Excerpts from the Archives of the Narcissism List - Part 57

Narcissism, Pathological Narcissism, The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), the Narcissist,

and Relationships with Abusive Narcissists and Psychopaths

Listowner: Dr. Sam Vaknin


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1. Interview granted to O Magazine (USA)

Responses in red are by my wife, Lidija Rangelovska.

Q: How did you discover you were a narcissist?

A: When my first fiancιe abandoned me, stranded in a mansion in London, I begged her to attend with me a few marital counseling sessions in Canada. I was then diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and told about the poor prognosis: NPD cannot be healed or cured. Years later, while doing time for securities fraud, I was again diagnosed by the prison psychologist as suffering from an amalgam of personality disorders: Narcissistic and Borderline (a very common comorbidity).

Q: What do you believe are the origins of the disorder for you?

A: Pathological narcissism is a reaction to prolonged abuse and trauma in early childhood or early adolescence. The source of the abuse or trauma is immaterial: the perpetrators could be parents, teachers, other adults, or peers. To fend off these influences, the child develops a False Self.

The False Self has many functions. The two most important are:

  1. It serves as a decoy, it "attracts the fire". It is a proxy for the True Self. It is tough as nails and can absorb any amount of pain, hurt and negative emotions. By inventing it, the child develops immunity to the indifference, manipulation, sadism, smothering, or exploitation – in short: to the abuse – inflicted on him by his parents (or by other Primary Objects in his life). It is a cloak, protecting him, rendering him invisible and omnipotent at the same time.
  1. The False Self is misrepresented by the narcissist as his True Self. The narcissist is saying, in effect: "I am not who you think I am. I am someone else. I am this (False) Self. Therefore, I deserve a better, painless, more considerate treatment." The False Self, thus, is a contraption intended to alter other people's behaviour and attitude towards the narcissist.

These roles are crucial to survival and to the proper psychological functioning of the narcissist. The False Self is by far more important to the narcissist than his dilapidated, dysfunctional, True Self.

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. 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, pampering, "engulfing", and smothering are as much abuse as beating and starving.

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 disorder and even the most ardent proponents of the school of genetics do not attribute the development of the whole personality to genes.

In my case, my NPD is clearly the outcome of a destructive combination: during the first 4 years of my life, I was idolized and smothered. This was followed by 12 years of extreme physical and verbal (though not sexual) abuse, at the hands of both my parents.

Q: You say you are a pathological narcissist. What are some of the worst manifestations, and do you now have them under control?

A: Everything in my life feels to have spun entirely out of control. My traits are now more pronounced than ever, my narcissistic defenses more impregnable, my interpersonal relationships fraught. I am dysfunctional in every sphere of life. My mental cancer has metastasized to the point of no return. I haven't lost my mind - I have merely surrendered it to an alien construct of my own making: to my False, grandiose, haughty, sadistic, paranoid, and hateful Self.

Perhaps the most immediately evident trait of patients with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), such as myself, is their vulnerability to criticism and disagreement. Subject to negative input, real or imagined, even to a mild rebuke, a constructive suggestion, or an offer to help, they feel injured, humiliated and empty and they react with disdain (devaluation), rage, and defiance.

From my book "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited":

"To avoid such intolerable pain, some patients with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) socially withdraw and feign false modesty and humility to mask their underlying grandiosity. Dysthymic and depressive disorders are common reactions to isolation and feelings of shame and inadequacy."

Due to their lack of empathy, disregard for others, exploitativeness, sense of entitlement, and constant need for attention (narcissistic supply), narcissists are rarely able to maintain functional and healthy interpersonal relationships.

Many narcissists are over-achievers and ambitious. Some of them are even talented and skilled. But they are incapable of team work because they cannot tolerate setbacks. They are easily frustrated and demoralized and are unable to cope with disagreement and criticism. Though some narcissists have meteoric and inspiring careers, in the long-run, all of them find it difficult to maintain long-term professional achievements and the respect and appreciation of their peers. The narcissist's fantastic grandiosity, frequently coupled with a hypomanic mood, is typically incommensurate with his or her real accomplishments (the "grandiosity gap").

There are many types of narcissists: the paranoid, the depressive, the phallic, and so on.

An important distinction is between cerebral and somatic narcissists. The cerebrals derive their Narcissistic Supply from their intelligence or academic achievements and the somatics derive their Narcissistic Supply from their physique, exercise, physical or sexual prowess and romantic or physical "conquests".

Another crucial division within the ranks of patients with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is between the classic variety (those who meet five of the nine diagnostic criteria included in the DSM), and the compensatory kind (their narcissism compensates for deep-set feelings of inferiority and lack of self-worth).

