Narcissism's Delusions of Grandeur
Normal people do have fantasies. But they distinguish fantasy form reality.
What's more, normal people's fantasies do not come between them and themselves. In other words, their fantasies do not violate the normal healthy relationship between a person and his or her self. Only narcissists bust that relationship by replacing their relationship with their true self with a relationship to a false image of themselves that they create by art.
Normal people's fantasies take the form of narratives (stories) about what they would like to do. They are fantasies in which the dreamer dreams of doing something great.
Dreams of DOING SOMETHING great.
Narcissists have no such fantasies. As Joanna Ashumn observes ...
Narcissists don't see themselves doing anything except being adored, and they don't see anyone else doing anything except adoring them.
Hence the narcissist before a crowd sees the polite applause as the thunderous applause of a general outpouring of exceptional love and admiration for him.
Twisted perceptions. Like a child playing pretend that he is Superman and basking in the glow of worldwide glory. The narcissist just edits reality on the fly to create this work of art in his head.
Create is the wrong word for it, because you'll notice that this work of art isn't original: it's plagiarized from reality - altered-at-will reality. Reality altered on the fly by warping perceptions on the fly.
Here is another example, one that shows how far into denial this can go, from my book What Makes Narcissists Tick:
I know of one narcissist whose name was a byword in his hometown for never recognizing anyone he knew. Whenever he returned and was seen in a restaurant or bar, people formed an audience to make laughingstock of him. They knew an audience put him into a state of (narcissistic) bliss.
Like a drunken performer who loses his head in the glow of an audience, he would really try to show off how clever and grand he was. One by one, people would take turns coming up to talk with him. "Do you remember me, Chuck?" Chuck assured him that he did. After a minute of the requisite small talk about job and family, that person would ask Chuck if he remembered some shared experience in their past. Chuck assured him that he did.
Then the person would start reminiscing about it. "Do you remember old man Peterson then . . . ?" Yes, Chuck remembered and roared with laughter about this supposedly funny detail. His audience went wild, laughing at, not with, him because old man Peterson had nothing to do with the event. But Chuck was oblivious to everything but the attention he was getting.
"Do you remember me then going to . . . ?"
After a few minutes of thus suckering Chuck into hanging himself by trying to fake it came the denouement. "Hmm. Do you really know who I am, Chuck?" Chuck assured him that he did.
A minute later, the coup de grace. "I don't think you know who I am, Chuck. You sure? What's my name?"
Chuck's mouth would open wide and begin to form various words, intently studying the other man's mouth. It didn't work. So then he would mouth the first syllables of names in long, drawn out strains, slurring from to the next while his contorted facial expression and bodily pose desperately begged that man to help him. He sounded like a baby experimenting with his mouth before he can talk.
Needless to say, the roof raised with laughter, people laughing so hard they were in tears and had to bend over and hold their stomachs.
But there was no way to make Chuck know that he was being laughed at! He just laughed along, pretending he had (intentionally) said something funny. So, he never learned. He never recognized any of these people, and he never quit coming back for more of all that sweet, sweet, sweet attention.
By the way, a narcissist has conspicuous problems recognizing people because he or she never notices a mere mirror they are just checking themselves out in. But that's beside the point here. The point is that this is how far a narcissist will go to unknow the truth about what people think of him. This is how far he'll go to edit reality on the fly: he will imagine that all those people are laughing with him at some joke he imagines that he is trying to make.
WARNING: the tangled contortions of narcissistic antilogic and illogic may cause gymnastic injuries to a brain that thinks straight, so be sure to warm up and stretch out properly before trying to follow the twisted course of logic through a narcissist's twisted brain :)
As Freud said of narcissists, these people act like they're in love with themselves. And they are in love with an ideal image of themselves -- or they want you to be in love with their pretend self, it's hard to tell just what's going on.
Ashmun emphasises that they want their pretend self to be the one seen and loved. She notes that this isn't the same as thinking it's their real self.
Say what? Well get this for an example of how a narcissist thinks ...
The most dramatic example I can think of is from John Cheever's journals. Throughout his life he had pursued surreptitious homosexual activities, being transiently infatuated with young men who reminded him of himself in his youth, while also living in a superficially settled way as a married family man, a respected writer with an enviable suburban life, breeding pedigreed dogs and serving on the vestry of the Episcopal church. When his secret life (going to New York City for a few days every now and then to pick up sailors and other beautiful boys for brief flings) came to scandalous light, his family sought to reassure him by telling him that they'd known about his homosexual activities for years. Now, a normal person would be ashamed and embarrassed but also relieved and grateful that scandal, not to mention chronic emotional and marital infidelity, had not caused his wife and children to reject and abandon him -- but not the narcissist! Oh, no, Cheever was enraged that they would ever have thought such a thing of him -- if they really loved him, they'd have bought his artificial "country squire" persona: they would have seen him as he wished to be seen.
In other words, a narcissist wants you to believe known lies for him! Which amounts to wanting you to delude yourself for him. Which amounts to not caring what you REALLY believe, but insisting rather that you just play along with his lies, pretending that these lies are true.
That's exactly like a three-year-old playing pretend. She throws a fit insisting that YOU PLAY TOO.
Behind the Looking Glass there in the Land of Pretend, the real world has melted away. Narcissists remain in that mental mode their whole lives.
As Ashmun says, "They don't see these images [fantasies about themselves] as potentials that they may some day be able to live out, if they get lucky or everything goes right: they see these pictures as the real way they want to be seen right now ...."
Therefore, like John Cheever, the narcissist's family mustn't know the truth about him or her. They are being bad by not getting behind the Looking Glass there in the Land of Pretend where it ain't true. He gets mad at them for living in reality instead.
Just like a three-year-old gets mad at her playmates when they don't feel like playing pretend.
So, malignant narcissism ain't just being full of yourself. It's being seriously twisted.
If this doesn't describe your "N," then maybe he or she is just full of themselves and not a malignant narcissist. If so, hold your fire and be glad to learn that. Be very glad to learn it. Be very, very glad to learn it.
Because people who are just full of themselves can be communicated with.
Whereas malignant narcissists are but ghosts. The ghosts of people somewhere else. People not in this world or of it. People in some other world.
narcissistic personality disorder narcissism