October 21, 2012

Testing Normal and Yucky Narcissism

"Normal narcissism is vital for satisfaction and survival. All the capacities of the real self come under the heading of normal narcissism, which in effect is the capacity to identify what you want and need, get yourself together, and go after it, while also taking into account the welfare of others. This is the healthy way to feel good about yourself. This important distinction between healthy and pathological narcissism has been blurred by the tendency to see all narcissism as pathological." ~James. F. Masterson

One of the top five posts on my blog is an essay titled, "Help! I'm a Narcissist! This essay was written in response to readers who admitted excessive self-preoccupation was affecting their relationships. They asked for resources because they feared narcissism was limiting their lives. I can corroborate that point---unchecked, untreated, unmodified narcissism ruins relationships.

My concern is that people with high scores on narcissism tests, automatically assume they're pathological narcissists, the types of narcissists people are writing about on blogs and websites. This brief essay describes normal narcissism which ranges from healthy to unhealthy. Normal narcissism MUST BE be distinguished from the pathological narcissism causing inestimable pain to individuals and society. That does not mean unhealthy narcissism is a good thing but it's not as intractable as pathological narcissism. In other words, you can change unhealthy narcissism for the better.
"People at the psychologically healthy  end of the narcissism continuum exhibit these traits in normal, moderated levels. People at the other end manifest their narcissistic traits in such extreme ways that they demonstrate the pathologies of narcissistic personality disorder. In between lies a spectrum of infinite gradation."~Dr. Drew Pinsky and Mark Young, The Mirror Effect, page 89
A couple of tests measuring narcissism are available to the public and they're linked below. What you need to know before taking these tests is that they measure normal narcissism, not pathological narcissism. So do NOT freak out if you take the Narcissistic Personality Inventory and discover you're on the high end of the continuum which puts you in the same league as Robin QuiversWhen Dr. Drew Pinsky measured her normal narcissism, she scored a 34. The average is 15.3.

Thirty-four is higher than the scores people have reported on my blog which are generally below  average. Lower scores m-i-g-h-t reflect people's knowledge about narcissism because anyone reading my blog is relatively well-informed. We know which box to tick and which not to which could (not sayin' it does) lead to self-deception; i.e.: we cheat. It's hard not to cheat on a narcissism test because according to James F. Masterson, "The important distinction between healthy and pathological narcissism has been blurred by the tendency to see all narcissism as pathological." Narcissism is a test you hope to fail unless you understand that narcissism is part of everyone's personality. Narcissism can be healthy; it can be pathological; it can be malignant.

I believe we need to get comfortable with everyone's narcissism as a constellation of personality traits which does not in any way, minimize the damage pathological narcissism does to people and society. We're still in the process of understanding how narcissism functions in the regulation of self-esteem and there's a lot of confusion about narcissism as a categorical and/or characterological disorder. This likely happened when narcissism websites first hit the Internet and people were desperate for information (myself included). The Jekyl-Hyde narcissism being described ten years ago was a mix of extreme narcissism combined with psychopathy, and a pinch of anti-social personality traits thrown in for narcs who broke the law.

Suggesting oneself to have narcissistic traits at that point, was akin to saying you kept dead bodies in your basement. People were highly resistant to narcissism being defined as anything other than pathological.  On my blog, my title is a dead giveaway. I think the narcissistic continuum is a useful conceptual model described by Dr. Nina Brown in her book Destructive Narcissistic Patterns. Her model ranges from healthy narcissism to pathological narcissism and it just made sense to me to look at narcissism that way.

I am 100% in support of anyone taking an honest look at themselves. So take a look at yourself. If you don't like what you see, congratulate yourself for being able to tolerate your imperfections and flaws! If you're ecstatic about what you see, don't tell me because my blog presumes y'all have come to grips with the fact that our societies are increasingly narcissistic which means we are primed to see ourselves as unique individuals and special. Whoever we are, and whatever we want, or however we act is fine, as long as we're comfortable with ourselves because what really matters is how we feel about ourselves--even if our special feelings make other people feel very unspecial, even terrible about themselves and that is truly yucky. 

