Narcissist's Pain: Narcissism, Sadism, and Masochism

Uploaded 4/20/2011, approx. 4 minute read

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

Most narcissists enjoy an irrational and brief burst of relief after having suffered emotionally, after having endured a narcissistic injury, or after having sustained a loss. It is a strange reaction.

Narcissism doesn't usually react with relief or with elation, but narcissists do. It is a sense of freedom which comes with being unshackled.

Having lost everything, the narcissist often feels that he has found himself, that he has been reborn, that he has been charged with natal energy, able to take on new challenges and to explore new territories.

This elation is so addictive that the narcissist often seeks pain, humiliation, punishment, scorn and contempt, as long as they are public and involve the attention of peers and superiors.

Being punished accords with the tormenting inner voices of the narcissist, which keep telling him that he is bad, corrupt and worthy of penalty.

And this is a masochistic trick in the narcissist.

But the narcissist, as we well know, is also a sadist, albeit a bit of an unusual sadist.

The narcissist inflicts pain and abuse on others. He devalues sources of supply, callously and offendedly. He abandons them, discards people, places, partnerships and friendships, unhesitatingly.

Some narcissists, though by no means a majority, actually enjoy abusing, taunting, tormenting and freakishly controlling others, a phenomenon known as gaslighting.

But most of the narcissists, most of them, do these things absentmindedly, offhandedly, automatically and often even without good reason.

What is unusual about the narcissist's sadistic behaviors, premeditated acts of tormenting others while enjoying their anguished reactions, is that they are goal-oriented.

Pure sadists, non-narcissists, have no goal in mind except the pursuit of pleasure. Pain, to them, is an artful.

Remember the maquilean?

The narcissist, on the other hand, haunts and hunts his victims for a reason. He wants them to reflect his inner state.

It is a part of a mechanism called projective identifications.

Narcissists torture and torment in order to yield results. Once these results are secure, the narcissist usually sees us.

Not so the classic sadist. When the narcissist is angry, unhappy, disappointed, injured or hurt, he feels unable to express his emotions sincerely, directly and openly, since to do so would be to admit his frailty, his neediness and his weakness, which he would never do.

He deplores, the narcissist deplores his own humanity. He hates the fact that he has emotions, that he has vulnerabilities, that he is susceptible, gullible. He resents and rejects his own inadequacies and failures.

So what he does, he makes use of other people to express his pain and his frustration, his pent-up anger and his aggression.

He achieves this by mentally torturing other people to the point of madness, by driving them to violence, by reducing them to scar tissue in search of outlet, closure and sometimes revenge.

He forces people to lose their own character traits and adopt his own instead.

In reaction to his constant, well-targeted abuse, his victims become abusive, vengeful, ruthless, lacking in empathy, obsessed and aggressive.

They, in other words, mirror the narcissist faithfully and thus relieve him of the need to express himself directly.

Having constructed this writhing hole of human mirrors, the narcissist withdraws. The goal achieved, he lets go.

As opposed to the classical sadist, the narcissist is not in it indefinitely for the pleasure of it. He abuses and traumatizes, humiliates and abandons, discards and ignores insults and provokes only for the purpose of purging his inner demons.

By possessing others, the narcissist purifies himself cathartically and exercises his demented self.

Yet when this is accomplished, the narcissist acts almost with remorse.

An episode of extreme abuse is usually followed by an act of great care and by mellifluous apologies.

The narcissist pendulum swings between the extremes of torturing others and then empathically soothing the resulting pain.

This incongruous behavior, these sudden shifts between sadism and altruism, abuse and love, ignoring and caring, abandoning and clinging, viciousness and remorse, the harsh and the tender, these are perhaps the most difficult to comprehend and to accept.

These swings producing people around the narcissist emotional insecurity, an eroded sense of self-worth, fear, stress and anxiety. This is called walking on eggshells.

You never know when the next eruption will occur. Gradually, emotional paralysis ensues and the narcissist victims come to occupy the same emotional wasteland inhabited by the narcissist himself.

They become his prisoners and hostages in more than one way and even when he is long out of their lives.

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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.

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's Victims' Many Faces

Everyone around the narcissist is bound to become a victim, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. There are three categories of victims: those who suffer from the narcissist's instability, those who are misled by the narcissist's deceiving messages, and those who are intentionally targeted by the narcissist. The narcissist is both sadistic and masochistic, and in hurting others, he always seeks to also hurt himself. The narcissist is ruinous and destructive, and no amount of punishment can restore the balance or provide closure and vindication.

Your Empathy as Narcissistic Injury: Narcissist Never Learns, No Insight

Narcissists reject empathy and intimacy because it challenges their grandiosity, and they become paranoid and aggressive when someone tries to be intimate with them. Narcissists lack empathy and access to positive emotions, leading to a truncated version of empathy called "cold empathy." Narcissists are self-aware but lack the incentive to get rid of their narcissism, and therapy is more focused on accommodating the needs of the narcissist's nearest and dearest. Cold Therapy is experimental and limited, as it removes the false self but does not develop empathy or improve the narcissist's interpersonal relationships.

Narcissists Have Emotions

Narcissists do have emotions, but they tend to repress them so deeply that they play no conscious role in their lives or conduct. The narcissist's positive emotions come bundled with very negative ones, and they become phobic of feeling anything lest it be accompanied by negative emotions. The narcissist is reduced to experiencing down-steerings in their soul that they identify to themselves and to others as emotions. Narcissists are not envious of others for having emotions, they disdain feelings and sentimental people because they find them to be weak and vulnerable.

Narcissist: Your Pain is his Healing, Your Crucifixion - His Resurrection

Narcissists need their victims to suffer to regulate their own emotions and feel a sense of control. They keep a mental ledger of positive and negative behaviors, with negative behaviors weighing more heavily. Narcissists need counterfactual statements to maintain their delusion of being special and superior. The grandiosity gap is the major vulnerability of the narcissist, and they are often in denial about their limitations and failures.

Narcissist's Routines

Narcissists have a series of routines that are developed through rote learning and repetitive patterns of experience. These routines are used to reduce anxiety and transform the world into a manageable and controllable one. The narcissist is a creature of habit and finds change unsettling. The narcissist's routines are often broken down when they are breached or can no longer be defended, leading to a narcissistic injury.

Sadistic Narcissist

Narcissists are sadistic in their pursuit of narcissistic supply, and they enjoy inflicting pain on others who they perceive as intentionally frustrating and withholding. They are not full-fledged sadists in the psychosexual sense, but they are adept at finding the vulnerabilities and frailties of their victims. The narcissist's sadistic acts are often disguised as an enlightened interest in the welfare of their victim, and they are so subtle and poisonous that they might be regarded as the most dangerous of all variants of sadism. However, the narcissist's attention span is short, and they usually let their victims go before they suffer irreversible damage.

Can You Love the Narcissist and Rescue Him?

Victims of narcissists often resort to fantasies and self-delusions to cope with their pain, believing that they can rescue the narcissist from their misery and misfortune. However, loving a narcissist is difficult, and any attempt to relate to them emotionally is doomed to failure. Narcissists are addicts in pursuit of gratification through the drug known as narcissistic supply, and they hone in on potential suppliers like cruise missiles. Victims of narcissists can become bitter and self-centered, lacking in empathy, and become more like the narcissist over time.

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