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Virginia Tech Tragedy: Narcissistic Injury

An article in the New York Times mentions mentions that yesterday's tragedy at Virginia Tech is being called a "narcissistic injury." So I looked up the phrase . . . it's creepy. Any threat (real or imagined) to the narcissist's … Read More

By / April 17, 2007

An article in the New York Times mentions mentions that yesterday's tragedy at Virginia Tech is being called a "narcissistic injury." So I looked up the phrase . . . it's creepy.

Any threat (real or imagined) to the narcissist's grandiose and fantastic self-perception as perfect, omnipotent, omniscient, and entitled to special treatment and recognition, regardless of his actual accomplishments (or lack thereof).

The narcissist actively solicits Narcissistic Supply adulation, compliments, admiration, subservience, attention, being feared from others in order to sustain his fragile and dysfunctional Ego. Thus, he constantly courts possible rejection, criticism, disagreement, and even mockery.

The narcissist is, therefore, dependent on other people. He is aware of the risks associated with such all-pervasive and essential dependence. He resents his weakness and dreads possible disruptions in the flow of his drug Narcissistic Supply. He is caught between the rock of his habit and the hard place of his frustration. No wonder he is prone to raging, lashing and acting out, and to pathological, all-consuming envy (all expressions of pent-up agression).

The narcissist is constantly on the lookout for slights. He is hypervigilant. He perceives every disagreement as criticism and every critical remark as complete and humiliating rejection – nothing short of a threat. Gradually, his mind turns into a chaotic battlefield of paranoia and ideas of reference.

Most narcissists react defensively. They become conspicuously indignant, aggressive, and cold. They detach emotionally for fear of yet another (narcissistic) injury. They devalue the person who made the disparaging remark, the critical comment, the unflattering observation, the innocuous joke at the narcissist's expense.

By holding the critic in contempt, by diminishing the stature of the discordant conversant – the narcissist minimises the impact of the disagreement or criticism on himself. This is a defence mechanism known as cognitive dissonance.

He was a gunman who had carefully “put together his killing package,” as Clint Van Zandt, a former F.B.I. hostage negotiator described him on MSNBC.

It was the worst shooting ever, but it was also yet another tragedy in which television turned first to amateur reporters on the scene. “Stay out of harm’s way,” the CNN anchor Don Lemon said, addressing students at Virginia Tech. “But send us your pictures and video.”

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