Narcissism: an innate force or tendency opposed to relationship and community (pubmed citations)
PLEASE NOTE: I publish this article here as a cyberspace pro bono. Some readers have called me and asked for an opinion on their partner whom I have never met. I do not provide that opinion under any circumstances.
You will know when you might be with a narcissist when they turn every relationship issue into one about you. They gaslight as a backup plan, to ensure you’re seen as the crazy one and deflect attention from themselves. They lie, and they misrepresent you to your family and friends in disgusting ways. They don’t own their own stuff. They cannot truthfully describe their contribution to any relationship issue. It’s always the other person’s fault.
26 January 2024 – I have not updated all the links.
1.00 Two extremes of self-care
The primary message of Thomas Aquinas is love the other as oneself, but by being settled within oneself, by delighting in oneself. Julia Kristeva.
We all have to be a bit narcissistic in order to know and to meet our own needs, wants and desires. However, self-absorption to the exclusion of anyone else, as if no one else exists is extreme. Complete self-denial, if that were possible, is at the other extreme. Each may be flip sides of the same coin – emptiness.
Healthy narcissism gone wrong is about shame and may originate in neglect.
Pathological narcissism gone wrong is homicidal. Matricidal might be more accurate – so self-absorbed we would destroy mother earth to save ourselves?
A pathological narcissist will exploit their child, lover, sibling, parent, constituency or enterprise without a glimmer or even a semblance of mercy or empathy. They tend to implicate themselves in their loved one’s lives and their successes (‘you’d be nothing without me’) whilst blaming them for the failures entirely of the narcissist’s own doing.
The same is true for a narcissist employer with co-narcissist employee.
Both co-narcissists and children of narcissists tend to feel overly responsible for others. This article How We Accommodate to Narcissistic Parents is well worth the read. Rappoport observes, a high proportion of people in psychotherapy have adapted to life with a narcissist and as a result have not developed healthy means of self-expression and self-directedness. That has been my clinical experience as well. (If the article link broken go here).
If you have a habit of putting yourself down or subordinating yourself in friendships or intimate relationships, the pathological narcissist will know it and exploit it.
If ‘keeping your head down’ was a necessity in your family of origin, do not, DO NOT, attempt to rework this with a severely narcissistic partner, parent or employer.
Your chances of ‘finally’ getting it right are vanishingly small. At the end of the day the severe narcissist will walk free and you will remain in chains, not the other way round.
Self-assertion must precede self-denial. The more effectively you have asserted yourself, the more consistently you can relinquish your rights. Paul Tournier
At the extreme of self-denial, where we put other people, a parent, a family, religion, even an ideology or an organisation ahead of and to the exclusion of ourselves, we end up as emotionally unavailable as one who is pathologically self-absorbed.
In losing sight of the fundamental duty of self-care and healthy self-interest, we can end loathing ourselves for having any concern for our well being.
It’s more than just feeling guilty if I look after myself or say no. It is an inability to take in or to digest the heart of life, of food-for-the-soul. Even when it is given with kindness, wit and mercy.
Love is off the menu here somewhat like the main ingredient of an affective anorexia or of an attachment disorder. A kind of heart-food loathing resides at this extreme of self-denial.
This is the most elementary and archaic form of abjection.
Kristeva in her ‘Tales of Love’, contends that the narcissist is a screen for emptiness and is precisely someone incapable of love. Here is Chapter 1 from Kristeva’s ‘Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection’.
To reverse that emptiness and put ‘me’ first for a while, delighting in who I am, is a statement of self-worth. It is ultimately a statement of accountability to those in my care.
This is the constant balancing act of life.
1.1 Balancing self interest with concern for others
The struggle to find that balance, to lose it, find it and lose it again is normal and healthy.
Confusion about where I end and you begin is a boundary problem of response-ability. Where the boundary resides with those we love and care for shifts quite a bit over time. That is also normal.
However, people with the extreme degree of self-absorption or self-centredness labeled ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ do not struggle with that balance. Neither are they confused about the boundary. These are not even questions.
It’s simply about ME.
Yet, contrary to what one would expect of this degree of self-absorption, these folk can have surprisingly little inner life and little autonomous self-worth. Their facile self-esteem sounds conceited and noxious.
As a consequence they are rarely satisfied with life’s gifts – everyone else is to blame for the shortfall.
They may even harbour a fear of having no identity or fear something like an existential annihilation. This can feel something like a drowning immersion in non-existence or non-being. Meditators welcome a sentient awareness of non-self but it can terrify the severely self-absorbed.
Alice in Wonderland is a wonderful source of information on this dilemma – in which Humpty Dumpty asserts that there must exist an opposite to a birthday, which is an un-birthday. There are three hundred and sixty four days when you might get un-birthday presents.
Take a bone from a dog: what remains?
Alice considered. ‘The bone wouldn’t remain, of course, if I took it – and the dog wouldn’t remain; it would come to bite me — and I’m sure I shouldn’t remain!’
‘Then you think nothing would remain?’ said the Red Queen.
‘I think that’s the answer.’
