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Why Narcissists Cry at the Movies: Self-pity, not Empathy

Uploaded 9/29/2023, approx. 16 minute read

Today, your favorite question, why do narcissists cry at the movies? Especially when they are watching my videos.

Actually, narcissists are not the only one who cry at movies. Psychopaths do too.

And yes, there's a clear distinction between narcissists and psychopaths. Although it is very probable that there is a genetic and neurobiological component in narcissism, there are no serious rigorous studies that have substantiated this period.

Don't believe any of the self-promoting hype about grey matter and I don't know what else. It's all unmitigated nonsense. Watch the videos on this channel which refer to rigorous vetted literature.

Psychopaths, on the other hand, do have a genetic component. The disease is hereditary or the problem is hereditary.

I've been also asked if in psychopathy there are brain abnormalities. If in psychopathy there is a genetic component, why do I insist that it is not a mental illness? Because it's not enough to have a genetic component or even brain abnormalities.

In many subtle ways, each brain is different to the other. The psychopath is born with a predilection to break the law. Any law, psychopath is defiant, reckless, you name it, these are not mental illnesses, these are the hallmarks and the components of a character.

So first of all there is a distinction between the two.

Narcissism is at this stage believed to be the outcome of upbringing in dysfunctional families, while psychopathy is more of a brain issue combined with genetics, combined of course with the conducive environment.

But both of them cry at the movies and today I'm going to attempt, I'm going to try to explain to you why.


Now if you go online there's like a bazillion videos about why narcissists cry at the movies and some of them come up with pretty good points and some of them are of course inevitable nonsense by self-styled experts.

But this is not how I tackle issues as you know. What I do, I always try to embed the question in historical traditions in psychology, psychodynamic traditions, behaviorist traditions, social learning traditions, social learning theory traditions and so on and so forth. I'm trying to use schools of psychology to explicate phenomena.

So this is what I'm going to do today as well.

Why do narcissists, myself included, cry their hearts out at the movies? Are these crocodile tears or are they the real thing? And if these tears are real, doesn't it indicate strongly that the narcissist does have empathy? He empathises with the characters on the screen. Doesn't it tell us that narcissists are capable of accessing emotions? Otherwise why are they crying?

Same goes for psychopaths.

Maybe this whole idea that psychopaths and narcissists are disempathic and emotionless. Maybe this is just media hype. Maybe they are actually sweetie pies. The cutest ever. Lovable furry creatures. And we are just mistreating the poor things in all our videos and diatribes and vitriolic castigation.

Well, I wouldn't go that far. And in a minute we will delve into the psychodynamics of this pretty unusual and amazing phenomenon.

Before I go there, I would like to answer two of your questions.

The first question is, why do I upload a video a day?

Because I'm trying to create a library. I'm trying to create a bookstore of videos. And when you go to a library, when you go to a bookstore, you don't have to read all the books in the library and you don't have to purchase all the books in the bookstore. You can be selective. You can be choosy.

And what I'm trying to do, I'm trying to create a library of thousands of videos so that every single one of you will find something of interest and watch. Or not watch, but will find something to hold his or her attention.

Actually, this approach has been working really well for me. The channel has doubled, almost doubled, up 80% in terms of views in the past 10 months. The past 10 months have been a revolution. There was a forced hiatus. There was a forced break.

I will not go into details. Those of you with long memories remember why.

And then afterwards the channel actually flourished and exploded. And views went up 80% and subscriptions went up 60% all within 10 months.

And I think this is owing to this approach of I'm going to provide you a video a day and you're very likely, keep visiting because you're very likely to find something which would interest you.

Another thing I've done to help you with your odd and peculiar inability to find the search function on YouTube. Every channel on YouTube has a search function unique to the channel. And this search function is on laptops. It's in the app. It is in the app.

Work harder, do your homework. It's there. It's everywhere. It's on mobile devices.

Every channel is equipped with its own search engine. Usually the magnifying glass or something like that.

But I see that none of you seem to get it. So what I've done, I've divided most of the videos. There are 1200 videos on each channel. I've divided most of them into thematic playlists. Playlists with themes.

So just go to the playlist, find your theme, scroll down the videos in the playlist and you will usually find what you're looking for.

Okay. These were the service announcements.


