The Dark Triad vs. The Dark Tetrad Personality February 12, 2014Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Dark Tetrad, Dark Triad, Internet Trolls, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD, Psychopathy, Sadism
I first wrote about the Dark Triad of personality traits in 2009 in Why Bad Guys Really Do Get the Most Girls. Unfortunately, the post, which was linked to New Scientist, has since been blocked so that only those with a subscription can view the article in its entirety. Sad face.
Today, I read an article on CNN about how Online Trolls are Internet Sadists. These are the people who write anonymous provocative comments online crafted to antagonize and upset, and they rate highly in Dark Tetrad personality characteristics. My first reaction was that someone needed to use Spellcheck. I’m familiar with The Dark Triad: Narcissism, Machivellianism, and psychopathy. These three traits together form an unchecked malignancy of the human core. But wait, there’s more! The missing, until now, red-headed stepchild is Sadism. And The Dark Triad + Sadism equals The Dark Tetrad. Shudder.
I urge you to read Everyday Sadism – Throwing Light on the Dark Triad, published by the Association for Psychological Science.
I’ve written mostly about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which I’ve often referred to as Baby Bear with Anti-Social Behavior being Mama Bear and Big Bad Daddy being Psychopathy. Both Sociopaths and Psychopaths show high levels of narcissism.
The Narcissist who darkened my door made several comments/gestures that in the light of day seem down right sadistic. I think we often think of narcissists as blundering bufoons who go through life like bulls in the china shop unaware of the effect they have on others? It’s like they don’t know any better? Or do they? Food for thought.
Image: This one goes WAY back to Mark, a blogger who went on to write for the blog, The Critical Thinker. He’s been off my radar for too long.
Narcissistic Game Playing – Part 2 January 6, 2014Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Afraid of Commitment., Games Narcissists Play, Ludic Love, Ludus, Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Serial Cheaters
Narcissistic Game Playing, which described the Ludic love style, has been one of the most read posts on my blog, as so many with Narcissistic Personality Disorder fall into this category. Last night I came across more information on the Ludus-style love that really resonated with me. Cue fanfare. And so I bring you Part 2! This information comes from a website I’ve tracked to a California Polytechnic State University site. I’ve recopied the description below from the site, which appears to be from a course syllabus/or readings. I could not find any attribution. The original is rife with marginal margins and some spelling errors that just HAD to go. Click cla.calpoly.edu to read about all six love styles. LUDUS (Self-centered Game Player) “The ideal constructed type of ludic lover is that of a person who “plays” love affairs as he or she plays games or puzzles – to win, to get the greatest rewards for the least cost. A ludic lover hates dependency, either in himself/herself or in others. This type shies away from commitment of any sort (does not like lovers to take him or her for granted). The ludic lover enjoys strategies, and may keep two or three or even four lovers “on the string” at one time. A ludic lover may even create a fictional lover to discourage a real one’s hopes for a permanent relationship. He or she avoids long range plans and is careful not to date the same person often enough to create the illusion of a stable relationship. A ludic lover would rather find a new sex partner than to work out sexual problems with an old one. And yet, he or she may suddenly show up for a replay, even years later, with birthday flowers, a bottle of a favorite wine, a sentimental Valentine, or a record of a favorite song, and vanish just as suddenly. A ludic lover usually enjoys love affairs, and hence rarely regrets them unless the threat of commitment of dependency becomes too great. Dates with a ludic person are never dull, even though they may not happen with great regularity. He or she is never possessive or jealous. The ludic lover usually has good self concept, and usually is assured of current success in love as well as most other areas. Unlike a pragmatic lover, a ludic lover never reveals all of himself or herself or demands such revelation by partners. Ludic lovers are not likely to be very sophisticated sexually. As a rule, they have only one sexual routine; if the sex partner is not pleased by the ludic lover’s sexual pattern, then the ludic one simply finds another partner rather than attempting to improve an unsatisfying relationship. If she does not like his sexual behavior, the ludic man moves on to someone who does; if he does not get an erection or bring her to orgasm