Narcissism, Narcissists, and Abusive Relationships - Epistolary Dialog

Letter I

Letter II

Letter III

Letter IV

Letter V

Letter VI

Letter VII

Letter VIII

Letter IX

Letter X

Letter XI

Letter XII

©Stephen McDonnell and Sam Vaknin

All text is copyrighted and is published here with the permission of the authors.

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Letter no 1 October 14, 2004

1st conversation with Sam, my questions to Sam and his answers are intermixed as in a conversation; we write each other by email, and then reply or riposte as we see fit.

Dear Sam,

I want to thank you for inviting me to have a dialogue on Narcissism. As I have written you before, thanks to your web site, I discovered the mental disease called Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This has helped me understand people in my own life as well as enabling me to come to terms to my personal history. As we discussed, I don't think it is appropriate to talk in specifics about my personal life; I don't think I suffer from NPD, but I know I have suffered from people who have NPD.

My admiration for you and your web site is based on the simple fact that you have been very honest about your narcissism. It is very difficult, based on my own experiences, for anyone who has NPD to admit he or she has it, or to even talk about it rationally. You seemed to have overcome this barrier and have become self aware, even self critical; there must be some satisfaction for you in that as a narcissist.
 


My first question for you, or the topic of discussion that we can bat around first, is this; is there such a thing as a good narcissist? All that I have seen written on people with NPD tends to be negative. Yet after reading Dr. Albert Bernstein's book entitled Emotional Vampires I have come to the conclusion, as did the author, that narcissism is necessary to succeed in life. Is this a contradiction in terms? Will altruistic people necessarily fail and self centered people eventually succeed in life?

Take for example politicians. A shy self-effacing politician is a rarity. How many actors hide from their public? Now even working people are vying for attention, and money, in reality shows. Jerry Springer has tapped a wellspring of people who want to be famous, even for the most reprehensible behaviors. Where are the success stories of the honest Joe, or honest Jane? For every hard working businessman or woman, there is the blow hard who wants to have a TV show for his or her self-aggrandizement. Society needs famous people who hog the limelight. The quiet do-gooder, the brilliant nerd, the successful law abiding citizen gets short shrift in our popularity driven society.

Sam:

Dear Stephen,

Thank you for having this dialog with me. I greatly value your work. It makes the complex topic of narcissism accessible to many - yet, without compromising the rigor and accuracy of the information. This is quite a task ....

(continued below)


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

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

 


Is pathological narcissism a blessing or a malediction?

The answer is: it depends. Healthy narcissism is a mature, balanced love of oneself coupled with a stable sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Healthy narcissism implies knowledge of one's boundaries and a proportionate and realistic appraisal of one's achievements and traits.

Pathological narcissism is wrongly described as too much healthy narcissism (or too much self-esteem). These are two absolutely unrelated phenomena which, regrettably, came to bear the same title. Confusing pathological narcissism with self- esteem betrays a fundamental ignorance of both.

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

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

Narcissists are prone to self-defeating and self-destructive behaviors.

The Self-Punishing, Guilt-Purging Behaviors

These are intended to inflict punishment on the narcissist and thus instantly relieve him of his overwhelming anxiety.

This is very reminiscent of a compulsive-ritualistic behavior. The narcissist feels guilty. It could be an "ancient" guilt, a "sexual" guilt (Freud), or a "social" guilt. In early life, the narcissist internalized and introjected the voices of meaningful and authoritative others - parents, role models, peers - that consistently and convincingly judged him to be no good, blameworthy, deserving of punishment or retaliation, or corrupt.

The narcissist's life is thus transformed into an on-going trial. The constancy of this trial, the never adjourning tribunal is the punishment. It is a Kafkaesque "trial": meaningless, undecipherable, never-ending, leading to no verdict, subject to mysterious and fluid laws and presided over by capricious judges.

Such a narcissist masochistically frustrates his deepest desires and drives, obstructs his own efforts, alienates his friends and sponsors, provokes figures in authority to punish, demote, or ignore him, actively seeks and solicits disappointment, failure, or mistreatment and relishes them, incites anger or rejection, bypasses or rejects opportunities, or engages in excessive self-sacrifice.

In their book "Personality Disorders in Modern Life", Theodore Millon and Roger Davis, describe the diagnosis of "Masochistic or Self-Defeating Personality Disorder", found in the appendix of the DSM III-R but excluded from the DSM IV. While the narcissist is rarely a full-fledged masochist, many a narcissist exhibit some of the traits of this personality disorder.

