Book Excerpts Index
Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited
- Introduction: The Soul of a Narcissist, The State of the Art
- Chapter 1: Being Special
- Chapter 2: Uniqueness and Intimacy
- Chapter 3: The Workings of a Narcissist a Phenomenology
- Chapter 4: The Tortured Self The Inner World of the Narcissist
- Chapter 5: The Narcissist and the Opposite Sex
- Chapter 6: The Concept of Narcissistic Supply
- Chapter 7: The Concepts of Narcissistic Accumulation and Narcissistic Regulation
- Chapter 8: The Emotional Involvement Preventive Measures
- Chapter 9: Grandiose Loss of Control
The Essay and some of the chapters contain professional terms.
We all love ourselves. That seems to be such an instinctively true statement that we do not bother to examine it more thoroughly. In our daily lives - in love, in business, in other areas of life - we act on this premise. Yet, upon closer inspection, it looks shakier.
Some people explicitly state that they do not love themselves at all. Others confine their lack of self-love to certain traits, to their personal history, or to some of their behaviour patterns. Yet others feel content with who they are and with what they are doing.
But one group of people seems distinct in its mental constitution - narcissists.
According to the legend of Narcissus, this Greek boy fell in love with his own reflection in a pond. Presumably, this amply sums up the nature of his namesakes: narcissists. The mythological Narcissus was rejected by the nymph Echo and was punished by Nemesis, Consigned to pine away as he fell in love with his own reflection. How apt. Narcissists are punished by echoes and reflections of their problematic personalities up to this very day.
They are said to be in love with themselves.
But this is a fallacy. Narcissus is not in love with HIMSELF. He is in love with his REFLECTION.
There is a major difference between True Self and reflected-self.
Loving your True Self is a healthy, adaptive and functional quality.
Loving a reflection has two major drawbacks.
One depends on the existence and availability of the reflection to produce the emotion of self-love.
The absence of a "compass", an "objective and realistic yardstick", by which to judge the authenticity of the reflection. In other words, it is impossible to tell whether the reflection is true to reality - and, if so, to what extent.
The popular misconception is that narcissists love themselves. In reality, they direct their love to other people's impressions of them. He who loves only impressions is incapable of loving people, himself included.
But the narcissist does possess the in-bred desire to love and to be loved. If he cannot love himself - he must love his reflection. But to love his reflection - it must be loveable. Thus, driven by the insatiable urge to love (which we all possess), the narcissist is preoccupied with projecting a loveable image, albeit compatible with his self-image (the way he "sees" himself).
The narcissist maintains this projected image and invests resources and energy in it, sometimes depleting him to the point of rendering him vulnerable to external threats.
But the most important characteristic of the narcissist's projected image is its lovability.
To a narcissist, love is interchangeable with other emotions, such as awe, respect, admiration, attention, or even being feared (collectively known as Narcissistic Supply). Thus, to him, a projected image, which provokes these reactions in others, is both "loveable and loved". It also feels like self-love.
The more successful this projected image (or series of successive images) is in generating Narcissistic Supply (NS) - the more the narcissist becomes divorced from his True Self and married to the image.
I am not saying that the narcissist does not have a central nucleus of a "self". All I am saying is that he prefers his image - with which he identifies unreservedly - to his True Self. The True Self becomes serf to the Image. The narcissist, therefore, is not selfish - because his True Self is paralysed and subordinate.
The narcissist is not attuned exclusively to his needs. On the contrary: he ignores them because many of them conflict with his ostensible omnipotence and omniscience. He does not put himself first - he puts his self last. He caters to the needs and wishes of everyone around him - because he craves their love and admiration. It is through their reactions that he acquires a sense of distinct self. In many ways he annuls himself - only to re-invent himself through the look of others. He is the person most insensitive to his true needs.