jump to navigation

DSM-5 To Keep NPD Alive July 25, 2011

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

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, 2011

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



DSM-5 to Ignore Narcissists? December 15, 2010

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

A while back I heard that Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) was to be eliminated from the updated version of the DSM-V due out in 2013.  I winced but have been in wait-and-see mode.  As I’ve said before, narcissism is the ground fog that swells around all Cluster B (The Drama Club) personality disorders, but does it deserve its own “disorder?”

I once described NPD as Baby Bear with Anti-Social Disorder (the disorder formerly referred to as sociopathy) as Mama Bear and Psychopathy as Big Bad Daddy Bear.  But if you’ve read The Sociopath Next Door,  you know that the majority of those who have the disorders that comprise the parental unit do not become criminals.  They don’t kill people – at least not like Dexter does with his “kill kit.”  They kill people’s spirits silently and methodically. They lack empathy and exhibit strong narcissistic traits. They are unable to connect emotionally with others who exist on the outer reaches of their universe.

I think Dr. Tara at Shrink4Men has written a slam dunk post on the proposed changes entitled Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Histronic Personality Disorder to be Eliminated in the DSM-V: Starbucks Diagnostics 101. There’s a link to the  New York Times article A Fate that Narcissists will Hate; Being Ignored.

In keeping with Dr. Tara’s Starbucks analogy, it looks like those formerly diagnosed as NPD will become a Antisocial/Psychopathic non-empathy latte with 1-3 pumps of Narcissism. This is a must read. 




Who’s Your Daddy? Dexter! September 30, 2010

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

My husband, a hopeless romantic, surprised me with this shirt

The only thing that’s gotten me through the the first two weeks of the new school year was knowing that the fifth season of Dexter was premiering Sept. 27th. I first wrote about my fixation on this show in Why I Love Dexter.

I, for one, loved watching Dexter balance his new role last season as a doting daddy with being a serial killer. Nothing like a sleepless night to throw you off your game. But from everything I’ve read about psychopaths (and I’ve read way more than you’d ever want to), the one false note of last season was how Dexter’s becoming a daddy made him think twice about putting someone on ice. Dexter, himself, said that being a better killer made him a better father. Go figure.

In the Season 5 premiere, Dexter can’t even conjure up any fake tears for his dearly departed Rita. “I got some mouse ears,” he says, matter-of-factly. Yeah, that’s as good as it gets. It should be interesting to see how the writers handle Dexter’s parenting of his stepchildren Aster and Cody, and son Harrison this season. I’m afraid they’re taking some artistic license so as not to make Dexter too dark and despicable. He is, after all, America’s favorite serial killer, so the audience needs to be rooting for him. But what’s it really like to have a psychopath for a parent?

Psychopaths have strong narcissistic streak. It’s all about them. Just like those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), they view their children as extensions of themselves – things to be manipulated. The parent projects their “ideal self” onto them, so the child has to follow “the script,” or they’ll anger their parent. Yet, no matter what they do, it will NEVER be enough to earn the love of the parent with NPD. Many children spend their entire lives trying to get in their parent’s good graces, or just to get their parents to notice them, not realizing that this is impossible.

Last season, Dexter’s nemesis, the genial Arthur Mitchell (aka the Trinity killer), appears on the surface to be the consummate family man. It is only as the season progresses, that cracks appear in the carefully crafted image that Arthur has created, and Dexter can see how Arthur’s wife and children live in mortal fear of his rage. The majority of psychopaths are not serial killers or even physically violent. They kill the spirit of those near and dear through their callousness.

I have several friends and relatives who have children with narcissistic spouses. After coming to terms with the disorder themselves, they’re often at a loss as to what to do when sharing joint custody of a child. How do you prop up a child’s fragile self esteem when the other parent views the child as an extension of themselves, and/or delights in cutting the child down? One friend said she can only hope to give her son the skills to cope with his father’s taunts and criticism. He’s three years old.

If you think back to Dexter’s attempts to play Daddy, he mimics cultural stereotypes to play the part. When he asks,”Who wants pancakes?” it sounds more like a TV commercial. That’s because Dexter, like all psychopaths, is merely playing a part. In this case, he’s playing the part of TV dad.

The following comment was received from EMZ on my Close Encounter with a Narcissist series. She grew up with a narcissistic father and I think her experience is fairly typical.

