Narcissism FAQ: Multiple Grandiosity

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Question:

Is the Narcissist confined in his grandiose fantasies to one subject?

Answer:

This apparently simple question is more complex than it sounds. The narcissist is bound to make use of his more pronounced traits and qualities both in the design of his False Self and in the process of extraction of Narcissistic Supply from others. Thus, a “Cerebral” Narcissist is likely to emphasise his intellect, his brainpower, his analytical skills and his rich and varied fund of knowledge. A “Somatic” Narcissist accentuates his body, his physical strength, his appearance, his sex appeal and so on. But this is only one facet of the answer. It seems that narcissists engage in what could best be described as “Narcissistic Hedges”.

A narcissistic hedge is when a narcissistic colours more than one field of activity with his narcissistic hues. He infuses the selected subjects with Narcissistic Investment. He prepares them as auxiliary Sources of Narcissistic Supply and as backup options in case of a major system failure. These ostensibly redundant activities and interests constitute a fallback option in case a life crisis erupts. In the majority of cases, the chosen subjects or fields will all belong to the same “family”. A Cerebral Narcissist might select mathematics and art, but not mountain climbing. A sportsman might engage in being a radio sports commentator but not a philosopher of science and so on. Still, the correlation between the various selections may not be very strong (which is why they can be used as hedges).

Experience shows that this hedging mechanism is not very effective. The narcissist reacts to events in his life as a rigid unit. His reactions are not differentiated or scaled. A failure (or a success) in one domain spreads to all the others with a contagious speed. The Narcissistic Contagion Effect dominates the narcissist’s life. The narcissist measures his personal history, in terms of fluctuations in Narcissistic Supply. He is blind to all the other aspects, angles and points of view. He is like a thermometer, which reacts to human warmth, admiration, adoration, approval, applause and attention. His life is perceived by him in gradations of narcissistic temperature. When a source of supply ceases to exist or is threatened or diminished, all the other parts of the narcissist’s world (including his backup options) are affected. The dysphoric and euphoric moods, which are related to the absence or to the presence of Narcissistic Supply, engulf the entire personality and consume it.

A case study to illustrate these principles of the economy of the narcissist’s soul:

A narcissist has a successful career as an economic commentator in several mass media. As a result of his criticism of the policies of the government, he is threatened and there are signs that a book that he was about to publish, will not be published after all. The narcissist has other subjects from which he is able to derive Narcissistic Supply. What would the likely reaction of such a narcissist be?

Being threatened endangers his feelings of omnipotence and superiority. He is “reduced to size”. The special treatment that he believed himself to be entitled to has all but evaporated. This is a narcissistic injury. Worse, it looks as if the very availability and existence of his main and “serious” Narcissistic Supply Sources (the media, the book) are at risk. Dysphoria ensues. The narcissist reacts hysterically and with paranoia. The paranoid streaks in his reaction serve to re-establish the perturbed balance of his own grandiosity. Only important people are persecuted. The hysteria is the result of panic at the prospect of remaining bereft of Narcissistic Supply Sources. A drug addict would have reacted the same way to the drying up of his Supply Sources.

In theory, this would have been the perfect time to revert to the alternatives, to the hedges. But the narcissist’s energy is too depleted to make this switch. He is depressed, dysphoric, anhedonic, sees no point in it all, in extreme cases, even suicidal. He jumps to radical and sweeping conclusions (“If this happened to me once, it could well happen again”). His output and achievements deteriorate. As a result, his Narcissistic Supply is further reduced and a vicious circle is set in motion.

This is the absurdity of the narcissistic mental household: the hedges can be used only when there is no need for them. Once a crisis erupts, they are no longer usable by the violently reduced narcissist, a faltering shadow of his former False Self.

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.

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