Excerpts from the Archives of the Narcissism List - Part 9
Listowner: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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1. Love and Sex
There is nothing wrong in showing love with our bodies. Love can and should be expressed in many ways, the physical one never to be excluded.
Love can and should be poured into many vessels: in words, in tender gestures, in empathy and consideration, suffused with the right kind of silence or bursting with the joy of momentary unity. Love is the art of merging the distinct and still maintaining the distinction. What better way of applying this principle than sex? What is the orgasm of a loving couple if not a moment of fusion, individually experienced?
So, love and sex do go together.
It is when sex is mistaken for love that pathology sets in. Sex can be had without love. Loveless sex is the emotional equivalent of eating. It can be a gratifying experience. But sex without love is NOT love. To provoke our physiological reactions in isolation is NOT to know and to be known, to love and to be loved. To acquire a sense of self worth and a modicum of self esteem by penetrating or being penetrated, by seducing or by letting go is a poor, illusory substitute for the Real Thing. It is also demeaning. The Other is objectified. It is to USE men (or women) to obtain a supply of sorts: narcissistic or hedonistic. When we become the slaves of sex, its minions, pawns on the gaming board of our compulsion, our ego an extension of our genitals - then love becomes impossible. For one cannot really love an object and one cannot respect that upon which one is dependent and one cannot cherish one's self because of such dependency. How can we love others if we despise our subjugated, compulsion-torn, selves? How can we act compassionately, as love demands, if constantly enraged in our diminishment?
Loveless sex is not love. Is sexless love - love?
No, it isn't. A love devoid of sex to me is lacking. The love of God, the love of a mother, the supposedly platonic - all are painted with the thick brush of sex. Not to crave for someone's body, to single out his soul - and only his soul - for intercourse is not to love. Thus incomplete, it is deformed attachment, enmeshment, dependence - but not love. We love with all our senses, with all our being, with body and with soul. When we love - we ARE. If lacking one dimension - the whole edifice crumbles. A love without sex withers, shrivels in the glaring sun of discord and ruptured intimacy. It is not in vain that the Bible says "to know" when it really means to merge in the ultimate, most sublime, most profound act of loving - in sex.
I am not sure we will all find true love. I am not sure we are not conditioned to confuse love with sex. But I am sure of one thing: the way is as important as the destination. Searching for true love is an act of love in itself. As long as we pursue the path to self betterment, to healing through the power of love - we are in love: with life, with our emerging selves and, gradually and hesitantly with others. This is the triumph of the human personality, however disordered.
I think that the narcissist unconsciously selects a mate that can help him recreate old conflicts with his Primary Objects / caregivers (parents, in humanspeak). This repetition complex stems from the unconscious belief that repeating is resolving or that resolution will emerge somehow in one of the repetition cycles.
Don't be so eager, so competitive, so transparent, so matter-of-fact, so dependent. It scares men away. Men are looking for pure sex or pure romance. Pure sex should be something casual, light-hearted, no strings attached, no egos intertwined, no identities involved, no baggage brought, no competitions won or lost. It is a tension free thing, devoid of anxiety and compulsion. Pure romance is like snowflakes: tender, beautiful, soft spoken, misty, engulfing, soothing.
Romance is also hard to reconcile with the tintinnabulation of the bells of competition or with the high strung eagerness of Narcissistic Supply. As you are, you don't stand a chance with either type: the purely sexual or the purely romantic. Take it easy, cool off, relax, pursue no goals, enter no contests, keep no notes, spread your sheets and spare your spreadsheets.
2. Schizotypal Personality Disorder
A-propos culture and society determined mental health disorders - did you know that a belief in telepathy (which I do NOT confess to, personally) constitutes one of the criteria in the Schizotypal PD?
Schizotypal Personality Disorder is to my humble mind, perhaps THE most culture-dependent PD of all.
I will start by saying that it is NOT clearly demarcated from BPD. In most cases there is co-morbidity with another disorder. STs suffer from anxiety, depression and other dysphoric mood states. A very typical feature is strange convictions and sometimes reactive psychoses. Most STs believe in the supernatural, confess to magical thinking and are very superstitious (in the sense that superstition dictates their behaviors to the point of making it "dysfunctional"). STs construct their sentences idiosyncratically and communication with them might be stilted and difficult.
STPD seems to have some genetic component. There are many first and second degree schizophrenic relatives in the families of STPDs.
