The Real Self and the Adapted Self
A narcissist spends their life defending themselves against the deep wounds inflicted in early childhood (often by their own narcissistic parent). Their strategies to ensure regular ‘narcissistic supply’ (activities and relationships which fuel their grandiosity) make sure that they do not have to feel the ‘abandonment depression’ which they carry and try to keep buried inside. Abandonment depression is an umbrella term which encompasses the emptiness, depression, panic, rage, guilt and helplessness felt by a child growing up in a dysfunctional and abusive environment. They cope by denying any weakness in themselves and the reality of the underlying depression. Their narcissistic defence is based on a fantasy and not in reality and the purpose of it is to reinforce their grandiosity so that they do not feel depressed.
The successful narcissist is one whose defences remain intact and prevent them from having to question their own sense of importance. To achieve this, they need to be creative and imaginative in their construction of a lifestyle which supports their grandiose view of themselves and fuels their narcissistic needs. Other people exist in the world of a narcissist to reinforce and reflect back to them the false image they have of themselves. This is why they have no interest in others for who they are. For them, love does not mean another person loving, accepting and supporting them but it means to get someone else to admire and provide mirroring of their adapted self back to them.
Relating to Others
They cannot relate to others in a realistic way without giving up their defences. To replace their narcissistic defences with healthier defences would mean that they would need to undergo looking at themselves and developing their self-awareness and this means to begin to feel the abandonment depression.
Other people must be kept at an emotional distance as letting people get close to them means that they will be triggered into feeling the abandonment depression and the underlying rage of their weakened and damaged real self.
The narcissist also needs mirroring in their workplace relationships as they do in their personal relationships.
Narcissists are often attracted to positions in politics, business and social movements or they may go into acting or modelling. They are attracted by the attention it brings and there is plenty of fuel there even though the work can be hard. People with NPD are often workaholics for the rewards it brings and as an avoidance tactic to escape feeling their emotions. They often like to be surrounded by other workaholics.
Successful narcissists can make the environment serve their needs continually, those around them praise them and admire their achievements. This can be easily done if they are in a profession which has inbuilt narcissistic supplies. Many, who are high functioning, can manage to live for years within their delusion without questioning it, never realising consciously that they are living in an adapted self with their real self buried inside. These types of narcissists rarely feel the need to seek treatment.
Feeling good means not feeling pain. The ‘successful’ narcissist is one who can keep escaping their pain.