What is Pathological Narcissism?

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PATHOLOGICAL NARCISSISM is used to describe an impaired expression of narcissism that disrupts one’s abilities to regulation emotions. It is distinguished by oscillations between the characteristic grandiosity and vulnerability of this personality type. Over time it correlates with emotional dysregulation and diminished interpersonal functioning.

How does pathological narcissism develop?

Pathological narcissism is a construct used to describe a maladaptive and socially destructive form of narcissism. It is understood to develop as a defensive ego structure that protects an wounded true self by shielding it with an omnipotent false self

A fortress for the ego

Pathological narcissism is a post-traumatic stress adaptation that develops to protect an injured psyche. It functions to desensitize the mind to feelings of dread, fragility, and hyper-vigilance by numbing vulnerable parts of the self. While it shields the self, it also results in low empathy for others and an inability to form authentic emotional bonds.

A fragmented self

Highly stressful or traumatic experiences in early life fracture and severe the self from pervasive feelings of shame and humiliation, which remain hidden in the subconscious mind. An all-powerful false self serves to cloak the fragility of a wounded true self.

Characteristics

Some characteristics of pathological narcissism are that it is:

  • Self-love to the exclusion of others
  • Harmful to self and others
  • Dangerous to the mental health of self and others, and
  • Uncompromising

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What is Covert Narcissism?

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COVERT NARCISSISM is synonymous with vulnerable narcissism and introverted narcissism. All three refer to a subtype of extreme narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder that manifests as a maladaptive sensitivity to criticism and defeat.

Normal or healthy narcissism is a personality trait all people possess that is necessary for our wellbeing. However, excessive narcissism can lead to dysfunction and, in extraordinary cases, narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Extreme narcissism is a protective ego structure that hides of a failed self within a false self.

There are two subtypes of extreme narcissism:

  • Overt narcissism (also known as grandiose narcissism), and
  • Covert narcissism (also known as vulnerable or introverted narcissism).

1. Fragility

Due to its fragile nature, covert narcissism leads to recurring narcissistic injuries in the form of pervasive feelings of humiliation and emptiness. These show up as contempt, vengeance, and a yearning for retribution.

2. Toxic Shame

Chronic shame and an inner dialogue characterized by self-criticism lead to psychological torment and anguish. For this reason, this strain of disordered narcissism is often comorbid with depression, dysthymia, or major de­pressive disorder.

Social Withdrawal

Social withdrawal is a defense mechanism commonly used by covert narcissists. They do this to protect themselves from feelings of humiliation and their fear of being exposed as anything less than perfection itself.

Covert narcissists do not have abandonment issues and they are not self-destructive.

Inverted Grandiosity

In covert narcissism, the grandiosity that is one of the distinguishing features of overt narcissism becomes introverted and masked with humility to protect a painfully fragile ego.

Their inverted grandiosity to upholds their perception of themselves as superior. They are happy to forego attention unless it is affirming.

Other difference from grandiose narcissism

One of the affects of covert narcissism being disconnected from one’s own feelings of vulnerability as well as insensitive to these feelings in others.

Though their grandiosity is well hidden, covert narcissists remain superficial and exploitative pragmatists. This variant of excessive narcissism doesn’t always present with the impulsiveness, mendacity and malice commonly seen in overt or grandiose narcissism.

3. Fractured relationships with self and others

Covert narcissism often leads to adverse relationships with self and others due to its characteristic entitlement, insensitivity, and need for admiration.

4. Professional life

Some covert narcissists become very accomplished in their professional life due to their well-masked grandiosity, self-esteem, and soaring ambition. While performance anxiety and sensitivity to criticism and defeat prove formidable obstacles that prevent progress for others.

References

Gore, W. L., & Widiger, T. A. (2016). Fluctuations between grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 7(4), Page 363.


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Self-Esteem Among Narcissists is ‘Puffed Up, But Shaky’

Self-Esteem Among Narcissists is 'Puffed Up, but Shaky'

LIKE A GROTESQUE MASK reflected in a pool, narcissism has two faces, neither of them attractive. Narcissists have an inflated sense of self-worth, seeing themselves as superior beings who are entitled to special treatment. 

However they also tend to be thin skinned, reacting angrily when their unique gifts are challenged or ignored.