‘Wrong, as usual,’ said the Red Queen: ‘the dog’s temper would remain.’
‘But I don’t see how -‘
‘Why, look here!’ the Red Queen cried. ‘The dog would lose its temper, wouldn’t it?’
‘Perhaps it would,’ Alice replied cautiously.
‘Then if the dog went away, its temper would remain!’ the Queen exclaimed triumphantly.’ Source.
Even without an identity or an inner life, there is still a signature bad temper – the narcissistic rage of frustrated entitlement. They can rage for weeks over a tiny mishap in their work, family or marital life.
Attachment is a force of attraction pulling two bodies together… It holds us to the earth and keeps our bodies in one piece.. In human terms, attachment is the pursuit and preservation of proximity, of closeness and connection. It is invisible yet fundamental to our existence. The first business of attachment is to create a compass point out of the person attached to. Neufeld & Mate 2004, ‘Hold On To Your Kids’.
Neufeld & Mate describe six ways of attaching, listed here in increasing in complexity. In healthy adults these ways of attaching are intertwined like rope with one underlying drive for connection. The six are:
- sameness and identification
- belonging and loyalty
- significance – that we matter to someone
- feeling or emotional intimacy, and
- being known.
If the person with narcissistic personality disorder gets to belonging it is of the form you belong to me and I can do anything I like. Their idea of loyalty is similarly one way – they are above reciprocal loyalty.
Those with severe personality disorders are more likely to attach through the senses, that is through smell, sight sound or touch than through genuine identification, belonging or loyalty.
They often lack the capacity for genuine emotional intimacy and are in another sense, unknowable.
Attaching through the senses alone means those with NPD have to maintain the attachment through close proximity. By a narcissistic personality, this leaves their target feeling haunted or hunted, never left alone physically or emotionally by their obsession with sensory attachment. One always has to be within their reach and hearing – unrelenting text messages all day, for example.
Since they depend on senses requiring close physical contact to the object of attachment, their bonding is easily disrupted by distance, like an infant protesting loudly when you don’t immediately answer their call.
Equally one who attaches only in this close way is threatened by any other person who is close, since that appears immediately to distract the object of their desire from providing the immediate sensory feed of attachment and orientation.
Consequently, those with a severe narcissistic personality disorder disrupt other attachment bonds by threats to others, verbal abuse, threatening abandonment and toxic undermining of the other’s self-worth. An intimate and captive recipient of these attentions is at risk of developing complex post-traumatic stress disorder (see Q & A below).
1.3 Denial of responsibility
We all have these traits and under stress, we handle things differently. Narcissists opt for this as the only method of existence – under stress or not. It is their default position.
Denial of accountability drives their default position of me-me-me no-responsibility, I’m-right-you’re-wrong to an extreme. It can end up sounding like the dead parrot sketch. Here’s the complete script for the Monty Python sketch.
The disordered narcissist rarely carries their duty of responsibility to the heart but nevertheless will depend on others to do so and on others to validate their worth and identity. At the same time they try to annihilate them. They can do that overtly such as by verbal bullying or covertly by undermining and unaware forgetfulness.
They are so exclusively focused on themselves that they will say they ‘never meant to hurt anyone’. They believe that is true. To those left cleaning up the wreckage in their wake, the oft repeated claim of no harm intended is unconscionable, unprincipled even inhuman.
We struggle to find words to describe the shattering of a core belief that at bottom, to be human is to feel contrition and remorse for hurt caused. The disordered narcissist does not. The psychopath can not.
1.4 Is healthy self-reflection a form of narcissistic behaviour?
‘This above all to thine own self be true’, has been taken literally rather than seen as the pompous posturings of a self-satisfied windbag. Frank Pittman in ‘Grow Up, How Taking Responsibility Can Make You A Happy Adult’ New York: Golden Books (1998)
The drug or alcohol dependent narcissist is a potent and destructive combo.
1.5 Can they be treated
- Hi Peter
‘I sent emails to two Clinical Psychologists and received very prompt replies in my search for my NPD friend. They both state they have treated NPD clients with one stating that it is not his specialist area. I have done quite a bit of research on the prognosis for NPD sufferers and it is not encouraging, to say the least! In your experience, Peter, has any progress ever been made with the NPD clients you have treated? (Question asked with great trepidation!).’ Writer’s name witheld.
- Treatment success
You have to first define the severity of the personality disorder AND its origins – i.e. shame based from childhood abuse or neglect (in which case you treat the C-PTSD first) or at the psychopathic end of the spectrum from a non-traumatic happy childhood (i.e, likely a strong genetic footprint) AND whether high functioning in the world. I think you have to take it on a case by case basis, not on the basis of what the research says. Remember, treatment success has a lot to do with what the therapist brings to the process as well as the client and who attends with the NPD for treatment.
I haven’t seen any research on the treatment success of couple’s therapy with an NPD partner so if you find some pass it on. The npd-bpd partnership is common and complex since the bpd partner may have been misdiagnosed and was in fact suffering from C-PTSD caused by being a captive of the npd partner’s intimate annihilations, and sometimes vice versa – chicken and the egg. I am working away at the C-PTSD article on wikipedia and would love some help on this page: Complex post-traumatic stress disorder. I have put a bit of this information on my infidelity pages.
