Malignant

Self Love

Narcissism Revisited

 

 

1st EDITION

3rd Revised Printing

 

EXCERPTS

 

Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.

The Author is NOT a Mental Health Professional.

The Author is certified in Counselling Techniques.

 

Editing and Design:

Lidija Rangelovska

 

 

 

A Narcissus Publications Imprint

Prague & Skopje 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 1999, 2001, 2003 Copyright Lidija Rangelovska

All rights reserved. This book, or any part thereof, may not be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission from:

Lidija Rangelovska – write to:

palma@unet.com.mk or to

vaknin@link.com.mk

 

All rights for this book are for sale.

Literary agents and publishers, please contact Lidija Rangelovska.

 

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Visit the Author's Web site:

http://samvak.tripod.com

 

Buy other books about pathological narcissism and relationships with abusive narcissists here:

http://samvak.tripod.com/thebook.html

 

 

ISBN: 9989-929-06-8

Print ISBN: 80-238-3384-7

 

Created by:

Lidija Rangelovska, Skopje

REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA
 

 

 

 

C O N T E N T S

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foreword

Introduction – The Habitual Identity

 

The Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A Primer on Narcissism

Bibliography

 

Overview

Chapter I:      The Soul of a Narcissist

Chapter II:     Being Special

Chapter III:    Uniqueness and Intimacy

Chapter IV:    The Workings of a Narcissist

Chapter V:     The Tortured Self

Chapter VI:    The Emotional Involvement Preventive Measures

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Narcissism – The Disorder

FAQ # 1:     An Overview of the Narcissist

FAQ # 2:     Pathological Narcissism – A Dysfunction or a Blessing?

FAQ # 3:     The Energy of Self

FAQ # 4:     Self-Love and Narcissism

FAQ # 5:     Self-Defeating and Self-Destructive Behaviours

FAQ # 6:     Ideas of Reference

FAQ # 7:     Grandiose Fantasies

FAQ # 8:     Grandiosity Hangover and Narcissist Baiting

FAQ # 9:     Depression and the Narcissist

FAQ # 10:   Narcissistic Rage

(Anger as a Source of Personality Disorder)

FAQ # 11:   Gender and the Narcissist

FAQ # 12:   Homosexual Narcissist

FAQ # 13:   Addiction to Fame and Celebrity

FAQ # 14:   Conspicuous Existence

FAQ # 15:   The Narcissist's Reaction to Deficient Narcissistic Supply

FAQ # 16:   The Delusional Way Out

FAQ # 17:   The Compulsive Acts of the Narcissist

FAQ # 18:   Narcissistic Routines

FAQ # 19:   The Unstable Narcissist

FAQ # 20:   Do Narcissists Have Emotions?

FAQ # 21:   The Inappropriate Affect

FAQ # 22:   The Cynical Narcissist

FAQ # 23:   The Narcissist as a Sadist

FAQ # 24:   Other People's Pain

FAQ # 25:   Multiple Grandiosity

FAQ # 26:   False Modesty

FAQ # 27:   Warped Reality and Retroactive Emotional Content

FAQ # 28:   Narcissistic Signal, Stimulus and Hibernation Mini-Cycles

FAQ # 29:   The Narcissistic Pendulum and the Pathological Narcissistic Space

FAQ # 30:   The Inanimate as a Source of Narcissistic Supply

                (Narcissistic Branding and Narcissistic Contagion)

FAQ # 31:   The Dual Role of the False Self

FAQ # 32:   The Stripped Ego

FAQ # 33:   The Split-off Ego

FAQ # 34:   The Serious Narcissist

FAQ # 35:   Narcissists, Disagreements and Criticism

FAQ # 36:   Transformations of Aggression

FAQ # 37:   Narcissistic Humiliation

FAQ # 38:   The Midlife Narcissist

FAQ # 39:   To Age with Grace

FAQ # 40:   The Narcissist and Introspection

FAQ # 41:   The Losses of the Narcissist

FAQ # 42:   Getting Better

FAQ # 43:   Can a Narcissist Help Himself?

FAQ # 44:   Reconditioning the Narcissist

FAQ # 45:   Treatment Modalities and Therapies

FAQ # 46:   Narcissistic Mirroring

FAQ # 47:   The Development of the Narcissist

FAQ # 48:   The Narcissist's Mother

FAQ # 49:   The Inverted Narcissist

FAQ # 50:   Narcissists, Inverted Narcissists and Schizoids

FAQ # 51:   Narcissists and Chemical Imbalances

FAQ # 52:   Myths about Narcissism

FAQ # 53:   The Selfish Gene

(The Genetic Underpinnings of Narcissism)

FAQ # 54:   Narcissism – The Psychopathological Default

FAQ # 55:   Narcissism with Other Mental Health Disorders

(Co-Morbidity and Dual Diagnosis)

FAQ # 56:   Eating Disorders and the Narcissist

FAQ # 57:   Can the Narcissist Have a Meaningful Life?

FAQ # 58:   A Case Study

FAQ # 59:   The Narcissist's Reactions to This Text

Narcissism and Society

FAQ # 60:   A Dream Interpreted

FAQ # 61:   How to Recognise a Narcissist?

FAQ # 62:   Interacting with a Narcissist

FAQ # 63:   The Weapon of Language

FAQ # 64:   Exploitation by a Narcissist

FAQ # 65:   The Narcissist's Victims

FAQ # 66:   Narcissism by Proxy

FAQ # 67:   Narcissists in Positions of Authority

FAQ # 68:   For the Love of God

FAQ # 69:   The Narcissist and Social Institutions

FAQ # 70:   Collective Narcissism (Narcissism, Culture and Society)

FAQ # 71:   The Narcissist in Court

FAQ # 72:   The Narcissist in a Workplace

FAQ # 73:   Responsibility and Other Matters

FAQ # 74:   The Accountable Narcissist

FAQ # 75:   Crime and Punishment: The Never Repenting Narcissist

FAQ # 76:   Narcissists, Group Behaviour and Terrorism

FAQ # 77:   Is the Narcissist Ever Sorry?

FAQ # 78:   A Letter about Trust

FAQ # 79:   The Guilt of Others

FAQ # 80:   Narcissistic Confinement

FAQ # 81:   Narcissistic Allocation

FAQ # 82:   Narcissistic Immunity

FAQ # 83:   Narcissists, Love and Healing

FAQ # 84:   Vindictive Narcissists

FAQ # 85:   Narcissists as Mass and Serial Killers

FAQ # 86:   Narcissists, Narcissistic Supply and Sources of Supply

Narcissists and Family

FAQ # 87:   How to Cope with a Narcissist?

FAQ # 88:   Narcissists and Women

FAQ # 89:   The Spouse/Mate/Partner of the Narcissist

FAQ # 90:   Investing in a Narcissist

FAQ # 91:   The Double Reflection

(Narcissistic Couples and Narcissistic Types)

FAQ # 92:   Narcissistic Parents

FAQ # 93:   Narcissists and Children

FAQ # 94:   The Narcissist and His Family

FAQ # 95:   Narcissists, Sex and Fidelity

FAQ # 96:   The Extra-Marital Narcissist

FAQ # 97:   Mourning the Narcissist

FAQ # 98:   Surviving the Narcissist

FAQ # 99:   The Dead Parents

The Author

 

 

Online index

Go here: http://samvak.tripod.com/siteindex.html


 

 

 

 

F O R E W O R D

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello. Recognise me? No? Well, you see me all the time. You read my books, watch me on the big screen, feast on my art, cheer at my games, use my inventions, vote me into office, follow me into battle, take notes at my lectures, laugh at my jokes, marvel at my successes, admire my appearance, listen to my stories, discuss my politics, enjoy my music, excuse my faults, envy me my blessings. No? Still doesn't ring a bell? Well, you have seen me. Of that I am positive. In fact, if there is one thing I am absolutely sure of, it is that. You have seen me.

Perhaps our paths crossed more privately. Perhaps I am the one who came along and built you up when you were down, employed you when you were out of a job, showed the way when you were lost, offered confidence when you were doubting, made you laugh when you were blue, sparked your interest when you were bored, listened to you and understood, saw you for what you really are, felt your pain and found the answers, made you want to be alive. Of course you recognise me. I am your inspiration, your role model, your saviour, your leader, your best friend, the one you aspire to emulate, the one whose favour makes you glow.

But I can also be your worst nightmare. First I build you up because that's what you need. Your skies are blue. Then, out of the blue, I start tearing you down. You let me do it because that's what you are used to and you are dumfounded. I was wrong to take pity on you. You really are incompetent, disrespectful, untrustworthy, immoral, ignorant, inept, egotistical, constrained, disgusting. You are a social embarrassment, an unappreciative partner, an inadequate parent, a disappointment, a sexual flop, a financial liability. I tell you this to your face. I must. It is my right, because it is. I behave, at home and away, any way I want to, with total disregard for conventions, mores, or the feelings of others. It is my right, because it is.


I lie to your face, without a twitch or a twitter, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. In fact, my lies are not lies at all. They are the truth, my truth. And you believe them, because you do, because they do not sound or feel like lies, because to do otherwise would make you question your own sanity, which you have a tendency to do anyway, because from the very beginning of our relationship you placed your trust and hopes in me, derived your energy from me, gave me power over you.

Run to our friends. Go. See what that will get you. Ridicule. I am to them what I originally was to you. They believe what they see and that's what they see, and they also see the very mixed up person that you obviously have become. The more you plead for understanding, the more convinced they will be that you are crazy, the more isolated you will feel, and the harder you will try to make things right again, by accepting my criticisms and by striving to improve yourself. Could it be that you were wrong about me in the beginning? So wrong as that? Not an easy pill to swallow, is it? How do you think our friends will react if you try to cram it down their throats? After all, it really is you who have thwarted my progress, tainted my reputation, thrown me off course. There is an escape from the frustrations you cause me and, fortunately, my reputation provides enough insulation from the outside world so I can indulge in this escape with impunity. What escape? Those eruptions of anger you dread and fear, my rages. Ah, it feels so good to rage. It is the expression of and the confirmation of my power over you. Lying feels good too, for the same reason, but nothing compares to the pleasure of exploding for no material reason and venting my anger like a lunatic, all the time a spectator at my own show and seeing your helplessness, pain, fear, frustration, and dependence. Go ahead. Tell our friends about it. See if they can imagine it, let alone believe it. The more outrageous your account of what happened, the more convinced they will be that the crazy one is you. And don't expect much more from your therapist either. Surely it is easier to live my lie and see where that takes you. You might even acquire some of the behaviour you find so objectionable in me.

But you know what? This may come as a surprise, but I can also be my own worst nightmare. I can and I am. You see, at heart my life is nothing more than illusion-clad confusion. I have no idea why I do what I do, nor do I care to find out. In fact, the mere notion of asking the question is so repulsive to me that I employ all of my resources to repel it.


I reconstruct facts, fabricate illusions, act them out, and thus create my own reality. It is a precarious state of existence indeed, so I am careful to include enough demonstrable truth in my illusions to ensure their credibility. And I am forever testing that credibility against the reactions of others. Fortunately my real attributes and accomplishments are in sufficient abundance to fuel my illusions seemingly forever. And modern society, blessed/cursed modern society, values most what I do best and thus serves as my accomplice. Even I get lost in my own illusions, swept away by their magic.

So, not to worry if you still do not recognise me. I don't recognise me either. In fact, I regard myself as like everyone else, only perhaps a little better. Put another way, I end up thinking that everyone else is like me, only not quite as good. After all, that's what the universe is telling me.

Ah, there's the rub. THE universe or MY universe? As long as the magic of my illusions works on me too, the distinction is immaterial. Hence my need for a fan club. And I am constantly taking fan club inventory, testing the loyalty of present members with challenges of abuse, writing off defectors with total indifference, and scouting the landscape for new recruits. Do you see my dilemma? I use people who are dependent on me to keep my illusions alive. In actuality it is I who am dependent on them. Even the rage, that orgasmic release of pain and anger, doesn't work without an audience. On some level I am aware of my illusions, but to admit that would spoil the magic. And that I couldn't bear. So I proclaim that what I do is of no consequence and no different from what others do, and thus I create an illusion about my creating illusions. So, no, I don't recognise me any better than you do. I wouldn't dare. I need the magic. For the same reason I also fail to recognise others who behave as I do. In fact, they sometimes recruit me into their fan clubs. As long as we feed off of each other, who's the worse for wear? It only confirms my illusion about my illusions: that I am no different from most other people, just a bit better.

But I AM different and we both know it. Therein lies the root of my hostility. I tear you down because in reality I am envious of you BECAUSE I am different. At that haunting level where I see my illusions for what they are, the illusion that you too create illusions collapses, leaving me in a state of despair, confusion, panic, isolation, and envy. You, and others, accuse me of all sorts of horrible things.


I am totally baffled, clueless. I have done nothing wrong. The injustice is too much. It only makes the confusion worse. Or is this too merely another illusion?

How many others like me are there? More than you might think, and our numbers are increasing. Take twenty people off the street and you will find one whose mind ticks so much like mine that you could consider us clones. Impossible, you say. It is simply not possible for that many people – highly accomplished, respected, and visible people – to be out there replacing reality with illusions, each in the same way and for reasons they know not why. It is simply not possible for so many robots of havoc and chaos, as I describe them, to function daily midst other educated, intelligent, and experienced individuals, and pass for normal. It is simply not possible for such an aberration of human cognition and behaviour to infiltrate and infect the population in such numbers, virtually undetected by the radar of mental health professionals. It is simply not possible for so much visible positive to contain so much concealed negative. It is simply not possible.

But it is. That is the enlightenment of Narcissism Revisited by Sam Vaknin. Sam is himself one such clone. What distinguishes him is his uncharacteristic courage to confront, and his uncanny understanding of, that which makes us tick, himself included. Not only does Sam dare ask and then answer the question we clones avoid like the plague, he does so with relentless, laser-like precision. Read his book. Take your seat at the double-headed microscope and let Sam guide you through the dissection. Like a brain surgeon operating on himself, Sam explores and exposes the alien among us, hoping beyond hope for a respectable tumour but finding instead each and every cell teaming with the same resistant virus. The operation is long and tedious, and at times frightening and hard to believe. Read on. The parts exposed are as they are, despite what may seem hyperbolic or far-fetched. Their validity might not hit home until later, when coupled with memories of past events and experiences.


I am, as I said, my own worst nightmare. True, the world is replete with my contributions, and I am lots of fun to be around. And true, most contributions like mine are not the result of troubled souls. But many more than you might want to believe are. And if by chance you get caught in my Web, I can make your life a living hell. But remember this. I am in that Web too. The difference between you and me is that you can get out.

 

Ken Heilbrunn, M.D.

Seattle, Washington, USA

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I N T R O D U C T I O N

 

 

 

The Habitual Identity

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warning and Disclaimer

The contents of this book are not meant to substitute for professional help and counselling. The readers are discouraged from using it for diagnostic or therapeutic ends. The diagnosis and treatment of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder can only be done by professionals specifically trained and qualified to do so – which the author is not. The author is NOT a mental health professional, though he is certified in Mental Health Counselling Techniques.

 

In a famous experiment, students were asked to take a lemon home and to grow used to it. Three days later, they were able to single out "their" lemon from a pile of rather similar ones. They seemed to have bonded. Is this the true meaning of love, bonding, coupling? Do we simply get used to other human beings, pets, or objects?

Habit forming in humans is reflexive. We change ourselves and our environment in order to attain maximum comfort and well-being. It is the effort that goes into these adaptive processes that forms a habit. Habits are intended to prevent us from constant experimentation and risk taking. The greater our well-being, the better we function and the longer we survive.

Actually, when we get used to something or to someone – we really get used to ourselves. In our habits we see our history, all the time and effort invested. Habits are encapsulated versions of our acts, intentions, emotions and reactions. They are mirrors reflecting back that part in us that formed the habit.


Hence, the feeling of comfort: we really feel comfortable with our own selves when we feel comfortable with our habits.

Because of this, we tend to confuse habits with identity. When asked WHO they are, most people resort to describing their habits. They relate to us their work, their loved ones, their pets, their hobbies, or their material possessions. Yet, all of these do not constitute an identity. Their removal does not change one's identity. They are habits and they make the respondent comfortable and relaxed. But they are not part of his identity in the truest, deepest sense.

Still, it is this simple mechanism of deception that binds people together. A mother feels that her offspring are part of her identity because she is so used to them that her well-being depends on their existence and availability. Thus, any threat to her children is interpreted by a mother as a threat to her person. Her reaction is, therefore, strong and enduring and can be recurrently elicited.

The truth, of course, is that children ARE a part of their mother's identity in a superficial manner. Removing them would make her a different person, but only in the shallow, phenomenological sense of the word. Her deep-set, true identity is unlikely to change as a result.

But what is this kernel of identity that I am referring to? This immutable entity which is the definition of who we are and what we are and which, ostensibly, is not influenced by the death of our loved ones? What is so strong as to resist the breaking of habits that die-hard?

It is our personality. This elusive, loosely interconnected, interacting, pattern of reactions to our changing environment. Like the mind, it is difficult to define or to capture. Like the soul, many believe that it does not exist, that it is a fictitious convention. Yet, we know that we do have a personality. We feel it, we experience it. It sometimes encourages us to do things – or prevents us from doing them. It can be supple or rigid, benign or malignant, open or closed. Its power lies in its looseness. It is able to combine, recombine and permutate in hundreds of unforeseeable ways. It metamorphoses and the constancy of its rate and kind of change is what gives us a sense of identity.

Actually, when the personality is rigid to the point of being unable to change in reaction to changing circumstances – we say that it is disordered. A personality disorder is the ultimate misidentification.


The individual mistakes his habits for his identity. He identifies himself with his environment, taking behavioural, emotional, and cognitive cues exclusively from it. His inner world is, so to speak, vacated, inhabited, as it were, by the apparition of his True Self.

Such a person is incapable of loving and of living. The personality disordered sees no distinction between his self and his habits. He IS his habits and, therefore, by definition, can only rarely and with an incredible amount of exertion, change them. And, in the long-term, he is incapable of living because life is a struggle TOWARDS, a striving, a drive AT something. In other words: life is change. He who cannot change is not really alive.

"Malignant Self-Love – Narcissism Revisited" was written under extreme conditions of duress. It was composed in jail as I was trying to understand what had hit me. My nine years old marriage dissolved, my finances were in a shocking condition, my family estranged, my reputation ruined, my personal freedom severely curtailed. Slowly, the realisation that it was all my fault, that I was sick and needed help penetrated the decades old defences that I erected around me. This book is the documentation of a road of self-discovery. It was a painful process, which led to nowhere. I am no different – and no healthier – today than I was when I wrote this book. My disorder is here to stay, the prognosis is poor and alarming.

The narcissist is an actor in a monodrama, yet forced to remain behind the scenes. The scenes take centre stage, instead. The narcissist does not cater at all to his own needs. Contrary to his reputation, the narcissist does not "love" himself in any true sense of this loaded word.

He feeds off other people, who hurl back at him an image that he projects to them. This is their sole function in his world: to reflect, to admire, to applaud, to detest – in a word, to assure him that he exists.

Otherwise, they have no right to tax his time, energy, or emotions – so he feels.

To borrow Freud's trilateral model, the narcissist's Ego is weak, disorganised and lacks clear boundaries. Many of the Ego functions are projected. The Superego is sadistic and punishing. The Id is unrestrained.

Primary Objects in the narcissist's childhood were badly idealised and internalised.

His object relations are distraught and destroyed.


The first chapters offer a detailed, first hand account of what it is like to have a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). It offers new insights and an organised methodological framework using a new psychodynamic language. It is intended for professionals.

The first part of the book is more accessible. It comprises 99 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding narcissism and personality disorders. The posting of "Malignant Self-Love – Narcissism Revisited" on the Web has elicited a flood of excited, sad and heart rending responses, mostly from victims of narcissists but also from people suffering from the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This is a true picture of the resulting correspondence with them.

This book is heavy reading. It is not intended to please or to entertain. NPD is a pernicious, vile and tortuous disease, which affects not only the narcissist. It infects and forever changes people who are in daily contact with the narcissist. In other words: it is contagious. It is my contention that narcissism is the mental epidemic of the twentieth century, a plague to be fought by all means.

This book is my contribution to minimising the damages of this disorder.

 

Sam Vaknin

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Malignant

Self Love

Narcissism Revisited

 

 

 

 

 

The Narcissistic Personality Disorder


 

 

 

 

A Primer on Narcissism

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narcissism (n. sing.)

A pattern of traits and behaviours which signify infatuation and obsession with one's self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one's gratification, dominance and ambition.

Narcissism is named after the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus, a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. In punishment of his cruelty, he was doomed to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his autoerotic love, he pined away and changed into the flower that bears his name to this very day.

What is NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)?

The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has been recognised as a separate mental health disorder in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM) in 1980. Its diagnostic criteria and their interpretation have undergone a major revision in the DSM-III-R [1987] and were substantially revamped in the DSM-IV-TR in 2000. The European ICD-10 basically contains identical language.

An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts. Five (or more) of the following criteria must be met:

• Feels grandiose and self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents to the point of lying, demands to be recognised as superior without commensurate achievements);


• Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion;

• Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions);

• Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation – or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (Narcissistic Supply);

• Feels entitled. Expects unreasonable or special and favourable priority treatment. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her expectations;

• Is "interpersonally exploitative", i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends;

• Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of others;

• Constantly envious of others or believes that they feel the same about him or her;

• Arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted.

The language in the criteria above is based on or summarised from:

American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR, Washington [2000]

Vaknin, Sam. Malignant Self-Love – Narcissism Revisited. Revised ed. Prague and Skopje, Narcissus Publications [1999, 2001, 2003]

More Data About Pathological Narcissists

• Most narcissists (75%) are men.

• NPD (=the Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is one of a "family" of personality disorders (formerly known as "Cluster B"). Other members: Borderline PD, Antisocial PD and Histrionic PD.

• NPD is often diagnosed with other mental health disorders ("co-morbidity") – or with substance abuse, or impulsive and reckless behaviours ("dual diagnosis").

• NPD is new [1980] mental health category in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM).

• There is only scant research regarding narcissism. But what there is has not demonstrated any ethnic, social, cultural, economic, genetic, or professional predilection to NPD.

• It is estimated that 0.7-1% of the general population suffer from NPD.

• Pathological narcissism was first described in detail by Freud. Other major contributors are: Klein, Horney, Kohut, Kernberg, Millon, Roningstam, Gunderson, Hare.

• The onset of narcissism is in infancy, childhood and early adolescence. It is commonly attributed to childhood abuse and trauma inflicted by parents, authority figures, or even peers.

• There is a whole range of narcissistic reactions – from the mild, reactive and transient to the permanent personality disorder.

