Narcissism FAQ: The Midlife Narcissist

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Question:

Are Narcissists likely to go through a midlife crisis and, if so, to what extent will such a crisis ameliorate or exacerbate their condition?


Answer:

The sometimes severe crises experienced by persons of both sexes in their middle age (a.k.a. the “midlife crisis” or the “change of life”) is a much dissected though little understood phenomenon. It is not even sure that the beast exists. Women go through menopause between the ages of 42-48. The amount of the hormone oestrogen decreases sharply, important parts of the reproductive system shrink and menstruation ceases. The woman suffers “hot flashes” and a thinning and fracturing of her bones. The “male menopause” is a more contentious issue. Men do experience a gradual decline in testosterone levels but nothing as sharp as the woman’s deterioration of her oestrogen supply. No one has proven any link between these physiological and hormonal developments and the mythical “midlife crisis”.

This fabled crisis has to do with the gap between earlier plans, dreams and aspirations – and reality. The lack of satisfaction with life, career, or spouse that sets in has to do with this gap of expectations. People get more disappointed and disillusioned with age. They understand that they are not likely to have a second chance, that they largely missed the train, that their dreams will likely remain just that: dreams. They have nothing to look forward to. They feel spent, bored, fatigued and trapped. Some adults make a transition. They define new goals, look for new partners, form new families, engage in new hobbies, change vocation and avocation alike, or relocate. They regenerate and reinvent themselves and the structures of their lives. Others just grow bitter. Unable to face the shambles that is their life, they resort to alcoholism, workaholism, emotional absence, abandonment, escapism, degeneration or inactivity.

Another pillar of discontent is the predictability of adult life. Following a brief flurry of excitement and vigour, of dreams and hopes and aspirations – we succumb to and sink into the grey dust of mediocrity. The mundane engulfs us and digests us. The routine consumes our energy and leaves us dilapidated and empty. We know what is awaiting us and this knowledge of the almost inevitable is maddening.

Paradoxically, the narcissist is best equipped to successfully tackle both problems. The narcissist keeps dreaming, hoping, planning, conspiring, scheming and fighting all his life. To him, there is no reality with its sobering feedback. He occupies a world of his own where hope springs eternal. It is a world of serendipity and auspiciousness, of lucky chances and coincidences, of major downs and uplifting ups. It is an unpredictable, titillating, exciting world. The narcissist may feel bored for long stretches of time but only because he anticipates inevitable excitement.

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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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