jump to navigation

Can A Narcissist Love? July 31, 2014

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , ,
4 comments
hand animals

Look at me! I can be anything you want…until I tire of the game.

 

Okay, it’s been ages since I’ve posted, but I’ve been recovering from my second TKR which involved a lot of lounging on the couch and reading stacks of books from this new place I’ve discovered called the public library.

I’ve also spent way too much time on the internet. When my husband tried to get us a better phone plan, the guy asked him if he had a teenager in the house. “Someone in your house is downloading a LOT of data!” he announced ominously.  Now I’m worried I might be grounded!

I’ve come across several articles about Narcissism that resonated with me. I’m so over the media blitz equating taking a selfie with being a narcissist. It’s proof that there IS such a thing as bad publicity, as it’s misleading the public about a very real personality disorder – Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

On Huffpost’s The Blog, I came across a great piece by Melissa Schenker, Can A Narcissist Love Me? I love it when I read other people’s writing and find myself impressed with how clearly they identify behaviors, which were once to me almost impossible to describe, let alone fathom.

At the bottom is a link to the book Sweet Relief From the Everyday Narcissist written by Ms. Schenker and Tina Moody available on Amazon. It’s also available via Kindle for $9.99. Hit “Look Inside” and scroll down to the Table of Contents and click on each chapter to read extended excerpts. “Most problems you experience with a narcissist hark back to the fact that in his or her subconscious conception of the world, he does not know that you exist as an individual.” Just reading the excerpts was a fresh breath of air, so I’m putting this on my Must Read list.

Do Narcissists Know They are Narcissists? November 11, 2012

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , ,
72 comments

“The Scorpion and the Frog” by artist Jake Beckman @akajake.com

Someone recently commented –  it was more of a rant actually. The person said that since Narcissists don’t know what they’re doing, it’s rather “mid-evil” (yes, that was the spelling) to hold them accountable for their actions. They went on to say that being critical of Narcissists should make us take a long look in the mirror at ourselves. How dare we be so judgemental toward those who know no better? To their thinking, this made the victims of a Narcissist no better than the Narcissist themselves. I heartily disagree.

Although I enjoy the dialogue with my readers, the tone of the comment was so confrontational, I felt a sense of relief as I hit the Delete button, (and I can count on one hand the times I’ve done this.)

How ironic that only days later I came across “You Probably Think this Paper’s About You: Narcissist’s Perceptions of their Personality and Reputation,” a peer-reviewed article published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in 2011 that addresses this very question. Does a Narcissist recognize their own narcissism and how it interferes with their life? FYI: We’re talking Pathological Narcissists here, Malignant Narcissists, or Clinical Narcissists, as the researchers refer to them. These are not your garden variety of narcissists – blowhards who dominate the conversation and enter the room with an implicit “TADA”!)

It took me several days to wade through the paper as it reactivated my PTSD from taking a statistics class. So, if you’re not up for the read, here’s the gist of the article. (To read the research paper in its entirety, hit the above link and then press on the Free PMC Article feature.)

“Lack of insight is believed to be a hallmark of narcissism…” begins the paper. When it comes to Narcissists’ self-insight, there are two competing views.

The Narcissist Ignorance view argues that narcissists, ” lack insight into their personality and reputation and overestimate how positively others see them.” This is akin to “ignorance is bliss.”

The Narcissistic Awareness view, however, finds that narcissists do have insight into their personality and reputation. The researchers predicted that ultimately the Narcissistic Awareness view is correct. (Bold type is mine.) Narcissists tend to recognize some of their own narcissistic traits but are more likely to see these negative qualities in a positive light. They’re masters of spin.

The Narcissistic Awareness model finds that although narcissists are likely to make a positive first impression, even the narcissist realizes that over time others do not view their performance as positive as their own self-perception.

This provides one reason why Narcissists continually seek out new people to impress. They know from experience that as people get to know them, their impression of the N will not be as positive.

“Narcissists’ failure to pursue long-term relationships and friendships may reflect their awareness that only new acquaintances see them in a positive light.”

Ultimately, “Narcissists understand that others do not see them as positively as they see themselves. Second, they understand that their reputation is more positive in a first impression context than among people who know them well. Third, narcissists describe themselves and their reputation as narcissistic.” (But they don’t necessarily view this as a bad thing.)

Narcissists have a degree of self-awareness. It’s just that they don’t/won’t change.

So even if you are clinging to the idea that a Narcissist behaves badly because they don’t know any better, you need to get your head out of your arse. Too many women (in particular) believe they are The One who can help the N see the err of their ways – only to find themselves ultimately cast aside, chastised for daring to think they had anything to offer so someone so great. Think The Scorpion and the Frog.

If you haven’t heard this tale, I’ll make it short. A scorpion asks a frog for a ride across the river. The frog knows the scorpion could sting him, so he declines. The scorpion reassures the frog. After all, if the scorpion stings the frog then they’d both drown. This seems logical, so the frog agrees to ferry the scorpion across the river. Halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog, who cries, “Why did you do that? Now we’ll both die?” The scorpion’s reply? “I couldn’t help myself. It’s just my nature.”

Know this about Narcissists. It’s just their nature. Don’t be stung again.

Narcissists Are Mad Men – Episode 3 September 3, 2012

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
6 comments

 

 

 

I’m not a diehard Mad Men fan, but when I ran across a copy of Sterling’s Gold – Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Manmy first thought was, “Forget Sterling, this is NPD Gold!” The book is ostensibly written by Roger Sterling, Jr., better known as Don Draper’s boss. If you follow my blog, you know I’ve written about Don Draper in Is Don Draper the Devil or a Narcissist?

I thought some of the quotes in the book would make excellent jumping off points to discuss questions that keep appearing via the Search Engines that churn 24/7. I’ve been addressing some of those questions in my The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism series, but it’s summer so I’m down for something different. (Since I’m officially back at school, summer is SO over for me, so this will be the final episode.)

What Is Narcissistic Supply? 

A Narcissist would rather get a reaction from a total stranger than receive a genuine compliment from someone near and dear. And the more someone “runs” from them, the more they’ve gotta have IT. What is IT? Well, it’s not love as in “Love is the Drug” by Roxy Music. No, IT is new blood to feast on. Okay, that’s sounding a little vampirish, but let’s face it, a Narcissist without supply would shrivel up and die as sure as a vampire on a sunny California day.

Narcissistic Supply is the attention given to the Narcissist from other people, whether it be from you, the cashier in the checkout line, or total strangers. It doesn’t really matter who these people are (though more important people, more desirable people do yield more of a supply high) as long as they mirror back to the Narcissist the image he’s worked so hard to perfect, project, and to protect. A Narcissist will accept positive or negative attention as long as they’re at the center of it.

Meanwhile, a Narcissist is forever on the lookout for new supply, even when they’re supposedly in a “relationship.” Why?  For a narcissist, there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing. More is always better. You can be at a party with the N yet feel suddenly invisible as the N hones in on a new person to dazzle. Hey, remember me –  the person you came with? Could you at least introduce me?

And oh how a Narcissist loves the chase. When someone new comes into their orbit, someone who has not “succumbed” to their act, they fire up the charm and it’s full speed ahead. But here’s the rub. The minute that someone stops running and expresses real interest in the Narcissist, their days are numbered. The N has no desire for a genuine relationship as that would require (dare I say it?) emotional intimacy. They just need to know that you’re willing to take their calls. They like knowing that  the door is always open  – even just a crack –  because they can get their foot back in for a quick fix when they’re between chase-worthy people.

You have to understand that like children, Narcissists love novelty. Picture a child at a birthday party opening one gift and exclaiming over it only to toss that toy aside to open the next gift. (This is why in NYC when my boys were small, people no longer allowed the birthday boy/girl to open gifts in front of others. It was just too hard to watch.)

If you insist on hanging around, the Narcissist will devalue you and put you (his once new toy) on the shelf. He may take you down from time to time to play with you, but then back on the shelf you go. Or if he’s not a tidy child, he’ll just toss you onto the heap of other toys he’s grown bored with. Now you’ve been demoted to being Secondary Supply. Those in this category still interact with the Narcissist on a regular basis, but that new car smell is gone. They exist to remind the N that he’s already conquered them. Next!

That’s why the N is always on the lookout for the next best thing. Even though you love them, care about them, and would do virtually anything for them, that’s just SO not what turns them on. They’d rather have a total stranger smile at them because they’re sure it’s because that stranger thinks they’re charming, sexy, clever, fill in the blank.