My father was a classic narcissist. He was married to a woman (my mum) who all her life was, too, a narcissist. One of my brothers I fear is also. They undermine every achievement with a heart-stopping accuracy and coldness that you are left to wonder your own sanity. They contradict themselves just to oppose an opinion you may have dared utter. As a child you are dependent upon their guidance/encouragement/world perspective. But as a child they train you to know that you are worthless (to them), but you must accept it and pretend that it is normal.  So you question – does every parent act like this?  Is everybody just “acting’ normal.” I began to think and unfortunately hoped that all parents did hate their children, and it was normal to degrade and emotionally abuse friends especially boyfriends. Obviously, friends abandon you.  You don’t realize why, as nothing seems to fit together. I knew I was not normal.  It is such a relief to know that it is they who have a disease of the mind and very soul. My parents watched me suffer for years with a slow-growing brain tumor. I survived, but my father said, “The worst thing that could happen is you don’t fully recover and we might have to look after you.” Yeah…that would be a serious annoyance for you? It never came to pass, and I thank you lord.

Amen.

 

 

Extreme Makeover Hits Close to Home August 19, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Personal.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
11 comments

Always Jane

Karma has come ’round for my sister-in-law Jane who awoke yesterday to the sound of chickens, but by noon could hear the Extreme Makeover truck rumbling out in front of her house. Oh, what a year it’s been.  No, make that years for Jane and her amazing family.

Last summer when Jane went to her high school reunion in Pocatello, Idaho, her former classmates asked her if she wasn’t worried that her house might burn down while she was out for a night –  what with all those kids.  (Jane has a married daughter from her first marriage and eight children at home from her second ages 9-18.)  Jane just laughed, so when someone told her later that her house WAS on fire, she thought they were kidding – but they weren’t.  The fire started in the basement where the washer and dryer were located and where most of the kids slept. Everyone got out safely, but the house was toast.  All was lost save Jane’s indomitable spirit.

The fire came just a year after Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I wrote about that in Fortune Has Arrived.  Jane underwent a double mastectomy followed by chemo and eventually breast reconstruction.  Then she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, (which fortunately is benign and slow growing).

A friend shot some video and sent it in to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (a show I’ve never seen, but I’ve heard it’s the ultimate “feel good” experience). We all crossed our fingers, toes, and eyes. There were endless interviews and hurdles to clear.  I think the show spent more time vetting Jane and her family than they do with most presidential candidates.  And so we waited.

Last month Jane was told that the show had narrowed it down to five families. Meanwhile, rumors swirled around Pocatello about building permits being pulled.  It was like pulling off the world’s biggest surprise party ever and no one was supposed to spill the beans.

I can’t imagine any family more deserving than Jane’s. One year she drove down down with all of her kids to spend Thanksgiving with us.  They all packed into two rooms, the kids sleeping like puppies in a pile-up in the den.  Her children are all incredibly responsible, creative, and downright fun! That’s the way they’ve been raised by this single mother with a BIG heart. They work together. They’ve had to. Over the years Jane has received support (financial and otherwise) from family, friends, her church, and the government.  But they’ve worked hard to fend for themselves.

Her children all play a musical instrument, and I still remember when they set up outside a restaurant to make some extra change.  They had their own cleaning business. They’re very good at making do.

With the house uninhabitable, but still waiting for the insurance settlement, they spent last winter in a rental making daily trips back to their old house to feed the chickens. When we visited this spring they’d decided to move back and camp in the backyard.  There they’ve been living in a trailer and a small back house which was untouched by the fire.  The washer and dryer are in a tent. And it’s easier to tend their chickens.  Jane told me the kids refer to their outdoor digs as “The Haitian Five Star.”  When we left, Jane sent us off with a jar of smoked paprika.  She said that since the fire, the smell of anything “smoked” makes them all nauseous.  As the months went by, we began to wonder if this Extreme Makeover was for real.  The clock was running out.

Several days ago all of their cell phones were taken away, so it was only after my mother-in-law drove by their house that we got the news.  She reported that there were also two vans packed with their suitcases as they were being whisked off to an undisclosed location. They got a choice between a tropical island, a mountain resort, or a theme park. I still can’t believe they didn’t want to come stay with us, where we have our own extreme home makeover going on. (Though you can’t get much done with a crew of one.)

In case you’re here because of the NPD link, you can read Jane’s story on the Close Encounter with a Narcissist – Part 3 Comment 27.