This combination of high but easily undermined self-worth might seem paradoxical. A positively viewed self would be expected to be a happy and secure self. To understand the paradox we need to parse the complexities of self-esteem.

Self-esteem

The main thrust of early research on self-esteem – the broad positive or negative evaluation of the self – explored the implications of its level. 

People with higher self-esteem were compared to those with lower, and were generally found to report better life outcomes. High self-esteem people tended to be happier, healthier, more successful in love and work, and more resilient in the face of adversity.

On the strength of such findings, self-esteem came to be seen in some circles as a panacea of all manner of personal and social ills. If we could only improve people’s self-esteem, we might remedy their suffering and underachievement. 

In the 1980s the state of California set up a self-esteem task force to promote that cause.

Unfortunately, the self-esteem bandwagon was sideswiped by some troubling research evidence, presented in an influential review published in 2003. Studies commonly showed that high self-esteem was a consequence or side-effect of life success rather than a cause. 

Enhancing a person’s self-esteem would therefore no more increase their performance at school or work than applying heat to a light bulb would increase its luminance.

In addition, high self-esteem appeared to have some negative implications. For example, people with some forms of high self-esteem are sometimes especially prone to forms of aggression and antisocial behaviour.

Different forms of high self-esteem

One way to reconcile this ambivalent picture of high self-esteem is to recognise that it is not only the level of self-esteem that matters. We also need to consider the consistency and stability of self-esteem. 

People whose overt self-esteem is high but accompanied by covert self-doubts may be worse off than those whose self-esteem is consistently high. And people whose views of self are dependably positive are likely to be better off than those whose self-views are equally positive on average but oscillate wildly.

These two alternative ways of thinking about high self-esteem have been recognised by psychologists as “defensive” and “fragile” self-esteem, respectively. 

People with defensive self-esteem evaluate themselves positively by questionnaire, but negatively when their automatic or non conscious self-views are examined. Their positive self-views are inferred to be defences against lurking insecurities. 

The self-views of people with fragile self-esteem are prone to fluctuate, dropping sharply when they encounter difficulties because their self-worth lacks a firm anchor.

Narcissism and self-esteem

These two forms of self-esteem help to make sense of narcissism. There is evidence narcissists tend to have higher than average levels of self-esteem, but that these levels are to some degree defensive and fragile. 

Below the shiny surface of their arrogance and grandiosity, narcissists often view themselves less positively. Their inflated self-image also tends to deflate rapidly when punctured by evidence that other people do not share it.

The dynamics of self-esteem among narcissists are well illustrated in a recently published study by a team of German and Dutch psychologists. The researchers examined the facets of narcissism and linked them to the level and stability of self-esteem in a series of laboratory and field studies.

The studies spring from a model that distinguishes two key components of narcissism. “Narcissistic admiration” refers to assertive self-promotion of a grandiose self-image. People high on this component may be charming, but it is a charm that gradually loses its lustre as the person’s unquenchable appetite for admiration becomes apparent to others. 

In contrast, “narcissistic rivalry” is the tendency to react antagonistically to perceived threats to the narcissist’s egotism. People high on this component are fiercely competitive and prone to denigrate those who challenge their sense of superiority. 

The two components are only moderately related, so narcissistic people may be substantially higher on one than the other.

The researchers found that admiration and rivalry had quite different associations with self-esteem. People high on admiration tended to report high levels of self-esteem and average degrees of stability. Those high on rivalry, in contrast, reported average levels of self-esteem but high degrees of instability. 

By implication, narcissists scoring high on both admiration and rivalry would show the familiar toxic combination of high but fragile self-esteem.

In one of the researchers’ three studies, for example, a large sample of students reported their levels of self-esteem on a daily basis over a two-week period. People who reported higher average levels of self-esteem scored high on admiration and low on rivalry. Those whose levels of self-esteem varied widely from day to day scored high on rivaly.

In addition, when self-esteem dropped from one report to the next, these drops were greater among people high in rivalry. A follow up study showed that these people were especially likely to experience drops in their self-esteem on days when they felt less liked by their peers. A perceived lack of social inclusion is particularly bruising to the self-esteem of people who see others as threats to their sense of superiority.