I have only ‘treated’ NPD clients in couple’s therapy. With one of my longest running, I was privileged to work with he and his partners though two marriages and one child. I heard recently from his third wife that a fourth marriage had ended in divorce after only a year. He lived in an exclusive enclave in south east Queensland and managed to keep his abode and superannuation fund from becoming part of four property settlements! Exquisitely skilful intimidation?
In some ways moving those marriages along is a success given how much damage he was doing, some of it irreparable, to the people concerned and to their extended families.
His family was of course perfect, his childhood well adjusted and he was the apple of his parent’s eyes. A dangerous charmer from a very young age who could do no wrong – according to him not even in the eyes of his siblings. If that is all true, I can only guess at the insidious intimidation that produced such a white wash.
Significantly, he would say that his treatment with me was successful – that may be part of the pattern. Why would an NPD person engage in an unsuccessful therapy since he was the best at everything – including best client. If he hadn’t felt therapy was successful it would have been my fault and I would never have heard the end of it. He was a frequent and vexatious litigant, CEO of a medium sized enterprise, who unhesitatingly pursued, literally to the ends of the earth, any one who had done him wrong.
His wives were captives in that sense, fearing they could never get beyond his reach. So for a fourth marriage to end after only a year is a phenomenal success for both he and his ex-wife.
Note: for obvious reasons this is a fictional case patched together from a number of unrelated incidences.
2.0 Empathy is the key to intimacy and to power sharing in relationship
Empathy is most likely disabled to varying degrees in those with severe personality disorders.
The loose screw is in the limbic system of the brain, but that doesn’t make NPD a disease or a disorder. It might be viewed as a genetic variation useful to evolution and commerce but lots of trouble to the rest of us.
It might be the result of the lack of nurture and attachment wounds in childhood or the presence of childhood abuse. Masterson in ‘The Search for the Real Self’ describes the creation of false selves from ‘abandonment depression’ during the first 3 years of life. This is called the narcissistic wound. A copy of his article on the closet narcissist is here.
Evidence of empathic behaviour begins in most children by the age of two as they emerge from complete dependence on parents or carers.
Empathy evolves from mirror neurons in the body. These neurons fire in sympathy with observations of other’s movements or of their expressions. This gives a kinaesthetic impression of what is happening outside of ourselves, in the other person’s experience.
Children around this age learn to trust the internal information coming from their nervous system including those mirror neurons. They begin to mimic behaviour and start impression management – experimenting for instance with lying. In adult life the disordered narcissist cannot move on from these concerns.
A healthy child’s actions and feelings are mirrored back to them in increasingly human sequences. In these ways, kids develop an awareness of who they are and of their intrinsic worth (or lack of it). One view is that the severe narcissist was not adequately mirrored and so could not develop an autonomous identity of their own or an intrinsic self. Worse, that they were brutally abandoned and abused. Hence, they fear annihilation of this fragile, undeveloped and ungrounded sense of self.
To compensate for that lack, they continue a symbiotic form of dependence but now only possible as a predator – since most adults reject one way emotional exploitation. It’s always easier to get blood if the victim offers their veins. The emotional predator (or psychic vampire) must use cunning and camouflage to cover the theft.
The personality disordered narcissist does this as if driven by the insatiable demands of a hungry ghost and without due care of the cost to family, friends, their work place or community.
A person with moderate to severe narcissism can sometimes express empathy and mirror another’s body language in order to charm or manipulate them. But they lack the sympathy and the compassion that often restrains people from turning others into clones for personal use.
2.1 An inner life
Without empathy no relationship can fill the poverty of a narcissist’s inner life.
Without reciprocity intimacy perishes.
I believe the truth of these observation are self-evident.
Neither can offspring to whom they are profoundly disrespectful, fill that void.
A sense of security derives from being settled in oneself.
I think these too are self-evident.
A person with a narcissistic personality disorder does not simply reject these observations, they deny them and even deny their denial. This can take the form of It’s your fault that I feel insecure, your fault that my kids reject me or even a funny and twisted, It’s your fault that I’m in denial.
They can deny even remorse and gratitude …
Remorse and gratitude are compelling, gut and heart level experiences. Some of us some of the time wish we also lacked empathy and that other people’s experience was not mirrored in our bodies with such insistence.
Compassion fatigue is like that.
For a severe narcissist, remorse and gratitude are simply inaccessible and that is the tragic cost of it. Others will carry the cost and a moderate to severe narcissist is not burdened by that either. They lack the sympathy and compassion that empathy matures. Read this pivotal article on the lack of remorse and gratitude currently free here or commercially here.
Arguing with a narcissist is like wrestling with a pig in mud. After a while, you realise the pig is enjoying it, to misquote Jamie Lawrence depicting engineers.
RD Laing observed an argument between two patients in the course of a session in an analytic group. Suddenly, one of the protagonists broke off the argument to say, “I can’t go on. You are arguing in order to have the pleasure of triumphing over me. At best you win an argument. At worst you lose an argument. I am arguing in order to preserve my existence.
