Narcissistic Injury

The Narcissist's Hidden Depression

IMAGINE LIFE WITHOUT the ability to generate authentic joy, love, or compassion.  It’s hardly a stretch to suggest that one’s internal ecosystem would be a bleak and desolate landscape. However, if you were to open up the mind of a pathological narcissist and look inside, what you would find is a psychological wasteland riddled with persecutory objects.

The ambiguity of malignant narcissism is that its outward manifestations are often the opposite of the internal reality, which is a gaping void. The gnawing emptiness within is a catalyst for narcissistic pretensions that serve to preserve their idealized false self. Chest thumping boasts of supremacy are a safeguard against the toxic shame that has engulfed their true self.

Where others have a conscience, the pathological narcissist has a vacuum. For this reason, they are on a constant hunt to consume anything that might fill the void. Alcohol, narcotics, pornography, sex, gambling, people – you name it, the narcissist ravenously devours it. But it doesn’t fill them up because they are bottomless pits.

When narcissists encounter people who are able to manifest constructive emotions the narcissist cannot, it wounds their pride, stirs their jealousy, and causes a narcissistic injury. 

What is a narcissistic injury?

A narcissistic injury is a threat to the narcissist’s false self. The threat may be real or imagined. What matters is that the narcissist’s steely psychological armor is penetrated and they experience a painful reminder that their false self is an illusion.

Sensing danger, their ego sends all hands on deck to rescue the false self from annihilation. For this reason, narcissistic injuries go hand in hand with narcissistic rage.

The narcissist’s first line of defense is a disavowal of reality. They devalue the threat, stripping the individual of their humanity and reducing them to the status of object. The narcissist’s ego then fractures the object as it resorts to primary defense mechanisms, such as splitting and projection.

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Someone who was once all good is now all bad. A person once hailed as the light of the narcissist’s life becomes the very heart of darkness. The threatening object is made wrong so that the false self can be right. Thus, the narcissist vindicates themselves from any criticism, wrongdoing, and – most importantly – shame.

The more the narcissist uses splitting as an ego defense, the more anything resembling a cohesive identity unravels. Whenever the ego splits an object, an identical split takes place in the ego itself, causing it to become fragmented. The more a narcissist splits off from the abuse they inflict, the more it escalates.

To escape accountability, the narcissist uses a sleight of hand and projects their sadistic acts on to the people they target. This enables them to shape-shift into a new persona – which they do with the ease of a serpent shedding its skin. 

What are the causes of narcissistic injury

The narcissist is a paper tiger. Their psychological structure is too feeble to grasp a self-concept with any complexity. They are satisfied to worship an illusion of their perfect false self. This disposition is common in toddlers, but it’s crippling in adults.

The construction of a false self may have shielded them from adverse childhood experiences in their early years, but it is maladaptive in adulthood as it prevents them from living authentic emotional lives.

The need for emotional bonds disgusts them. Yet, paradoxically it is also something they covet.

While the false self mimics edifying emotions, it does not experience them. A kind of emotional rigor mortis defines the narcissist’s existence.

How do narcissists cope with narcissistic injuries?

Their fragility sends them on predatory crusades to boost their ego. They may sustain their insatiable false self with adulation or attention or with cruel power trips utilizing coercive control, and psycho-emotional abuse.

Narcissists believe that by destroying a person or thing, they obtain power over it.  They accomplish this through deception, seduction, and psychological cannibalism. To the narcissist, this affirms their imaginary superiority.

It is their way of making the false self appear real. 

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Bibliography

4 Subtle Ways Narcissistic Parents Abuse Their Children

4 Subtle Ways Narcissists Abuse Their Children

A PATHOLOGICAL NARCISSIST HAS MASTERED the art of inflicting psychological devastation without ever raising a hand. Their skillful manipulation of people’s perceptions and emotions leaves a trail of bloodless crimes in their wake.

This kind of person regards the pain and suffering they cause as a testament to their omnipotence. In reality, it is a manifestation of their sadistic nature.

A narcissist weaves a web of lies to entrap their victims. They win their romantic partners through deception and maintain their relationships through coercive and controlling behavior.

Thus, children of narcissists are born into a gaslit reality and given to the care of a psychological predator.

Here are four subtle ways narcissistic parents abuse their children.

