Narcissism FAQ: Addiction to Fame and Celebrity

04_0028_Layer 72

Question:

Are Narcissists addicted to being famous?

Answer:

You bet. This, by far, is their predominant drive. Being famous encompasses a few important functions: it endows the narcissist with power, provides him with a constant Source of Narcissistic Supply (admiration, adoration, approval, awe) and fulfils important Ego functions. The image that the narcissist projects is hurled back at him, reflected in the eyes (or in the imagined eyes) of those exposed to the celebrity or fame of the narcissist. This way he feels alive, his very existence is affirmed and it begets a feeling of clear boundaries (where the narcissist ends and the world begins).

There is a set of narcissistic behaviours typical to the pursuit of celebrity. There is almost nothing that the narcissist refrains from doing, almost no borders that he hesitates to cross to achieve renown. To him, there is no such thing as “bad publicity” – what is important is to be in the public eye. Because the narcissist equally enjoys all types of attention and likes as much to be feared as to be loved, for instance – he doesn’t mind if what is published about him is wrong (“as long as they spell his name correctly”). The only bad emotional stretches are those that are endured by the narcissist during periods of lack of attention, publicity, or exposure. The narcissist then feels empty, hollowed out, negligible, humiliated, wrathful, discriminated against, deprived, neglected, treated unjustly and so on. At first, he tries to compromise and obtain attention from ever narrowing groups of reference (“supply scale down”). But the feeling that he is compromising gnaws at his anyhow fragile self-esteem. Sooner or later, the spring bursts. The narcissist plots, contrives, plans, conspires, thinks, analyses, synthesises and does whatever else is necessary to regain the lost publicity ground. The more he fails to secure the attention of the target group (always the biggest he can access) – the more daring, eccentric and outlandish he becomes. Firm decision is transformed into resolute action and then to a panicky pattern of attention seeking behaviours.

The narcissist is not really interested in publicity per se. Using typical conversion, displacement and projection mechanisms – the narcissist always appears to be different than he is. He appears to love himself – and, really, he abhors himself. Similarly, he appears to be interested in becoming a celebrity – and, in reality, it is the REACTIONS to his fame that interest him: people watch him, notice him, talk about him, debate his actions – therefore he exists. He goes around “hunting and collecting” the expressions on people’s faces change when they notice him. He places himself in the centre of discussions, even as a figure of controversy. He constantly and recurrently pesters those nearest and dearest to him in a bid to reassure himself that he is not losing his fame, his magic touch, the attention of members of his reference group.

Truly, the narcissist is not choosy. If he can become famous as a writer – he will write, if as a businessman – he will conduct business. He switches from one field to the other with ease and without remorse because in all of them he is present without conviction, bar the conviction that he must (and deserves to) get famous. He grades activities, hobbies and people not according to the pleasure that they give him – but according to their utility: can they or can’t they make him known and, if so, to what extent. The narcissist is one-track minded (not to say obsessive). His is a world of black (unknown, deprived of attention) and white (famous and celebrated). In his pursuit of recognition the narcissist recognises no borders but the borders of fear and no other people but those in whose eyes he can see himself.

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love, and runs the website Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited.Sam has served as the author of the Personality Disorders topic, Narcissistic Personality Disorder topic, the Verbal and Emotional Abuse topic, and the Spousal Abuse and Domestic Violence topic, Suite101.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *