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Cold Empathy: The Narcissist as Predator


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Guest Author Sam Vaknin
Cold Empathy: The Narcissist as Predator

Posted on Saturday, November 29, 2014 by Alison

 
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Guest Author Sam Vaknin writes:

The narcissist is cursed – or blessed – with mental X-ray vision. He sees through people’s emotional shields, their petty lies, their pitiable defences, their grandiose fantasies. He knows when they deviate from the truth and by how much. He intuitively grasps their self-interested goals and accurately predicts the strategy and tactics they will adopt in order to achieve them.

The narcissist cannot stand self-important, self-inflated, pompous, bigoted, self-righteous, and hypocritical people. He rages at the inefficient, the lazy, the hapless and the weak.

Perhaps this is because the narcissist recognize himself in them. He tries to break the painful reflection of his own flaws in theirs.

The narcissist homes in on the chinks in their laboriously constructed armours. He spots their Achilles heel and attaches to it. He pricks the gasbags that most people are. He deflates them. He forces them to confront their finiteness and helplessness and mediocrity. He negates their sense of uniqueness. He reduces them to size and to proportion and he provides them with a perspective. The narcissist does all this cruelly and abrasively and sadistically and lethally efficiently. He has no compassion or compunction. And he preys on their vulnerabilities, however microscopic, however well-concealed.

The narcissist exposes their double-talk and derides their double standards. He refuses to play their games of prestige and status and hierarchy. He draws them out of their shelters. He destabilizes them. He deconstructs their narratives, their myths, their superstitions, their hidden assumptions, their polluted language. He calls a spade a spade.

The narcissist forces them to react and, by reacting, to confront their true, dilapidated selves, their dead end careers, their mundane lives, the death of their hopes and wishes and their shattered dreams. And all the time he observes them with the passionate hatred of the outcast and the dispossessed.

The truths about them, the ones they are trying so desperately to conceal, especially from themselves. The facts denied, so ugly and uncomfortable. Those things that never get mentioned in proper company, the politically incorrect, the personally hurtful, the dark, ignored, and hidden secrets, the tumbling skeletons, the taboos, the fears, the atavistic urges, the pretensions, the social lies, the distorted narratives of life – piercing, bloodied and ruthless – these are the narcissist’s revenge, the settling of scores, the leveling of the battlefield.

The narcissist lances them – the high and mighty and successful and the happy people, those who possess what he deserves and never had, the object of his green eyed monsters. The narcissist inconveniences them, makes them think, reflect on their own misery and wallow in its rancid outcomes. He coerces them to confront their zombie state, their own sadism, their unforgivable deeds and unforgettable omissions. He dredges the sewer that is their mind, forcing to the surface long repressed emotions, oft suppressed pains, their nightmares and their fears.

And he pretends to do so selflessly, “for their own good”. The narcissist preaches and hectors and pours forth vitriolic diatribes and exposes and imposes and writhes and foams in the proverbial mouth – all for the greater good. He is so righteous, so true, so geared to help, so meritorious. His motives are unassailable. He is always so chillingly reasoned, so algorithmically precise. The narcissist is frozen wrath. He plays their alien game by their very own rules. But he is so foreign to them, that he is unbeatable. Only they do not realize it yet.

Afterword: Cold Empathy

The narcissist’s ability to penetrate the defenses of his victims is instinctual and intuitive, not the outcome of deliberative analysis. He homes in on other people’s vulnerabilities as a tiger mauls a straying, weakened gazelle ; he leverages his target’s fears and neediness the way a virus breaches cellular defenses and then uses the cell’s machinery to replicate; and he taunts, abuses, torments, harasses, and stalks his prey because it’s fun and imbues him with a sense of pleasurable omnipotence. Acting this way is in the narcissist’s nature, it’s an integral and crucial part of who he is.

The narcissist’s “x-ray vision” is strictly limited to the traits, qualities, and behaviors of his would-be and actual victims that are useful in subjugating them and converting them into sources of narcissistic supply. The narcissist’s arrested personal development, his massive psychological defenses, his poor reality test (his grandiose and persecutory fantasies), and his cognitive deficits render him incapable of true, profound, and comprehensive insight into others and into the human condition.

