What is Pathological Narcissism?

person eye

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

Confidential support is available.
Book a one-on-one consultation or coaching session.


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

What Is Extreme Narcissism?

angry black man in hoodie against light pink background

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.

Confidential support is available.
Book a one-on-one consultation or coaching session.


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

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

What is a Narcissistic Injury?

The Narcissist's Hidden Depression

IMAGINE LIFE WITHOUT the ability to experience genuine feelings of 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 grandiose 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.

narcissistic abuse rehab | narcissistic injury | triggers | false self

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. 

y disorder fragility

Narcissistic Injury FAQ

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

Narcissists are shame-based and have fragile ego structures. They can suffer from low self-esteem, depression, rage, and paranoia.

Narcissists want power and control.

Bibliography

The Coercive Control of Children with Dr. Evan Stark

Children Are Targets for Coercive Control | Narcissistic Abuse Rehab

CHILDREN CAN BE TARGETS for coercive control in dysfunctional families, according to Dr. Evan Stark, author of the book Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. Research studies show that the coercive control of children occurs in 45% of families where domestic violence is practiced. It is used as part of an abusive partner’s wider campaign of intimate partner violence in which children are weaponized to isolate the primary target of the aggression.

Why is the Purpose of the Coercive Control of Children?

Abusers seek to maintain total dominance over the people they target by isolating them. Manipulation of the victim-survivor’s perception is easier to achieve without outside influences, which could be accessed through children or the child themselves.

Therefore, it is in the interest of the abuser to undermine the authority of the victim-survivor in their parental role and willfully sabotage the relationship between the targeted individual and their children.

In his research Dr. Evan Stark, author of the book Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life, found that this kind of abuse has a far more damaging and pervasive effect on the a targeted individual than acts of physical abuse.

Dr. Stark’s research found that the violence model of domestic abuse was too limited to gauge the extent of injury because much of suffering inflicted on survivors was not prohibited by law at the time.

“Over the years, we’ve been able to amend the understanding of partner abuse that limited it to violence,” Dr. Stark told Welsh Women’s Aid, “And we’ve talked a little bit about the extent to which it involved coercive control. We rejected the violence model in part because we heard from women themselves about the range of harms they were experiencing beyond violence.”

The Impact of Coercive Control on Children

Child abuse occurs mainly in connection to domestic violence. Dr. Stark’s research found that in 45% of domestic abuse cases, the abuser was hurting the spouse and the children. Exposure to and direct abuse were harmful to children.

Dr. Stark explained, “As I began to interview children and looked at the research of Emma Katz and others – which was based on my work but went way beyond it by looking at the qualitative effected of coercive control on children. It really became clear to me that children were being coercively controlled as well as women.”

The study showed that child abuse is closely linked to the abuse of the targeted parent.

Dr. Katz’s study found that children raised in a coercive and controlling ecosystem suffered from entrapment similar to the targeted parent.

She explains, “Children’s access to resilience-building and developmentally-helpful persons and activities were limited.”

The abuse children experienced at the hands of an abusive parent were low-level assaults, comparable to the abuse inflicted on the targeted parent.

The research findings were the same regarding the sexual assault of children.

According to Dr. Stark, “There was sexual assault of children, some of it dramatic, but most of it fell on a continuum of sexual coercion: touching, inappropriate dressing [of] boys as well as girls.”

The research also found that children experienced the same patterns of isolation, intimidation and control as the targeted parent.

Children are weaponized in coercive and controlling relationships

The evidence gathered by the researchers discovered that children were often “weaponized” against the targeted parent by the abuser.

Abusers use coercive control tactics to modify the identity of the child and turn them against the targeted parent.

Dr. Stark explains, “Batterers would weaponize children. They would use them as spies. They would use them sometimes as co-abusers if they were older children. They would use them as pawns in court processes as ways of extending their abuse.”

What can be done when children are targets of Coercive Control?

Raising children with a high conflict personality, such as a narcissist or psychopath, can be extraordinarily challenging.

This is especially true, for survivors who have left the relationship and are targets for their abusers vindictiveness.

For information on how to approach this situation please read our interview with Michael Kinsey, Ph.D. ‘How To Co-Parent with a Narcissist.’

Have your say

Have you or someone you know experienced coercive and controlling behavior? Does Dr. Stark’s descriptions of the power dynamics in a dysfunctional family resonate with you? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


Confidential support is available.
Book a one-on-one consultation or coaching session.


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

buy amoxil buy amoxil 500 mg online