Narcissism FAQ: The Narcissist’s Victims

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Question:

You describe the Narcissist as a cunning, immoral extortionist. How does the Narcissist affect his human environment?

Answer:

Sooner, or later, everyone around the narcissist are bound to become his victims. People are sucked – voluntarily or involuntarily – into the turbulence that constitutes his life, into the black hole that is his personality, into the whirlwind, which makes up his interpersonal relationships. Different people are hurt by different aspects of the narcissist’s life and psychological make-up. Some trust him and rely on him, only to be bitterly disappointed. Others love him and discover that he cannot reciprocate. Yet others are forced to live vicariously, through him.

There are three major categories of victims:

  1. Victims of the narcissist’s instability – The narcissist leads an unpredictable, vicissitudinal, precarious, often dangerous life. His ground is shifting: geographically as well as mentally. He changes addresses, workplaces, vocations, avocations, interests, friends and enemies with a bewildering speed. He baits authority and challenges it. He is, therefore, prone to conflict: to be a criminal, a rebel, a dissident, or a critic. He gets bored easily, ever trapped in cycles of idealisation and devaluation of people, places, hobbies, jobs, values. He is mercurial, unstable, and unreliable. His family suffers: his spouse and children have to wander with him in his private desert, endure the Via Dolorosa that he incessantly walks. They live in constant fear and trepidation: what next?, where next?, who next?. To a lesser extent, this is the case with his friends, bosses, colleagues, or with his country. These biographical vacillations and mental oscillations deny the people around him their autonomy, their unperturbed development and self-fulfilment, their path to self-recognition and contentment. To the narcissist, other humans are mere instruments, Sources of Narcissistic Supply. He sees no reason to dedicate thought to their needs, wishes, wants, desires and fears. He derails their life with ease and benevolent ignorance. Deep inside he knows that he is wrong to do so because they might retaliate – hence, his paranoid fears.
  2. Victims of the narcissist’s misleading signals – mostly his deceitful emotional messages. The narcissist mimics real emotions artfully. He exudes the air of someone really capable of loving or of being hurt, of one passionate and soft, empathic and caring. Most people are misled into believing that he is even more human than usual. They fall in love with the mirage, the fleeting image, with the fata morgana of a lush emotional oasis in the midst of their emotional desert. They succumb to the luring proposition. They give in, give up, and give everything only to be discarded ruthlessly when judged by the narcissist to be no longer useful. Riding high on the crest of the narcissist’s over-valuation only to crash into the abysmal depths of his devaluation, they lose control over their emotional life. The narcissist drains them, exhausts their personality resources, sucks the blood-life of Narcissistic Supply from their dwindling, depleted selves. This emotional roller coaster is so harrowing that the experience borders on the truly traumatic. To remove doubt: this behaviour pattern is not confined to matters of the heart. The narcissist’s employer, for instance, is misled by his apparent seriousness, industriousness, ambition, willing to sacrifice, honesty, thoroughness and a host of other utterly fake qualities. They are fake because they are directed at securing Narcissistic Supply rather than at doing a good job. His clients and suppliers may suffer from the same illusion. And his false emanations are not restricted to messages with emotional content. They may contain wrong or false or partial information. The narcissist does not hesitate to lie, deceive, or “expose” (misleading) half-truths. He appears to be so intelligent, so charming and, therefore, so reliable – that he tends out among the crooks, con (=short for confidence)-men and villains. He is a convincing conjurer of words, signs, behaviours, and body language.
  3. The above two classes of victims are characterised by the casualness with which the narcissist exploits and then discards them. No more malice is involved in this than in any other interaction with an instrument. No more premeditation and contemplation than in breathing. These are victims of narcissistic reflexes. Perhaps this is what makes it all so repulsively horrific: the “by the way” and “a propos” nature of the damage inflicted. Not so the third category. These are the victims upon which the narcissist designs, maliciously and intentionally, to shower his wrath and bad intentions. The narcissist is both sadistic and masochistic. In hurting others he always seeks to hurt himself. In punishing them he wishes to be penalised. Their pains are his. Thus, he attacks figures of authority and societal institutions with vicious, uncontrolled, almost insane rage – only to accept his due punishment (their reaction to his venomous diatribes or antisocial actions) with incredible complacency, or even relief. He engages in vitriolic humiliation of his kin and folk, of regime and government, of his firm or of the law – only to suffer pleasurably in the role of the outcast, the ex-communicated, the exiled, and the imprisoned. The punishment of the narcissist does little to compensate his randomly (rather incomprehensibly) selected victims. The narcissist forces individuals and groups of people around him to pay a heavy toll, materially, in reputation, emotionally. He is ruinous, and disruptive. In behaving so, the narcissist seeks not only to be punished, but also to disengage emotionally (Emotional Involvement Preventive Measures, EIPMs). Threatened by intimacy and by the predatory cosiness of routine and mediocrity – the narcissist lashes back at what he perceives to be the sources of this dual threat. He attacks those he thinks take him for granted, or those who fail to recognise his grandiosity. And they, alas, include just about everyone he knows.
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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