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Narcissist's Reality Substitutes

Uploaded 2/15/2011, approx. 4 minute read

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

Pathological narcissism is a defense mechanism. It is intended to isolate the narcissist from his environment and to shield the narcissist from hurt and injury, both real and imaginable.

Hence the false self.

The false self is an outpervasive psychological construct, which gradually displaces the narcissist's true self.

The false self is a work of fiction intended to elicit praise and deflect criticism and pain.

The unintended consequence of this fictitious existence is a diminishing ability to grasp reality correctly and to cope with reality effectively.

Narcissistic supply replaces genuine, veritable and tested feedback. Analysis, disagreement and uncomfortable facts are screened out. Layers of bias and prejudice distort the narcissist's experience and his cognition.

Yet, deep inside, the narcissist is aware that his life is a sham, an artifact, a confabulation, a vulnerable cocoon.

The world inexorably and repeatedly intrudes upon these ramshackle battlements, reminding the narcissist of the fantastic and feeble nature of his grandiosity and fantasies.

This is the much dreaded grandiosity gap.

This comparison between drab, pedestrian existence, one's failure in life and one's fantasy's grandiosity is grandiosity gap, grates upon the narcissist continually and erodes him.

To avoid the agonizing realization of his failed defeat-strewn biography, the narcissist resorts to reality substitutes.

The dynamics is simple.

As the narcissist grows older, his sources of supply become scarcer and his grandiosity gap yawns wider. Mortified by the prospect of facing his actuality, the narcissist withdraws ever deeper into a dreamland of concocted accomplishments, vain omnipotence and omniscience, and bratish entitlement.

The narcissist's reality substitutes fulfill two functions.

They help him rationally ignore painful realities with impunity, and they prefer an alternative universe in which the narcissist reigns supreme and emerges triumphant always.

The most common form of denial involves persecutory delusions.

The narcissist perceives slights where none were intended. He becomes subject to ideas of reference. He believes that people are gossiping about him, mocking him, prying into his affairs, cracking his email, hacking into his computer and so on. He is convinced that he is the center of a malign and malintentioned attention. People are conspiring to humiliate him, punish him, abscond with his property, delude him, impoverish him, confine him physically or intellectually, censor him, impose on his time, force him to action or inaction, frighten him, coerce him, surround and besiege him, change his mind, part with his values or even in extreme cases murder and assassinate him.

The narcissist's paranoid narrative serves as an organizing principle. It structures the narcissist here and now and gives meaning to his life.

The paranoid narrative aggrandizes the narcissist as worthy of being persecuted.

The mere battle with his demons is an achievement, not to be sniggered at.

By overcoming his enemies, the narcissist emerges victorious, powerful, in other words, omnipotent.

The narcissist's self-inflicted paranoid projections of threatening internal objects and processes really legitimizes, justifies and explains his abrupt, comprehensive and rude withdrawal from an ominous, hostile and unappreciative world.

The narcissist's pronounced misanthropy fortified by these oppressive thoughts renders him a schizoid, devoid of all social contact, accepts the most necessary.

But even as the narcissist divorces his environment, he remains aggressive or even violent.

The final phase of narcissism involves verbal, psychological, situational and mercifully more rarely physical abuse directed at his foes and his inferiors.

It is the accumulation of a creeping mode of psychosis, the sad and unavoidable outcome of a choice made long ago to forego the real in favor of the surreal.

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Sam Vaknin explains that the grandiosity gap between a narcissist's self-image and reality is grating on their nerves. As a result, the narcissist resorts to self-delusion, which can lead to various solutions. These include the delusional narrative solution, the antisocial solution, the paranoid schizoid solution, the paranoid aggressive or explosive solution, and the masochistic avoidance solution. Ultimately, the narcissist's pronounced and public misery and self-pity are compensatory and reinforce their self-esteem against overwhelming convictions of worthlessness.


Narcissist Mother's Pet: Her Child

The study of narcissism is still unresolved, with two central debates remaining undecided. The first is whether there is such a thing as healthy narcissism or if all manifestations of narcissism in adulthood are pathological. The second debate is whether pathological narcissism is the result of abuse or spoiling. Narcissism is a defense mechanism intended to shield the narcissist from an injurious world, but as they turn adult, it becomes the main source of hurt and the main generator of injuries. Some narcissists are forced to retreat into a land of delusion and fantasy, even into psychosis.


