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Narcissist's Pathological Grandiosity

Uploaded 11/19/2010, approx. 5 minute read

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

Daydreaming, fantasizing, are healthy activities. They are the anti-chamber of life. They often anticipate life's circumstances. They are processes of preparing for eventualities and planning.

But healthy daydreaming is different to malignant and pathological grandiosity.

Grandiosity has four components, the first being omnipotence. The narcissist believes in his own omnipotence that he is all-powerful. Believe in this context is a weak word. The narcissist knows it is a cellular certainty, almost biological, and it flows in his blood and permeates every niche of his being.

The narcissist is convinced that he can do anything he chooses to do and excel in it.

What a narcissist does, what he excels at, what he achieves, depends only on his volition, believes the narcissist.

To his mind, there is no other determinant and no limitations.

Hence, the narcissist's rage when confronted with disagreement and opposition, not only because of the audacity of his evidently inferior adversaries, but because such discord, such disagreement, such criticism, threaten his worldview and endanger his feeling of omnipotence.

The narcissist is often factually daring, adventurous, experimentative, and curious precisely because he believes in this hidden assumption of can-do. He is genuinely surprised and devastated when he fails, when the universe does not arrange itself magically to accommodate his unbounded fantasies, when the world and people in it do not comply with his whims and wishes.

The narcissist often denies away such discrepancies, deletes them from his memory, and as a result, he remembers his life as a patchy quilt of unrelated events and people.

The second strand in pathological grandiosity is omniscience. The narcissist often pretends to know everything in every field of human knowledge and endeavor.

Because of the narcissist's lies, prevaricates to avoid the exposure of his ignorance, he resorts to numerous subterfuges to support this godlike omniscience.

Where the narcissist's knowledge fails him, he feigns authority, he fakes superiority, he quotes from non-existent sources, he embeds threads of truth in a wide canvas of falsehoods, he transforms himself into an artist of intellectual prestige-digitation.

As the narcissist gets older, this invidious quality may recede, or rather, metamorphose. He may now claim more confined experience, but a deeper one. He may no longer be ashamed to admit his ignorance and his need to learn things outside the fields of his real or self-proclaimed expertise.

But this improvement is merely optical.

Within his territory of knowledge, the narcissist is still as fiercely defensive, as possessive, and as fallacious as ever. Many narcissists are avowed auto-deductors. They are unwilling to subject their knowledge and insights to pure scrutiny, or for that matter, to any scrutiny.

The narcissist keeps reinventing himself, adding new fields of knowledge as he goes.

This creeping intellectual annexation is a roundabout way of reverting to his erstwhile image as the iridite Renaissance man.


And then there is omnipresence. While even the narcissist cannot pretend to actually be everywhere at once in the physical sense, instead, the narcissist feels that he is the center and the axis of his own universe, that all things, happenstances, and people revolve around him, and that cosmic disintegration would ensue if he were to disappear or to lose interest in someone or something.

He is convinced, for instance, that he is the main, if not the only, topic of discussion in his absence. He is often surprised and offended to learn that he was not even mentioned. When invited to a meeting with many participants, he assumes the position of the sage, the guru, or the teacher guide, whose words carry a special weight.

His creations, books, articles, works of art, are extensions of his presence, and in this restricted sense, he does seem to exist everywhere.

In other words, the narcissist stamps his environment, he puts a stamp on it, he leaves his mark upon it, he stigmatizes it.

Finally, there is perfectionism and completeness. The narcissist is an omnivore.

There is another omnipoponent in grandiosity. The narcissist devours and digests experiences and people, sights, smells, bodies, and words, books, and films, sounds, and achievements, his work and his pleasure and his possessions.

The narcissist is incapable of enjoying an entity because he is in constant pursuit of perfection and completeness and hoarding.

Classic narcissists interact with the world as predators do with their prey. They want to own all of it, to be everywhere, to experience everything. They cannot delay gratification. They do not take no for an answer, and they settle for nothing less than the ideal, the sublime, the perfect, the all-inclusive, the all-encompassing, the engulfing, the all-pervasive, the most beautiful, the cleverest, the richest, the most brilliant.

The narcissist is shattered when he discovers that the collection he possesses is incomplete, that his colleague's wife is more glamorous, that his son is better than he is in math, that his neighbor is a new flashy car, that his roommate got promoted, that the love of his life signed a recording contract.

It is not plain old jealousy, not even pathological envy though. This is definitely part of the psychological makeup of the narcissist.

It is the discovery that the narcissist is not perfect or ideal or complete. This realization does him in.

And so the narcissist is grandiose as a kind of self-defense. When anyone challenges the assumptions underlying the narcissist's grandiosity, he reacts with rage to this narcissistic injury.

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