PATHOLOGICAL NARCISSISM is a term used to describe a shame-based expression of the trait that manifests as an addiction to external validation. It can also be characterized by oscillations between the grandiose and vulnerable states associated with this personality type. Over time the disruptions in emotional regulation can lead to diminished psychological well-being and interpersonal functioning.
How does pathological narcissism develop?
Pathological narcissism is a construct used to describe a maladaptive and socially destructive form of self-idealization. In clinical practice, it’s known as a narcissistic personality disorder and in popular culture, it’s called malignant narcissism. It is understood to develop as a defensive ego structure that protects a 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.
Some characteristics of pathological narcissism are that it is:
- Self-love to the exclusion of others
- Addiction to validation.
- Harmful to self and others
- Dangerous to the mental health of self and others, and
- Vaknin, S. (2018) ‘Narcissistic Disorders of the Self as Addictions.’ Journal of Addition Research.
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