on his own (with no help from her), the ludic woman looks for a man who will. Sex is self-centered and may be exploitative rather than symbolic of a relationship. A ludic lover does not listen to (or take time for) feedback that suggests commitment, which is “scary.” A ludic lover may not even want to be his or her partner’s best sex partner because that might necessitate commitment or dependency that would be “awful.” Physical appearance of the partner is less important than other qualities, such as self-sufficiency and lack of demanding behavior to ludic persons.” This description SO nails the Narcissist who darkened my door. Even though “Joe” was a Cerebral Narcissist, he had many women in play (“my girlfriends”) but always kept them at arm’s length. I observed this first hand and it all had a “wheeling and dealing” aspect to it that he enjoyed enormously. Half the time, he couldn’t remember who he’d told what. But then a narcissist can deny he/she ever said anything. And yes, several friends who’ve recovered from their Close Encounter with a Narcissist reported that the N reappeared out of nowhere via a Christmas email. Holiday trolling is common as the N wants to see if he can drop a line and still get a bite. What was funny was that one N sent out a Christmas email and neglected to hide the names of all the women he was sending it to! Ouch! Image Credit: “Mind Games” clipart from Discoveryeducation.com
I, Narcissist Slayer January 3, 2014Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Narcissist Slayer Award, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD
Thank you CZBZ at the Narcissistic Continuum for conferring on me the title of Narcissist Slayer. That definitely looks like me on a good hair day. And what’s that I’m holding – my award or a rocket launcher? I’ll be eagerly awaiting the arrival of my sword. What? No sword included? Can you tell I’m eagerly awaiting the return of Game of Thrones?
I imagine meeting up with the other slayers to share a bracing adult beverage before returning to wield our pens in the fight against this nefarious personality disorder and debunking the myths that surround it.
As is the case with these blogger awards, there are guidelines, or as we say in third grade, multiple-step directions. These are:
1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them
2. Put the award’s logo on your blog
3. Write a blog post and share the blog(s) you have chosen. There are no minimum or maximum number of blogs required.
4. Inform nominees on their site
5. Share one positive thing you took away from your relationship with a narcissist.
First things first. Neither of my parents were narcissists. When I first saw a therapist (himself the adult child of a narcissist), that’s the first thing he asked me. He explained this was because only those who’d been conditioned since childhood could/would put up with narcissistic abuse over the long run. For me, it was all of four months until the D&D – not a long period in the grand scheme of things. But the damage done to my psyche was devastating. So if I wasn’t conditioned by my childhood, what was it that drew me to the flame, even once those red flags were waving?
Looking back, it was the fantasy and belief that this person who was alternately flirting/hurting me could be helped. He needed me. Now that seems narcissistic just to write that, but it’s true. Some have described narcissists as “puppies with rabies.” I’m a dog person and had to be bitten repeatedly to get the message. I learned that ultimately, the only person we can fix is ourself/or how we respond to those events that swirl around us which we call life.
Finally, the best thing of all is that by sharing my own Close Encounter with a Narcissist on my blog (which was very scary at first – I’ve been had!), I’ve met so many amazing people, both women and men, who were looking for information. Their comments, insights, and friendship mean the world to me – and that includes you CZ.
Comments Welcome August 6, 2013Posted by alwaysjan in Blogging, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Uncategorized.
Tags: Blogging, Comment Policy, Comments, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD
I just noticed that I have over 2,000 comments in response to 219 blog posts. It’s no secret that the majority of comments are in response to my writing about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Eliminating cursive writing from the curriculum doesn’t generate the emotional response as having discovered the person you thought you were in love with isn’t capable of love.
So, in honor of all of those who’ve shared their stories of the turmoil wrought by a close encounter with a narcissist, I thought it was worth commenting about comments. Your comments.
I’m a teacher by trade, not a therapist. I provide a listening ear. I’m a survivor. And ultimately, I’m an optimist. Sound good? You’ve come to the right place.
