Most of us display narcissist traits and experience what psychologists call healthy narcissism—a healthy, functional love of self. Through this state, gratefulness for the good that we recognize in ourselves and thankfulness for our innate/acquired abilities both mark our personality. With healthy narcissism, our self-esteem and our sense of security can waver without permanently threatening who we are at our core. Because, simply, we know who we are at our core. Narcissists do not. They have no insight. They become a reflection of the prey they have chosen, adapting their “personality” to mirror their prey’s dreams and hopes, aligning themselves with the target’s life purpose. In the healthy individual, emotions are acknowledged and dealt with internally. The narcissist’s emotions are fleeting at best; inside their minds and guts, fluctuating insecurities and self-esteem are temporarily quieted through a flowing supply of adoration they manage to attract. But rarely hold on to…
Individuals plagued by Narcissist Personality Disorder will display five of the nine following traits:
Preoccupation with success and power;
Lack of empathy;
Belief of being unique;
Sense of entitlement;
Need for excessive admiration;
Envy of others.
While there exists many different types of narcissists, this blog entry is about the cerebral narcissist’s counterpart: the beautiful, the handsome, the charming and very sexual somatic narcissist, a dangerous male proposition.
Derived from the ancient Greek word, soma, the term somatic refers to anything that relates to the body, eclipsing elements that relate to the mind, the spirit and the soul. The somatic narcissist, unlike his fraternal twin, the cerebral narcissist, relies heavily on his physical appearance and ability to charm, lure, and capture the supply of adoration and attention he needs to feel alive. The cerebral narcissist uses and flaunts his brainpower to secure his drug whereas the somatic narcissist rarely does. He may be intelligent, he may be cognitively functional but his sense of security is obsessively tied to his physique; he is concerned with the feeding of his ego through the absorption of beautiful, fresh flesh, not intellect. A hypersexual being, this narcissist depends on the number of sexual conquests to fill his bottomless void. His insatiable appetite for constant attention and his voracious sexual neediness govern his warped sense of purpose. His goal is: to increase his popularity index through triangulation, plotting his conquests against one another, thereby creating an aura of desirability. He will often, if not always, seek a high-grade supply of beautiful young women that add to the narcissist’s magnetism. When this type of supply disappears or loses its flavour, the somatic narcissist will have no difficulty lowering his standards. In a state of crisis, of dire need, he will indiscriminately seek and enjoy any form of attention. Young, old, slim, fat, blond, brunette, plain—anything will do.
They are attention whores at their core, attention-seeking putas.
There is one dominant relationship that supersedes all the others, one single affair that will render the rest of them quasi-infertile—the relationship that welds him to his body. Here, his inability to bond and attach is momentarily suspended, sustained by a deathless love for his physique. His fixation on health, fitness and beauty plagues his mind with concerns about hairs that need to be dyed, tweaked and shaved, about trendy diets, about innocuous physical ailments that trigger his simmering hypochondria while receding hairlines and impending baldness jolt him out of his believed immortality. There is an autoerotic dimension to this relationship, one that points to a unique verity: bodies are absorbed to form one—an extension of his own. Lovers are consumed, their fleshy fuselage appropriated. They become masturbation devices as the only person the somatic narcissistic makes love to is himself.
While he may be considered a sexual addict, his equally dangerous compulsion lives inside the quest to seduce, lure, catch and, often, hoover. Bored by the prospect of stability and monogamy, he is haunted by the need to hunt, connected to a twisted sense of vitality only the chase can offer. Yes, the world’s gaze validates his existence, yes, sexual trophies feed his ego, but the main high will most often be secured by the hunt.
And hunted I was.
I just had turned 50 and was leaving my husband. Living in a country that was foreign to me, I had to face the foreigner that I, myself, had become. Rootless, in a state of acute disequilibrium, my future felt uncertain. For the first time, the prospect of aging, of aging alone, petrified me. Still, I felt youthful, confident about my appearance even if the man I had started to date was 10 years younger than me. I never thought twice about the age difference.
This is where it became tricky for me.
The sniper’s ammunition of choice, bespoke adoration, hit its mark.
Like superheated water gushing from a geyser, loving words flowed from his mouth at the outset of our relationship. Exposed to lethal doses of mind-bending manifestation of adoration meant to lure and groom, I took the bait. Quickly.
He had studied me well.
Like many somatic narcissists, he was drawn solely to his idea of physical perfection, one that never stays constant, projecting unto me his ever-changing wish list. Sensing he had captured an excellent fuel-generating specimen, he maliciously crafted compliments that poked at my vanity. Tailored with surgical precision, these honeyed words would be given one day only to be negated the next. My so-called perfect figure, my flawless white complexion or the exotic French accent that marked my English all made me the faultless answer to his prayers. So he said. The pull he felt was brittled by his incapacity to see my real worth, a fact that took awhile for me to understand. I had apparently answered his prayers but somehow was continuously confronted to one truth: his prayers had been, all along, whimsical vespers. So, vulnerable and insecure, drenched in confusion, I started to doubt myself, questioning my own appearance, something I had never allowed to happen before. Anxiety that fluctuated to the beat of his inconsistent and paradoxical comments on my physique was now my default mode of feeling.
After falling into his trap, I tried to hang on to anything to that could break my fall. The focus of my life had become narrow and sterile: to be, to stay beautiful every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day. Shamefully, my purpose had become stale and superficial. Like him. Thinking I was still standing on his pedestal, I had become a perfect nothing.
When the mirror becomes your only point of reference, you become the accomplice of your own objectification, because you have allowed yourself to be disposable. It took me six months, following my escape, to reacquaint myself with mirrors: the ones hanging on the walls of my apartment, the ones that framed my walks while dawdling on the streets of Montreal, the ones decorating boutiques or walling the subway corridors. I didn’t want to look at myself, afraid to hate the image that would greet me. Or not. Eventually, I started to lift my head to meet the bathroom mirror while brushing my teeth. Slowly, over time, I fell in love with the soft wrinkles caressing my naked face, the freckles decorating my nose bridge, the full mouth from which laughter can now be heard and land in my eyes, the prickles of my unshaven skin, the surprising appeal of my un-manicured nails, the whiteness of my hands.
I tamed it all. I finally came to rest peacefully inside myself.
I understand now that all narcissists see promises of a healing future at the heart of each new relationship. Hope is the only state that keeps them going. The target represents, at first, everything they thought they had ever wanted. Like I had been, their hope is placed atop a wobbly podium and, like I did, it crashes to the ground. Their hope doesn’t cumulate any learning, it doesn’t retain the lessons, it cannot evolve. The ballet of women that grace their floor always meet a curtain call as narcissists orchestrate what they fear the most: their own abandonment. That hope will match the somatic narcissist’s inability to understand the futility of their hunt for the two things no one can or will ever be able to give him, the impossible: absolute perfection and eternal, vivifying lust.