1. The false self becomes a false idol

As a parent, the narcissist’s false self becomes a false idol that demands to be worshipped by their family unit.

Narcissists create glaring power imbalances between themselves, their spouse and children.

Love is neglect, abandonment, tyranny, and subjugation.

Because the narcissist’s needs supersede the needs of everyone else, the group internalizes the message that their needs don’t matter unless the narcissist says they do.

If the spouse is empathic, the narcissist undermines their authority. The children learn that might is right. They must appease the narcissist if they want to have their needs met.

4 Subtle Ways Narcissistic Parents Abuse Their Children

2. The narcissist engineers dysfunction

Because a narcissistic family unit is an organism that operates in a gaslit pseudo-reality, it is less akin to a family and more like a cult or a dictatorship.

In this dynamic, the group can’t be supportive, accepting, healthy, or just. Instead, family members behave and interact in unhealthy ways.

The children must learn to navigate the power imbalances and the inevitable abuses of power that ensue.

Thus, the default setting for existence in a narcissistic family is dysfunction.

3. Love is conditional

Children of narcissists learn that love is abuse. The narcissist shows them that if someone displeases you, it is okay to punish them and call it love.

For the child of a pathological narcissist, love is having your personality rejected and replaced with one the narcissist prefers. Love is neglect, abandonment, tyranny, and subjugation.

Narcissists see a child’s individuality as an act of insubordination.

Love is intermittent reinforcement with spouses and children alike.

The child is love-bombed when the narcissist feels the child reflects their false self. The moment the child fails to do so, the narcissistic parent blithely discards them.

Narcissistic family dynamics

4. Narcissists reject children who are not like them

Survival in a narcissistic family depends on each family member’s ability to take on and reinforce the assigned roles, toxic attitudes, and habits of the narcissist. No one is safe from a narcissist’s pernicious scrutiny, not even their children.

In the narcissist’s view, anyone who does not echo their image of themselves is rejecting them. Failure to reflect and affirm their false self is a threat. Thus, a child who does not accept the role assigned by the narcissistic parent triggers a narcissistic injury.

A lot of different personalities develop in the narcissist’s ecosystem.

The narcissist cannot process negative feedback, and by extension, nor can their family unit. They have zero tolerance for any person or thing they believe may endanger their fragile false self. When faced with such a threat, narcissists attack — even if the source of their ire is an infant.

Narcissists see a child’s individuality as an act of insubordination. Their response to this perceived narcissistic injury is contempt, oppression, and rejection of the offending child. As an act of expediency, the narcissist casts the child in the psychologically devastating role of the family scapegoat. The narcissist condemns the child to bear the blame for all of the family’s dysfunctional behavior and its outcomes.

Conclusion

To grow up in a narcissistic family is to grow up in an inverted reality, where right is wrong, and wrong is right. Anything goes as long as you tow the narcissist’s line.

There will be flagrant betrayals, hypocrisy, double standards, cruelty, and abuse. If one of the parents is empathic, the children will get a daily dose of how to manipulate, exploit, and subjugate another human being.

A lot of different personalities develop in the narcissist’s ecosystem. How the child turns out depends on how they navigate the harsh psychological terrain of the family.

This article is also published at Medium.com.

Resources

What is Acquired Situational Narcissism?

ACQUIRED SITUATIONAL NARCISSISM (ASN) is a construct developed by the late Robert B. Millman, a professor of psychiatry at Cornell Medical School, to describe the late-onset narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) he identified in some of his celebrity patients.

NPD usually develops in adolescence or early adulthood, whereas ASN can develop in the late teen years or deep into adulthood.

Dr. Millman noted those who develop ASN are driven by a preexisting high level of narcissism to pursue wealth and status.

In these cases, highly narcissistic individuals develop full-blown narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) once they reached their goal of obtaining fame and power.

The Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) does not include ASN.

Characteristics of Acquired Situational Narcissism (ASN) 

Some of the characteristics that distinguish ASN from NPD are:

  • Late-onset – ASN develops during late teens or adulthood.
  • Real power – Someone with ASN has acquired real and measurable power as opposed to grandiose fantasies.
  • Response to the environment – ASN develops in part as a response to the enabling behaviors of members of the individual’s support system, entourage, and society as a whole.

What are some of the risks of Acquired Situational Narcissism?