Some narcissists are covert, or inverted

As codependents, they derive their narcissistic supply from their relationships with classic narcissists.

Lidija: The first impression on meeting Sam is that he is a know-it-all. He has to prevail and dominate the conversation to the point of lecturing. He is merciless in his observations and doesn't care if his interlocutor is hurt. He has no empathy. When insulted, not recognized, or ignored, he is injured and his whole world crumbles around him. Sam wants to control his environment, both human and inanimate. When he feels that he has lost control of something, he is in such a bad mood that he often starts to rage. 

Sam lives in his own world and selects who he would let in. He demands from people their loyalty and trust and thus he places himself in the position of father figure or a guru.

Sam can't stand routine and likes to think of his life as colorful and fascinating. When he settles into a pattern, he gets bored and disgusted and conjures up a paranoid conspiracy with himself as its target. This invented instability and conflict make his adrenaline rush and he is happier.

Q: How have you pulled your life together? Has working on the book and website (when did you start?) been therapeutic for you?

A: I have no life to speak of. I feel that I have aged without mercy and without grace. I wrote this about myself a while back:

"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.

The narcissist suffers from mental progeria. Subject to childhood abuse, he ages prematurely and finds himself in a time warp, constantly in the throes of a midlife crisis.

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 offense 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."

I wrote "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited" in prison, to the light of a candle, illicitly. Friends smuggled in paper, pens, and materials culled from the then nascent Internet. I have done a lot of introspection. My first wife has left me while I was serving my sentence and the shock of it all made me hit rock bottom.

When I emerged from that inferno, in late 1996, I placed the entire text of the book online. At the time, there was a dearth of material about NPD online. No one even heard of this pernicious disorder. I am proud that I have brought it to public awareness and made it the much-discussed topic that it is today.

To begin with, I garnered copious amounts of narcissistic supply (attention, even adulation). With time, the effects of this wave of gratitude and enquiries wore off and I am rather tired and bored with the whole thing. I want to move on, but I have nowhere to and no one wants to work with me as my ill-repute precedes me.

Was it therapeutic? My readers found my writings to be cathartic and liberating. Having been victimized by narcissists and psychopaths, I have empowered and validated them. As for myself, my public exposure has only deepened and entrenched my underlying pathology. I am sicker now than I have ever been. Unwittingly, inadvertently, and unwillingly I have sacrificed myself to help others. Isn't this ironic, coming from a narcissist?

Lidija: Sam hates routine and to be constrained in any way, so he is unlikely to ever pull his life together. Living on the edge is his drug. He is very restless and works as though every day is his last. To my mind, Sam's work on his books and Website has had an impact on many people's lives. However, from his point of view, it may well be merely a prolonged attempt to secure narcissistic supply from varied sources. Still, I think it had a beneficial effect on Sam: he became more patient and more receptive and forgiving of human foibles. But, you never know with a narcissist, you cannot tell what to expect next.


 

 This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Amazon (click HERE to buy a copy dedicated by the author)

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Barnes and Noble

Click HERE to buy the print edition from the publisher and receive a BONUS PACK

Click HERE to buy electronic books (e-books) and video lectures (DVDs) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships

Click HERE to buy the ENTIRE SERIES of sixteen electronic books (e-books) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships

 

Click HERE for SPECIAL OFFER 1 and HERE for SPECIAL OFFER 2

 

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook (my personal page or the book’s), YouTube


 

 

Q: In the reading I've done therapists say while narcissists usually don't seek out treatment, and can be maddening patients, they do believe narcissists can be helped -- even cured. Yet your work (and comments of others who have been intimately involved with narcissists) indicates there is no cure and no help. Do you think someone with NPD can be changed?

A: Adult narcissists can rarely be "cured", though some scholars think otherwise. Still, the earlier the therapeutic intervention, the better the prognosis. A correct diagnosis and a proper mix of treatment modalities in early adolescence guarantees success without relapse in anywhere between one third and one half the cases. Additionally, ageing moderates or even vanquishes some antisocial behaviours.

Talk therapy (mainly psychodynamic psychotherapy or cognitive-behavioural treatment modalities) is the common treatment for patients with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The therapy goals cluster around the need to modify the narcissist's antisocial, interpersonally exploitative, and dysfunctional behaviors. Such re-socialization (behavior modification) is often successful. Medication is prescribed to control and ameliorate attendant conditions such as mood disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorders.

The prognosis for an adult suffering from the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is poor, though his adaptation to life and to others can improve with treatment.

The proponents of some therapeutic techniques - most notably, certain variants of CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies), EMDR and Schema Therapy - have recently claimed successes in "healing" or "curing" NPD. I find these claims incredible and, in the absence of a clear definition of what constitutes "normal", "healed", or "cured", I find these assertions also meaningless.

