What would a trained mental health practitioner say to a malevolent narcissist, sociopath, or psychopath who is finally facing the results of his anti-social behaviour? I was moved to write this after dealing with a convicted violent criminal regarding his self-harm and aggression. Narcissism is being rewarded in the digital era. Recently, leaked documents found that Facebook knew that Instagram would harm the mental health of young girls. Many men are raised to believe that being dominant is a successful strategy. This is promoted by various characters on the internet so they are motivated to maintain this behaviour far beyond its expiry date.
I am referring to malevolent narcissism below, but this could apply to other forms of narcissism that are being incentivised and rewarded in the “cluster B” society. The fact is, you will never hear this from a crisis counsellor or therapist because we are compassionate people who adhere to professional ethics and this level of blunt honesty is not appropriate for a live encounter. But some people need to hear it because this will sabotage their lives. Others need to see that narcissism, materialism, incessant consumption, digitised self-esteem, and cluster B traits will lead them into crisis if they persist. The West is an individualistic society; studies found that negative forms of narcissism are higher in individualistic cultures, arguably producing all the mental health issues we see today. As a mental health professional, I do not write this to label or shame anyone; on the contrary, I do not want you calling me when I am on duty at the crisis call centre when your life is in ruins.
The fact is, a narcissist can learn how to be more successful at their goals; they can adapt just like anyone else. Even psychopaths are divided into functional and dysfunctional categories. I want to help the ones who have not adapted to society’s “algorithm”. which runs within us all, to prevent bullies and tyrants from succeeding. Do not be fooled by stories of dictators, political tyrants, and psychopaths who succeed as CEO’s and surgeons. In the end, there is a price to pay if they keep succeeding at others’ expense. It is time for some tough love.
The harsh truth is that you’re doing life wrong.
You have built a life on a theory of human behaviour that will fail you, leaving you feeling angry, empty, lonely, and bitter. You reach out only when things have not gone your way.
When someone tries to help, you cannot express yourself coherently because you know we are not clueless, and we will see your demands as selfish. So, you lie.
What no one will tell you is that living your life using a grandiose sense of self-importance to pursue your preoccupation with delusions of unearned status, power, brilliance, beauty, and idealistic intimacy is a dead end. You scoffed at the most basic, age-relevant skills many people tried to give you. You avoided developing your competencies with your peers; instead, you used manipulation, aggression, even violence, and deceit to achieve fragile status and power to dominate others.
Your rage and frustration at the world expose your narcissism. You were complacent; you didn’t keep up with the evolving environment; you did not learn skills or harness abilities that are valuable to anyone else but yourself. You assumed that you were smarter, better, and more important than others. You rejected those who tried to warn you. The truth is you aborted humility for shallow self-gratification, materialism, and consumption. A fragile strain of self-esteem ruled your consciousness. In your mind, we were all extras in your show.
You prioritised your appearance, you misrepresented your accomplishments and faked skills, and you expected people to submit to your will. Only the best would do for you, and soon even that wasn’t good enough. Only the greatest people could associate with you until they too failed your lofty, judgmental, and cruel assessments. You would declare your opinion and feed off their crushed spirit. You never apologised for anything. It was always someone’s or something else’s fault.
Now here you are, ranting and raving about how everyone has let you down. You have no friends, no family, and no support. Even loved ones keep their distance. Somehow, your charms do not produce positive outcomes anymore. People avoid you, ignore you, and generally have little time for you. You tried apologizing but you could not elucidate it coherently because you do not even know what you did wrong. You feel like a ghost; your rage and anger burn inside you but somehow no one seems to really care.
This is a good time to learn some new life skills.
Learn how to do things that matter to other people. Start paying attention to the feedback you get; modify your behaviour appropriately. You can channel energy into productive, meaningful goals. Offer yourself to be useful to others and to be with others for the sake of sharing experiences in synchronicity and harmony. Stop trying to stop bad things happening to you and start doing positive things for and with others. Stop lying.
The truth is, if you pursue a narcissistic strategy, you will never get the glory, attention, and resources you so desperately desire. You’re doing it wrong. Your mistake was thinking you knew better. Go back to that moment. Who was it that you supposedly outsmarted? Was it a parent? A friend? Did you really know better after all? What evidence do you have of this?
Your narcissism might have been triggered in early childhood by adverse conditions; you thought you could do better than dysfunctional adults or a parent. By not doing what they did wrong, you made some gains. But after that, you started believing you always knew better. When someone who loved you tried to correct you, you mimicked victimhood, and they responded with empathy. That was when you found a way to manipulate people who feel empathy. You learned how to mimic empathy in pursuit of your own goals. Are you still doing that, keeping people who dare to love you trapped in a cycle of mutual abuse? Make no mistake; this pattern is mutually abusive. Neither of you is getting what you want or need.
The reality is that humanity did not evolve to succumb to your bidding. Humans have been isolating, ostracising, and punishing narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths for as long as we have lived in groups. An unsuspecting individual may succumb to your spell, but not for long, and others will notice what you are doing. Evolution has embedded overwhelmingly successful strategies to ostracise you that are far, far superior to yours.
In the face of this overarching survival algorithm, you are left with more and more drastic behaviour to achieve your goals. It becomes all-consuming and exhausting. Something tells you there must be a better way. That ‘something’ is your undeniable humanity. It has been trying to motivate you to work with others and use respect and fairness in your choices.
Some people will develop narcissistic strategies to get what they need during adverse childhood experiences. The problems start when you enter adulthood; your needs become more sophisticated. Your survival strategy worked when you were younger, but it is no longer appropriate. Perhaps unresolved emotions from the adverse experiences in your past keep you trapped in a cycle of deflecting the signals to adapt. You were too afraid to risk your sense of control.
But now you are an adult.
Adults have fully developed brains that are equipped with the survival algorithm that tells us who to trust and who to ostracise. If you do not adapt, you could spend your life raging against this force, but you will inevitably lose.
Instead, you can cooperate with those who care about each other. In most religions, they use the power of acceptance. They preach about “surrendering” your life to a deity. This is what they mean: surrender the wounded spirit to the embrace of humanity. You may have been hurt by a parent or a guardian, but in adulthood, society becomes your guardian. You cannot deny the value of this. Stop raging against the natural order. Face your fears. Maybe you believe that being cooperative makes you vulnerable, exposing you to more pain. But you are an adult now; it is your narcissism that makes you vulnerable.
Every day, everywhere, people are adapting to life stages appropriately, and so can you. Once you tap into this energy, work with the natural order; everything becomes easier. Your existential anxiety dwindles, people stop avoiding you, and love and respect return. Why would you keep rejecting this natural effect when it costs you so much to keep trying to beat it? Do you really believe you use substances to cope with life out of free will?
If you are sincerely empathetic to others, show respect, listen with curiosity, become open to learning, develop your skills, be humble, contribute, and create, you will tap into a powerful natural force that unites you again with others. Your amygdala will sense this and stop feeding your fears. You will gain resources and people will genuinely respect you. You will begin to realise that things that happened decades ago cannot hurt you anymore. The people in your life are not to blame for what happened long ago. You cannot expect remorse from them. You will notice how wonderful the people around you are; the world becomes more beautiful; you can see how love flows freely between us; and your purpose in life rises to greet you. The horizon glimmers with hope.
We know narcissism is rewarded in the digital era. You are being misled. We are sorry; we did not foresee this. But it is never too late to learn from your mistakes and start achieving meaningful goals.
Join us; we have an open-door policy and life coaching is free!
Vincent Deboni is a registered professional counsellor who is based in Sweden.