So this is my test measuring Yucky Narcissism and I made it up myself. 

Sit in a lotus position. Drape your hands gently over your knees and imagine your fingers to be fluffy floating flowers in the free-flowing sea foam of life.  Breath in deeply...hold it. Now exhale...hold it. Repeat this breath work five times. When your chakras have lit up like a modem after a power surge, and you're fully relaxed but not sleeping, repeat after me: 

"I am an ordinary person having an ordinary experience." 

Now check your feet. Are they squinched up? Score two points for each toe twitch. Check your fists. Are they doubled up? Score three point for each fingernail dent in your palm. Check the top of your hands. If you're white knuckling your ordinariness and oh-so-not-special self, add fifty points to your score.  Any score above zero means your narcissism could use some attention. Any scores higher than seventy could possibly---if you aren't careful---make your head explode.

For other tests considered more valid than mine, go to these links and test yourself: the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) and the The Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale (HSNS).

If at this point, you're itching to write a nasty email to me for even hinting you might not be special and unique and entitled to exploit people to meet your needs, find a clinical psychologist who can assess whether or not you're dealing with pathological narcissism.

HINT: If you're getting along reasonably well with your family, co-workers and the people next door, you aren't dealing with pathological narcissism. Just the Yucky Narcissism people deal with everyday in a culture that panders to our every whim from television commercials to pick-yer-stories news feeds. People with pathological narcissism, what clinicians diagnose as a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, suffer significant impairments with: 1) other people (interpersonal); 2) with the self (intrapersonal).

In my experience, maturation challenges normal narcissism. Maybe that's because the older we get, the more time we've had to make mistakes. The accumulation of personal stupidity over a lifetime tends to take a toll on immatured hubris. Takes the edge off youthful grandiosity. Humbles our egos if we let it. Complaints and criticism from other people CAN BE a powerful motivator. There's the kicker though, folks. Feedback from other people is a powerful motivator if we value other people. 
"All the capacities of the real self come under the heading of normal narcissism, which in effect is the capacity to identify what you want and need, get yourself together, and go after it, while also taking into account the welfare of others. This is the healthy way to feel good about yourself."~James Masterson
As long as narcissistic people are getting what they want and nobody complains, they won't question their entitlement to serve themselves without taking into account the welfare of others. So, IF and WHEN somebody complains about being treated badly, like a wife or husband, the kids, parents, a favorite Aunt or Uncle, and then yea, let's add co-workers and the boss, and maybe the Welcome Wagon committee in the neighborhood, and the local Starbucks barrista and the chubby choir director, well...that usually gets the narcissist's attention and THEN it takes a LOT of his or her TIME getting rid of all those people.

That is not Normal or Yucky Narcissism. You get my drift.

Normal narcissism includes the ability to form deep object relations, emotional bonds, mutual giving and taking, a realistic self-interest, empathy for others, and accurate self-knowledge. Healthy narcissism allows people to tolerate criticism and failure, and contain negative feelings like guilt which leads to even deeper pro-social emotions like remorse and forgiveness. Healthy narcissism, as described by Heinz Kohut, includes creativity, empathy, a sense of humor, awareness of finiteness, and wisdom.
"Our capacity to change is there if we are willing to tap into its potential and allow ourselves to experience the intense and uncomfortable emotions that usually accompany this experience...Sometimes the change is painful, and there are times when we need the expertise of a competent therapist to guide and support us. A sense of meaning, purpose and fulfillment can be the reward for undertaking this process."~ Dr. Nina Brown
My next post will feature a variety of books and resources that inform and challenge narcissistic behaviors inhibiting the development of healthy relationships with other people and with the self.