• Narcissists are either "cerebral" (derive their Narcissistic Supply from their intelligence or academic achievements) – or "somatic" (derive their Narcissistic Supply from their physique, exercise, physical or sexual prowess and "conquests").

• Narcissists are either "classic" – see definition below – or they are "compensatory", or "inverted" – see definitions in FAQ 49: The Inverted Narcissist.

• NPD is treated by talk therapy (psychodynamic or cognitive-behavioural). The prognosis for an adult narcissist is poor, though his adaptation to life and to others can improve with treatment. Medication is applied to side effects and behaviours (such as mood or affect disorders and obsession-compulsion) – usually with some success.

 

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Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.  Alford, C. Fred. Narcissism: Socrates, the Frankfurt School and Psychoanalytic Theory. New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1988

2.  Devereux, George. Basic Problems of Ethno-Psychiatry. University of Chicago Press, 1980

3.  Fairbairn, W. R. D. An Object Relations Theory of the Personality. New York, Basic Books, 1954

4.  Freud S. Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality [1905]. Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. 7. London, Hogarth Press, 1964

5.  Freud, S. On Narcissism. Standard Ed. Vol. 14, pp. 73-107

6.  Goldman, Howard H. (Ed.). Review of General Psychiatry. 4th Ed. London, Prentice Hall International, 1995

7.  Golomb, Elan. Trapped in the Mirror: Adult Children of Narcissists in Their Struggle for Self. Quill, 1995

8.  Greenberg, Jay R. and Mitchell, Stephen A. Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1983

9.  Grunberger, Bela. Narcissism: Psychoanalytic Essays. New York, International Universities Press, 1979

10. Guntrip, Harry. Personality Structure and Human Interaction. New York, International Universities Press, 1961

11. Horowitz M. J. Sliding Meanings: A Defence against Threat in Narcissistic Personalities. International Journal of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 1975; 4:167

12. Horovitz M. J. Stress Response Syndromes: PTSD, Grief and Adjustment Disorders. 3rd Ed. New York, NY University Press, 1998

13. Jacobson, Edith. The Self and the Object World. New York, International Universities Press, 1964

14. Jung, C.G. Collected Works. G. Adler, M. Fordham and H. Read (Eds.). 21 volumes. Princeton University Press, 1960-1983

15. Kernberg O. Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism. New York, Jason Aronson, 1975

16. Klein, Melanie. The Writings of Melanie Klein. Roger Money-Kyrle (Ed.). 4 Vols. New York, Free Press, 1964-75

17. Kohut H. The Chicago Institute Lectures 1972-1976. Marian and Paul Tolpin (Eds.). Analytic Press, 1998

18. Kohut M. The Analysis of the Self. New York, International Universities Press, 1971

19. Lasch, Christopher. The Culture of Narcissism. New York, Warner Books, 1979

20. Levine, J. D., and Weiss, Rona H. The Dynamics and Treatment of Alcoholism. Jason Aronson, 1994

21. Lowen, Alexander. Narcissism: Denial of the True Self. Touchstone Books, 1997

22. Millon, Theodore (and Roger D. Davis, contributor). Disorders of Personality: DSM-IV and Beyond. 2nd ed. New York, John Wiley and Sons, 1995

23. Millon, Theodore. Personality Disorders in Modern Life. New York, John Wiley and Sons, 2000

24. Riso, Don Richard. Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery. Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1987

25. Roningstam, Elsa F. (Ed.). Disorders of Narcissism: Diagnostic, Clinical, and Empirical Implications. American Psychiatric Press, 1998

26. Rothstein, Arnold. The Narcissistic Pursuit of Reflection. 2nd revised Ed. New York, International Universities Press, 1984

27. Schwartz, Lester. Narcissistic Personality Disorders – A Clinical Discussion. Journal of American Psychoanalytic Association – 22 [1974]: 292-305

28. Salant-Schwartz, Nathan. Narcissism and Character Transformation. Inner City Books, 1985 – pp. 90-91

29. Stern, Daniel. The Interpersonal World of the Infant: A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology. New York, Basic Books, 1985

30. Vaknin, Sam. Malignant Self-Love – Narcissism Revisited. Skopje and Prague, Narcissus Publications, 1999, 2001, 2003

31. Zweig, Paul. The Heresy of Self-Love: A Study of Subversive Individualism. New York, Basic Books, 1968

 

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Malignant

Self Love

Narcissism Revisited

 

 

 

 

 

Overview

 

 

 

 

This section contains professional terms.

For treatment of specific issues go to the

Frequently Asked Questions.


 

 

CHAPTER I

 

 

 

The Soul of a Narcissist

The State of the Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

We all love ourselves. That seems to be such an instinctively true statement that we do not bother to examine it more thoroughly. In our daily lives – in love, in business, in other areas of life – we act on this premise. Yet, upon closer inspection, it looks shakier.

Some people explicitly state that they do not love themselves at all. Others confine their lack of self-love to certain traits, to their personal history, or to some of their behaviour patterns. Yet others feel content with who they are and with what they are doing.

But one group of people seems distinct in its mental constitution – narcissists.

According to the legend of Narcissus, this Greek boy fell in love with his own reflection in a pond. Presumably, this amply sums up the nature of his namesakes: narcissists. The mythological Narcissus was rejected by the nymph Echo and was punished by Nemesis, Consigned to pine away as he fell in love with his own reflection. How apt. Narcissists are punished by echoes and reflections of their problematic personalities up to this very day.

They are said to be in love with themselves.

But this is a fallacy. Narcissus is not in love with HIMSELF. He is in love with his REFLECTION.

There is a major difference between True Self and reflected-self.

Loving your True Self is a healthy, adaptive and functional quality.

Loving a reflection has two major drawbacks. One is the dependence on the very existence and availability of a reflection to produce the emotion of self-love.

The other is the absence of a "compass", an "objective and realistic yardstick", by which to judge the authenticity of the reflection and to measure its isomorphic attributes. In other words, it is impossible to tell whether the reflection is true to reality – and, if so, to what extent.

The popular misconception is that narcissists love themselves. In reality, they direct their love to second hand impressions of themselves in the eyes of beholders. He who loves only impressions is not acquainted with the emotion of loving humans and is, therefore, incapable of loving them, or himself.

But the narcissist does possess the in-bred desire to love and to be loved. If he cannot love himself – he has to love his reflection. But to love his reflection – it must be loveable. Thus, driven by the insatiable urge to love (which we all possess), the narcissist is grossly preoccupied with projecting a loveable image of himself unto others. This image has to be compatible with his self-image (the way he "sees" himself).

It is maintained through the investment of a reasonable proportion of the resources and energy of the narcissist. An image, which would take most of the narcissist's time and energy to preserve, would be highly ineffective because it would render him vulnerable to external threats.

But the most important characteristic of such an image is its lovability.

To a narcissist, love is interchangeable with other emotions, such as awe, respect, admiration, or even mere attention. An image, which provokes these reactions in others – is both "loveable and loved", as far as the narcissist is concerned. It satisfies his basic requirement: that it should give him something to love which would feel like self-love.

The more successful this image (or series of successive images) – the more the narcissist becomes divorced from his True Self and married to the image.

I am not saying that the narcissist does not have this central nucleus of a "self". All I am saying is that he prefers his image – with which he identifies himself unreservedly – to his self. A hierarchy is formed. The self becomes serf to the Image.

This is exactly the opposite of the common notions concerning narcissists. The narcissist is not selfish – his self is paralysed.


He is not tuned exclusively to his needs. On the contrary: he ignores them because many of them conflict with his omnipotent and omniscient image. He does not put himself first – he puts his self last. He caters to the needs and wishes of everyone around him – because he craves their love and admiration. It is through their reactions that he acquires a sense of distinct self. In many ways he annuls himself – only to re-invent himself through the look of others. He is the person most insensitive to his true needs.

The narcissist consumes his mental energy incessantly in this process. He drains himself. This is why he has no energy left to dedicate to others. This fact as well as his inability to love human beings in their many dimensions and facets – transform him into a mental recluse. His soul is fortified and in the solace of this fortification he guards its territory jealously and fiercely. He protects what he perceives to constitute his independence.

Why should people indulge the narcissist? And what is the "evolutionary", survival value of preferring one kind of love (directed at a symbol, an image) to another (directed at one's self)?

These questions torment the narcissist. His convoluted mind comes up with the most elaborate contraptions in lieu of answers.

Why should people indulge the narcissist, divert time and energy, give him attention, love and adulation? The narcissist's answer is simple: because he is entitled to it. The narcissist has an inflated sense of entitlement. He feels that he deserves whatever he succeeds to extract from others and much more. Actually, he feels betrayed, discriminated against and underprivileged because he always believes that he is not getting enough, that he should get more than he does. There is a discrepancy between his infinite certainty that his is a special status worthy of eternally recurrent praise and adoration, replete with special benefits and prerogatives – and the actual state of his affairs. This is the prima causa of the psychodynamics of the narcissist's mind. To the narcissist, this status of uniqueness is bestowed upon him not by virtue of his achievements, but merely because he exists. His mere existence is sufficiently unique to warrant the kind of treatment that he expects to get from the world. Herein lies a paradox, which haunts the narcissist: he derives his sense of uniqueness from the very fact that he exists and he derives his sense of existence from his belief that he is unique.

Clinical data show that there is rarely any realistic basis for this notion of greatness and uniqueness.

Narcissists do hold high positions and, at times, are achievers with proven track records. Some of them are respected members of their communities, some of them even leaders. Mostly, they are dynamic and successful. Still, one thing separates them from persons of similar circumstance: the pomp.

They are ridiculously pompous and inflated personalities, bordering on the farcical and provoking resentment.

The narcissist is forced to use other people in order to feel that he exists. It is trough their eyes and through their behaviour that he obtains proof of his uniqueness and grandeur. He is a habitual "people-junkie". With time, he comes to regard those around him as mere instruments for his satisfaction, as two-dimensional cartoon figures with negligible lines in the script of his magnificent life. He becomes unscrupulous and suppresses all the discomfort that he might have felt in the past concerning his conduct. He seems never to be bothered by the constant use he makes of his milieu. He seems not to mind the consequences of his acts: the damage and the pain that he inflicts on others and even the social condemnation and sanctions that he often has to endure.

When a person persists in a dysfunctional, maladaptive or plain useless behaviour despite grave repercussions to himself and to his surroundings – we say that his acts are compulsive.

It would, indeed, be safe to say that the narcissist is compulsive in his behaviour. This linkage between narcissism and obsessive-compulsive disorders sheds light on the mechanisms of the narcissistic psyche.

The narcissist does not suffer from a faulty sense of causation. He is able to accurately predict the outcomes of his actions and he knows that he might be forced to pay a dear price for his deeds. But he doesn't care.

A personality whose very existence is a derivative of its reflection in other people's minds – is perilously dependent on these people's perceptions. They are the source of its Narcissistic Supply (NS). Every shred of criticism and disapproval is interpreted as a withholding of this supply and as a direct threat to the very mental existence of the narcissist. The narcissist lives in a world of all or nothing, of a constant "to be or not be". Every discussion that he holds, every glance of every passer-by reaffirms his existence or casts doubt upon it. This is why the reactions of the narcissist seem so disproportionate: he reacts to what he perceives to be threats to the very cohesion of his self.


Thus, a minor disagreement is transformed in his harried mind into an ominous sign that he is going to remain devoid of his sources of self-definition.

This is such a crucial matter, that the narcissist cannot take chances. He would rather be mistaken – then null and void. He would rather discern disapproval and unjustified criticism where there is none – then face the consequences of being caught off-guard.

The narcissist has to condition his human environment to refrain from expressing criticism and disapproval of him or of his actions and decisions. He has to teach people around him that these will provoke him into frightful fits of temper and rage attacks and turn him into a constantly cantankerous and irascible person. The disproportion of his reactions constitutes a punishment for their lack of consideration and their ignorance of his true psychological state. In a curious reversal of roles – the narcissist blames others for his behaviour, accuses them of provoking him and believes firmly that "they" should be penalised accordingly. There is no way to dissuade the narcissist once he has embarked on one of his temper tantrums. Apologies – unless accompanied by verbal or other humiliation – are not enough. The fuel of his rage is spent mainly on vitriolic verbal send-offs directed at the (often imaginary) perpetrator of the (oft imaginary) offence.

A coherent picture emerges:

The narcissist – wittingly or not – utilises people to buttress his self-image and self-worth. As long and in as much as they are instrumental in achieving these goals – he holds them in high regard, they are valuable to him. He sees them only through this lens. This is a result of his inability to love humans: he lacks empathy, he thinks utility, and he reduces others to mere instruments. If they cease to "function", if – no matter how inadvertently – they cause him to doubt this illusory, half-baked, self-esteem – they become the subject of a reign of terror. The narcissist then proceeds to hurt these "insubordinate wretches". He belittles and humiliates them. He displays aggression and violence in myriad forms. His behaviour metamorphesises, kaleidoscopically, from over-valuation of the useful other – to a severe devaluation of same.

The narcissist abhors, almost physiologically, people judged by him to be "useless".

These rapid alterations between absolute overvaluation to complete devaluation of others make the maintenance of long-term interpersonal relationships all but impossible.

The more pathological form of narcissism – the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) – was defined in the successive versions of the American DSM and the European ICD. It is useful to scrutinise these geological layers of clinical observations and their interpretation. In 1977 the DSM-III criteria included [the following texts are adaptations of the original ones]:

• An inflated valuation of oneself (exaggeration of talents and achievements, demonstration of presumptuous self-confidence);

• Interpersonal exploitation (uses others to satisfy his needs and desires, expects preferential treatment without undertaking mutual commitments);

• Possesses expansive imagination (externalises immature and non-regimented fantasies, "prevaricates to redeem self-illusions");

• Displays supercilious imperturbability (except when the narcissistic confidence is shaken), nonchalant, unimpressed and cold-blooded;

• Defective social conscience (rebels against the conventions of common social existence, does not value personal integrity and the rights of other people).

Compare the 1977 version with the one adopted 10 years later [in the DSM-III-R] and expanded upon in 1994 [in the DSM-IV] and in 2000 [the DSM-IV-TR]:

An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or in behaviour), a need for admiration and a marked lack of empathy which starts at early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts.

At least 5 of the following should be present for a person to be diagnosed as suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

• Possesses a grandiose sense of self-importance (for example: exaggerates his achievements and his talents, expects his superiority to be recognised without having the commensurate skills or achievements);

• Pre-occupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance and beauty or of ideal love;

• Believes that he is unique and special and that only high status and special people (or institutions) could understand him (or that it is only with such people and institutions that it is worth his while to be associated with);

• Demands excessive and exceptional admiration;

• Feels that he is deserving of exceptionally good treatment, automatic obeisance of his (usually unrealistic) expectations;

• Exploitative in his interpersonal relationships, uses others to achieve his goals;

• Lacks empathy: is disinterested in other people's needs and emotions and does not identify with them;

• Envies others or believes that others envy him;

• Displays arrogance and haughtiness.

There emerges a portrait of a monster, a ruthless and exploitative person. But this is only the phenomenological side. Inside, the narcissist suffers from a chronic lack of confidence and is fundamentally dissatisfied.

On the outside, his is a vicissitudinal nature. This is far from reflecting the barren landscape of misery and fears that constitutes his soul. His tumultuous behaviour covers up for a submissive, depressed interior.

How can such contrasts coexist?

Freud [1915] offered a trilateral model of the human psyche, composed of the Id, the Ego and the Superego.

According to Freud, the narcissists are dominated by their Ego to such an extent that the Id and Superego are neutralised. Early in his career, Freud believed narcissism to be a normal developmental phase between autoeroticism and object-love. Later on, he concluded that the development cycle can be thwarted by the very efforts we all make in our infancy to develop the capacity to love an object. Some of us, thus Freud, fail to grow beyond the phase of self-love in the development of the libido. Others refer to themselves and prefer themselves as THE objects of love (instead of their mothers).

This choice – to concentrate on the self – is the result of an unconscious decision to give up an unrewarding effort to love others and to trust them.

The child learns that the only one he can trust to always and reliably be available – is he. Therefore, the only one he can love without being abandoned or hurt – is again he. Meaningful others were inconsistent in their acceptance of the child and the only times they paid attention to him were when they wished to satisfy their needs. They tended to ignore him when these needs were no longer pressing or existent. So, the child learned to side-step deeper relationships in order to avoid this approach-avoidance pendulum. Protecting himself from hurt and from abandonment, he would rather not have anything to do with people around him. He digs in – rather than spring out.


As children, all of us go through this phase of disbelief. We all put people around us (=the objects) to a test. This is the "primary narcissistic stage". A positive relationship with one's parents or caregivers (=Primary Objects) secures the smooth transition to "object love". The child forgoes his narcissism. This is tough: narcissism is alluring. It is very soothing, warm and dependable. It never lets one down. It is always present and omnipresent. It is custom tailored to the needs of the individual. To love oneself is to have the perfect lover. Good reasons and strong forces are required to motivate the child to give it up – "parental love". The child progresses in order to be able to love his parents. If they are narcissists – they go through the idealisation (over-valuation) and devaluation cycle. They do not reliably satisfy the ever-present needs of the "child". In other words, they frustrate him. He gradually develops the sensation that he is no more than a toy, a tool to provide his parents with satisfaction, means to an end. This deforms the budding Ego. The "child" forms a strong dependence (as opposed to attachment) on his parents. This dependence is really a reflection of fear, the mirror image of aggression, as we shall see later. In Freud-speak (psychoanalysis) we say that the child is likely to develop accentuated oral fixations and regressions. In plain terms, we are likely to see a lost, phobic, helpless, raging child.

But a child is still a child and his relationship with his parents is of ultimate importance to him.

He, therefore, fights himself and tries to defuse his libidinal and aggressive sensations and emotions. This way, he hopes to rehabilitate the damaged relationship (which never really existed – hence the primordial confabulation, the mother of all future fantasies). In his embattled mind, he transforms the Superego into an idealised, sadistic parent-child. His Ego becomes the complementing part in this imaginary play of invented roles: a hated, devalued child-parent.

The family is the mainspring of support of every kind. It mobilises psychological resources and alleviates emotional burdens. It allows for the sharing of tasks, provides material supplies coupled with cognitive training. It is the prime socialisation agent and encourages the absorption of information, most of it useful and adaptive.


This division of labour between parents and children is vital both to development and to proper adaptation. The child must feel, in a functional family, that he can share his experiences without being defensive and that the feedback that he is likely to get will be open and unbiased. The only "bias" acceptable (often because it is consistent with constant outside feedback) is the set of beliefs, values and goals that are finally internalised by the child by way of imitation and unconscious identification. So, the family is the first and the most important source of identity and emotional support. It is a greenhouse where a child feels loved, accepted and secure – the prerequisites for the development of personal resources. On the material level, the family should provide the basic necessities (and, preferably, beyond), physical care and protection and refuge and shelter during crises.

The role of the mother (the Primary Object) has been often discussed and dissected. The father's part is mostly neglected, even in professional literature. However, recent research demonstrates his importance to the orderly and healthy development of the child.

The father participates in the day-to-day care, is an intellectual catalyst, who encourages the child to develop his interests and to satisfy his curiosity through the manipulation of various instruments and games. He is a source of authority and discipline, a boundary setter, enforcing and encouraging positive behaviours and eliminating negative ones. He also provides emotional support and economic security, thus stabilising the family unit. Finally, he is the prime source of masculine orientation and identification to the male child – and gives warmth and love as a male to his daughter, without exceeding the socially permissible limits.

We can safely say that the narcissist's family is as severely disordered as he is. He is largely a reflection of its dysfunction. One or more (usually, many more) of the functions aforementioned are improperly fulfilled.

The two most important mechanisms are:

First, the mechanism of self-deception. The narcissist's internal dialogue is "I do have a relationship with my parents. It is my fault – the fault of my emotions, sensations, aggressions and passions – that this relationship is not working. It is, therefore, my responsibility to make amends. I will construct a narrative in which I am both loved and punished. In this script, I will allocate roles to myself and to my parents. This way, everything will be fine and we will all be happy."

Second is the mechanism of over-valuation (idealisation) and devaluation. The dual roles of sadist and punished masochist (Superego and Ego), parent and child permeate, all the of the narcissist's interactions with other people.

The narcissist experiences a reversal of roles as his relationships progress.

At the beginning of every relationship he is the child in need of attention, approval and admiration. He becomes dependent.

Then, at the first sign of disapproval (real or imaginary), he becomes an avowed sadist, punishing and inflicting pain.

Otto Kernberg [1975, 1984, 1987] is a senior member of the object relations school in psychology [Kohut, Kernberg, Klein, Winnicott].

Kernberg disagrees with Freud. He regards the division between an "object libido" (=energy directed at objects, people in the immediate vicinity of the infant and who are meaningful to him) and a "narcissistic libido" (=energy directed at the self as the most immediate and satisfying object), which precedes it – as artificial.

Whether a "child" develops normal or pathological narcissism depends on the relations between the representations of the self (=roughly, the image of the self that the child forms in his mind) and the representations of objects (=roughly, the images of the objects that the child in his mind, based on all the information available to him, including emotional data). It is also dependent on the relationship between the representations of the self and real, external, "objective" objects. Add to this instinctual conflicts related both to the libido and to aggression (these very strong emotions give rise to strong conflicts in the child) and a comprehensive explanation concerning the formation of pathological narcissism emerges.

Kernberg's concept of Self is closely related to Freud's concept of Ego. The self is dependent upon the unconscious, which exerts a constant influence on all mental functions. Pathological narcissism, therefore, reflects a libidinal investment in a pathologically structured self and not in a normal, integrative structure of the self. The narcissist suffers from a self, which is devalued or fixated on aggression.

All object relations of such a self are distorted: it detaches from the real objects (because they hurt him often), dissociates, represses, or projects. Narcissism is not merely a fixation on an early developmental stage. It is not confined to the failure to develop intra-psychic structures.

It is an active, libidinal investment in a deformed structure of the self.

Kohut, as we said, regarded narcissism as the final product of the failing efforts of parents to cope with the needs of the child to idealise and to be grandiose (for instance, to be omnipotent).

Idealisation is an important developmental path leading to narcissism. The child merges the idealised aspects of the images of the parent [Imago in Kohut's terminology] with those wide segments of the image of the parent which are cathected (infused) with object libido (=in which the child invests the energy that he reserves for objects). This exerts an enormous and all-important influence on the re-internalisation processes (=the processes in which the child re-introduced the objects and their images into his mind) which are right for each of the successive phases. Through these processes, two permanent nuclei of the personality are constructed:

a. The basic, neutralising texture of the psyche, and

b. The ideal Superego

Both of them are characterised by an invested instinctual narcissistic cathexis (=invested energy of self-love which is instinctual).