Narcissism pervades the entire personality. It is all-pervasive. Being a narcissist is akin to being an alcoholic but much more so. Alcoholism is an impulsive behaviour. Narcissists exhibit dozens of similarly reckless behaviours, some of them uncontrollable (like their rage, the outcome of their wounded grandiosity). Narcissism is not a vocation. Narcissism resembles depression or other disorders and cannot be changed at will.

Adult pathological narcissism is no more "curable" than the entirety of one's personality is disposable. The patient is a narcissist. Narcissism is more akin to the colour of one's skin rather than to one's choice of subjects at the university.

Moreover, the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is frequently diagnosed with other, even more intractable personality disorders, mental illnesses, and substance abuse.

The narcissist regards therapy as a competitive sport. In therapy the narcissist usually immediately insists that he (or she) is equal to the psychotherapist in knowledge, in experience, or in social status. To substantiate this claim and "level the playing field", the narcissist in the therapeutic session spices his speech with professional terms and lingo.

The narcissist sends a message to his psychotherapist: there is nothing you can teach me, I am as intelligent as you are, you are not superior to me, actually, we should both collaborate as equals in this unfortunate state of things in which we, inadvertently, find ourselves involved.

The narcissist at first idealizes and then devalues the therapist. His internal dialogue is:

"I know best, I know it all, the therapist is less intelligent than I, I can't afford the top level therapists who are the only ones qualified to treat me (as my equals, needless to say), I am actually as good as a therapist myself…"

"He (my therapist) should be my colleague, in certain respects it is he who should accept my professional authority, why won't he be my friend, after all I can use the lingo (psycho-babble) even better than he does? It's us (him and me) against a hostile and ignorant world (shared psychosis, folie a deux)…".

"Just who does he think he is, asking me all these questions? What are his professional credentials? I am a success and he is a nobody therapist in a dingy office, he is trying to negate my uniqueness, he is an authority figure, I hate him, I will show him, I will humiliate him, prove him ignorant, have his licence revoked (transference). Actually, he is pitiable, a zero, a failure…"

These self-delusions and fantastic grandiosity are, really, the narcissist's defences and resistance to treatment. This abusive internal exchange becomes more vituperative and pejorative as therapy progresses.

The narcissist distances himself from his painful emotions by generalising and analyzing them, by slicing his life and hurt into neat packages of what he thinks are "professional insights".

The narcissist has a dilapidated and dysfunctional True Self, overtaken and suppressed by a False Self. In therapy, the general idea is to create the conditions for the True Self to resume its growth: safety, predictability, justice, love and acceptance. To achieve this ambience, the therapist tries to establish a mirroring, re-parenting, and holding environment.

From my book "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited":

"Therapy is supposed to provide these conditions of nurturance and guidance (through transference, cognitive re-labelling or other methods). The narcissist must learn that his past experiences are not laws of nature, that not all adults are abusive, that relationships can be nurturing and supportive.

Most therapists try to co-opt the narcissist's inflated ego (False Self) and defences. They compliment the narcissist, challenging him to prove his omnipotence by overcoming his disorder. They appeal to his quest for perfection, brilliance, and eternal love - and his paranoid tendencies - in an attempt to get rid of counterproductive, self-defeating, and dysfunctional behaviour patterns."

Some therapists try to stroke the narcissist's grandiosity. By doing so, they hope to modify or counter cognitive deficits, thinking errors, and the narcissist's victim-stance. They contract with the narcissist to alter his conduct. Psychiatrists tend to medicalize the disorder by attributing it to genetic or biochemical causes. Narcissists like this approach as it absolves them from responsibility for their actions.

Therapists with unresolved issues and narcissistic defenses of their own sometimes feel compelled to confront the narcissist head on and to engage in power politics, for instance by instituting disciplinary measures. They compete with the narcissist and try to establish their superiority: "I am cleverer than you are", "My will should prevail", and so on. This form of immaturity is decidedly unhelpful and could lead to rage attacks and a deepening of the narcissist's persecutory delusions, bred by his humiliation in the therapeutic setting.

Narcissists generally are averse to being medicated as this amounts to an admission that something is, indeed, wrong and "needs fixing". Narcissists are control freaks and hate to be "under the influence" of "mind altering" drugs prescribed to them by others.

From my book "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited":

"Many (narcissists) believe that medication is the "great equaliser": it will make them lose their uniqueness, superiority and so on. That is unless they can convincingly present the act of taking their medicines as "heroism", a daring enterprise of self-exploration, part of a breakthrough clinical trial, and so on.

