March 14, 2008

Malignant Narcissism

"The most severe cases are those of 'malignant narcissism'-severe deterioration of the Super-ego, anti-social behavior, paranoid features, etc. and the 'psychopathic personality' with a total destruction of the super-ego. "
"The term “malignant narcissism” probably was first coined by psychiatrist Erich Fromm in his 1964 book, The Heart of Man. In it, Fromm identified the malignant narcissist as an individual for whom the outside world “has ceased to be real” because he has made himself the substitute for reality by making himself his own “god and the world.” The malignant narcissist is “crudely solipsistic” because he is great not for something he has achieved, but for some presumed quality he has. Consequently, he does “not need to be related to anybody or anything.” Doing so, however, removes him even more from reality: the individual becomes more and more isolated in a fantasy realm of grandiosity and “narcissistic splendor.”"

Malignant Self-Love by Sam Vaknin
"The narcissist is an actor in a monodrama, yet he is forced to remain behind the scenes. The scenes take centre stage, instead. The Narcissist does not cater at all to his own needs. Contrary to his reputation, the Narcissist does not "love" himself in any true sense of this loaded word. The narcissist feeds off other people who hurl back at him an image that he projects to them. This is their sole function in his world : to reflect his False Self, to admire him, to applaud his actions, even to detest and fear him - in a word, to assure him that he exists by giving him constant attention. Otherwise, the narcissist feels that they have no right to tax his time, energy, or emotions.

In the essay, I survey the main body of research about Narcissism. The Frequently Asked Questions deal with various aspects of narcissistic (often abusive) behavior, traits, personality, and style - and there is much more in the journal entries and in the hundreds of excerpts from the Narcissistic Abuse Study List."

"Most of us have narcissistic traits, and a certain degree of self-interest is healthy. But at what point does self-absorption become pathological narcissism?"


  1. By reading all of these blogs and articles of narcissism, I feel that I am a narcissist. I am starting to wonder about what is so wrong about being a narcissist.

    I can see that I hurt people. But I don't have long term friends or aquantances. I don't mean to hurt other people. I usually try to hide myself from others so that they will not experience my assholery. I hurt other people unintentionally in the moment. But they usually have family, friends, a life, and a stable ideology. A random stranger like me will not ruin them. They are going to be okay. So why do people hate us so much? The only person we're hurting more than anyone is ourselves.

    I guess I know that if we're hurting ourselves, we're hurting society by including another self-hating asshole in the world who unknowingly shows aggression. And, I guess, trying to protect people from my insecurities is not the way to go about this. I don't know. I don't know what the next step from here is. I'm just so sad right now. I feel so much anxiety. I feel so much pressure on my body and in my brain.

    1. Hi anonymous. What I hear in your comment is a loss of hope---hope that YOU can change behaviors that you now recognize as being painful to others and limiting to yourself.

      The quality of one's life improves when relationships improve. Stable relationships enhance our lives because in order to sustain a long-term relationship, we must be growing "with" that other person. That means lots of ups and downs and arguments and reconciliations---in effect, learning to trust that "we" are worth the trouble it takes to maintain a relationship and valuing the other person enough to stay in relationship with them.

      I think people are beginning to realize that narcissism reduces the capacity for joy, for the construction of meaning in life, for creating fulfilling relationships with other people AND with one's self. Narcissism leads to self-destructive behaviors, perhaps because relationships are meaningless, reducing people to being a "means to an end." Peace becomes an illusive fantasy when the only way to feel safe is to be "the best", on top, "better than everyone else." Narcissism may feel comforting (like a self-fulfilling prophecy) but substance abuse and even suicide make narcissism a dangerous disease---perhaps even fatal. Anything you can do to ameliorate your isolation from others and the self-loathing typically associated with pathological narcissism, will be rewarded with improved relationships in your life.

      It's amazing how far people are willing to go to support someone with a narcissistic personality IF that person is willing to "try."

      About the only way I know (and this comes from hard-learned direct experience with narcissistic people) is to settle in with long-term therapy. Narcissism is not something to joke about and should be considered as dangerous as any other life-limiting disorder. Because the pathology runs deep and is not "undone" with a session of mindfulness and twenty sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy, you must find someone who specializes in long-term treatments. From things I have read (I am not a psychologist), it may take seven years to realize success; however, that does NOT mean (i know you're thinking this, ha!) that you'll need to suffer for seven years in sack cloth and ashes without even a glimmer of happiness. NO. People with narcissistic personalities will experience increasing freedom from self-critical beliefs that will then encourage further exploration and healing. Each year is better than the prior as you become comfortable in your own skin, well-loved and well-connected to those who love you back.

      I sense your sadness at realizing how your behavior/beliefs have diminished the quality of your life and hurt other people, too. Let the sadness stay. Too often, people with narcissistic disorders are reluctant (or incapable) of feeling sorrow. Sorrow leads to remorse which leads to changed behavior---so don't hinder your awakening by avoiding sadness. That you are anxious is much is unknown about your future. We lose our sense of control when we allow ourselves to feel sad and at the same time, recognize we have a hand in our own suffering.

      Why do people hate narcissists so much? I have big opinions on that but in short, I'll just say that the vast majority of people do not well-understand narcissism. It's tempting to blame the worst of human behavior as being caused by narcissism, but that's ridiculous and unfair. The majority of pain and suffering in our world is caused by so-called normal people---people without any disorder of any sort. That's not to say narcissists haven't hurt other people (sometimes irreparably so) but narcissism is not the sole cause of human suffering.


    2. While people are unraveling the particulars of their experience and learning about narcissism, they become angry and frequently react with a hostility they may never have felt before! That's to be expected. However, it's important to watch non-narcissists work through their growing understanding of narcissism. They are angry--maybe even furious. They allow themselves to speak as openly and harshly as needed, evacuating any self-loathing and judgments they experienced while taking more and more responsibility for themselves. Eventually, they begin an acceptance process that may or may not include forgiveness. Seeing this process in action is one of the most brilliant and fulfilling journeys I have witnessed over the years.

      I wish YOU the best in your journey, also. Take responsibility for your own happiness by working with a professional who can guide you away from narcissistic temptations (control, isolation, superiority, aggression, certainty, etc.) Trust your therapist to have your best interests at heart and never stop trying to be the best you can be. Never stop.



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