I so wanted to blog about this great news, but waited until the story broke on Facebook. Their story will air later this year. In the meantime, they have their own Extreme Makeover Facebook page where you can follow the construction day by day by clicking on Photos. It was on this site that I learned they’re in Key West, Florida (even their dog Betsy went with them!).   Everyone loves a “feel good” story and this is it!  Karma has come ’round.

Photo Credit: Shellee Christiansen

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

The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #4 March 23, 2010

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

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.

“Are all narcissists charismatic?

A growing number of celebrities/politicos have been been dubbed by the media as Narcissists.  While it’s true that those with narcissistic traits are often drawn to professions that allow them to be front and center, I worry that this only perpetuates the myth that all narcissists are charismatic svengalis who believe they can walk on water.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, most people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are downright ordinary. Shlubs.  That’s right.  I’ve resorted to Yiddish to describe how pathetic these people are.

Presidential hopeful John Edwards and Tiger Woods have both been called narcissists. Maybe. Maybe not. There’s a big difference between having narcissistic traits and having full-on Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Only those closest to a Narcissist can see these people for what they are, or more importantly, for what they aren’t.

Most people with NPD are not natural charmers, though they can certainly turn on the charm when it suits them (like during the Idealization Phase or when dealing with total strangers).  No, they are downright ordinary, and on some level, they know just how ordinary they and their lives are. Their false self, or the image that they project to the public, attempts to disguise the oh-so ordinary nature of their lives.  No wonder so many of them come across as blow hards or just a$$holes.  At best, they’re legends in their own minds.

Read The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #5.

Photo Credit:  Jan Marshall

Barack Obama is a Narcissist and Other Urban Legends August 23, 2009

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

Obama narcissus

Several friends and relatives forwarded me the email Obama is a Narcissist purportedly written by Sam Vaknin, “a world authority on narcissism.” It goes on to say, “He (Vaknin) understands the inner mind of a narcissist like no other person. When he talks about narcissism, everyone listens.” Whoa, let’s take a deep breath.

What the email fails to mention is that Sam Vaknin was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in 1984. And that title of Dr. before his name? Shmuel (Sam) Vaknin’s resume reports that he completed nine semesters at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. His doctorate is not in psychology, but philosophy, and was received from Pacific Western University, an unaccredited on-line diploma mill based in California. (Operators are standing by, if you too would like add Dr. to your name) Vaknin, an Israeli citizen, was incarcerated in Israel for white collar fraud and currently resides in Macedonia.

Although the Obama is a Narcissist email references some of Vaknin’s writing and includes a header suggesting he is the author, the article was actually published Sept. 8, 2008 by Ali Sina on the FaithFreedom.org (FFI) site as Understanding Obama: The Making of a Fuehrer. How do I know this? I credit Snopes.com. Since 1981, Snopes founders Barbara and David Mikkelson have made it their job to investigate information flying around out there on the internet and provide a much needed reality check.

FFI identifies itself as “a grassroots worldwide movement of ex-Muslims and all those who are concerned about the rise of the Islamic threat.” Its publisher, an Iranian who lives in Canada, uses the pseudonym “Ali Sina.”

If you’ve received the above email (there are numerous versions flying through cyberspace), you know it quickly goes off the deep end. Obama is likened to Jim Jones, the charismatic cult leader of the the People’s Temple who led over 900 of his followers to commit mass suicide. The email says they did so “cheerfully.” Sina’s ugly diatribe refers to Obama’s supporters as “worshippers” and wastes no time in comparing Obama to Stalin and Hitler. Sina has said on the website that he hopes Obama will be executed by electrocution – he subscribes to the conspiracy about Barack Obama’s birth. Wingnuts unite!

My outrage about the above circulating email is two-fold. First, it’s a lie and a blatant misrepresentation of the facts. I only worked briefly as a journalist, but the journalistic mantra is “a reliable source.”

Secondly, as someone who’s written quite a bit on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), I know those with NPD are pathological liars. So to my mind that negates Vaknin’s observations made from half-way around the world. Vaknin has provided incredible insights into his own narcissism for which I’m grateful. It’s important to note that those with NPD crave attention, but will settle for notoriety. The email circulating provides this to Vaknin in abundance.

I’m most disappointed with how quick people are to use and abuse the term “narcissist.” I realize many don’t know any better. That’s why I write what I do. For the record. narcissism runs on a continuum from healthy narcissism (Healthy Ego) to Destructive Narcissistic Patterns (Me is getting in the way of Us) to Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or as Vaknin refers to his NPD, Malignant Narcissism.

