Excerpts from the Archives of the Narcissism List - Part 21

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1. Narcissistic Healing - Through LOVE or through PAIN?

Narcissism is a continuum. I am referring to the personality disorder, not to narcissistic traits. I believe that the only way an NPD can heal is if he experiences a severe narcissistic injury, a LIFE crisis. Forced to shed his malfunctioning defences - a window of vulnerability is formed through which therapeutic intervention can try and sneak in. This window is very brief.

This window CANNOT COEXIST with the availability of Narcissistic Supply. The narcissist is susceptible to treatment ONLY when his defences are down because they FAIL to secure a steady stream of Narcissistic Supply.

Narcissistic Supply should be clearly distinguished from an emotional connection. Narcissistic Supply has to do with the functioning of primitive defence mechanisms in the narcissist. The affective component of the narcissist has been repressed to oblivion. It does not permeate the conscious level. The narcissist obtains Narcissistic Supply as a junkie obtains drugs.

Junkies can have emotional "connections" but they are always subordinated to their habit. Their connections are the victims of their habits. Ask children or spouses of alcoholics, or drug addicts.

I do not believe in the possibility of having any real, meaningful, or lasting emotional relationship with a narcissist - until his primitive defence mechanisms are discarded. Perturbed to non-existent interpersonal relationships are one of the criteria of most personality disorders.

So, the right order, to my mind, is:

  1. Cut the narcissist from his Sources of Supply and thus precipitate a narcissistic crisis or injury;
  2. Utilize the window of opportunity to treat the narcissist, to help him mature emotionally;
  3. Encourage him in his baby steps in the emotional field.

Emotional connections which co-exist with the narcissistic defence mechanisms are part of the narcissistic theatrical repertoire, fake and doomed.

The narcissist does not employ his defence mechanisms because he needs them - but because he knows no better.

His defence mechanisms were useful in his infancy. They were adaptive in an abusive environment. Old tricks and old habits die hard.

The narcissist is a primitive person with a disorganized personality (Kernberg). He is likely to heal simply to avoid the pain of narcissistic injury. No place is safe. No one is to be trusted. Avoidance of pain is a powerful tool. Narcissists come to therapy in the first place to try and alleviate some of what has become an intolerable pain. None of them goes to therapy because he wants to improve his lot in life or to better interact with his loving significant other. This is why I am not in therapy. I am usually very successful in what I do (before I invariably demolish it). Thus, my agony is not great enough, not sustained, it is insufficient to motivate me to heal.

2. The Narcissist in Court

A clear distinction has to be made between the FACTUAL pillar and the PSYCHOLOGICAL pillar of any cross-examination or deposition of a narcissist.

It is essential to be equipped with absolutely unequivocal, first rate, thoroughly authenticated and vouched for information. The reason is that narcissists are superhuman in their capacity to distort reality by offering highly "plausible" alternative scenarios which fit all the facts.

It is very easy to break a narcissist - even a well trained and prepared one.

Here are a few of the things the narcissist finds irresistible:

  1. Any statement or fact which seems to contradict his inflated perception of his grandiose self. Any criticism, disagreement, exposure of fake achievements, belittling of "talents and skills" which the narcissist fantasizes that he possesses, any hint that he is subordinated, subjugated, controlled, owned, or dependent upon a third party. Any positioning of the narcissist as average and common, indistinguishable from many others. Any intimation that the narcissist is weak, needy, dependent, deficient, slow, not intelligent, naive, gullible, susceptible, not in the know, manipulated, a victim. The narcissist is likely to react with rage to all these and, in an effort to re-establish his fantastic grandiosity, he is likely to expose facts and stratagems he had no conscious intention of exposing.
  1. The narcissist reacts with narcissistic rage, hatred, aggression, or violence to an infringement of what he perceives to be his entitlement.
  1. Narcissists believe that they are so unique and that their lives are so cosmically significant that others should defer to their needs and cater to their every whim without ado. The narcissist feels entitled to special treatment by unique individuals, over and above the regular "bloke".
  1. Any insinuation, hint, intimation, or direct declaration that the narcissist is not special at all, that he is average, common, not even sufficiently idiosyncratic to warrant a fleeting interest will inflame the narcissist.

Add to this a negation of the narcissist's sense of entitlement - and the combustion is inevitable. Tell the narcissist that he does not deserve the best treatment, that his demands are not everyone's priority, that he is boring, that his needs can be catered to by an average practitioner (medical doctor, accountant, lawyer, psychiatrist), that he and his motives are transparent and can be easily gauged, that he will do what he is told, that his temper tantrums will not be tolerated, that no special concessions will be made to accommodate his inflated sense of self, etc. - and the narcissist will lose control.

The narcissist believes that he is the cleverest, far above the madding crowd. If contradicted, exposed, humiliated, berated ("You are not as intelligent as you think you are", "Who is really behind all this? It takes sophistication which you don't seem to have", "So, you have no formal education", "You are (mistake his age, make him much older)... sorry, you are ...old" "What did you do in your life? did you study? Do you have a degree? Did you ever establish or run a business?" "Would your children share your view that you are a good father?" "You were last seen with a Mrs. ... who is (suppressed grin) a DOMESTIC (in demeaning disbelief))". I know that many of these questions cannot be asked outright in a court of law. But you CAN hurl these sentences at him during the breaks, inadvertently during the examination, or deposition phase, etc.