No matter what you do to try and inject excitement or drama into the relationship to return to that Idealization Phase, it’s not gonna happen. The N will be happy to use you, abuse you, and even lose you as often as you’ll allow them to.  You know there’s lots more where you came from!

So here’s the question. Do you really want to be used by someone who views you as “old business?”

Book Review of Mr. Unavailable & the Fallback Girl August 13, 2012

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
4 comments

Several months ago some of my readers turned me on to Baggage Reclaim, a great relationship site out of the UK, which you’ll find on my blogroll. I find Natalie Lue’s writing on that site to be crisp, no nonsense, and on the money. She’s also got that Brit wit thing going for her. (Let’s face it – “shag” sounds so much more polite than the American translation.)

Natalie, who recently married and turned 35, spent her 20s as a “Fallback Girl” – accepting crumbs from guys who never seemed to have two feet in the door at the same time unless it was for a shag. Disappearing only to reappear as they knew the door was always open. She also played the part of the Other Woman. It wasn’t until she realized that the common denominator in all of these liaisons was… herself, that things began to click.

Mr. Unavailable & the Fallback Girl was first published as an eBook in 2008. I did not read this edition. The 2nd Edition is available as an eBook/book through Amazon and has been greatly “expanded.” Select bloggers were sent a complimentary eBook to read and review, so I’ve spent the last few sweltering days at my computer reading and taking notes.

Since most people who come to my blog are searching for information on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), I want to say straight out that this is NOT a book about narcissism though Natalie does list the DSM’s diagnostic criteria. She fears too many are too eager to embrace this diagnosis as the excuse for why their relationship failed.

She points out that Narcissists are always emotionally unavailable, whereas, Mr. Unavailables are not necessarily narcissistic. And she makes it clear that if you are dealing with a Narcissist, you should not walk, but RUN as they wreak so much havoc in your life. She does provide a lot of information though as to why women seek out and stay with men who are clearly not emotionally available, so this could/would apply to some of you who seem to keep dating the same “type.” (That type being a man who is incapable of committing to a healthy relationship.)

I so wanted to love this book, but I’m afraid I’m only “in like” with it. Here’s why. Between the covers is probably all you need to know if you’re someone who has repeatedly hooked up with a guy who is just not that into you and you’re virtually trying to walk on water to convince him (either overtly or covertly) that you are The One.

But at 370 pages, the book is longer than either of the two Pulitzer Prize-winning novels I’ve read this summer. As I was reading it, I began to feel like I was going in loops. Maybe it was the heat? Reading it on the computer? It was like sitting in a movie and starting to look at your watch. Shouldn’t this have ended by now? Hey, I thought that WAS the ending.

Even the same clever phrases reappeared one too many times. And I found the number of typos annoying. At one point I thought the real Mr. Unavailable was an editor! I hate to sound snarky, but Natalie knows her stuff, so this had the potential to be a virtual bible for those who’ve struggled with creating healthy relationships.

At some point, all the clever monikers, e.g., Floggers, Stonewallers, Lobbyists, Bad Pennies, Dreamers, MIMS (for Miss Independent/Miss Self Sufficient) start to seem like too many people at a noisy party. I felt like I tuned into Game of Thrones mid-season and was confused as to who was who without Peter Dinklage to help me get my bearings. I needed  a flow chart to keep track.

Whenever Natalie returns to her personal narrative, however, the writing immediately becomes more compelling. She knows her stuff and to be sure there is great wisdom in this book, it’s just that sometimes less is more. This is such a case.

Do check out Baggage Reclaim for some of that Brit wit though.

Listening to Your Gut – A Cautionary Tale July 30, 2012

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
20 comments

My dear friend in Suffolk texted, “Very interesting article in The Mail on Sunday about a famous novelist and her very strange relationship with a very odd man…it definitely read like he was a Narcissist. I felt like I should write to her and try to explain what she was dealing with.” She added, “She does not mention personality disorders. Quite a famous writer over here.”

So, I read Why did I convince myself that he loved me? by novelist Lesley Lokko and published yesterday in The Mail. Yikes! It’s like watching a horror movie and wanting to yell at the protagonist to, “Get out of the house NOW!” If you’ve had a Close Encounter with a Narcissist you know exactly where the bogeyman is hiding – in plain sight.

It’s a very interesting read indeed in the “He Swept Me Off My Feet” genre. It also shows what happens when you avoid that feeling in your gut that something is not quite right. If you’ve got time on your hands, count the Red Flags.

Narcissists Are Mad Men – Episode 2 July 15, 2012

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
18 comments

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not a diehard Mad Men fan, but when I ran across a copy of Sterling’s Gold – Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Manmy first thought was, “Forget Sterling, this is NPD Gold!” The book is ostensibly written by Roger Sterling, Jr., better known as Don Draper’s boss. If you follow my blog, you know I’ve written about Don Draper in Is Don Draper the Devil or a Narcissist?

I thought some of the quotes in the book would make excellent jumping off points to discuss questions that keep appearing via the Search Engines that churn 24/7. I’ve been addressing some of those questions in my The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism series, but it’s summer so I’m down for something different.

 “Lack of Empathy”

It is the Narcissist’s lack of empathy that is their trump card. No matter what you do or say, that bored/put upon look on their faces (sometimes accompanied by an eye roll) says it all. Your concerns are so utterly trivial. You’re boring me! It’s the Narcissist’s lack of empathy that ultimately reveals who they are and more importantly, who they aren’t.

We recently had a lively discussion on Empathy vs. Sympathy on my blog. Thanks to those who put in their two cents. I believe we now have enough to buy a cup of coffee or a cuppa. Make no mistake – it is the Narcissist’s lack of empathy that reveals their inner void. They are literally unable to see beyond their own noses due to their stunted egos. They can be like cranky children who need a nap and can argue endlessly contradicting themselves as they go. It’s all about them. It’s their party and they’ll cry if they want to, but don’t you dare cry!

When you call the N on their bad behavior, whether it be blatant lies, lies by omission, cheating on you, or just not showing the teeniest bit of interest in the things that matter most to you, you become a nattering needy nuisance. Make no mistake. It’s not love or anger that will kill your soul – it’s indifference. The Narcissist has an uncanny ability to deny that your concerns are real. It’s all in your imagination!

No matter how carefully you try to frame your concerns, you’ll be accused of being “too sensitive” “too needy” or “a drama queen.”

Women (especially) often resort to writing a letter so they can be heard. Since the Narcissist won’t indulge in a genuine conversation, they hope to say what’s really on their minds minus the rolling of the eyes. They choose their words oh-so carefully, so as not to inflame or offend. They mail the letter only to get no response. Nada.

The real danger is that where your thoughts are routinely dismissed or belittled, you begin to stop expressing your thoughts. No one wants to say something only to have it shot down. You begin to self censor. The N has literally “got your tongue.”

Most Ns sling their verbal arrows behind closed doors. So if you dare tell someone what you’re experiencing – they’ll give you that look. The look that tells you that perhaps YOU are the one with the problem. Some people have said it would have been better to have been physically abused – at least they’d have visible scars to prove the abuse they suffered.

I once confided in my friend “Joe” that I’d just learned that one of my students was being sexually abused by her father. He’d met the girl, so I thought he’d find this news upsetting. A simple, “That’s awful” would have sufficed. Instead, his reaction was, “I hope you’re not going to get all emotional about this because that will just get in the way of our project.” He couldn’t be bothered.

To the  N, a genuine emotion is a Level Red Security Alert. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! They don’t know how to respond. Instead, they tend to have comeback lines that they can deliver with chilling detachment. Their response is designed to shut down any meaningful conversation. When a person does not have a voice, they slowly cease to exist. They begin to fade into the background like a TV set left on. This is fine with the Narcissist as they really could care less about your concerns. If you think otherwise, they’ll just change the channel and up the volume to drown you out – and leave you to lick your “imaginary wounds.”

Narcissists Are Mad Men – Episode 1 July 6, 2012

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
12 comments

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not a diehard Mad Men fan, but when I ran across a copy of Sterling’s Gold – Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Manmy first thought was, “Forget Sterling, this is NPD Gold!” The book is ostensibly written by Roger Sterling, Jr., better known as Don Draper’s boss. If you follow my blog, you know I’ve written about Don Draper in Is Don Draper the Devil or a Narcissist?

I thought some of the quotes in the book would make excellent jumping off points to discuss questions that keep appearing via the Search Engines that churn 24/7. I’ve been addressing some of those questions in my The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism series, but it’s summer, so I’m down for something different.

First of all, you might be wondering, ” Are narcissists actually mad men?” I believe that although they would deny that they’re actually “mad” (as in angry, not crazy), their all-encompassing envy of others leads them to be angry, unsettling men/women who spend an inordinate amount of time trying to avoid and deny the inner conflict that rages. Their anger is like a pot put on the back burner left to simmer. It informs their every move.

