Is the Narcissist Legally Insane?
An examination of whether narcissists, and those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, are really responsible for their criminal behavior.
Narcissists are not prone to "irresistible impulses" and dissociation (blanking out certain stressful events and actions). They more or less fully control their behavior and acts at all times. But exerting control over one's conduct requires the investment of resources, both mental and physical. Narcissists regard this as a waste of their precious time, or a humiliating chore. Lacking empathy, they don't care about other people's feelings, needs, priorities, wishes, preferences, and boundaries. As a result, narcissists are awkward, tactless, painful, taciturn, abrasive and insensitive.
The narcissist often has rage attacks and grandiose fantasies. Most narcissists are also mildly obsessive-compulsive. Yet, all narcissists should be held accountable to the vast and overwhelming majority of their actions.
At all times, even during the worst explosive episode, the narcissist can tell right from wrong and reign in their impulses. The narcissist's impulse control is unimpaired, though he may pretend otherwise in order to terrorize, manipulate and coerce his human environment into compliance.
The only things the narcissist cannot "control" are his grandiose fantasies. All the same, he knows that lying and confabulating are morally wrong and can choose to refrain from doing so.
The narcissist is perfectly capable of anticipating the consequences of his actions and their influence on others. Actually, narcissists are "X-ray" machines: they are very perceptive and sensitive to the subtlest nuances. But the narcissist does not care. For him, humans are dispensable, rechargeable, reusable. They are there to fulfil a function: to supply him with Narcissistic Supply (adoration, admiration, approval, affirmation, etc.) They do not have an existence apart from carrying out their "duties".
Still, it is far from a clear-cut case.
Some scholars note, correctly, that many narcissists have no criminal intent ("mens rea") even when they commit criminal acts ("acti rei"). The narcissist may victimize, plunder, intimidate and abuse others - but not in the cold, calculating manner of the psychopath. The narcissist hurts people offhandedly, carelessly, and absentmindedly. The narcissist is more like a force of nature or a beast of prey - dangerous but not purposeful or evil.
Moreover, many narcissists don't feel responsible for their actions. They believe that they are victims of injustice, bias, prejudice, and discrimination. This is because they are shape-shifters and actors. The narcissist is not one person - but two. The True Self is as good as dead and buried. The False Self changes so often in reaction to life's circumstances that the narcissist has no sense of personal continuity.
From my book "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited":
"The narcissist's perception of his life and his existence is discontinuous. The narcissist is a walking compilation of "personalities", each with its own personal history. The narcissist does not feel that he is, in any way, related to his former "selves". He, therefore, does not understand why he has to be punished for "someone else's" actions or inaction. This "injustice" surprises, hurts, and enrages him."
This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"
Last Updated: 05 July 2018
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD