When Narcissists Collapse
Do you know a narcissist who lives in the role of being a perpetual victim? Someone who hates everyone in the world, or at least a whole bunch of people, because somehow, those people are the cause for his or her misery?
Have you noticed that often, these kinds of narcissists seem to be completely alone in the world? They have no regular source of narcissistic supply, and they just seem to be taking out their hateful energy on the world at large?
Sometimes, a narcissist loses their ability to obtain sources of narcissistic supply. This can happen when the narcissist’s family and friends have just had enough and one-by-one, abandon them.
In some cases, the narcissist loses their ability to attract new supply because they get older and lose their looks, or because they become so self-involved that they forget how to do the whole love bombing thing – or any combination of these things.
But a narcissist really NEEDS that supply to continue to exist, right? So what happens then? Do they become a real person, or do they just sort of lose it?
When a narcissist is unable to obtain narcissistic supply, what can you expect? Some people call this a narcissistic crisis or a collapsed narcissist. Whatever the label, it’s a big problem – and often, not just for the narcissist, but also for the people around them.
What is a Collapsed Narcissist?
A collapsed narcissist is someone who has some or all of the traits of narcissistic personality disorder who has not been able to obtain the proper narcissistic supply – as in, a person to help bolster his or her self-worth, self-esteem – value as a human being. In essence, they feel like they’ve been denied the very supply they need to exist – their proverbial life’s blood. This leads to narcissistic injury, and as the collapsed narcissist writhes helplessly in the pain of not getting what they believe they’re due (whether it’s meeting some big goal or simply getting the admiration and praise they feel they rightly deserve), their whole world feels like it’s falling down around them.
An Example of a Collapsed Narcissist
In other words, a collapsed narcissist is someone who isn’t getting what they want from the people around them for any number of reasons, but most often because something they previously used to manipulate people is no longer at their disposal. So, for example, the narcissist may have lost their looks, where previously they were considered highly attractive and desirable. And rather than using their intelligence or hard work to get what they wanted, everything they got was as a result of using their appearance to manipulate people. Now that they can no longer use their appearance as effectively, they get ugly, and fast – on the inside and in their relationships.
Digging into the Psychology of the Collapsed Narcissist
When a narcissist is in collapse, it is generally due to their own dependence on the people around them for both identity and validation. Despite appearances, there isn’t much going on organically with the narcissist’s identity. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have much of a self without narcissistic supply. Worse, they truly are insecure, at least those who might fall into the vulnerable narcissism subtype.
According to an NYU research study, “findings suggest that genuine narcissists are insecure and are best described by the vulnerable narcissism subtype, whereas grandiose narcissism might be better understood as a manifestation of psychopathy. ”
“For a long time, it was unclear why narcissists engage in unpleasant behaviors, such as self-congratulation, as it actually makes others think less of them,” explains Pascal Wallisch, a clinical associate professor in both New York University’s Department of Psychology and Center for Data Science and the senior author of the paper, which appears in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. “This has become quite prevalent in the age of social media—a behavior that’s been coined ‘flexing’.
“Our work reveals that these narcissists are not grandiose, but rather insecure, and this is how they seem to cope with their insecurities.”
“More specifically, the results suggest that narcissism is better understood as a compensatory adaptation to overcome and cover-up low self-worth,” adds Mary Kowalchyk, the paper’s lead author and an NYU graduate student at the time of the study. “Narcissists are insecure, and they cope with these insecurities by flexing. This makes others like them less in the long run, thus further aggravating their insecurities, which then leads to a vicious cycle of flexing behaviors.”
Loss of Self-Esteem and Lack of Authenticity in Self-Image
The narcissist loses self-esteem and their self-image is nearly erased. They begin to self-devalue and self-doubt. They might cling to some old version of themselves and can appear pathetic to people around them. This just fuels their hate for humanity, of course – because it cannot be their fault, and while they might eat up the supply they get from being pitied, part of them knows exactly what is happening and can’t fully accept the validation they’ve had to resort to forcing people to give them.
Self-Loathing and Disdain/Hate for Most Others
The collapsed narcissist feels the world is against them, so they tend to literally hate themselves to the point that they project this self-hate onto everyone else around them. Since everyone “hates” the narcissist, they reason, the narcissist may as well hate them back.
Social Life Becomes Non-Existent (Or Nearly Non-Existent)
There is no more (or very little) social life for the collapsed narcissist. People, the narcissist reasons, are all fake and stupid anyway, so why should he/she bother to be kind to anyone?