(Narcissists) often claim that the medicine affects them differently than it does other people, or that they have discovered a new, exciting way of using it, or that they are part of someone's (usually themselves) learning curve ("part of a new approach to dosage", "part of a new cocktail which holds great promise"). Narcissists must dramatise their lives to feel worthy and special. Aut nihil aut unique – either be special or don't be at all. Narcissists are drama queens.

Very much like in the physical world, change is brought about only through incredible powers of torsion and breakage. Only when the narcissist's elasticity gives way, only when he is wounded by his own intransigence – only then is there hope.

It takes nothing less than a real crisis. Ennui is not enough."

In their seminal tome, "Personality Disorders in Modern Life" (New York, John Wiley & Sons, 2000), Theodore Millon and Roger Davis write (p. 308):

"Most narcissists strongly resist psychotherapy. For those who choose to remain in therapy, there are several pitfalls that are difficult to avoid ... Interpretation and even general assessment are often difficult to accomplish..."

The third edition of the "Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry" (Oxford, Oxford University Press, reprinted 2000), cautions (p. 128):

"... (P)eople cannot change their natures, but can only change their situations. There has been some progress in finding ways of effecting small changes in disorders of personality, but management still consists largely of helping the person to find a way of life that conflicts less with his character ... Whatever treatment is used, aims should be modest and considerable time should be allowed to achieve them."

The fourth edition of the authoritative "Review of General Psychiatry" (London, Prentice-Hall International, 1995), says (p. 309):

"(People with personality disorders) ... cause resentment and possibly even alienation and burnout in the healthcare professionals who treat them ... (p. 318) Long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis have been attempted with (narcissists), although their use has been controversial."

The reason narcissism is under-reported and healing over-stated is that therapists are being fooled by smart narcissists. Most narcissists are expert manipulators and consummate actors and they learn how to deceive their therapists.

Here are some hard facts:

BUT…

Lidija: In my view, narcissists cannot be cured. Their behavior can be modified with therapy and they can learn to be more patient, how to control their verbal and body languages, suppress their persistent aggression and anger, how to listen to other people and respect them. Therapy might allow the narcissist to accept that he is not the center of the world, that others do exist, and that he has to share and compromise with them.

Q: Did Lidjia know you had NPD when you married?

Lidija: When we first met, I didn't know how to identify a narcissist, except as someone in love with himself and prone to frequently looking at the mirror. Sam and I cohabited for five years, prior to our marriage. During that period he wrote his books about narcissism. We discussed the Narcissistic Personality Disorder a lot and I was discovering both the disorder and how it manifested itself in Sam. I admired Sam's knowledge and his courage in facing up to his mental health problems and sharing his painfully newly-gained knowledge with others.

I married him fully aware of his psychological issues. I was already hooked on him. He became my best friend, he supported my decisions and intentions, and he did not constrain me. Throughout my life, I was surrounded with narcissists. I, therefore, did not regard his narcissism as a sickness. I simply relate to him as a person that I love.

Q: How has she managed to stay and make it work?

Lidija: We share the same interests and goals and have similar expectations. We like the same things, we are a good team, we talk a lot, we think and analyse and agree on common issues. None of us insists on limiting the other's freedom. The only thing I mind, is that Sam has priority over me: he must be immediately gratified, his needs and wishes come first. Sometimes this bothers me, sometimes I am not in the mood to bear it well and these are the only instances when we have conflicts. We have a division of labor which makes it easier to manage and cope.

Sam is a self-aware narcissist. Consequently, he is more open to my criticism, opinions, decisions, and wishes. His knowledge about his problem makes it easier to survive in the relationship.

Q: What are the top warning signs people should look for when looking out for an NPD?

A. Perhaps the first telltale sign is the narcissistic abuser's alloplastic defenses – his tendency to blame every mistake of his, every failure, or mishap on others, or on the world at large. Be tuned: does he assume personal responsibility? Does he admit his faults and miscalculations? Or does he keep blaming you, the cab driver, the waiter, the weather, the government, or fortune for his predicament?

Is he hypersensitive, picks up fights, feels constantly slighted, injured, and insulted? Does he rant incessantly? Does he treat animals and children impatiently or cruelly and does he express negative and aggressive emotions towards the weak, the poor, the needy, the sentimental, and the disabled? Does he confess to having a history of battering or violent offenses or behavior? Is his language vile and infused with expletives, threats, and hostility?

Next thing: is he too eager? Does he push you to marry him having dated you only twice? Is he planning on having children on your first date? Does he immediately cast you in the role of the love of his life? Is he pressing you for exclusivity, instant intimacy, almost rapes you and acts jealous when you as much as cast a glance at another male? Does he inform you that, once you get hitched, you should abandon your studies or resign your job (forgo your personal autonomy)?

