As Gertrude Stein Said, “There’s No There There”

Gertrude Stein at "Les Charwelles," ...

Gertrude Stein at “Les Charwelles,” June 12, 1934. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The life of the narcissist is also defined by his or her ability live a chameleon-like existence of on-going change. They adopt whatever they find pleasing and claim it as their own, particularly if there is any kind of mileage or attention to be gained from it. They will exploit anything that they deem to be useful. If, for some reason, they suddenly find it helpful to be Buddhist, then they will “become” Buddhist. If they can absorb extra attention from it, they will make a show of their “religious beliefs.”

They are “special” in other ways, too, and because of this, are deserving of notice and admiration. They may be related to a royal family. They may have survived an airplane crash. They may have received an award for bravery. Their parents may have been (choose one)saints/alcoholics/impoverished/abusive/scorned/wealthy/inspirational … the list goes on. Whatever it is they say their parents were, you can depend on it that it’s unlikely to be true. It is, however, likely to be grandiose and dramatic and either the best or worst of its kind. Narcissists don’t ever do, according to them, anything small. They just choose descriptors in that moment to suit the audience they have so that they can accomplish their agenda. And the agenda is always the same: compensation for the emptiness they feel and a cover for the fear that they have of having that emptiness found out.

An extension of the construct that they live is the fact that they carry very little with them, either concretely or emotionally. They often have little or nothing at all in the way of family contacts. Because their family members know them and their history, they will certainly not be able to pass themselves off as Buddhist, will they? So it often occurs that narcissists will eliminate family contact, either because they are constantly inventing  new personas to go with the new people in their lives or their family members are of no further use to them. Sometimes family members themselves will cut off contact because they can no longer tolerate the narcissistic behaviours.  There might not be much in the way of friends, either. If there are, the contact will be decidedly infrequent and not really of the quality that most of us would describe as friendship.

Another symptom of their rootlessness is the fact that often, they don’t own much in the way of material possessions; any major assets are likely to be fully encumbered by debt. I know of one situation where the narcissist showed up at his significant other’s home with only a single cardboard box of possessions; he didn’t even own a suitcase. Because of the constant need for re-invention, they are frequently on the move and therefore can’t manage much in the way of possessions; it becomes easier for them to own as little as possible. At most, there will be a storage locker somewhere containing old, cheap, worn furniture that the narcissist has fixated on as being valuable and special because he has good taste and is never wrong. These items will not even have sentimental value, only the value that he has assigned to them because he chose them.

So, as Ms. Stein said, “There’s no there there.”  They have no sense of themselves. They do not do their own thinking. They are incapable of self-examination. They constantly take from others – beliefs, possessions, money, hope, faith, charity, whatever they need in the moment to exploit the person or people with whom they are currently interacting. They give absolutely nothing in return. They are parasites who are always searching for a new situation, and once there, will attempt to consume all available resources before either moving on or being forced to move on. They are a plague that the rest of us have to endure; it’s up to us to be vigilant so that we can minimize the damage as much as possible.