At first, the child idealises his parents. As he grows, he begins to notice their shortcomings and vices. He withdraws part of the idealising libido from the images of the parents, which is conducive to the natural development of the Superego. The narcissistic part of the child's psyche remains vulnerable throughout its development. This is largely true until the "child" re-internalises the ideal parent image.

Also, the very construction of the mental apparatus can be tampered with by traumatic deficiencies and by object losses right through the Oedipal period (and even in latency and in adolescence).

The same effect can be attributed to traumatic disappointment by objects.

Disturbances leading to the formation of NPD can be thus grouped into:


1. Very early disturbances in the relationship with an ideal object. These lead to a structural weakness of the personality, which develops a deficient and/or dysfunctional stimuli-filtering mechanism. The ability of the individual to maintain a basic narcissistic homeostasis of the personality is damaged.

Such a person suffers from diffusive narcissistic vulnerability.

2. A disturbance occurring later in life – but still pre-Oedipally – affects the pre-Oedipal formation of the basic fabric of the control, channelling and neutralising of drives and urges. The nature of the disturbance has to be a traumatic encounter with the ideal object (such as a major disappointment). The symptomatic manifestation of this structural defect is the propensity to re – sexualise drive derivatives and internal and external conflicts either in the form of fantasies or in the form of deviant acts.

3. A disturbance formed in the Oedipal or even in the early latent phases – inhibits the completion of the Superego idealisation. This is especially true of a disappointment related to an ideal object of the late pre-Oedipal and the Oedipal stages, where the partly idealised external parallel of the newly internalised object is traumatically destroyed.

Such a person possesses a set of values and standards – but he forever looks for ideal external figures from whom he aspires to derive the affirmation and the leadership that his insufficiently idealised Superego cannot supply.

It is commonly agreed that a loss (real or perceived) at a critical junction in the psychological development of the child – forces him to refer to himself for nurturing and for gratification. The child ceases to trust others and his ability to develop object love or to idealise is hampered. He is constantly shadowed by the feeling that only he can satisfy his emotional needs.

He exploits people, sometimes unintentionally, but always ruthlessly and mercilessly. He uses them to obtain confirmation of the accuracy of his grandiose self-portrait.

The narcissist is usually above treatment. He knows best. His superiority extends to his therapist in particular and to psychology in general. He seeks treatment only following a major crisis, which directly threatens his projected and perceived image. We can say that the narcissist's "pride" has to be severely hurt to motivate him to admit his need for help. Even then, the therapy sessions resemble a battleground.


The narcissist is aloof and distanced, demonstrates his superiority in a myriad of ways, resents what he perceives to be an intrusion on his innermost sanctum. He is offended by any hint regarding defects or dysfunctions in his personality or in his behaviour. A narcissist is a narcissist is a narcissist – even when he asks for help with his world and worldview shattered.

 

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Malignant

Self Love

Narcissism Revisited

 

 

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions


 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION # 2

 

 

 

Pathological Narcissism

A Dysfunction or a Blessing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments on recent research by Roy Baumeister.

 

Is pathological narcissism a blessing or a malediction?

The answer is: it depends. Healthy narcissism is a mature, balanced love of oneself coupled with a stable sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Healthy narcissism implies knowledge of one's boundaries and a proportionate and realistic appraisal of one's achievements and traits. Pathological narcissism is wrongly described as too much healthy narcissism (or too much self-esteem). These are two absolutely unrelated phenomena which, regrettably, came to bear the same title. Confusing pathological narcissism with self-esteem betrays a fundamental ignorance of both.

Pathological narcissism involves an impaired, dysfunctional, immature (True) Self coupled with a compensatory fiction (the False Self). The sick narcissist's sense of self-worth and self-esteem derive entirely from audience feedback. The narcissist has no self-esteem or self-worth of his own (no such Ego functions). In the absence of observers, the narcissist shrivels to non-existence and feels dead. Hence the narcissist's preying habits in his constant pursuit of Narcissistic Supply. Pathological narcissism is an addictive behaviour.

Still, dysfunctions are reactions to abnormal environments and situations (e.g., abuse, trauma, smothering, etc.).


Paradoxically, his dysfunction allows the narcissist to function. It compensates for lacks and deficiencies by exaggerating tendencies and traits. It is like the tactile sense of a blind person. In short: pathological narcissism is a result of over-sensitivity, the repression of overwhelming memories and experiences, and the suppression of inordinately strong negative feelings (e.g., hurt, envy, anger, or humiliation).

That the narcissist functions at all – is because of his pathology and thanks to it. The alternative is complete decompensation and integration.

In time, the narcissist learns how to leverage his pathology, how to use it to his advantage, how to deploy it in order to maximize benefits and utilities – in other words, how to transform his curse into a blessing.

Narcissists are obsessed by delusions of fantastic grandeur and superiority. As a result they are very competitive. They are strongly compelled – where others are merely motivated. They are driven, relentless, tireless, and ruthless. They often make it to the top. But even when they do not – they strive and fight and learn and climb and create and think and devise and design and conspire. Faced with a challenge – they are likely to do better than non-narcissists.

Yet, we often find that narcissists abandon their efforts in mid-stream, give up, vanish, lose interest, devalue former pursuits, or slump. Why is that?

A challenge, or even a guaranteed eventual triumph – are meaningless in the absence of onlookers. The narcissist needs an audience to applaud, affirm, recoil, approve, admire, adore, fear, or even detest him. He craves the attention and depends on the Narcissistic Supply only others can provide. The narcissist derives sustenance only from the outside – his emotional innards are hollow and moribund.

The narcissist's enhanced performance is predicated on the existence of a challenge (real or imaginary) and of an audience. Baumeister usefully re-affirmed this linkage, known to theoreticians since Freud.

 

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION # 15

 

 

 

The Narcissist's Reaction to Deficient

Narcissistic Supply

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: How does the narcissist react when not in receipt of sufficient Narcissistic Supply?

Answer: Very much as a drug addict would react to the absence of his particular drug. The narcissist constantly consumes (really, preys upon) adoration, admiration, approval, applause, attention and other forms of Narcissistic Supply. When lacking or deficient, a Narcissistic Deficiency Dysphoria sets in. The narcissist looks depressed, his movements slow down, his sleep patterns are disturbed (he either sleeps too much or becomes insomniac), his eating patterns change (he gorges on food or is unable even to look at it). He is be constantly dysphoric (sad), anhedonic (finds no interest in the world, no pleasure in anything or in any of his former pursuits and interests). He is subjected to violent mood swings (mainly rage attacks) and all his (visible and painful) efforts at self-control fail. He may compulsively and ritually resort to an alternative addiction – alcohol, drugs, reading. This constitutes a futile effort of the narcissist both to escape his predicament – and to sublimate his aggressive urges. His whole behaviour seems constrained, artificial, full of effort and toil. The narcissist gradually turns more and more mechanical, detached, unreal. His thoughts constantly wander or become obsessive and repetitive, his speech may falter, he appears to be far away, in a world of his narcissistic fantasies, where Narcissistic Supply is aplenty. He withdraws from this painful world which knows not how to appreciate his greatness, special skills and talents, potential, or achievements. The narcissist thus ceases to bestow himself upon a cruel universe, punishing it for its shortcomings, its inability to realise how unique the narcissist is. A schizoid mode sets in: the narcissist isolates himself, a hermit in the kingdom of his hurt.


He minimises his social interactions and uses "messengers" to communicate with the outside. Devoid of energy, the narcissist can no longer pretend or succumb to social conventions. His former compliance gives way to open withdrawal (a rebellion of sorts). His former smiles are transformed to frowns, courtesy becomes rudeness, emphasised etiquette used as a weapon, an outlet of aggression, an act of violence.

The narcissist, blinded by pain, seeks to restore his balance, to take another sip of the narcissistic nectar. In his quest, the narcissist turns to and upon those nearest to him. His real attitude emerges: for him, they are but tools, one-dimensional instruments on the path to gratification, Sources of Supply or pimps of such supply, catering to his narcissistic lusts. He regards them as shallow, no longer functioning objects. In his wrath, he tries to mend them by forcing them to perform again, to function. This is coupled with horrendous and torrential self-flagellation, a deservedly self-inflicted punishment, or so the narcissist feels. In extreme cases of deprivation, the narcissist may entertain suicidal thoughts, this is how deeply he loathes his self and his condition.

Through all this, the narcissist is beset by a pervading sense of nostalgia. It is a malignant variety, harking back to a past, which never existed except in the thwarted grandiosity of the narcissist. The longer the lack of Narcissistic Supply, the more this past is glorified, re-written, missed and mourned. This serves to enhance all the other negative feelings. Put together, it already amounts to what might be clinically described as depression. The narcissist then glides into the shores of paranoia. From his mental closet, he draws a model of a prosecuting world, incorporating in it those around him and events in his recent life. This gives meaning to what is erroneously perceived by the narcissist as a sudden shift from over supply to under or to no supply (such over and under valuations are typical of him). The apparent diminishing of the Narcissistic Supply is best explained by a theory of conspiracy. The narcissist then – in pain, in despair, in fear – embarks upon an orgy of self-destruction intended to generate "alternative Supply Sources" (attention) at any cost. The narcissist is poised to commit the ultimate narcissistic act: self-destruction in the service of self-aggrandisement.

When deprived of Narcissistic Supply – primary AND secondary – the narcissist feels annulled. It feels much like being hollowed out, mentally disembowelled or watching oneself die. It is evaporation, disintegration into molecules of terrified anguish, helplessly and inexorably.

Without Narcissistic Supply – the narcissist crumbles, like the zombies or the vampires one sees in horror movies. It is terrifying and the narcissist will do anything to avoid it. Think about the narcissist as a drug addict. His withdrawal symptoms are identical: delusions, physiological effects, irritability, emotional lability.

Narcissists often experience brief, decompensatory psychotic episodes when their psyche is disassembled – either deliberately in therapy or following a life-crisis accompanied by a major narcissistic injury.

These psychotic episodes may be closely allied to another feature of narcissism: magical thinking. Narcissists are like children in this sense. Many, for instance, fully believe in two things: that whatever happens – they will prevail and that good things will always happen to them. It is more than a belief, really. Narcissists just KNOW it, the same way one knows gravity – directly, immediately and surely.

The narcissist believes that, no matter what he does, he will always be forgiven, always prevail and triumph, always come on top. The narcissist is, therefore, fearless in a manner perceived by others to be both admirable and insane. He attributes to himself divine and cosmic immunity – he cloaks myself in it, it renders him invisible to his enemies and to the powers of "evil". It is a childish phantasmagoria – but to the narcissist it is very real.

The narcissist knows with religious certainty that good things will happen to him. With equal certitude, the more self-aware of them know that they will squander their good fortune time and again in a bedevilled effort to defeat themselves.

So, no matter what serendipity, what lucky circumstance, what blessing the narcissist receives – he always strives with blind fury to deflect them, to deform and to ruin.

 

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION # 16

 

 

 

The Delusional Way Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: When my husband goes through a bad spot, he shuts himself in his den all day long, doesn't talk to anyone, just surfs the Web. Is this typical? Should I be worried?

Answer: The study of narcissism is a century old and the two scholarly debates central to its conception are still undecided. Is there such a thing as HEALTHY adult narcissism (Kohut) – or are all the manifestations of narcissism in adulthood pathological (Freud, Kernberg)? Moreover, is pathological narcissism the outcome of verbal, sexual, physical, or psychological abuse (the overwhelming view) – or, on the contrary, the sad result of spoiling the child and idolizing it (Millon, the late Freud)?

The second debate is easier to resolve if one agrees to adopt a more comprehensive definition of "abuse". Overweening, smothering, spoiling, overvaluing, and idolizing the child – are all forms of parental abuse.

This is because, as Horney pointed out, the child is dehumanized and instrumentalized. His parents love him not for what he really is – but for what they wish and imagine him to be: the fulfilment of their dreams and frustrated wishes. The child becomes the vessel of his parents' discontented lives, a tool, the magic brush with which they can transform their failures into successes, their humiliation into victory, their frustrations into happiness. The child is taught to ignore reality and to occupy the parental fantastic space. Such an unfortunate child feels omnipotent and omniscient, perfect and brilliant, worthy of adoration and entitled to special treatment.


The faculties that are honed by constantly brushing against bruising reality – empathy, compassion, a realistic assessment of one's abilities and limitations, realistic expectations of oneself and of others, personal boundaries, team work, social skills, perseverance and goal-orientation, not to mention the ability to postpone gratification and to work hard to achieve it – are all lacking or missing altogether. The child turned adult sees no reason to invest in his skills and education, convinced that his inherent genius should suffice. He feels entitled for merely being, rather than for actually doing (rather as the nobility in days gone by felt entitled not by virtue of its merit but as the inevitable, foreordained outcome of its birth right). In other words, he is not meritocratic – but aristocratic. In short: a narcissist is born.

But such a mental structure is brittle, susceptible to criticism and disagreement, vulnerable to the incessant encounter with a harsh and intolerant world. Deep inside, narcissists of both kinds (those wrought by "classic" abuse and those yielded by being idolized) – feel inadequate, phoney, fake, inferior, and deserving of punishment. This is Millon's mistake. He makes a distinction between several types of narcissists. He wrongly assumes that the "classic" narcissist is the outcome of overvaluation, idolization, and spoiling and, thus, is possessed of supreme, unchallenged, self-confidence, and is devoid of all self-doubt. According to Millon, it is the "compensatory" narcissist that falls prey to nagging self-doubts, feelings of inferiority, and a masochistic desire for self-punishment. Yet, the distinction is both wrong and unnecessary. There is only ONE type of narcissist – though there are TWO developmental paths to it. And ALL narcissists are besieged by deeply ingrained (though at times not conscious) feelings of inadequacy, fears of failure, masochistic desires to be penalized, a fluctuating sense of self-worth (regulated by Narcissistic Supply), and an overwhelming sensation of fakeness.

The Grandiosity Gap (between a fantastically grandiose – and unlimited – self-image and actual – limited – accomplishments and achievements) is grating. Its recurrence threatens the precariously balanced house of cards that is the narcissistic personality. The narcissist finds, to his chagrin, that people out there are much less admiring, accommodating and accepting than his parents. As he grows old, the narcissist often becomes the target of constant derision and mockery, a sorry sight indeed. His claims for superiority appear less plausible and substantial the more and the longer he makes them.

The narcissist then resorts to self-delusion. Unable to completely ignore contrarian opinion and data – he transmutes them. Unable to face the dismal failure that he is, the narcissist partially withdraws from reality. To soothe and salve the pain of disillusionment, he administers to his aching soul a mixture of lies, distortions, half-truths and outlandish interpretations of events around him. These solutions can be classified thus:

The Delusional Narrative Solutions

The narcissist constructs a narrative in which he figures as the hero – brilliant, perfect, irresistibly handsome, destined for great things, entitled, powerful, wealthy, the centre of attention, etc. The bigger the strain on this delusional charade – the greater the gap between fantasy and reality – the more the delusion coalesces and solidifies.

Finally, if it is sufficiently protracted, it replaces reality and the narcissist's reality test deteriorates. He withdraws his bridges and may become Schizotypal, catatonic, or schizoid.

The Reality Renouncing Solutions

The narcissist renounces reality. To his mind, those who pusillanimously fail to recognize his unbound talents, innate superiority, overarching brilliance, benevolent nature, entitlement, cosmically important mission, perfection, etc. – do not deserve consideration. The narcissist's natural affinity with the criminal – his lack of empathy and compassion, his deficient social skills, his disregard for social laws and morals – now erupts and blossoms. He becomes a full fledged antisocial (sociopath or psychopath). He ignores the wishes and needs of others, he breaks the law, he violates all rights – natural and legal, he hold people in contempt and disdain, he derides society and its codes, he punishes the ignorant ingrates – that, to his mind, drove him to this state – by acting criminally and by jeopardising their safety, lives, or property.

The Paranoid Schizoid Solution

The narcissist develops persecutory delusions. He perceives slights and insults where none were intended. He becomes subject to ideas of reference (people are gossiping about him, mocking him, prying into his affairs, cracking his e-mail, etc.). He is convinced that he is the centre of malign and mal-intentioned attention.


People are conspiring to humiliate him, punish him, abscond with his property, delude him, impoverish him, confine him physically or intellectually, censor him, impose on his time, force him to action (or to inaction), frighten him, coerce him, surround and besiege him, change his mind, part with his values, even murder him, and so on.

Some narcissists withdraw completely from a world populated with such minacious and ominous objects (really projections of internal objects and processes). They avoid all social contact, except the most necessary. They refrain from meeting people, falling in love, having sex, talking to others, or even corresponding with them. In short: they become schizoids – not out of social shyness, but out of what they feel to be their choice. "The world does not deserve me" – goes the inner refrain – "and I shall waste none of my time and resources on it".

The Paranoid Aggressive (Explosive) Solution

Other narcissists who develop persecutory delusions, resort to an aggressive stance, a more violent resolution of their internal conflict. They become verbally, psychologically, situationally (and, very rarely, physically) abusive. They insult, castigate, chastise, berate, demean, and deride their nearest and dearest (often well wishers and loved ones). They explode in unprovoked displays of indignation, righteousness, condemnation, and blame. Theirs is an exegetic Bedlam. They interpret everything – even the most innocuous, inadvertent, and innocent – as designed to provoke and humiliate them. They sow fear, revulsion, hate, and malignant envy. They flail against the windmills of reality – a pathetic, forlorn, sight. But often they cause real and lasting damage – fortunately, mainly to themselves.

Grandiosity and Intimacy – The Roots of Paranoia

Paranoid ideation – the narcissist's deep-rooted conviction that he is being persecuted by his inferiors, detractors, or powerful ill-wishers – serves two psychodynamic purposes. It upholds the narcissist's grandiosity and it fends off intimacy.

Grandiosity Enhancing Paranoia

Being the target of relentless, ubiquitous, and unjust persecution proves to the paranoid narcissist how important and feared he is. Being hounded by the mighty and the privileged validates his pivotal role in the scheme of things.


Only vital, weighty, crucial, essential principals are thus bullied and intimidated, followed and harassed, stalked and intruded upon – goes his unconscious inner dialog. The narcissist consistently baits authority figures into punishing him and thus into upholding his delusional self-image as worthy of their attention. This provocative behaviour is called "projective identification". The paranoid delusions of the narcissist are always grandiose, "cosmic", or "historical". His pursuers are influential and formidable. They are after his unique possessions, out to exploit his expertise and special traits, or to force him to abstain and refrain from certain actions. The narcissist feels that he is at the centre of intrigues and conspiracies of colossal magnitudes.

Alternatively, the narcissist feels victimised by mediocre bureaucrats and intellectual dwarves who consistently fail to appreciate his outstanding – really, unparalleled – talents, skills, and accomplishments. Being haunted by his challenged inferiors substantiates the narcissist's comparative superiority. Driven by pathological envy, these pygmies collude to defraud him, badger him, deny him his due, denigrate, isolate, and ignore him.

The narcissist projects onto this second class of lesser persecutors his own deleterious emotions and transformed aggression: hatred, rage, and seething jealousy.

The narcissist's paranoid streak is likeliest to erupt when he lacks Narcissistic Supply. The regulation of his labile sense of self-worth is dependent upon external stimuli – adoration, adulation, affirmation, applause, notoriety, fame, infamy, and, in general, attention of any kind.

When such attention is deficient, the narcissist compensates by confabulating. He constructs ungrounded narratives in which he is the protagonist and uses them to force his human environment into complicity.

Put simply, he provokes people to pay attention to him by misbehaving or behaving oddly.

Intimacy Retarding Paranoia

Paranoia is use by the narcissist to ward off or reverse intimacy. The narcissist is threatened by intimacy because it reduces him to ordinariness by exposing his weaknesses and shortcomings and by causing him to act "normally". The narcissist also dreads the encounter with his deep buried emotions – hurt, envy, anger, aggression – likely to be foisted on him in an intimate relationship.


The paranoid narrative legitimises intimacy repelling behaviours such as keeping one's distance, secrecy, aloofness, reclusion, aggression, intrusion on privacy, lying, desultoriness, itinerancy, unpredictability, and idiosyncratic or eccentric reactions. Gradually, the narcissist succeeds to alienate and wear down all his friends, colleagues, well-wishers, and mates.

Even his closest, nearest, and dearest, his family – feel emotionally detached and "burnt out".

The paranoid narcissist ends life as an oddball recluse – derided, feared, and loathed in equal measures. His paranoia – exacerbated by repeated rejections and ageing – pervades his entire life and diminishes his creativity, adaptability, and functioning. The narcissist personality, buffeted by paranoia, turns ossified and brittle. Finally, atomised and useless, it succumbs and gives way to a great void. The narcissist is consumed.

 

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION # 19

 

 

 

The Unstable Narcissist

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Is the narcissist characterised by instabilities in all the important aspects of his life at the same time?

Answer: A narcissist is a person who derives his Ego (and Ego functions) from the reactions of his human environment to a projected, invented image called the False Self. Since no absolute control over such feedback of Narcissistic Supply is possible – it is bound to be volatile – the narcissist's view of himself and of his surroundings is correspondingly and equally volatile. As "public opinion" fluctuates, so do his self-confidence, self-esteem, generally, so does his self. Even his convictions are subject to a never-ending voting process by others.

The narcissistic personality is subject to instabilities in each and every one of its dimensions. It is the ultimate hybrid: rigidly amorphous, devoutly flexible, reliant for its sustenance on the opinion of people, whom the narcissist undervalues. A large part of this instability is subsumed under the Emotional Involvement Prevention Measures (EIPM) that I describe in the Overview. Instability is so ubiquitous, so all-pervasive, and so prevalent and dominant – that it might well be described as the ONLY stable feature of the narcissist's personality.

The narcissist does everything with one goal in mind: to attract Narcissistic Supply (attention).

An example of this kind of behaviour:

The narcissist may study a given subject diligently and in great depth in order to impress people later with this newly acquired erudition. But, having served its purpose, the narcissist lets the knowledge thus acquired evaporate.


The narcissist maintains a sort of a "short-term" cell or warehouse where he stores whatever may come handy in the pursuit of Narcissistic Supply. But he is almost never really interested in what he does, studies, and experiences. From the outside, this might be perceived as instability. But think about it this way: the narcissist is constantly preparing for life's "exams" and feels that he is on a permanent trial. To forget material studied only in preparation for an examination or for a court appearance is normal. Short memory storage is a perfectly common behaviour. What sets the narcissist apart from others is the fact that for him this is a CONSTANT state of affairs and that it affects ALL his functions, not only those directly related to learning, or to emotions, or to experience, or to any single dimension of his life. Thus, the narcissist learns, remembers and forgets not in line with his real interests or hobbies, he loves and hates not the real subjects of his emotions but one dimensional, utilitarian, cartoons constructed by him. He judges, praises and condemns – all from the narrowest possible point of view: that of the potential amount of Narcissistic Supply. He asks not what he can do with the world and in it – but what can the world do for him as far as Narcissistic Supply goes. He falls in and out of love with people, workplaces, residences, vocations, hobbies, interests – because they seem to be able to provide more or less Narcissistic Supply and only because of that.