Does he respect your boundaries and privacy? Does he ignore your wishes (for instance, by choosing from the menu or selecting a movie without as much as consulting you)? Does he disrespect your boundaries and treats you as an object or an instrument of gratification (materializes on your doorstep unexpectedly or calls you often prior to your date)? Does he go through your personal belongings while waiting for you to get ready?

Does he control the situation and you compulsively? Does he insist to ride in his car, holds on to the car keys, the money, the theater tickets, and even your bag? Does he disapprove if you are away for too long (for instance when you go to the powder room)? Does he interrogate you when you return ("have you seen anyone interesting") – or make lewd "jokes" and remarks? Does he hint that, in future, you would need his permission to do things – even as innocuous as meeting a friend or visiting with your family?

Does he act in a patronizing and condescending manner and criticizes you often? Does he emphasize your minutest faults (devalues you) even as he exaggerates your talents, traits, and skills (idealizes you)? Is he wildly unrealistic in his expectations from you, from himself, from the budding relationship, and from life in general?

Does he tell you constantly that you "make him feel" good? Don't be impressed. Next thing, he may tell you that you "make" him feel bad, or that you make him feel violent, or that you "provoke" him. "Look what you made me do!" is an abuser's ubiquitous catchphrase.

Does he find sadistic sex exciting? Does he have fantasies of rape or pedophilia? Is he too forceful with you in and out of the sexual intercourse? Does he like hurting you physically or finds it amusing? Does he abuse you verbally – does he curse you, demeans you, calls you ugly or inappropriately diminutive names, or persistently criticizes you? Does he then switch to being saccharine and "loving", apologizes profusely and buys you gifts?

If you have answered "yes" to any of the above – stay away! He is a narcissistic abuser.


 

 This article appears in my book, "Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited"

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Amazon (click HERE to buy a copy dedicated by the author)

Click HERE to buy the print edition from Barnes and Noble

Click HERE to buy the print edition from the publisher and receive a BONUS PACK

Click HERE to buy electronic books (e-books) and video lectures (DVDs) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships

Click HERE to buy the ENTIRE SERIES of sixteen electronic books (e-books) about narcissists, psychopaths, and abuse in relationships

 

Click HERE for SPECIAL OFFER 1 and HERE for SPECIAL OFFER 2

 

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook (my personal page or the book’s), YouTube


 

 

Then there is the narcissist's body language. It comprises an unequivocal series of subtle – but discernible – warning signs. Pay attention to the way your date comports himself – and save yourself a lot of trouble!

Abusers are an elusive breed, hard to spot, harder to pinpoint, impossible to capture. Even an experienced mental health diagnostician with unmitigated access to the record and to the person examined would find it fiendishly difficult to determine with any degree of certainty whether someone is being abusive because he suffers from an impairment, i.e., a mental health disorder.

Some abusive behavior patterns are a result of the patient's cultural-social context. The offender seeks to conform to cultural and social morals and norms. Additionally, some people become abusive in reaction to severe life crises.

Still, most narcissistic abusers master the art of deception. People often find themselves involved with a abuser (emotionally, in business, or otherwise) before they have a chance to discover his real nature. When the abuser reveals his true colors, it is usually far too late. His victims are unable to separate from him. They are frustrated by this acquired helplessness and angry that they failed to see through the abuser earlier on.

But abusers do emit subtle, almost subliminal, signals in his body language even in a first or casual encounter. These are:

"Haughty" body language – The narcissist adopts a physical posture which implies and exudes an air of superiority, seniority, hidden powers, mysteriousness, amused indifference, etc. Though the abuser usually maintains sustained and piercing eye contact, he often refrains from physical proximity (he maintains his personal territory).

The abuser takes part in social interactions – even mere banter – condescendingly, from a position of supremacy and faux "magnanimity and largesse". But even when he feigns gregariousness, he rarely mingles socially and prefers to remain the "observer", or the "lone wolf".

Entitlement markers – The narcissist immediately asks for "special treatment" of some kind. Not to wait his turn, to have a longer or a shorter therapeutic session, to talk directly to authority figures (and not to their assistants or secretaries), to be granted special payment terms, to enjoy custom tailored arrangements. This tallies well with the abuser's alloplastic defenses - his tendency to shift responsibility to others, or to the world at large, for his needs, failures, behavior, choices, and mishaps  ("look what you made me do!").

The abuser is the one who – vocally and demonstratively – demands the undivided attention of the head waiter in a restaurant, or monopolizes the hostess, or latches on to celebrities in a party. The abuser reacts with rage and indignantly when denied his wishes and if treated the same as others whom he deems inferior. Abusers frequently and embarrassingly "dress down" service providers such as waiters or cab drivers.