Other posts that may be of interest:

Healthy Narcissism and Admiration

Narcissistic Traits and the NPI

Healthy Narcissism or Pathological Narcissism

Descriptions of Healthy Narcissism

Normal or Malignant Narcissism?


Nina Brown. The Destructive Narcissistic Pattern. 1998

Alexander Lowen. Narcissism: Denial of the True Self. 1985

James. F. Masterson. The Search for the Real Self. 1988

Drew Pinsky and Mark S. Young. The Mirror Effect. 2009


  1. This is another supremely helpful post CZ. My NP are definitely "getting what they want" re: narc supply, from sisters, and others. But not me, not anymore. I took one of the measurement tests and scored relatively low on the Narc scale. Hightest score was in "authority." Probably comes from decades as a teacher and mentor. I hope.......

    1. These are the seven traits measured on the NPI:

      1) Authority
      2) Self-Sufficiency
      3) Superiority
      4) Exhibitionism
      5) Exploitativeness
      6) Vanity
      7) Entitlement

      Hi CS,

      My highest trait was also Authority.

      Like you, my score was lower than the average but I'm sixty. At twenty years of age, I'd have scored much higher on the Vanity measurement no doubt. (note the white-hatted lady on my front page...now there's some vanity in action!) People probably think I'm a narcissist if they have a shallow understanding of narcissism, that is.

      Even if I were high in vanity (which I'm not), that still wouldn't be problematic. Annoying maybe...like my sister who takes three hours getting ready for work.

      The real culprits in determining pathology are these two traits: exploitativeness and entitlement, both of which I scored very low on and presume you did, too.

      I may have scored a little bit higher in entitlement though since I don't have a Ph.D and still purport myself to be an 'expert armchair psychologist.'

      That's the thing people miss when pointing fingers at other people. The reason Reality Show Celebrities are the highest in narcissism of all groups measured is because they did not EARN their status. They score higher on the NPI than movie stars who have honed their craft with hard work and failures. So there's a likely possibility that reality stars scored high on entitlement (I DESERVE my fame!) and exhibitionism (look at me!)

      Someone who is high in Authority and low in exploitation and entitlement is a healthy, reliable leader. They'd be the kind of CEOs who would refuse golden handshakes if it meant robbing employees' pensions.

      The issue today is that many people are HIGH on entitlement and exploitativeness without COMPLAINTS by other people. In fact, we often praise Robber Barons for being ruthless and winning the game.

      We are in deep shit as a culture.


    2. What a smart take. High on authority and low on entitlement and exploitativeness, equals reliable leadership. I like this. The thing is, I chose not to have children precisely because I was terrified I'd be the kind of narcissistic emotionally demanding mother my own mother was and is. Instead, I CONSCIOUSLY decided to be the opposite of her with respect to how I treated my students. I put THEIR needs first, their successes, often at my own expense. I've left manuscripts unfinished in order to read and edit their work promptly; I don't get articles to journals as often as I'd like because I'm mentoring students, writing letters of reference for them, coaching them for job market applications, directing a dozen dissertations. I care about THEIR successes. That's my JOB. That's my only agenda. When my students and former students do well, I feel I've had a positive impact on them and on the world more generally. I never take credit for their success. I'm only one part of them getting there, then they do it themselves. In this way I have become a kind of "parent," a mentor/advisor whose former students now teach their own students, and even send their students to me to go to grad school. That makes me a "grandmentor"! This gives me deep satisfaction. I'm nothing like my mother with respect to nurturing others' talent. It does the opposite of threaten me. Each one of my former grad students is now a close friend, a part of my family of choice. I get photos of their kids; I know their troubles; I still read and give feedback on their work. No wonder my hands hurt! I'm only blogging because I want to understand myself as I move into this final truly autonomous stage of my life, and ward off the last great attempts by FOO to guilt me as my parents decline into old age.


    3. Thank you for writing that, CS. I'm relieved to know you aren't vying for President of the Blogosphere. Sounds like your occupation and your personal work keeps you a little too busy for cyber-politics.