I thought the above quote was especially appropriate for all my readers who ask:

Is it possible for a narcissist to find happiness with another person? 

Although you want me to say NO, and yes, NO is ultimately the right answer (wow, that was confusing) you must KNOW this. It IS possible for “your N” to find someone who will tolerate their BS  better than you. You’re not the only doormat in town, and they’re happy to wipe their feet on anyone who leaves the door open so they can gain entry.

Dysfunction – oh, let me count the ways! There’s the Meanie/Martyr relationship dynamic, which is self explanatory. Then there’s the Pursuer/Distancer variation where when one partner tries to get close, the other withdraws emotionally, creating a perpetual chase. Another variation is Responsible/Irresponsible, which is akin to a parent-child partnering. All of these exist in couples (narcissistic or not) and are not conducive to a healthy long-term relationship that will meet both partners’ individual needs.

So, although it might appear that a Narcissist has found happiness with another, remember that for the N, “happiness” is only to be found in the dictionary. For somatic narcissists, the new car smell wears off quickly, so they’ll soon be on the prowl. Cerebral Ns will begin to withhold sex leaving their partner feeling confused and abused. Most likely you know what I’m talking about because you’ve been there.

And just in case you’re tempted, there’s no point in warning the new person (though it might seem like the right/righteous thing to do). Don’t. Can you imagine if someone had taken you aside when you were in the throes of the Idealization Phase and told you the emperor had no clothes? You’d have thought they were mad and questioned their motives. You don’t want to come off looking like the crazy one, so bite your tongue. The train wreck is going to happen, so you don’t want to be playing on the tracks.

Ns ultimately live and die alone despite appearances to the contrary. Their life is like a film viewed over and over with the quality of the tape (okay, that reference is SO 20th Century!) degrading with each viewing, so that after years of their antics, the show is barely watchable.

Yes, Narcissists are mad men. But if you believe otherwise, you’re the one who is mad (as in crazy). Peace and Summer Dreaming.

Click here to read Narcissists Are Mad Men – Episode 2.

Photo Credit: Jan Marshall

The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #6 April 7, 2012

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , ,
84 comments

mirror2

I never could have imagined that so many people would read my 3-part series Close Encounter with a Narcissist. Or imagined how many people would leave comments detailing their own often heart-wrenching “close encounters.”

When I check my blog stats (something us bloggers obsessively do), I like to check the “search engine terms” people typed in before they were electronically dropped off at my blog’s doorstep.

In this series, The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism, I’ll use a “search term” I’ve come across as a jumping off point for a discussion. (Please read the Close Encounter with a Narcissist series first, or it’s like walking in after the movie’s started. Shhhh!)  Here goes.

Why do I Miss the Narcissist?

When a Narcissist zeros in on a new source of supply, he (or she) is on their best behavior. The Academy Award-winning performance they give has been perfected by years of being “on stage”  – in the sense that they are literally performing a role in what the rest of us call “life.” They cling to this role and rarely vary from the script. It’s worked before, and it will work again. There’s not a lot of improvisation involved. That First Impression of them is seared into your memory. They can be so endearing or (substitute appropriate adjective).

So a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) can be charming, seductive, endearing, and even appear to be compassionate and caring. But again, this is all an act calculated to disarm their victim’s defenses. Is it conscious? I don’t know. I’m not sure if they even know. But it’s what they do best. It’s how they roll. And it can seem incredibly genuine…at the time.

The article, Narcissists Often Ace Job Interviews, Study Findsilluminates how Narcissists can turn on the charm in any given situation to close the deal. It’s only later that their true colors emerge.

So when the Narcissist tires of Act 1 (Idealization) and goes to Act 2 (Devaluation & Discard aka D&D), the change in their manner towards you can leave you with a wicked case of emotional whiplash. WTF? Why did they say that? Why are they playing games with me? Why would…(fill in the blank)?

Who doesn’t want to cling to that first impression? Or memories of the “good times?” You’d like to think that they could return to being THAT person, not realizing that THAT person was only a ruse.

When I asked my sister-in-law, who was married to a Narcissist for 14 years, when her husband changed, she said (without hesitation) “the day after we married.”

During the Idealization Phase, the Narcissist is anything, no make that EVERYTHING, you want him to be. But then the novelty wears off and real life enters into the equation. The D&D begins.

I can understand those who struggle to get over a Close Encounter with a Narcissist. They want that person back. The person they thought they knew. But time travel is not possible, so there’s NO going back. You have to be able to see the Narcissist for what they were/are  – an imposter.

What makes it even more difficult to recover from such an encounter is the feeling that you’ve been duped – or played. You’re an intelligent person, but now you feel like somebody’s fool. What can I say? Do not expect any apologies or closure. You may understand what happened intellectually while you’re still hurting emotionally. It takes time. And more time. But, you CAN move on and flourish.

It’s a painful scenario, but the curtain falls after Act 3. The show’s over. Are you ready to move on?

Narcissistic Game Playing – Part 1 August 27, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
97 comments

When I read that “narcissists employ a Ludic love style,” my eyes almost crossed. But I kept reading.  Ludus  is characterized by game playing, an aversion to partner dependence, attention to extradyadic others and deception.” Whoa, does that sound familiar? Other than the extradyadic part? (And that’s just a fancy word for infidelity.)

I found this in Does Self-Love Lead to Love for Others? A Story of Narcissistic Game Playing published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). One of the goals of the research was to determine whether a person really needs to learn to love themselves before they can love others. Or, as the Greeks believed, is self-love actually an impediment to loving others? The authors sort that one out pretty quickly differentiating between self-love and self-esteem.

What I found most interesting was how those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (or high on the narcissistic continuum per the authors) approach a relationship as a game. This explains why narcissists are unable to maintain long-term emotionally intimate relationships. Click on the title link above to read the paper in its entirety. 

When it comes to relationships, narcissists have two birds to kill. First, because they think very highly of themselves, they use relationships to self enhance not caring whether this involves exploiting others. Think of it as feeding the beast. Although the narcissist desires perfection in a partner, in reality their partners (mere humans) are doomed to come up short. This game is not a cooperative game, but one in which the winner takes all.

But here’s the rub. Relationships are good in that they can provide positive attention and sex, BUT they are bad in that they demand emotional intimacy and prevent the narcissist from receiving attention and sex from other partners. If only they could have it both ways… (The feelings of the other person do not factor into the N’s thinking.)

So the narcissist turns on the charm, using all the extraversion and confidence he can muster to reel in a new partner. But “they would be careful to keep this relationship from becoming too intimate or emotionally close lest they lose control. Finally, narcissists would covertly seek out other potential romantic partners.” So it should come as surprise that the narcissist lacks a sense of real commitment to a relationship and is always on the lookout for an alternative, frequently flirting with others.

In this way, the narcissist maintains power in the relationship and a certain amount of freedom. If things go sour in the relationship, he’s already got his eye on his next target.

“Narcissists’ self-regulatory blueprint involves bringing people in and extracting esteem from them. If that entails being, in turn, charming, exciting, deceptive, controlling, or nasty, so be it.”

Those who’d been in a relationship with a narcissist reported that it took “longer to gain insight into the narcissist’s personality, and this impression changed over the course of the relationship. Although it is not evidence of game playing per se, this suggests that narcissists used deceptive self-presentation in the relationship.”

“A game-playing approach to relationships, as evidenced by maintaining alternative partners or keeping one’s partner uncertain about one’s commitment, gives the same game-playing partner power. This interpersonal strategy has been termed the principle of least interest. The individual less interested in the relationship has the most power. If narcissists seek power and freedom in their dating relationships, the adoption of a game-playing love style should give them this power and freedom.”

Finally, by adopting the Ludic, or game-playing approach to love, the narcissist is able to get what he wants without having to give up what he doesn’t. For the N, that’s a win-win situation. If you think otherwise, you’re just a sore loser!

Image Credit: “Mind Games” clipart from Discoveryeducation.com

Psychology Today on Narcissism – 33 Years Ago June 13, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
17 comments

June 1978

A college boyfriend, who I recently reconnected with, sent me a copy of an article Narcissism -Why Some People Can’t Love from Psychology Today to get my feedback. Halfway through the article, I realized it was written in 1978. No wonder the woman on the cover is not wearing a bra and the magazine cost a whopping $1!  He said he came across it when cleaning out some old boxes of stuff. He admitted he might have actually bought the magazine himself after a number of romantic relationships went down in flames. No matter.

