The Gifted Narcissist

By Brian Congdon

A narcissist is a person who refuses to face reality. Addicted to a wrong self-image, he thinks all people who refuse him the spotlight of attention are selfish, blind, confused, or “have yet to see the light.” His warped lens of reality dictates his worldview, in which everything should revolve around him. Employing self-centered thinking characteristic of a child, his behavior exemplifies a delusional lifestyle. Completely independent of what he might say, it is disorder personified.

In truth, the narcissist is inordinately self-centered, as could be expected from any infant. It is perfectly fine for a newborn to be this way, in fact babies should be selfish because they need a lot of care. However, it is abnormal to convert a developmental season into an entire lifetime. A stage started but never finished, being stuck becomes a makeshift way of life. The deeply wounded actually prefer it this way. They make the choice to stay “me-centered” for its familiarity and protection, often well into adulthood. Only here does a narcissist feel safe. Yet those more talented, advanced or anyone who happens not to like him, threaten this contrived state of being.

The gifted narcissist will do everything in his power to draw attention away from those more capable, and back onto himself. He may judge all gifting in others as inferior to his own. He acts continually unimpressed with others’ lives, achievements, and successes when in reality he feels intimidated and threatened by them. Why not be happy for others’ good news? Because a narcissist’s fragile identity hinges upon being better than everyone else.

Those who outdo the narcissist in any way can effectively draw out their ugliest sides: the desperate need to be in the center, unbridled competitiveness, and belittlement. Delusional thinking produces odd behavior. In order to compete he plays the game of one-upmanship, an imposed rivalry of sorts, even when no competition is taking place. Thinking he has been challenged to a duel, he reacts egomaniacally by “one-upping” his perceived opponent. His so-called “rivals” become his subordinates and serve as mere instruments in an endless pursuit of superiority.

The narcissist avoids personal pain or coming to terms with his losses. Because he possesses no internal sense of being and/or well-being, he is forced to operate on the basis of “borrowed capital.” That is, narcissists borrow a sense of well-being from others and their adulation: an instrumentalisation of sorts which we term “being used” in vernacular. When the adulation ceases or is hard to come by, one person’s normalcy becomes the narcissist’s trauma. He experiences a narcissistic injury, saying to himself:

“They are so selfish! There must be
something wrong with them
if they can’t see how absolutely
extraordinary I am.”

Thus, narcissists project all their inner confusion and hurt on to others, somehow expecting others to impart a sense of value to them at all times. Actual well-being can only be received as a gift, never demanded, much less siphoned from others.

A narcissist’s words and his genuine condition rarely, if ever, match. Narcissists are willing to invest their existence ad infinitum in verbal and behavioral self-defense, but never honestly admit their own falseness. As long as the narcissist “feels good,” his world and the people in it are all acceptable. But when the world is at odds with him, he undergoes a metamorphosis. He becomes like a massive, broken-down dump truck. His wheels grind to a halt. The road groans uncomfortably with the heavy load he carries. He blocks traffic and remains immobile until someone delivers a can of gas, greases the wheels, or (his personal favorite) a whole crowd of people push him forward. He willfully neglects to examine himself for problems. He is simply incapacitated to take on adult responsibility; psychologically he is only an infant.

Relationship with a narcissist commands a high price. Any expression of relational confrontation or correction will always be perceived as threatening to the core of the narcissist’s existence. Ergo, they will fight to the death to retain their artificial existence; ironic, since the narcissist is neither truly alive nor dead.

This unending quest for emotional substance is not real life, it is king-size greed. The tremendous energy they invest in self-maintenance also proves they are not dead. Unwilling to cease grasping, narcissists become destructive in nearly every endeavor: easily wounding, trampling, or disregarding anyone that stands in the path to self-realization. Nothing is more important to the narcissist than feeling personally comfortable and affirmed. This is precisely what makes a narcissist so dangerous, people are like fuel, mere objects. He survives by his personal dissociation from feelings of empathy, with himself, and others.

A narcissist doesn’t use a defense mechanism;
he is the defense mechanism.

To admit to his farcical existence would activate his fear of becoming a non-person. It is understandable, who wouldn’t be scared? He adopts impenetrable walls of denial as a defense against the pain1, which over time become one with the narcissist.

Like a stampeding mammoth facing a famine, nothing available (and no person) comes close to satiating his hunger. In denying his condition, he further evades the truth that could set him free. Frequently, narcissists will be so blinded to their own behaviors that they believe themselves to be very loving, caring individuals. Stuck in that belief, the resistance to change will be stronger than ever.

So if the narcissist locks himself into this pernicious cycle, how can he be unlocked? Paradoxically, embracing his secret fear is the key to his release; herein lie the problem and the solution.

A narcissist will not surrender the “feeling” of false personal aliveness because he lacks the capacity to trust. Having no idea what real relationship looks like, he desperately clings to a fraudulent self. God’s “way” of healing narcissism, (thus healing a person) is to kill it, not feed it. No amount of warm caring love will ever put hogzilla2 to R.I.P. beneath a tombstone. God puts narcissism to death by pulling the plug on its life support machine. This is Godly love.

The daily attempt to revive the corpse, to float along on carnal adulations and soulish energies of others simply must end. There is no other path to wholeness. Like a tightrope walker falling to an uncertain fate, it will seem anything but inviting. Yet, true reconfiguration cannot take place unless he takes a vital step into the unknown. Those who refuse this leap of faith will deny themselves authentic restoration and healing.

As harsh as it may sound, the time for choosing will not last forever.
It is possible to grow old without ever growing up.

Only when he lets go, plummets directly into the jaws of his terrifying fear, will the transition to God’s life begin. Self-effort is not involved in his being caught by God after the jump. In surrendering the commitment to find his own life, he will take his last breath, saying:

“I GIVE UP, GOD. I AM NOT MY OWN. Forgive me
and do with me as you please.
Not my will, but Thy will be done. Amen.”

Suspended in midair at the bottom of his own gaping chasm, he will learn that God alone really is enough, and that He can be trusted, maybe for the very first time. The jump is equivalent to the individual embracing his true condition: the very brokenness he thought he had to avoid in order to survive.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to savehis life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”
Mark 8:34-5

1 For some, this pain stems from being unwanted from birth, or believing the lie that he was a mistake. For others, it was a routine family life of neglect, repeated rejection, or abandonment.
2 A hybrid of wild boar and domestic swine believed to be the largest ever found in North America, weighing over 800 lbs.