Narcissists: Achievers and Failures

Uploaded 7/7/2011, approx. 4 minute read

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

The narcissist often strikes people as being laid back, or less charitably as being lazy, parasitic, spoiled and self-indulgent.

But as usual with narcissists, appearances sometimes deceive.

Narcissists are either compulsively driven overachievers or chronic underachieving wastrels.

Most of them fail to make full and productive use of their potential and capacities.

Many narcissists avoid even the now-standard path of academic degree, a career, a family life.

The disparity between the accomplishments of the narcissist and his grandiose fantasies and inflated self-image is what I call the grandiosity gap. It is a staggering abyss and in the long run it is insupportable and unsustainable. It imposes onerous exigencies of the narcissist's grasp of reality and on his social skills. It pushes the narcissist either to seclusion or to a frenzy of acquisitions, cars, women, wealth, power, anything to sustain his self-image.

Yet no matter how successful the narcissist is, many of them end up being object failures, but many of them end up being great successes and pillars of their community.

But never mind how successful they are, how high up the ladder, the grandiosity gap can never be breached.

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.

The narcissist is a slave to his own inertia.

Some narcissists are forever exhilarating on the way to ever higher peaks and ever greener pastures, never obtainable, always on the horizon.

Other narcissists succumb to numbing routines, to the expenditure of minimal energy, the path of last released resistance, to prey on the vulnerable.

But either way, the narcissist's life is out of control and the mercy of merciless inner voices and internal forces emerges.

These are one-state machines programmed to extract narcissistic supply from other people.

To do that, they develop early on a set of immutable routines.

This propensity for repetition, this inability to change and rigidity, confine the narcissist's horizons, stunt the narcissist's development and limit his horizons.

Add to this toxic admixture the narcissist's overpowering sense of entitlement, his visceral fear of failure and his invariable lead to both feel unique and to be perceived as unique.

One often ends up with a recipe for inaction and the narcissist starts really paralyzed by these conflicting forces.

Underachieving narcissist dodges challenges, eludes, tests, shirks, competition and responsibility, sidesteps expectations, ducks all kinds of duties, evades authority.

And this kind of narcissist does all this because he is afraid to fail and because doing something everyone else does endangers his sense of uniqueness.

Hence, the narcissist's apparent laziness and parasitism. His sense of entitlement with no commensurate accomplishments or investments aggravates his milieu.

People tend to regard such narcissist as spoiled brats.

In specious contrast, overachieving narcissist seeks challenges. He seeks risks, provokes competition, embellishes expectations, aggressively beats for responsibilities and authority and seems to be possessed with an eerie self-confidence.

People tend to regard such specimen of narcissist as entrepreneurial, daring, visionary or tyrannical. Yet these narcissist too are modified by potential failure and they are driven by a strong conviction of entitlement, strive to be unique and be perceived as such.

They have an identical psychodynamic landscape to the underachieving narcissist, only they choose a different solution.

The overachiever-narcissist hyperactivity is merely the flip side of the underachiever's inactivity. It is as fallacious and as empty and as doomed to miscarriage and disgrace and failure. It is often sterile or illusory, all smoke and mirrors rather than substance.

The precarious achievements of such narcissist invariably unravel with time. Such narcissist often act outside the loop or outside social norms and in contravention of social ethics and mores.

Their industriousness, walk-onism, ambition and commitment are intended merely to disguise their essential inability to produce and to really build something.

These narcissists are in the dark, where life is a pretension, a fortemkin life.

All make believe in thunder without little essence.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

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.

Do Narcissists Truly Hate?

Narcissists are often adult versions of abused children who fear intimacy and seek to provoke hatred in parents, caregivers, and authority figures. They act out antisocially and seek to destroy the source of frustration. The narcissist's hatred is not a stable experiential state, but rather a transformation of resentment and an aggressive reaction to frustration. The narcissist is heavily dependent on other people for the regulation of their sense of self-worth, and they resent this dependence.

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.

Compulsive Narcissist

Narcissism is an all-pervasive obsessive-compulsive disorder, with the narcissist seeking to recreate and reenact old traumas and conflicts with figures of primary importance in their life, mainly their parents. The narcissist develops a unique defense mechanism, constructing a story, a narrative, and another self, which is perfect, brilliant, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. The child worships this new deity, succumbing to what they perceive to be the false self's wishes and needs, making sacrifices of narcissistic supply to the false self. The narcissist's compulsive acts are merely an element in their complicated personality, and shaving them off does nothing to ameliorate the narcissist's titanic inner struggle for survival.

Narcissist's False Self vs. True Self: Soul-snatching

The narcissist's life is a spectacle, with free access to all, constantly on display. The narcissist flaunts a false self to solicit narcissistic supply, attention, and admiration from his audience. The false self is an adaptive reaction to pathological circumstances, but its dynamics make it predominate. The false self is far more important to the narcissist than his dilapidated, dysfunctional, shameful true self.

Zombie Narcissist: Deficient Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists are constantly seeking praise, adoration, admiration, approval, applause, attention, and other forms of narcissistic supply. When they fail to obtain sufficient supply, they react much like a drug addict would. They become dysphoric, depressed, and may resort to alternative addictions. In extreme cases of deprivation, they may even entertain suicidal thoughts. Narcissists also have a sense of magical thinking, believing that they will always prevail and that good things will always happen to them, rendering them fearless and cloaked in divine and cosmic immunity.

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.

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.

Narcissism: Not Self-love!

The narcissist lacks the ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy and empathize with others, as they have a false self that devours their true self. They love the image they project onto others and expect others to reflect this image. The narcissist's feeling of entitlement is not grounded in reality and can easily lead to aggression. The narcissist lacks self-knowledge and lives in an invented world of their own design, making it difficult for them to connect with others and experience mature love.

Idealized, Devalued, Dumped

Narcissists have a cycle of overvaluation and devaluation, which is more prevalent in borderline personality disorder than in narcissistic personality disorder. The cycle reflects the need to be protected against the whims, needs, and choices of other people, shielded from the hurt that they can inflict on the narcissist. The overvaluation and devaluation mechanism is the most efficient one available to the narcissist, as the narcissist's personality is precariously balanced and requires inordinate amounts of energy to maintain. The narcissist's energies are all focused and dedicated to the task concentrated upon the source of supply he had identified.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2024, under license to William DeGraaf
Website Copyright © William DeGraaf 2022-2024
Get it on Google Play
Privacy policy