(OMTimes | Marcia Sirota MD) We’re living in an era of narcissism. Narcissists are being elected to the highest levels of government, both here in Canada and the United States.
Why a narcissist can never be happy
Too many of us are being taken in by the self-delusional confidence of these narcissists, believing that it represents competence when all it demonstrates is the grandiosity of an over-inflated ego.
There are many traits that narcissists have in common: an inflated sense of self-importance; extreme over-entitlement; a profound lack of empathy; the tendency to view others as merely a means to an end; the capacity for profound insensitivity and cruelty.
Narcissists are users and abusers, plain and simple. They’re bullies and con artists, manipulators and oppressors. They’re blowhards and charmers, smiling at us one minute and cutting our throat the next.
We might be conned into thinking that there’s substance behind all their grandiose posturing, but the narcissist is an empty shell, driven by a fierce and undying need to fill a gnawing sense of emptiness deep within.
A powerful inner need for gratification drives the narcissist. They mistakenly believe that this gratification will come through the exercise of power and influence and the accumulation of money and possessions.
The narcissist will fight to accumulate more money and more stuff; to wield more power and influence; to bend more people to their will, but it will never be enough. The narcissist doesn’t understand that more and more of the wrong solution doesn’t eventually make it the right solution.
The narcissist would be a fascinating psychological case-study and a truly tragic figure, were they not so exceedingly dangerous, both on the personal and the political front. They will stop at nothing to get what they want, but they’re doomed never to find satisfaction because their behavior can never lead to happiness or fulfillment.
The truth is that nothing can make a narcissist happy, because their agenda of dominance, exploitation, and oppression creates an ever-expanding chasm within their soul. The narcissist can take pleasure in the exercise of power and the subjugation of others, but they can’t feel happiness from any source.
They can’t feel the joy of a loving relationship – they’re incapable of love. They can’t feel the fulfillment of a job well done – they’re incapable of taking satisfaction from positive accomplishments – and they can’t feel the contentment of doing a good deed for others – they’re incapable of empathy.
The narcissist wrongly believes that by using or abusing, taking or stealing they’ll feel better, but it doesn’t work. The human brain isn’t wired that way. We, humans, feel happiest when we’re kind, generous and altruistic; not when we’re selfish, greedy or cruel.
Narcissists get a rush of pleasure when they “win.” Unfortunately, pleasure is superficial and fleeting. The pleasure the narcissist feels is similar to that of a drug high. It’s an intensely thrilling but ultimately meaningless experience that leaves them immediately craving the next rush.
One of the narcissist’s fatal flaws is that they can’t differentiate pleasure and happiness. They continue to chase after the former at the expense of the latter, which leaves them emptier and more miserable after every display of dominance.
The narcissist will always confuse the currency of dominance with the currency of happiness, and these are the opposite.
Happiness comes from being kind and loving; from doing good deeds and being a good person; from feeling a deep sense of connection with others; from making a positive contribution and from living a meaningful life. Using and abusing others can never, ever lead to happiness.
After years of pursuing their self-serving but ineffective agenda, the narcissist ultimately becomes enraged. They mistakenly believe that their problem is that they don’t have enough power, money or influence; that they haven’t sufficiently bullied the people around them into submission.
The narcissist is incapable of taking responsibility for their actions so they’ll always blame their victims, accusing them of being the hurtful ones and ratcheting up their acts of brutality and oppression.
The narcissist believes that everyone around them is there for only one reason: to meet their needs. If the narcissist isn’t getting their needs met – and by definition, they never will – they’re convinced that it must be the fault of the people around them.
As time goes on, the narcissist becomes more and more furious and more and more destructive. They exact revenge on everyone whom they perceive as interfering with their gratification because they can never see that the problem lies within them.
They end up bent on two goals: pursuing their agenda of greed and punishing those who get in their way, but neither of these will ever make them happy.
If happiness is defined as a deep and abiding sense of contentment, satisfaction, and inner peace, occasionally sprinkled with joy, then by definition, a narcissist can never be happy.
It’s their constant, nagging sense of dissatisfaction and rage that drives them to pursue their misguided agenda repeatedly. Narcissists live in the false hope of finding some modicum of solace for their incessant fury and need, but their pattern of behavior traps them in an endless feedback loop of empty pleasures, meaningless vendettas, and an ever-expanding inner abyss.
The narcissist will never stop behaving badly because their actions will never give them what they want. They’ll never be happy, and that’s exactly what drives them to keep on pursuing their wrong-headed and extremely destructive agenda. I’d feel pity for them, were it not for the fact that they do so much harm to others.
About the author
Marcia Sirota MD FRCP(C) is a board-certified psychiatrist, that does not ascribe to any one theoretical school. Rather, she has integrated her education and life experiences into a unique approach to the practice of psychotherapy. She considers herself a realist with a healthy measure of optimism.
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