Here is the script for Monty Python’s argument skit.
Here’s a quote from the devaluation fun house:
By now you’re great friends with an adorable little quirk called devaluation. As you know, just about anything can bring this scene on, such as he’d had salami for lunch, you asked him if anything was wrong, his friend got a new girlfriend, or you were so out of control as to criticize him (such as, “I feel like I’m not as important to you as I used to be,” or, “It was manipulative of you to threaten to leave if I didn’t do as you say”). The mind of the narcissist is wildly chaotic, fraught with conflicts and about as predictable as the bullets in Russian Roulette.
But, usually, here’s what happened: You Two Got Too Close. Yes, you probably invoked that bane of narcissistic existence, Mister Intimacy. Cuddling after nookie, kissing anytime outside of foreplay (when he initiates it), talk of meaningful growth in the relationship such as a commitment (even if he’s living in your house and you’ve been together five years) or spending time with other couples – though this is all pleasurable and welcomed by good men, you were a very bad girl for subjecting your poor narcissist to such torture.
And here’s how you’re punished. At the drop of a hat, and usually after a particularly reassuring and close time together, he’ll insult you. Or threaten the relationship. He’ll tell you he doesn’t see how the two of you will make it. You’re so demanding. Projection is common: You don’t give him what he needs. You play mind games with him. You. You. You.
More links on this site about arguing with a narcissist, where rule 1 is Learn as much as you can as fast as you can and protect yourself financially and emotionally and rule 2 is Never forget rule 1!
2.2 Books dealing with verbal abuse
- The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond – Patricia Evans, 1992,96
• Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out: On relationship and Recovery – Patricia Evans, 1993 – book notes summary and her web site.
• The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life – Albert Ellis Ph.D., Marcia Grad Powers, 2000
• Tongue Fu: How to Deflect, Disarm, and Defuse Any Verbal Conflict – Sam Horn, 1996
• The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense – Suzette Haden Elgin, 1980
• Speaking Your Mind in 101 Difficult Situations – Don Gabor.
Those with NPD have a noxious self-esteem – taking the glory no matter what another’s contribution to a shared task. This tends to reduce the other’s willingness to stay open and engaged until there is some recognition that this theft has occurred.
After a contrite apology, most people can get back to the shared task. But not the severe narcissist. They will find an alternative offence even where none exists. They will insist on their entitlement to full repayment before offering forgiveness for their theft of another’s glory. If they don’t get repaid they hold a grudge, relentlessly.
Forgiving requires contrition and that is an impossible experience for a person with a severe narcissistic personality disorder. Forgiveness is a vital capacity in allowing relationships to move on when words, actions or omissions have torn them apart.
As part of self-admiration, narcissists typically have a sense of entitlement in which they feel superior to others and expect special, preferential treatment. When social relationships do not provide the special treatment that is expected, the entitled person is quickly offended and demands repayment or revenge to rectify the situation. Letting go of justifiable feelings of resentment may be regarded as too costly or as morally inappropriate.
Because of their inflated sense of entitlement, narcissists will be easily offended by others and will not readily forgive. They will insist that others repay them and will be reluctant to ‘lose face’ by forgiving – particularly if justice has not been restored – entitled persons not only expect special treatment, but also have an overwhelming preoccupation with defending their rights. This focus on defending self-interest can get in the way of forgiveness.
The effects of entitlement operated independently from other major predictors of forgiveness, such as religiosity, relationship closeness, offence severity and the presence of apologies. Source.
This chart of coercion is the road map you may travel with someone who has a severe narcissistic personality disorder as they undermine your sense of self.
Hostages have put up bail for their captors and have expressed a wish to marry them. People seek increased attachment in the face of danger or threat of danger. A significant factor in keeping people ‘attached’ even whilst they know they are being sucked dry or their existence threatened is betrayal bonding.
Uncontrollable disruptions or distortions of attachment bonds precede the development of post-traumatic stress syndromes. People seek increased attachment in the face of danger. Adults, as well as children, may develop strong emotional ties with people who intermittently harass, beat, and, threaten them. The persistence of these attachment bonds leads to confusion of pain and love. Trauma can be repeated on behavioural, emotional, physiologic, and neuroendocriniologic levels. Repetition on these different levels causes a large variety of individual and social suffering.
Anger directed against the self or others is always a central problem in the lives of people who have been violated and this is itself a repetitive re-enactment of real events from the past. Compulsive repetition of the trauma usually is an unconscious process that, although it may provide a temporary sense of mastery or even pleasure, ultimately perpetuates chronic feelings of helplessness and a subjective sense of being bad and out of control. Gaining control over one’s current life, rather than repeating trauma in action, mood, or somatic states, is the goal of healing. Vanderkolk
3.0 Psychopaths give narcissists a bad name
Psychopaths make confident, sometimes charming and always twisted villains, for example: Eric Theodore Cartman; Dorian Grey; Captain Hook; the Wicked Witch of the West and Gilderoy Lockhart (links to their Wikipedia entries).