It’s interesting because in the summer of 2012, we had quite a lively discussion going on between commenters. I was on vacation and was so impressed with how everyone was so thoughtful in their responses and kind to one another. I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t even needed! However, when someone said, “Wow! This is a great forum!” I winced. I don’t need nor want the responsibility of monitoring a forum.
That said, I have a lot of people who stop by regularly to let people know how they’re doing. Or to offer solace and a pat on the back to someone else who’s still reeling from their involvement with a narcissist. Some of these people go back to Year 1 of my blog. They’re like old familiar friends and I’m amazed at how wise they’ve become. I’ve watched them work through the “What ifs” and WTFs and move on with their lives. This brings me joy.
I always try to respond to NPD-related comments within 24 hours. I remember how horrible I felt when I realized who/what I was dealing with. I’d been “had” and who would believe me?
But, here’s the deal. I hit the Edit button and write my comment on the bottom of the actual comment in italics. I do this because I don’t want to see my face appearing in the sidebar over and over again. The downside of this is when people sign up to Follow Comments, they don’t receive a notification that I’ve replied. They won’t receive a notification until another person comments on that post.
FYI: I must approve everyone’s first comment. Once that’s done, future comments are posted automatically, but I receive a notification. Just in case. Only twice have I had to delete that first comment to block a flurry of rants that followed. I don’t like rants. Rants make my stomach churn. After a long day at school spent with 30 third graders, I don’t have much patience for adults who behave like bratty children.
When someone comments, I can see their email address. Maybe half a dozen times when someone was in severe distress, I emailed them to let them know I’d responded to their comment. I also eliminate most people’s last names from their comment. Just in case.
And yes, there are a few readers who I’ve allowed to contact me “off blog.” It’s amazing how most people’s writing voice so echoes their real one. So it was no great surprise that when I met up with Lesley, my most prolific commenter, in Scotland last month, she was just as warm and clever and wise as she was “on blog.” I also talked to Phil while in the UK and his sardonic wit was spot on as well. It’s funny, because we have so much more to talk about than NPD now. Life has a strange way of moving on. Believe it or not, but you will not always feel like this experience is consuming/has consumed you. The future awaits.
Readers can usually learn more from the comments than they can from reading my posts. So read up. And thank you for commenting!
Typeface for Comments is BigHouse.
Tags: Emotionally Abusive Relationships, Health, Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD, Warning People about Narcissists
I’m afraid I’ve been hunkered down in the trenches at school, so it’s been a while since I’ve posted. But, this week a discussion started up about the wisdom of telling a friend that they’re married to a narcissist.
Some of my regular commenters dished up a serving of humble pie and some things to consider before you speak the truth. As someone who’s been known to put both feet in my mouth, I can appreciate their reluctance to say yah or nay before you take this very big step.
When someone is involved with any emotional abuser (whether he/she be a narcissist or not), especially during the Idealization Phase, that adrenaline rush, the feeling that this person is The One, my soulmate, is overpowering. There can be a zillion Red Flags a flyin’, but the person will just put on their rose-tinted glasses, so those Red Flags fade into the background. Any mention of the N’s faults or quirky/odd behaviors will usually be explained away. The person “in love” with the N is telling you what they’ve been told. They want so badly to believe this is real. Even if the situation is clearly dodgy, they’re often convinced that contrary to all that’s happened before, they are the exception to the rule. Their love will cure all. If only.
One commenter last year had a neighbor whose husband fit the bill. There were children involved and she knew this woman’s life was miserable. But what to do? Talk to her face to face? Leave an article about narcissism in her mailbox?
Let’s face it. Most of us don’t appreciate unsolicited advice, no matter how well intended. Even when someone is telling us the truth, our natural inclination is to become defensive. We perceive the advice as a judgement, an intrusion. How dare someone presume to tell us what’s going on in OUR life! And what do you know about this disorder? Since when are you an authority? I think you might actually be the one with the problem!
I do believe in many cases the person you’re telling already knows that the person they are with is damaged. Something is amiss. But they’ve been living in denial, often because they can think of no alternative or are reliving a dysfunctional childhood dynamic. It might be ugly, but it’s familiar.
