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.