The treatment includes both antipsychotic medicines when required plus VERY tactful exploration of the eccentric belief systems of the STPD in talk therapy.
Of course the determination of eccentricity and idiosyncrasy is rather dependent on the predominant cultural and societal values, lore, and narratives of the time.
The DSM IV defines the NPD using nine criteria. It is sufficient to possess five of them to "qualify". Thus, theoretically, it is possible to be NPD WITHOUT having grandiosity. Many researchers ( Alexander Lowen, Jeffrey Satinover, Theodore Millon) 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 makes a very important distinction between narcissists who were raised by abusive parents - and those who were raised by doting mothers or domineering mothers. I expanded upon the Satinover classification in: http://narcissism.cjb.net/faq64.html
I wrote "Malignant Self Love" exactly seven years ago (1997). I corresponded with thousands (including dozens of mental health professionals) since then. It is clear to me from this correspondence that there is, indeed, a type of narcissist, hitherto rather neglected and obscure. It is the "self-effacing" or "introverted" narcissist. I call it the "Inverted Narcissist" and others on this list preferred to use "Mirror Narcissist", "N-Magnet", or "N-Codependent (NCo for short)". Alice Ratzlaff compiled an excellent "DSM" type "list of criteria".
This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"
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Methodologically she erroneously insisted upon calling it a narcissist in the classical sense but finally we compromised on "Inverted Narcissist".
This is a narcissist who, in many respects, is the mirror image of the "classical" narcissist. The psychodynamics of such a narcissist are not clear, nor are his developmental roots. Perhaps he is the product of a doting or domineering primary object/caregiver. Perhaps excessive abuse leads to the repression of the narcissistic and other defence mechanisms themselves. 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 internalized in this unusual form.
These narcissists are self-effacing, sensitive, emotionally fragile, sometimes socially phobic. They import 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 that the classic narcissist, etc.
We can, therefore talk about three "basic" types of narcissists:
All three types are doomed to eternal, recursive, Sisyphean failure.
Shielded by their protective shells (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. This damage is what my book is all about.
4. Narcissists and Women
The narcissist does regard the "subjugation" of an attractive woman to be a Source of Narcissistic Supply.
It is a status symbol, proof of virility and masculinity and it allows him to engage in "vicarious" narcissistic behaviours (being a narcissist through others, transforming others into tools at the service of his narcissism, into his extensions). This is done by employing defence mechanisms such as projective identification. Many of my FAQs and the essay are dedicated to these issues.
Primary NS is ANY kind of NS provided by others who are not "meaningful" or "significant" others. Adulation, attention, affirmation, fame, notoriety, sexual conquests - are all forms of NS.
Secondary NS is afforded by people who are in CONSTANT, repetitive or continuous touch with the narcissist. It includes the important roles of narcissistic accumulation and narcissistic regulation, among others. See: http://narcissism.cjb.net/msla.html.
The narcissist believes that being in love IS going through the motions and pretending to some degree. To him, emotions are mimicry and pretence.
5. Narcissists and their Ex's
There are two possible reactions:
The Ex "belongs" to the narcissist. She is an inseparable part of his Pathological Narcissistic Space. This possessive streak is not terminated with the official, physical, separation. Thus, the narcissist is likely to respond with rage, seething envy, a sense of humiliation and invasion and violent-aggressive urges to separation, especially since it implies a "failure" on his part and, thus negates his grandiosity.
But there is a second possibility:
If the narcissist were to firmly believe (which is very rare) that the ex does not and will never represent any amount, however marginal and residual, of any kind (Primary or Secondary) of Narcissistic Supply - he will remain utterly unmoved by anything she does and anyone she may choose to be with.
If you don't supply - you don't exist.
There is a lot more on these issues in: http://narcissism.cjb.net/msla.html
6. Narcissists Victimize
"Classical, full fledged" narcissists victimize. Nothing evil here, nothing premeditated, no sinister grins. Simply an absentminded, offhanded, kind of indifference and lack of empathy. And a lot of hurt people.
On balance I (a narcissist) prefer to help the victims. They are far numerous and far more hurting. And I have done far too much to add to their numbers. This is my way of trying to make amends, I guess.
To me, women are either holy or whole. If holy, how could I dare contaminate them with sex, impinge upon their purity and saintliness with my bestial passions and infringe upon their perceived "aloofness" and "above the (sexual) fray status" with my demands.
If whore, sex with them must be impersonal, mildly sado-maso, somewhat autoerotic and devoid of every emotion.
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