So, let’s say you DO tell someone they’ve been sharing their bed with a no-good narcissist. If you think their eyes are going to light up and they’ll say, “OMG, that’s it! That explains so much. Thank you for figuring out what’s wrong with my life. Now, I’m off to call a divorce attorney. Can you watch the kids while I start packing?,” I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.
More likely than not, you’ll be told to mind your own business.”You know your life isn’t so perfect either?” You can expect to be shut out of this person’s life altogether. More likely, they’ll shoot the messenger and bury you in a shallow grave after they delete you as a facebook friend.
Maybe though, you’ve planted a seed? Maybe after your friend/neighbor calms down, they’ll google narcissism? Maybe. But don’t count on it.
I wouldn’t have the same trepidation telling someone new on the scene that a certain someone is bad news. Of course, it helps if you don’t appear to be speaking as the jilted ex. I believe if you speak from a place of honesty and wisdom, it is possible to “warn” someone. Whether that warning will be heeded is anyone’s guess, but at least you tried.
On some level, I believe those who’ve had a Close Encounter with a Narcissist want to spare others the pain. Sometimes it’s for selfish reasons. We really are afraid that the Narcissist will find happiness with someone else, but of course, this is only an illusion. We’ve seen through the Narcissist’s bag of tricks and want to expose them for who they really are/aren’t. I realize it’s natural to want to warn others, but at the same time you want to avoid looking like the crazy one. It’s a fine line to walk.
If you see a child playing on the train tracks and the headlights of an oncoming train, do you hesitate? In this instance, I do think we have a moral obligation to speak the truth as we know it. The results might not be what we expected, but we at least we were true to ourselves.
If you’re reading this, I’m curious as to whether anyone DID say anything to you. If not, what could someone have said that might have helped? Or maybe nothing anyone said could have changed the course of what was to come next. You had to learn the hard way.
Do Narcissists Know They are Narcissists? November 11, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD, Relationships, Self-Aware Narcissists, The Scorpion and the Frog
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.
The Psychopath Test – Pass or Fail? September 16, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Book Review, Jon Ronson, Lack of Empathy, Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Robert Hare, Superficial Charm, The Psychopath Test
Okay, I’ll tell you straight off that my personal book shopper told me this book was “all over the place” when she handed it to me on the playground. I tucked it under a stack of fliers to send home, so as not to appear callous and indifferent to my young charges.
The last book she slipped me was Taft 2012, a rolicking fun read. Most of the books she slips me are a bit “off the beam” as my Scottish friend Lesley would say. Author Jon Ronson also wrote The Men Who Stare at Goats, which was made into a movie starring George Clooney. I was disappointed with the movie as I expected way more footage of adorable goats. Alas.
The subtitle of The Psychopath Test is “A Journey Through the Madness Industry.” The quote on the front from The New York Times Book Review calls it, “Engagingly Irreverent.” That’s something I’d like to have on my tombstone only I plan to be scattered. Alas.
The premise of the book is….well, that’s where it all gets a bit complicated.
Here goes. Ronson meets Tony who feigned insanity to avoid prison and ended up at Broadmoor in the UK. Tony has found it’s much harder to get out of the nuthouse than the Big House.
Trying to root out whether Tony is in fact a psychopath, Ronson finds himself meeting with those psychology-hating Scientologists. I admit to a certain bias here as the Church of Scientology bought an entire building where my favorite restaurant used to be and promptly evicted all the tenants. No, me/and he thinks these are strange people indeed though I perked up when I read that L. Ron Hubbard loved Coca-cola.
Armed with Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist, or PCL-R, which was designed by Candadian psychologist Robert Hare, Ronson sets out to meet famous and notorious personages to see if they meet the criteria. Here a check, there a check….you get the picture.
Along the way he meets some incredibly charming and predatory people. We also learn how the DSM-3 walked out of the primordial soup as a 30-something page booklet that evolved into the 943-page bible for the American Psychiatric Association. At the onset, Ronson cracks open the DSM-IV and promptly diagnoses himself with 12 different mental disorders.