Thirty-three years later, I still think this article is relevant. In 1978, Narcissistic Personality Disorder had just gotten the go-ahead for inclusion DSM-IV which was published in 1980.

There are some terms you will not find in this article: Idealization Phase, Devaluation and Discard (D&D), Narcissistic Supply, or Somatic vs. Cerebral narcissists. There’s no mention of Primary Supply or Secondary Supply. But if you read in between the the lines, many of these ARE there, just waiting to be identified and given a name.

Kernberg suggests that it is possible to treat narcissists, but that they are not amenable to change until their 40’s or 50’s. He offers no examples, however, of how a narcissist can be changed in this article – only that as they age, they might be more aware of the emptiness that is their life. (The link to Otto Kernberg’s Wikipedia page at the beginning of the interview does outline a therapeutic course of treatment.)

Since Narcissistic Personality Order is slated to be removed as a Personality Disorder from the DSM-5 due out in 2012 (Roman numerals are also getting the boot), I thought this was an interesting look at narcissism BEFORE it officially became a disorder in 1980. UPDATE: Since this was first written, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is back in the DSM-5.

For those who’ve been involved with someone with NPD, I think this offers the chance to look at the information put out there in 1978.  If you’d read this article, would it have helped you make sense of the madness that comes with a Close Encounter with a Narcissist?

FYI – Since this was written way back in 1978 (back when “living together” had to be in quotation marks), this article is not available through the Psychology Today archives on-line.

Incapable of loving themselves, they cannot give to
their partners in a relationship-nor can they ever
be really satisfied by what they receive. The causes are
in childhood, says a leading authority on narcissism:
and the cures are in middle age.

WHY SOME PEOPLE
CAN’T LOVE
Otto Kernberg, interviewed by Linda Wolfe

“Every age develops its own peculiar forms of pathology, which express in exaggerated form its underlying character structure,” writes social critic Christopher Lasch. He and others have said that ours is an age of narcissism, recalling the beautiful youth of Greek legend who fell in love with his reflection in a pool and pined away in rapture over it.

Some observers see the preoccupation with self and decline of interest in public life and social goals as evidence of a growing narcissism in the national character. Others see narcissism in the proliferation of therapies that declare we should be our own best friends, devote ourselves to self-growth and self-actualization, and look out, above all, for “No. 1.” Others see it in the tendency of young Americans to eschew marriage and child-rearing in favor of remaining single, “living together,” or living alone.

In recent years, psychiatrists have grown increasingly interested in narcissism as a clinical syndrome. They claim to see every day patients who display a constellation of traits indicating problems in their ability to love others-or even to really love themselves. Freud theorized that what he called primary narcissism was a necessary stage in the infant’s development: before he could love others, the child first learned self-love, which required a phase of total self-absorption. Freud’s successors have modified his analysis of how the child learns to love others.

Several psychiatrists who assembled recently for a conference called “Narcissism in Modern Society” at the University of Michigan argued that there are so far no solid clinical data proving that the incidence of narcissism has increased in recent times. Nevertheless, a task force of the American Psychiatric Association that is preparing a new edition of the APA’s diagnostic manual has included in its draft a new syndrome called “narcissistic personality disorder”, which it defines as combining an “exaggerated sense of self-importance” with “a lack of sustained positive regard” for others.

One of the chief theorists of narcissism is psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg, medical director of the Westchester Division of the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. Dr. Kerberg makes a careful distinction between normal and pathological narcissism. We are all in love with ourselves to some extent, and seek validation through the approval of others. But the pathological narcissist, according to Kerberg, differs from the rest of us in the extreme intensity of his self-sbsorption; he can, indeed, be said to suffer from a psychological ailment that requires and deserves treatment. Curiously, the pathological narcissist, says Kernberg, does not really love himself at all; he actually holds himself in low self-esteem. In Kerberg’s books, Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism (1975) and Object Relations Theory and Clinical Psychoanalysis (1976), he argues that it is self-hatred, rather than self-love, that lies at the root of pathological narcissism.

What are the other differences between the normal and pathological narcissist? How can we distinguish the two in the people we know? How are extreme forms of narcissism manifest in our relationships to others and our sexual lives? And to what degree are social forces in our society responsible for the clinical symptoms of narcissism? To explore these and other questions, Psychology Today sent behavior writer Linda Wolfe to discuss the phenomenon with Kernberg at his office in New York’s Westchester County.

Linda Wolfe: Aren’t we all narcissists? Don’t we all, secretly or not so secretly, love ourselves, take our own lives more seriously than the lives of those around us, enjoy feeding and grooming ourselves, and spend a great deal of effort at soliciting the admiration and approval of others?

Otto Kernberg: Yes, but if our self-esteem is totally dependent on the manifestations of admiration by others, then something is wrong with us. The pathological narcissist cannot sustain his or herself-regard without having it fed constantly by the attentions of others.

Wolfe: Is the extreme narcissist, then, a dependent individual?

Kernberg: Yes, but he usually resents other people because of his dependency on them. Or he envies them. He experiences little empathy for them and doesn’t really like them. Other people count only as admirers. The applauding crowd is welcome, but not people in and of themselves.

Wolfe: How does this show itself?

Kerberg: The pathological narcissist will anticipate receiving tribute from others and may for a time be very charming to them. But once the tribute is given, he quickly becomes restless and bored. Often, then, he treats his former admirers with contempt. In general, his relationships with other people are exploitative or parasitic, although this may be masked behind a surface which is very often engaging and attractive.

Wolfe: That’s a very interesting point. I gather you are saying that the pathological narcissist often appears to be a quite likeable individual.

Kernberg: Yes, very often he is a person with great capacities for attracting others. He may have talent, or the ability to do active consistent work in areas which permit him at least partially to fulfill his ambition of being admired and applauded by others. I have had a number of highly intelligent patients with narcissistic personality structures who appear to be quite creative in their fields. And, of course, narcissistic personalities can often be found as leaders in political life, or in industry or academia, or as outstanding performers in the theater or other arts.

Wolfe: It sounds to me as if the narcissistic personality might be a particularly productive one.

Kernberg: No, and there’s the catch, because careful observation of their productivity over a long period of time will give evidence of superficiality and flightiness in their work, of a lack of depth which reveals emptiness behind the glitter. Quite frequently, narcissists are the “promising” geniuses who then surprise other people by never fulfilling the promise of their talents, whose development ultimately proves to be banal.

Wolfe: Are there other ways in which the narcissist is banal or shallow?

Kerberg: Yes. Narcissists lack emotional depth. Their feelings tend to be undifferentiated, and they have quick flare-ups of emotion followed by sudden dispersal of feeling. They are especially deficient in genuine feelings of sadness, and mournful longing, their incapacity for experiencing depressive reactions is a basic feature of their personalities. When abandoned, or disappointed by other people, they may show what on the surface looks like depression, but on further examination this emerges as anger and resentment, loaded with revengeful wishes, rather than real sadness at the loss of a person they appreciated. And many of them have never fallen or been in love.

Wolfe: I suppose this is because the narcissist is too much in love with himself.

Kernberg: No, the abnormal or pathological narcissist does not, as it turns out, really love himself or herself at all. He may give the surface impression of doing so, but on psychoanalytic exploration, it turns out that self-hatred is more dominant in the narcissist than is self-love. Narcissists have very low opinions of themselves and this is why they constantly seek approbation. They consider themselves unworthy and unlovable, and seek constantly to hide this fact from themselves by trying to get the outside world to proclaim them unique, extraordinary, great. But beyond that, they suffer from intense, unconscious envy that makes them want to spoil, depreciate, and degrade what others have and they lack, particularly others’ capacity to give and to love. So the pathological narcissist cannot be really satisfied by what he receives from others, and always ends up frustrated and feeling empty.

Wolfe: What causes pathological narcissism?

Kernberg: It is a condition that stems from the first few years of life. Chronically cold parental figures with covert or intense aggression toward their children are a very frequent feature in the background of narcissistic personalities. A composite picture of a number of cases that I have been able to treat shows that narcissistic patients have consistently had a parental figure, usually a mother or a mother-surrogate, who functions well on the surface and runs a superficially well-organized home, but who nevertheless is extremely callous, indifferent, or spitefully aggressive toward the child. This figure begins by frustrating the child orally, and thus sets up the greed and envy of others that later become so characteristic of the narcissist. Also, many narcissistic patients possess some inherent quality that can objectively arouse admiration. They may, for example, possess unusual physical attractiveness, or some special talent. These qualities then become a refuge for the narcissist. By gaining attention for his qualities, he can temporarily offset the underlying feeling of being unloved or of being the object of revengeful hatred on the part of the parent.

