Narcissists: Alien Life-forms, Lack Empathy!

Uploaded 7/25/2010, approx. 2 minute read

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

In my writings, I often compare narcissists to alien lifeforms, to robots, to automata, to machines.

People often bristle at such comparisons.

They say, well, surely narcissists are human beings, as human as we are.

But you see, narcissists lack a critical piece of equipment. They lack the ability to empathize.

Empathy is what binds us together. Empathy is the quintessence, the essence, of what it means to be human.

In the absence of empathy, emotions and cognitions are skewed, deformed, and in a word, alien.

To empathize means to put yourself in the shoes of another person, to understand, to accept, and sometimes to sympathize with that person's needs, emotions, fears, hopes, wishes, preferences.

For a split second to be someone else is to empathize.

It is this ability to become someone else, however momentarily, that allows us to feel compassion, mercy, pity, and to help altruistically and unselfishly.

The narcissist, usually being the victim of early childhood abuse, did not develop this critical capacity. The narcissist is unable to empathize.

Everything human is strange to the narcissist alien. He cannot grasp the three-dimensionality of other people.

To the narcissist, people are instruments of gratification, mere extensions of himself.

Psychopathic narcissists regard other people as playthings, and they can even go to the extent of becoming sadistic, physically, emotionally, verbally, and psychologically.

It is because of that that I keep saying that narcissists cannot truly communicate with other people. They cannot communicate with their family, with their friends, with their colleagues at work, with underlings, subordinates and bosses, with neighbors, and even with a therapist.

This lack of empathy sets them apart. It is an important criterion in diagnosing narcissistic personality disorder, one of the nine in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, and it also makes them easily recognizable.

This coldness, this aloofness, this detachment is unique to narcissists and psychopaths. Some people call it a reptilian quality.

In my book Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, I suggested that narcissists and psychopaths actually do possess a form of empathy, which I call cold empathy.

They easily hone in on other people's vulnerabilities, weaknesses, frailties, and foibles, and they leverage and take advantage of this knowledge in order to exploit, manipulate, maneuver, and sometimes simply humiliate an infante.

Yet this is not all empathy. This is not an empathy that leads to positive feelings. This is the empathy, type of empathy, cold empathy, that renders the narcissists and psychopaths the ultimate predator.

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Your Empathy as Narcissistic Injury: Narcissist Never Learns, No Insight

Narcissists reject empathy and intimacy because it challenges their grandiosity, and they become paranoid and aggressive when someone tries to be intimate with them. Narcissists lack empathy and access to positive emotions, leading to a truncated version of empathy called "cold empathy." Narcissists are self-aware but lack the incentive to get rid of their narcissism, and therapy is more focused on accommodating the needs of the narcissist's nearest and dearest. Cold Therapy is experimental and limited, as it removes the false self but does not develop empathy or improve the narcissist's interpersonal relationships.

Narcissist Never Sorry

Narcissists sometimes feel bad and experience depressive episodes and dysphoric moods, but they have a diminished capacity to empathize and rarely feel sorry for what they have done or for their victims. They often project their own emotions and actions onto others and attribute to others what they hate in themselves. When confronted with major crises, the narcissist experiences real excruciating pain, but this is only a fleeting moment, and they recover their former self and embark on a new hunt for narcissistic supply. They are hunters, predators, and their victims are prey.

Narcissists Have Emotions

Narcissists do have emotions, but they tend to repress them so deeply that they play no conscious role in their lives or conduct. The narcissist's positive emotions come bundled with very negative ones, and they become phobic of feeling anything lest it be accompanied by negative emotions. The narcissist is reduced to experiencing down-steerings in their soul that they identify to themselves and to others as emotions. Narcissists are not envious of others for having emotions, they disdain feelings and sentimental people because they find them to be weak and vulnerable.

How Narcissist's Victims Deceive Themselves

Narcissists cannot be cured and are a threat to those around them. Victims of narcissists often confuse shame with guilt and attribute remorsefulness to the narcissist when they are actually feeling shame for failing. Narcissists are attracted to vulnerable people who offer them a secure source of narcissistic supply. Healing is dependent on a sense of security in a relationship, but the narcissist is not interested in healing and would rather invest their energy in obtaining narcissistic supply. Narcissists lack empathy and cannot understand others, making them a danger to those around them.

Sadistic Narcissist

Narcissists are sadistic in their pursuit of narcissistic supply, and they enjoy inflicting pain on others who they perceive as intentionally frustrating and withholding. They are not full-fledged sadists in the psychosexual sense, but they are adept at finding the vulnerabilities and frailties of their victims. The narcissist's sadistic acts are often disguised as an enlightened interest in the welfare of their victim, and they are so subtle and poisonous that they might be regarded as the most dangerous of all variants of sadism. However, the narcissist's attention span is short, and they usually let their victims go before they suffer irreversible damage.

Narcissist's Reactions to Abandonment, Separation, and Divorce

Narcissistic abusers often resort to self-delusion when faced with the dissolution of a meaningful relationship. They may adopt a masochistic avoidance solution, punishing themselves for their failure, or construct a delusional narrative in which they are the hero. Some may become antisocial psychopaths, while others develop persecutory delusions and withdraw completely from social contact, becoming schizoids. Finally, some abusers resort to an aggressive stance, becoming verbally, psychologically, and sometimes physically abusive towards loved ones.

Discontinuous Narcissist's Multiple Personas

Narcissists do not have criminal intent, but they do victimize, plunder, terrorize, and abuse others as a manifestation of their genuine character. The narcissist is a walking compilation of personalities, and each of these personalities has its personal history. The narcissist is unable to link his past acts or inaction with their outcomes in the present. The slicing of the narcissist's life is what stands behind the narcissist's apparent inability to predict the inevitable outcomes of his actions.

The Signs of the Narcissist

Narcissists are difficult to spot, but there are subtle signs that can be picked up on, such as entitlement markers, idealization and devaluation, and a lack of empathy. Narcissists are often perceived as anti-social and are unable to secure the sympathy of others. They are also prone to projecting a false self and using primitive defense mechanisms such as splitting, projection, projective identification, and intellectualization.

Narcissist's Pain: Narcissism, Sadism, and Masochism

Narcissists experience a sense of relief after suffering emotionally, enduring a narcissistic injury, or sustaining a loss. This elation is so addictive that the narcissist often seeks pain, humiliation, punishment, scorn, and contempt. The narcissist is also a sadist, albeit a bit of an unusual sadist. The narcissist pendulum swings between the extremes of torturing others and then empathically soothing the resulting pain.

Narcissists Rule: Narcissist in Positions of Authority

Narcissists are incapable of empathizing and view humans as only a means to supply them with narcissistic supply. They are prone to emotional extortion, blackmail, abuse, and misuse of authority to secure their supply. Narcissists lack a moral dimension and are atavistically responsive to fear, resembling an alien on drugs.

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