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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.


Can You Love the Narcissist and Rescue Him?

Victims of narcissists often resort to fantasies and self-delusions to cope with their pain, believing that they can rescue the narcissist from their misery and misfortune. However, loving a narcissist is difficult, and any attempt to relate to them emotionally is doomed to failure. Narcissists are addicts in pursuit of gratification through the drug known as narcissistic supply, and they hone in on potential suppliers like cruise missiles. Victims of narcissists can become bitter and self-centered, lacking in empathy, and become more like the narcissist over time.


Self-destruction as Narcissistic Supply: Narcissist's Self-denial and Self-defeat

Narcissists frustrate others to satisfy their masochistic tendencies and sadistic urges. By withholding love, sex, and intimacy, they torment those around them while obstructing their own gratification. Self-denial, self-destruction, and self-defeat buttress the narcissist's sense of superiority and uniqueness, as they prove to themselves that they are the strongest and can overcome powerful desires and emotions. These behaviors and choices engender narcissistic supply, as they demonstrate the narcissist's independence from society, nature, and even themselves.


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.


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.


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.


Narcissist: Women as Sluttish Huntresses or Sexless Saints

Heterosexual narcissists desire women but are frustrated by their inability to interact with them meaningfully. They hate women virulently, passionately, and uncompromisingly, and their hate is primal, irrational, and the progeny of mortal fear and sustained abuse in early childhood. Narcissists are infinitely pessimistic, bare-tempered, paranoid, and sadistic, and their daily routine is a rigmarole of threats, complaints, hurts, eruptions, moodiness, and rage. They are their own worst enemy and cannot conceive of life in one place with one set of people, doing the same thing in the same field with one goal within a decades-old game plan or career path or relationship.


Indifferent Narcissist

Narcissists lack empathy and are only interested in people as instruments of gratification. They lose interest in people who cannot provide them with narcissistic supply and proceed to devalue and discard them. The narcissist's emotional and physical absence from relationships is a form of aggression and defense against their own repressed feelings. Narcissism is a form of post-traumatic stress disorder that got ossified and fixated and mutated into a personality disorder.


Narcissist: Accountable for His Actions?

Narcissists can control their behavior and actions, but they don't care to. They feel superior and entitled, and others are inferior and there to cater to their needs. Narcissists lack empathy and are insensitive, but they can tell right from wrong and should be held accountable for their actions. They simply don't care enough about others to refrain from acting abusively.


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.

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