Sometimes, of course, it is the cold, hostile parent’s own narcissistic use of the child which sets him off on the search for compensatory admiration and greatness. For example, I have had two patients who were used by their mothers to gain the attentions of others. They were dressed up and exposed to public admiration in an almost grotesque way, and eventually they began to link exhibitionism with the notion that it could bring them power and greatness. They did this in a compensatory effort against oral rage and envy. In addition, narcissistic patients often occupy a pivotal point in their family structure, such as being the only child, or the one who is supposed to fulfill the family’s aspirations. A good number of them have a history of having played the role of genius in their families during childhood.

Wolfe: You said earlier that the narcissist, typically, is incapable of falling in love. What is it that happens when we fall in love, and why is the narcissist precluded from the experience?

Kernberg: The capacity to fall in love implies the ability to idealize another person. In a sense, all love begins as infatuation. We see the loved one as extraordinary, remarkable, even perfect. Inevitably, disappointment sets in; things look different in the light of an ongoing relationship. But when one is in love, one can regenerate the feeling of idealization of the other person again and again throughout a long-term commitment. I have often observed this clinically with good couples. But the narcissist cannot idealize any individual for very long. As soon as an idealized person responds to the narcissist, that person loses his or her value. The narcissist is thus purely exploitative in his relationships with other people. It is as if he were squeezing a lemon and then dropping the remains. For example, I had one narcissistic patient who thought he was in love for a time with a woman he considered very gifted, beautiful, warm – in short, completely satisfying. For a while she didn’t respond to him, and he wanted her to do so, and even wanted to marry her. Finally she did respond, and then accepted his offer of marriage, he quickly became bored with her and soon he was altogether indifferent to her.

Wolfe:  Does the pathological narcissist, then, tend to move from one person to the next more often and more rapidly than the normal narcissist?

Kernberg: Yes, again typically, the pathological narcissist tends to be sexually promiscuous. Pathological narcissists feel sexual excitement for people considered valuable, or attractive by others, or for those who seem unattainable and withhold their bodies. Their unconscious envy and greed is stirred up by such people, and they long to take possession of the, thus proving their own greatness. They even long, although this is usually unconscious, to devaluate and spoil that which is envied. For a short while, insofar, as sexual excitement heightens the illusion of beauty or value, the narcissist may feel himself to be in love. Soon, however, sexual fulfillment gratifies the narcissist’s need for conquest, and the narcissist moves on to the next person.
_______________________________________________________________________
“Narcissists feel sexual excitement for people considered valuable by others; their envy and greed stirred, they long to possess.”
________________________________________________________________________

Wolfe: Does this trouble the narcissist, or does he feel powerful and important as a result of placing himself repeatedly in the role of the rejecting party?

Kernberg: He may feel pleased early in life, but over the years, there is a change. Moving on becomes a losing proposition for the narcissist because he begins to lose his ability to idealize an unavailable sex object and thus his interest in pursuing one. With experience, the narcissist begins to understand that all encounters will be just the same, regardless of how attractive the partner. This produces a general deterioration of the capacity for getting excited with potential sexual partners. Very often we find a general impoverishment of sexual life in narcissistic personalities, even in those who were very active in their youth. We see them in their late 40s or 50s, and they are sexually inactive and suffering from feelings of frustration, disappointment, and emptiness.

Wolfe: Can you change – treat- the narcissist?

Kernberg: Yes, but, interestingly, the best time to work with some narcissists is when they are in their 40s or 50s. Prior to that time, although the narcissist may have some feelings of emptiness and dissatisfaction, he is usually so busy seeking admiration and imagining that its receipt will solve all his problems that he is not a good candidate for therapy. But later in life, when he has begun fully to perceive the emptiness of his existence and the fact that his self-esteem remains recalcitrantly low, he is more interested in making efforts to change. Thus change is more likely.

Wolfe: Are there other sexual patterns besides promiscuity that distinguish the pathological narcissist?

Kernberg: Yes, frequently the narcissist seems to value and talk about a sex partner’s body parts more than the partner himself or herself. Typically, a narcissistic male might be interested in a woman’s breasts, buttocks, vagina, skin, and, when he focuses on those, one gets the impression that in effect he is dismembering the woman. He does this because deep down he knows that he cannot reach, cannot fully possess, the other person. By dismembering that person into body parts, he gratified a need to deny the importance of that unattainable object.

Let me give you an example. Years ago, I had a patient who felt a very intense unconscious envy toward his wife. It became worse over the years because his wife, who originally was a very sexually inhibited and socially awkward person, blossomed into a full and attractive human being. This was very frustrating to my patient, and their sexual life became of less and less interest to him. But he reawakened his interest in her by requiring her to travel with him to other cities and engage in sex with other men in his presence. He felt when other men had her that all they had were her breasts and genitals, and since all of this really belonged to him, there was nothing of hers that they really had. And at the same time, he was degrading his wife. She became a walking sex organ and nothing else. And this somehow reassured him that there was nothing else to her except bodily parts. He wasn’t giving up anything of value, for she had nothing of value.
________________________________________________________________________
“Narcissism takes a different form in women, but the dynamic is the same. The female narcissist can’t find love or hold on to it.”
______________________________________________________________________

Wolfe: What about the female narcissist? Does she also think of the man’s body in dismembered terms? Does she also tend to be promiscuous?

Kernberg: There are different social and cultural factors operating for women. Some female narcissists are like the males, but one is more likely to find with narcissistic women that they exploit men and use their sexuality to obtain admiration or financial support. Let me give you two examples. I had one narcissistic woman patient, who divorced three husbands because after a time each rebelled against being a slave to her.

Another woman had a husband and a lover. She felt superior to her husband, whom she didn’t love, because she had a lover and because her lover was an extremely wealthy man who gave her gifts she was able to keep secret from her husband. The woman was satisfied with the arrangement, but the lover was not. Eventually, he arranged to divorce his wife and he asked my patient to leave her husband and marry him. She refused to do so. She was afraid that in marrying her lover, she would no longer hold the reins of the relationship. Once rejected, the lover stopped seeing her, and she was left with the husband she did not love and became depressed. Narcissism takes a different form in women, but the dynamic is the same. Like men, the female narcissist can’t find love or hold on to it.

Wolfe: Do you believe there’s any validity to the notion that our society is fostering narcissism? Are we, as a people, becoming more and more self-involved and less capable of feeling for others?

Kernberg: I’m not sure. I’m troubled by this. The question is raised constantly, and of course since I am not a sociologist I must go somewhat beyond the limits of my own knowledge to answer it. But let me say this: I am aware that our society stimulates narcissistic needs in our social interactions. Our society does this by fostering superficial ways of being accepted and admired, namely, through emphasizing the accumulation of material goods. Obtaining material proof of personal value is very similar to the narcissist’s obtaining prise in order to feel worthwhile. A society that fosters competition, with its concomitants of envy and greed, may be fostering pathological narcissistic traits. And, theoretically at least, there are other societies in the world which, by eliminating competition and insisting on people’s mutual responsibilities toward one another may foster the altruistic traits that are part of normal narcissism.

However, I find it hard to believe that this could do more than just smoke out the pathological narcissists who are already among us in our own society, and, in the more altruistic society, force the pathological narcissists to go underground. I don’t think society can produce normal or pathological narcissism since I believe that such traits are formed during earliest childhood and not, as some sociologists imply, by receiving a social go-ahead later in life. So the most I would be willing to say is that society can make serious psychological abnormalities, which already exist in some percentage of the population, seem to at least superficially appropriate.

Wolfe: But isn’t it society that determines what is or isn’t abnormal? What I’m getting at is this: if, as sometimes seems to be happening, our society begins to place greater value on an individual’s ability to have a great quantity of love affairs rather than on his ability to sustain a single one throughout life, then won’t the promiscuous pathological narcissist begin to seem less pathological?

Kernberg: Only in one regard. Society could, to some extent, protect some pathological narcissists for some period of time from feeling the emptiness and meaningless of their lives by providing them with a cultural rationalization. But I don’t think those individuals would feel comfortable indefinitely, and I also don’t think that society would favor the pattern for long. It’s an interesting fact about society that it keeps changing its attitudes. It experiments. There are some things that cannot be resolved in theory, and so we get social experiments. Take sex. We experiment for a period of history with sexual suppression. But we notice that it ends up with the deterioration of human relationships, and we move on to a different pattern. Or we experiment with sexual freedom. But we notice that it ends up in the boredom and trivialization of sex. Human nature, seeking its own fulfillment, asserts itself, and the experiments change. To put it slightly differently, individual maturity may demand a personal road for improvement that goes on no matter what current social policies are.

