Monday, January 23, 2006

The Many Faces of a Narcissist

Narcissists project different images on different mirrors.

This is partly because any particular acting job may draw a favorable response from one mirror and an unfavorable response from another. For example, liberal-bashing produces a gratifying reflection in a right-wing mirror, while conservative-bashing produces a gratifying reflection in a left-wing mirror. A goody-two-shoes act looks holy in the eyes of religious hypocrites and the pharisaic, while it looks disgusting in the eyes of true believers and atheists.

Another reason why the narcissist projects different images on different mirrors is because he doesn't dare project the most gratifying image of all — the one his ego gets the biggest boost from — on most mirrors. Moreover, like any set of tools, the different people in his world are useful for different purposes.

A well-known narcissist, Sam Vaknin, explains it this way: he says that a narcissist assesses everyone in his world as a source of what he calls Narcissistic Supply (ego gratification, self-aggrandizement, psychic income — what a narcissistic woman I knew refers to as "sugar," as in "Gimme me some sugar."). It comes in different flavors. Like a bee in search of nectar, he has nothing to do with any "flower" he can't get any from. As for the rest, he determines the most profitable way to tap each one.

So, for example, he exploits a powerful, wealthy, sophisticated, or famous person as a source of Narcissistic Supply in a much different way than he exploits the poor or down-and-out. This is only partly because he doesn't dare treat the former as he treats the latter. It's also partly because the flavor of Narcissistic Supply he can extract from the former is the rare and precious "nectar of the gods." So, he drops their names; he brown-noses and sucks-up to them; he shamelessly, even obsequiously, flatters them and courts their favor; no matter what they do, he finds no fault with them, considering them infallible and above reproach. All to aggrandize himself by association with them.

And so, a narcissist doesn't have two faces, he has multiple faces. Faces he can change as suddenly as a mask. Faces so different they seem like multiple personalities. Each is but his way of exploiting a particular source of Narcissistic Supply.

So, for example, he projects a different image of himself in a church than in a bar. Again for example, the reflection he wants from his co-workers is radically different than the reflection he wants from his spouse and children.

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6 Comments:

At 2:33 PM, Anonymous raeutu said...

Thanks for website

 
At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree with your statements about how a narcissist uses anybody they need to get an ego fix from and how they approach different people to do so. My mother (the narcissist) uses many different people to get a different kinds of fixes from. My whole life she was a "workaholic" who said that she needed to be a workacholic to pay the bills. When I got older and learned about how much things actually cost, I could not figure out why she still needed to work two jobs when in one job she made over 150,000 a year. I realized after visiting her so much at work-why she worked so much. Every doctor and nurse that I met would tell me how amazing she is, how hard she works, how they can't get anything done without her- Well to a narcissist thats a constant sugar rush. To them she was a holy perfect humble women. But they didn't know that when she comes home - if you looked at her the wrong way - you would be beat so fast and hard you never would look at her again. At home, she associates only with what she calls low-lifes. She uses them to clean her house, do things that might be against the law, do her laundry, pretty much anything. She says that she owns them and could make them do anything because she is who she is. After talking to her "friends" I couldn't believe how much they thought of her as this holy thing when she had them doing her dirty work. So both her co-workers and friends see the same God like person but she has them convinced of her greatness by being two different people. My problem is this. By going through counseling and having my counselor speak to my mother, we have concluded that she definately has narcissistic tendencies but can't be sure. I moved out of her house and live now on my own because I was sick and tired of her control and having to constantly validate her existence and greatness - The thing is nobody sees what I see. I get letters in the mail from her co workers and friends about how I am not being fair to her, there is no book out there on how to be a mother and I need to forgive her. They dont even know me or my story. What do I do to stop this? I moved away to not deal with her any more, but yet people are convinced that I am the horrible child who left her mother. How do I start living my life without getting trapped in the guilt I feel for my actions but still knowing inside that this is my only way to survive and live my life on my own terms?

