A COMMON QUESTION asked by people learning about abusive power and control in interpersonal relationships is whether narcissistic abuse can cause narcissism? The short answer is no. Narcissism is one of many personality traits all people possess that is necessary for healthy human functioning. Given that it is something all people are endowed with, narcissism is not caused by narcissistic abuse.
With that said, let’s look at the question from another angle: can the experience of narcissistic abuse lead to narcissism impairments such as excessive or extreme narcissism? The answer to that question is a definitive yes.
How Might Narcissistic Abuse Cause Excessive Narcissism?
The reason for this is that psycho-emotional abuse is generally is a highly stressful experience. Narcissistic abuse is particular can be traumatic. Excessive of extreme narcissism is a post-traumatic stress adaptation that occurs in some people.
Let’s turn to Dr. Gabor Maté for more insight on this topic. He describes trauma as, “a psychic wound that hardens you psychologically that then interferes with your ability to grow and develop.”
In this sense, excessive or extreme narcissism represent different levels of arrested development, which is why they share the same defense mechanisms seen in early childhood.
Narcissism Impairments As A Traumatic Stress Response
Dr. Maté goes on to explain the affects of trauma, “It pains you and now you’re acting out of pain. It induces fear and now you’re acting out of fear. Trauma is not what happens to you, it’s what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you.”
A great deal of what happens inside of people happens at a subconscious level. In this way, we can think of excessive narcissism as a balm to soothe a wounded ego. However, the effects of trauma are far more pervasive and can lead to a severing of the self. It is in these cases that various manifestations of extreme narcissism occur to protect a fragmented and, in some cases, annihilated ego.
Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
Book a one-on-one consultation or coaching session.