The Narcissist's Inappropriate Affect


Why is there no connection between the behaviour of the narcissist and his emotions?


A better way of putting it would be that there is a weak correlation between the narcissist's behaviour and his professed or proclaimed emotions. The reason is that the latter are merely professed or proclaimed - but not felt. The narcissist fakes feelings and their outer expression in order to impress others, to gain their sympathy or to motivate them to act in a manner benefiting the narcissist and promoting his interests.

In this - as in many other simulated behaviour patterns - the narcissist seeks to manipulate his human environment. Inside, he is barren, devoid of any inkling of true feeling, even mocking. He looks down upon those who succumb to the weakness of experiencing emotions and holds them in contempt. He berates and debases them.

This is the heartless mechanism of "simulated affect". This mechanism lies at the core of the narcissist's inability to empathise with his fellow human beings.

The narcissist constantly lies to himself and to others. He defensively self-deludes, distorts facts and circumstances, provides comfortable (consonant) interpretations - all so as to preserve his delusions of grandeur and feelings of (unmerited) self-importance. This is the mechanism of the "sliding of meanings". This mechanism is part of the much larger set of Emotional Involvement Prevention Measures (EIPMs).

The EIPMs are intended to prevent the narcissist from getting emotionally involved or committed. This way the narcissist insures himself against getting hurt and abandoned, or so he erroneously believes. In actuality, these mechanisms are self-defeating and lead directly to the results they were intended to forestall. They mostly operate through versions of emotional denial. The narcissist is estranged from his own emotions as a means of self-defence.

Another characteristic of the narcissistic personality is the use that it makes of "emotional delegation". The narcissist - despite appearances - is human and is possessed of emotions and of emotional content. But, in an effort to defend himself against a repetition of past hurts, he "delegates" his emotions to a fictitious self, the False Self.

It is the False Self that interacts with the world. It is the False Self that suffers and enjoys, gets attached and detached, joins and separates, develops likes and dislikes, preferences and prejudices, loves and hates. Whatever happens to the narcissist, his experiences, the setbacks that he (inevitably) suffers, the humiliations, the adoration, the fears and the hopes - all these happen to one self removed, to the False Self.

The narcissist is shielded by this construction. He lives in a padded cell of his own creation, an eternal observer, unharmed, embryo-like in the womb of his True Self. No wonder that this duality, so entrenched, so fundamental to the narcissistic personality - is also so evident, so discernible. This delegation of emotions is what unsettles those who interact with the narcissist: the feeling that his True Self is absent and that all the emoting is done by a false emanation.

The narcissist himself experiences this dichotomy, this break between his False Self which is his interface with the true world - and his True Self which is forever dormant in a no-man's land. The narcissist lives in this warped reality, divorced from his own emotions, constantly feeling that he is an actor in a film featuring his life.

A more detailed description of this emotional break can be found in "Warped Reality and Retroactive Emotional Content".


next: Narcissism By Proxy

APA Reference
Vaknin, S. (2008, November 18). The Narcissist's Inappropriate Affect, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 21 from

Last Updated: July 4, 2018

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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