Still, narcissists belong to two broad categories: the "compensatory stability" and the "enhancing instability" types.

I. Compensatory Stability ("Classic") Narcissists

These narcissists isolate one or more (but never most) aspects of their lives and "make these aspect/s stable". They do not really invest themselves in it. The stability is maintained by artificial means: money, celebrity, power, fear. A typical example is a narcissist who changes numerous workplaces, a few careers, a myriad of hobbies, value systems or faiths. At the same time, he maintains (preserves) a relationship with a single woman (and even remains faithful to her). She is his "island of stability". To fulfil this role, she just needs to be there physically.

The narcissist is dependent upon "his" woman to maintain the stability lacking in all other areas of his life (=to compensate for his instability). Yet, emotional closeness is bound to threaten the narcissist.


Thus, he is likely to distance himself from her and to remain detached and indifferent to most of her needs. Despite this cruel emotional treatment, the narcissist considers her to be a point of exit, a form of sustenance, a fountain of empowerment. This mismatch between what he wishes to receive and what he is able to give, the narcissist prefers to deny, repress and bury deep in his unconscious. This is why he is always shocked and devastated to learn of his wife's estrangement, infidelity, or divorce intentions. Possessed of no emotional depth, being completely one track minded – he cannot fathom the needs of others. In other words, he cannot empathise.

Another – even more common – case is the "career narcissist". This narcissist marries, divorces and remarries with dizzying speed. Everything in his life is in constant flux: friends, emotions, judgements, values, beliefs, place of residence, affiliations, hobbies. Everything, that is, except his work. His career is the island of compensating stability in his volatile existence. This kind of narcissist doggedly pursues it with unmitigated ambition and devotion. He perseveres in one workplace or one job, patiently, persistently and blindly climbing up the ladder or treading the career path. In his pursuit of job fulfilment and achievements, the narcissist is ruthless and unscrupulous – and, very often, most successful.

II. Enhancing Instability ("Borderline") Narcissist

The other kind of narcissist enhances instability in one aspect or dimension of his life – by introducing instability in others. Thus, if such a narcissist resigns (or, more likely, is made redundant) – he also relocates to another city or country. If he divorces, he is also likely to resign his job. This added instability gives these narcissists the feeling that all the dimensions of their life are changing simultaneously, that they are being "unshackled", that a transformation is in progress. This, of course, is an illusion. Those who know the narcissist, no longer trust his frequent "conversions", "decisions", "crises", "transformations", "developments" and "periods". They see through his pretensions and declarations into the core of his instability. They know that he is not to be relied upon. They know that with narcissists, temporariness is the only permanence.


Narcissists hate routine. When a narcissist finds himself doing the same things over and over again, he gets depressed. He oversleeps, over-eats, over-drinks and, in general, engages in addictive, impulsive, reckless, and compulsive behaviours. This is his way of re-introducing risk and excitement into what he (emotionally) perceives to be a barren life.

The problem is that even the most exciting and varied existence becomes routine after a while. Living in the same country or apartment, meeting the same people, doing essentially the same things (even with changing content) – all "qualify" as stultifying rote.

The narcissist feels entitled to more. He feels it is his right – due to his intellectual superiority – to lead a thrilling, rewarding, kaleidoscopic life. He feels entitled to force life itself, or, at least, people around him, to yield to his wishes and needs, supreme among them the need for stimulating variety.

This rejection of habit is part of a larger pattern of aggressive entitlement. The narcissist feels that the very existence of a sublime intellect (such as himself) warrants concessions and allowances by others. Standing in line is a waste of time better spent pursuing knowledge, inventing and creating. The narcissist should avail himself of the best medical treatment proffered by the most prominent medical authorities – lest the asset that he is lost to Mankind. He should not be bothered with trivial pursuits – these lowly functions are best assigned to the less gifted. The devil is in paying precious attention to detail.

Entitlement is sometimes justified in a Picasso or an Einstein. But few narcissists are either. Their achievements are grotesquely incommensurate with their overwhelming sense of entitlement and with their grandiose self-image.

Of course, the feeling of superiority often serves to mask a cancerous complex of inferiority. Moreover, the narcissist infects others with his projected grandiosity and their feedback constitutes the edifice upon which he constructs his self-esteem. He regulates his sense of self worth by rigidly insisting that he is above the madding crowd while deriving his Narcissistic Supply from this very source.

But there is a second angle to this abhorrence of the predictable. Narcissists employ a host of Emotional Involvement Prevention Measures (EIPM). Despising routine and avoiding it is one of these mechanisms. Their function is to prevent the narcissist from getting emotionally involved and, subsequently, hurt.

Their application results in an "approach-avoidance repetition complex". The narcissist, fearing and loathing intimacy, stability and security – yet craving them – approaches and then avoids significant others or important tasks in a rapid succession of apparently inconsistent and disconnected behaviours.

 

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION # 24

 

 

 

Other People's Pain

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Do they actually enjoy the taunting, the sadistic behaviour, and the punishment that always follows?

Answer: Most narcissists enjoy an irrational and brief burst of relief after having suffered emotionally ("narcissistic injury") or after having sustained a loss. It is a sense of freedom, which comes with being unshackled. Having lost everything, the narcissist often feels that he has found himself, that he has been re-born, that he has been charged with natal energy, able to take on new challenges and to explore new territories. This elation is so addictive, that the narcissist often seeks pain, humiliation, punishment, scorn, and contempt – as long as they are public and involve the attention of peers and superiors. Being punished accords with the tormenting inner voices of the narcissist which keep telling him that he is bad, corrupt, and worthy of penalty.

This is the masochistic streak in the narcissist. But the narcissist is also a sadist – albeit an unusual one.

The narcissist inflicts pain and abuse on others. He devalues Sources of Supply, callously and off-handedly abandons them, and discards people, places, partnerships, and friendships unhesitatingly. Some narcissists – though by no means the majority – actually ENJOY abusing, taunting, tormenting, and freakishly controlling others ("gaslighting"). But most of them do these things absentmindedly, automatically, and, often, even without good reason.

What is unusual about the narcissist's sadistic behaviours – premeditated acts of tormenting others while enjoying their anguished reactions – is that they are goal orientated. "Pure" sadists have no goal in mind except the pursuit of pleasure – pain as an art form (remember the Marquis de Sade?).


The narcissist, on the other hand, haunts and hunts his victims for a reason – he wants them to reflect his inner state. It is all part of a mechanism called Projective Identification.

When the narcissist is angry, unhappy, disappointed, injured, or hurt – he feels unable to express his emotions sincerely and openly since to do so would be to admit his frailty, his neediness, and his weaknesses. He deplores his own humanity – his emotions, his vulnerability, his susceptibility, his gullibility, his inadequacies, and his failures. So, he makes use of other people to express his pain and his frustration, his pent up anger and his aggression. He achieves this by mentally torturing other people to the point of madness, by driving them to violence, by reducing them to scar tissue in search of outlet, closure, and, sometimes, revenge. He forces people to lose their own character traits – and adopt his own instead. In reaction to his constant and well-targeted abuse, they become abusive, vengeful, ruthless, lacking empathy, obsessed, and aggressive. They mirror him faithfully and thus relieve him of the need to express himself directly.

Having constructed this writhing hall of human mirrors, the narcissist withdraws. The goal achieved, he lets go. As opposed to the sadist, he is no in it, indefinitely, for the pleasure of it. He abuses and traumatizes, humiliates and abandons, discards and ignores, insults and provokes – only for the purpose of purging his inner demons. By possessing others, he purifies himself, cathartically, and exorcises his demented self.

This accomplished, he acts almost with remorse. An episode of extreme abuse is followed by an act of great care and by mellifluous apologies. The narcissistic pendulum swings between the extremes of torturing others and empathically soothing the resulting pain. This incongruous behaviour, these "sudden" shifts between sadism and altruism, abuse and "love", ignoring and caring, abandoning and clinging, viciousness and remorse, the harsh and the tender – are, perhaps, the most difficult to comprehend and to accept. These swings produce in people around the narcissist emotional insecurity, an eroded sense of self-worth, fear, stress, and anxiety ("walking on eggshells"). Gradually, emotional paralysis ensues and they come to occupy the same emotional wasteland inhabited by the narcissist, his prisoners and hostages in more ways than one – and even when he is long out of their life.

 

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION # 39

 

 

 

To Age with Grace

 

 

 

 

 

"The permanent temptation of life is to confuse dreams with reality. Then permanent defeat of life comes when dreams are surrendered to reality."

James Michener, Author

 

The narcissist ages without mercy and without grace. His withered body and his overwrought mind betray him all at once. He stares with incredulity and rage at cruel mirrors. He refuses to accept his growing fallibility. He rebels against his decrepitude and mediocrity. Accustomed to being awe-inspiring and the recipient of adulation – the narcissist cannot countenance his social isolation and the pathetic figure that he cuts.

As a child prodigy, a sex symbol, a stud, a public intellectual, an actor, an idol – the narcissist was at the centre of attention, the eye of his personal twister, a black hole which sucked people's energy and resources dry and spat out with indifference their mutilated carcasses. No longer. With old age comes disillusionment. Old charms wear thin.

Having been exposed for what he is – a deceitful, treacherous, malignant egotist – the narcissist's old tricks now fail him. People are on their guard, their gullibility reduced. The narcissist – being the rigid, precariously balanced structure that he is – can't change. He reverts to old forms, re-adopts hoary habits, succumbs to erstwhile temptations. He is made a mockery by his accentuated denial of reality, by his obdurate refusal to grow up, an eternal, malformed child in the sagging body of a decaying man.

It is the fable of the grasshopper and the ant revisited.


The narcissist – the grasshopper – having relied on supercilious stratagems throughout his life – is singularly ill-adapted to life's rigors and tribulations. He feels entitled – but fails to elicit Narcissistic Supply. Wrinkled time makes child prodigies lose their magic, lovers exhaust their potency, philanderers waste their allure, and geniuses miss their touch. The longer the narcissist lives – the more average he becomes. The wider the gulf between his pretensions and his accomplishments – the more he is the object of derision and contempt.

Yet, few narcissists save for rainy days. Few bother to study a trade, or get a degree, pursue a career, maintain a business, keep their jobs, or raise functioning families, nurture their friendships, or broaden their horizons. Narcissists are perennially ill-prepared. Those who succeed in their vocation, end up bitterly alone having squandered the love of spouse, off-spring, and mates. The more gregarious and family-orientated – often flunk at work, leap from one job to another, relocate erratically, forever itinerant and peripatetic.

The contrast between his youth and prime and his dilapidated present constitutes a permanent narcissistic injury. The narcissist retreats deeper into himself to find solace. He withdraws into the penumbral universe of his grandiose fantasies. There – almost psychotic – he salves his wounds and comforts himself with trophies of his past.

A rare minority of narcissists accept their fate with fatalism or good humour. These precious few are healed mysteriously by the deepest offence to their megalomania – old age. They lose their narcissism and confront the outer world with the poise and composure that they lacked when they were captives of their own, distorted, narrative.

Such changed narcissists develop new, more realistic, expectations and hopes – commensurate with their talents, skills, accomplishments and education. Ironically, it is invariably too late. They are avoided and ignored, rendered transparent by their checkered past. They are passed over for promotion, never invited to professional or social gatherings, cold-shouldered by the media. They are snubbed and disregarded. They are never the recipients of perks, benefits, or awards. They are blamed when not blameworthy and rarely praised when deserving. They are being constantly and consistently punished for who they were. It is poetic justice in more than one way. They are being treated narcissistically by their erstwhile victims.


They finally are tasting their own medicine, the bitter harvest of their wrath and arrogance.

 

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION # 49

 

 

 

The Inverted Narcissist

 

 

 

With contributions by: Alice Ratzlaff (*) and

The members of the Narcissism List

 

 

 

The Clinical Picture and Developmental Roots –

Opening Remarks

Terminology

Co-dependents

People who depend on other people for their emotional gratification and the performance of Ego or daily functions. They are needy, demanding, submissive. They fear abandonment, cling and display immature behaviours in their effort to maintain the "relationship" with their companion or mate upon whom they depend. No matter what abuse is inflicted upon them – they remain in the relationship.

See also the definition of the Dependent Personality Disorder in the DSM-IV-TR.

Inverted Narcissist

Previously called "covert narcissist", this is a co-dependent who depends exclusively on narcissists (narcissist-co-dependent). If you live with a narcissist, have a relationship with one, are married to one, work with a narcissist, etc. – it does NOT mean that you are an inverted narcissist.

To "qualify" as an inverted narcissist – you must CRAVE to be in a relationship with a narcissist, regardless of any abuse inflicted on you by him/her.


You must ACTIVELY seek relationships with narcissists – and ONLY with narcissists – no matter what your (bitter and traumatic) past experience has been. You must feel EMPTY and UNHAPPY in relationships with ANY OTHER kind of person. Only THEN – AND if you satisfy the other diagnostic criteria of a Dependent Personality Disorder – can you be safely labelled an "inverted narcissist".

Introduction

The DSM-IV-TR uses 9 criteria to define the NPD. It is sufficient to possess 5 of them to "qualify" as a narcissist. Thus, theoretically, it is possible to be NPD WITHOUT being grandiose. Many researchers (Alexander Lowen, Jeffrey Satinover, Theodore Millon and others) suggested a "taxonomy" of pathological narcissism. They divided narcissists to sub-groups (very much as I did with my somatic versus cerebral narcissist dichotomy). Lowen, for instance, talks about the "phallic" narcissist versus others. Satinover and Millon make a very important distinction between narcissists who were raised by abusive parents – and those who were raised by doting and smothering or domineering mothers.

Glenn O. Gabbard in "Psychodynamic Psychiatry in Clinical Practice" [The DSM-IV-TR Edition. Comments on Cluster B Personality Disorders – Narcissistic. American Psychiatric Press, Inc., 2000] we find this:

"…what definitive criteria can be used to differentiate healthy from pathological narcissism? The time honoured criteria of psychological health – to love and to work – are only partly useful in answering this question."

"An individual's work history may provide little help in making the distinction. Highly disturbed narcissistic individuals may find extraordinary success in certain professions, such as big business, the arts, politics, the entertainment industry, athletics and televangelism field. In some cases, however, narcissistic pathology may be reflected in a superficial quality to one's professional interests, as though achievement in and acclaim are more important than mastery of the field itself.

Pathological forms of narcissism are more easily identified by the quality of the individual's relationships.


One tragedy affecting these people is their inability to love. Healthy interpersonal relationships can be recognised by qualities such as empathy and concern for the feelings of others, a genuine interest in the ideas of others, the ability to tolerate ambivalence in long-term relationships without giving up, and a capacity to acknowledge one's own contribution to interpersonal conflicts. People who are characterised by these qualities may at times use others to gratify their own needs, but the tendency occurs in the broader context of sensitive interpersonal relatedness rather than as a pervasive style of dealing with other people. One the other hand, the person with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder approaches people as objects to be used up and discarded according to his or her needs, without regard for their feelings.

People are not viewed as having a separate existence or as having needs of their own. The individual with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder frequently ends a relationship after a short time, usually when the other person begins to make demands stemming from for his or her own needs. Most importantly, such relationships clearly do not 'work' in terms of the narcissist's ability to maintain his or her own sense of self-esteem."

"…These criteria [the DSM-IV-TR's – SV] identify a certain kind of narcissistic patient – specifically, the arrogant, boastful, 'noisy' individual who demands to be in the spotlight. However, they fail to characterise the shy, quietly grandiose, narcissistic individual whose extreme sensitivity to slights leads to an assiduous avoidance of the spotlight."

The DSM-III-R alluded to at least TWO TYPES of narcissists, but the DSM-IV-TR committee chose to delete this: "…included criterion, 'reacts to criticism with feelings of rage, shame, or humiliation (even not if expressed)' due to lack of 'specificity'."

Other theoreticians, clinicians and researchers similarly suggested a division between "the oblivious narcissist" (a.k.a. overt) and "the hypervigilant narcissist" (a.k.a. covert).

The Compensatory versus the Classic Narcissist

Another interesting distinction, suggested by Dave Kelly in his excellent PTYPES Web site [http://www.ptypes.com] is between the Compensatory Type NPD and the Classic NPD (DSM-IV-TR type).

Here are the Compensatory NPD criteria according to Dave Kelly:


"Personality Types proposes Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Disorder as a pervasive pattern of unstable, covert narcissistic behaviours that derive from an underlying sense of insecurity and weakness rather than from genuine feelings of self-confidence and high self-esteem, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by six (or more) of the criteria below.

The basic trait of the Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Type is a pattern of overtly narcissistic behaviours (that) derive from an underlying sense of insecurity and weakness, rather than from genuine feelings of self-confidence and high self-esteem."

The Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Type:

• Seeks to create an illusion of superiority and to build up an image of high self-worth [Millon];

• Strives for recognition and prestige to compensate for the lack of a feeling of self-worth;

• May "acquire a deprecatory attitude in which the achievements of others are ridiculed and degraded" [Millon];

• Has persistent aspirations for glory and status [Millon];

• Has a tendency to exaggerate and boast [Millon];

• Is sensitive to how others react to him, watches and listens carefully for critical judgement, and feels slighted by disapproval [Millon];

• "Is prone to feel shamed and humiliated and especially (anxious) and vulnerable to the judgements of others" [Millon];

• Covers up a sense of inadequacy and deficiency with pseudo-arrogance and pseudo-grandiosity [Millon];

• Has a tendency to periodic hypochondria [Forman];

• Alternates between feelings of emptiness and deadness and states of excitement and excess energy [Forman];

• Entertains fantasies of greatness, constantly striving for perfection, genius, or stardom [Forman];

• Has a history of searching for an idealised partner and has an intense need for affirmation and confirmation in relationships [Forman];

• Frequently entertains a wishful, exaggerated and unrealistic concept of himself, which he can't possibly measure up to [Reich];

• Produces (too quickly) work not up to the level of his abilities because of an overwhelmingly strong need for the immediate gratification of success [Reich];

• Is touchy, quick to take offence at the slightest provocation, continually anticipating attack and danger, reacting with anger and fantasies of revenge when he feels himself frustrated in his need for constant admiration [Reich];

• Is self-conscious, due to a dependence on approval from others [Reich];

• Suffers regularly from repetitive oscillations of self-esteem [Reich];

• Seeks to undo feelings of inadequacy by forcing everyone's attention and admiration upon himself [Reich];

• May react with self-contempt and depression to the lack of fulfilment of his grandiose expectations [Riso].

Sources:

Forman, Max. Narcissistic Disorders and the Oedipal Fixations. In Feldstein, J.J. (Ed.), The Annual of Psychoanalysis. Volume IV. New York: International Universities [1976] pp. 65-92.

Millon, Theodore, and Roger D. Davis. Disorders of Personality: DSM-IV and Beyond. 2nd Ed. New York: Wiley, [1996] pp. 411-12.

Reich, Annie, [1986]. Pathological Forms of Self-Esteem Regulation. In Morrison, A. P., (Ed.), Essential Papers on Narcissism. pp. 44-60. Reprint from 1960. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. Volume 15, pp. 205-32.

Riso, Don Richard. Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery. Boston: Houghton Mifflin [1987] pp. 102-3.

Speculative Diagnostic Criteria for

Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of self-inflation, pseudo-confidence, exhibitionism, and strivings for prestige, that compensates for feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, as indicated by the following:

• Pseudo-confidence compensating for an underlying condition of insecurity and feelings of helplessness;

• Pretentiousness, self-inflation;

• Exhibitionism in the pursuit of attention, recognition, and glory;

• Strivings for prestige to enhance self-esteem;

• Deceitfulness and manipulativeness in the service of maintaining feelings of superiority;

• Idealisation in relationships;

• Fragmentation of the self: feelings of emptiness and deadness;

• A proud, hubristic disposition;

• Hypochondriasis;

• Substance abuse;

• Self-destructiveness.

Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Disorder corresponds to Ernest Jones' narcissistic "God Complex", Annie Reich's "Compensatory Narcissism", Heinz Kohut's "Narcissistic Personality Disorder", and Theodore Millon's "Compensatory Narcissist".

Millon, Theodore, and Roger D. Davis. Disorders of Personality: DSM-IV and Beyond. 2nd ed. New York: Wiley, 1996. 411-12.

Compare this to the classic type:

Narcissistic Personality Type

The basic trait of the Narcissistic Personality Type is a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.

The Narcissistic Personality Type:

• Reacts to criticism with feelings of rage, shame, or humiliation;

• Is interpersonally exploitive: takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends;

• Has a grandiose sense of self-importance;

• Believes that his problems are unique and can be understood only by other special people;

• Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love;

• Has a sense of entitlement: an unreasonable expectation of especially favourable treatment;

• Requires much attention and admiration of others;

• Lacks empathy: fails to recognise and experience how others feel;

• Is preoccupied with feelings of envy.

This is mainly the DSM-III-R view. Pay attention to the not so subtle changes in the DSM-IV-TR – SV:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [American Psychiatric Association. DSM-IV-TR, Washington, 2000] describes Narcissistic Personality Disorder as a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

• Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognised as superior without commensurate achievements);

• Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love;

• Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions);

• Requires excessive admiration;

• Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations;

• Is interpersonally exploitive, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends;

• Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others;

• Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her;

• Shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes.

Summarised from: American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR, Washington [2000]

The Inverted Narcissist

It is clear that there is, indeed, an hitherto neglected type of narcissist. It is the "self-effacing" or "introverted" narcissist. We call it the Inverted Narcissist (hereinafter: IN). Others call it "narcissist-codependent" or "N-magnet".

This is a narcissist who, in many respects, is the mirror image of the "classical" narcissist. No one is sure why. The psychodynamics of such a narcissist are not clear, nor are its developmental roots. Perhaps it is the product of an overweening Primary Object or caregiver. Perhaps excessive abuse leads to the repression of even the narcissistic and other defence mechanisms. Perhaps the parents suppress every manifestation of grandiosity (very common in early childhood) and of narcissism – so that the narcissistic defence mechanism is "inverted" and internalised in this unusual form.

These narcissists are self-effacing, sensitive, emotionally fragile, sometimes socially phobic. They derive all their self-esteem and sense of self-worth from the outside (others), are pathologically envious (a transformation of aggression), are likely to intermittently engage in aggressive/violent behaviours, are more emotionally labile than the classic narcissist, etc.