Contrary to widely held views, Narcissists and Psychopaths may actually possess empathy. They may even be hyper-empathic, attuned to the minutest signals emitted by their victims and endowed with a penetrating “X-ray vision“. They tend to abuse their empathic skills by employing them exclusively for personal gain, the extraction of narcissistic supply, or in the pursuit of antisocial and sadistic goals. They regard their ability to empathize as another weapon in their arsenal. There are two possible pathological reactions to childhood abuse and trauma: codependence and narcissism. They both involve fantasy as a defense mechanism: the codependent has a pretty realistic assessment of herself, but her view of others is fantastic; the narcissist’s self-image and self-perception are delusional and grandiose, but his penetrating view of others is bloodcurdlingly accurate.

I suggest to label the narcissistic psychopath’s version of empathy: “cold empathy”, akin to the “cold emotions” felt by psychopaths. The cognitive element of empathy is there, but not so its emotional correlate. It is, consequently, a barren, detached, and cerebral kind of intrusive gaze, devoid of compassion and a feeling of affinity with one’s fellow humans.

Narcissists and psychopaths also appear to be “empathizing” with their possessions: objects, pets, and their sources of narcissistic supply or material benefits (often their nearest and dearest, significant others, or “friends” and associates). But this is not real empathy: it is a mere projection of the narcissist’s or psychopath’s own insecurities and fears, needs and wishes, fantasies and priorities. This kind of displayed “empathy” usually vanishes the minute its subject ceases to play a role in the narcissist’s or psychopath’s life and his psychodynamic processes.

Cold Empathy evokes the concept of “Uncanny Valley”, coined in 1970 by the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori. Mori suggested that people react positively to androids (humanlike robots) for as long as they differ from real humans in meaningful and discernible ways. But the minute these contraptions come to resemble humans uncannily, though imperfectly, human observers tend to experience repulsion, revulsion, and other negative emotions, including fear.

The same applies to psychopathic narcissists: they are near-perfect imitations of humans, but, lacking empathy and emotions, they are not exactly there. Psychopaths and narcissists strike their interlocutors as being some kind of “alien life-forms” or “artificial intelligence”, in short: akin to humanoid robots, or androids. When people come across narcissists or psychopaths the Uncanny Valley reaction kicks in: people feel revolted, scared, and repelled. They can’t put the finger on what it is that provokes these negative reactions, but, after a few initial encounters, they tend to keep their distance.

===================================

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site.

Read “Narcissism” by Alison Poulsen



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Dec/11/2014, 11:13 am Link to this post  
 
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Re: Cold Empathy: The Narcissist as Predator


Thus describes my crazy wife to a perfect T. She and her psycho-x-ray-death-stare and another crushing, depressing, disastrous episode this weekend. Ugh.

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Jan/24/2015, 1:42 am Link to this post  
 
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Yep. NEVER tell a narc what scares you. OMG. I made the mistake of telling my narc that my family members would have me locked in a rubber room if they could. You should see how he uses this against me. Always making threats that he will side with my family and sign any necessary [sign in to see URL] they can throw the fear of the possibility in you then mission accomplished. The fear of something happening is usually worse than the actual happening. Just because their crazy doesn't mean their stupid. Dangerous maybe, But not stupid.

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Jan/26/2015, 8:21 am Link to this post  
 
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Re: Cold Empathy: The Narcissist as Predator


The only thing that scares my little narcissist is when I grab my stuff and start to leave. For some reason, this terrifies her to no end. I find it the oddest thing in the world.

I can't drive right, wear my clothes right, eat right, have proper manners, speak correctly, etc. The way she get all over me drives me to sheer madness sometimes. The other day I lost it and banged my fist on the dashboard of the car after listening to her criticism and badgering me for three days in a row as we worked together staging an event for some guests. I lost it, banged my fist on the dashboard, got another lecture for that, then I went off again and was ready to pull my teeth out when I simply let her have it. I screamed, "SHUT THE !@#$ UP! SHUT YOUR !@#$ RAT TRAP WOMAN! SHUT UP!" She just sat there, unperturbed, but it got her to keep quiet for a while. That helped.

It just gets to the point where you are walking on egg shells in every little thing you do. It's nonsense. It's crazy.