Constant Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury Cycle
At this point, they live in a constant attack mode, alternating narcissistic rage and narcissistic injury, among other typical narcissistic manipulation tactics, in an attempt to force people around them to provide the much-needed supply.
Collapsing Removes the Ability to Hide Negative Emotions
A collapsed narcissist is overly sensitive and full of rage and hate. They throw temper tantrums that would rival a two-year-old, and are outright intolerant, disrespectful, and often even violent in words and actions to the people around them. No one wants to be around them, and if they could be self-aware enough to admit it, even they wouldn’t choose someone like them.
The Mask Slips
Most narcissists have some semblance of a “false self” they present to most people in the world. But when the narcissist is dealing with collapsing, the previously maintained facade of a nice/cool/easygoing/friendly kind of person falls away and the true face of the narcissist is revealed – rage, ugliness, and general disgust for humanity.
The Collapsed Narcissist in Action: What to Expect
Projection of Self-Hate
We know that many narcissists (including MOST covert narcissists) seem to hate themselves, despite claiming the opposite. But the collapsed narcissist presents an extreme version of this unfortunate truth. While they are still unable to deal with any sort of blame, criticism, or perceived disrespect of themselves, they are actively projecting their own self-hate to the people in their lives – or maybe random targets such as people of different religions, races, or even political affiliations.
Small-Minded Bigotry and Prejudice
Even if the narcissist was once able to hide their prejudice and small-minded ways under the guise of charm or wit, they’re fading now. So, this is when the gloves come off and the narcissist blasts out his or her blatant bigotry and small-minded ways. You’ll see that anyone who is different from the narcissist is quickly minimized and put into a “not good enough” box (to put it very mildly).
Amping Up on Partner and Family Abuse
This is also often when narcissists will go all-out to abuse their partners, children, and other people close to them – whether physically, mentally, or otherwise. In some cases, it’s worse – the narcissist may even cause the death of a partner and/or their kids. It’s horrifying.
Harmful Addictions Begin or Increase in Intensity
Even if the narcissist in question was completely addiction-free pre-collapse, they often manifest or increase addictive behaviors during and after the narcissistic collapse. Some narcissists will excessively cheat, whether their addiction is to the sex itself or the attention they get from the person they’re cheating with. Others will gamble away their money. Some will also develop or intensify food, drug or alcohol addictions.
The Desperation of a Collapsed Narcissist Knows No Boundaries
Following the falling of the narcissistic facade and the outrageous abuse that comes after it is the rock-bottom kind of stage for a narcissist – it’s when they get depressed. They may threaten or even commit suicide, and they could also take serious action to hurt large numbers of people, which has occurred even in recent months in certain cases I won’t mention here.
Some narcissists will get desperate enough to enter therapy at this point, but many will just go completely bonkers and completely lose control. This is when you hear about them on the news.
The Loss of Narcissistic Supply Destroys the Narcissist
The loss of supply triggers defensive behaviors, such as the whole “leaving my family and starting a whole new life,” behavior – in which the narcissist literally flees what he or she sees as the scenes of their failures and attempts to literally start over again.
They may lose not only their primary source of supply – spouse or partner – but also their children, friends, and anyone else who used to offer supply. This leads to the ultimate collapse and often, a mental breakdown from which they may never recover.
If you look at the narcissistic personality as a sort of house built on stilts, imagine that the lack of narcissistic supply is a strong wind that causes the house to come crashing down.
The Choices of the Collapsed Narcissist
The narcissist has two choices if they want to move forward here. They can try to become a whole person and develop real coping skills (and in some cases, obtain a new narcissistic supply), or they can remain collapsed and poison everything else in their world in the process.
The Collapsed Narcissist Takes No Responsibility for Their Behavior
So back to the house metaphor – the narcissist could burn down all the houses around theirs in order to take revenge on everyone and everything else. What it all comes down to is that regardless of the reason for the narcissistic collapse, the narcissist blames everything and everyone EXCEPT him/herself. They must believe, ultimately, that they are a victim and that nothing is his/her fault.
Dealing with a Collapsed Narcissist?
If you’re stuck with a collapsed narcissist, there is one escape: you must leave and never look back. You must resist the urge to help this narcissist and take care of yourself and your kids if you have them. No contact is the only completely effective solution. However, this isn’t always an option for any number of reasons, so here are some tips to help you deal more effectively with the collapsed narcissist.
Now, don’t count out the basics here, because perhaps one of the most effective tools for dealing with any narcissist is the gray rock method.
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