I can’t imagine how any politician or leader could rise to power without a healthy/hefty dose of narcissistic traits. Think alpha male. But this doesn’t mean they have NPD. One tell-tale sign of those with NPD is they’re unable to maintain a healthy emotional relationship with significant others. Someone better tell Michelle and the girls.

I highly recommend that when an email is forwarded to you, you run it by Snopes.com. I recently was forwarded Cancer Update from Johns Hopkins University. When it started talking about how ingesting dairy products creates mucus and how some forms of cancer thrive in mucus, it got me to wondering. I went to Snopes and sure enough they’d already done the research. John Hopkins issued a rebuttal stating that the circulating email is a total fabrication.

If you have trouble remembering the name Snopes, you can do like I do. It rhymes with Scopes, as in the Scopes Monkey Trial. There’s a cure for ignorance – it’s called education.

Photo Credit:  Google Images

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

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

True Blood July 2, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in TV/Film.
Tags: , , , , , ,
3 comments

After reading Twilight, with its endless descriptions of Edward’s chest, I swore off vampires.  Later, when my book club read Three Cups of Tea,  I even threatened to make a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast adjectives used to describe Edward’s chest with those used to describe the mountains in Afghanistan.  

But,  I have to admit that I enjoy watching True Blood on HBO.  First, it’s got a mighty fine theme song by Jace Alexander.  And how can I not love a show that, with all seriousness, has characters spew lines like “Clearly, she’s no fan of the fang.”  

I’ve written before about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and used the vampire analogy.  So last week when a character said, “He used me up and sucked me dry.  It was like I was his snack machine!” it was music to my ears.  Yeah, I’m a fan of the fang.

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.

Why I Love “Dexter” September 13, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Narcissistic Personality Disorder, TV/Film.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
5 comments

Who wouldn’t love Dexter Morgan? He’s such a nice young man, and he’s got that CSI thing going too, what with his job as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro Police Department. What’s that you say? He’s a cold-blooded serial killer! I’m sorry, but with his professional manner and that disarming smile, that’s a little hard for me to fathom. This is a guy who is so thoughtful, he brings donuts in every day for the office. It’s not like he has horns. And THAT is exactly why I find Dexter so fascinating. I, for one, am counting the days until Sept. 28th when Season 3 premiers on Showtime.

Least you think I’m one of those women who has pen pals on death row, think again. I’m happily married to the original model, have two grown sons, and teach adorable third graders, who think serial is spelled “c-e-r-e-a-l.” But after spending G-rated days with children who still believe in the tooth fairy, I’m ready to go to the dark side – of humanity, that is.

There’s another thing you should know about me. Just like Dexter Morgan, I too have a dark side. After I’d just given birth to my second son, my friend Wendy visited me in the hospital. What she remembers most is that I was reading The Stranger Beside Me, Anne Rule’s account of her friendship with serial killer Ted Bundy, as I nursed my newborn son.

But I have an excuse (or should I say alibi?). I may not come from a family of criminal psychopaths, but my family had more than a passing interest in them and crime. When I was a kid and we visited my uncle in a small town in Iowa, my brother and I unearthed his collection of True Detective magazines. All of the stories seemed to involve the murder of “nude coeds.” After reading the breathless and lurid accounts of these crimes, I ascertained at an early age that any “clothed coed” was a moving target.

My dad also liked to tell about how when he and my mom first married, the man who shared their duplex in Boulder, Colorado, was arrested for killing – you guessed it!  –  a college coed. (It turned out the one in the trunk of his car was one of many.) Years later, when my parents talked enthusiastically about where I should go to college, I couldn’t help but wonder if they might be trying to get rid of me.

When people gasp, “I can’t believe someone could do something so horrible!” I don’t bother to feign shock or surprise. I’ve always been fascinated by human behavior. As a teenager, when I wasn’t reading books about crime, I read The Diary of Anne Frank. So I knew that seemingly ordinary people are capable of doing unspeakable things. I know that there really is a bogeyman, and he looks a lot like you or me.

After college, I worked as a reporter at a newspaper in Hammond, Indiana in 1978. I was supposed to generate ideas for stories and, low and behold, I discovered that the Indiana State Crime Lab was located nearby. It was during that interview, I first learned of a new forensic technique – blood spatter analysis. I was in hog heaven. Cue that sound of snapping the latex gloves on (that’s music to MY ears!). But this was B.C. – Before CSI,  Before Court TV, and Before Cold Case – back when a cold case meant beer.

