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The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Narcissist

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Those are not just beliefs--they are facts etched deep in his psyche, and they evoke corresponding emotional states of 1. grandiose pride, 2. sense of victimhood and resentment, 3. desire for revenge, all of which form the core of his sense of self and motivate his actions.

That desire for revenge is as much a payback for his real and imagined humiliation, as it is a yearning to assert his ultimate domination over others. Before it manifests itself on a grand scale (should he be allowed to wield so much power), it may be observed in his everyday actions. A narcissist creates discord wherever he goes by inflaming the worst impulses in others and watching the results of such manipulation, while he gloats and revels in his power evidenced in having others do his bidding. He cannot help being destructive, as there are no brakes, imposed by conscience, on his rapacious primitive drives.

This lack of brakes endows him with a kind of perverse Midas touch: he destroys everything he comes in contact with--relationships, projects, organizations, countries. He does not create anything of value; he is either indifferent or hostile to expressions of values in the material world. He may annihilate such expressions--books, works of art, or cherished public spaces--out of spite. Like the Wilde's cynic, he knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing--and he is proud of it. His compulsion to dazzle and to erect ever-greater monuments to his own glory, whether in the form of bombastic poetry or shiny palaces, satisfies his grandiosity; but it is also a way to divert attention, his own and others, from the destruction he sows around him.

Since reality as we know it does not matter to a narcissist and his main preoccupations are his own desires, his assessment of any situation, no matter how trivial or grave, will reflect that egocentric focus on his own feelings and needs, particularly his need for self-aggrandizement. And so, for example, an objectively dangerous tyrant will be, in the narcissist's eyes, a flawless "great man," if he flatters his ego and/or is someone he can identify with and wants to emulate. A narcissist's own multiple failures in life are successes in his own eyes, because that is how he feels about them, truth be damned. Remember, facts do not matter and values do not exist in the narcissist's peculiar universe. What does matter is accumulation of power and adulation by any and all means, without any responsibility for the outcome of his pursuit and its effect on others.

Not Just Fluffy's Greatest Nightmare

Narcissism is evident in a wide range of professions, not infrequently in business and politics. The most alarming for their antisocial and psychopathic actions come from the likes of business tycoons like Madoff on Wall Street to world despots like Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi, Pol Pot and Radovan Karadzic, to name but a few. All were able to meet their obsessive power objectives that began in early life and like Qaddafi and Saddam claimed to the end that "the people loved them." They too, at one critical time in history, were sadly admired, respected and believed by the masses.

As you can see, the consequences of the character defect known as narcissism on the affected individual and his world are profound, and most of all because of the impairment of conscience. The size of the facade of his overblown ego and the need to protect it from injury at all costs, no matter how detrimental to others, are proportional to the shallowness of his existence caused by this impairment.

One hopes knowing this will help in understanding the unbearable lightness of being a narcissist--unbearable mostly for others, although sometimes for him too; a task that seems especially important during this election season.

And now please go check on Fluffy. He's shivering, poor thing. It's probably another nightmare--or maybe a dream of glory. With cats, one never knows.

March 31, 2016

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Born in Poland and trained as a clinical psychologist, I currently live in the US, working as an educational consultant. I specialize in giftedness, psychopathology, and human development.

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