So, I can scream and yell, lose my temper, and it does not move her one bit. But she sees me loading my baggage in the back of the truck, getting ready to head to the airport, she falls to pieces. Crying, begging, losing all composure, falling apart. I have never seen anything like it.

It puzzles me, because, after all, it seems there is absolutely nothing she likes about me, and then she can't live without me.

WTF?

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Jan/28/2015, 5:18 am Link to this post  
 
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Funny to see how they shut down when you blind side them with rage. It's almost soothing to them. It's creepy. When i drive he's always pointing where to go, telling me to watch speed limit. Go to this store not that one. I find myself asking where i'm allowed to stop. And why do you ask me to drive anyway? when he drives it's absolute hell ride. You can see the imprints in the dashboard from my fingernails. And i use the imaginary brake A LOT. He tailgates to no end, swerves in and out of traffic huffing and puffing throwing his hands and screaming at other [sign in to see URL] stuck in traffic is a nightmare. What scares my narc is that i know too much about him. And that makes me the ultimate enemy.

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Jan/28/2015, 11:16 am Link to this post  
 
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My sweet sugar plum loves that I know everything about her. She relishes that. She loves when I talk about her and explain her psychology. She loves compliments, too. She loves it when I notice her makeup and comment on her attire. She looks OK, save for the crazy, fancy headdresses (big birds, trees, flowers, a green apple, a mango, a six pack of Coke bottles on top of her head-yes, I 'm not kidding, a tiny six-pack of Coke bottles), and the giant costume jewelry rings on every finger, including her thumbs.

At least yours drives. My hunny-baby-sweety-doll does not have a driver's license, but does own a car. Now, get this, if you will, I will never be able to figure this one out... Literally everywhere she goes, she is dressed to kill. She never dresses for the occasion. I took her to Ankor Wat, a dream she wanted to fulfill for twenty years, and she dressed, not like a traveler, an explorer, but dressed like a madame. When she goes shopping, she's dressed like a queen. She goes to the power company to pay her bill, she is dressed like the queen of Thailand is coming for lunch today. She always does this, always trying to look great and make a great impression wherever she goes, whatever she does... But when she goes somewhere, she goes in her own little vehicle... It's an older than the hills, beat up, white pickup truck. It is always filthy. She will not wash it. The suspension is gone out from under it. You can feel every little bump you hit in the road and it creaks every time you turn the wheel. You can't see out of the windows. I always have to stop and clean the windows before I drive her anywhere. It burns so much oil I have to add a quart per week. The paint is all covered with grime, dirt, oil, grease, and filth. The exhaust leaks and is loud. The electronic key lock is solar powered and burned out, so I have to hold it up to the sun every day to temporarily charge it just to be able to open the door and get into the car. The battery is shot. It holds a charge for only a few days, then I have to jump the vehicle to start it. The driver's side door handle is broken off and cannot be opened from the outside.

When I say I want to fix the truck. She gets upset, throws a fit.

She can't drive to save her life, but she is the ultimate, all-knowing, all-pervasive, omni-present back seat driver who never, ever, ever shuts the !@#$ up even for a second.

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Jan/28/2015, 9:15 pm Link to this post  
 
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That's funny. I run around in sweats and a pony tail with no make up on. But everything around me has to be neat. Clutter drives me insane. Focus is on her not her car. How you take care of things says alot. I got an any seat driver. Ugh!

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Jan/29/2015, 7:20 pm Link to this post  
 
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The way I see it, broken car, broken things = broken life.

You're right. The way we take care of our things is a reflection of our inner world.

This busted up old truck of hers is a reflection of the mess that is always going on inside of her. Poor thing. She's a wreck.

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Jan/29/2015, 8:24 pm Link to this post  
 
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And i can add to that with the fact that our backyard looks like sanford and sons. Absolute disarray and unfinished projects. Car, boat, motorcycle. You can't even walk into the garage. It's the outward manifestation of his inward [sign in to see URL] inside of the house, same thing. Unfinished floors, cabinets, bathroom etc.... I'm in his scary little world but i'm not of it. Just trying to protect my sanity till i reach a place of my own. To him i'm a husk, a shell. I'm not juicy anymore. His only wish is for me to leave. I'm a constant reminder of the mess he's made and he can't stand looking at it.

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Jan/30/2015, 8:51 am Link to this post  
 


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