I am Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
The behavior of the narcissist is regulated by a series of routines developed by rote learning and by repetitive patterns of experience.
The narcissist finds change extremely distasteful, stressful and unsettling. He is a creature of habit.
The function of these routines is to reduce the narcissist's anxiety by transforming a hostile and arbitrary world into a hospitable and manageable and controllable one.
Many narcissists are indeed unstable. They change jobs, apartments, spouses, vocations and locations. But even these changes are pretty predictable.
The narcissistic personality is disorganized and chaotic, but it is also rigid. The narcissist finds solace, uncertainty, in recurrence, in the familiar and the anticipated. These balance his inner precariousness, volatility and chaos.
Narcissists often strike their interlocutors as being machine-like, artificial, fake, forced, insincere or spurious. This is because even the narcissist's ostensibly spontaneous behaviors are either planned or automatic.
The narcissist is continuously preoccupied with his narcissistic supply.
How to secure its sources and how to obtain the next dose is a chore. This preoccupation restricts the narcissist's attention span.
As a result, the narcissist often appears to be aloof, absent-minded, unfocused, de-concentrated and uninterested in other people. He would not pay attention to events surrounding or even to abstract ideas, unless of course these have a bearing on his narcissistic supply.
The narcissist develops some of these routines to compensate for his inability to attend to his environment and its needs.
Automatic reactions require much less investment of mental resources. The narcissist's resources are scarce indeed. It doesn't have the necessary energy to invest in other people.
Consider driving, for instance. When we drive, we do interact with our environment, but we do so completely automatically. Often our mind wanders and is occupied with something completely different.
It's the same with the narcissist. The narcissist interacts with other people and with the world at large, the same way that you drive your car on automatic pilot.
Narcissists make fake warmth and outgoing personality. This is the routine that I call the narcissistic mask.
But as one gets to know the narcissist better, the mask falls and the narcissistic makeup wears off. Narcissist muscles relax and he reverts to what I call the narcissistic tonus.
The narcissistic tonus is a bodacious air of superiority mixed with disdain or contempt for others.
So while routines such as the various masks are extraneous and require an often conscious investment of energy, the tonus is the default position. It's effortless. It's frequent. And it is the true face of default self.
Many narcissists are obsessive compulsive as well. They conduct daily rituals. They are overly punctilious. They do things in a certain order and adhere to numerous laws, principles and rules. They have rigid and off- repeated opinions, uncompromising rules of conduct and alterable views and judgments.
These compulsions and obsessions are ossified routines, fossils of past responses and reactions to the environment.
Other routines involve paranoid, repetitive thoughts. Yet others induce shyness and social phobia. The whole range of narcissistic behaviors can be traced to these routines and to the various phases of their evolutionary cycles.
It is when these routines break down and are violated, when they become no longer defensible, when they are breached or when the narcissist can no longer exercise or defend them, it is then that a narcissistic injury occurs.
The narcissist expects the outside world to conform to his inner universe. When a conflict between these two realms erupts, thus unsettling the ill-poised mental balance so painstakingly achieved by the narcissist, the narcissist unravels. Without his routines, he falls apart. He decomposes.
The narcissist's very defense mechanisms are routines and so he is left defenseless in a hostile, cold world without them.
This, of course, is the true reflection of his inner landscape, hostile, barren, a wasteland.