Like anyone else with NPD, someone with ASN becomes maladaptive. They may experience high levels of anxiety and depression. Their relationship with reality may become distorted.

Some of the ways this plays out are:

  • Poor decision making.
  • Inability to maintain stable relationships resulting in divorce.
  • Dysfunctional relationships with their children.
  • Substance dependency to self-medicate, and
  • Abuse of power in the form of criminal behavior to test the limits of their influence.

Prevention of Adult Situational Narcissism

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are some actionable steps you can take to prevent the development of ASN:

  • Work on your character – Develop personal and moral qualities to create an internal compass.
  • Adopt a value system – Clearly identify the values that reflect your moral qualities.
  • A strong support group – Your inner circle should include a small group of people who reflect your value system. These friends should not be impressed by wealth or status. They should not fear to call you out when your behavior is in conflict with your values. They should care about who you are not what you can do for them.
  • Develop a healthy attitude to power – Learn about how power can be used for its highest purpose so that you can create a positive and constructive relationship with it that’s in line with your character and values.

This article was originally published by Narcissistic Abuse Rehab on Quora. It is also published on Medium.

Photo by Ahmet Yalçınkaya.

Sources

15 Signs of a Fledgling Narcissist

15 Signs of a Fledgling Narcissist

NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER (NPD) usually begins to manifest during a child’s teenage years or early adulthood.

While many teenagers may be somewhat narcissistic, it is usually a normal stage of development and self-corrects over time. For this reason, clinicians are reluctant to diagnose NPD and other personality disorders in minors. However, when children present as callous and unemotional they may be tested by for conduct disorder.

Good enough parents seek to cultivate empathy and mental wellness in their children. Parents who have experienced narcissistic abuse, either in their personal or professional life, are often keen to prevent these dysfunctional behaviors in their children.

So, how do you spot a fledgling narcissist?

What is a fledgling narcissist?

A fledgling narcissist is an adolescent or teenage child who mirrors the behaviors and attitudes of a narcissistic caregiver or role model.

It’s distinguishing features are:

  1. A sense of entitlement
  2. Inability to accept responsibility
  3. A lack of gratitude
  4. An air of superiority
  5. Low empathy
  6. Opportunism
  7. A belief that they are special
  8. Attention seeking
  9. Envious
  10. Exaggerations or compulsive lying
  11. Unreasonable expectations
  12. Exploitativeness
  13. Arrogance
  14. Contempt for peers
  15. Schadenfreude

In other words, they act out the narcissism present in their ecosystem in the form of role models and the culture at large.

Within the family system, a highly narcissist child is often cast in the role of The Manipulator, also known as The Mastermind.

Experiments of dominance

A fledgling narcissist usually experiments with these behaviors in the home, targeting an individual they feel confident will endure their aggression and insolence.

If the child’s expressions of superiority and dominance go unchecked, there is an increased probability that the child may become a full-blown narcissist.

Sometimes high levels of narcissism are encouraged in children. This can happen if one or both of the parents are highly narcissistic. In those instances, narcissistic behavior may be reinforced in the child(ren).

Who does the fledgling narcissist target?

They practices their behavior on a family member. Usually, this will be a sibling or anyone they perceive as vulnerable.

The targeted brother or sister will be subjected to sibling abuse which can take the form of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, 

If one of the parents is the target of an ongoing campaign of coercive control by a pathological narcissistic spouse, a budding abuser may target the vulnerable parent with their aggression.

After they’ve enjoyed successful experiments at home, the fledgling narcissist will graduate to targeting someone outside the home. 

These early experiments are forays into discovering how far the fledgling narcissist can go.

What you can do as a parent

Abuse should never be tolerated, especially not from your own child. Here are some actionable steps you can take with a fledgling narcissist child:

  • Consider family therapy with a licensed professional.
  • Make it clear that there is zero tolerance for abuse.
  • Set hard boundaries.
  • Be explicit with the child about what behavior is acceptable.
  • Inform the child about your “deal breakers” i.e. behavior that is unacceptable.
  • Write down the terms of engagement and seal the deal with a handshake.
  • If the child breaks the deal, call out the behavior.
  • Consistently enforce the boundaries.

Have Your Say

Have you experienced a fledgling narcissist in your life? Do you recognize some of the characteristic mentioned in this post? Please share your story in the comments below.