by a sublime or even divine director. The narcissist is a mere spectator, mildly interested, greatly entertained at times, but nothing else. He does not feel that he owns his actions. He therefore emotionally cannot understand why he should be punished and when he is punished, he feels grossly wrong.
To be a narcissist is to be convinced of a great, inevitable personal destiny. The narcissist is preoccupied with ideal love, construction of brilliant revolutionary scientific theories, the compositional authoring or painting of the greatest work of art ever, the founding of a new school of thought, attainment of fabulous wealth, the reshaping of the fate of the nation, becoming immortalized and so on, so nothing less than these.
The narcissist never sets realistic goals to himself. He is forever floating amid fantasies of uniqueness, record-breaking or breathtaking achievements. His speech is verbose and florid and reflects this grandiosity.
So convinced is a narcissist that he is destined to break things that he refuses to acknowledge setbacks, failures or punishments. He regards them as temporary, as someone else's errors, as part of the future mythology of his rise to power, brilliance, wealth, ideal love, etc.
To accept punishment is to divert scarce energy and resources from the all-important and all-consuming task of fulfilling his mission in life. That the narcissist is destined to breakness is a divine certainty. A higher order or power has preordained him to achieve something of lusting, of substance, of import in this world, in this life.
How could mere mortals interfere with this cosmic divine scheme of things?
Therefore, punishment is impossible and will not happen, and that is the narcissist's firm conclusion.
The narcissist is pathologically envious of people and projects his aggression unto people. He is always vigilant, ready to fend off an imminent attack. When inevitable punishment does come, the narcissist is shocked and irritated by the nuisance.
Also, he does not feel responsible for what he did because he does not feel that he did it.
There is a break in personal continuity.
It's like someone else did the things that the narcissist is being punished for.
Being punished also proves to him and validates what he suspected all along that he is being persecuted. It supports and enhances his underlying paranoia.
Strong forces are poised against him. People are envious of his achievements. They are angry at him. They are out to get him. He constitutes a threat to the accepted order, and that's why they are attacking him.
When required to account for his misdeeds, for his bad conduct, the narcissist is always distainful, always bitter and resentful. He feels like Galiver, a giant, shamed to the ground by teeming lily cushions, dwarves, midgets, while his soul soars to a future in which people recognize his greatness and applaud it the ultimate in narcissistic supply.