Now some general observations regarding film watching. They apply to every human being alive. And probably in the afterlife as well.

When you watch a movie, you dissociate. You know this phenomenon when you're watching a horror movie and then something happens on the screen and you jump? This is called a startle reaction. The startle reaction is very common in post-traumatic conditions. For example, it's an integral part of PTSD. It's one of a criteria, one of a diagnostic criteria of post-traumatic stress disorder.

So when you're watching a horror movie, you're mini traumatized. And this mini trauma creates dissociation. You dissociate reality. Forget about reality. All your focus, your mind, you're like a laser beam, you're inside the movie together with all the other characters. And then something happens, unexpected, abrupt, sudden and you jump.

So any and every viewer, anyone who is watching a film, even a theater play, dissociates. Dissociation is how we watch movies. We cut off reality. We repress it. We ignore it and we are focused on the screen. This happens to healthy people, normal people, not only to narcissists.

But of course, because the narcissist is anyhow post traumatized and anyhow dissociative, the narcissist's reaction to a movie would be much stronger than that of a healthy and normal person.

And one of the main reasons this happens is because a movie is a mirror. Have you ever thought about this? A movie is a screen. Every screen is a potential mirror.

This is not Sam Vaknin. This is Jacques Lacan. Lacan looks like me, but he's a bit more dead than I. So every movie is a mirror.

Now I have a video about mirroring. It's titled "Mirrored Narcissist Gases a Cube. Do Other People Exist?" Go down to the description. You have a link. Click on this link because it explains the process of mirroring in the formation of narcissism, but not only narcissism. Maternal mirroring, mirroring by the mother actually creates the unconscious, creates structures, mental structures, such as the ego, boundaries, leads to separation and devitification.

In short, the mother's gaze, the mother's gaze which mirrors the child serves as a mirror, the initial mirror, the first mirror, the primordial mirror, when the child sees itself after some time, not initially, but after the symbiotic stage is done and gone, the child begins to see himself in the mother's gaze.

This mirroring via maternal figure is enormously important in personal growth, in development, in early childhood.

Again, I refer you to the video.

Now a movie is a mirror. So automatically a movie is perceived unconsciously as a kind of a maternal figure.

This mirroring of a maternal figure on the screen, the screen out there, induces dissociation in everyone, but especially in the narcissist.

But in the case of the narcissist, it regresses the narcissist.

Because the narcissist perceives the movie as an eye, an all-seeing eye, a gaze, his mother's gaze in a way. So he regresses to infancy.

Movies, theater plays, screens in general, regress narcissists. They regress them imperceptibly.

If a narcissist is using a smartphone, you're not likely to notice the regression.

But if the movie is engaging, if the movie is captivating, if the movie creates a total environment of immersion, the narcissist's regression would be noticeable and would involve dissociation in a kind of merger and symbiosis with the characters on screen, which are maternal stand-ins.

They gaze at the narcissist. The narcissist kind of relieves his early childhood experience of being observed, of being gazed at, of being seen, of being looked at. The characters on the screen are looking at the narcissist.

Narcissist beholds himself through their gaze.

This sense, and only in this sense of course, they become kind of pseudo quasi maternal figures. Anything to do with early childhood, with maternal figures, with gaze, with selfhood formation or disrupted selfhood formation, anything to do with all this triggers in the narcissist shame and grief.

Whenever the narcissist sees himself through other people's eyes, through other people's gaze, it always triggers in him shame and grief because the first time the narcissist has been perceived by someone else, the first time the narcissist has seen himself, had seen himself through someone else's gaze, his mother's gaze, was a very bad traumatic experience which generated and gendered in the child shame and grief.

Narcissism is a compensatory reaction to this shame and grief which are all-consuming, life-threatening, overwhelming, disregarding and unmanageable.

So when the narcissist watches a movie, he sees himself through the characters. He is gazed at, he is defined by their look, this triggers in him dissociation, infantile regression, a feeling of merger and symbiosis with the characters on the screen, but above all it triggers shame, it triggers grief and the narcissist cries.

Now, we identify with the characters on screen, even healthy people, even normal people go through a process of identification with the characters of screen, especially if the characters are somehow engaging or if they trigger in the spectator, in the viewer, a particular life experience or mental health structure, mental structure.