      However, if you change your mind, let me know because I'd like to be the "ACoN Ambassador of Good Will, Peace, and Love for Everyone."


    4. There you go again, with those peace love and understanding feel-good buzz words. :-)

  2. I scored too low. I didn't take care of myself. To help myself straighten out the difference, I call healthy narcissism, self care. I learned the hard way if I don't take care of myself, no one else will either. I appreciate your continuum concept and I also learned that people are not locked into one section of the continuum. Their own choices can move them towards healthy.

    1. Hi Ruth! Thank you so much for commenting!

      When parents don't meet their children's needs, nor love them unconditionally, those children won't know how to parent themselves with love and care when they're adults.

      It can be terribly difficult changing self-destructive patterns of behavior if someone felt rejected, worthless, maybe even like 'damaged goods'. But people do turn their lives around and they do realize they are worthy of their own attention and caretaking!

      One form of healthy self-love is surrendering our defenses and accepting support from other people and professionals. To put our fists down and admit we need help is a whole lot harder than people think! That first step into a therapist's office is an act of courage and faith in ourselves...it also says that we believe (even if parents didn't---or an X-husband didn't, ha!) that WE are worthy human beings who are deserving of kindness and love.

      I have had a rough few years since my divorce. It was so troubling to me psychologically and I am trying (not very well yet) to put myself at the top of my ToDo list. ha!

      I tend to be the kind of woman who remains flexible so I can meet my family's beck and call. And in my family, there's lots of becks and not so many calls. ha...inside joke maybe. Struck me funny while i was typing, though.

      Much love and respect for you,

  3. "Yucky." Yes, this is exactly how my wife would describe the feeling she gets from my dysfunctional behavior.

    Thanks for this article and I look forward to the next post.

    1. I'm always up for a challenge, Steve. You've encouraged me to finish a task that's been on my ToDo list for a long time. I started composing a list of resources and felt it was important to preface the article with a post about normal and pathological narcissism.

      It'll take a few days to finish a Resource page...so check back later this week. ;-)


  4. Hi CZ~! This is important work you are doing here...and selfishly, it allows some of us (other writers, poets) to grab on your skirts and roll down the highway! LOL!

    I wrote a lot about narcissism...having the burden of growing up with a pn (and not practical nurse as I thought...lol) of mother...and I would find her (as others have..those who are willing to look and aren't getting some benefit from her behavior...that happens...i.e: the golden boys..) and of course I was always afraid that this closed circuit of parental behavior would mean that my partenting skills were as ...destructive.

    For a while, they were. But therapy (so much therapy...) at least in the past 6 years have helped me understand that I wasn't a PN....but I believe that all of us who have been raised or married (bingo here) to a PN have FLEAS. I think you might have originated that 'flea' tag, but I can't remember now. (just had dental implants yesterday morning and all is foggy helped by the meds....lol!)

    I will take that test, but I bet I score pretty low. My greatest problem in life was lack of confidence, the inability to supply my needs (and not that anyone else did this for me...) and other things.

    Going no contact with the maternal narcissist has been the best thing going for me. I can breathe, I can create, I can grow. And even at almost 65, once you shed the demands of the PN, life and the world is so much more beautiful.

    There is hope. There is also confusion with the weighty board of the new DSM-5, where they have shown their own confusion (and perhaps influenced by the insurance companies) over this very definition of Pathological Narcisissm. Two of the people on the advisory have quit because of the waterdown definition.

    I haven't read much of this, just blurbs, but it seems that we are being trained to accept the 'not-so-bad' new definition of pathological narcissism. A disregard of the real issues of this scurge.

    A few short years ago, I remember reading a comment from a DOCTOR on a website of a horrendous Sexual Sadist that led the parade on Pathological Narcissism. She was so happy that the DSM-4 had dropped the lables of sexual sadism as a pathology (????) (she was an extreme mascohist) because she (and he and the rest of their readers) were taking umbrage at this 'insult'. LOL!

