Narcissism FAQ: Narcissistic Immunity

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Question:

Aren’t Narcissists deterred by the outcomes of their actions and behavior?

Answer:

In many respects, narcissists are children. Like children, they engage in magical thinking. They feel omnipotent. They feel that there is nothing they couldn’t do or achieve had they only really wanted to. They feel omniscient – they rarely admit that there is anything that they do not know. They believe that all knowledge resides within them. They are haughtily convinced that introspection is a more important and more efficient (not to mention easier to accomplish) method of obtaining knowledge than the systematic study of outside sources of information in accordance with strict (read: tedious) curricula. To some extent, they believe that they are omnipresent because they are either famous or about to become famous. Deeply immersed in their delusions of grandeur, they firmly believe that their acts have – or will have – a great influence on mankind, on their firm, on their country, on others. Having learned to manipulate their human environment to a masterly extent – they believe that they will always “get away with it”.

Narcissistic Immunity is the (erroneous) feeling, harbored by the narcissist, that he is immune to the consequences of his actions. That he will never be effected by the results of his own decisions, opinions, beliefs, deeds and misdeeds, acts, inaction and by his membership of certain groups of people. That he is above reproach and punishment (though not above adulation). That, magically, he is protected and will miraculously be saved at the last moment.

What are the sources of this unrealistic appraisal of situations and chains of events?

The first and foremost source is, of course, the False Self. It is constructed as a childish response to abuse and trauma. It is possessed of everything that the child wishes he had in order to retaliate: power, wisdom, magic – all of them unlimited and instantaneously available. The False Self, this Superman, is indifferent to any abuse and punishment inflicted upon it. This way, the True Self is shielded from the harsh realities experienced by the child. This artificial, maladaptive separation between a vulnerable (but not punishable) True Self and a punishable (but invulnerable) False Self is an effective mechanism. It isolates the child from the unjust, capricious, emotionally dangerous world that he occupies. But, at the same time, it fosters a false sense of “nothing can happen to me, because I am not there, I am not available to be punished because I am immune”.

The second source is the sense of entitlement possessed by every narcissist. In his grandiose delusions, the narcissist is a rare specimen, a gift to humanity, a precious, fragile, object. Moreover, the narcissist is convinced both that this uniqueness is immediately discernible – and that it gives him special rights. The narcissist feels that he is protected under some cosmological law pertaining to “Endangered Species”. He is convinced that his future contribution to humanity should (and does) exempt him from the mundane: daily chores, boring jobs, recurrent tasks, personal exertion, orderly investment of resources and efforts and so on. The narcissist is entitled to “special treatment”: high living standards, constant and immediate catering to his needs, the eradication of any encounter with the mundane and the routine, an all-engulfing absolution of his sins, fast track privileges (to higher education, in his encounters with the bureaucracy). Punishment is for ordinary people (where no great loss to humanity is involved). Narcissists are entitled to a different treatment and they are above it all.

The third source has to do with their ability to manipulate their (human) environment. Narcissists develop their manipulative skills to the level of an art form because that is the only way they could have survived their poisoned and dangerous childhood. Yet, they carry this “gift” and use it long after its usefulness is over. Narcissists are possessed of inordinate abilities to charm, to convince, to seduce and to persuade. They are gifted orators. In many cases, they ARE intellectually endowed. They put all this to the bad use of obtaining Narcissistic Supply Sources. Many of them are con-men, politicians, or artists. Many of them do belong to the social and economic privileged classes. They mostly do get exempted many times by virtue of their standing in society, their charisma, or their ability to find the willing scapegoats. Having “got away with it” so many times – they develop a theory of personal immunity, which rests on some kind of societal and even cosmic “order of things”. Some people are just above punishment, the “special ones”, the “endowed or gifted ones”.

This is the Narcissistic Hierarchy.

But there is a fourth, simpler, explanation: The narcissist just does not know what he is doing. divorced from his True Self, unable to empathize (to understand what it is like to be someone else), unwilling to empathize (to constrain his actions in accordance with the feelings and needs of others) – he is in a constant dreamlike state. His life to him is a movie, autonomously unfolding, guided by a sublime (even divine) director. He is a spectator, a mere observer, mildly interested, greatly entertained at times. He does not feel that his actions are his. He, therefore, emotionally, cannot understand why he should be punished and when he is, he feels grossly wronged.

To be a narcissist is to be convinced of a great, inevitable personal destiny. The narcissist is preoccupied with ideal love, the construction of brilliant, revolutionary scientific theories, the composition or authoring or painting of the greatest work of art ever, the founding of a new school of art or thought, the attainment of fabulous wealth, the reshaping of the fate of a nation, becoming immortalized and so on. The narcissist never sets realistic goals to himself. He does not occupy our universe. He is forever floating amidst fantasies of uniqueness, record breaking, or breathtaking achievements. His speech reflects this propensity and is interlaced with such expressions. So convinced is the narcissist that he is destined to great things – that he refuses to accept setbacks, failures and punishments. He regards them as temporary, as someone else’s errors, as part of the future mythology of his rise to power/brilliance/wealth/ideal love, etc. A punishment is a diversion of scarce energy and resources from the all-important task of fulfilling his mission in life. This over-riding goal is a divine certainty: a higher order has pre-ordained the narcissist to achieve something lasting, of substance, of import in this world, in this life. How could mere mortals interfere with the cosmic, the divine, scheme of things? Therefore, punishment is impossible and will not happen – is the narcissist’s conclusion.

The narcissist is pathologically envious of people – and projects his feelings unto them. He is always over-suspicious, on guard, ready to fend off an imminent attack. A punishment to the narcissist is a major surprise and a nuisance but it also proves to him and validates what he suspected all the time: that he is persecuted. Strong forces are poised against him. People are envious of his achievements, angry at him, out to get him. He constitutes a threat to the accepted order. When required to account for his (mis)deeds, the narcissist is always disdainful and bitter. He forever feels like Gulliver, a giant, chained to the ground by numerous dwarves while his soul soars to a future, in which people will recognize his greatness and applaud it.

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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