Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Paradoxical Nature of Narcissists

The following quotation is of Sam Vaknin in his book Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited. It's about the paradoxical nature of narcissists. It helps explain how they can know a thing and not know it, feel a thing and not feel it - how they can feel guilty/ashamed and not = not experience the slightest pang of conscience. It's all just a matter of represssing awareness of unwanted knowledge and feelings every time they start to surface. Sometimes it's harder to do so than at other times, and so there are times in a narcissit's life when he can't repress and actually gets a look at what he can't bear to see = the real him inside:

He regards and treats people as though they were objects: exploits and discards them. He mistreats people around him by asserting his superiority at all times, by being emotionally cold or absent, by constant bickering, verbal humiliation, incessant (mostly unjust) criticism, by provoking uncertainty and by actively rejecting or ignoring them. All his interpersonal relationships are deformed and sick. The longer the relationship – the more it is tinted by the pathological hue of narcissism. In his marriage, the narcissist recreates the conflicts with his Primary Objects. He is immature in every walk of marriage, sex included. He would tend to select the wrong partners or spouse.

He would do everything to lead to the fulfilment of his greatest horror: being deserted. Even the staunchest supporters and lovers ultimately abandon him.

The narcissist then experiences the horrifying complete breakdown of his defences. He then, naturally, feels lonely – but his loneliness is of the existential, almost solipsist type. The whole world seems unreal to him, possessed of a nightmarish quality. He feels disproportionately guilty and assumes all the burden of blame, allocating none to his partner. Those moments may be the only occasions in which he is in touch with his emotions – an experience the narcissist is trying to avoid all his life and at all costs to his mental health.

From Chapter 3, "The Workings of a Narcissist: A Phenomenology." Read the rest here.

These are the rare times narcissists suffer any pain, but during these short episodes, boy do they suffer pain. It is capable of driving them to suicide if they don't find Narcissistic Supply in time.

See also Characteristics of NPD at the Main Site.
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At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i've been rereading the last couple of days. kathy if you were watching me you would have seen me aaaaaaalmost cry but then reading this most current post i had to just sit back and are soooooo right there for me. that is what is keeping me in a perpetual state of suspension. i know deep down in my wherever it's being stored that if my N does connect the dots he may truly commit suicide. anonymous said at 10:53 on 2-27-07 "i think what happens in our relationships with them is that we end up carrying their emotional responsibility." i know if he offs himself IT IS NOT my fault. i know this . the other day while deep in thought i wondered 'if you see a person drowning and you know you can't swim, are you obligated to jump in and try to save them?'. any sensible answer is "no." i do not fit the lists for codependent (especially not anymore!) but i figured out "i want to be exonerated"= to relieve of a responsibilty, obligation, or hardship : to clear from accusation or blame. THAT'S why i have gotten so touchy lately. and that is what i think MY sin may be. that i just want to wash my hands of him. that's WHY i feel so guilty. jt

At 10:19 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

I used to be a lifeguard: it's one thing to risk your life and another thing to indirectly commit suicide. There was never any question about that: your first duty is to yourself. He wants you think your first duty is to him.

You exist for your sake, not his. Blame and guilt/responsibility are not the same thing. Blame often gets laid precisely where it most does not belong. You wouldn't be driving him to it. He does that. So there would be nothing to wash your hands of.

Usually Ns just find other easy prey to suck on and get happy again. All you can really do is urge him to get help.

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thankyou kathy jt

At 12:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just thought I'd jump in here. Thanks for all your work here, Kathy.

My father fits the bill. Your section on children of N's is excellent.

What I read there that applies to my situation is that what I thought was normal in dealing with people was just how I had learned to cope with my father. That messed up several jobs for me. It still is a struggle for me to feel good about myself, even though I've got lots of great things in my life. I basically expect all people to put me down without warning, and that creates isolation. Plus, I've said really stupid and hurtful things - basically I think it was modeled for me so that's how I thought everybody acted. Anyway, you are right to point out it is long struggle for kids of N's, and thanks again for that part of your writing in particular.

All the best

At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

j.t. You make my heart hurt because I have been there so often and for much of my life carried the guilt of everyone I came into contact with because of the way my parents trained me to carry their guilt. Now I won't do it anymore and I hardly hear from them. I'm dying and my own folks I spent 11 years caring for hardly, ever even call me. It hurts but the other half of me doesn't want them to call and I don't want to call them. The first half of that sentence has been there a long time but not the second half because I would always give in to the guilt I carried for them and reach out to them, take responsibility for all that had gone wrong, so that the relationship could continue. Well, not anymore. It is their turn to call and I will wait even if they never call. I want to have a relationship with my folks and my sister but I don't want to carry their guilt. I just can't anymore. There's nothing in me to do it with and I'm afraid, that is the foundation of my relationship with my family. I have always been the family scape goat. I allowed them to sin against me for a very long time and that was my sin. If you set the appropriate boundary, you are doing the right thing for you and for him. It is up to him to accept or reject the rightness that rightness that you are attempting to place in your relationship. Hang in there, kiddo. Real triumph in our life is painful but the result is worth all the pain. The truth always makes us free.


At 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

pam, i understand what you mean when you say i make your heart hurt. i think we all feel that ache. i'm so glad you share your thoughts with us. we all can feel each others pain to a degree and let each other know that we care for each other and that some how we can give each other that support. you all are very kind and i value and appreciate you so very much. i haven't cried in so long and i wish one of these days i could, just to feel that release. don't know if it will ever happen, but being able to "talk" and "listen" here is definitely a blessing, a relief and a big help. thankyou all so very much. we'll just keep on keepin' on. jt

At 4:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

j.t. Living with narcissists makes us hunger for empathy. You know how when you wait too long to eat you lose your appetite? That's what living with this does to us too. We hunger so for empathy and returned love but it doesn't come and we lose our appetite and grow numb. There is nothing worse than not being able to cry. There is also nothing that angers a narcissist more than a the heart rending sound of a good cry. It angers them because they don't possess that place in them from where that kind of crying comes. They are not like us and we can't give them what isn't in them. We also can't allow them to make us over into the image that pleases and serves them either.

In me there is great empathy and ironically, I think that copacity comes from the lack of empathy that I experienced growing up. I don't know if I can put this into words...but in myself, I learned to give myself what I did not find and still don't find in my birth family. Empathy is a wonderful thing because empathy means that we aren't alone. There is also nothing greater than pouring out that empathy on one who hungers for it as I did. j.t., you avail yorself of the empathy in me whenever I am available. May it fill your present need and strengthen you and give you the support you need to make the right decisions to make things right for you and your kids. Remember that mercy and sacrifice are two different things. It is one thing to have mercy upon one who is malignantly self-centered and quite another to continually give them the sacrifice of yourself that they continually require. Sacrificing yourself won't make him better, it will just make you disappear.


At 9:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok-my nose started running cuz the tears in my eyes. no wracking shoulders, no sobs. but a sad sort of peace and a very nice smile. thankyou pam. love too :) jt


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