Some we grieve after they are killed like Vincent in Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction‘:
despite his narcissistic behaviour, unwilling to invest in any relationship or activity that fails to satisfy his own desires, Vincent reminds us of the pleasures of inactivity, the deep need to hang out – moments evinced by the endearing shots of him sitting on the toilet reading Modesty Blaise. Quoted from this remarkable article, ‘Shepherding the weak: The ethics of redemption in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction’.
When the narcissist is also strongly psychopathic, these are the most unpleasant people to divorce, to dissolve a business partnership with or to investigate their malfeasance or crimes.
They hide significant assets, including information, where partners, spouses or investigators will struggle to reclaim them, whilst protesting they have been wronged. Even when confronted with physical evidence to the contrary.
Others around me would get so tired of the whole thing and insinuate that I was perpetuating things. All I wanted was for him to leave me alone. Part of the hurt and damage was done because others could but would not see what was actually happening. He would always try to ingratiate himself to others it was sickening. Usually psychopaths put on the nicest act, and you look like the harpy and bitch, and so everyone takes their side, it is a horror story, a psychopath can be very charming, and manipulative and manipulate the smartest of people. Quoted from cassiopaeia
Consider that the prevalence of psychopathy in our society is about the same as that of schizophrenia, a devastating mental disorder that brings heart-wrenching distress to patient and family alike. However, the scope of the personal pain and distress associated with schizophrenia is small compared to the extensive personal, social and economic carnage wrought by psychopaths. They cast a wide net, and nearly everyone is caught in it one way or another. Quoted from ‘Without Conscience’ by Emeritus Professor Robert Hare.
We have accommodated narcissistic vulnerability, entitlement and grandiosity. We promote it to the top of government and business. These are the corporate psychopaths.
As a nation we vote for people we know will lie to us and continue to foster their careers. To quote John Clarke,
I was giving a lecture on criminal psychopaths and someone came down after that lecture and said that their boss had the same characteristics – an absolute lack of remorse or guilt for their behaviour, pathological lying, manipulative, callous, egotistical, self centred, glib and superficial charm.
4.0 Feel-good consumer wants are narcissistic ‘needs’
They are fundamental to national economic health and ultimately to the loss of habitat. They are elevated to magisterial levels by the therapy/personal development/litigation industry looking after your inner child’s ‘truth’, developing your health and happiness and protecting your ‘rights’. Narcissism can seem an almost normal way of life.
Long gone are the days (if ever they existed) where honour, responsibility and a humble, personal salvation was a goal of life. Narcissism is about me, what’s owed me and to hell with a world that doesn’t put me first. I’m entitled to feel good and continue just as I am.
A television commercial explicitly argues that since the solitary individual can do nothing about the national deficit or about environmental pollution, the individual should buy Bugle Boy jeans; then, the commercial promises, the world will be your oyster.
Lasch’s narcissist (in ‘The Culture of Narcissism’ 1979) has become the over praised, attention-seeking, technologically dependent (citizen) who is aware and concerned about certain influences on family and social life but little motivated to change his lifestyle to counteract them.
It’s a question of balance. Pursuing self-interest is necessary to health and happiness, but without community what are we? This 2000 year old wisdom about the balance might be misinterpreted as every man for himself:
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
If not now, when? Hillel
I have put this section late in the article because I think there are bigger issues – those of character, morality, community and other pre-requisites of a human life.
Some readers call and ask for confirmation of a diagnosis of their partner whom I have never met. I do not provide that under any circumstances. Given the cautions below, I am very unlikely to diagnose even when both are clients.
I recommend care in making judgements based on anecdotes and first impressions. We tend to compare our insides to other’s outsides. We have an automatic tendency to seek information that agrees with our preconceptions and to ignore, avoid, or distort information that contradicts them.
For a reality check, read the criteria for Normal Personality disorder from a group of neurodiversity innovators, often ostracised and wrongly portrayed as lacking empathy – those with autism spectrum disorder like the idiot savant in the book of ‘Forrest Gump‘.
- NPD Definitions: Lists of indicators on Joanna’s site and the extensive entry at wikipedia
- A critique of the DSM IV diagnostic criteria used to define personality disorders and its misdiagnosis.
- Notes on jargon in therapy.
- Comprehensive NPD Learning links
- Ludwig’s NPD site, a music teacher and composer.
- The NPD Family Support Group if you are living with, work or have a family member with these behaviours. Their page of pdf articles is also excellent.
- The serial bully is an excellent site; the narcissist at work and Lucy’s letter about her boss and a blog on prozac bosses from hell
- School violence explained and the reality distortions that occur within it
- A list of maladaptive schemas or core beliefs that underly the experience of narcissism. Questionnaire to distinguish overt from covert narcissists (e.g. I am secretly “put out” or annoyed when other people come to me with their troubles, asking me for my time and sympathy).
- Nietzsche noticed that a society ruled by priests needs sin, because sin is the handle and grip for power. Szasz proposes a similar function for mental disorders in the psychiatric industry.