This research shows that narcissism is not a unitary phenomenon. In the words of the researchers, it involves a self that is “puffed-up but shaky”. Such a self may be unpleasant to others, but it is fundamentally a vulnerable self.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at The Conversation and is republished here under Creative Common License.


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Why Are We Becoming So Narcissistic? Here’s The Science

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THE SUBJECT OF NARCISSISM has intrigued people for centuries, but social scientists now claim that it has become a modern “epidemic”. So what is it, what has led to its increase, and is there anything we can do about it?

In the beginning

The term narcissism originated more than 2,000 years ago, when Ovid wrote the legend of Narcissus. He tells the story of a beautiful Greek hunter who, one day, happens to see his reflection in a pool of water and falls in love with it. He becomes obsessed with its beauty, and is unable to leave his reflected image until he dies. After his death, the flower narcissus grew where he lay.

The concept of narcissism was popularized by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud through his work on the ego and its relationship to the outside world; this work became the starting point for many others developing theories on narcissism.

So when does it become a problem?

Narcissism lies on a continuum from healthy to pathological. Healthy narcissism is part of normal human functioning. It can represent healthy self-love and confidence that is based on real achievement, the ability to overcome setbacks and derive the support needed from social ties.

But narcissism becomes a problem when the individual becomes preoccupied with the self, needing excessive admiration and approval from others, while showing disregard for other people’s sensitivities. If the narcissist does not receive the attention desired, substance abuse and major depressive disorder can develop. 

Narcissists often portray an image of grandiosity or overconfidence to the world, but this is only to cover up deep feelings of insecurity and a fragile self-esteem that is easily bruised by the slightest criticism. Because of these traits, narcissists find themselves in shallow relationships that only serve to satisfy their constant need for attention. When narcissistic traits become so pronounced that they lead to impairment this can indicate the presence of narcissistic personality disorder. 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes narcissistic personality disorder as “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”. People with narcissistic personality disorder show a grandiose sense of self-importance, are consumed by fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love, and are extremely sensitive to criticism, among other things. 

Younger people and men seem to be most affected. The exact causes of narcissistic personality disorder are unknown, but childhood abuse and neglect may be possible factors involved in its formation. 

What has led to its increase?

In the clinical setting, about 2% to 16% of people suffer from this disorder, while in the general population, less than 1% of people are affected. Some suggest that narcissistic personality disorder is quite rare, but study estimates vary widely depending on sample sizes and the ways that narcissistic traits are assessed.

Others have labelled narcissism a “modern epidemic”, pointing to the rapid change in society that occurred in industrial and post-industrial times as the cause. The past few decades have witnessed a societal shift from a commitment to the collective to a focus on the individual or the self. The self-esteem movement was an important turning point in this. It determined that self-esteem was the key to success in life. Educators and parents started telling their children how special and unique they are to make them feel more confident. Parents tried to “confer” self-esteem upon their children, rather than letting them achieve it through hard work.

The rise of individualism (with its focus on the self and inner feelings) and decline in social norms that accompanied the modernisation of society also meant that the community and the family were no longer able to provide the same support for individuals as they once did. And research has shown that being embedded in social networks – for example, being actively engaged in your community and connected with friends and family – has major health benefits

As the social fabric deteriorated, it became much harder to meet the basic need for meaningful connection. The question moved from what is best for other people and the family to what is best for me. The modernisation of society seemed to prize fame, wealth, celebrity above all else. All this, combined with the breakdown in social ties created an “empty self, shorn of social meaning”.

The rise in technology and the development of hugely popular social networking sites, such as Facebook, further changed the way we spend our free time and communicate. Today, there are nearly 936m active Facebook users each day worldwide. Internet addiction is a new area of study in mental health and recent cross-sectional research shows that addiction to Facebook is strongly linked to narcissistic behaviour and low self-esteem.

So what can we do about it?

Treatment for narcissistic personality disorder exists and this includes pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. Meditation has also been shown to have positive effects on mental health. Further research, however, is needed on the effectiveness of various treatments. 

So what can we do about all this and how can we lead a happy and purposeful life? One of the largest studies on happiness was conducted by a group of Harvard researchers who followed a large cohort of people over a period of 75 years. What they discovered – unsurprisingly – was that fame and money were not the secrets to happiness. Rather, the most important thing in life and the greatest predictor of satisfaction was having strong and supportive relationships – essentially, that “the journey from immaturity to maturity is a sort of movement from narcissism to connection”. 