The Extracting Behaviors

People with Personality Disorders (PDs) are very afraid of real, mature, intimacy. Intimacy is formed not only within a couple, but also in a workplace, in a neighborhood, with friends, while collaborating on a project. Intimacy is another word for emotional involvement, which is the result of interactions in constant and predictable (safe) propinquity.

PDs interpret intimacy as counter-dependence, emotional strangulation, the snuffing of freedom, a kind of death in installments. They are terrorized by it. To avoid it, their self-destructive and self-defeating acts are intended to dismantle the very foundation of a successful relationship, a career, a project, or a friendship. Narcissists feel elated and relieved after they unshackle these "chains". They feel they broke a siege, that they are liberated, free at last.

Read this:

The Relief of Being Abandoned

The Default Behaviors

We are all, to some degree, inertial, afraid of new situations, new opportunities, new challenges, new circumstances and new demands. Being healthy, being successful, getting married, becoming a mother, or someone's boss – often entail abrupt breaks with the past. Some self-defeating behaviors are intended to preserve the past, to restore it, to protect it from the winds of change, to self-deceptively skirt promising opportunities while seeming to embrace them.

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

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

Is our culture narcissistic? Does it reward narcissism?

Allow me two quotes:

"The new narcissist is haunted not by guilt but by anxiety. He seeks not to inflict his own certainties on others but to find a meaning in life. Liberated from the superstitions of the past, he doubts even the reality of his own existence. Superficially relaxed and tolerant, he finds little use for dogmas of racial and ethnic purity but at the same time forfeits the security of group loyalties and regards everyone as a rival for the favours conferred by a paternalistic state. His sexual attitudes are permissive rather than puritanical, even though his emancipation from ancient taboos brings him no sexual peace. Fiercely competitive in his demand for approval and acclaim, he distrusts competition because he associates it unconsciously with an unbridled urge to destroy. Hence he repudiates the competitive ideologies that flourished at an earlier stage of capitalist development and distrusts even their limited expression in sports and games. He extols cooperation and teamwork while harbouring deeply antisocial impulses. He praises respect for rules and regulations in the secret belief that they do not apply to himself. Acquisitive in the sense that his cravings have no limits, he does not accumulate goods and provisions against the future, in the manner of the acquisitive individualist of nineteenth-century political economy, but demands immediate gratification and lives in a state of restless, perpetually unsatisfied desire."

[Christopher Lasch - The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations, 1979]

"A characteristic of our times is the predominance, even in groups traditionally selective, of the mass and the vulgar. Thus, in intellectual life, which of its essence requires and presupposes qualification, one can note the progressive triumph of the pseudo-intellectual, unqualified, unqualifiable..."

[Jose Ortega y Gasset - The Revolt of the Masses, 1932]

In my view, we are surrounded by malignant narcissists. How come this disorder has hitherto been largely ignored? How come there is such a dearth of research and literature regarding this crucial family of pathologies? Even mental health practitioners are woefully unaware of it and unprepared to assist its victims.

The sad answer is that narcissism meshes well with our culture [see: http://samvak.tripod.com/lasch.html].

It is kind of a "background cosmic radiation", permeating every social and cultural interaction. It is hard to distinguish pathological narcissists from self-assertive, self-confident, self-promoting, eccentric, or highly individualistic persons. Hard sell, greed, envy, self-centredness, exploitativeness, diminished empathy - are all socially condoned features of Western civilization.

Our society is atomized, the outcome of individualism gone awry. It encourages narcissistic leadership and role models: [see: http://samvak.tripod.com/15.html ]

Its sub-structures - institutionalized religion, political parties, civic organizations, the media, corporations - are all suffused with narcissism and pervaded by its pernicious outcomes: [see: http://samvak.tripod.com/14.html ]

The very ethos of materialism and capitalism upholds certain narcissistic traits, such as reduced empathy, exploitation, a sense of entitlement, or grandiose fantasies ("vision").

More about this here: http://samvak.tripod.com/journal37.html

Narcissists are aided, abetted and facilitated by four types of people and institutions: the adulators, the blissfully ignorant, the self-deceiving and those deceived by the narcissist.

The adulators are fully aware of the nefarious and damaging aspects of the narcissist's behaviour but believe that they are more than balanced by the benefits - to themselves, to their collective, or to society at large. They engage in an explicit trade-off between some of their principles and values - and their personal profit, or the greater good.