Wolfe: It sounds to me as if you are saying that while society may change, neither human nature nor the concept of what is most likely to satisfy human longings changes – no matter what society decrees. You are suggesting that it is a give that in order to feel fulfilled as human beings, we must feel deeply for others, whether our society promotes attachment or urges us away from it.

Kernberg: Yes, I think so. All other things being equal, there is something that happens to one in a deep relationship with someone else which brings great satisfaction to the individual. It has been called transcendence, the sense of extending beyond oneself and feeling a sense of unity with all others who have lived and loved and suffered before – whether it is one’s parents or people throughout history. And when this can’t be attained, one feels emptiness and chronic dissatisfaction.

Kernberg: Yes. Individuals will simply continue to choose the patterns that fulfill them, despite what society promulgates.

Linda Wolfe, formerly a senior editor of Psychology Today, writes frequently on behavior. She is the author of Playing Around, a study of extramarital relationships (Morrow, 1975) and is currently at work on a novel.

DSM-5 to Ignore Narcissists – Part 3 May 22, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far


How could you not love an article that begins with a psychiatrist lamenting, “Where are we going to put the narcissists?”

Psychiatric Diagnoses Get a Rethinking appeared in the Los Angeles Times today. It’s a very interesting read. It seems that psychiatrists, sipping drinks from coconut shells at the American Psychiatric Association’s five-day conference, have been duking it out over the proposed changes to the DSM-V due out in 2013.

Dr. Allen Frances, chairman of the DSM -IV Task Force (sounds so military, almost special-opish!) and one of the most vocal critics of proposed changes pointed out that many advances in brain imaging and molecular biology have given professional insight into the workings of the brain, but there is still much to learn (before throwing out the baby with the bathwater). The bold type is my take on this whole mess.

If you go to DSM5.org, you’ll find the suggested changes listed. The American Psychiatric Association has opened up the changes for public comments. I put in my two cents during the first public comment session last year. The second public session began this month and runs through June 15th. Speak now or forever hold your peace!

I’ve been following the proposed changes in my blog posts DSM-V to Ignore Narcissists? and DSM-V to Ignore Narcissists?-Part 2

DSM-V to Ignore Narcissists – Part 2 April 21, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
9 comments

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”
Mark Twain

Since writing DSM-V to Ignore Narcissists?, I came across an interesting article, The Mathematics of Narcissism , on Slate.  It offers a statistical rationale for eliminating Narcissistic Personality Disorder from the DSM-V due out in 2013.

I should mention that when I took a statistics class for my master’s degree two summers ago, I woke up every morning weeping. My poor husband hadn’t seen me like that since the first year we were married!  I don’t mind looking at bar graphs, line plots, and pie charts. I just didn’t want to fall into the abyss of Excel spreadsheets. I survived the course and even earned an A, but it was like pulling teeth- slowly and one at a time. Even so, I was able to follow this article, though it would have helped if there were pie charts in color.

The changes proposed for the DSM-V have been years in the making. They address the fact that many of the current ten personality disorders overlap, so instead of “clustering” personality disorders, the DSM-V is going with “dimension reduction.” Oh dear, I’m having statistical PTSD as I type this! If it’s any consolation to those who’ve had a close encounter with a narcissist, the proposed changes are extremely controversial and seem to please no one, least of all psychiatrists.

Personality disorders are being scrapped and replaced with six axes of personality traits, though no single one will be designated as the Axis of Evil. The axes are:
1) negative emotionality
2) introversion
3) antagonism
4) disinhibition
5) compulsivity
6) schizotypy

So, come 2013, there will still be narcissism, but no narcissists. Those formerly diagnosed with NPD will score high on four facets of antagonism;  callousness, manipulativeness, narcissism, and histrionism. So how will this help those who’ve had a close encounter with a narcissist?  It won’t. But read the article and see what you think.

If it’s any consolation, psychopathy, which was eliminated from the DSM-IV, is back. Dexter, take note!

The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #5 February 23, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
14 comments

mirror

In this series, I’m using a “search term” I’ve come across as a jumping  off point for a discussion. (Please read my Close Encounter with a  Narcissist series first, or it’s like walking in after the movie’s started. Shhhh!) Here goes.

Does the Narcissist Miss Me?

After you pick a flea off a dog, does the flea miss the dog?  No, it misses its supply of blood. But, any dog will do – any warm body for that matter. Sorry. I know that’s not what you wanted to hear.

We all want to think we are/were special. We want the N to miss us. We bent over backwards to please them. We were emotional contortionists. But the sad truth is that once the D&D (Devaluation and Discard) is underway, you’re like yesterday’s newspaper – something to be put out with the trash.

I’m constantly amazed, but not surprised, at how many people ask, “How do I get a N back?” That’s like asking, “How can I get my cancer to metastasize? Could I have a second helping of abuse, please?” Why do you want this emotional vampire back in your life?  Usually, it’s because you think this time, knowing what you do, you can change the outcome. But, that’s magical thinking on YOUR part. The script allows no room for improvisation. After Act 1 (the Idealization Phase, Act 2 (Devaluation), and Act 3 (Discard), the show is over. The End. Any further contact with the N will be like watching a rerun. Only this time you know how it ends. Do you really want to be left sitting alone in a dark theater watching the credits roll – credits that omit your name because your appearance was left on the cutting room floor? (Okay, with digital technology that’s a reach, but you get the idea.)

Some people want the N back so they can turn the tables and get The Final Word. They want to be the one to do the discarding – on their terms. I understand the sentiment (if you can call it that), but it’s a grand waste of time. Even if you get The Final Word, the N will have their fingers in their ears taunting, “But I can’t hear you!”

“But I loved them!” you protest. Know this – the N values the attention of total strangers more than attention from their nearest and dearest. The attention of total strangers gives them a rush – an affirmation that their false self is real. Hey, these people are buying my BS! (Even if the strangers aren’t buying their BS, most likely they’re too polite to call them on it, unlike you.)

So while you’re waiting for the N to return, they have an entire world of people who they have yet to meet. An audience waiting to be wowed. People who are gullible – like you once were.

Knowing this, why would you want the N back?  There will be no apologies, acknowledgements, or closure. This is as much about you as it is about them. So ask yourself again. Why do I want the N back?

Read The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #6.

Photo Credit: Jan Marshall



Is Don Draper the Devil or a Narcissist? July 23, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
4 comments

If you’ve had a close encounter with a narcissist, you know exactly what Don Draper would do.

The Devil in Don Draper is the lead story in the Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times today. In case you’ve been living in a cave, Don Draper is the ever so manly ad man star of AMC’s Mad Men, the fourth season which premieres Sunday.

As I read the article by Mary McNamara, I observed the following Red Flags:
1)  In three seasons, Don Draper “has not done one single thing that wasn’t driven by rabid self-interest.”
2) “He lies to everyone all the time.”
3) “He cheats on his wife, he cheats on his mistress…”
4) “…the idea that his behavior needs to change does not seem to cross his mind – ever.”
5) He manages to “seem like he’s doing the right thing when that is not his intention at all.”
6) His children exist on the periphery of his life – cardboard cutouts at best.

While the writer comes to the conclusion that Don Draper is the devil (sans pointy tail), those who know a thing or two about NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) should have heard the bells a ringin’.

I religiously watched the first season of Mad Men because a friend who didn’t have cable watched it at my house. Sometimes I found Mad Men almost painful to watch as the women are stuck wearing those pointy bras, and when they get knocked up they have to go visit a relative. These are women whom the men refer to as “girls.” But the set design is spot on.

After the first season, I only watched Mad Men sporadically.  My interest picked up when my trainer told me that actor John Hamm, who plays Don Draper, was now having his hair cut at a local salon.  I’m sure he looks a lot more 21st century than on the the show and doesn’t really reek of Aqua Velva. I have yet to make a sighting.

But back to Don Draper aka The Devil. The character took on another man’s identity and reinvented himself to distance himself from his sordid beginnings. His walking talking False Self exudes confidence and cool, yet it’s all a facade. Gee, where have I heard that before?

After reading the article, I dug a little deeper and came across two great posts on The Last Psychiatrist unmasking Don Draper’s narcissism. Part 1: Don Draper Voted “Most Influential Man” and Part 2: You Want to be Don Draper?  You Already Are. Interesting reads! You gotta understand that there are men out there who aspire to be like Don Draper, who is but a figment of his own imagination. That’s scary talk.

