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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Narcissist: Confabulations, Lies

Confabulation is a common human trait, but the distinction between reality and fantasy is never lost. However, the narcissist's very self is a piece of fiction, concocted to fend off hurt and pain and to nurture the narcissist's grandiosity. The narcissist fails in his reality test and is unable to distinguish the actual from the imagined, the real from the fantasized. The narcissist's countenance, no disagreement, no alternative points of view, no criticism. To him, his confabulation is reality.

Old-age Narcissist

Narcissists age without grace, unable to accept their fallibility and mortality. They suffer from mental progeria, aging prematurely and finding themselves in a time warp. The longer they live, the more average they become, and the wider the gulf between their pretensions and accomplishments. Few narcissists save for rainy days, and those who succeed in their vocation end up bitterly alone, having squandered the love of family, offspring, and mates.

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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.

Grandiosity as Cognitive Bias (Kruger-Dunning Effect)

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Shame motivates normal people and those suffering from cluster B personality disorders, but it motivates them differently. Shame constitutes a threat to normal people's true self, and it constitutes a threat to the false self of narcissism. There are two varieties of shame when we talk about narcissists in effect. There is narcissistic shame, which is the narcissist's experience of the grandiosity gap and its affective correlate. The greater the conflict between grandiosity and reality, the bigger the gap and the greater the narcissist's feelings of shame and guilt.

Narcissist: The Impulse to Be Perfect (Fear of Failure and Success)

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Narcissist's Shame and Guilt

The grandiosity gap is the difference between self-image and reality, causing feelings of guilt and shame in narcissists. Narcissistic shame is the pervasive feeling of worthlessness experienced by the narcissist due to the absence or deficiency of narcissistic supply. The narcissist adopts primitive psychological defense mechanisms to counter this shame, such as addictive or impulsive behaviors. Guilt is an objectively determinable philosophical entity, while shame is the outcome of avoidable outcomes.

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