We can, therefore talk about three "basic" types of narcissists:

1. The offspring of neglecting parents – They resort to narcissism as the predominant object relation (with themselves as the exclusive object).

2. The offspring of doting or domineering parents (often narcissists themselves) – They internalised their parents' voices in the form of a sadistic, ideal, immature Superego and spend their lives trying to be perfect, omnipotent, omniscient and to be judged "a success" by these parent-images and their later representations (authority figures).

3. The offspring of abusive parents – They internalise the abusing, demeaning and contemptuous voices and spend their lives in an effort to elicit "counter-voices" from their human environment and thus to extract a modicum of self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

All three types exhibit recursive, recurrent and Sisyphean failures. Shielded by their defence mechanisms, they constantly gauge reality wrongly, their actions and reactions become more and more rigid and ossified and the damage inflicted by them on themselves and on others ever greater.

The narcissistic parent seems to employ a myriad of primitive defences in his dealings with his children. Splitting – idealising the child and devaluing him in cycles, which reflect the internal dynamics of the parent rather than anything the child does. Projective Identification – forcing the child into behaviours and traits, which reflect the parents' fears regarding himself or herself, his or her self-image and his or her self-worth. This is a particularly powerful and pernicious mechanism. If the narcissist parent fears his own deficiencies ("defects"), vulnerability, perceived weaknesses, susceptibility, gullibility, or emotions – he is likely to force the child to "feel" these rejected and (to him) repulsive emotions, to behave in ways strongly abhorred by the parent, to exhibit character traits the parent strongly rejects in himself.

The child, in a way, becomes the "trash bin" of the parents' inhibitions, fears, self-loathing, self-contempt, perceived lack of self-worth, sense of inadequacy, rejected traits, repressed emotions, failures and emotional reticence. Coupled with the parent's treatment of the child as the parent's extension, it serves to totally inhibit the psychological growth and emotional maturation of the child. The child becomes a reflection of the parent – a vessel through which the parent experiences and realises himself for better (hopes, aspirations, ambition, life goals) and for worse (weaknesses, "undesirable" emotions, "negative" traits).


A host of other, simpler, defence mechanisms employed by the parent are likely to obscure the predominant use of projective identification: projection, displacement, intellectualisation, depersonalisation. Relationships between such parents and their progeny easily deteriorate to sexual or other modes of abuse because there are no functioning boundaries between them.

It seems that the child's reaction to a narcissistic parent can be either accommodation and assimilation or rejection.

Accommodation and Assimilation

The child accommodates, idealises and internalises the Primary Object successfully. This means that the child's "internal voice" is narcissistic and that the child tries to comply with its directives and with its explicit and perceived wishes. The child becomes a masterful provider of Narcissistic Supply, a perfect match to the parent's personality, an ideal source, an accommodating, understanding and caring caterer to all the needs, whims, mood swings and cycles of the narcissist, an endurer of devaluation and idealisation with equanimity, a superb adapter to the narcissist's world view, in short: the ultimate extension. This is what we call an "inverted narcissist".

We must not neglect the abusive aspect of such a relationship. The narcissistic parent always alternates between idealisation of his progeny and its devaluation. The child is likely to internalise the devaluing, abusive, demeaning, berating, diminishing, minimising, upbraiding, chastising voices. The parent (or caregiver) goes on to survive inside the adult (as part of a sadistic and ideal Superego and an unrealistic Ego Ideal, to resort to psychoanalytic parlance). These are the voices that inhibit the development of reactive narcissism, the child's defence mechanism.

The child turned adult maintains these traits. He keeps looking for narcissists in order to feel whole, alive and wanted. He wishes to be treated by a narcissist narcissistically (what others would call abuse is, to him or her, familiar and constitutes Narcissistic Supply). To him, the narcissist is a Source of Supply (primary or secondary) and the narcissistic behaviours constitute Narcissistic Supply. He feels dissatisfied, empty and unloved if not loved by a narcissist.

The roles of Primary Source of Narcissistic Supply (PSNS) and Secondary Source of Narcissistic Supply (SSNS) are reversed. To the inverted narcissist, a spouse is a Source of PRIMARY Supply.


The other reaction to the narcissistic parent is:

Rejection

The child may react to the narcissism of the Primary Object with a peculiar type of rejection. He develops his own narcissistic personality, replete with grandiosity and lack of empathy – BUT his personality is antithetical to the personality of the narcissistic parent. If the parent were a somatic narcissist – he is likely to be a cerebral one, if his father prided himself being virtuous – he is sinful, if his mother bragged about her frugality, he is bound to flaunt his wealth.

An Attempted DSM-Style List of Criteria

We came up with a DSM-IV-TR "style" inventory for an inverted narcissist, using the narcissists' characteristics as a template, because they are, in many ways two sides of the same coin, or "the mould and the moulded" hence "mirror narcissist" or "inverted narcissist".

The narcissist tries to merge with an idealised but badly internalised object. He does so by "digesting" the meaningful others in his life and transforming them into extensions of his self. He employs various techniques to achieve this. To the "digested" this is the crux of the harrowing experience called "living with a narcissist".

The "inverted narcissist" (IN), on the other hand, does not attempt, except in fantasy or in dangerous, masochistic sexual practice, to merge with an idealised external object. This is because he so successfully internalised the narcissistic Primary Object to the exclusion of all else. The IN feels ill at ease in a relationship with a non-narcissist because it is unconsciously perceived by him to be "betrayal", "cheating", an abrogation of the exclusivity clause he had with the narcissistic Primary Object.

This is the big difference between narcissists and their inverted version. The former REJECTED the Primary Object in particular (and object relations in general) in favour of a handy substitute: themselves.

The IN accepted the (narcissist) Primary Object and internalised it – to the exclusion of all others (unless they are perceived by him to be faithful renditions, replicas of the narcissistic Primary Object).


Criterion ONE

The IN possesses a rigid sense of lack of self-worth.

The narcissist has a badly regulated sense of self-worth. However this is not conscious. He goes through cycles of self-devaluation (and experiences them as dysphorias). The IN's sense of self-worth does NOT fluctuate. It is rather stable – but it is very low. Whereas the narcissist devalues others – the IN devalues himself as an offering, a sacrifice to the narcissist. The IN pre-empts the narcissist by devaluing himself, by actively devaluing his own achievements, or talents. The IN is exceedingly distressed when singled out because of actual achievements or demonstration of superior skills.

The inverted narcissist is compelled to filter all of his narcissistic needs through the primary narcissist in their lives. No independence is permitted. The IN feels amplified by the narcissist's commentary (because nothing can be accomplished by the invert without the approval of a primary narcissist in their lives).

Criterion TWO

Pre-occupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance and beauty or of an ideal of love.

This is the same as the DSM-IV-TR criterion for Narcissistic Personality Disorder but, with the IN, it manifests absolutely differently, i.e. the cognitive dissonance is sharper here because the IN is so absolutely and completely convinced of their worthlessness that these fantasies of grandeur are extremely painful "dissonances".

With the narcissist, the dissonance exists on two levels:

Between the UNCONSCIOUS feeling of lack of stable self-worth and the grandiose fantasies AND between the grandiose fantasies and reality (the Grandiosity Gap).

In comparison, the inverted narcissist can only vacillate between lack of self-worth and reality. No grandiosity is permitted, except in dangerous, forbidden fantasy. This shows that the invert is psychologically incapable of fully realising their inherent potentials without a primary narcissist to filter the praise, adulation or accomplishments through. They MUST have someone to whom praise can be redirected.


The dissonance between the IN's certainty of self-worthlessness and genuine praise that cannot be deflected is likely to emotionally derail the inverted narcissist every time.

Criterion THREE

Believes that he is absolutely un-unique and un-special (i.e., worthless and not worthy of merger with the fantasised ideal) and that no one at all could understand him because he is innately unworthy of being understood. The IN becomes very agitated the more one tries to understand him because that also offends against his righteous sense of being properly excluded from the human race.

A sense of worthlessness is typical of many other PDs (AND the feeling that no one could ever understand them). The narcissist himself endures prolonged periods of self-devaluation, self-deprecation and self-effacement. This is part of the Narcissistic Cycle. In this sense, the inverted narcissist is a PARTIAL narcissist in that he is permanently fixated in a part of the narcissist wheel, never to experience its complementary half: the narcissistic grandiosity and sense of entitlement.

The "righteous sense of being properly excluded" comes from the sadistic Superego in concert with the "overbearing, externally reinforced, conscience".

Criterion FOUR

Demands anonymity (in the sense of seeking to remain excluded at all costs) and is intensely irritated and uncomfortable with any attention being paid to him – similar to the Schizoid PD.

Criterion FIVE

Feels that he is undeserving and not entitled.

Feels that he is inferior to others, lacking, insubstantial, unworthy, unlikeable, unlovable, someone to scorn and dismiss, or to ignore.

Criterion SIX

Is extinguishingly selfless, sacrificial, even unctuous in his interpersonal relationships and will avoid the assistance of others at all costs. Can only interact with others when he can be seen to be giving, supportive, and expending an unusual effort to assist.


Some narcissists behave the same way but only as a means to obtain Narcissistic Supply (praise, adulation, affirmation, attention). This must not be confused with the behaviour of the IN.

Criterion SEVEN

Lacks empathy. Is intensely attuned to others' needs, but only in so far as it relates to his own need to perform the required self-sacrifice, which in turn is necessary in order for the IN to obtain his Narcissistic Supply from the primary narcissist.

By contrast, narcissists are never empathic. They are intermittently attuned to others only in order to optimise the extraction of Narcissistic Supply from them.

Criterion EIGHT

Envies others. Cannot conceive of being envied and becomes extremely agitated and uncomfortable if even brought into a situation where comparison might occur – loathes competition and will avoid competition at all costs, if there is any chance of actually winning the competition, or being singled out.

Criterion NINE

Displays extreme shyness, lack of any real relational connections, is publicly self-effacing in the extreme, is internally highly moralistic and critical of others; is a perfectionist and engages in lengthy ritualistic behaviours, which can never be perfectly performed (obsessive-compulsive, though not necessarily to the full extent exhibited in OCD). Notions of being individualistic are anathema.

The Reactive Patterns of the Inverted Narcissist (IN)

The inverted narcissist does not suffer from a "milder" form of narcissism. Like the "classic" narcissists, it has degrees and shades. But it is much more rare and the DSM-IV-TR variety is the more prevalent.

The inverted narcissist is liable to react with rage whenever threatened, or…

…When envious of other people's achievements, their ability to feel wholeness, happiness, rewards and successes, when his sense of self-worthlessness is enhanced by a behaviour, a comment, an event, when his lack of self-worth and voided self-esteem is THREATENED.


Thus, this type of narcissist might surprisingly react violently or rage-fully to GOOD things: a kind remark, a mission accomplished, a reward, a compliment, a proposition, a sexual advance).

…When thinking about the past, when emotions and memories are evoked (usually negative ones) by certain music, a given smell, or sight.

…When his pathological envy leads to an all-pervasive sense of injustice and being discriminated against or treated unjustly by a spiteful world.

…When he encounters stupidity, avarice, dishonesty, bigotry – it is these qualities in him that the narcissist really fears and rejects so vehemently in others.

…When he believes that he failed (and he always entertains this belief), that he is imperfect and useless and worthless, a good for nothing half-baked creature.

…When he realises to what extent his inner demons possess him, constrain his life, torment him, deform him and the hopelessness of it all.

Then even the inverted narcissist rages. He becomes verbally and emotionally abusive. He uncannily pierces the soft spots of his target, and mercilessly drives home the poisoned dagger of despair and self-loathing until it infects his adversary.

The calm after such a storm is even eerier, a thundering silence. The narcissist regrets his behaviour but rarely admits his feelings, though he might apologise profusely.

He simply nurtures his feelings as yet another weapon of self-destruction and self-defeat. It is from this very suppressed self-contempt, from this very repressed and introverted judgement, from this missing emotional atonement that the narcissistic rage springs forth. Thus the vicious cycle is established.

One important difference between inverted narcissists and non-narcissists is that the former are less likely to react with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) following a relationship with a narcissist. They seem to be "desensitised" to narcissists by their early upbringing. Whereas the reactions of normal people to narcissistic behaviour patterns (and especially to the splitting and projective identification defence mechanisms and to the idealisation devaluation cycles) is shock, profound hurt and disorientation – inverted narcissists show none of the above.


The Life of the Inverted Narcissist (IN)

The IN is, usually, exceedingly and painfully shy as a child. Despite this social phobia, his grandiosity (absorbed from the parent) might direct him to seek "limelight" professions and occupations, which involve exposure, competition, "stage fright" and social friction. The setting can vary from the limited (family) to the expansive (national media) – but, whatever it is, the result is constant conflict and feelings of discomfort, even terror and extreme excitement and thrill ("adrenaline rush"). This is because the IN's grandiosity is "imported" and not fully integrated. It is, therefore, not supportive of his "grandiose" pursuits (as is the case with the narcissist). On the contrary, the IN feels awkward, pitted on the edge of a precipice, contrived, false and misleading, not to say deceitful.

The inverted narcissist grows up in a suppressive environment. It could be an orthodox, hyper-religious, or traditionalist culture, a monovalent, "black and white", doctrinarian and indoctrinating society – or a family which manifests all the above in a microcosm all its own. The inverted narcissist is cast in a negative (emergent) role within his family. His "negativity" is attributed to his gender, the order of his birth, religious, social, or cultural dictates and commandments, his "character flaws", his relation to a specific person or event, his acts or inaction and so on.

In the words of one such IN:

"In the religious culture I grew up in. Women are SO suppressed, their roles are so carefully restricted. They are the representation, in the flesh, of all that is sinful, degrading, of all that is wrong with the world.

These are the negative gender/cultural images that were force fed to us the negative 'otherness' of women, as defined by men, was fed to me. I was so shy, withdrawn, unable to really relate to people at all from as early as I can remember."

The IN is subjected and exposed either to an overbearing, overvalued parent, or to an aloof, detached, emotionally unavailable one – or to both – at an early stage of his life.

"I grew up in the shadow of my father who adored me, put me on a pedestal, told me I could do or be anything I wanted because I was incredibly bright, BUT, he ate me alive, I was his property and an extension of him.


I also grew up with the mounting hatred of my narcissist brother who got none of this attention from our father and got no attention from our mother either. My function was to make my father look wonderful in the eyes of all outsiders, the wonderful parent with a genius Wunderkind as his last child, and the only child of the six that he was physically present to raise from the get go. The overvaluation combined with being abjectly ignored or raged at by him when I stepped out of line even the tiniest bit, was enough to warp my personality."

The invert cannot, or is prevented from developing full-blown secondary narcissism. The invert is so heavily preoccupied in his or her pre-school years in satisfying the narcissistic parent, that the traits of grandiosity and self-love, need for adoration and Narcissistic Supply from ANY viable source remain dormant or repressed.

The invert simply "knows" that only the narcissistic parent can provide the requisite amount of Narcissistic Supply. The narcissistic parent is so controlling that any attempt to garner praise or adulation from any other source (without the approval of the parent) is severely punished by swift devaluation and even the occasional spanking or abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual).

This is a vital part of the conditioning that gives rise to inverted narcissism. Where the narcissist exhibits grandiosity, the invert is intensely uncomfortable with personal praise, and wishes to always divert praise away from himself onto his narcissist. This is why the IN can only truly FEEL anything when he is in relationship with another narcissist. The IN is conditioned and programmed from the very beginning to be the perfect companion to the narcissist. To feed their Ego, to be purely their extension, to seek only praise and adulation if it brings greater praise and adulation to the narcissist.

The Inverted Narcissist's Survival Guide

• Listen attentively to everything the narcissist says and agree with it all.

Don't believe a word of it but let it slide as if everything is just fine, business as usual.

• Offer something absolutely unique to the narcissist which they cannot obtain anywhere else.


Also be prepared to line up future Sources of Primary NS for your narcissist because you will not be IT for very long, if at all. If you take over the procuring function for the narcissist, they become that much more dependent on you which makes it a bit tougher for them to pull their haughty stuff – an inevitability, in any case.

• Be endlessly patient and go way out of your way to be accommodating, thus keeping the Narcissistic Supply flowing liberally, and keeping the peace (relatively speaking).

• Get tremendous personal satisfaction out of endlessly giving. This one may not be attractive to you, but it is a take it or leave it proposition.

• Be absolutely emotionally and financially independent of the narcissist. Take what you need: the excitement and engulfment (i.e., NS) and refuse to get upset or hurt when the narcissist does or says something dumb. Yelling back works really well but should be reserved for special occasions when you fear your narcissist may be on the verge of leaving you; the silent treatment is better as an ordinary response, but it must be devoid of emotional content, more with the air of boredom and "I'll talk to you later, when I am good and ready, and when you are behaving in a more reasonable fashion."

• If your narcissist is cerebral and NOT interested in having much sex – then give yourself ample permission to have sex with other people. Your cerebral narcissist will not be indifferent to infidelity so discretion and secrecy is of paramount importance.

• If your narcissist is somatic and you don't mind, join in on endlessly interesting group sex encounters but make sure that you choose properly for your narcissist. They are heedless and very undiscriminating in respect of sexual partners and that can get very problematic (STDs and blackmail come to mind).

• If you are a "fixer" which most inverted narcissists are, then focus on fixing situations, preferably before they become "situations". Don't for one moment delude yourself that you can FIX the narcissist – it simply will not happen. Not because they are being stubborn – they just simply can't be fixed.

• If there is any fixing that can be done, it is to help your narcissist become aware of their condition, and this is VERY IMPORTANT, with no negative implications or accusations in the process at all.


It is like living with a physically handicapped person and being able to discuss, calmly, unemotionally, what the limitations and benefits of the handicap are and how the two of you can work with these factors, rather than trying to change them.

• FINALLY, and most important of all for the inverted narcissist: KNOW YOURSELF.

What are you getting from the relationship? Are you actually a masochist?

Why is this relationship attractive and interesting?

Define for yourself what good and beneficial things you believe you are receiving in this relationship. Define the things that you find harmful TO YOU. Develop strategies to minimise the harm to yourself.

Don't expect that you will cognitively be able to reason with the narcissist to change who they are. You may have some limited success in getting your narcissist to tone down on the really harmful behaviours THAT AFFECT YOU, which emanate from the unchangeable WHAT the narcissist is. This can only be accomplished in a very trusting, frank and open relationship.

We firmly believe that it is only the inverted narcissist who can have a reasonably good, long lasting relationship with the narcissist. You must be prepared to give your narcissist a LOT of space and leeway.

You don't really exist for them as a fully realised person – no one does. They are not fully realised people so they cannot possibly have the skills, no matter how smart or sexy, to be a complete person in the sense that most adults are complete.

Somatic versus Cerebral Inverted Narcissists (IN)

The inverted narcissist is really an erstwhile narcissist internalised by the IN. Inevitably, we are likely to find among the inverted the same propensities, predilections, preferences and inclinations as we do among proper narcissists.

The cerebral IN is an IN whose source of vicarious Primary Narcissistic Supply lies – through the medium and mediation of a narcissist – in the exercise of his intellectual faculties. A somatic IN would tend to make use of his body, sex, shape or health in trying to secure NS for "his" narcissist.


The inverted narcissist feeds on the primary narcissist and this is his Narcissistic Supply. So these two typologies can, in essence become a self-supporting, symbiotic system. In reality though, both the narcissist and the inverted narcissist need to be quite well aware of the dynamics of this relationship in order to make this work as a successful long-term arrangement. It might well be that this symbiosis would only work between a cerebral narcissist and a cerebral invert. The somatic narcissist's capricious sexual dalliances would be far too threatening to the equanimity of the cerebral invert for there to be much chance of this succeeding, even for a short time.

It would seem that only opposing types of narcissists can get along when two classic narcissists are involved in a couple. It follows, syllogistically, that only identical types of narcissist and inverted narcissist can survive in a couple. In other words: the best, most enduring couples of narcissist and his inverted narcissist mate would involve a somatic narcissist and a somatic IN – or a cerebral narcissist and a cerebral IN.

Coping with Narcissists and Non-Narcissists

The inverted narcissist is a person who grew up enthralled by the narcissistic parent. This parent engulfed and subsumed the child's being to such an over-bearing extent that the child's personality was irrevocably shaped by this engulfment, damaged beyond hope of repair. The child was not even able to develop defence mechanisms such as narcissism.

The end result is an inverted narcissistic personality. The traits of this personality are primarily evident in relationship contexts. The child was conditioned by the narcissistic parent to only be entitled to feel whole, useful, productive, complete when the child augmented or mirrored to the parent their own sought after narcissistic image. As a result the child is shaped by this engulfment and cannot feel complete in any significant adult relationship unless they are with a narcissist.

The Inverted Narcissist in

Relationship with the Narcissist

The inverted narcissist is drawn to significant relationships with other narcissists in his adulthood. These relationships are usually spousal primary relationships but can also be friendships with narcissists outside of the primary love relationship.

In a primary relationship, the inverted narcissist attempts to re-create the parent-child relationship.


The invert thrives on mirroring to the narcissist his own grandiosity and in so doing the invert obtains his OWN Narcissistic Supply (the dependence of the narcissist upon the invert for their Secondary Narcissistic Supply). The invert must have this form of relationship with a narcissist in order to feel complete and whole. The invert will go as far as he needs to ensure that the narcissist is happy, cared for, properly adored, as he feels is the narcissist's right. The invert glorifies his narcissist, places him on a pedestal, endures any and all narcissistic devaluation with calm equanimity, impervious to the overt slights of the narcissist.

Narcissistic rage is handled deftly by the inverted narcissist. The invert is exceedingly adept at managing every aspect of his life, tightly controlling all situations, so as to minimise the potential for the inevitable narcissistic rages of his narcissist.

The invert wishes to be subsumed by the narcissist. The invert only feels truly loved and alive in this kind of relationship. The invert is loth to abandon his relationships with narcissists. The relationship only ends when the narcissist withdraws completely from the symbiosis. Once the narcissist has determined that the invert is of no further use, and withholds all Narcissistic Supply from the invert, only then does the invert reluctantly move on to another relationship. The invert is most likely to equate sexual intimacy with engulfment. This can be easily misread to mean that the invert is himself or herself a somatic narcissist, but it would be incorrect. The invert can endure years of minimal sexual contact with their narcissist and still be able to maintain the self-delusion of intimacy and engulfment. The invert finds a myriad of other ways to "merge" with the narcissist, becoming intimately, though only in support roles, involved with the narcissist's business, career, or any other activity where the invert can feel that they are needed by the narcissist and indispensable. The invert is an expert at doling out Narcissistic Supply and even goes as far as procuring Primary Narcissistic Supply for their narcissist (even where this means finding another lover for the narcissist, or participating in group sex with the narcissist). Usually though, the invert seems most attracted to the cerebral narcissist and finds him easier to manage than the somatic narcissist. The cerebral narcissist is disinterested in sex and this makes life considerably easier for the invert, i.e., the invert is less likely to "lose" their cerebral narcissist to another primary partner. A somatic narcissist may be prone to changing partners with greater frequency or wish to have no partner, preferring to have multiple, casual sexual relationships of no apparent depth which never last very long.