We learn how Big Pharma has an interest in new diagnoses as there’s certainly got to be a pill to swallow for THAT disorder. (No surprise there.) And many of those people at the top of the food chain are indeed psychopaths. (Ditto.)
While Ronson did attend one of Robert Hare’s seminars and interviewed him, he’s inserted Hare as an ongoing character throughout the book and I have to admit I wondered how much of this actually happened. I do have a link to Robert Hare’s Site on Psychopathy (Without Conscience) on my blog and sure enough, “Bob” Hare, as Ronson refers to him, offers a disclaimer to the book “On Ronson.”
A book reviewer on Amazon thought the book had all the makings, but…. Oh, here’s a link to The Most Helpful Positive Review and The Most Helpful Negative Review of the book.
After reading the book, this was one thing that stuck in my mind. Two researchers in the early 1990s undertook a detailed study of the long-term recidivism rates of psychopaths who’d been through a program at Oak Ridge run by Elliot Barker in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It involved a hefty dose of LSD and a lot of hugging it out to learn empathy, something both psychopaths and narcissists lack. Barker’s program was viewed by many as proof that psychopaths can indeed change and develop empathy. Some were released.
Now in regular circumstances, 60 percent of incarcerated psychopaths released into the outside world go on to reoffend. So what did the researchers find about those psychopaths who’d been through Barker’s program and “learned” empathy? A whopping 80 percent went on to reoffend. Ultimately, the psychopaths only became better at feigning empathy/not learning it.
It’s a cautionary tale for those who think that anyone lacking empathy, whether they be a psychopath or a narcissist, can truly change. But those who’ve had A Close Encounter with a Narcissist already know this.
“Both terrifying and hilarious.” – O, The Oprah Magazine
Narcissists Are Mad Men – Episode 3 September 3, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Idealization Phase, Mad Men, Men who love the chase, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Primary Narcissistic Supply, Relationships, Secondary Narcissistic Supply, Somatic Narcissists, What is Narcissistic Supply?
I’m not a diehard Mad Men fan, but when I ran across a copy of Sterling’s Gold – Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Man, my 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, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Baggage Reclaim, Book Review, Ex thinks he can walk back into my life, Fear of commitment, Mr. Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Relationships, Self-help books
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, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Gut Feelings, Idealization Phase, Lesley Lokko, Listening to your Gut, Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Red Flags, Relationships, You Magazine in The Mail
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, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Lack of Empathy, Mad Men, Narcissism, Narcissist, Narcissist's lack of empathy, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD, Relationships, Roger Sterling, Sterling's Gold
I’m not a diehard Mad Men fan, but when I ran across a copy of Sterling’s Gold – Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Man, my 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.”
When Bloggers Die – A Belated Thank You July 10, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Blogging, Halycon, Joanna Asmun, Joanna M. Ashmun, Kathy Krajo, NPD, Operation Doubles, When Bloggers Die
Teachers are frequently reminded that we DO Make a Difference (and I’ve got the mugs to prove it!). But as I write this, it’s not teachers I have in mind. Summer is my time to get organized. I was recently updating links on my blog and going through the myriad of websites I’ve bookmarked over the last five years in reference to Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
I’ve referred so many of my readers to Halcyon. So I was surprised to revisit the site and find that a page had been added in 2011 informing readers that its creator, Joanna M. Ashmun, died in 2009. How could I not have known? Halycon is written with style, heart, and professionalism. Joanna’s website (with footnotes, no less!) is so carefully researched that it’s hard to believe she is/was not a mental health professional.
Then I came across another blog I’d bookmarked, Operation Doubles, which I also found extremely helpful back when I was reeling from my close encounter with a narcissist. It was written by a Kathy Krajo, a professional tennis instructor and editor. When I pressed the link, I was referred to The Path Whisperer where I learned that Kathy died in 2008. Say it ain’t so.
While Joanna’s site Halycon still stands and a Facebook memorial site has been set up, Kathy’s blogs have been reprinted on a variety of other sites including Sanctuary for the Abused. Both Joanna and Kathy were civilians in the trenches – people who’d encountered more than their share of narcissists and felt a need to inform and warn the rest of us.