    Well, CZ, I'll take the test when my head clears.

    Thank you, friend, for continuing this important topic...all of it. You do more good than you probably know.

    Lady Nyo (who is in real life, Jane KOHUT-Bartels. (And Heinz Kohut had his own fleas with Narcissism. In fact, if I believe the stories...he was the originating hound.)

    1. Hi Lady Nyo! ALWAYS a delight to hear from you and always a delight knowing you're related to the famous Dr. Heinz Kohut. I can't imagine a celebrated psychologist showing up at one of MY family reunions. The only Heinz at our dinner table is...ha, bad joke, right? Bet ya never heard that one before.

      I watched a brief video of your uncle. He was defending himself, lol, so perhaps he was no different from the rest of us flea-bit hounds. He was mightily intelligent though and kinda cute. I love old smart men.

      I didn't come up with the 'fleas' metaphor and honestly? I have no idea where it originated. It may have been the the BPD groups (borderline personality disorder). They've been around much longer than NPD groups.

      We don't even have a clear definition of what NPD is, so it's pretty hard to create an organization that's waiting for the professional bickering to stop and the dust to settle so we can move forward with reliable information and support!

      It's kinda weird being in my position without any say over how narcissism will be defined in the 2013 edition of the DSM. Or if it will even be included...that was a real shocker when they considered removing NPD from the DSM-5.

      My thought was 'fine' because then pathological narcissists would be classified as psychopaths and we would quit 'muddying the water' so to speak by confusing normal narcissism with psychopathy.

      However they decide to define narcissism (and I like the dimensional trait measurement very much!), is fine. At least we can get some CREDIBLE information out there to the 'confused' public.

      People minimize or demonize narcissism but that's to be expected. I have a growing concern about the way some folks are interpreting psychological information from the DSM, accusing one another of being narcissists just 'cuz they wear white hats. Or write poetry. Or use too many "I's" in a paragraph. Or believe in God. Or don't believe in God. Or run for public office. Or have lots of kids or have no kids. It is absolutely preposterous the unfounded accusations I've witnessed since Sam Vaknin brought NPD to public attention. I may be incorrect about Sam spreading the bad news about narcissism but the topic has escalated since he put his book on the Internet.

      In his defense, he was writing about Malignant Narcissism which is a combo-pack of narcissism and psychopathy.

      So I'm relieved that the term 'narcissism' is being applied to normal human development instead of pathologizing anyone who disagrees with us or has a strong opinion. ha!


  5. Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post. Narcissism is not a dirty word or a life sentence or anything to be ashamed of. It is a state of being, something normal folks can slip in and out of depending on their pasts, their stress levels, their world view, their level of self-awareness, etc.

    And I agree with you: we are in deep shit as a culture. Narcissism, mostly not pathological but still sort of missing the point, has largely taken the place, as a cultural value, of self-esteem brought about by the effort to know and develop oneself. I question whether it's always been this way and I'm just becoming more aware of it as I get older (and if modern technology has simply exacerbated an existing issue), or if the standard/norm really has become shallower. I get stuck here and honestly don't know.

    Anyway, thanks for another great post CZ. I'll let you know how I do on the tests. :)


    1. Hello Kitty!

      As destructive as pathological narcissism is to society, the argument can be made that yucky narcissism is ubiquitous and therefore even MORE destructive.

      There are some nasty things happening because of our "inflated" self-esteem and our 'right' to an opinion. People are as polarized as I can ever remember since everyone is entitled to an opinion, informed or not.

      We used to tiptoe over topics like politics because we respected the people we were with. Now we shoot people and alienate family members 'cuz one side or the other is EVIL.

      People who don't know jack shit about global politics, believe they'd do a better job running the country. Don't make me laugh! Most of us can't even get along with our neighbors whom we think are narcissists 'cuz they set their trash cans out too early.

