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5 - Narcissists, Love & Healing (article 5 of 10)

by Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.

3/1/01

Dr. Vaknin is author of of the informative book, Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited. He also edits various mental health categories on Open Directory, Suite101, Go.Com and SearchEurope.com.  While his doctorate is not in mental health, this well-informed author clearly did his homework and writes from  experience.  Dr. Vaknin's CV is published here. His book, and much more, is available in hard copy or download on his main web site.

Dr. Irene

EDITED 2/09. Unfortunately, while the content itself stands on its own in helping people understand narcissism, the writer's credibility may be questionable. For example, see here: http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2006/07/03/wikipedia-is-satan

 

 

Question:

Why does the narcissist react with rage to gestures or statements of love?

Answer:

NOTHING is more hated by a narcissist than this sentence, "I Love You". It evokes in the narcissist almost primordial reactions. It provokes him to uncontrollable rage. Why is that?

(a) The narcissist hates women virulently and vehemently. Being a misogynist he identifies being loved with being possessed, encroached upon, engulfed, digested and excreted. To him love is a dangerous intestinal tract - stench and all.

(b) Loving someone means knowing him intimately. The Narcissist likes to think that he is so unique that no one can ever really fathom him. The narcissist believes that he is above mere human understanding and empathy. The Narcissist believes that he is ONE of a kind. To say to him "I love you", means to negate this feeling, to try to drag him to the lowest common denominator, to threaten his sense of uniqueness. After all, everyone is capable of loving and everyone, even the basest human being actually loves. To the narcissist it is an ANIMAL trait - exactly like sex.

(c) The Narcissist knows that he is a con artist, a fraud, an elaborate hoax, a script, hollow and really non-existent. The person who loves a narcissist is either lying (after all, what is there to love in a narcissist) - or a dependent creature, blind and imbecile, unable to discern the truth. The narcissist cannot tolerate the thought that he selected a liar or an idiot for a mate. Indirectly, a declaration of love is a devastating critique of the narcissist's own powers of judgment.

The narcissist hates love - however and wherever it is manifested. Thus, for instance, when his spouse demonstrates her love to their children, he wishes them all dead. Nothing less than a horrible, tortuous death. He is so pathologically envious of spouse that he wishes she never existed. Being a tad paranoid, he also nurtures the growing conviction that she is doing it ON PURPOSE, to remind him how miserable he is, how deficient, how deprived and discriminated against. He regards her interaction with their children to be a provocation, an assault on his emotional welfare (emotional balance).  Seething envy, boiling rage and violent thoughts is the flammable concoction that floods the narcissist's brain whenever he sees other people happy.

Many people naively believe that they can cure the narcissist by flooding him with love, acceptance, compassion and empathy This is not supported by reality and research. The only way an NPD can heal is if he experiences a severe narcissistic injury, a LIFE crisis.  Forced to shed his malfunctioning defenses - a window of vulnerability is formed through which therapeutic intervention can try and sneak in. This window is very brief.

The narcissists perceives love and compassion as narcissistic supply. But  this window of opportunity CANNOT COEXIST with available narcissistic supply. The narcissist is susceptible to treatment ONLY when his defenses are down because they FAIL to secure a steady stream of narcissistic supply. The roles of narcissistic supply should be clearly distinguished from those of an emotional connection (such as love). Narcissistic supply has to do with the functioning of primitive defense mechanisms in the narcissist. The affective component in the narcissist has been repressed to oblivion. It does not permeate the conscious level. The narcissist pursues narcissistic supply as a junkie seeks drugs.

Junkies can have emotional "connections" but they are always subordinated to their habit. Their connections are the victims of their habits. Ask children  or spouses of alcoholics or drug addicts.

There is no possibility to have any real, meaningful, or lasting emotional relationship with the narcissist - until his primitive defence mechanisms are discarded. Dysfunctional interpersonal relationships are one of the diagnostic criteria of most personality disorders.

So, the right order, to my mind, is:

(1) Cut the narcissist from his sources of supply and thus precipitate a narcissistic crisis or injury;

(2) Utilize the window of opportunity to treat the narcissist, to help him mature emotionally;

(3) Encourage him in his baby steps in the emotional field.

Not the other way around. Emotional connections which co-exist with the narcissistic defense mechanisms are part of the narcissistic theatrical repertoire, fake and doomed.

The narcissist does not employ his defense mechanisms because he needs them - but because he knows no better.

His defense mechanisms were useful in his infancy. They were adaptive in an abusive environment. Old tricks and old habits die hard. The narcissist is a primitive person with a disorganized personality (Kernberg). He is likely to heal simply in order to avoid the pain of the narcissistic injury - and not with the intention of reaching a "safe place".

No place is safe. No one is to be trusted. Avoidance of pain is a powerful manipulative therapeutic tool. Narcissists come to therapy in the first place to try and alleviate some of what has become an intolerable pain. None of them goes to therapy because he wants to improve his lot in life or to better interact with his loving significant other. Love is important - but to fully enjoy its emotional benefits, first the narcissist must heal.

Next: NARCISSISTS & WOMEN

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