So maybe it’s time to take a break from that smartphone, shut off your computer and meet up with a friend or two. Maybe, just maybe, you might feel a little better – and boost your self-esteem.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at The Conversation and is republished here under Creative Common License.


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What Is Vulnerable Narcissism?

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VULNERABLE NARCISSISM (also known as covert narcissism and introverted narcissism) is a subtype of narcissistic personality disorder that presents as a pervasive and inflexible sensitivity to criticism and failure. It can manifest as part of the vulnerable dark triad. It is an aberration from the normal or healthy narcissism that is an essential component of psychological wellbeing. 

Ego fragility

The fragility associated with vulnerable narcissism can result in frequent narcissistic injuries, caused internalized self-annihilating feelings of shame, degradation, and emptiness. However, these emotions express externally as revulsion and a desire for vengeance and retaliation.

A deep sense of shame

A prolonged sense of shame coupled with a persecutory inner dialogue can result in feelings of sadness and torment. Thus, vulnerable narcissism goes hand in hand with depression, dysthymia, or major de­pressive disorder. Overwhelmed with humiliation and emptiness, vulnerable narcissists frequently withdraw socially. 

In this state, a vulnerable narcissist will lapse into protective mode feeling terrified of having their imperfections exposed. This is because they believe they have already achieved perfection. The grandiose aspect of their narcissism becomes introverted and masked with a show of excessive compliance, agreeableness, and humility to protect their fragile self-image.

Inverted Grandiosity

A reclusive vulnerable narcissist does not suffer from abandonment issues, nor are they self-destructive. They rely on their inverted grandiosity to sustain their view of themselves as secretly superior to others. Though they crave attention, nothing less than validation of their self-image will do. They revel in commanding the admiration and envy of their peers.

Desensitized to their own and others’ feelings of vulnerability, they never lose their slick, shallow, and exploitative pragmatism. Another feature of vulnerable narcissism is that the impulsivity, hostility, and deceptiveness that is typical of the grandiose variant may be absent.

Impaired relationships with self and others

The entitlement, insensitivity, and need for external validation associated with vulnerable narcissism can seriously impair the ability of someone with this pathology to sustain a healthy relationship with themselves and other people.

The impact of vulnerable narcissism on performance

In some cases, the hidden confidence, pretentiousness, and lofty ambition tied to vulnerable narcissism can drive these individuals to become highly accomplished. On the other hand, their ability to function may become impaired due to performance anxiety due to their inability to accept criticism or failure.

References

Gore, W. L., & Widiger, T. A. (2016). Fluctuation between grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 7(4), Page 363.


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How Narcissists Groom People with Madelaine Claire Weiss

Madelaine Claire Weiss on How Narcissists Groom People

IN THE LOVE BOMBING PHASE of narcissistic abuse, narcissists have an uncanny ability to disguise themselves as your soulmate. They seem to want to learn everything about you. They study you intently and they mirror your finest qualities back at you, building a false sense of rapport. This is how narcissists groom people.

It can feel a bit like being caught in the high beam of an oncoming vehicle on a dark night. Love bombing is the first instance of gaslighting in the cycle of narcissistic abuse. It deliberately distorts your vision and the euphoria is designed to override your instincts. A love bombing narcissist has an uncanny ability to identify the places in the human spirit that are unnourished. Narcissistic people know that a hungry heart is willing to sacrifice a lot to experience satiety.

To learn more about how extreme narcissism can play out as aggression in the context of romantic relationships, I reached out to Madelaine Claire Weiss. She is a Psychotherapist and Executive Coach trained in Organizational Dynamics at Boston University and Psychodynamics at Harvard University, where she was the Administrative Director of Group Mental Health Practice. She was also the Associate Director of the Anatomical Gift Program at Harvard Medical School. In addition to this, she delivered training programs at the Center for Workplace Learning and Performance.

Understanding narcissistic personality disorder

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Please share what you think are the most important things to know about narcissistic personality disorder?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: When we talk about narcissistic personality disorder, we are talking about specific patterns of repetitive behavior that are destructive to self and destructive to the well-being of others. It is a mental condition that presents as:

  • An inflated sense of importance,
  • A craving for excessive attention and admiration,
  • Dysfunctional relationships, and
  • Low empathy for others. 