So we all identify to some extent with the characters, but in the case of the narcissist, the narcissist identifies with the characters and then introjects them, he incorporates them, he internalizes them.

Why is that?

Because you remember, those of you who have been long suffering and watched my videos, remember that narcissists are unable to perceive the externality and the separateness of objects in reality. They have no conception of external objects.

So the characters in the movie, as far as a narcissist is concerned, they're not external exactly as the narcissist's intimate partner is not external. The narcissist's children are not external. The narcissist's so-called friends are not separate from him or external. They're all internal objects. They're all extensions of the narcissist.

And that's exactly what the narcissist does to characters in movies. He internalizes them. He introjects them. He incorporates them. He renders them. He converts them into internal objects. The movie takes place inside the narcissist's mind, not out there on the screen.

Again, this triggers infantile regression to the pre-separation phase.

The narcissist creates a symbiosis with the characters on the screen. He merges with them. He fuses with them. They become manipulable avatars, figments inside his seething mind.

And then he bonds with them in this particular bizarre way, actually bonding with himself, of course, with this internal space where everything is taking place, including the movies that he's watching.

But this merger and fusion, infantile, this is what children do, toddlers do prior to the age of 36 months. This pushes the narcissist back to the pre-separation phase.

Narcissist never succeeds to separate from his mother of origin, from his biological, from his real mother. There's a failure of separation and individuation, which is at the core and at the heart of narcissism.

Narcissism is a compensation for this. Narcissism is a quest to repair the disrupted separation and individuation via the shared fantasy.

And so the narcissist creates a shared fantasy with the film and with the characters on the screen and is unable to separate and individuate from them.

And so this creates very, very harsh dynamics, very painful dynamics, very shameful dynamics, very frightening dynamics in the narcissist.

The narcissist cannot interpret what's happening to him. These are not emotions. Don't make the mistake. Narcissists are unable to access positive emotions. Love, no way, compassion, forget about it. Empathy, done. None of this. This is not about the movie. It's not about the characters. It's about the narcissist inexorable, inexorable experience of being catapulted backwards to a pre-symbiotic phase, a phase of helpless, hopeless dependency and infancy, a phase involving extreme amounts of shame and grief for having failed to become an individual, to separate, to individuate and to realize one's potential, to self-actualize.

And then the narcissist cries.

So the narcissist cries for himself. It's a form of self-pity or if you wish, self-soothing, self-comfiting.

The narcissist's tears are shed over the narcissist's inner internal deadness, emptiness, void, the schizoid black hole core of the narcissist.

Narcissist mourns his own early demise, the death of his true self, what he could have become, etc.

He uses the characters on the screen as the equivalent of stand-ins for maternal figures with whom he can then create a symbiotic relationship and somehow ameliorate and mitigate the anxiety and the shame and the grief and the pain and the hurt and so on and so forth.

It never works as it never works with intimate partners in a shared fantasy.

Narcissist is incapable of separation and individuation, never mind the circumstances.

So he cries. He cries for himself. He's grieving himself. He's mourning himself.

And so this frustrates the narcissist.

Watching movies especially of the sentimental kind, this is not empathy. This is not even sympathy.

That is self-pitying sentimentality. Sentimentality characterizes the romantic movement, especially in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th century.

This romanticism, this idealism, this total sentimentality. You had people like Adolf Hitler who was born into the romantic idealistic movement and Hitler would cry at the movies over his dogs. I mean, because he was sentimental. Hitler was not known, may I remind you, for his overwhelming empathy.

Ask any Jew.

So there's a lot of frustration here. Frustration because the narcissist feels that he is out of control. There's a loss of control.

The characters on screen trigger him in him processes which throw him back into a period where he has been shamed. A period of slow death, gradual demise.

When the true self was dying and the false self was emerging and this creates in him enormous anxiety, shame and grief I mentioned.

So this frustration and the narcissist is unable to copenarcissist is incapable of coping with this because control to the narcissist is everything. If we had to reduce narcissism to one word, it would be control.

When the narcissist is triggered, for example, by a movie, there's a loss of control. Even when healthy people, normal people are watching movies, there is a loss of control because they can very often are treated. That's why we have trigger warnings.