3. Being IN LOVE and LOVING

I am attracted to my inferiors (in money, stature, education, intelligence, physical looks, alternatives in life, career). This way I feel superior and assured of my Narcissistic Supply (adulation, attention, etc.).

The choice is unconscious. I am simply strongly incensed and repelled by my superiors or equals.

(continued below)


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A clear and vigorous distinction has to be made between being "in love" and being in "love". The first is a catch phrase describing a set of physiological and biochemical interactions provoked and evoked by subliminal cues which, to my mind, ARE the result of childhood "imprinting". It involves flirting, courting, infatuation, arousal and other rather basic (primitive) behaviours and emotions. Primitive defence mechanisms are activated in this phase. Splitting (the object of infatuation is all good and, if you are rejected, all bad), projection (you see in him what you always fantasized), projective identification (you try to force the object to behave in a manner conforming with your fantasies) and so on.

There is very strong transference (you emotionally interact with your object as though he were someone else - your father, for instance).

Then, there is love. It is a whole different ballgame. It involves companionship, mutual compatibility, reciprocity, interaction on several planes (emotional, sexual, intellectual). It grows with common experiences.

It is fed by both hardships and successes. It gives rise to creativity (children, doing thing together). It is more profound, quieter, deeper, more stable, all-pervasive, reliable. It is more adult. I think that here childhood imprinting plays a smaller role. Adult considerations determine the choice, the process, and the outcome. I think it is very difficult to "control" our behaviour when it comes to whom we fall "in love" with. I think it is possible - spontaneously or through therapy - to develop a capacity for LOVING in the right, rewarding manner.

4. Inverted Narcissists ARE Narcissists

Inverted Narcissists ARE narcissists with a unique Source of Narcissistic Supply (their narcissists). Their methods for extracting Narcissistic Supply from their source (from their narcissist) are unique.

Sufficiently unique in fact to warrant a special mental health category (which was already suggested a few decades ago under the name of "covert narcissism").

5. Masochism and Narcissism

The main issue, the differentiating factor is: WHY did the child say what it did (the last word)?

Is it because it craved punishment - or because it asserted itself?

And isn't seeking punishment a form of assertiveness and self-affirmation if one is a masochist"?

Author: Cheryl Glickauf-Hughes, in American Journal of Psychoanalysis, June 97, 57:2, pp 141-148):

"Masochists tend to defiantly assert themselves to the narcissistic parent in the face of criticism and even abuse.  For example, one masochistic patient's narcissistic father told him as a child that if he said 'one more word that he would hit him with a belt' and the patient defiantly responded to his father by saying 'One more word!'  Thus, what may appear, at times, to be masochistic or self-defeating behaviour may also be viewed as self-affirming behaviour on the part of the child toward the narcissistic parent."

6. Fulfilling Others' Dreams

Did you really want to do it or were you fulfilling someone's else's wishes (probably your parents)?

The biggest source of pain is when we are forced to live someone else's dream. It is through OUR dreams that we assuage our pain. If deprived of our dreams - our self is amputated and we have these phantom pains that we mistake for emotional pain. We grieve. We mourn ourselves, what we could have been, what we will never be. We become angry at the injustice of it all. Unable to punish the real culprits - we gang upon our inadequate selves.

I made millions and deliberately ruined my businesses many times in 20 years. Until I finally got the message: I DO NOT BELONG IN BUSINESS.

I want to read and write and learn. I HATE business. So, what I once used to interpret as self-defeating or self-destructive behaviour - I now know was an effort to salvage myself.

7. Not to Feel Anything

I have no emotions of any kind at all (consciously, of course). Very very rarely do I apprehend flickers of emotion and I know that a great fire is burning underneath the firmament. But it's a split second thing and it's over. I am numb and dumb as usual.

Narcissism is a defence mechanism. An integral and important part of it is the inability to feel anything. Because emotions come in lumps (good and bad agglomerated) - the narcissist learns to DENY ALL his emotions, good and bad alike.

8. The Presumption of Understanding the Narcissist - A Piece of Irony

HOW can YOU understand something as divinely unique, as stupendously complex, as cosmically significant, as unprecedented - as your narcissist?

How dare you compare your AVERAGE self to HIM?

If you understand him - this means that you have something in COMMON.

COMMON.

AVERAGE.

(Narcissistic shivers)

Moreover, by now you surely know all this.

So, you must be doing it on purpose. You are trying to drag him to YOUR level, to "equalize" him, to level him, to make him indistinguishable from the grey mass that is others - and you.

You are nefarious and pernicious. Your behaviour PROVES that you HATE him.

You are a cunning, malevolent housewife who tries to reduce him to your default option of incompetence, inaptitude and inadequacy.

"I UNDERSTAND YOU"

How presumptuous.

How false.

How malicious.

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