I just want to say kudos to two women who illuminated those dark corners of this disorder with their writing. They helped countless people (myself included) and showed how one doesn’t have to have a bunch of letters after one’s name to write coherently and oh so bravely about a subject that was rarely discussed even five years ago. I knew neither woman personally, but through their writing, I felt like I did.
Although I said this wasn’t about teachers, ultimately, that’s what both Joanna and Kathy were – teachers. They shared their experiences and observations so that the rest of us could learn from them. I’m deeply indebted to them. Their legacy is lasting.
Photo Credit: Leadsmall.org
Narcissists Are Mad Men – Episode 1 July 6, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Can a Narcissist Love?, Don Draper, Mad Men, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Narcissists, Narcissists and Other Women, NPD, Personality Disorders, Relationships, Roger Sterling, Sterling's Gold, Will the Narcissist Find Happiness
I’m not a diehard Mad Men fan, but when I ran across a copy of Sterling’s Gold – Wit & Wisdom of an Ad Man, my 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
Ted Bundy’s Third Grade Teacher May 17, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Teaching.
Tags: 9-year-olds as Psychopaths, Conduct Disorder, Eddie Haskell, Education, Leave it to Beaver, Mental Health, Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, New Scientist, NPD, ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Psychopathing Children, Psychopaths, Psychopathy, Robert Hare, Teaching, Ted Bundy, The Bad Seed
I don’t know who Ted Bundy‘s teacher was, but I can’t help but wonder if she (sorry, but the majority of elementary teachers do have that XX chromosome thing going), noticed anything off about young Ted? Serial killers may take a while to reach their full potential (ouch!), but from those who’ve been studied, it’s clear that there was something off early on. Perhaps the class hamster met an untimely death? Or maybe, like so many psychopaths, Ted skated by on superficial charm. Think Eddie Haskell from Leave It to Beaver.
‘Wally’ Cleaver: [at the bottom of the staircase, calling out to his mother upstairs] Hey, Mom!
June Cleaver: Yes, Wally.
‘Wally’ Cleaver: Could Eddie spend the night here?
June Cleaver: Not while your father’s away.
‘Eddie’ Haskell: [dejected] Boy. Everybody around here is wise to me. I might just have to move to a new town and start all over.
Historically, the Big Three predictors of aberrant behavior are bed wetting, cruelty to animals, and fire starting. Personally, I’d add laughing when other children are hurt and inappropriate remarks showing callowness and a lack of empathy. Yet while most people associate psychopaths with serial killers, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Feb 19, 2011 issue of New Scientist, a crackerjack science magazine, featured an interview with Kent Keihl, whose studied the origin in the brain of psychopathic behavior. Kent also grew up down the street from Ted Bundy which only stoked his interest in how two people in the same zip code take such different trajectories in life.
I couldn’t help but fixate on his comment, “There are probably many psychopaths out there who are not necessarily violent, but are leading very disruptive lives in the sense that they are getting involved in shady business deals, moving from job to job, or relationship to relationship, always using resources everywhere they go but never contributing. Such people inevitably leave a path of confusion, and often destruction behind them. ” (Bold face mine.)
Robert Hare, the Godfather of Psychopathy, wrote Sharks in Suits detailing how psychopaths have been able to thrive on Wall Street and as CEOs. Think Bernie Madoff and the path of destruction he left behind. And he didn’t even need duct tape!
I found Can You Call a 9 Year Old a Psychopath? featured last Sunday in The New York Times Magazine to be a fascinating read. The Huffington Post did a follow-up piece 9-Year-Old Psychopaths – Dr. Alan Ravitz on How to Diagnose Children as Psychopaths.
Okay, I teach 9-year-olds. Have I had any students who I thought were psychopaths? I can think of one, maybe two. But only time will tell. As teachers, we’re forever hopeful that we can make a difference. But still, I document everything so when America’s Most Wanted comes knocking, I’m ready.