Personally I think aside from being a Somatic Narcissist, Don’s got a bit of sociopath under the hood. Sociopaths make great sales people, so the field of advertising would be The Promised Land.  And I’ve already said that narcissism is like the ground fog that swirls around all the Cluster B disorders, including sociopathy and psychopathy. (The only people Don kills are consumers, though his emotional distance and affairs killed his marriage.)

Finally, my favorite take on the Devil is on the Home Page of Halycon, which is also on my blogroll and a great resource site. I think Don Draper might qualify, but see if you buy it.

Photo Credit:  Google Images

Bad Guys Really Do Get the Most Girls August 2, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
10 comments

MonkeyBridge

After I’d written a recent post on Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a friend commented, “I see you’re still into NPD.”  It’s not so much that I’m “into” it, as I’m “onto” it.  I have clarity now about this insidious personality disorder and want to help others.  If you’re a new reader, do not proceed without reading my 3-part series Close Encounter with a Narcissist first. It will bring you up to speed so you don’t need subtitles.

All of the narcissists I’ve seen up close and personal were cerebral, so when readers ask about somatic narcissists, it’s like asking my dog what it’s like to be a cat.  That said, I have friends who’ve been there, done that, and they’ve got stories to tell.

In my opinion, somatic narcissists are quicker to show up on the radar. They’re serial cheaters, always looking for another sexual conquest to keep them high on new Narcissistic Supply (NS). It doesn’t matter if they’re married or in a relationship. It doesn’t matter if YOU are married or in a relationship. They seek sex as validation that the False Self they’ve constructed is, in fact, real. They offer no genuine apologies when they’re caught. Their lack of remorse should be a major Red Flag.

Women have described that often after sex, they felt like they might as well have been a blow up doll. Although all male narcissists prefer autoerotic sex (masturbation and porn) to sex with a real woman, sometimes they manage to have sex with someone/something with a pulse. Pity that person. (If you’re dealing with a woman with NPD, I suggest you check out A Shrink for Men on my blogroll.)

This is in sharp contrast to cerebral narcissists, who can be extremely flirtatious, but quickly lose all interest in sex. It is through witholding sex from their partner that they maintain control. Because they’re essentially asexual, this is no problem for them. My sister-in-law was married to one for 14 years and swore she could count how many times they’d had sex by counting her children. Eight, for the record. At one point, she thought quite possibly her husband was gay because of his lack of interest in sex. Numerous other women have written and asked whether a man with NPD might actually be a latent homosexual. Maybe, but probably not. They’re just not that into women – real ones that is.

I have a married friend who had a brief affair with a man she later realized was a somatic narcissist. He pursued her relentlessly, and then… he was on to the next best thing. She referred me to an article in the New Scientist entitled Bad Guys Really Do Get the Most Girls (Since this post was written, New Scientist only offers an excerpt from the article, unless you subscribe.) It was the first time I’d ever heard of the “dark triad” of personality traits, which includes narcissism.  Machiavellianism, another one of the traits, is anti-social personality disorder by another name. Think: The Bermuda Triangle in human form. And you don’t want to go there.

UPDATE: I just checked the link and the New Scientist, which is out of the UK, now only offers a snippet of the article for free. I subscribed to the New Scientist recently and have it delivered to this antiquated thing called my mailbox. I’ll have to see if I can locate the full article for readers. Jan

The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #3 July 19, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , ,
8 comments

mirror

In this series, I’m using a “search term” I’ve come across as a jumping off point for a discussion. (Please read my Close Encounter with a Narcissist series first, or it’s like walking in after the movie’s started. Shhhh!) Here goes.

“What Is Ideal Love to a Narcissist?”

The DSM IV lists nine behaviors that characterize Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).  At least five must be evident to make a diagnosis of NPD. Let’s look at the second behavior.

2.  Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

Just what is “ideal love?” to a Narcissist? I’m afraid, I have to use the F word to explain. No, not THAT word. To a Narcissist, the F word is fantasy.

Actually, I often think that Narcissists are obsessed not with “ideal love,” but with the “idea of love.”   Despite the common misconception that Narcissists are “in love” with themselves, they actually despise themselves and are incapable of feeling real love.

I’ve said before that what a Narcissist loves most is the chase. The Narcissist confuses the excitement of honing in on new Narcissistic Supply (NS) with the emotion we humans call “love.”  I’m afraid this Idealization Phase is as good as it gets.

So what happens when a Narcissist actually “catches” the object of his desire? When the ideal becomes real, you better be careful not to blink, or you might suffer emotional whiplash. Let me explain.

Outside the town where I grew up, there was a dog racing track. At the sound of the bell, a line of mechanical rabbits took off and the greyhounds chased them. If a dog ever caught the “rabbit,” its racing days were over. That’s because once the dog knew the rabbits were fake, it would no longer run after them.

What does this have to do with NPD?

Just like the dogs, when a Narcissist finally catches who he’s been pursuing, he quickly loses all interest. But here’s where it gets interesting. It’s not because what he’s been chasing is fake, but because it’s REAL.

Let’s face it, real relationships involve who’s cooking dinner (and doing the dishes), which bills should be paid (or go unpaid), root canals, and trips to the urologist. This is not the unique life the Narcissist envisioned. So what if he’s two hours late and didn’t call. Geez, you’re so demanding!  Reality can’t compete with a fantasy, so the Narcissist immediately begins chipping away at that pedestal he put you on. The D&D is underway.

Unlike those greyhounds, the Narcissist never learns. He truly believes he can run that race again and next time (or the next, or the next) things will turn out just the way he imagined. Yes, it’s sad, because we already know how the story will end – badly. But for those with NPD, it’s in their nature and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to change that.

The rest of us know that “ideal love” exists only in fairy tales. We’re happy to settle for real love.

Read The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #4.

Photo Credit: Jan Marshall

The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #2 July 12, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , ,
9 comments

mirror

In this series, I’m using a “search term” I’ve come across as a jumping  off point for a discussion. (Please read my Close Encounter with a  Narcissist series first, or it’s like walking in after the movie’s started.  Shhhh!) Here goes.

Will a Narcissist Ever Apologize?

For what?  You have to remember that a Narcissist is convinced he/she is always right and the problem lies with YOU.  When someone apologizes, it’s an admission of wrong doing, and Narcissists are NEVER wrong.

Okay, they might manage an insincere apology if it will placate someone who’s a higher up (to save their job), or someone they fear, but mere mortals need not apply.  Even when the Narcissist is clearly in the wrong, they are loathe to admit their culpability.  If they are caught red-handed, they will deny that they have hands, or tell you their hands are in fact orange, not red.

Case in point.  My friend “Joe” regaled me with stories about how he’d flown kites as a child in boarding school.  I happened to be reading The Kite Runner and, low and behold, there was a description about how the boys coated the kite string with broken glass, just as Joe had described.  Excited, I brought in my copy of The Kite Runner so he could read the passage.  “See, this was just like I was telling you,” he beamed.

A few weeks later,  I bought him a copy of the book and handed it to him. See if you can guess who’s talking.

“How much did this cost?”
“It’s a paperback.  What does it matter?”
“But, how much did it cost?”
“Fourteen dollars.”

End of conversation.

Four months later, I ran into Joe.  He said he noticed how I’d  “pulled away from him.”  Duh.  I reminded him that when I’d given him the book, he’d never bothered to say thank you.  Again, see if you can tell who’s talking.

“I’m sure I said thank you.”
“No, you never said thank you.”
“I find that impossible to believe.  When someone gives me a gift, I always say thank you.”
“Well, you never said thank you.”

End of conversation.

If you’ve been close to someone with NPD, you have your own variation of this story.  If it’s any consolation, you’re not crazy.  They are. Thank you. I’m sorry.  Who would have know how hard it was to say two words.

Read The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #3.

The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #1 April 18, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , ,
101 comments

mirror2

I never could have imagined that so many people would read my 3-part series Close Encounter with a Narcissist. Or imagined how many people would leave comments detailing their own often heart-wrenching “close encounters.”

When I check my blog stats (something us bloggers obsessively do), I like to check the “search engine terms” people typed in before they were electronically dropped off at my blog’s doorstep.

In this new series, The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism, I’ll use a “search term” I’ve come across as a jumping off point for a discussion. (Please read the Close Encounter with a Narcissist series first, or it’s like walking in after the movie’s started. Shhhh!)  Here goes.

“Will a narcissist ever idealize you again?”

A close friend, who also had a friendship with a man with NPD, wrote eloquently about the idealization phase and gave me permission to share her thoughts. The following is an excerpt (with identifying details omitted).

“During the initial idealization phase, the Narcissist shines a laser beam of attention on us. We blossom in its unusual warmth. Most people don’t pay that kind of attention to us. We find we like it, need it, maybe even deserve it.