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Can you describe why people targeted by narcissists may have a blindspot for the manipulation taking place in the early stages of the relationship?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: It starts deliciously! You are certain the universe put this person on this planet just for you. This is the one you have been waiting for forever, who finally gets you like never before.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: How do narcissists ingratiate themselves with their targets.

Madelaine Claire Weiss: The narcissist lures and lands the giver of narcissistic supplies with incredible charm.

Narcissists seek supply to stabilize a fragile self

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Can you describe how narcissists extract ego boosts or narcissistic supply from the people they target?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: Narcissistic supplies can include attention, admiration, approval, adoration, and other forms of sustenance essential for the narcissist to stabilize the fragile self and fill up the emptiness inside.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: What makes someone bright and talented susceptible to the manipulation of a narcissist?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: There may be gifts, endless compliments, so many calls and texts, so much gorgeous attention, that you have no reason not to believe this person isn’t crazy about you. You have finally found your soulmate, and nothing will ever take you apart.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: How can someone tell that the person love bombing them is a narcissist?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: It starts to hurt. Little by little, this person invades your life until it shrinks so small you can’t even find yourself in it, let alone the family, friends, outside activities, and interests you used to enjoy.

The aftermath of narcissistic abuse

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: In your opinion, what is the most harmful aspect of narcissistic abuse?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: Narcissistic abuse becomes a physiological peptide addiction – an addiction that must be broken.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: What is your best advice to someone caught in the grip of narcissistic abuse, who is essentially battling an addiction?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: Break the addiction in the best way you can. There are techniques for this. Good health and happiness are waiting for you on the other side.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: After narcissistic abuse, people tend to blame themselves. What do you think is the most important thing for them to understand about what happened to them?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: It’s not just you. It happens to many people – up to 158 million Americans.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Is there an empowering central lesson survivors of narcissistic abuse can take away from their experience?

Madelaine Claire Weiss: Know this: the charming narcissist doesn’t target just anyone. Typically, you have to be pretty amazing in some way that the narcissist is not, to make the narcissist look and feel good. So go ahead and be flattered, but know this, too. 

Read Madelaine Claire Weiss’ new book ‘Getting To G.R.E.A.T.’ and follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.


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What Is Extreme Narcissism?

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EXTREME NARCISSISM refers to an antagonistic variant of this personality trait that exists at the far end of the narcissism continuum. It is a defensive ego structure that generates a false self to protect the failed development of a true self. It is used to describe the maladaptive, socially destructive strains of narcissism. It is synonymous pathological narcissism.

An Intersection of Two Disorders

Social psychologist Erich Fromm described the most extreme form of narcissism as malignant and placed it at the intersection of narcissistic personality disorder and anti-social personality disorder. He called it “the most severe pathology” and “the quintessence of evil”.

These intersecting personality disorders include the malevolent traits that comprise the dark triad, vulnerable dark triad, or dark tetrad.

The Dark Triad

  • Narcissism –  grandiosity, arrogance, megalomania and low empathy.
  • Psychopathy – antisocial behavior, ruthlessness, impulsiveness, selfishness, absence of conscience and emotionally frigid.
  • Machiavellianism – manipulativeness, amorality, callousness, and self-centeredness.

The Dark Tetrad

  • Narcissism –  grandiosity, arrogance, megalomania and low empathy.
  • Psychopathy – antisocial behavior, ruthlessness, impulsiveness, selfishness, absence of conscience and emotionally frigid.
  • Machiavellianism – manipulativeness, amorality, callousness, and self-centeredness.
  • Sadism – cruelty, mercilessness.

The Vulnerable Dark Triad

  • Vulnerable narcissism – introverted grandiosity
  • Sociopathy – Feeble conscience, absence of psychosis, and emotionally volatile. Also known as secondary psychopathy.
  • Borderline personality disorder – Distorted sense of self, chronic emotional dysregulation, splitting, self-destructiveness, emptiness, rapidly shifting moods, and anger management issues.

Why Does Extreme Narcissism Develop?