Idealization or devaluation – The narcissist instantly idealizes or devalues his interlocutor. He flatters, adores, admires and applauds the "target" in an embarrassingly exaggerated and profuse manner – or sulks, abuses, and humiliates her.

Abusers are polite only in the presence of a potential would-be victim – a "mate", or a "collaborator". But they are unable to sustain even perfunctory civility and fast deteriorate to barbs and thinly-veiled hostility, to verbal or other violent displays of abuse, rage attacks, or cold detachment.

The "membership" posture – The narcissist always tries to "belong". Yet, at the very same time, he maintains his stance as an outsider. The abuser seeks to be admired for his ability to integrate and ingratiate himself without investing the efforts commensurate with such an undertaking.

For instance: if the abuser talks to a psychologist, the abuser first states emphatically that he never studied psychology. He then proceeds to make seemingly effortless use of obscure professional terms, thus demonstrating that he mastered the discipline all the same – which is supposed to prove that he is exceptionally intelligent or introspective.

In general, the abuser always prefers show-off to substance. One of the most effective methods of exposing a abuser is by trying to delve deeper. The abuser is shallow, a pond pretending to be an ocean. He likes to think of himself as a Renaissance man, a Jack of all trades, or a genius. Abusers never admit to ignorance or to failure in any field – yet, typically, they are ignorant and losers. It is surprisingly easy to penetrate the gloss and the veneer of the abuser's self-proclaimed omniscience, success, wealth, and omnipotence.

Bragging and false autobiography – The narcissist brags incessantly. His speech is peppered with "I", "my", "myself", and "mine". He describes himself as intelligent, or rich, or modest, or intuitive, or creative – but always excessively, implausibly, and extraordinarily so.

The narcissistic abuser's biography sounds unusually rich and complex. His achievements – incommensurate with his age, education, or renown. Yet, his actual condition is evidently and demonstrably incompatible with his claims. Very often, the abuser's lies or fantasies are easily discernible. He always name-drops and appropriates other people's experiences and accomplishments as his own.

Emotion-free language – The narcissist likes to talk about himself and only about himself. He is not interested in others or what they have to say. He is never reciprocal. He acts disdainful, even angry, if he feels an intrusion on his precious time.

In general, the narcissistic abuser is very impatient, easily bored, with strong attention deficits – unless and until he is the topic of discussion. One can dissect all aspects of the intimate life of a abuser, providing the discourse is not "emotionally tinted". If asked to relate directly to his emotions, the abuser intellectualizes, rationalizes, speaks about himself in the third person and in a detached "scientific" tone or composes a narrative with a fictitious character in it, suspiciously autobiographical.

Most narcissists get enraged when required to delve deeper into their motives, fears, hopes, wishes, and needs. They use violence to cover up their perceived "weakness" and "sentimentality". They distance themselves from their own emotions and from their loved ones by alienating and hurting them.

Seriousness and sense of intrusion and coercion – The narcissist is dead serious about himself. He may possess a fabulous sense of humor, scathing and cynical, but rarely is he self-deprecating. The abuser regards himself as being on a constant mission, whose importance is cosmic and whose consequences are global.

If a scientist – he is always in the throes of revolutionizing science. If a journalist – he is in the middle of the greatest story ever. If an aspiring businessman - he is on the way to concluding the deal of the century. Woe betide those who doubt his grandiose fantasies and impossible schemes.

This self-misperception is not amenable to light-headedness or self-effacement. The abuser is easily hurt and insulted (narcissistic injury). Even the most innocuous remarks or acts are interpreted by him as belittling, intruding, or coercive slights and demands. His time is more valuable than others' – therefore, it cannot be wasted on unimportant matters such as social intercourse, family obligations, or household chores. Inevitably, he feels constantly misunderstood.

Any suggested help, advice, or concerned inquiry are immediately cast by the abuser as intentional humiliation, implying that the abuser is in need of help and counsel and, thus, imperfect. Any attempt to set an agenda is, to the abuser, an intimidating act of enslavement. In this sense, the abuser is both schizoid and paranoid and often entertains ideas of reference.

Finally, narcissistic abusers are sometimes sadistic and have inappropriate affect. In other words, they find the obnoxious, the heinous, and the shocking – funny or even gratifying. They are sexually sado-masochistic or deviant. They like to taunt, to torment, and to hurt people's feelings ("humorously" or with bruising "honesty").

While some narcissists are "stable" and "conventional" – others are antisocial and their impulse control is flawed. These are very reckless (self-destructive and self-defeating) and just plain destructive: workaholism, alcoholism, drug abuse, pathological gambling, compulsory shopping, or reckless driving.