Books and articles
- Children of the Self-absorbed by Nina W. Brown (New Harbinger Publications, 2001) and some excerpts with other sources about children of NPD parents
- Loving the Self-Absorbed by Nina W. Brown
- The Search for the Real Self – Unmasking the Personality Disorders of Our Age. Free Press, New York 1988. James Masterson
- I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me : Understanding the Borderline Personality by Jerold J. Kreisman, Hal Strauss
- The Narcissistic / Borderline Couple: A Psychoanalytic Perspective On Marital Treatment by Joan Lachkar. This is the extreme of the fuser(npd)/isolator(bpd) pattern, where one is dominated by mirroring needs and the other by fears of abandonment. Her article archived on site.
6.0 Description of narcissism in an intimate relationship
retrieved from angelfire on 26/10/05
If you get a chill up or down your spine while reading these and thinking of your boss, partner or parent – your body knows! Having had that confronting experience some of my clients still find it impossible either to WALK AWAY WITH WISDOM or to RUN AND some narcissists do improve their behaviour dramatically when their supply line is threatened.
Most quickly recover and return to form unscathed.
Not so their entranced captives.
“Narcissists expect and demand that the ones nearest and dearest to them, tolerate, admire, love, and cater to their needs. They expect others to be at their immediate disposal. Their behaviour is obnoxious, aloof and indifferent and they fully realize this. Narcissists test the mental limits of people’s patience. Individuals in a relationship with a narcissist feel something is not “quite right,” and many seek answers to the unsettling experience of day to day contact with a narcissist.
Narcissistic individuals do not tend to be physically abusive although there are some out there that are. Their worst weapon is their mouth. With their mouth they spit verbal negations and dispense emotional abuse. Their vocal cords are their method of attempting to control others.
Narcissists do not have the emotional capacity to provide support or understanding to others. There are numerous defence mechanisms which narcissists use to confuse and unbalance those around them. Organization is unknown to narcissistic individuals and they avoid future plans if it concerns pleasing another for some reason not evident to them.
They do not want anyone thinking highly of them for several reasons. First, their sense of self as special, unique and deserving keeps them grounded at maintenance level in their relationships. Maintenance level is just enough, just in time to keep the folly of the relationship moving forward, but just enough and no more. To expend more energy on the relationship would cause others to feel some degree of predictability in the whole affair. Contributing to the happiness of the ones they already envy for having the ability to feel love is not a an activity in which narcissists wish to participate.
Second, if another thinks highly of the narcissist then there are expectations which that person has that the narcissist must fulfil. The narcissist, however, does not intend to fill anyone’s expectations except that of his/her own.
Happiness, joy, and the effort to please others is not normally undertaken by the narcissist except in the beginning or potential ending of a relationship. At either of these points, the narcissist may be charming, helpful, pleasing, and amusing beyond imagination. But, this effort is only used to obtain a new narcissistic supply source or to win back the affection of an important source if abandonment appears eminent. At all other times, the narcissist believes his/her presence, is clearly and abundantly sufficient to maintain the loyalty, trust, affection and respect of those which the narcissist already considers his/her object. So, the narcissist will postpone, withhold or procrastinate the continuing efforts that are essential to maintaining any kind of meaningful relationship. A narcissistic person is unable to fake the emotion of love for another for a long period of time. This impairs the capacity for a committed relationship with a narcissist. Therefore, marital instability and promiscuity are prominent in those with NPD.
Narcissists can perform obligations in the global areas of their lives and with strangers quite well. But, with those individuals they have already captured, they find the expenditure of civil treatment taxing to their mental reserve and not really necessary. They routinely display to their captured objects their worst traits. These may include abuse of alcohol, verbal negations or other behaviours that tend to keep people at a distance and not allow any close interpersonal strength to develop. This is evident in the narcissists relationships with their wives/husbands, girlfriends/boyfriends, children, brothers, and sisters.
Narcissists will never accept the blame for anything that happens in a relationship. They are quite ready to blame the other person involved. They expect to be the centre of attention in a relationship and demand their every wish be fulfilled by their partner.
Don’t expect the narcissist to get better with age. By the time they are old they have pushed everyone who has ever tried to care about them away. Their narcissistic characteristics also seem to increase after the death of parents or loss of others that have exerted some type of control over them.
A relationship with a narcissist can at times be fun and invigorating. After the relationship has come to an end, for the non-disordered, there maybe a feeling of let down or boredom. A relationship with a narcissist is like a roller coaster ride–there are extreme highs and lows. Be thankful the relationship has ended. The best advice for anyone who is presently involved with a narcissist is to RUN! The relationship won’t get better. Also, it’s better to get out before the narcissist snatches away all your self-esteem. Remember, their worst weapon is their mouth.”
7.0 Partnering and parenting
After 10 years of pain and frustration, I’ve come to learn that my husband suffers from NPD. I’ve decided not to leave him in the short-term because our children are quite young and sharing custody with him feels akin to sending them off with a drunk driver. I understand his prognosis is poor and I am now marshalling all my energy towards my own financial and emotional recovery, as well as modelling healthy emotions and behaviour for my children. I am wondering if other people have stayed with spouses with NPD and what advice they might have.