Extreme expressions of narcissism are a post-traumatic stress adaptation. It can be thought of as a kind of scar tissue that develops to protect the psyche from unhealed trauma and the failure to generate a true self. Its function is to dull, hardened, and desensitize the mind, to severe consciousness from a state of constant fragility, dread, and hyper-vigilance. It limits an individual’s capacity to form true bonds with others, as it is largely removed from empathy.

Extreme narcissism separates the psyche from painful feelings connected to highly stressful or traumatic experiences. Overwhelming feelings of shame and humiliation are buried deep in the subconscious mind, where a false self is formed to keep feelings of vulnerability emotions at bay.

Characteristics of Extreme Narcissism?

This variant shares the same characteristics as malignant narcissism. Both are:

  • Harmful to self and others
  • Loves self to the exclusion of others
  • Rigid, and 
  • Compromises mental health of self and others.

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What is Narcissism?

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WHAT DOES NARCISSISM MEAN in the context of psychology? Narcissism is self-idealization. It is a personality trait all people possess that exists on a continuum. However, the degree to which people are narcissistic varies. In and of itself, narcissism is neither good nor bad. It is simply a necessary component of the human personality structure. In fact, a normal or healthy degree of narcissism has a range of health benefits. Narcissism becomes problematic only when there are aberrations.

The words narcissism and narcotic both originate from the Greek narkao which means “I numb myself”. In other words, narcissism has a similarly soothing affect on our senses as a narcotic. Holding a slightly flattering view ourselves serves to dull the impact of otherwise painful existential realities.

12 Signs of Normal or Healthy Narcissism?

Clinical psychologist Michael Kinsey, PhD, an expert in personality dynamics, breaks down some of the most prominent characteristics of healthy narcissism as the ability to:

  1. Admire others and accept admiration from them.
  2. Believe in the importance of our contributions.
  3. Experience gratitude and appreciation.
  4. Empathize with others, while prioritizing self.
  5. Embody self-efficacy, persistence and resilience.
  6. Respect self in health habits and boundaries.
  7. Feel confident about being seen.
  8. Tolerate others disapproval.
  9. Set goals and pursue them with desire.
  10. Be attentive to the external world.
  11. Be aware of emotions.

As a trait, narcissism is very different from its subtypes in a number of ways. It is flexible and can change over time. Most importantly normal or healthy narcissism helps us develop a positive self concept and helps form healthy relationships with others as healthy narcissism helps us extend our love to others.


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What Narcissists Look For in A Partner with Dr. Rick Patterson

what narcissists look for in a partner

DR. RICK PATTERSON spoke candidly with me about what narcissists look for in a partner. He is the author of Shame Unmasked: Disarming the Hidden Driver Behind Our Destructive Decisions, an insightful book about the inner thoughts associated with extreme narcissism. In his work, Dr. Patterson underscores that toxic shame is the driving force of narcissistic aggression.

He explains “A person with internalized shame believes he is inherently flawed, inferior and defective. Such a feeling is so painful that defending scripts (or strategies) are developed to cover it up. These scripts are the roots of violence, criminality, war, and all forms of addiction.”

The role of narcissism in toxic relationships

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Dr. Patterson, what is something most people don’t know about love bombing?

Dr. Rick Patterson: As a reforming narcissist myself, I’ve seen this play out in all types of venues. Love bombing isn’t just a romantic thing. It can happen in any relationship anywhere, including the workplace or where you worship. 

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: As a recovering narcissist, could you share your thoughts on what qualities a narcissistic person or NPD looks for in someone they think will be susceptible to the love bombing tactic?

Dr. Rick Patternson: A narcissist can sense someone’s need and their openness to being manipulated.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Your mention of need is interesting because it’s a word associated with being impoverished, lacking, or hungry. Could you explain a bit more about what you mean when you say that someone is open to being manipulated?

Dr. Rick Patterson: Someone experiencing love myredbook sacramento bombing is thinking that this attention doesn’t make sense combined with a feeling of needing it to make sense.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: In your opinion, what drives the need to make the absurd make sense?

Dr. Rick Patterson: Ironically, someone’s need for attention from a narcissist comes from their own narcissism.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Given that narcissism is a trait that exists on a continuum that we all have, it makes sense that a highly narcissistic person or someone with narcissistic personality disorder would excel at recognizing and appealing to narcissism in others. What exactly does a narcissist see when they set their sights on someone?