Which brings me back to Dexter. Based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, Dexter is brilliantly played by affable Michael C. Hall. Dexter is a real living breathing psychopath yet most of his co-workers, even his sister, and girlfriend, think he’s the proverbial nice guy. But seriously, how could they not know? This is a guy who has a Costco-size stock of black plastic trash bags and duct tape at the ready.

Hey, in Anne Rule’s book, she describes working side-by-side with Ted Bundy at a suicide hotline, never suspecting her “friend” was a serial killer. It’s not like serial killers have a secret handshake or froth at the mouth. Remember this – charm disarms.

I began watching Dexter when I was still reeling from my “friendship” with a person I later realized had Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).  (You can read about THAT experience in my 3-part Close Encounter with a Narcissist series.) NPD is one of the Cluster B Personality Disorders in the DSM-IV, which are often referred to as “The Drama Club.” Other members of this “club” include Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopath) and Psychopathic Personality Disorder (psychopath aka Dexter).

I was surprised to learn that all psychopaths are narcissistic, while people with NPD aren’t psychopaths. Following this logic, psychopaths would be “Papa Bear”, sociopaths “Mama Bear,” and that would make narcissists the “Baby Bear” (Can you tell that I spend way too much time with small children? Don’t worry, I won’t bring the Three Little Pigs into play.) The Cluster B personality disorders share many similar traits. Unlike psychopaths, however, who derive pleasure from hurting people, narcissists hurt people due to their indifference.

The similarities though between these two personality disorders can be jarring. Dexter often worries that “his mask is slipping.” Just like a narcissist, Dexter, the psychopath, wears a social mask (his False Self) that he presents to the outside world to pass for “normal.” Dexter’s constant attempt to “read” human emotions, so he can react accordingly, is also painfully reminiscent of my friend with NPD.

In Season 2, Dexter met Lila, his “soul mate,” who exhibits strong NPD traits herself. But when Lila got too emotionally close, Dexter gave her the ultimate D&D – Death. So, I eagerly await Season 3 to find out what America’s favorite prime time psychopath is up to. Remember that knowledge is power.

Dexter is officially a psychopath. If you’d like to see how he stacks up using a diagnostic tool called the Psychopath Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), a clinical rating scale, you can visit the following link. Scroll down to Dissecting Dexter – it’s an interesting read. Dissecting Dexter – The Official Diagnosis

NOTE:  Since first writing this post, Dexter’s diagnosis on the official Dexter site has been softened, which I feel is a strategy to make the character more likable. From all of my reading, I’ve never heard that a traumatic event produces a sociopath. Make no mistake, Dexter is a psychopath. If they keep fiddling with his profile, before you know it, he’ll be Santa Claus.  Jan

As a public service, I also feel obliged to inform you that I believe clowning is the gateway drug for serial killers. Anyone willing to don a neon wig and red nose has already gone over to the dark side. (Cirque du Soleil clowns are exempt, but should still be monitored closely – just in case).

Close Encounter With A Narcissist – Part 3 August 15, 2008

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

Please read/reread “Close Encounter with a Narcissist – Parts 1 & 2” before reading Part 3.  These are usually featured in Top Posts in the column at the right.  If not, you can access them through Tags or Categories under Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Scroll down through Part 3 to reach Parts 1 & 2. Note: In Part 3, I’ll refer to a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) simply as a narcissist.  Again, I’ll refer to the narcissist as “he,” as the majority of narcissists are male.

Looking back on my own close encounter with a narcissist, I can see the Red Flags were there early on. In my gut, I knew there was something “off” about my friend Joe. But I had trouble putting my finger on just what IT was. The more time I spent with him, it became painfully obvious how illogical Joe’s reasoning was – it just didn’t jibe with “human” logic. He also seemed enamored with himself and professed to having many talents. I once teased Joe that he was “self-absorbed.”  But I wasn’t teasing – merely making an observation. For the first time, the word narcissist popped into my head.

Red Flag #1 – Grandiosity

Ah, yes.  Grandiosity and its sidekick Magical Thinking. While there is an overlap with other personality disorders when it comes to Lack of Empathy, it is Grandiosity that distinguishes Narcissistic Personality Disorder from all of the other personality disorders. Grandiosity is the jewel in the crown that makes the narcissist so very special.