Narcissist's Psychological Defense Mechanisms

The psyche is a battlefield between instinctual urges and drives, the id, the constraints imposed by reality on the gratification of his impulses, ego, and the norms of society, the superego. Narcissism is a defense mechanism, and narcissists have a monopoly of other defense mechanisms. There are dozens of defense mechanisms, including acting out, denial, devaluation, displacement, dissociation, fantasy, idealization, isolation of affect, omnipotence, projection, projective identification, rationalization, cognitive dissonance, reaction formation, repression, splitting, sublimation, and undoing. All these defense mechanisms operate within the narcissist.


Narcissist Can't Feel Lovable, Good, Worthy, Self-rejects

Negative identity in narcissism involves defining oneself in contrast or contradiction to others, either positively or negatively. This can lead to self-rejection, self-loathing, and the creation of a false self to compensate for the perceived inadequacy of the true self. This process is further complicated by the narcissist's autoplastic and alloplastic defenses, as well as their external and internal locus of control. Ultimately, the narcissist's pursuit of goals and accomplishments to satisfy their false self serves as a form of self-rejection, as they are constantly reminded of their inadequacy and worthlessness in comparison to the false self.


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.


Inner Voices, Narcissism, and Codependence

Narcissists and codependents possess introgets, which are inner voices that are mostly negative and sadistic. These voices enhance the narcissist's underlying ego destiny, rendering them unhappy with who they are and discontent with the way they act. The narcissist's sense of self-worth is affected by their sadistic and uncompromising superego, which affects their sense of self-worth and worthiness, self-knowledge, and self-confidence. The narcissist's whole life is an attempt to satisfy the demands of their inner tribunal and to prove their judgment wrong, which is at the root of their unresolved and unresolvable conflicts.


Narcissist's Sadistic Inner Judge and Critic

The narcissist is tormented by a sadistic superego, which is an amalgamation of negative evaluations, criticisms, angry or disappointed voices and disparagement meted out in the narcissist's formative years and adolescence by parents, peers, role models and authority figures. The narcissist's sense of self-worth is catapulted from one pole to another, from an inflated view of himself to utter despair and self-denigration. The narcissist needs narcissistic supply to regulate this wild pendulum. The narcissist's whole life is a two-fold attempt to both satisfy the inexorable demands of his inner tribunal and to prove wrong its harsh and merciless criticism.


How Narcissist Experiences/Reacts to No Contact, Grey Rock, Mirroring, Coping, Survival Techniques

Narcissists are victims of post-traumatic conditions caused by their parents, leading to ontological insecurity, dissociation, and confabulation. They have no core identity and construct their sense of self by reflecting themselves from other people. Narcissists have empathy, but it is cold empathy, which is goal-oriented and used to find vulnerabilities to obtain goals. Narcissism becomes a religion when a child is abused by their parents, particularly their mother, and not allowed to develop their own boundaries. The false self demands human sacrifice, and the narcissist must sacrifice others to the false self to gratify and satisfy it.


Narcissist as Spoiled Brat

Narcissists require attention and narcissistic supply, and when they cannot obtain it, they may experience decompensation, which can lead to acting out in various ways. Narcissists may resort to several adaptive solutions, including delusional narratives, antisocial behavior, passive-aggressive behavior, paranoid narratives, and masochistic avoidance. These behaviors are all self-generated sources of narcissistic supply. Masochistic narcissists may direct their fury inwards, punishing themselves for their failure to elicit supply, and this behavior has the added benefit of forcing those closest to them to pay attention to them.


Narcissists: Achievers and Failures

Narcissists are either compulsively driven overachievers or chronic underachieving wastrels. The disparity between the accomplishments of the narcissist and his grandiose fantasies and inflated self-image is what is called the grandiosity gap. It is a staggering abyss and in the long run, it is insupportable and unsustainable. The narcissist's false self is so unrealistic and his expectations of himself are so way out there, his superego is so sadistic, these inner voices that criticize him, that there is nothing the narcissist can do to extricate himself from the Kafkaesque trial that is his life.

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