The thinking has always been that it is irresponsible to diagnose/label a developing child as a psychopath. So children exhibiting symptoms that would be considered psychopathic traits in the adult population are diagnosed instead with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), or with Conduct Disorder (CD). Rhoda, the character from the cult movie The Bad Seed , probably would have had CD. While not all of those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are psychopaths, all psychopaths have strong narcissistic traits. But this does not factor in as children are inherently narcissistic, so narcissism is a given. Bottom Line – Psychopathy, Anti-Social Personality (Sociopathy) and Narcissism are like close kin all dancing around that same May Pole of Lack of Empathy.
Some children diagnosed with these disorders eventually “grow out of them” and become functioning adults. The psychiatric community has always erred on the side of caution, as there’s much we don’t know about the developing human brain and/or the genetic predisposition for psychopathy. It’s the old nature vs. nurture, or possibly a N&N cocktail of circumstances. Just like drinking, you can’t become a psychopath until you’re 18.
That said, I’ve got stories. I’ve had students whose parents thought I was the teacher who could turn their child around. And I tried mightly – but the Mississippi flows south. I have a friend who carries a mug that says Miracle Worker, but as teachers, we can only do so much. We’d all like to think that we can be The One who makes a difference, but more often than not the die is cast. I take no joy in saying this.
When I tell people I teach third grade, their response is often, “Oh, they’s so cute at that age. They don’t have all the problems that come with older kids.” What rock have they been hiding under? We have students who have had IEPs (Individual Education Plans) since Kindergarten to deal with a variety of emotional issues (frequently a result of abuse), but sometimes not.
I’ve had students who laughed when another child was hurt (and not the nervous laugh), or go out of their way to inflict physical or emotional pain on their peers. I’ve also had students who were bald faced liars and master manipulators – at 7 years of age. I even had a student who so terrified his babysitter that he made her pay him $5 day to go to school! And I’ve had parents in denial while others were at wit’s end as to how to deal with their child’s behavior.
I’ve seen some scary s*it, so I remain vigilant – and I document everything. I’ve also never had a class hamster – just in case.
The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #6 April 7, 2012Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Idealization Phase, Narcissism, Narcissist in Job Interviews, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Red Flags, Relationships, Why do I miss Narcissist?
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 Finds, illuminates 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?
DSM-5 To Keep NPD Alive July 25, 2011Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Diagnosis of NPD, DSM-5, DSM-V, Narcissism, Narcissism in DSM-5, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Narcissists, NPD, Personality Disorders, Proposed changes to DSM-5
In the latest draft of the DSM-5 (due out in 2013) Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is back!
I’ve written extensively about the American Psychiatric Association’s original proposal to scrap four personality disorders, the most important, at least in my universe, being NPD. But so much has happened! To catch up with the back story, you can read DSM-IV to Ignore Narcissists? Part 3 which includes links to earlier posts.
Those wacky folks at the APA, who like to root around in other people’s psyches often looking for their mother, evidently poured over comments submitted by the public and saw the writing on the wall. (Okay, they saw it backwards because it was reflected by a mirror.) The people have spoken.
To view the latest draft of the DSM-5 (Yes, they did finally ditch those Roman numerals), click HERE. (Updated June 21, 2011.) Make sure you click on the DSM-IV link on top to see what the soon-to-be OLD diagnostic criteria for NPD was so you can compare the two. Special thanks to Hermite for alerting me to these changes. :)
FYI: The first attempt to classify mental disorders in the U.S. was to collect statistical information. According to Wikipedia, this data was collected in the 1840 census which used a single category, “idiocy/insanity.” Those who’ve had a Close Encounter with a Narcissist should be familiar with both of these due to their crazy making behavior. Enjoy.
Psychology Today on Narcissism – 33 Years Ago June 13, 2011Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Tags: Can a narcissist change? Narcissism in women, Can a narcissist love? Narcissists and sexual promiscuity, Causes of narcissism, Female narcissists, Linda Wolfe, Narcissism, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, NPD, Otto Kernberg, Psychology Today, Relationships
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
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.