Yet, these – the lack of empathy, the aloofness, the disdain, the sense of entitlement, the restricted application of humor, the unequal treatment, the sadism, and the paranoia – do not render the narcissist a social misfit. This is because the abuser mistreats only his closest – spouse, children, or (much more rarely) colleagues, friends, neighbours. To the rest of the world, he appears to be a composed, rational, and functioning person. Abusers are very adept at casting a veil of secrecy – often with the active aid of their victims – over their dysfunction and misbehavior.

Lidija: I live in an environment characterized by social and cultural narcissism. So, I have developed ways to recognize narcissists. I can tell if someone is a narcissist or not on first sight by observing the following:

- Their contributions to the conversation are self-centered. They show little interest in anyone except themselves.

- Their attitude and body language are affected and fake

- They confabulate and invent stories about themselves

- They seek to manipulate their counterparty for their own, selfish ends

Q: What advice do you have for those in close relationships with narcissists -- parent, spouse, boss or co-worker?

A. You should use the same coping strategies to tackle all the narcissists in your life: parents, children, bosses, colleagues, neighbors, "friends", and service providers. Narcissists will be narcissists regardless of gender, age, cultural background, financial status, or social and educational achievements.

In the workplace, here are a few useful guidelines:

·        Never disagree with the narcissist or contradict him;

·        Never offer him any intimacy;

·        Look awed by whatever attribute matters to him (for instance: by his professional achievements or by his good looks, or by his success with women and so on);

·        Never remind him of life out there and if you do, connect it somehow to his sense of grandiosity. You can aggrandize even your office supplies, the most mundane thing conceivable by saying: "These are the BEST art materials ANY workplace is going to have", "We get them EXCLUSIVELY", etc.;

·        Do not make any comment, which might directly or indirectly impinge on the narcissist's self-image, omnipotence, superior judgement, omniscience, skills, capabilities, professional record, or even omnipresence. Bad sentences start with: "I think you overlooked … made a mistake here … you don't know … do you know … you were not here yesterday so … you cannot … you should … (interpreted as rude imposition, narcissists react very badly to perceived restrictions placed on their freedom) … I (never mention the fact that you are a separate, independent entity, narcissists regard others as extensions of their selves)…" You get the gist of it.

Manage your narcissistic boss. Notice patterns in his bullying. Is he more aggressive on Monday mornings - and more open to suggestions on Friday afternoon? Is he amenable to flattery? Can you modify his conduct by appealing to his morality, superior knowledge, good manners, cosmopolitanism, or upbringing? Manipulating the narcissist is the only way to survive in such a tainted workplace.

Or, consider marriage to narcissist that has gone awry.


 

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First, you must decide:

Do you want to stay with him - or terminate the relationship?

If you decide to stay:

FIVE DON'T DO'S – How to Avoid the Wrath of the Narcissist 

The EIGHT DO'S – How to Make your Narcissist Dependent on You If you INSIST on Staying with Him 

In any case, Insist on Your Boundaries – Resist Abuse.

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

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

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

·        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.

·        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.

·        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.

·        Often the abuser's proxies are 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.

Another powerful technique involves mirroring. Mirror the narcissist’s actions and repeat his words.

If, for instance, he is having a rage attack – rage back. If he threatens – threaten back and credibly try to use the same language and content. If he leaves the house – leave it as well, disappear on him. If he is suspicious – act suspicious. Be critical, denigrating, humiliating, go down to his level.

Or, you can choose to frighten him.

Identify the vulnerabilities and susceptibilities of the narcissist and strike repeated, escalating blows at them.

If a narcissist has a secret or something he wishes to conceal – use your knowledge of it to threaten him. Drop cryptic hints that there are mysterious witnesses to the events and recently revealed evidence. Do it cleverly, noncommittally, gradually, in an escalating manner.

Let his imagination do the rest. You don't have to do much except utter a vague reference, make an ominous allusion, delineate a possible turn of events.

Needless to add that all these activities have to be pursued legally, preferably through the good services of law offices and in broad daylight. If done in the wrong way – they might constitute extortion or blackmail, harassment and a host of other criminal offences.

Not everyone is cut out for conflict and confrontation. Instead of facing him off, you can always lure him.

Offer him continued Narcissistic Supply. You can make a narcissist do anything by offering, withholding, or threatening to withhold Narcissistic Supply (adulation, admiration, attention, sex, awe, subservience, etc.).

If nothing else works, explicitly threaten to abandon him.

You can condition the threat ("If you don't do something or if you do it – I will desert you").

The narcissists perceives the following as threats of abandonment, even if they are not meant as such:

But what if you have common children?