According to the DSM-IV, “The essential feature of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy that begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts.

“Individuals with NPD routinely overestimate their abilities and inflate their accomplishments, often appearing boastful and pretentious. They may blithely assume others attribute the same value to their efforts and may be surprised when the praise they expect and feel they deserve is not forthcoming.”

An admitted “seminar junkie,”  Joe shared with me a dizzying array of plans he had that would bring him money, recognition, or just a change in scenery. After hearing these change weekly, I began writing down all of the things Joe was going to do “some day.”  When you’re a teenager, or even in your twenties, this kind of daydreaming is normal. But not in your 40s.

Narcissists love to envision grand scenarios starring – themselves! What they lack is the follow-through to make them reality. Why do narcissists indulge in this kind of thinking?  Just thinking of all of the great things they’re “going to do” brings a smile to their face. Think of it as mental masturbation.

One day I told Joe I believed the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. Not that people can’t change, but barring some life-changing epiphany, most people are creatures of habit. Joe vehemently disagreed. You see, the narcissist’s grandiosity goes hand-in-hand with Magical Thinking. Joe was big on the book The Secret, which holds that all you have to do is think positive thoughts and good things will happen. Now, I’m all for positive thinking and I like to think karma will come round, but Magical Thinking goes above and beyond. When you’re a narcissist, though, fairy tales can come true (besides, they’re already wearing that crown).

Here’s an example of grandiosity. Joe was considering taking a freelance job on the side. He’d never done this sort of work, but narcissists are convinced they can do anything. I warned Joe he could be getting in over his head, but he took the job anyway. Three weeks later, he came to me in a panic. Not only had he screwed up the job, he was being asked to refund the money he’d been paid, since someone else would now have to fix his mess. His client had mentioned the “L” word – lawyer. It was the first time I’d seen Joe visibly shaken.

Now, on some level, Joe knew he’d screwed up, but he refused to accept any responsibility. As I listened to him talk aloud about the botched job, I watched him mentally rewrite the scenario of what happened. It wasn’t his fault – it was that stupid woman who hired him. You see, narcissists are NEVER, EVER wrong. So, if a narcissist ever tells you he was wrong about something (a very human trait), brace yourself. Most likely he’s getting ready to do something really nasty – to you.

Red Flag #2 – Lack of Empathy

Empathy is what makes us human. We can put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and share their joy or feel their pain. But a narcissist has only one one pair of shoes – and they fit PERFECTLY. Human emotions confound narcissists and make them uncomfortable. They don’t know the right thing to say. They’ve watched humans, so they know what they’re supposed to say, but it doesn’t come naturally. This explains their often odd and insensitive comments (The Inappropriate Effect). Any talk of feelings is just so – icky!  Joe was quick to point out he hated “girlie girls” or anyone who was “touchy feely.” He dismissed anything tinged with emotion as “drama.” What was funny was although Joe said he hated drama, it was his own bad behavior that sparked all of the drama in his life.

Joe often said he was “too nice.” He could talk a good game, lamenting the injustices in the world, as if he genuinely cared. But it was just that – talk.

I once listened to Joe make a comment to a young woman. They’d worked together and supposedly were friends. The comment was about her body and had a sexual undertone. It left her visibly distressed. Now, any normal person, seeing her reaction would have immediately apologized for hurting her feelings. But what did “I’m too nice” Joe do? He sat across the table from her for the next hour and never opened his mouth. Later, I asked why he would say such an insensitive thing. He shrugged and admitted it was a cheap shot, but added, smiling, “It was so easy – that’s what made it so much fun.” It was creepy.

When I talked to the woman several days later, SHE apologized to me!  “I’m sorry I got so upset,” she said. “I know the way Joe is, so I shouldn’t have let it bother me so much.” Can you see how a narcissist gets away with such behavior? People make excuses for him!  “That’s just the way he is,” they say, while mentally adding another tally mark after the word @sshole.

Asking a narcissist to “have a heart” has just the opposite effect. Reasoning with them also falls on deaf ears. A narcissist doesn’t want to change because there’s nothing wrong with him. YOU are the one with the problem, remember?

Red Flag #3 –  Confusing Communication

Communication (or should I say lack of genuine communication) with a narcissist is a crazy-making experience. Humans communicate to share information, ideas, and feelings. Not so the narcissist who uses words to confuse and paralyze his victim. Narcissists don’t like to play their nasty games on a level playing field. Their cryptic comments are designed to keep their victim constantly confused and wondering, “What did THAT mean?” This tactic gives the narcissist the home team advantage.