 
At 2:18 PM, Blogger Kathy K said...

I wish I knew the answer to that question. The situation you're in is typical. Everybody sides with the narcissist. If they were honest, you should be able to simply tell them your side of the story. Then, if they judge by what they have seen of you both with their own eyes, they will know whom to believe. But unfortunately many people aren't honest and won't listen. They perceive which side the numbers are on and gang up. Also, you've got to remember that a narcissist is a slanderer who has been insidiously sneaking bad ideas about you into people's heads since forever. All that time you were defenseless, because you didn't know what was constantly being done to your reputation behind your back. People don't want to admit they listened to slander about you and that they were fooled = that you are the good guy. They fear the narcissist, because of the example she has made of what she does to people who cross her. So, they side with her. They act like you are the malicious slanderer if you try to defend yourself. These are just a few of the reasons why narcissists get away with it. I don't think anyone on this planet hungers and thirsts as much for justice as those who've been smeared by a narcissist. And I have NEVER seen justice done. For more on this see "What to expect from 'Innocent' Bystanders" on the main Website.

 
At 7:27 PM, Blogger kendra2 said...

You are not alone anonymous. I think you have to have lived with it to understand it. In the outside world, they become what they need to in order to be adored and obtain their narcissistic supply. But when the people leave and the door closes, watch out.

 
At 9:30 AM, Anonymous crazyinlaw said...

I really need some help. I think my mil, fil and sil are narcissist. My husband has some tendencys but he will usually stop acting self centered when I ask. It is usually exaggerate by drinking. He is very good to our children. Makes time of them everyday, isn't critical and very loving to them.

My in-laws do the most bizarre things, they pick fights over everything. We moved away from them 2 years ago, they came for one visit, in which they exploded into an irrational fit about being mistreated and how i stole their son/ brother away from them. They have been awful to my husband; frequently ignoring him, constantly telling him I've changed him, we think with one brain- mine, he permits me to mistreat them and this is killing his mom, dad and sister, the person it should be killing is him. HE is supposed to cater to their every whim, even at the expense of our family. Mil fancies herself a parenting expert and if i don't follow everypiece of unwanted and frequently absurd advice then I'm accused of thinking i'm better than her.

We've distanced ourselves from them since the explosion last summer. My husband thinks things have settled down and we wants to take a family trip to go seem them. I think they are Narcissist and I don't want expose my children or myself to their abuse. ( My sil has a baby one month older then my youngest-- my daughter is much more agreeable than hers and this is a source of angst for her.) My mil and fil openly favor sil kids over ours.

My husband realizes that something is not right with his family but is not willing to admit it is as bad as it is. I think they are setting us up for yet another blow-up and I've really just had enough.

How do I convince my husband his family is VERY ill? And is it ok to insist my children aren't exposed to this behavoir until they are out of their formative years?

 
At 8:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"crazyinlaw said...
I really need some help. I think my mil, fil and sil are narcissist."

I think you are right to keep your children away from any close relationship with a narcissist during their formative years. I have thought and thought about if I did the right thing years ago with my son and right now he is 15 and doing great! I always told him the truth that I just couldn't handle my parents because they were narcissists. I told him that I would help him have a relationship with them if he wanted one. I suppose that is not fair because he probably sided with me because he didn't get the other side of the story from them, but I still think I did the right thing. Well, I was honest about that too, that he wasn't getting the whole story. It has been a very painful road. I didn't want to give up on a relationship that was real and mutually beneficial with my parents. But that wasn't going to happen, they literally suck the life out of people to feed their narcissism. They would have done that to my son. They can't help themselves I see now, like they are drowning people climbing on anyone and anything they can. They just don't understand the pain that that they are causing. I guess they are in too much pain to even see it.

I think you are ready to take the big step of backing away from your in-laws. Narcissism is scary stuff. Save your children.

 

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