Then when the Narcissist realizes we actually like them, they think we must be worthless, because they themselves feel worthless inside and unlikeable. The beam of light shuts off. Then they shoot a death ray to ward us away. They don’t want an emotional relationship. It’s a tug of war between them needing attention and not wanting any emotional involvement, until we’re smart enough to let go of the rope. (How’s that for a mixed metaphor?)

Narcissists just seem to be much better at the initial burst of showering attention. And most people are starved for some kind of acknowledgement. I know I was. When I met “William,” he acted as if I was the greatest thing at first. And he was certainly a busy, interesting person. Yes, I was smitten. Yet, when I look back we never really even had conversations. After our initial meeting, they were mostly combat. Abuser/user.

You know what they say about alcohol and alcoholics. The first drink is the best high, and you spend the rest of your life chasing it, but it’s never the same. Later, all you get is sick. But you keep hoping, you’ll have that nice warm feeling again. But alcohol doesn’t care about you! Now, though, when I see him, I don’t feel anything, but I do remember how I used to feel.”

Sound familiar? When I first read it, I couldn’t help but say, “Yes!”  The Idealization phase is just that – a phase, and there’s no real way to extend it, unless you go into serious game-playing mode, renounce your humanity, and just play hard to get. It’s the chase that excites the Narcissist. But that’s not a relationship – that’s high school! So once you show genuine interest in a Narcissist, the exit sign quickly comes into view.

There’s no way around this. This is a script with a beginning (Idealization), a middle (Devaluation), and an end (Discard). I do think that people in long-term relationships with Narcissists (and so many who’ve written comments were married 25-35 years), live in a perpetual Twilight Zone of D&D. Even though they are not “physically” discarded, they are “emotionally” discarded early on. How can they get back into the Narcissist’s good graces? It’s simple. They can’t.

But what if…?  Those who’ve had a short-term “close encounter” often believe it’s possible to recapture that “magic.”  To call for a “do-over” – this time with a different result. What they don’t understand is that all magic is about illusion. Smoke and mirrors, as in it’s all an act. Any contact with the Narcissist after the initial D&D is just a sequel to the original show. And how many sequels to you know that are better than the original (The Godfather excluded)?

Think of the NS (Narcissistic Supply) a Narcissist derives from a victim, who repeatedly returns for more. Inside, the Narcissist feels worthless and unlovable, so he/she views any person who continues to be drawn to him/her as inferior, or to put it bluntly – a loser. All the more reason to kick that person to the curb – yet again. Elisse Stuart wrote about this in “Narcissistic Curtain Calls.”  A Narcissist might reel you back in one more time, not because they idealize you or miss you, but just to prove to themselves they can. Then the D&D begins anew. It’s the sinister human equivalent to the fisherman’s catch and release.

So the answer to the question, “Will a narcissist ever idealize you again?” is NO. I reached this conclusion in my head, long before I reached it in my heart. It’s an emotional tug of war, and you can only win when you let go of the rope.

Read The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #2

Photo Credit:  Jan Marshall

Can a Narcissist be Cured? February 19, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
13 comments
believe1

This is the poster that hung in Agent Fox Mulder's X-Files office.

When I first started researching Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), I goggled “flirtation,” as my narcissistic friend “Joe” was a chronic flirt. It was actually embarrassing to be with him when he was in “turn on the charm” mode. Think: Small boy showing off in front of his mother’s friends. Yeah, it was THAT bad.

I stumbled upon A long post about flirtation, validation, and conversion on Hugo Schwyzer’s blog. Hugo, a professor at Pasadena City College, is a prolific blogger (219 posts on blogging alone!)

Over my Winter Break (the holiday formerly known as Christmas Vacation), I was on Facebook wasting some quality time. I noticed that one of my friends had commented on a photo Hugo Schwyzer had posted. I recognized his name and sure enough, I still had his post bookmarked. I sent him a message via Facebook telling him how I enjoyed his writing along with a link to my Close Encounter with a Narcissist.

No reply from Hugo, but several days later I noticed an incoming link from his blog. Not only had Hugo read Close Encounter with a Narcissist, but he had written an entire post in response to it.

What I didn’t know was that Hugo had been repeatedly diagnosed with a Cluster B Personality Disorder (Borderline was always the default diagnosis) starting in college. He has written numerous posts about his self-destructive behavior, suicide attempts, voluntary hospitalizations, and three marriages (followed by three divorces) – all before he hit the big 3-5. (You’ll find these under “Addictions and Mental Illness” and “Narcissism and Borderline Personality.”) Hugo is a prolific writer. He writes with intelligence and insight and has plumbed every detail of his life ad nauseam.  Whether you agree with Hugo or not, it’s always an interesting read.

In his post “Turning down the volume on KHGO”: Reflections on overcoming a personality disorder, Hugo urged his readers “to read all three of my excellent pieces,” but took issue with this statement I made (a mishmash of many other’s quotes): “So someone doesn’t have a personality disorder, they ARE the personality disorder. These personality traits are so deeply ingrained that they defy change.”

Hugo goes to great lengths to detail how far he’s come since he got clean and sober, and found God. If he were an attorney, I might be tempted to say he presents a strong case for the defense. His own.  He believes it’s possible for someone with a personality disorder to change –  if they really want to, and offers himself as proof. Yet even Hugo acknowledges that it’s an ongoing struggle – making him a work in progress.

Here’s the comment I wrote in response to his post.

I found your post interesting and have taken several days to “sit on it.” Yes, I’ve had numerous visitors to my blog planetjan. (Hugo sent me!) Thank you very much.

It’s ironic that your name and picture popped up on Facebook through a mutual friend. I recognized your name. Sure enough, I still had your post on flirtation bookmarked from two years ago, when I was first researching NPD.

I hadn’t read any of your other posts about your hospitalizations and diagnoses, but now I have. I appreciate your honesty and candor as one of my sons has OCD and also spent a stint as a minor at Las Encinas due to drug-related problems. I had to laugh when you described how cute the nurses thought it was that you wore duck slippers, as that sounds so much like my son.

Though you obviously have narcissistic tendencies (but on some days, so do I), ultimately you don’t seem grandiose (in the clinical sense), which is what distinguishes NPD from the other Cluster B disorders. Sam Vaknin, himself a narcissist, said that “self-reflection is the antonym of narcissism.”

Narcissists, as a rule, are not self-destructive, and none I know have ever shown self-destructive tendencies (other than substance abuse). None have sought help from a therapist (unless they were literally dragged there by a significant other) as they were convinced they didn’t have a problem. I tend to agree with Emily’s comment above. My friends in 12-step programs are quick to point out that they are always “recovering,” as opposed to “cured.”

So, from my own (albeit limited) experience, I’d give you a clean bill of health when it comes to NPD. Narcissism, though, is like a ground fog that swirls about ALL of the Cluster B disorders.

Your relentless introspection runs contrary to this diagnosis. BTW, your sponsor sounds like a wise and very patient man. I imagine when you did Step 10 – “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it,” you took it to the nth degree! I say this with all due sincerity.  Jan

I want to believe. No, make that I wanted to believe. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to believe it WAS possible for Joe to change, especially once I’d seen beneath the mask. I felt his pain, yet any attempt to go “there” with Joe was an exercise in futility. Despite the countless seminars he attended so he could learn to “relate” to women and deal with his “boundary issues,” it all came down to this – he was going through the motions. Nothing every changed for Joe. Nothing ever will. I take no joy in saying this.

My concern is for the Narcissist’s victims who tell themselves, “If I just try harder to communicate my feelings, or bend over backwards, or walk on water, I know he/she will finally ‘get it.'”  They want to believe. They want to believe they can help the Narcissist actually feel something. Something real.

People have asked Sam Vaknin, the author of Malignant Self-Love – Narcissism Revisited, if having insight into his own narcissism has enabled him to change for the better. Sam’s answer is a resounding NO. Sure, he can change on a superficial level if it so suits him, but not at a deeper level. Not in his heart. But doesn’t Sam’s willingness to share his knowledge about Narcissistic Personality Disorder prove that he possesses that ever elusive quality the rest of us call “empathy?”  Sam pulls no punches. Being a poster-boy for NPD is a major source of Narcissistic Supply (NS). Period.  

I don’t believe for a minute that Hugo has NPD (Borderline maybe, but not NPD). Hugo’s relentless self-examination runs contrary to everything I’ve learned about Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  So, ergo Hugo. But I like to keep an open mind. Read Hugo’s posts and see what you think. The Truth is out there.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 337 other followers