The invert regards relationships with narcissists as the ONLY true and legitimate form of primary relationship. The invert is capable of having primary relationships with non-narcissists. But without engulfment, the invert feels unneeded, unwanted and emotionally uninvolved.

Relationships between the

Inverted Narcissist and Non-Narcissists

The inverted narcissist can maintain relationships outside of the symbiotic primary relationship with a narcissist. But the invert does not "feel" loved because the non-narcissist is not "engulfing" them. Thus, the invert tends to devalue their non-narcissistic primary partner as less than worthy of the inverts' love and attention.

The invert may be able to sustain a relationship with a non-narcissist by finding other narcissistic symbiotic relationships outside of this primary relationship. The invert may have a narcissistic friend, to whom he pays extraordinary attention, ignoring the real needs of the non-narcissistic partner.

Consequently, the only semi-stable primary relationship between the invert and the non-narcissist occurs where the non-narcissist is very easy going, emotionally secure and not needing much from the invert at all by way of time, energy or commitment to activities requiring the involvement of both parties. In a relationship with this kind of narcissist, the invert may become a workaholic or very involved in outside activities that exclude the non-narcissist spouse.

It appears that the inverted narcissist in a relationship with a non-narcissist is behaviourally indistinguishable from a true narcissist. The only important exception is that the invert does not rage at his non-narcissist partner – he instead withdraws from the relationship even further. This passive-aggressive reaction has been noted, though, with narcissists as well.


Inverted and Other Atypical / Partial (NOS) Narcissists

Inverted Narcissists Talk about Themselves

Competition and (Pathological) Envy

"I have a dynamic that comes up with every single person I get close to, where I feel extremely competitive toward and envious of the other person. But I don't ACT competitive, because at the very outset, I see myself as the loser in the competition. I would never dream of trying to beat the other person, because I know deep in my heart that they would win and I would be utterly humiliated. There are fewer things on earth that feel worse to me than losing a contest and having the other person gloat over me, especially if they know how much I cared about not losing. This is one thing that I actually feel violent about. I guess I tend to project the grandiosity part of the NPD package onto the other person rather than on a False Ego of my own. So most of the time I'm stuck in a state of deep resentment and envy toward her. To me, she's always far more intelligent, likable, popular, talented, self-confident, emotionally developed, morally good, and attractive than I am. And I really hate her for that, and feel humiliated by it. So it's incredibly hard for me to feel happy for this person when she has a success, because I'm overcome with humiliation about myself. This has ruined many a close relationship. I tend to get this way about one person at a time, usually the person who is playing the role of 'my better half', best friends or lovers/partners. So it's not like I'm unable to be happy for anyone, ever, or that I envy every person I meet. I don't get obsessed with how rich or beautiful movie stars are or anything like that. It only gets projected onto this partner-person, the person I'm depending on the most in terms of supplies (attention, reassurance, security, building up my self-esteem, etc.)…

…The really destructive thing that happens is, I see her grandiose traits as giving her the power to have anything and anyone she wants. So I feel a basic insecurity, because why should she stay with a loser like me, when she's obviously so out of my league? So really, what I'm envious of is the power that all that talent, social ability, beauty, etc., gives her to have CHOICES – the choice to stay or leave me. Whereas I am utterly dependent on her. It's this emotional inequality that I find so humiliating."

"I agree with the inverted narcissist designation – sometimes I've called myself a 'closet narcissist'.


That is, I've internalised the value system of grandiosity, but have not applied the grandiose identity to myself.

I believe I SHOULD BE those grandiose things, but at the same time, I know I'm not and I'm miserable about it. So people don't think of me as having an inflated Ego – and indeed I don't – but scratch the surface, and you'll find all these inflated expectations. I mean to say that perhaps the parents suppressed every manifestation of grandiosity (very common in early childhood) and of narcissism – so that the defence mechanism that narcissism is was 'inverted' and internalised in this unusual form."

"Maybe there aren't two discrete states (NPD vs. 'regular' low self-esteem) – maybe it's more of a continuum. And maybe it's just the degree and depth of the problem that distinguishes one from the other.

My therapist describes NPD as 'the inability to love oneself'. As she defines it, the 'narcissistic wound' is a deep wounding of the sense of self, the image of oneself. That doesn't mean that other disorders – or for that matter, other life stressors – can't also cause low self-esteem. But I think NPD IS low self-esteem…

That's what the disorder is really about – an image of yourself that is profoundly negative, and the inability to attain a normal and healthy self-image…"

"Yes, I'm a survivor of child abuse. But remember that not all abuse is alike. There are different kinds of abuse, and different effects. My XXX's style of abuse had to do with trying to annihilate me as a separate person. It also had to do with the need to put all his negative self-image onto me – to see in me what he hated in himself. So I got to play the role of the loser that he secretly feared he was. I was flipped back and forth in those roles – sometimes I'd be a Source of NS for him, and other times I was the receptacle of all his pain and rage. Sometimes my successes were used to reflect back on him, to show off to the rest of the family. Other times, my successes were threatening to my father, who suddenly feared that I was superior to him and had to be squelched. I experience emotions that most people I know don't feel. Or maybe they do feel them, but to far less extreme intensity. For example, the envy and comparison/competition I feel toward others. I guess most of us have experienced rivalry, jealousy, being compared to others. Most of us have felt envy at another's success. Yet most people I know seem able to overcome those feelings to some extent, to be able to function normally. In a competition, for example, they may be driven to do their best so they can win.

For me, the fear of losing and being humiliated is so intense that I avoid competition completely. I am terrified of showing people that I care about doing well, because it's so shaming for me if I lose. So I underachieve and pretend I don't care. Most people I know may envy another person's good luck or success, but it doesn't prevent them from also being happy for them and supporting them. But for me, when I'm in a competitive dynamic with someone, I can't hear about any of their successes, or compliments they've received, etc. I don't even like to see the person doing good things, like bringing Thanksgiving leftovers to the sick old guy next door, because those things make me feel inferior for not thinking of doing that myself (and not having anyone in my life that I'd do that for). It's just so incredibly painful for me to see evidence of the other person's good qualities, because it immediately brings up my feeling of inferiority. I can't even stand to date someone, who looks really good, because I'm jealous of their good looks! So this deep and obsessive envy has destroyed my joy in other people. All the things about other people that I love and take pleasure in is a double-edged sword because I also hate them for it, for having those good qualities (while, presumably, I don't). I don't know – do you think this is garden-variety low self-esteem? I know plenty of people who suffer from lack of confidence, from timidity, social awkwardness, hatred of their body, feeling unlovable, etc. But they don't have this kind of hostile, corrosive resentment of another person for being all the wonderful things that they can't be, or aren't allowed to be, etc. And one thing I hate is when people are judgemental of me about how I feel, as though I can help it. It's like, 'You shouldn't be so selfish, you should feel happy for her that she's successful', etc. They don't understand that I would love to feel those things, but I can't. I can't stop the incredible pain that explodes in me when these feelings get triggered, and I often can't even HIDE the feelings. It's just so overwhelming. I feel so damaged sometimes. There's more, but that's the crux of it for me, anyway."


Getting Compliments

"I love getting compliments and rewards, and do not react negatively to them. In some moods, when my self-hate has gotten triggered, I can sometimes get to places where I'm inconsolable, because I get stuck in bitterness and self-pity, and so I doubt the sincerity or the reliability of the good thing that someone is saying to me (to try to cheer me up or whatever). But, if I'm in a reasonable mood and someone offers me something good, I'm all too happy to accept it! I don't have a stake in staying miserable."

The Partiality of the Condition

"I do agree that it's (atypical or inverted narcissism) not MILDER. But how I see it is that it's PARTIAL. The part that's there is just as destructive as it is in the typical narcissist. But there are parts missing from that total, full-blown disorder – and I see that as healthy, actually. I see it as parts of myself that WEREN'T infected by the pathology, that are still intact.

In my case, I did not develop the overweening Ego part of the disorder. So in a sense, what you have with me is the naked pathology, with no covering: no suaveness, no charm, no charisma, no confidence, no persuasiveness, but also no excuses, no lies, no justifications for my feelings. Just the ugly self-hate, for all to see. And the self-hate part is just as bad as it is with a full-blown narcissist, so again, it's not milder.

But because I don't have the denial part of the disorder, I have a lot more insight, a lot more motivation to do something about my problems (i.e., I 'self-refer' to therapy), and therefore, I think, a lot more hope of getting better than people whose defence involves totally denying they even have a problem."

"When my full-blown XXX's pathological envy would get triggered, he would respond by putting down the person he was envious of – or by putting down the accomplishment itself, or whatever good stuff the other person had. He'd trivialise it, or outright contradict it, or find some way to convince the other person (often me) that the thing they're feeling good about isn't real, or isn't worthwhile, or is somehow bad, etc. He could do this because the inflated Ego defence was fully formed and operating with him.


When MY pathological envy gets triggered, I will be bluntly honest about it. I'll say something self-pitying, such as: 'You always get the good stuff, and I get nothing'; 'You're so much better than I'; 'People like you better – you have good social skills and I'm a jerk'; and so on. Or I might even get hostile and sarcastic: 'Well, it must be nice to have so many people worshipping you, isn't it?' I don't try to convince myself that the other person's success isn't real or worthwhile, etc. Instead, I'm totally flooded with the pain of feeling utterly inferior and worthless – and there's no way for me to convince myself or anyone else otherwise. I'm not saying that the things I say are pleasant to hear – and it is still manipulative of me to say them, because the other person's attention is drawn away from their joy and onto my pain and hostility. And instead of doubting their success's worth or reality, they feel guilty about it, or about talking about it, because it hurts me so much. So from the other person's point of view, maybe it's not any easier to live with a partial narcissist than with a full-blown, in that their joys and successes lead to pain in both cases. It's certainly not easier for me, being flooded with rage and pain instead of being able to hide behind a delusion of grandeur. But from my therapist's point of view, I'm much better off because I know I'm unhappy – it's in my face all the time. So I'm motivated to work on it and change it. And time has borne her words out. Over the past several years that I've worked on this issue, I have changed a great deal in how I deal with it. Now when the envy gets triggered, I don't feel so entwined with the other person – I recognise that it's my OWN pain getting triggered, not something they are doing to me. And so I can acknowledge the pain in a more responsible way, taking ownership of it by saying, 'The jealousy feelings are getting triggered again, and I'm feeling worthless and inferior. Can you reassure me that I'm not?' That's a lot better than making some snide, hostile, or self-pitying comment that puts the other person on the defensive or makes them feel guilty… I do prefer the term 'partial' because that's what it feels like to me. It's like a building that's partially built – the house of narcissism. For me, the structure is there, but not the outside, so you can see inside the skeleton to all the junk that's inside. It's the same junk that's inside a full-blown narcissist, but their building is completed, so you can't see inside. Their building is a fortress, and it's almost impossible to bring it down.


My defences aren't as strong … which makes my life more difficult in some ways because I REALLY feel my pain. But it also means that the house can be brought down more easily, and the junk inside cleaned out…"

Thinking about the Past and the World

"I don't usually get rageful about the past. I feel sort of emotionally cut-off from the past, actually. I remember events very clearly, but usually can't remember the feelings. When I do remember the feelings, my reaction is usually one of sadness, and sometimes of relief that I can get back in touch with my past. But not rage. All my rage seems to get displaced on the current people in my life."

"…When I see someone being really socially awkward and geeky, passive-aggressive, indirect and victim-like, it does trigger anger in me because I identify with that person and I don't want to. I try to put my negative feelings onto them, to see that person as the jerk, not me – that's what a narcissist does, after all. But for me it doesn't completely work because I know, consciously, what I'm trying to do. And ultimately, I'm not kidding anyone, least of all myself."

Self-Pity and Depression

"More self-pity and depression here – not so much rage. One of the things that triggers my rage more than anything else is the inability to control another person, the inability to dominate them and force my reality on them. I feel impotent, humiliated, forced back on my empty self. Part of what I'm feeling here is envy: that person who can't be controlled clearly has a self and I don't, and I just hate them for it. But it's also a power struggle – I want to get Narcissistic Supply by being in control and on top and having the other person submissive and compliant…"

Regretting, Admitting Mistakes

"I regret my behaviour horribly, and I DO admit my feelings. I am also able, in the aftermath, to have empathy for the feelings of the person I've hurt, and I'm horribly sad about it, and ashamed of myself. It's as though I'd been possessed by a demon, acted out all this abusive horrible stuff, and then, after the departure of the demon, I'm back in my right mind and it's like, 'What have I DONE???'


I don't mean I'm not responsible for what I did (i.e., a demon made me do it). But when I'm triggered, I have no empathy – I can only see my projection onto that person, as a huge threat to me, someone who must be demolished. But when my head clears, I see that person's pain, hurt, fear – and I feel terrible. I want to make it up to them. And that feeling is totally sincere – it's not an act. I'm genuinely sorry for the pain I've caused the other person."

Rage

"I wouldn't say that my rage comes from repressed self-contempt (mine is not repressed – I'm totally aware of it). And it's not missing atonement either, since I do atone. The rage comes from feeling humiliated, from feeling that the other person has somehow sadistically and gleefully made me feel inferior, that they're getting off on being superior, that they're mocking me and ridiculing me, that they have scorn and contempt for me and find it all very amusing. That – whether real or imagined (usually imagined) – is what causes my rage."

Pursuing Relationships with Narcissists

"There are some very few of us who actually seek out relationships with narcissists. We do this with the full knowledge that we are not wanted, despised even. We persist and pursue no matter the consequences, no matter the cost.

I am an 'inverted narcissist'. It is because as a child I was 'imprinted/fixated' with a particular pattern involving relationships. I was engulfed so completely by my father's personality and repressed so severely by various other factors in my childhood that I simply didn't develop a recognisable personality. I existed purely as an extension of my father. I was his genius Wunderkind. He ignored my mother and poured all his energy and effort into me. I did not develop full-blown secondary narcissism… I developed into the perfect 'other half' of the narcissists moulding me. I became the perfect, eager co-dependent. And this is an imprint, a pattern in my psyche, a way of (not) relating to the world of relationships by only being able to truly relate to one person (my father) and then one kind of person – the narcissist.


He is my perfect lover, my perfect mate, a fit that is so slick and smooth, so comfortable and effortless, so filled with meaning and actual feelings – that's the other thing. I cannot feel on my own. I am incomplete. I can only feel when I am engulfed by another (first it was my father) and now – well now it has to be a narcissist. Not just any narcissist either. He must be exceedingly smart, good looking, have adequate reproductive equipment and some knowledge on how to use it and that's about it.

When I am engulfed by someone like this I feel completed, I can actually FEEL. I am whole again. I function as a sibyl, an oracle, an extension of the narcissist. His fiercest protector, his purveyor/procurer of NS, the secretary, organiser, manager, etc. I think you get the picture and this gives me INTENSE PLEASURE.

So the answer to your question: 'Why would anyone want to be with someone who doesn't want them back?' The short answer is, 'Because there is no one else remotely worth looking at.'"

Making Amends

"I mostly apologise, and I give the person space to talk about what hurt them so that (1) they get to express their anger or hurt to me, and (2) I can understand better and know better how not to hurt them (if I can avoid it) the next time there's a conflict. Sometimes the hurt I cause is unintentional – maybe I've been insensitive or forgetful or something, in which case I feel more certain that I can avoid repeating the hurtful behaviour, since I didn't want to hurt them in the first place. If the hurt I caused has to do with my getting my trigger pulled and going into a rage, then that hurt was quite deliberate, although at the time I was unable to experience the other person as vulnerable or capable of being hurt by me. And I do realise that if that trigger is pulled again, it might happen again. But I also hope that there'll be a LITTLE TINY window where the memory of the conversation will come back to me while I'm in my rage, and I'll remember that the person really IS vulnerable. I hope that by hearing over and over that the person actually does feel hurt by what I say while in rages, that I might remember that when I am triggered and raging. So, mostly I apologise and try to communicate with the other person. I don't verbally self-flagellate, because that's manipulative. Not to say I never do that – in fact I've had a dynamic with people where I verbally put myself down and try to engage the other person into arguing me out of it.


But if I'm in the middle of apologising to the other person for hurting them, then I feel like this is their moment, and I don't want to turn the focus toward getting them to try to make me feel better. I will talk about myself, but only in an attempt to communicate, so that we can understand each other better. I might say, 'I got triggered about such-and-such, and you seemed so invulnerable that it enraged me', etc. – and the other person might react with, 'But I was feeling vulnerable, I just couldn't show it', etc. – and we'll go back and forth like that. So it's not like I don't think my feelings count, and I do want the other person to UNDERSTAND my feelings, but I don't want to put the other person in the role of taking care of my feelings in that moment, because they have just been hurt by me and I'm trying to make it up to them, not squeeze more stuff OUT of them…"

"So when I've been a real jerk to someone, I want them to feel like it's OK to be pissed off at me, and I want them to know that I am interested in and focused on how they feel, not just on how I feel. As for gifts – I used to do that, but eventually I came to feel that that was manipulative, too, that it muddled things because then the other person would feel like they couldn't be angry anymore, since after all, I've just brought them this nice gift. I also feel that in general, gift-giving is a sweet and tender thing to do, and I don't want to sully that tenderness by associating it with the hurt that comes from abusive behaviour."

Why Narcissists?

"I am BUILT this way. I may have overstated it by saying that I have 'no choice' because, in fact I do.

The choice is – live in an emotionally deadened monochrome world where I can reasonably interact with normal people OR I can choose to be with a narcissist in which case my world is Technicolor, emotionally satisfying, alive and wondrous (also can be turbulent and a real roller coaster ride for the unprepared, not to mention incredibly damaging for people who are not inverted narcissists and who fall into relationships with narcissists). As I have walked on both sides of the street, and because I have developed coping mechanisms that protect me really quite well, I can reasonably safely engage in a primary, intimate relationship with a narcissist without getting hurt by it.


The real WHY of it all is that I learned, as a young child, that being 'eaten alive' by a narcissist parent, to the point where your existence is but an extension of his own, was how all relationships ought to work. It is a psychological imprint – my 'love map', it is what feels right to me intrinsically. A pattern of living – I don't know how else to describe it so you and others will understand how very natural and normal this is for me. It is not the torturous existence that most of the survivors of narcissism are recounting on this list.

My experiences with narcissists, to me, ARE NORMAL for me. Comfortable like an old pair of slippers that fit perfectly. I don't expect many people to attempt to do this, to 'make themselves into' this kind of person. I don't think anyone could, if they tried.

It is my need to be engulfed and merged that drives me to these relationships and when I get those needs met I feel more normal, better about myself. I am the outer extension of the narcissist. In many ways I am a vanguard, a public two-way warning system, fiercely defending my narcissist from harm, and fiercely loyal to him, catering to his every need in order to protect his fragile existence. These are the dynamics of my particular version of engulfment. I don't need anyone to take care of me. I need only to be needed in this very particular way, by a narcissist who inevitably possesses the ability to engulf in a way that normal, fully realised adults cannot. It is somewhat paradoxical – I feel freer and more independent with a narcissist than without one. I achieve more in my life when I am in this form of relationship. I try harder, work harder, am more creative, think better of myself, excel in most every aspect of my life."

"…I go ahead and cater to him and pretend that his words don't hurt, and later, I engage in an internal fight with myself for being so damned submissive. It's a constant battle and I can't seem to decide which voice in my head I should listen to… I feel like a fool, yet, I would rather be a fool with him than a lonely, well-rounded woman without him. I've often said that the only way that we can stay together is because we feed off of each other. I give him everything he needs and he takes it. Seeing him happy and pleased is what gives me pleasure. I feel very successful then."

Partial NPD

"I do think it's uncommon for girls to develop these patterns, as they are usually trained to be self-effacing. I certainly was!


However, I have a lot of the very same underlying patterns that full-blown, obnoxiously egotistical NP's have, but I am not egotistical because I didn't develop the pattern of inflated Ego and grandiosity. All the rest of it is there, though: fragile Ego, lack of a centre or self, super-sensitive to criticism and rejections, pathological, obsessive envy, comparisons and competitive attitudes toward others, a belief that everyone in the world is either superior or inferior to me, and so on.

Sometimes I kind of wish I had developed the inflated Ego of a complete NP, because then I would at least be able to hide from all the pain I feel. But at the same time, I'm glad I didn't, because those people have a much lower chance of recovery – how can they recover if they don't acknowledge anything is wrong? Whereas it's pretty clear to me I have problems, and I've spent my life working on them and trying to change myself and heal."

Narcissist-Non Narcissist

And Narcissist-Inverted Narcissist Couples

"Can a N and a non-N ever maintain a long lasting marriage? It would seem that a non-N would have too much self-esteem to lend himself to a lifetime of catering and pandering to an N's unending need for unearned adoration and glory. I, as a non-N… got tired of these people and their unremitting attempts to drain my psyche within a relatively short period of time and abandoned them as soon as I realised what I was dealing with to preserve my own sanity."

"It depends on the non-narcissist, really. Narcissism is a RIGID, systemic pattern of responses. It is so all-pervasive and all-encompassing that it is a PERSONALITY disorder. If the non-narcissist is codependent, for instance, then the narcissist is a perfect match for him and the union will last…"

"You have to pimp for the narcissist, intellectually, and sexually. If your narcissist is somatic, you are much better off lining up the sex partners than leaving it to him. Intellectual pimping is more varied. You can think of wonderful things and then subtly string out the idea, in the most delicate of packages and watch the narcissist cogitate their way to 'their' brilliant discovery whilst you bask in the glow of their perfection and success…


The point of this entire exercise is to assure YOUR supply, which is the narcissist himself, not to punish yourself by giving away a great idea or abase yourself because, of course, YOU are not worthy of having such a great idea on your own – but who knows, it may seem that way to the inverted narcissist. It really depends on how self-aware the inverted is."

"The only rejection you need to fear is the possibility of losing the narcissist and if one is doing everything else right, this is very unlikely to happen! So by 'emotionally independent' I am talking about being self-assured, doing your own thing, having a life, feeling strong and good about yourself, getting emotional sustenance from other people. I mean, let's face it, a drug is a drug is a habit. Habits just are, and what they ARE NOT are the be all and end all of love, commitment and serene symmetrical, balanced emotional perfection that is the ideal of the romanticised 'love-for-a-lifetime' all-American relationship dream."