I am working on setting boundaries against his abusive behaviour (without assuming he’ll understand why his behaviour is inappropriate), but am wondering if the best course of action (to maintain a peaceful household) is to continue to act as a supply for his needs (i.e., be as supporting, affectionate, and adoring as I can, although I don’t feel very adoring right now) or to refuse to supply that (for my own sake). I read on one web site that being abusive/condescending back is the best way to deal with narcissist – that seems extremely perilous to me, as it just triggers his underlying rage. (Been there, done that.) We are in couple’s therapy , but I’d love some advice from others who’ve experienced this. Relieved to have ID’d the problem. From an excellent discussion on the Berkeley Parents Network.
When the partnered severe narcissist loses the battle to prevent the ‘greatest love of his life’ from having children, he may then proceed to punish the partner and neglect the child or children. More often this process is covert and passive.
The drama can surface in the maternity ward when the narcissistic father becomes desperate. Remember they are fundamentally afraid and though intelligent will behave incredibly badly and with jaw dropping stupidity. They may demand staff and even other birth mothers in the ward, give them the attention that their partner has ‘withdrawn’ and is now giving ‘exclusively’ to their new born.
Many of them believe their partner will shortly return to giving them the exclusive attention to which they are entitled. They have no comprehension that this is not about them, that it is about a newborn baby who will remain in real need for years.
Sometimes this anti-social behaviour, which so obviously lacks sympathy, compassion, remorse and empathy alarms maternity staff. They may fear for the welfare of both child and mother. The danger is in the narcissist’s incapacity to respond appropriately to the real emotional and physical needs of those to whom they owe a duty of care.
Sometimes their partner has doggedly believed that having a child would finally flip them out of their pathological self-absorption, their annihilating dependence on external validation and their double standards.
You can read all of this section in a corporate context. For example the narcissistic boss whose baby is a new venture, in effect its parent, will behave in a similarly unconscionable way.
If these habits don’t change with the birth of their child or new business venture, then you have a good enough diagnosis of enduring narcissistic traits. The same is also true for the lady narcissist who will early and usually passively fail to care for the newborn. This is a clearly different attachment problem from pre- and post-natal clinical depression!!!!
7.1 Daughters of narcissistic mothers
It’s very common for Narcissistic Mothers to have a Golden Child / Scapegoat dynamic going on.
In short, one child in the family is the Golden Child, and one or more is the Scapegoat.
The Golden Child, as the name suggests, is the best and most wonderful – at least in the eyes of the Narcissistic Mother. It seems to be that the Narcissistic Mother picks the Golden Child to be an extension of herself, onto whom she projects all her own supposed wonderfulness.
The Golden Child can do no wrong. He or she gets given the best of everything – even apartments or houses bought for them. Their most minor achievements are celebrated and held up for admiration.
The Scapegoat on the other hand is, also as the name suggests, the person on whom all the ills of the family are projected. They can do no right. Their major achievements are dismissed. Any money spent on them is the bare minimum and is spent begrudgingly. Source
This topic is eloquently covered on the source page: daughtersofnarcissisticmothers.com
8.0 Quick guide to characteristics of person struggling with narcissism
Here is a list of some likely behaviours of a narcissistic parent, from ‘Children of the Self Absorbed: A Grownup’s Guide to Getting over Narcissistic Parents‘ (2001) by Nina Brown retrieved from angriesout.co
The book by Elan Golomb Trapped in the Mirror (1992) is also available.
- Turns every conversation to herself.
• Expects you to meet his emotional needs
• Ignores the impact of her negative comments on you
• Constantly criticises or berates you and knows what is best for you
• Focus on blaming rather than taking responsibility for his own behaviour
• Expect you to jump at her every need
• Is overly involved with his own hobbies, interests or addictions ignoring your needs
• Has high need for attention:
• Brags, sulks, complains, inappropriately teases, is flamboyant, loud and boisterous
• Is closed minded about own mistakes. Can’t handle criticism and gets angry to shut it off
• Becomes angry when her needs are not met and tantrums or intimidates
• Has an attitude of “Anything you can do, I can do better”
• Engages in one-upmanship to seem important
• Acts in a seductive manner or is overly charming
• Is vain and fishes for compliments. Expects you to admire him
• Is not satisfied unless she has the “biggest” or “best”
• Seeks status. Spends money to impress others
• Forgets what you have done for them yet keeps reminding you that you owe them today
• Neglects the family to impress others. Does it all: Is a super person to gain admiration
• Threatens to abandon you if you don’t go along with what he wants
• Does not obey the law—sees herself above the law
• Does not expect to be penalised for failure to follow directions or conform to guidelines
• Ignores your feelings and calls you overly sensitive or touchy if you express feelings
• Tells you how you should feel or not feel
• Cannot listen to you and cannot allow your opinions
• Is more interested in his own concerns and interests than yours
• Is unable to see things from any point of view other than her own
• Wants to control what you do and say—tries to micromanage you
• Attempts to make you feel stupid, helpless and inept when you do things on your own
• Has poor insight and can not see the impact his selfish behaviour has on you
• Has shallow emotions and interests
• Exploits others with lies and manipulations.
