It’s Narcissist Friday!
If you have never watched “Citizen Kane,” starring Orson Welles, you have missed one of the best portrayals of narcissism fueled by limitless money and power. In other words, a story of what might happen if a narcissist got everything he wanted.
Kane fits both the stereotypical neglected/spoiled child and the pampered adult surrounded by sycophants. His life is one of extreme luxury, great power, and feigned love. The people in his life are drawn to him, intimidated by him, and used by him. He has little regard for truth, either in his relationships or his news business. He does what he wants with no regard for consequences. He has enough money to endure almost any trouble, and he simply does not care about the suffering of others. An unbridled narcissist.
But the tragedy of the story is that he never feels loved. Marriage, business, children, politics—none provide the kind of love he wants. He considers himself the victim, even after he destroys the lives of others.
There are some good exchanges in the film, but I have pulled out two quotes that seem to summarize the narcissism of Kane’s life. The first is from his long-term and loyal business associate, Jedediah Leland, the closest Kane ever came to having a real friend. He says:
“You don’t care about anything except you. You just want to persuade people that you love ’em so much that they ought to love you back. Only you want love on your own terms. Something to be played your way, according to your rules.”
And his second wife, Susan Alexander, understands as well as she says:
“Love! You don’t love anybody! Me or anybody else! You want to be loved – that’s all you want!”
So there it is. The narcissist does not love, but the narcissist longs to be loved. Not only to be loved, but to be adored, cherished, worshiped—simple, normal love can never satisfy. Real love makes us vulnerable, and the narcissist can never feel that way. So no matter how much others offer, it can never be enough. It is always doubted, always belittled, always pushed away; yet desired above all else.
And to get love, the narcissist will be loving. He or she will work to do whatever it takes to get that love. But it is work, not heart; an investment, not a feeling. Narcissistic love is draining and abusive, and the recipients of that love are usually victims rather than companions.
Of course, the narcissist will say that he/she is the victim, that others use and don’t understand. Others are cruel and stingy and distant. When the investment is counted, the narcissist believes it should be enough. But the lack is not in the others. It is the narcissist who cannot receive, will not believe, in the real love that is offered.