They seek to help the narcissist, promote his agenda, shield him from harm, connect him with like-minded people, do his chores for him and, in general, create the conditions and the environment for his success. This kind of alliance is especially prevalent in political parties, the government, multinational, religious organizations and other hierarchical collectives.

The blissfully ignorant are simply unaware of the "bad sides" of the narcissist- and make sure they remain so. They look the other way, or pretend that the narcissist's behavior is normative, or turn a blind eye to his egregious misbehaviour. They are classic deniers of reality. Some of them maintain a generally rosy outlook premised on the inbred benevolence of Mankind. Others simply cannot tolerate dissonance and discord. They prefer to live in a fantastic world where everything is harmonious and smooth and evil is banished. They react with rage to any information to the contrary and block it out instantly. This type of denial is well evidenced in dysfunctional families.

The self-deceivers are fully aware of the narcissist's transgressions and malice, his indifference, exploitativeness, lack of empathy, and rampant grandiosity - but they prefer to displace the causes, or the effects of such misconduct. They attribute it to externalities ("a rough patch"), or judge it to be temporary. They even go as far as accusing the victim for the narcissist's lapses, or for defending themselves ("She provoked him").

In a feat of cognitive dissonance, they deny any connection between the acts of the narcissist and their consequences ("His wife abandoned him because she was promiscuous, not because of anything he did to her"). They are swayed by the narcissist's undeniable charm, intelligence, or attractiveness. But the narcissist needs not invest resources in converting them to his cause - he does not deceive them. They are self-propelled into the abyss that is narcissism. The inverted narcissists, for instance, is a self-deceiver.

The deceived are people - or institutions, or collectives - deliberately taken for a premeditated ride by the narcissist. He feeds them false information, manipulates their judgement, proffers plausible scenarios to account for his indiscretions, soils the opposition, charms them, appeals to their reason, or to their emotions, and promises the Moon.

Again, the narcissist's incontrovertible powers of persuasion and his impressive personality play a part in this predatory ritual. The deceived are especially hard to deprogram. They are often themselves encumbered with narcissistic traits and find it impossible to admit a mistake, or to atone.

They are likely to stay on with the narcissist to his - and their - bitter end.

Regrettably, the narcissist rarely pays the price for his offenses. His victims pick up the tab. But even here the malignant optimism of the abused never ceases to amaze (read this: http://samvak.tripod.com/journal27.html).

Stephen:

Getting back to the main topic, the "good" narcissist. You seem to embody that idea. You are helping people understand your disease. Is it a negation of narcissism to help others or is it just another way of getting narcissistic supply? Beware the do-gooder! Are people with NPD devoid of all feelings, or do they join the human race ever so often, and can be kind and loving? Again you can show me tons of emails that say no, the NPD is always playing a game, even when they are kind and loving. I know of persons in my own life who I consider partially or wholly narcissistic who have helped me and given me love. On the other hand I know of others with NPD who are hypocrites and act out scenarios of kindness and caring. How can you tell the difference? At the risk of sounding cynical, should we always look the gift horse in the mouth?

Sam:

Beware of narcissists carrying gifts. Admittedly, being self-aware, I am an unusual and creative narcissist. I found an original and unique way of extracting narcissistic supply from my sources - by helping them understand my disorder and its destructive and dysfunctional aspects.

Still, we must make a distinction - in this dialog and elsewhere - between people with narcissistic traits and people who suffer from a full-fledged Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

Only a qualified mental health diagnostician can determine whether someone suffers from NPD and this, following lengthy tests and personal interviews.

Moreover, all of us have narcissistic TRAITS. Some of us even develop a narcissistic PERSONALITY, or a narcissistic STYLE. Moreover, narcissism is a SPECTRUM of behaviors - from the healthy to the utterly pathological (a condition known as the Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD).

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) IV-TR uses this language to describe the malignant narcissist:

"An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts."