So this leads in the narcissist to a borderline state, what we call borderline organization. He begins to emotionally dysregulate.

But the emotions that come to the surface, the emotions that overwhelm the narcissist, the emotions that submerge the narcissist are not positive emotions. Narcissists are incapable of accessing positive emotions.

Did I say it before or not? Children. No positive emotions, delete. No malignant optimism, no pathological hope. Delete.

What comes to the surface are negative emotions. We call this negative affectivity.

So when the narcissist is triggered by the characters in the film and by the film's narrative or plot, he loses control and he begins to emotionally dysregulate. All the negative affects come up.

I mentioned shame and grief, but also anger, sometimes envy. The narcissist feels that he's drowning. He's self-pity is tripled, quantupled, exponentially multiplied and he begins to mourn and grieve himself in full sight. He cries. He cries.

The shame and the vulnerability which are visible to everyone actually create a kind of mortification. When narcissists watch movies, especially the kind of movies that trigger them, they are mortified because that's a public act. Even when the narcissist is alone with the movie, even the narcissist watches a film all by himself, there are characters out there. The film is full of characters, full of people, full of actors and actresses.

And remember the narcissist can't tell the difference between external and internal. So as far as he's concerned, it's a public shaming. His tears shame him, humiliate him, exposes vulnerabilities and weaknesses which he holds in deep contempt, the self-destane, self-loathing, the self-hatred there that are triggered by all these behaviors. And it creates instant mortification. It's not only a challenge to the narcissist's grandiosity, but it is the self-perceived public humiliation in front of, as I said before, the equivalent of maternal figures, lot of self-pity. The tears have another function. They signify real distress, real anxiety, terror even at the loss of control entailed by the triggering.

But they also form of manipulative virtue signaling. The narcissist cries and it is all about self-pity, but he wants to recruit other people to pity him as well. He wants to signal to them, look how, what a good person I am. Look how soft and amazingly compassionate and affectionate and empathic and other one.

Now this is mostly done by overt narcissists, but not only. An overt narcissist who is prosocial and communal would cry to signal that he could become a healer or a savior or a rescuer. His tears would constitute a message. It would be a form of impression management coupled with messaging.

Here I am and I'm a good person. I'm trustworthy. I'm like you. I do have empathy. I'm crying.

So this is a manipulative aspect.

Ironically, this type of tears, the tears that are in Machiavellian, the tears that are intended to induce behavior modification in other people, in observers, these kinds of tears are typical to covert narcissists who always wallow in self-pity and so on.

Overt narcissists who are pro-social and communal, hyper-moralizing, sanctimonious, self-virtuous, the victimizers regard themselves as victims and so on and malignant narcissists who are actually psychopaths, psychopathic and they cry almost knowingly in order to manipulate other people. They realize the power of tears to motivate other people to alter behavior or to engage in new behavior which are conducive to the goals of the malignant narcissist.

Remember, malignant narcissist is a hybrid, a wonderful tasty hybrid between psychopath and narcissist.

So this in a nutshell is why narcissists cry at the movies. I hope I didn't make you cry in this video and if I did, it was not in order to manipulate you. It was because I am very, very ashamed of my early childhood. I'm about to cry so I will sign off.

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

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Narcissist's Cycles of Ups and Downs

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Narcissist: I Love to be Hated and I Hate to be Loved

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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.


Potemkin Narcissists: Fake It Till You Make It!

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Negative, Fake, Low-grade Narcissistic Supply

Narcissists crave attention, both positive and negative, and use it to regulate their sense of self-worth. They construct a false self and project it onto others to elicit admiration, adulation, and fear. Negative supply can become narcissistic supply when positive supply is scarce. Narcissists also crave punishment, which confirms their view of themselves as worthless and relieves them of the inner conflict they endure when they are successful.


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.


Narcissistic Supply - How Does It FEEL?

Narcissistic supply is essential for the narcissist's self-regulation and maintaining a sense of grandiosity and perfection. It is a form of external regulation that stabilizes the narcissist's self-worth, moods, and emotions. The narcissist's dependence on narcissistic supply is akin to an addiction, providing a rush and sense of omnipotence. The pursuit of narcissistic supply involves idealizing sources of supply and is a crucial element in the narcissistic pathology.

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