Any attempt to discuss feelings with a narcissist is doomed to leave the victim not knowing left from right. Joe had a short list of pronouncements that could derail any conversation: “Can’t you take a joke?”  “But no one got hurt!”  “Why do you bother talking about that?  It’s in the past!” (yesterday constituted ‘the past’) “If you’d just behave!”  “I’m really busy, so is this life or death?” or his ultimate putdown, “You’re such a drama queen!”

If you know a narcissist, you already know the kind of comments I’m talking about. They’re the equivalent to a teenager’s dismissive, “Whatever!” or the “Talk to the Hand” gesture.

When cornered, a narcissist is like the cartoon character who, when in danger, magically produces a pencil, quickly draws a door, and makes a hasty exit. When I read Stalking the Soul by Marie-France Hirigoyen, a French psychiatrist whose specialty is victimology, it was her chapter on Communication and the narcissist that hit a nerve. The verbal roller coaster, with all its twists and turns, came to a screeching halt and I decided then it was time to get off the ride. It was no longer exciting – it was making me sick.

Cerebral and Somatic – Sex as in “Table for One, Please”

Narcissists get their admiration, or Narcissistic Supply (NS), in one of two forms. Cerebral narcissists gain NS through their intellect, that is, by being “an authority.” Somatic narcissists may be equally intelligent, but they satisfy their need for NS through sexual conquests.

Both kinds of narcissist prefer autoerotic sex – masturbation – to sex with a flesh-and-blood woman. That’s because a real woman expects you to talk to her, or even worse, cuddle, after the main event. Remember, the narcissist can’t establish a genuine emotional bond with another human, so he finds these feelings unnatural and awkward. Faking it is hard work, and he’d just as soon get up and watch TV or check his email. You served your purpose and now he’s done with you. It’s like he had to blow his nose – and the Kleenex? Well, that would be you. He’ll toss it/you aside until he needs to blow his nose again. Romantic, huh?

Cerebral narcissists can put on a show during the idealization phase, but quickly lose all interest in sex. They’re essentially asexual. They derive pleasure from frustrating their partner by withholding sex. This gives them a feeling of power. Besides, to them, not only is sex down and dirty – it’s just so common. They’re way too special to engage in such a common pursuit. So they can do without.

Despite Joe’s love of sexual innuendo, I realized when it came to women, he was like my dogs when it comes to cats. My dogs love the chase, but if the cat stops running, they just stand there, looking rather embarrassed about what to do next. After a short impasse, they wander off to look for another cat that will run from them. Remember, it’s the chase that the narcissist loves.

A somatic narcissist, on the other hand, is like the town dog always making his rounds. But it’s not just his infidelity, and the accompanying lies, that are so disturbing. It’s his irrational rationale. “You made me do it” so “It’s not my fault.” (I apologize to all dogs for comparing them to a narcissist. Dogs are infinitely more caring and human than any narcissist could ever hope to be.)

The Myth of Curing the Narcissist

Remember the blanket analogy from Part 1?  A person doesn’t HAVE a personality disorder, they ARE the personality disorder. Narcissism in interwoven into every fiber of that blanket. Unravel the blanket and you unravel their personality.

If you’re a woman, you’re most likely a nurturer and think that with enough patience and love, someone or something can be helped. It’s that “I’ll nurse this fallen baby bird back to health using a medicine dropper!” thing. Sound familiar?

Even after I figured out that Joe had NPD, I was convinced if I could just reconnect with that inner child that was hiding deep inside, he’d feel safe to come out and show me his real face. Olly, olly, oxen free! Some call this logic “Peeling an Onion.” The rescuer thinks, “If I can just peel away the layers of hurt, I can get to the core of the problem, and I can help him heal.” But what’s at the core of an onion?  Ah ha! That’s a trick question, because an onion has no core.  Not to mention that peeling an onion makes YOU cry, while the onion feels nothing.

Know this. That wounded child’s True Self might as well be preserved in amber. It’s fossilized and will never ever develop. Besides, a narcissist doesn’t want to be fixed because he’s convinced he’s fine just the way he is. It’s YOU who has the problem, remember?

So, least you forget, write this on a post-it note and put it up on the refrigerator:  NO NARCISSIST HAS EVER BEEN CURED!  (I’ve since written more about this.  See Can a Narcissist be Cured?)