"(I am) terribly turned on by narcissists. The most exciting moments of my life in every venue have been with narcissists. It is as if living and loving with normal people is a grey thing by comparison, not fuelled by sufficient adrenaline. I feel like a junkie, now, that I no longer permit myself the giddy pleasure of the RUSH I used to know when I was deeply and hopelessly involved with an N. I am like a lotus-eater. And I always felt guilty about this and also sorry that I ever succumbed that first time to my first narcissist lover."

"I am exactly this way and I feel exactly as you do, that the world is a sepia motion picture but when I am intimately involved with a narcissist, it breaks out into three-dimensional Technicolor and I can see and feel in ways that are not available to me otherwise. In my case I developed this (inverted narcissism) as a result of being the favourite of my father who so completely absorbed me into his personality that I was not able to develop a sense of separation. So I am stuck in this personality matrix of needing to be engulfed, adored by and completely taken over by a narcissist in my life. In turn, I worship, defend, regulate and procure Narcissistic Supply for my narcissist. It is like the mould and the moulded."

"In my case, I realise that while I can't stop loving my current narcissist, it isn't necessary for me to avoid as long as I can understand. In my way of looking at it, he is deserving of love, and since I can give him love without it hurting me, then as long as he needs it, he shall have it."

"My personal theory is that dogmatic religious culture is a retarding influence on the growth and maturation of those heavily involved – more and more autonomy (and hence personal responsibility) seems to be blithely sacrificed to the group mind/spirit. It is as though the church members become one personality and that personality is narcissistic and the individual just folds under the weight of that kind of group pressure – particularly if you are a child."

"If I displayed behaviour that made my XXX look good to others, I was insipidly overvalued. When I dared be something other than who she wanted me to be, the sarcastic criticism and total devaluation was unbelievable. So, I learned to be all things to all people. I get a heavenly high from surrendering my power to a narcissist, to catering to them, in having them overvalue and need me, and it is the only time that I truly feel alive…"

"We have very little choice in all of this. We are as vacant and warped as the narcissist. XXX is wont to say, 'I don't HAVE a personality disorder, I AM a personality disorder.' It defines who we are and how we will respond. You will always and ONLY have real feelings when you are with a narcissist. It is your love map, it is the programming within your psyche. Does it need to control your behaviour? Not necessarily. Knowing what you are can at least give you the opportunity to forecast the effect of an action before you take it. So, loveless black and white may be the very healthiest thing for you for the foreseeable future. I tend to think of these episodes with narcissists as being cyclic. You will likely need to cut loose for a while when your child is older.

DO NOT feel ashamed please! Should a physically handicapped person feel ashamed of their handicap? No and neither should we. The trouble with us is that we are fooled into thinking that these relationships are 'guilty pleasures'. They feel so very good for a time but they are more akin to addiction satisfaction rather than being the 'right match' or an 'appropriate relationship'. I am still very conflicted myself about this. I wrote a few months ago that it was like having a caged very dangerous animal inside of me. When I get near narcissists, the animal smells its own kind and it wants out. I very carefully 'micro-manage' my life. This means that I daily do fairly regular reality checks and keep a very tight reign on my self and my behaviours. I am also obsessive-compulsive."


"I feel as though I'm constantly on an emotional roller coaster. I may wake up in a good mood, but if my N partner does or says something, which is hurtful to me, my mood changes immediately. I now feel sad, empty, afraid. All I want to do at this point is anything that will make him say something NICE to me.

Once he does, I'm back on top of the world. This pattern of mood changes, or whatever you may call them, can take place several times a day. Each and every day. I've gotten to the point where I'm not sure that I can trust myself to feel any one way, because I know that I have no control over myself. He has the control. It's scary, yet I've sort of come to depend on him determining how I am going to feel."

"When I was first involved with my cerebral narcissist I was like this but after awhile I just learned to become more emotionally distant (the ups and downs were just too much) and find emotional gratification with other people, mostly girl friends and one of two male friends. I make a point of saying … that the invert must be or become emotionally and financially independent (if you don't do this he will eat you up and when he has finished with you and you are nothing but a husk, you will be expelled from his life in one big vomit). It is really important for you to start to take responsibility for your own emotional wellness without regard to how he treats you. Remember that the narcissist has the emotional maturity of a two-year old! Don't expect much in the way of emotional depth or support in your relationship – he simply is not capable of anything that sophisticated."

 

 

(*) Alice Ratzlaff, graduate of Queen's University School of Law, Kingston, Ontario, Canada practices child protection defence law in British Columbia, Canada. Ms. Ratzlaff was a professional 'cellist before entering law school. Ms. Ratzlaff has two sons.

 

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION # 53

 

 

 

The Selfish Gene

 

The Genetic Underpinnings of Narcissism

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: Is pathological narcissism the outcome of inherited traits – or the sad result of abusive and traumatizing upbringing? Or, maybe it is the confluence of both? It is a common occurrence, after all, that, in the same family, with the same set of parents and an identical emotional environment – some siblings grow to be malignant narcissists, while others are perfectly "normal". Surely, this indicates a predisposition of some people to developing narcissism, a part of one's genetic heritage.

Answer: This vigorous debate may be the offshoot of obfuscating semantics.

When we are born, we are not much more than the sum of our genes and their manifestations. Our brain – a physical object – is the residence of mental health and its disorders. Mental illness cannot be explained without resorting to the body and, especially, to the brain. And our brain cannot be contemplated without considering our genes. Thus, any explanation of our mental life that leaves out our hereditary makeup and our neurophysiology is lacking. Such lacking theories are nothing but literary narratives. Psychoanalysis, for instance, is often accused of being divorced from corporeal reality.

Our genetic baggage makes us resemble a personal computer. We are an all-purpose, universal, machine. Subject to the right programming (conditioning, socialisation, education, upbringing) – we can turn out to be anything and everything.


A computer can imitate any other kind of discrete machine, given the right software. It can play music, screen movies, calculate, print, paint. Compare this to a television set – it is constructed and expected to do one, and only one, thing. It has a single purpose and a unitary function. We, humans, are more like computers than like television sets.

True, single genes rarely account for any behaviour or trait. An array of coordinated genes is required to explain even the minutest human phenomenon. "Discoveries" of a "gambling gene" here and an "aggression gene" there are derided by the more serious and less publicity-prone scholars. Yet, it would seem that even complex behaviours such as risk taking, reckless driving, and compulsive shopping have genetic underpinnings.

What about the Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

It would seem reasonable to assume – though, at this stage, there is not a shred of proof – that the narcissist is born with a propensity to develop narcissistic defences. These are triggered by abuse or trauma during the formative years in infancy or during early adolescence [see FAQ 48]. By "abuse" I am referring to a spectrum of behaviours which objectifies the child and treats it as an extension of the caregiver (parent) or an instrument. Dotting and smothering are as much abuse as beating and starving. And abuse can be dished out by peers as well as by adult role models.

Still, I would have to attribute the development of NPD mostly to nurture. The Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an extremely complex battery of phenomena: behaviour patterns, cognitions, emotions, conditioning, and so on. NPD is a PERSONALITY disordered and even the most ardent proponents of the school of genetics do not attribute the development of the whole personality to genes.

From "The Interrupted Self" [http://samvak.tripod.com/sacks.html]:

"'Organic' and 'mental' disorders (a dubious distinction at best) have many characteristics in common (confabulation, antisocial behaviour, emotional absence or flatness, indifference, psychotic episodes and so on)."


From "On Dis-ease" [http://samvak.tripod.com/disease.html]:

"Moreover, the distinction between the psychic and the physical is hotly disputed, philosophically. The psychophysical problem is as intractable today as it ever was (if not more so). It is beyond doubt that the physical affects the mental and the other way around. This is what disciplines like psychiatry are all about. The ability to control 'autonomous' bodily functions (such as heartbeat) and mental reactions to pathogens of the brain are proof of the artificialness of this distinction.

It is a result of the reductionist view of nature as divisible and summable. The sum of the parts, alas, is not always the whole and there is no such thing as an infinite set of the rules of nature, only an asymptotic approximation of it. The distinction between the patient and the outside world is superfluous and wrong. The patient AND his environment are ONE and the same. Disease is a perturbation in the operation and management of the complex ecosystem known as patient-world. Humans absorb their environment and feed it in equal measures. This on-going interaction IS the patient. We cannot exist without the intake of water, air, visual stimuli and food. Our environment is defined by our actions and output, physical and mental.

Thus, one must question the classical differentiation between 'internal' and 'external'. Some illnesses are considered 'endogenic' (=generated from the inside). Natural, 'internal', causes – a heart defect, a biochemical imbalance, a genetic mutation, a metabolic process gone awry – cause disease. Aging and deformities also belong in this category.

In contrast, problems of nurturance and environment – early childhood abuse, for instance, or malnutrition – are 'external' and so are the 'classical' pathogens (germs and viruses) and accidents.

But this, again, is a counter-productive approach. Exogenic and Endogenic pathogenesis is inseparable. Mental states increase or decrease the susceptibility to externally induced disease. Talk therapy or abuse (external events) alter the biochemical balance of the brain.

The inside constantly interacts with the outside and is so intertwined with it that all distinctions between them are artificial and misleading. The best example is, of course, medication: it is an external agent, it influences internal processes and it has a very strong mental correlate (=its efficacy is influenced by mental factors as in the placebo effect).

The very nature of dysfunction and sickness is highly culture-dependent.

Societal parameters dictate right and wrong in health (especially mental health). It is all a matter of statistics. Certain diseases are accepted in certain parts of the world as a fact of life or even a sign of distinction (e.g., the paranoid schizophrenic as chosen by the gods). If there is no dis-ease there is no disease. That the physical or mental state of a person CAN be different – does not imply that it MUST be different or even that it is desirable that it should be different. In an over-populated world, sterility might be the desirable thing – or even the occasional epidemic. There is no such thing as ABSOLUTE dysfunction. The body and the mind ALWAYS function. They adapt themselves to their environment and if the latter changes – they change.

Personality disorders are the best possible responses to abuse. Cancer may be the best possible response to carcinogens. Aging and death are definitely the best possible response to over-population. Perhaps the point of view of the single patient is incommensurate with the point of view of his species – but this should not serve to obscure the issues and derail rational debate.

As a result, it is logical to introduce the notion of 'positive aberration'. Certain hyper- or hypo- functioning can yield positive results and prove to be adaptive. The difference between positive and negative aberrations can never be 'objective'. Nature is morally-neutral and embodies no 'values' or 'preferences'. It simply exists. WE, humans, introduce our value systems, prejudices and priorities into our activities, science included. It is better to be healthy, we say, because we feel better when we are healthy. Circularity aside – this is the only criterion that we can reasonably employ. If the patient feels good – it is not a disease, even if we all think it is. If the patient feels bad, ego-dystonic, unable to function – it is a disease, even when we all think it isn't. Needless to say that I am referring to that mythical creature, the fully informed patient. If someone is sick and knows no better (has never been healthy) – then his decision should be respected only after he is given the chance to experience health.


All the attempts to introduce 'objective' yardsticks of health are plagued and philosophically contaminated by the insertion of values, preferences and priorities into the formula – or by subjecting the formula to them altogether. One such attempt is to define health as 'an increase in order or efficiency of processes' as contrasted with illness which is 'a decrease in order (=increase of entropy) and in the efficiency of processes'. While being factually disputable, this dyad also suffers from a series of implicit value-judgements. For instance, why should we prefer life over death? Order to entropy? Efficiency to inefficiency?"

 

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION # 63

 

 

 

The Weapon of Language

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: My wife was diagnosed as a narcissist. She twists everything and turns it against me. She distorts everything I ever said, ignores the context, and even invent her own endings. It is impossible to have a meaningful conversation with her because she won't commit to anything she says.

Answer: In the narcissist's surrealistic world, even language is pathologized. It mutates into a weapon of self-defence, a verbal fortification, a medium without a message, replacing words with duplicitous and ambiguous vocables.

Narcissists (and, often, by contagion, their unfortunate victims) don't talk, or communicate. They fend off. They hide and evade and avoid and disguise. In their planet of capricious and arbitrary unpredictability, of shifting semiotic and semantic dunes – they perfect the ability to say nothing in lengthy, Castro-like speeches.

The ensuing convoluted sentences are arabesques of meaninglessness, acrobatics of evasion, lack of commitment elevated to an ideology. The narcissist prefers to wait and see and see what waiting brings. It is the postponement of the inevitable that leads to the inevitability of postponement as a strategy of survival.

It is often impossible to really understand a narcissist. The evasive syntax fast deteriorates into ever more labyrinthine structures. The grammar tortured to produce the verbal Doppler shifts essential to disguise the source of the information, its distance from reality, the speed of its degeneration into rigid "official" versions.


Buried under the lush flora and fauna of idioms without an end, the language erupts, like some exotic rash, an autoimmune reaction to its infection and contamination. Like vile weeds it spread throughout, strangling with absent minded persistence the ability to understand, to feel, to agree, to disagree and to debate, to present arguments, to compare notes, to learn and to teach.

Narcissists, therefore, never talk to others – rather, they talk at others, or lecture them. They exchange subtexts, camouflage-wrapped by elaborate, florid, texts. They read between the lines, spawning a multitude of private languages, prejudices, superstitions, conspiracy theories, rumours, phobias and hysterias. Theirs is a solipsistic world – where communication is permitted only with oneself and the aim of language is to throw others off the scent or to obtain Narcissistic Supply.

This has profound implications. Communication through unequivocal, unambiguous, information-rich symbol systems is such an integral and crucial part of our world – that its absence is not postulated even in the remotest galaxies which grace the skies of science fiction. In this sense, narcissists are nothing short of aliens. It is not that they employ a different language, a code to be deciphered by a new Freud. It is also not the outcome of upbringing or socio-cultural background.

It is the fact that language is put by narcissists to a different use – not to communicate but to obscure, not to share but to abstain, not to learn but to defend and resist, not to teach but to preserve ever less tenable monopolies, to disagree without incurring wrath, to criticize without commitment, to agree without appearing to do so. Thus, an "agreement" with a narcissist is a vague expression of intent at a given moment – rather than the clear listing of long-term, iron-cast and mutual commitments.

The rules that govern the narcissist's universe are loopholed incomprehensibles, open to an exegesis so wide and so self-contradictory that it renders them meaningless. The narcissist often hangs himself by his own verbose Gordic knots, having stumbled through a minefield of logical fallacies and endured self-inflicted inconsistencies. Unfinished sentences hover in the air, like vapour above a semantic swamp.


In the case of the inverted narcissist, who was suppressed and abused by overbearing caregivers, there is the strong urge not to offend. Intimacy and inter-dependence are great. Parental or peer pressures are irresistible and result in conformity and self-deprecation. Aggressive tendencies, strongly repressed in the social pressure cooker, teem under the veneer of forced civility and violent politeness. Constructive ambiguity, a non-committal "everyone is good and right", an atavistic variant of moral relativism and tolerance bred of fear and of contempt – are all at the service of this eternal vigilance against aggressive drives, at the disposal of a never ending peacekeeping mission.

With the classic narcissist, language is used cruelly and ruthlessly to ensnare one's enemies, to saw confusion and panic, to move others to emulate the narcissist ("projective identification"), to leave the listeners in doubt, in hesitation, in paralysis, to gain control, or to punish. Language is enslaved and forced to lie. The language is appropriated and expropriated. It is considered to be a weapon, an asset, a piece of lethal property, a traitorous mistress to be gang raped into submission.

With cerebral narcissists, language is a lover. The infatuation with its very sound leads to a pyrotechnic type of speech which sacrifices its meaning to its music. Its speakers pay more attention to the composition than to the content. They are swept by it, intoxicated by its perfection, inebriated by the spiralling complexity of its forms. Here, language is an inflammatory process. It attacks the very tissues of the narcissist's relationships with artistic fierceness. It invades the healthy cells of reason and logic, of cool headed argumentation and level headed debate.

Language is a leading indicator of the psychological and institutional health of social units, such as the family, or the workplace. Social capital can often be measured in cognitive (hence, verbal-lingual) terms. To monitor the level of comprehensibility and lucidity of texts is to study the degree of sanity of family members, co-workers, friends, spouses, mates, and colleagues. There can exist no hale society without unambiguous speech, without clear communications, without the traffic of idioms and content that is an inseparable part of every social contract. Our language determines how we perceive our world. It IS our mind and our consciousness. The narcissist, in this respect, is a great social menace.

 

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION # 70

 

 

 

Collective Narcissism

 

Narcissism, Culture and Society

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: I believe that (ethnic group deleted) are all narcissists. Can it be that a group of people are all narcissists or am I your average bigot and racist?

Answer: In their book "Personality Disorders in Modern Life", Theodore Millon and Roger Davis state, as a matter of fact, that pathological narcissism was the preserve of "the royal and the wealthy" and that it "seems to have gained prominence only in the late twentieth century". Narcissism, according to them, may be associated with "higher levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs … Individuals in less advantaged nations … are too busy trying (to survive) … to be arrogant and grandiose".

They – like Lasch before them – attribute pathological narcissism to "a society that stresses individualism and self-gratification at the expense of community, namely the United States." They assert that the disorder is more prevalent among certain professions with "star power" or respect. "In an individualistic culture, the narcissist is 'God's gift to the world'. In a collectivist society, the narcissist is 'God's gift to the collective'."

Millon quotes Warren and Caponi's "The Role of Culture in the Development of Narcissistic Personality Disorders in America, Japan and Denmark":

"Individualistic narcissistic structures of self-regard (in individualistic societies) … are rather self-contained and independent … (In collectivist cultures) narcissistic configurations of the we-self … denote self-esteem derived from strong identification with the reputation and honour of the family, groups, and others in hierarchical relationships."

Having lived in the last 20 years 12 countries in 4 continents – from the impoverished to the affluent, with individualistic and collectivist societies – I know that Millon and Davis are wrong. Theirs is, indeed, the quintessential American point of view which lacks an intimate knowledge of other parts of the world. Millon even wrongly claims that the DSM's international equivalent, the ICD, does not include the narcissistic personality disorder (it does).

Pathological narcissism is a ubiquitous phenomenon because every human being – regardless of the nature of his society and culture – develops healthy narcissism early in life. Healthy narcissism is rendered pathological by abuse – and abuse, alas, is a universal human behaviour. By "abuse" we mean any refusal to acknowledge the emerging boundaries of the individual – smothering, doting, and excessive expectations – are as abusive as beating and incest.

There are malignant narcissists among subsistence farmers in Africa, nomads in the Sinai desert, day labourers in East Europe, and intellectuals and socialites in Manhattan. Malignant narcissism is all-pervasive and independent of culture and society.

It is true, though, that the WAY pathological narcissism manifests and is experienced is dependent on the particulars of societies and cultures. In some cultures, it is encouraged, in others suppressed. In some societies it is channelled against minorities – in others it is tainted with paranoia. In collectivist societies, it may be projected onto the collective, in individualistic societies, it is an individual's trait.

Yet, can families, organizations, ethnic groups, churches, and even whole nations be safely described as "narcissistic" or "pathologically self-absorbed"? Wouldn't such generalisations be a trifle racist and more than a trifle wrong? The answer is: it depends.

Human collectives – states, firms, households, institutions, political parties, cliques, bands – acquire a life and a character all their own. The longer the association or affiliation of the members, the more cohesive and conformist the inner dynamics of the group, the more persecutory or numerous its enemies, the more intensive the physical and emotional experiences of the individuals it is comprised of, the stronger the bonds of locale, language, and history – the more rigorous might an assertion of a common pathology be.


Such an all-pervasive and extensive pathology manifests itself in the behaviour of each and every member. It is a defining – though often implicit or underlying – mental structure. It has explanatory and predictive powers. It is recurrent and invariable – a pattern of conduct melded with distorted cognition and stunted emotions. And it is often vehemently denied.

A possible DSM-like list of criteria for narcissistic organizations or groups:

An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning at the group's early history and present in various contexts. Persecution and abuse are often the causes – or at least the antecedents – of the pathology.

Five (or more) of the following criteria must be met:

• The group as a whole, or members of the group – acting as such and by virtue of their association and affiliation with the group – feel grandiose and self-important (e.g., they exaggerate the group's achievements and talents to the point of lying, demand to be recognized as superior – simply for belonging to the group and without commensurate achievement).

• The group as a whole, or members of the group – acting as such and by virtue of their association and affiliation with the group – are obsessed with group fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance, bodily beauty or performance, or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering ideals or political theories.

• The group as a whole, or members of the group – acting as such and by virtue of their association and affiliation with the group – are firmly convinced that the group is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status groups (or institutions).

• The group as a whole, or members of the group – acting as such and by virtue of their association and affiliation with the group – require excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation – or, failing that, wish to be feared and to be notorious (Narcissistic Supply).


• The group as a whole, or members of the group – acting as such and by virtue of their association and affiliation with the group – feel entitled. They expect unreasonable or special and favourable priority treatment. They demand automatic and full compliance with expectations. They rarely accept responsibility for their actions ("alloplastic defences"). This often leads to anti-social behaviour, cover-ups, and criminal activities on a mass scale.

• The group as a whole, or members of the group – acting as such and by virtue of their association and affiliation with the group – are "interpersonally exploitative", i.e., use others to achieve their own ends. This often leads to anti-social behaviour, cover-ups, and criminal activities on a mass scale.

• The group as a whole, or members of the group – acting as such and by virtue of their association and affiliation with the group – are devoid of empathy. They are unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of other groups. This often leads to anti-social behaviour, cover-ups, and criminal activities on a mass scale.

• The group as a whole, or members of the group – acting as such and by virtue of their association and affiliation with the group – are constantly envious of others or believes that they feel the same about them. This often leads to anti-social behaviour, cover-ups, and criminal activities on a mass scale.

• The group as a whole, or members of the group – acting as such and by virtue of their association and affiliation with the group – are arrogant and sport haughty behaviours or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, punished, limited, or confronted. This often leads to anti-social behaviour, cover-ups, and criminal activities on a mass scale.

 

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION # 89

 

 

 

The Spouse/Mate/Partner of the Narcissist

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question: What kind of a spouse/mate/partner is likely to be attracted to a narcissist?

Answer:

The Victims

On the face of it, there is no (emotional) partner or mate, who typically "binds" with a narcissist. They come in all shapes and sizes. The initial phases of attraction, infatuation and falling in love are pretty normal. The narcissist puts on his best face – the other party is blinded by budding love. A natural selection process occurs only much later, as the relationship develops and is put to the test.

Living with a narcissist can be exhilarating, is always onerous, often harrowing. Surviving a relationship with a narcissist indicates, therefore, the parameters of the personality of the survivor. She (or, more rarely, he) is moulded by the relationship into The Typical Narcissistic Mate/Partner/Spouse.