Lidija: Maintain your independence and strictly drawn boundaries. Trust yourself and stick to your guns. Pursue your interests and don't compromise on your vital needs and wishes. Avoid conflicts, power plays, and "who is right" matches with your narcissist - it never works. If at all possible, try to talk to him. If all else fails, go your own way and do your thing.

Q: Michael Maccoby talks about the positive aspects of the NPD boss (drive, vision, risk-taking, ambition) that he says are part of the narcissist's make up. Can you say anything positive about the disorder?

A: Can the narcissist be harnessed? Can his energies be channeled productively?

This would be a deeply irresponsible, flawed – and even dangerous – "advice". Various management gurus purport to teach us how to harness this force of nature known as malignant or pathological narcissism. Narcissists are driven, visionary, ambitious, exciting and productive, says Michael Maccoby, for instance. To ignore such a resource is a criminal waste. All we need to do is learn how to "handle" them.

Yet, this prescription is either naive or disingenuous. Narcissists cannot be "handled", or "managed", or "contained", or "channeled". They are, by definition, incapable of team work. They lack empathy, are exploitative, envious, haughty and feel entitled, even if such a feeling is commensurate only with their grandiose fantasies and when their accomplishments are meager.

Narcissists dissemble, collude, destroy and self-destruct. Their drive is compulsive, their vision rarely grounded in reality, their human relations a calamity. In the long run, there is no enduring benefit to dancing with narcissists – only ephemeral and, often, fallacious, "achievements".

Three traits conspire to render the narcissist a failure and a loser: his sense of entitlement, his haughtiness and innate conviction of his own superiority, and his aversion to routine.

The narcissist's sense of entitlement encourages his indolence. He firmly believes that he should be spoon-fed and that accomplishments and honors should be handed to him on a silver platter, without any commensurate effort on his part. His mere existence justifies such exceptional treatment. Many narcissists are under-qualified and lack skills because they can't be bothered with the minutia of obtaining an academic degree, professional training, or exams.

The narcissist's arrogance and belief that he is superior to others, whom he typically holds in contempt - in other words: the narcissist's grandiose fantasies - hamper his ability to function in society. The cumulative outcomes of this social dysfunction gradually transform him into a recluse and an outcast. He is shunned by colleagues, employers, neighbors, erstwhile friends, and, finally, even by long-suffering family members who tire of his tirades and rants.

Unable to work in a team, to compromise, to give credit where due, and to strive towards long-term goals, the narcissist - skilled and gifted as he may be - finds himself unemployed and unemployable, his bad reputation preceding him.

Even when offered a job or a business opportunity, the narcissist recoils, bolts, and obstructs each and every stage of the negotiations or the transaction.

But this passive-aggressive (negativistic and masochistic) conduct has nothing to do with the narcissist's aforementioned indolence. The narcissist is not afraid of some forms of hard work. He invests inordinate amounts of energy, forethought, planning, zest, and sweat in securing narcissistic supply, for instance.

The narcissist's sabotage of new employment or business prospects is owing to his abhorrence of routine. Narcissists feel trapped, shackled, and enslaved by the quotidian, by the repetitive tasks that are inevitably involved in fulfilling one's assignments. They hate the methodical, step-by-step, long-term, approach. Possessed of magical thinking, they'd rather wait for miracles to happen. Jobs, business deals, and teamwork require perseverance and tolerance of boredom which the narcissist sorely lacks.

Life forces most narcissists into the hard slog of a steady job (or succession of jobs). Such "unfortunate" narcissists, coerced into a framework they resent, are likely to act out and erupt in a series of self-destructive and self-defeating acts (see above).

But there are other narcissists, the "luckier" ones, those who can afford not to work. They laze about, indulge themselves in a variety of idle and trivial pursuits, seek entertainment and thrills wherever and whenever they can, and while their lives away, at once content and bitter: content with their lifestyle and the minimum demands it imposes on them and bitter because they haven't achieved more, they haven't reached the pinnacle or their profession, they haven't become as rich or famous or powerful as they deserve to be.

So, is pathological narcissism a blessing or a malediction?

Opinions vary as to whether the narcissistic traits evident in in infancy, childhood, and early adolescence are pathological. Anecdotal evidence suggests that childhood abuse and trauma inflicted by parents, authority figures, or even peers provoke "secondary narcissism" and, when unresolved, may lead to the full-fledged Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) later in life.

This makes eminent sense as narcissism is a defense mechanism whose role is to deflect hurt and trauma from the victim's "True Self" into a "False Self" which is omnipotent, invulnerable, and omniscient. This False Self is then used by the narcissist to garner narcissistic supply from his human environment. Narcissistic supply is any form of attention, both positive and negative and it is instrumental in the regulation of the narcissist's labile sense of self-worth.

Thus, 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 behavior.

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.

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