Why do some narcissists thrive on an audience to perform for and others hide what they're doing?
A recent commenter asks:
why do some Ns thrive on an audience to perform for and other Ns hide what they're doing?
I'm posting because this is an important and perplexing question, one that causes musch of the confusion about narcissism. But I'm posting off the top of my head here, because I haven't much time right now. I also talk about this on the main site in The Narcissist's Style.
The answer depends on the situation. Narcissists calculate how to get the most of their drug out of what they do. Lee Harvey Oswald wrote in his diary something intriguing in his reason for taking up communism (at the unbelievable age of 15). Did he give an ideolgical reason? No. He viewed becoming a communist as "the key to his environment." The key to HIS environment.
In other words, becoming a communist was the best way he could think of for a kid in his life situation to get attention/NS. If he had been another kid, he would have needed to find a different key to a different environment.
Every narcissist's environment is different, so every narcissist's style is different. Though they all are after the same thing, they each need and develop their own custom strategy to achieve it.
Take for example a malignant narcissist who is a dictator, like Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler, or Josef Stalin. Do they really need to hide what they're up to? No, because nobody can hold them to account. They bully entire nations the way a weak narcissist bullies his pre-school-age children. That's the ultimate fix of grandiosity.
Notably, in rising to power, dictators DO conceal their dirty deeds. They work hard at getting people to think they're good. Only when they feel secure does the angel-face mask come off. Then they go for The Big Fix, an orgasm of Narcissitic Supply (NS) = having people obsequiously crawl to him and grovel before him, courting his favor. To make people do this, they start showing off their ogrishness to intimidate and frighten people like Beelzebub.
So, as their environment changes, their strategy changes.
I think it always depends on the situation. When a narcissist cannot get positive attention (admiration), he or she will settle for the next-best thing, negative attention. Hence some narcissists commit crimes to get attention. Lee Harvey Oslwald looked for somebody important to assassinate for attention.
Usually, however, narcissists show off what a terror they are only to the VICTIM, in the dark, behind closed doors. Why? Because they don't dare get a big audience. They don't dare permit any other witnesses to what they do for the Big Fix whenever possible. To everybody but the lone victim, they wear an angel face to dissimulate their selves so no one will believe the victim about them.
Why? Because they'd be generally abhorred if people knew what they really are. Nobody would want anything to do with them. They'd be shunned. No NS in that.
But when nobody can hold you to account (as, for example, if you are Saddam Hussein), you can be as flagrant a bully as you want. Result? People don't shun you: they come crawling up to you to kiss up to you! No better souce of NS.