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Narcissistic Grandiosity Bubbles

Uploaded 2/23/2011, approx. 3 minute read

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

As one source of narcissistic supply, the narcissist finds himself trapped, frantic, though a times unconscious effort, to secure alternatives.

As one pathological narcissistic space, the narcissist's stomping grounds, is rendered uninhabitable because too many people see through the narcissist's manipulation machinations, the narcissist wanders off to find another.

These hysterical endeavors sometimes lead to boom-bust cycles, which involve, in the first stage, the formation of a grandiosity bubble.

A grandiosity bubble is an imagined, self-aggrandizing narrative, involving the narcissist in elements from his real life.

People around him, places he frequents, conversations he is having. The narcissist weaves a story, incorporating these facts, inflating them in the process and endowing them with bogus internal meaning and consistency.

In other words, the narcissist does what he does best, he confabulates, but this time the confabulation is loosely based on reality.

In the process, the narcissist reinvents himself in his life to fit the new fangled tale. He recasts himself in newly adopted roles.

He suddenly fancies himself an actor, a guru, a political activist, an entrepreneur, an author, or even an irresistible hunk.

The narcissist modifies his behavior to conform to these new functions and roles, self-allocated as they are.

He gradually morphs into the fabricated character, he shapeshifts and becomes the fictitious protagonist he has created.

All the mechanisms of pathological narcissism are at work during the bubble phase.

The narcissist idealizes the situation, the other actors, and the environment. He tries to control and to manipulate his milieu into buttressing his false notions and perceptions.

Faced with an inevitable grandiosity gap between reality and the bubble, the narcissist becomes disillusioned and bitter and devalues and discards the people, places and circumstances involved in the grandiosity bubble.

Still, grandiosity bubbles are not part of the normal narcissistic mini-cycle. They are rare events, much like trying on a new outfit for size and comfort. They fizzle out rapidly and the narcissist reverts to his regular pattern, idealizing new sources of supply, devaluing and discarding these sources or previous ones, pursuing the next victims to be drained of energy.

Actually, the deflation of a grandiosity bubble is met with relief by the narcissist. It does not involve a narcissistic injury.

The narcissist views the bubble as merely an experiment at being someone else for a while, as an exercise at acting.

The grandiosity bubble is a safety valve, allowing the narcissist to effectively cope with negative emotions and frustration by temporarily becoming someone else, by playing or play acting a role.

Thus cleansed, the narcissist can go back to doing what he does best, rejecting a false self and garnering attention from others.

Grandiosity bubbles are therefore cathartic.

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