Dr. Rick Patterson: They see the narcissism of the person they target presenting as neediness, which opens them up to a person whose narcissism presents as manipulative. Both individuals have complementary and codependent forms of the same shame-based malady.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: One is the yin to the other’s yang.

What drives narcissists to manipulate others?

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Let’s talk about what motivates a narcissistic person to love bomb someone. What drives this behavior?

Dr. Rick Patterson: There is something in it for the narcissist.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: So, it’s avarice. The narcissist is seeking to benefit from the person or people they love bomb.

Dr. Rick Patterson: This happens in volunteer organizations and the workplace all the time. Volunteer organizations need people to work for free. The best way to make that happen is through compliments. There is nothing wrong with donating to a cause – just do it for the cause and not the person showering you with attention. Your workplace has also learned that they can pay employees less when they give more compliments. They describe it as “worker retention”, but it helps “retain” workers when they can’t pay as much.

The role of sociotropy in narcissistic abuse

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: If a person has been targeted for narcissistic abuse what are three things they need to understand and be mindful of going forward?

Dr. Rick Patterson: Think about these things:

  1. Neediness – Your need and your openness to being manipulated
  2. Resources – There something in it for the narcissist to shower this attention.
  3. Vulnerablity – A willingness to give up your freedoms for praise.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Excellent points. An excessive need for approval and acceptance can cause people to lapse into denial when confronted with red flag behaviors. Sociotropy or people pleasing creates blindspots. It’s a green light for a predatory personalities.

Dr. Patterson: The danger for the recipient of love bombing is the needier you are for the praise you receive – in other words, the more shame drive you have – the less likely you will be to see what’s going on. Find someone you trust to give you some clarity.

Shame Unmasked: Disarming the Hidden Driver Behind Our Destructive Decisions is available for purchase on Amazon.


Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org.
In the UK call 0808 2000 247 or log on to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.


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What Is The Difference Between Narcissism and Malignant Narcissism?

a boa constrictor on a branch

MOST PEOPLE ENCOUNTER the word narcissism in the context of exploitation and betrayal in interpersonal relationships. However, a subtype of this personality trait is usually the driving force of these behaviors. Because of the prevalence of extreme narcissism in human aggression, people often confuse the meaning of narcissism with its more malevolent expressions. And so it’s not strange that many people wonder, “What is the difference between narcissism and malignant narcissism?”

What is narcissism?

Narcissism is self-idealization. It is a personality trait all human beings have that exists on a continuum, meaning that it is more pronounced in some people than in others.

According to Dr. Michael Kinsey, some signs of it manifest as our ability to:

  • Admire others and accept admiration.
  • Believe in the importance of our contributions.
  • Experience gratitude and appreciation.
  • Empathize with others, yet prioritize self.
  • Embody self-efficacy, persistence and resilience.
  • Respect self in health habits and boundaries.
  • Feel confident about being seen.
  • Tolerate others disapproval.
  • Set goals and pursue them with desire.
  • Be attentive to the external world.
  • Be aware of emotions.

The trait has countless health benefits, which is one of the main ways it differs from its corrupt subtype. It is not harmful in any way. In fact, it makes it possible to love self and others. Moreover, sub-clinical narcissism can fluctuate over time.

What is malignant narcissism?

Malignant narcissism is a term coined by social psychologist Erich Fromm to describe the most extreme form of narcissism. It exists at the intersection of narcissistic personality disorder and anti-social personality disorder. Fromm defines it as “the quintessence of evil” and “the most severe pathology and the root of the most vicious destructiveness and inhumanity.”

Malignant narcissism is:

  • Harmful to self and others
  • Loves self to the exclusion of others
  • Rigid, and
  • Compromises mental health of self and others.

Final thoughts

Malignant narcissism is an aberration from the normal narcissism that is necessary for human health. It is a grave mistake to conflate the two, as this poses the risk of pathologizing people who may have acted overly narcissistic in the heat of the moment or for a length of time.

Only a licensed mental health professional can accurately diagnose narcissistic personality disorder and understand the dynamics at play in cases of sub-clinical narcissism with precision.


Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org.
In the UK call 0808 2000 247 or log on to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.


NAR’s Journalistic Standards and Practices
About NA
R • Report Typo or Error

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