      A couple of good books explaining this our increasing narcissism were written by social psychologists. Keith Campbell and Jean Twenge wrote, "The Narcissism Epidemic" which I liked a lot, though people were offended by some of their conclusions and suggestions.

      Like, duh. Of course they were.

      Another good resource is "The Mirror Effect" by Drew Pinsky and Mark Young. This book explains the mutually sick collusion between celebrities and their fans whose envy is satiated only by watching celebrities fail. Or get fat.

      If anyone is interested in how The Mirror Effect works, you can scroll down this webpage to find a direct quote from their book: http://woncinema.blogspot.com/

      As far as the self-esteem movement and self-help's influence on narcissism goes, I'll need more space than a comment for sure. I can say that if someone is pathologically narcissistic, self-help paves the path for them to act anti-socially without repercussions. People just don't understand pathology and assume that person is like themselves.

      That's why I clipped James Masterson's comment at the top of my page: "while also taking into account the welfare of others. This is the healthy way to feel good about yourself."

      This is where people make mistakes assuming everyone is like themselves. Several social psychologists (especially Keith Campbell) have researched communal versus agentic values in society. The more pathological someone may be, the less value they put on communal domains. Which only reiforces what Masterson wrote years ago---the healthy way to feel good about yourself is to value other people's welfare on a par with your own.

      I think that's where self-help narcissists "with good intentions" go astray. Narcissists are high on individuality, independence, self-sufficiency and don't give a whole gosh-darn about other people. But we think they do---we think they are suffering like we would.

      But they aren't! You don't suffer if you lose something you never cared that much about in the first place...it's very hard for 'normal' people to understand until you've experienced it personally.

      I will stop now.


    2. Hi Kitty and CZ,
      CZ apropos of your too true comment above, Violet, over at The Narcissist's Child, wrote an incredibly interesting post yesterday about respect. Check it out. We do tend to assume that everyone who is wounded or hurt in the wake of their narc parents or ex's, has the critical/intellectual skills to understand exactly what's going on with their feelings. This is a very touchy and interesting topic area, because cognition and affect aren't the same thing, and the intersection between them is often way out of whack. AFfect can warp cognition in horrible fun-house mirror ways. It's extremely difficult to think with balance and reason through wounded feelings unless you work your ass off to comprehend the different levels that are being activated. We become puppets without the ability to think critically. It's why reading some really good books on the topic of narcissism is so helpful. The language we use to describe what we feel matters. If it's a stream of vulgarities and banalities, that's a reflection of our minds. That's what so many people don't 'get': how you talk to others, the language you use, reveals how you think and the state of your mind. If you talk trash you think trash. So the agentic infects the communal, and vice-versa, if in both spheres all we see are the interpreters of culture spewing garbage (thanks Limbaugh). And that includes a whole lot of pure crap in the "self-help" world, where critical thinking is sorely lacking. Depth, nuance, shades of gray--one trick ponies disdain such cognitive skills. It's why our culture is deteriorating. And they want to pull even more money out of education, and hand it back to the 1%. Meanwhile we'll sit and watch Real Housewives, and think those bitches are 'funny' when in fact they are too tragic to even watch for more than two minutes. To me at least. OK, sorry for the stream of consciousness ramble here. Who the F==do I think I am, right? Proust? (that one is for the peanut gallery... :-)

    3. I'm a stream-of-consciousness woman so please feel free to do likewise. Besides, you have great streams, CS. Clean and fresh and full of fish. ;-P

      I'll put Violet's link here so people can read her article (thanks):


      I scanned the first part of the essay and CAN'T wait to READ IT. The lack of respect and civility in our society today is frightening!

      I'd best stop before I go on a tangent about snotty people who won't hold the elevator for old folks or even pregnant women, nearly mowing them down to get there first...(not writing about me. I'm not THAT old yet and even if I'm in a hurry, old people go first)...