So, what matters is that these characteristics, often found in healthy people, appear jointly and not separately or intermittently and that they are all-pervasive (invade, penetrate, and mould every aspect, nook, and cranny of the personality):

1.     That grandiose fantasies are abundantly discernible;

2.     That grandiose (often ridiculous) behaviors are present;

3.     That there is an over-riding need for admiration and adulation or attention ("narcissistic supply");

4.     That the person lacks empathy (regards other people as two dimensional cartoon figures and abstractions, unable to "stand in their shoes");

5.     That these traits and behaviors begin, at the latest, in early adolescence;

6.     That the narcissistic behaviors pervade all the social and emotional interactions of the narcissist.

Some narcissists are ostentatiously generous – they donate to charity, lavish gifts on their closest, abundantly provide for their nearest and dearest, and, in general, are open-handed and unstintingly benevolent. How can this be reconciled with the pronounced lack of empathy and with the pernicious self-preoccupation that is so typical of narcissists?

(continued below)


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

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

 


The act of giving enhances the narcissist's sense of omnipotence, his fantastic grandiosity, and the contempt he holds for others. It is easy to feel superior to the supplicating recipients of one's largesse. Narcissistic altruism is about exerting control and maintaining it by fostering dependence in the beneficiaries.

But narcissists give for other reasons as well.

The narcissist flaunts his charitable nature as a bait. He impresses others with his selflessness and kindness and thus lures them into his lair, entraps them, and manipulates and brainwashes them into subservient compliance and obsequious collaboration. People are attracted to the narcissist's larger than life posture – only to discover his true personality traits when it is far too late. "Give a little to take a lot" – is the narcissist's creed.

This does not prevent the narcissist from assuming the role of the exploited victim. Narcissists always complain that life and people are unfair to them and that they invest far more than their "share of the profit". The narcissist feels that he is the sacrificial lamb, the scapegoat, and that his relationships are asymmetric and imbalanced. "She gets out of our marriage far more than I do" – is a common refrain. Or: "I do all the work around here – and they get all the perks and benefits!"

Faced with such (mis)perceived injustice – and once the relationship is clinched and the victim is "hooked" – the narcissist tries to minimize his contributions. He regards his input as a contractual maintenance chore and the unpleasant and inevitable price he has to pay for his Narcissistic Supply.

After many years of feeling deprived and wronged, some narcissists lapse into "sadistic generosity" or "sadistic altruism". They use their giving as a weapon to taunt and torment the needy and to humiliate them. In the distorted thinking of the narcissist, donating money gives him the right and license to hurt, chastise, criticize, and berate the recipient. His generosity, feels the narcissist, elevates him to a higher moral ground.

Most narcissists confine their giving to money and material goods. Their munificence is an abusive defense mechanism, intended to avoid real intimacy. Their "big-hearted" charity renders all their relationships – even with their spouses and children – "business-like", structured, limited, minimal, non-emotional, unambiguous, and non-ambivalent. By doling out bounteously, the narcissist "knows where he stands" and does not feel threatened by demands for commitment, emotional investment, empathy, or intimacy.

In the narcissist's wasteland of a life, even his benevolence is spiteful, sadistic, punitive, and distancing.

Stephen:

If a narcissist is doing something that puts him or her in the limelight, and benefits others, then how can we fault them? Narcissists can project images of being the best friend, lover, worker, boss, parent and we accept it hook line and sinker. Is there a litmus test for telling if a gift is a poisoned apple? NPD's are so good at dissimilating their real motives for being nice. In polite societies, good manners can hide hideous crimes. A sweet smile can hide a cold heart. Take the case of the serial killer Ted Bundy. Ted Bundy was a mild mannered "nice boy" who captured the attention of young women by appealing to their better natures; he would fake an injury to get them to help him to his car where he would knock them out ­ with the same crutch he used to seduce them into believing he was a nice person.

Again, is there such a thing as 'good' narcissism? Is narcissism in reality nothing but high self esteem gone wrong? When does it cross the line and become pathological?

Sam:

Well, if a narcissist is functional, not destructive, benefits others, and so on - then his narcissism becomes a private problem, not a social one. Indeed, this is the goal of modern treatments: to ameliorate or even extinguish the narcissist's multiple dysfunctions.

Is there anything you can do to avoid abusers and narcissists to start with? Are there any warning signs, any identifying marks, rules of thumbs to shield you from the harrowing and traumatic experience of an abusive relationship?

Imagine a first or second date. You can already tell if he is a would-be abuser. Here's how:

Perhaps the first telltale sign is the 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 an abuser.

Then there is the abuser'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!

Many abusers have a specific 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 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 abuser 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".

(continued below)


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

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

 


Entitlement markers – The abuser 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 abuser 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 abuser 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 abuser 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 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 abuser 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 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 abusers 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 abuser 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, 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 abusers 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 abuser 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.

Continue to letter II