First and foremost, the narcissist's partner must have a deficient or a distorted grasp of her self and of reality. Otherwise, she (or he) is bound to abandon the narcissist's ship early on. The cognitive distortion is likely to consist of belittling and demeaning herself – while aggrandising and adoring the narcissist. The partner is, thus, placing himself in the position of the eternal victim: undeserving, punishable, a scapegoat. Sometimes, it is very important to the partner to appear moral, sacrificial and victimised.


At other times, she is not even aware of this predicament. The narcissist is perceived by the partner to be a person in the position to demand these sacrifices from her partner, being superior in many ways (intellectually, emotionally, morally, financially).

The status of professional victim sits well with the partner's tendency to punish herself, namely: with her masochistic streak. The tormented life with the narcissist is, as far as the partner is aware, a just punitive measure.

In this respect, the partner is the mirror image of the narcissist. By maintaining a symbiotic relationship with him, by being totally dependent upon the source of masochistic supply (which the narcissist most reliably constitutes and most amply provides) – the partner enhances certain traits and encourages certain behaviours, which are at the very core of narcissism.

The narcissist is never whole without an adoring, submissive, available, self-denigrating partner. His very sense of superiority, indeed his False Self, depends on it. His sadistic Superego switches its attentions from the narcissist (in whom it often provokes suicidal ideation) to the partner, thus finally obtaining an alternative source of sadistic satisfaction.

It is through self-denial that the partner survives. She denies her wishes, hopes, dreams, aspirations, sexual, psychological and material needs, and much else besides. She perceives her needs as threatening because they might engender the wrath of the narcissist's God-like supreme figure. The narcissist is rendered in her eyes even more superior through and because of this self-denial. Self-denial undertaken to facilitate and ease the life of a "great man" is more palatable. The "greater" the man (=the narcissist), the easier it is for the partner to ignore her own self, to dwindle, to degenerate, to turn into an appendix of the narcissist and, finally, to become nothing but an extension, to merge with the narcissist to the point of oblivion and of dim memories of one's self.

The two collaborate in this macabre dance. The narcissist is formed by his partner inasmuch as he forms her. Submission breeds superiority and masochism breeds sadism. The relationships are characterised by rampant emergentism: roles are allocated almost from the start and any deviation meets with an aggressive, even violent reaction.

The predominant state of the partner's mind is utter confusion. Even the most basic relationships – with husband, children, or parents – remain bafflingly obscured by the giant shadow cast by the intensive interaction with the narcissist.

A suspension of judgement is part and parcel of a suspension of individuality, which is both a prerequisite to and the result of living with a narcissist. The partner no longer knows what is true and right and what is wrong and forbidden.

The narcissist recreates for the partner the sort of emotional ambience that led to his own formation in the first place: capriciousness, fickleness, arbitrariness, emotional (and physical or sexual) abandonment. The world becomes uncertain and frightening and the partner has only one thing to cling to: the narcissist.

And cling she does. If there is anything which can safely be said about those who emotionally team up with narcissists, it is that they are overtly and overly dependent.

The partner doesn't know what to do – and this is only too natural in the mayhem that is the relationship with the narcissist. But the typical partner also does not know what she wants and, to a large extent, who she is and what she wants to become.

These unanswered questions hamper the partner's ability to gauge reality, evaluate and appraise it for what it is. Her primordial sin is that she fell in love with an image, not with a real person. It is the voiding of the image that is mourned when the relationship ends.

The break-up of a relationship with a narcissist is, therefore, very emotionally charged. It is the culmination of a long chain of humiliations and of subjugation. It is the rebellion of the functioning and healthy parts of the partner's personality against the tyranny of the narcissist.

The partner is liable to have totally misread and misinterpreted the whole interaction (I hesitate to call it a relationship). This lack of proper interface with reality might be (erroneously) labelled "pathological".

Why is it that the partner seeks to prolong her pain? What is the source and purpose of this masochistic streak? Upon the break-up of the relationship, the partner (and the narcissist) engage in a tortuous and drawn out post mortem. But the question who really did what to whom (and even why) is irrelevant. What is relevant is to stop mourning oneself (this is what the parties are really mourning), start smiling again and love in a less subservient, hopeless, and pain-inflicting manner.


The Abuse

Abuse is an integral, inseparable part of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

The narcissist idealises and then DEVALUES and discards the object of his initial idealisation. This abrupt, heartless devaluation IS abuse. ALL narcissists idealise and then devalue. This is THE core of narcissistic behaviour. The narcissist exploits, lies, insults, demeans, ignores (the "silent treatment"), manipulates, controls. All these are forms of abuse.

There are a million ways to abuse. To love too much is to abuse. It is tantamount to treating someone as one's extension, an object, or an instrument of gratification. To be over-protective, not to respect privacy, to be brutally honest, with a morbid sense of humour, or consistently tactless – is to abuse. To expect too much, to denigrate, to ignore – are all modes of abuse. There is physical abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse. The list is long.

Narcissists are masters of abusing surreptitiously. They are "stealth abusers". You have to actually live with one in order to witness the abuse.

There are three important categories of abuse:

1. Overt Abuse – The open and explicit abuse of another person. Threatening, coercing, beating, lying, berating, demeaning, chastising, insulting, humiliating, exploiting, ignoring ("silent treatment"), devaluing, unceremoniously discarding, verbal abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse are all forms of overt abuse.

2. Covert or Controlling Abuse – Narcissism is almost entirely about control. It is a primitive and immature reaction to the circumstances of a llife in which the narcissist (usually in his childhood) was rendered helpless. It is about re-asserting one's identity, re-establishing predictability, mastering the environment – human and physical.

3. The bulk of narcissistic behaviours can be traced to this panicky reaction to the remote potential for loss of control. Narcissists are hypochondriacs (and difficult patients) because they are afraid to lose control over their body, its looks and its proper functioning. They are obsessive-compulsive in their efforts to subdue their physical habitat and render it foreseeable. They stalk people and harass them as a means of "being in touch" – another form of narcissistic control.

But why the panic?

The narcissist is a solipsist. To him, nothing exists except himself. Meaningful others are his extensions, assimilated by him, internal objects – not external ones. Thus, losing control of a significant other – is equivalent losing the use of a limb, or of one's brain. It is terrifying.

Independent or disobedient people evoke in the narcissist the realisation that something is wrong with his worldview, that he is not the centre of the world or its cause and that he cannot control what, to him, are internal representations.

To the narcissist, losing control means going insane. Because other people are mere elements in the narcissist's mind – being unable to manipulate them literally means losing it (his mind). Imagine, if you suddenly were to find out that you cannot manipulate your memories or control your thoughts… Nightmarish!

Moreover, it is often only through manipulation and extortion that the narcissist can secure his Narcissistic Supply. Controlling his Sources of Narcissistic Supply is a (mental) life or death question for the narcissist. The narcissist is a drug addict (his drug being the NS) and he would go to any length to obtain the next dose.

In his frantic efforts to maintain control or re-assert it, the narcissist resorts to a myriad of fiendishly inventive stratagems and mechanisms. Here is a partial list:

Unpredictability

The narcissist acts unpredictably, capriciously, inconsistently and irrationally. This serves to demolish in others their carefully crafted worldview. They become dependent upon the next twist and turn of the narcissist, his inexplicable whims, his outbursts, denial, or smiles. In other words: the narcissist makes sure that HE is the only stable entity in the lives of others – by shattering the rest of their world through his seemingly insane behaviour. He guarantees his presence in their lives – by destabilising them.

In the absence of a self, there are no likes or dislikes, preferences, predictable behaviour or characteristics. It is not possible to know the narcissist. There is no one there.

The narcissist was conditioned – from an early age of abuse and trauma – to expect the unexpected. His was a world in which (sometimes sadistic) capricious caretakers and peers often behaved arbitrarily. He was trained to deny his True Self and nurture a False one.

Having invented himself, the narcissist sees no problem in re-inventing that which he designed in the first place. The narcissist is his own creator.

Hence his grandiosity.

Moreover, the narcissist is a man for all seasons, forever adaptable, constantly imitating and emulating, a human sponge, a perfect mirror, a chameleon, a non-entity that is, at the same time, all entities combined. The narcissist is best described by Heidegger's phrase: "Being and Nothingness". Into this reflective vacuum, this sucking black hole, the narcissist attracts the Sources of his Narcissistic Supply.

To an observer, the narcissist appears to be fractured or discontinuous.

Pathological narcissism has been compared to the Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly the Multiple Personality Disorder). By definition, the narcissist has at least two selves, the True and False ones. His personality is very primitive and disorganised. Living with a narcissist is a nauseating experience not only because of what he is – but because of what he is NOT. He is not a fully formed human – but a dizzyingly kaleidoscopic gallery of ephemeral images, which melt into each other seamlessly. It is incredibly disorienting.

It is also exceedingly problematic. Promises made by the narcissist are easily disowned by him. His plans are transient. His emotional ties – a simulacrum. Most narcissists have one island of stability in their life (spouse, family, their career, a hobby, their religion, country, or idol) – pounded by the turbulent currents of a dishevelled existence.

The narcissist does not keep agreements, does not adhere to laws, regards consistency and predictability as demeaning traits.

Thus, to invest in a narcissist is a purposeless, futile and meaningless activity. To the narcissist, every day is a new beginning, a hunt, a new cycle of idealisation or devaluation, a newly invented self. There is no accumulation of credits or goodwill because the narcissist has no past and no future. He occupies an eternal and timeless present. He is a fossil caught in the frozen ashes of a volcanic childhood.

What to do?

Refuse to accept such behaviour. Demand reasonably predictable and rational actions and reactions. Insist on respect for your boundaries, predilections, preferences, and priorities.


Disproportional Reactions

One of the favourite tools of manipulation in the narcissist's arsenal is the disproportionality of his reactions. He reacts with supreme rage to the slightest slight. He punishes severely for what he perceives to be an offence against him, no matter how minor. He throws a temper tantrum over any discord or disagreement, however gently and considerately expressed. Or he may act attentive, charming and tempting (even over-sexed, if need be). This ever-shifting code of conduct coupled with an inordinately harsh and arbitrarily applied “penal code” are both promulgated by the narcissist. Neediness and dependence on the source of all justice meted – on the narcissist – are thus guaranteed.

What to do?

Demand a just and proportional treatment. Reject or ignore unjust and capricious behaviour.

If you are up to the inevitable confrontation, react in kind. Let him taste some of his own medicine.

Dehumanisation and Objectification

People have a need to believe in the empathic skills and basic good-heartedness of others. By dehumanising and objectifying people – the narcissist attacks the very foundations of the social treaty. This is the "alien" aspect of narcissists – they may be excellent imitations of fully formed adults but they are emotionally non-existent, or, at best, immature.

This is so horrid, so repulsive, so phantasmagoric – that people recoil in terror. It is then, with their defences absolutely down, that they are the most susceptible and vulnerable to the narcissist's control. Physical, psychological, verbal and sexual abuse are all forms of dehumanisation and objectification.

What to do?

Never show your abuser that you are afraid of him. Do not negotiate with bullies. They are insatiable. Do not succumb to blackmail.

If things get rough- disengage, involve law enforcement officers, friends and colleagues, or threaten him (legally).

Do not keep your abuse a secret. Secrecy is the abuser's weapon.

Never give him a second chance. React with your full arsenal to the first transgression.


Abuse of Information

From the first moments of an encounter with another person, the narcissist is on the prowl. He collects information with the intention of applying it later to extract Narcissistic Supply. The more he knows about his potential Source of Supply – the better able he is to coerce, manipulate, charm, extort or convert it "to the cause". The narcissist does not hesitate to abuse the information he gleaned, regardless of its intimate nature or the circumstances in which he obtained it. This is a powerful tool in his armoury.

What to do?

Be guarded. Don't be too forthcoming in a first or casual meeting. Gather intelligence.

Be yourself. Don't misrepresent your wishes, boundaries, preferences, priorities, and red lines.

Do not behave inconsistently. Do not go back on your word. Be firm and resolute.

Impossible Situations

The narcissist engineers impossible, dangerous, unpredictable, unprecedented, or highly specific situations in which he is sorely and indispensably needed. The narcissist, his knowledge, his skills or his traits become the only ones applicable, or the most useful to coping with these artificial predicaments. It is a form of control by proxy.

What to do?

Stay away from such quagmires. Scrutinize every offer and suggestion, no matter how innocuous.

Prepare backup plans. Keep others informed of your whereabouts and appraised of your situation.

Be vigilant and doubting. Do not be gullible and suggestible. Better safe than sorry.

Control by Proxy

If all else fails, the narcissist recruits friends, colleagues, mates, family members, the authorities, institutions, neighbours, or the media – in short, third parties – to do his bidding. He uses them to cajole, coerce, threaten, stalk, offer, retreat, tempt, convince, harass, communicate and otherwise manipulate his target. He controls these unaware instruments exactly as he plans to control his ultimate prey. He employs the same mechanisms and devices. And he dumps his props unceremoniously when the job is done.

Another form of control by proxy is to engineer situations in which abuse is inflicted upon another person. Such carefully crafted scenarios involve embarrassment and humiliation as well as social sanctions (condemnation, opprobrium, or even physical punishment). Society, or a social group become the instruments of the narcissist.

What to do?

Often the abuser's proxies re unaware of their role. Expose him. Inform them. Demonstrate to them how they are being abused, misused, and plain used by the abuser.

Trap your abuser. Treat him as he treats you. Involve others. Bring it into the open. Nothing like sunshine to disinfest abuse.

Ambient Abuse

The fostering, propagation and enhancement of an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability, unpredictability and irritation. There are no acts of traceable or provable explicit abuse, nor any manipulative settings of control. Yet, the irksome feeling remains, a disagreeable foreboding, a premonition, a bad omen. This is sometimes called "gaslighting". In the long-term, such an environment erodes one's sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Self-confidence is shaken badly. Often, the victims go a paranoid or schizoid and thus are exposed even more to criticism and judgement. The roles are thus reversed: the victim is considered mentally disordered and the narcissist – the suffering soul.

What to do?

Run! Get away! Ambient abuse often develops to overt and violent abuse.

You don't owe anyone an explanation – but you owe yourself a life. Bail out.

The Malignant Optimism of the Abused

I often come across sad examples of the powers of self-delusion that the narcissist provokes in his victims. It is what I call "malignant optimism". People refuse to believe that some questions are unsolvable, some diseases incurable, some disasters inevitable. They see a sign of hope in every fluctuation. They read meaning and patterns into every random occurrence, utterance, or slip. They are deceived by their own pressing need to believe in the ultimate victory of good over evil, health over sickness, order over disorder. Life appears otherwise so meaningless, so unjust and so arbitrary…

So, they impose upon it a design, progress, aims, and paths. This is magical thinking.

"If only he tried hard enough", "If he only really wanted to heal", "If only we found the right therapy", "If only his defences were down", "There MUST be something good and worthy under the hideous facade", "NO ONE can be that evil and destructive", "He must have meant it differently", "God, or a higher being, or the spirit, or the soul is the solution and the answer to our prayers".

The Pollyanna defences of the abused against the emerging and horrible understanding that humans are specks of dust in a totally indifferent universe, the playthings of evil and sadistic forces, of which the narcissist is one. And that finally their pain means nothing to anyone but themselves. Nothing whatsoever. It has all been in vain.

The narcissist holds such thinking in barely undisguised contempt. To him, it is a sign of weakness, the scent of prey, a gaping vulnerability. He uses and abuses this human need for order, good, and meaning – as he uses and abuses all other human needs. Gullibility, selective blindness, malignant optimism – these are the weapons of the beast. And the abused are hard at work to provide it with its arsenal.

 

Return

THE AUTHOR

 

 

 

Shmuel (Sam) Vaknin

 

Curriculum Vitae

 

 

 

 

Born in 1961 in Qiryat-Yam, Israel.

Served in the Israeli Defence Force (1979-1982) in training and education units.

Education

Graduated a few semesters in the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa.

Ph.D. in Philosophy (major: Philosophy of Physics) – Pacific Western University, California, USA.

Graduate of numerous courses in Finance Theory and International Trading.

Certified E-Commerce Concepts Analyst.

Certified in Psychological Counselling Techniques.

Full proficiency in Hebrew and in English.

Business Experience

1980 to 1983

Founder and co-owner of a chain of computerised information kiosks in Tel-Aviv, Israel.

1982 to 1985

Senior positions with the Nessim D. Gaon Group of Companies in Geneva, Paris and New-York (NOGA and APROFIM SA):

– Chief Analyst of Edible Commodities in the Group's Headquarters in Switzerland

– Manager of the Research and Analysis Division

– Manager of the Data Processing Division

– Project Manager of the Nigerian Computerised Census

– Vice President in charge of RND and Advanced Technologies

– Vice President in charge of Sovereign Debt Financing

1985 to 1986

Represented Canadian Venture Capital Funds in Israel.

1986 to 1987

General Manager of IPE Ltd. in London. The firm financed international multi-lateral counter-trade and leasing transactions.

1988 to 1990

Co-founder and Director of "Mikbats-Tesuah", a portfolio management firm based in Tel-Aviv.

Activities included large-scale portfolio management, underwriting, forex trading and general financial advisory services.

1990 to Present

Freelance consultant to many of Israel's Blue-Chip firms, mainly on issues related to the capital markets in Israel, Canada, the UK and the USA.

Consultant to foreign RND ventures and to Governments on macro-economic matters.

President of the Israel chapter of the Professors World Peace Academy (PWPA) and (briefly) Israel representative of the "Washington Times".

1993 to 1994

Co-owner and Director of many business enterprises:

– The Omega and Energy Air-Conditioning Concern

– AVP Financial Consultants

– Handiman Legal Services – Total annual turnover of the group: 10 million USD.

Co-owner, Director and Finance Manager of COSTI Ltd. – Israel's largest computerised information vendor and developer. Raised funds through a series of private placements locally, in the USA, Canada and London.

1993 to 1996

Publisher and Editor of a Capital Markets Newsletter distributed by subscription only to dozens of subscribers countrywide.

In a legal precedent in 1995 – studied in business schools and law faculties across Israel – was tried for his role in an attempted take-over of Israel's Agriculture Bank.

Was interned in the State School of Prison Wardens.

Managed the Central School Library, wrote, published and lectured on various occasions.

Managed the Internet and International News Department of an Israeli mass media group, "Ha-Tikshoret and Namer".

Assistant in the Law Faculty in Tel-Aviv University (to Prof. S.G. Shoham).

1996 to 1999

Financial consultant to leading businesses in Macedonia, Russia and the Czech Republic. Collaborated with the Agency of Transformation of Business with Social Capital.

Economic commentator in "Nova Makedonija", "Dnevnik", "Makedonija Denes", "Izvestia", "Argumenti i Fakti", "The Middle East Times", "The New Presence", "Central Europe Review" and other periodicals, and in the economic programs on various channels of Macedonian Television.

Chief Lecturer in courses organised by the Agency of Transformation, by the Macedonian Stock Exchange and Ministry of Trade.

1999 to 2002

Economic Advisor to the Government of the Republic of Macedonia and to the Ministry of Finance.

2001 to Present

Senior Business Correspondent for United Press International (UPI).

Web and Journalistic Activities:

Author of extensive Web sites in:

- Psychology ("Malignant Self-Love") – An Open Directory Cool Site

- Philosophy ("Philosophical Musings")

- Economics and Geopolitics ("World in Conflict and Transition").

Owner of the Narcissistic Abuse Announcement and Study List and the Narcissism Revisited mailing list (more than 3900 members).

Owner of the Economies in Conflict and Transition Study List.

Editor of mental health disorders and Central and Eastern Europe categories in Web directories (Open Directory, Suite 101, Search Europe).

Columnist and commentator in "The New Presence", United Press International (UPI), InternetContent, eBookWeb, PopMatters, and "Central Europe Review".

Publications and Awards

"Managing Investment Portfolios in States of Uncertainty", Limon Publishers, Tel Aviv, 1988

"The Gambling Industry", Limon Publishers, Tel Aviv, 1990

"Requesting my Loved One – Short Stories", Yedioth Aharonot, Tel Aviv, 1997

"The Suffering of Being Kafka" (electronic book of Hebrew Short Fiction), 1998

"The Macedonian Economy at a Crossroads – On the Way to a Healthier Economy", (Dialogues with Mr. Nikola Gruevski), Skopje, 1998

"The Exporters' Pocketbook", Ministry of Trade, Republic of Macedonia, Skopje, 1999

"Malignant Self-Love – Narcissism Revisited", Narcissus Publications, Prague and Skopje, 1999, 2001, 2003

The Narcissism Series – e-books regarding relationships with abusive narcissists, Skopje, 1999-2002

"After the Rain – How the West Lost the East", Narcissus Publications in association with Central Europe Review / CEENMI, Prague and Skopje, 2000

Winner of numerous awards, among them the Israeli Education Ministry Prize (Literature) – 1997, The Rotary Club Award for Social Studies – 1976, and the Bilateral Relations Studies Award of the American Embassy in Israel – 1978.

Hundreds of professional articles in all fields of finances and the economy, and numerous articles dealing with geopolitical and political economic issues published in both print and Web periodicals in many countries.

Many appearances in the electronic media on subjects in philosophy and the sciences and concerning economic matters.

 

Write to Me:

palma@unet.com.mk

narcissisticabuse-owner@yahoogroups.com

 

My Web Sites:

Economy / Politics:

http://ceeandbalkan.tripod.com/

Psychology:

http://samvak.tripod.com/index.html

Philosophy:

http://philosophos.tripod.com/

Poetry:

http://samvak.tripod.com/contents.html


 

 

Malignant Self Love

Narcissism Revisited

 

 

 

The Book

"Narcissists live in a state of constant rage, repressed

aggression, envy and hatred. They firmly believe that

everyone is like them. As a result, they are paranoid,

aggressive, haughty and erratic. Narcissists are

forever in pursuit of Narcissistic Supply.

They know no past or future, are not constrained by any

behavioural consistency, 'rules' of conduct or moral

considerations. You signal to a narcissist that you are a willing

source – and he is bound to extract his supply from you.

This is a reflex.

He would have reacted absolutely the same to any other

source. If what is needed to obtain supply from you is

intimations of intimacy – he will supply them liberally."

This book is comprised of two parts.

The first part is an exposition of the various psychodynamic

theories regarding pathological narcissism and

a proposed new vocabulary.

The second part contains 99 Frequently Asked Questions related

to the various aspects of pathological narcissism,

relationships with abusive narcissists, and the

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

 

 

The Author

Sam Vaknin was born in Israel in 1961. A financial consultant

and columnist, he lived (and published) in 11 countries.

He is a published and awarded author of short fiction and

reference and an editor of mental health categories in various

Web directories. This is his twelfth book.