I’ve been reading Sam Vaknin’s Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited recently in an effort to understand myself better and improve my Inner Game. Whereas I don’t want to (and technically cannot) diagnose myself with any personality disorder I can’t help but read his book and think about how it applies to myself.
Narcissism exists as a character trait on a spectrum all the way from the healthy narcissism that everyone has to the extreme levels which end in a diagnosis; I would say that I show higher than average levels of narcissism and this book is helping me to see it. Another layer of proof might be backwards induced by my early success in pick-up and was identified in a review of my book.
So where did this introspection begin?
I admit that this year I’ve had a relatively poor set of results. Neither my number of lays nor my approach to lay ratio is anywhere near where I set them out to be. I’m aware that what I’m saying is, in a way, conceited; compare what I’ve done to the average guy and it’s fantastic, but expectations change and we as humans continually ramp up what we see as our due. Add to that a blog, or any kind of public persona, and the pressure to perform goes up many more notches. Increase that pressure even further when you start to hang out more with people who are at the top of the LDM scene. There’s nothing more effective than seeing +1 after +1 to make you think: “I suck.”
How does this fit into narcissistic injury? The process goes like this:
A narcissistic injury occurs whenever there’s sufficient threat to the narcissist’s false self; the false self being an avatar which the narcissist projects onto himself. It’s the mask that he wears as he inhabits the world and this mask is always omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. The false self is perfect and reflects the narcissist’s pursuit of perfection. He wants to be at the top of his field and effortlessly so.
The false self is maintained by narcissistic supply: sources of adulation, adoration and fear, amongst many other things. Narcissistic supply is to a narcissist what blood is to a vampire: one shot is enough to satisfy him for a short while but the hunger never goes away. He’s always driven to garner more of it.
An injury occurs when the false self is so puffed up by grandiosity i.e. narcissistic supply, that it fails the reality test: it’s too good to be true. Reality pushes back against the false self and finds that it’s just full of hot air. Immediately the narcissist will scramble for new sources of supply, he’ll reframe his failure as not failure but actually success, he’ll dig deep into his reserves of charm to get back onto good terms with sources of supply and try to puff himself back up again.
But it’s all in vain, reality can’t go away and deep down he knows this. Reality shows him that he’s not a perfect individual and so his conscience begins to crush him. His conscience in Freudian terms is his superego.
His conscience highlights feelings of shame, guilt and fear; his conscience is telling him that ‘he did bad’. Shame for not being enough in the eyes of a parent, not achieving levels of obsessive compulsion or stoicism which are foisted upon the child beyond what could be reasonably expected, for example. In the long run this is shame for not being enough in his own eyes. Guilt for not living up to his infinite potential: remember that he can achieve anything he wants, as he was reminded of this constantly as a child, as long as he sets his mind to it. The narcissist feels guilt for not being perfect which, as per his inbuilt psychology/defense mechanism, can only be his fault because he didn’t try hard enough. Lastly he feels the fear of reprisal for not achieving perfection. That fear is now internal as it is the fear of complete psychic death: where the conscience crushes the false self and is let loose on the true self.
The child inside is the true self; the child never grew up because it developed the defense mechanism of the false self as a buffer to the demands of perfection. Rather than grow with the reality of becoming an adult the child projected the avatar of the false self to deflect the world.
As an aside, and this may be pure conjecture, I think this leads narcissists to express their love of other people as children would: with a kind of euphoric silliness. Now that’s a lovely thing but perhaps it’s indicative of the underlying problem. Now also think about how ‘the best pick-up artists have a childlike quality to them’…
Given the narcissistic injury the narcissist will spend some amount of time sulking and experiencing a light kind of depression; it’s a permanent, low-lying conviction that “I suck.” I believe that during this downtime the narcissist has an actual opportunity to develop as a person, where “develop” means to learn about himself and hopefully implement some rules which allow him to better function.
The more I’ve found out about narcissism the more it seems that it is incurable; he can only modulate his behaviours, not eliminate the driving force behind them. Much like how a beta can never truly be an alpha, he will always at some level be overriding his natural inclination towards chodiness. That’s not to say that someone, whether they are a narcissist or a beta (put those together and you have a gamma), cannot achieve their goals in life. I’m saying that there will be a lifelong struggle against their instincts.
This is why I used the word ‘rules’. It’s like how a fat person becomes thin: they implement rules. They tell themselves ‘I can’t have cake’, or better yet, ‘I don’t eat cake’, and over time they lose weight, but still they have the psychology of a fattie-boom-boom. A narcissist will always have the inclination towards being a twat but they can introduce rules which reduce its manifestation. For example, I’ve introduced a rule that I’ll run my first dates in central London to discourage myself from pulling too quickly.
And how does the story of narcissistic injury end?
The narcissist, fueled by his narcissistic rage (originally directed towards himself and then outwards at the world), sets out to garner new sources of narcissistic supply. Eventually this allows him to puff up his false self and begin re-interacting with the world through the medium of his avatar. The stage is thus set for the cycle to repeat.
Now, that all sounds rather depressing doesn’t it? Yes and no. It’s depressing in the way that the Red Pill is depressing. The key is not to be defeated by it and instead accept the fact that that’s how the world (the narcissist) is. Narcissism is a defense mechanism, a way for the child to survive, and so shouldn’t be seen as some kind of moralistic sin.
The periods of injury are in fact an opportunity for the narcissist to sort some things out for himself and hopefully move closer towards presenting someone who’s better adapted to the world we live in. And it is correct that he has to create this personality because it will never be his true self; it will always be, at best, a near-perfect facsimile.
We have to do the best we can with the cards that we’re dealt. For someone who is narcissistic, the best course of action is to first accept it and then see it as an opportunity.