LIVING WITH A NARCISSIST
You cannot change people, not in the real, profound, deep sense. You
can only adapt to them and adapt them to you. If you do find your
Narcissist rewarding at times - you should do two things, in my opinion:
(1) Determine your limits and boundaries. How much and in which ways
can you adapt to him (i.e., accept him AS HE IS) AND to which extent and
in which ways would you like him to adapt to you (i.e., accept you as you
are). Act accordingly. Accept what you have decided to accept and reject
the rest. Change in you what you are willing and able to change - and
ignore the rest. It is sort of an unwritten contract of co-existence
(could be written if you are more formally inclined).
(2) Try to maximize the number of times that "...his walls are
down", that you "...find him totally fascinating and everything
I desire". What makes him be and behave this way? Is it something
that YOU say or do? Is it preceded by events of a specific nature? Is
there anything you can do to make her behave this way more often?
Sometimes we mistake guilt and self-assumed blame for love. Committing
suicide for someone else's sake is not love. Sacrificing yourself for
someone else is not love. It is domination.
You control your Narcissist by giving as much as he controls you
through his pathology. Your generosity prevents him from facing his true
self and thus healing.
But this you must remember as well:
It is impossible to have a relationship with a narcissist that will be
meaningful to the narcissist. It is, of course, possible to have a
relationship with a narcissist that will be meaningful to you (see FAQ 66
in this book).
You modify your behaviour in order to secure the N's continuing love,
not to be abandoned. This is the root of the perniciousness of this
The narcissist IS a meaningful, crucially significant figure
("object") in the Inverted Narcissist's life.
This is the narcissist's leverage over the IN. And since the IN is
usually very young when making the adaptation to the N - it all boils down
to fear of abandonment and death in the absence of care and sustenance.
I don't think it is as much a wish to gratify one's narcissist (parent)
- as the sheer terror of forever withholding gratification from one's
The Need to be Hopeful
I understand the need to be hopeful. There are gradations of
narcissism. In all my writings, I am referring to the extreme and
penultimate form of narcissism, the NPD.
We often confuse shame with guilt. Narcissists feel shameful when
confronted with a failure. They feel (narcissistically) injured. Their
omnipotence is threatened, their sense of perfection and uniqueness is
questioned. They are enraged, engulfed by self-reprimand, self-loathing
and internalized violent urges.
The narcissist punishes himself for failing to be God - not for the
maltreatment of others.
The narcissist makes an effort to communicate his pain and shame in
order to elicit the NS needed to restore and regulate his failing sense of
self-worth. In doing so, the narcissist resorts to the human vocabulary of
empathy. The narcissist will say anything to obtain NS. It is a
manipulative ploy - not a confession of real emotions or an authentic
description of internal dynamics.
Yes, the narcissist is a child - but a very precocious and young one.
Yes, he can tell right from wrong - but is indifferent to both. Yes, it is
a process of "re-parenting" (what Kohut called a
"self-object") that is required, of growth, of maturation. In
the best of cases, it takes years and the prognosis is dismal.
Yes, some narcissists make it. And their mates or spouses or children
or colleagues or lovers rejoice.
But is the fact that people survive tornadoes - a reason to go out and
The Narcissist is very much attracted to vulnerability, to unstable or
disordered personalities or to the inferior. Such people constitute more
secure sources of better quality narcissistic supply. The inferior offer
adulation. The mentally disturbed, the traumatized, the abused become
dependent and addicted to him. The vulnerable can be easily and
economically manipulated without fear of repercussions.
I think that "a healing narcissist" is a contradiction in
terms, an oxymoron (though NOT in all cases, of course).
Still, healing (not only of narcissists) is dependent upon and derived
from a sense of security in a relationship.
The Narcissist is not particularly interested in healing. He tries to
optimize his returns, taking into consideration the scarcity and
finiteness of his resources. Healing, to him, is simply a bad business
In the Narcissist's world being accepted or cared for (not to mention
loved) is a foreign language. That is: meaningless.
One might recite the most delicate haiku in Japanese and it would still
remain meaningless to a non-Japanese.
That non-Japanese are not adept at Japanese does not diminish the value
of the haiku OR of the Japanese language, needless to say. Narcissists
damage and hurt but they do so off-handedly and naturally. They are aware
of what they are doing to others - but they do not care.
Sometimes, they sadistically taunt and torment people - but they do not
perceive this to be evil - merely amusing. They feel that they are
entitled to their pleasure and gratification (narcissistic supply is often
obtained by subjugating and subsuming others).
They feel that others are less than human, mere extensions of the
narcissist, or instruments to fulfill the narcissist's wishes and obey his
often capricious commands. No evil can be done to machines, instruments,
The Social and Cultural Context
Personal incompatibility is a stand-alone fact. It requires no
apportioning of guilt or evocation of shame. It is the outcome of life
itself. Taking into consideration the number of variables, it is a great
miracle that any two people fit together, however loosely. Yes, marriages
are miracles and, in this sense, they are really "made in
heaven". Add to this the growing intolerance, the narcissism, the
hedonism and the consumerism, which characterize Western civilization. Mix
in the wide field of alternatives wrought by modern technologies. And the
end result is the demise of long-term commitment and relationships. This
is the sound bite age, the era of virtual sex, the shortest-term attention
span ever. Individualism has gone cancerous and was replaced by Malignant
Self Love. The result?
Narcissism Revisited by everyone involved.
We are victim to forces which re-shape whole societies. It is not our
fault that we are living here and now. Half of all marriages dissolve in
the first few years. One third of all children are born to single mothers.
People are withdrawing, drawing their bridges, folding their communal
tents. They interact via screens and handsets. They go wireless. They
watch flickering images instead of watching each other. They don't think
or read or listen - they consume and gulp. And sex is just one other
commodity to be traded for thrills and frills.
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