322 Stephenson Avenue, Ste B
Savannah, GA 31405
The narcissist is the ultimate man! He's confident and self-assured. He's tough. He's competitive. He's often gorgeous, and if not, he is definitely likely to dress in some kind of style. He's hardworking and successful. He's got it all. He's a master of the universe. He also has to have his way. He's in a world of his own. He rarely maintains any kind of real relationship, and when he does maintain a relationship, it's hard to tell he cares. He has to be right. He has to be the best. He pursues the finest of everything and he feels he's entitled to it. But nobody knows the narcissist, and essentially he's alone. In fact, the narcissist doesn't even know himself. The problem is, in fact, that there's no self there to know. At least there's no self there that reflects his humanity or any sense of vulnerability, and no self that seems to hold him together with integrity of his own.
Narcissism, strangely, is exactly the opposite of what it seems. While the narcissist behaves selfishly and confident in almost every situation, it is his lack of self that makes him act that way. The narcissist grows up in an environment in which vulnerability is unacceptable. Any sign of weakness in this environment is met with disdain and disgust. On the other hand, independent activity is necessary and significant achievements are glorified. Thus, the narcissist develops his personality for the specific and express purpose of achieving recognition and being treated as special. When all goes well, the narcissist is quite successful in this pursuit. Unfortunately, the narcissist can never achieve the one pursuit that is truly worthwhile for him. That is, he can never find his true self.
The true self resides in those feelings that are most core to life itself. Life with one's fellow man is created through the balance of these core feelings, but the particular balance maintained by the narcissist limits any development in the feelings that involve connection to others. Vulnerability, weakness, need of any kind, things being out of control, all those experiences that must be calmed and soothed by love, and thus those feelings that form the connection with others, have been abandoned in the narcissist. The one connection the narcissist attains is the sense of recognition he experiences when his achievements reflect well upon his parental figures. At those times, the narcissist feels special and important. Unfortunately, because these achievements are essentially accomplished for the impact they make on others, the narcissist never experiences true satisfaction. That is, he is achieving what makes his parents feel like they are achieving, or what impresses others most, and he never even knows what he would like to achieve.
Thus, the pursuit of success, achievements, fine things, good looks, and power becomes his unitary focus. He is desperate for the recognition of his achievements, and achieve he does. But the true desire beneath his facade, that is any desire to develop a true self that the narcissist does have, and any desire to be recognized for who he is, can only come from unconditional love and acceptance of his true nature. Although he does not always know it, he is desperate for love of his true nature in spite of his weakness or foolishness, and in spite of his truly selfish nature which is common to all in infancy. And the more the narcissist surrounds himself with the trappings of success, the less likely it will be that he will achieve true recognition of his character. Others will glory in his facade, which in turn, will help him continue to believe it to be a valid pursuit. At the same time, he will demean weakness and vulnerability in others and do anything he can to avoid it within himself. Thus, although he will be aware of a lack of meaning in his life, accompanied by an inability to attain satisfaction, and a lack of consistent closeness with others, the narcissist will generally find it impossible to understand how it could even be possible that his problems are problems.
When the narcissist does experience problems, it is typically because a particular kind of depression takes its grip on him. The lack of meaning, satisfaction and closeness in his life combine to create a kind of fragmentation of feelings. Because there is no self, no feeling that there are particular aspects of who the narcissist is as a person separate from what others see, nothing really holds together. It is as though the glue that makes all the parts of a person stick together is missing. For relatively healthy people, everything sticks together into a meaningful view of who they are. The love they have for others, their interests, their morals, what they find important, and even the things they dislike or despise, make them who they are. They carry that conglomeration of what it means to be a person with them throughout their day, their week, and their entire existence so that they can be close with others, sense meaning and attain satisfaction. What for most people can be a troubling difficulty in balancing their many roles, for the narcissist becomes complete fragmentation and a breakdown into profound depression. Only newly found specialness in the recognition of greatness from an esteemed or coveted other can forestall such fragmentation...
Copyright 2010 Daniel A. Bochner, Ph.D. All rights reserved. Material provided on this web site is for educational and/or informational purposes only. This web site does not offer either online services or medical advice. No therapeutic relationship is established by use of this site.
322 Stephenson Avenue, Ste B
Savannah, GA 31405