Discarded and Scarred – Life After the Narcissist

I was only involved with Joe for four months and we were just “friends.” (Friends is in quotations because narcissists don’t have any real friends). Joe had proven himself to be a first class @sshole on so many occasions. He showed absolutely no interest in me as a person – only in what I could do for him. He’d solicited advice, ignored it, then punished me for offering it. So why couldn’t I just “move on?”  I knew WHAT he was. I knew there was NO CURE. But still…

First, it was hard to forget how much I enjoyed Joe’s company during the Idealization phase. He’d bound up to me like an eager puppy wagging its tail. It was hard to believe this was an act, or just the giddiness that went with honing in on a new source of NS. It seemed so real – to me.

But, the most painful part was the feeling of betrayal – of being duped. It’s hard to admit that you were just a “thing” with an expiration date, especially to a person you genuinely cared about. You want to think that when all is said and done, at the end of the day you were special. But you are special, and that’s why the narcissist targeted you.

I was angry with Joe, but I was angriest with myself. I’m a confident person with strong boundaries, so how could I have let this happen?  This was all a game for Joe. But then he had an advantage because he’d played this game many times before. He knew the rules. Hell, I didn’t even know it was a game!

A word of warning: A narcissist will never give his victim the validation they so desperately seek or closure. This final act of control and cruelty leaves his victim hanging and twisting in the wind. This brings a smile to the narcissist’s face.

I’ve since forgiven myself. As a caring person, I only did what came naturally. I saw someone who was lonely and seemed to be in pain, and I reached out to help them. But Joe didn’t want or need my help, because he’s perfect just the way he is. So, you see, I’m the one with the problem. But it’s a problem I can live with. It’s called being human. And that, my friends, is what I learned from MY close encounter with a narcissist.

Acknowledgements

It was Joe’s self-involvement that led me to Google “narcissism.” Who would have known there were so many others online looking for answers?

Sam Vaknin’s book Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisited was a revelation. How could anyone not know Sam?  A narcissist, he’s everywhere on the internet. I’m just glad a life crisis forced him to venture out into the light of day long enough to write this seminal book. Although I jokingly refer to Sam as the Head Vampire, he has shed such light into the darkness that is NPD. I’m only sorry I forwarded my highlighted version to Joe, who will never read it (I imagine he uses it to prop up one very short leg of a table.)

Marie-France Hirigoyen’s book, Stalking the Soul, was a godsend. I ordered a used copy from Amazon.

I first found on-line support through Careplace’s NPD community. Several of the online friends I met there are now my real-life friends, and I kiss the ground for my good fortune.

The members of MSN Groups Narcissistic Personality Disorder Forum constantly amaze me with their wisdom, insight, and yes, humor. It’s inspiring to see how people can gain strength from each other’s experiences, cry, learn, laugh, and move forward. Special thanks to Femfree, the forum manager, for posting the link to my blog.

Finally, thanks to all those near and dear to me. You know who your are. Your patience and support has made me realize how incredibly rich I am.

Looking to the Future

I always thought that as soon as I finished writing Close Encounter with a Narcissist I’d be DONE! But I’m a teacher, remember?  And there’s still so much work to be done to educate the public about this devastating disorder. So, I WILL be writing future posts on NPD. If you’d like to check in from time to time, please bookmark my site.  Peace.

Posts since written – You’ll find them in Categories or Tags under Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Can a Narcissist be Cured?
The Mirror Talks – Reflections on Narcissism #1, 2, and 3.

You’ll find these in Categories under Narcissistic Personality Disorder.


Quotation Rotation #6 August 3, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Quotation Rotation.
Tags: , , ,
3 comments

“FOO” – MSN NPD Forum

FOO is an acronym for Family of Origin. I first encountered it on MSN’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) Forum.  As a teacher, I thought I had the corner on acronyms, but there was an entire list I needed to learn just to decipher posts by members.  Let’s face it.  A lot of the baggage we carry through life was packed during our formative years.  Example of usage:  “I think the reason I was attracted to this abusive sh*% of a man is because of FOO issues (as in my father was also an abusive sh*%!)

FOO is not to be confused with The Foo Fighters, an offshoot of the band Nirvana with Dave Grohl as the front man.  It is possible though, if your family get-togethers include biting sarcasm, drunken tirades, or knockdown brawls, that your family could indeed be FOO Fighters.