Dr. Rick Patternson 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 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:
- Neediness – Your need and your openness to being manipulated
- Resources – There something in it for the narcissist to shower this attention.
- 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.