Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited
Narcissistic and psychopathic leaders come in all shapes and degrees of virulence. Learn to recognize them in various settings (the workplace, religion, politics) and to cope with the toxic fallout of their "leadership".
Is pathological narcissism a blessing or a malediction?
The answer is: it depends. Healthy narcissism is a mature, balanced love of oneself coupled with a stable sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Healthy narcissism implies knowledge of one's boundaries and a proportionate and realistic appraisal of one's achievements and traits.
Pathological narcissism is wrongly described as too much healthy narcissism (or too much self-esteem). These are two absolutely unrelated phenomena which, regrettably, came to bear the same title. Confusing pathological narcissism with self-esteem betrays a fundamental ignorance of both.
Pathological narcissism involves an impaired, dysfunctional, immature (True) Self coupled with a compensatory fiction (the False Self). The sick narcissist's sense of self-worth and self-esteem derive entirely from audience feedback. The narcissist has no self-esteem or self-worth of his own (no such ego functions). In the absence of observers, the narcissist shrivels to non-existence and feels dead. Hence the narcissist's preying habits in his constant pursuit of Narcissistic Supply. Pathological narcissism is an addictive behaviour.
Still, dysfunctions are reactions to abnormal environments and situations (e.g., abuse, trauma, smothering, etc.).
Paradoxically, his dysfunction allows the narcissist to function. It compensates for lacks and deficiencies by exaggerating tendencies and traits. It is like the tactile sense of a blind person. In short: pathological narcissism is a result of over-sensitivity, the repression of overwhelming memories and experiences, and the suppression of inordinately strong negative feelings (e.g., hurt, envy, anger, or humiliation).
That the narcissist functions at all – is because of his pathology and thanks to it. The alternative is complete decompensation and integration.
In time, the narcissist learns how to leverage his pathology, how to use it to his advantage, how to deploy it in order to maximise benefits and utilities – in other words, how to transform his curse into a blessing.
Narcissists are obsessed by delusions of fantastic grandeur and superiority. As a result they are very competitive. They are strongly compelled – where others are merely motivated. They are driven, relentless, tireless, and ruthless. They often make it to the top. But even when they do not – they strive and fight and learn and climb and create and think and devise and design and conspire. Faced with a challenge – they are likely to do better than non-narcissists.
Yet, we often find that narcissists abandon their efforts in mid-stream, give up, vanish, lose interest, devalue former pursuits, or slump. Why is that?
Narcissists are prone to self-defeating and self-destructive behaviours.