• Uses emotional blackmail to get what she wants
• May engage in physical or sexual abuse of children. Source
Some employers/supervisors and co-workers behave in the same way and call it management.
8.1 Quick guide to characteristics of person struggling with low EQ
* Doesn’t take responsibilities for his feelings; but blames you or others for them.
* Can’t put together three word sentences starting with “I feel…”
* Can’t tell you why she feels the way she does, or can’t do it without blaming someone else.
* Attacks, blames, commands, criticises, interrupts, invalidates, lectures, advises and judges you and others.
* Tries to analyse you, for example when you express your feelings.
* Often begins sentences with “I think you…”
* Sends “you messages” disguised as “I feel messages” For example, “I feel like you ….”
* Lays guilt trips on you.
* Withholds information about or lies about his feelings. (Emotional dishonesty)
* Exaggerates or minimises her feelings.
* Lets things build up, then they blow up, or react strongly to something relatively minor.
* Lacks integrity and a sense of conscience.
* Carries grudges; is unforgiving.
* Doesn’t tell you where you really stand with her.
* Is uncomfortable to be around.
* Acts out his feelings, rather than talking them out.
* Plays games; is indirect or evasive.
* Is insensitive to your feelings.
* Has no empathy, no compassion.
* Is rigid, inflexible; needs rules and structure to feel secure.
* Is not emotionally available; offers little chance of emotional intimacy.
* Does not consider your feelings before acting.
* Does not consider their own future feelings before acting.
* Is insecure and defensive and finds it hard to admit mistakes, express remorse, or apologise sincerely.
* Avoids responsibility by saying things like: “What was I supposed to do? I had no choice!
* Holds many distorted and self-destructive beliefs which cause persistent negative emotions
* May be overly pessimistic; may invalidate others’ joy.
* Or may be overly optimistic, to the point of being unrealistic and invalidating of others’ legitimate fears.
* Frequently feels inadequate, disappointed, resentful, bitter or victimised.
* Locks himself into courses of action against common sense, or jumps ship at the first sight of trouble.
* Avoids connections with people and seeks substitute relationships with everything from pets and plants to imaginary beings.
* Rigidly clings to his beliefs because he is too insecure to be open to new facts.
* Can tell you the details of an event, and what they think about it, but can’t tell you how she feels about it.
* Uses his intellect to judge and criticise others without realising he is feeling superior, judgmental, critical, and without awareness of how his actions impact others’ feelings.
* Is a poor listener. Interrupts. Invalidates. Misses the emotions being communicated. Focuses on “facts” rather than feelings. Source
9.0 Predatory narcissist psychopaths on line
One of many similar cases was reported on Corra’s Daily Planet: a 55 year old woman was alert enough to recognise that a man she met on True.com was the same guy with whom she corresponded a year before on Match.com The man was a convicted sex offender.
Vulnerable children are also being groomed on line by pedophile psychopaths, initially posing as 13 or 14 year children, cruising web chat rooms or text messaging mobiles and mobile chat rooms and mobile games sites with GPS. These guys are dedicated, patient and cunning. Often well to do, sometimes even pillars of society.
They are well supported by coaching and networking in pedophile clusters and travel significant distances to meet their target or pay for their target to travel to them. They will work to maintain a long term relationship, often with the child’s family and community in order to manage the risk of being caught.
Some will go to devastated areas following earthquakes and tsunamis posing as first response volunteers.
9.1 SAFETY ON THE NET: KIDS RESOURCES
For kids by kids online: FBKO.
Keeping children safe on the internet and smart about chat room grooming and solicitation by paedophiles produced by the Cyberspace research unit with more leading articles by Rachel O’Connell, quoted below:
Rachel mentioned the example of the mother who had permitted her child to meet another ‘child’ who had befriended her on the Internet and dropped her daughter off at the meeting place. But to her horror, as she drove away she saw an extremely seedy looking man approaching her child. The mother got out of the car and ran back in time to prevent the man making the planned contact with her daughter. This is an example of the intent alone needing to be enough for someone to be prosecuted.
Pedophiles network with each other (reported by The Lucy Faithful Foundation). The offenders involved seek the assistance of other pedophiles if children they are attempting to prey on via the Internet, seem to be breaking out of the grooming process. That is, they will instantly call in help from other pedophiles who, also in the guise of children, move in on the child to add to the persuasiveness of the initial pedophile!‘
The way pedophiles talk it is clear their aim is to despoil innocence. They rationalise that the child initiated the sexuality of the activity and in their minds, absolving themselves of responsibility.
10.0 Titus Andronicus
This night beyond recall
is the heart of winter’s
red darkness, words of love
rising like radio waves and
music, up into the deep overcast
of a winter night. Black
On a distant ridge
the lights of other homes,
their private narratives
glowing in the darkness.
Tonight, spiralling deeper, deepest
into the soft void, the
impossible darkness, we
have a lovers’ tale to unravel.
Still, still night. The food
which nourishes us, hydromel. Hunter’s rye.
By what new moons
have I known you?
In what darkness?
is passing between us.
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