      Is that the inflated 'high' self-esteem we read so much about in narcissism literature? They disrespect everyone else as inferior to them because they think so highly of themselves as superior?

      I really like your metaphor of the fun-house mirror warping our perceptions. If distorted perceptions weren't so convincing and so believable, I'd still be married to the man who suddenly one day, said I was just like his wicked stepmother. There was no convincing him otherwise---not even by people who had known us for decades.

      He 'felt' it was true and once again---let me throw a zinger towards the self-help industry: he had finally learned to trust his gut.

      Yea, another serious gripe I have when people are not blessed with enough healthy narcissism to distinguish the difference between affect and intuition. My X actually did better in life when he lived by a set of rules in his head.

      You wrote, "the agentic infects the communal". It surely does and emotions spread like wildfire when people have squishy boundaries. I think the term 'emotional contagion' fits rather well here. One person gets sick and pretty soon the whole town is infected and crazy, too.

      I don't know if "emotional contagion" is more likely to spread in cyberspace than face-to-face, but I'm guessing "yes." It's a problem people need to watch out for---especially empathic people whose boundaries have been trashed by the N-relatioNship.

      If we find ourselves doing things that are unusual or out of sync with our typical behavior, then we need to stop and give ourselves a reality check. Like when I was living in France and flipped off a semi-truck driver. My kids laughed themselves silly and I had to ask myself why I'd feel it was okay to do that just 'cuz the French people did it. And so I stopped.

      P.S. I'm not sure the correct term is "affect versus intuition" but hope you'll get what I'm trying to say.

    4. I get entirely what you're saying (not "trying."~~~"There is no try. There is only do."~~~Yoda)
      How crazy-making to have a narc husband who has all the lingo of the self-help movement but none of the self-honesty or self-awareness to apply it to himself (he thinks he has but he has not). Such types can make you truly crazy with their reality twisting. I know because my mother is like that. Slings around the lingo, self-publishes her own self-help "stylings" (Bill Murray's lounge singer anyone?). But does not understand what she's doing because she lacks the discipline and depth of thinking to really work on understanding how incredibly complex this psychology actually is. There ARE NO SHORTCUTS. I'm a pretty sharp cookie, I've been reading the hard-core materials on psychology for decades, and still it's only been the last few years that I've come to truly understand how the pieces fit together in my own life. This shit aint easy. It's work, man, work. It's just about a full-time job. ON top of your other full time job.
      God my hands hurt.

    5. My kid sister would say that the French were born deserving to be flipped off. She works with them sometimes and can't stand them.

    6. Well, people say that. People say the same thing about Americans. Never Canadians, ever notice that? Should we all move to Canada and ruin their society, too? ;-P

      We lived in France for five years. The French accepted me as one of their own--- because I laughed with them, at my painful attempts to speak their language. You can't have an attitude with the French and get along with them. In my experience, they were the most honest people as a culture I've ever known and I love them with a passion. France is where I became my own person and their culture had a lot to do with that.

      Building on your sister's comment about the French deserving to be flipped off:

      We can always find justification for disrespecting people. I never met an abuser who didn't justify taking an uppity woman (or man) down a notch or two because he or she felt disrespected (inferior).

      We can always find excuses to hurt people. Never met an abusive parent yet who didn't claim s/he was victimized FIRST---and that is why her baby is covered with welts. Once that baby respects her parent, then she’ll stop getting hit.

      We can always justify bullying. Never met a bully, who didn't feel disrespected, criticized and humiliated even when his/her victim protested. Bullies are never satisfied until their target is groveling before their feet, begging forgiveness for being what? Competent? Talented? Generous? Smart? Kind?

      We can always find targets for our anger and convince ourselves they deserve our wrath. We can always justify flipping someone off especially if they flipped us off first. And that is why peace is an ideal and not a reality.

      BUT at any point in the crazed frenzy of angry people seeking revenge and recompense for insults both real and perceived, people have the choice to STOP.

      The good thing about life is that the kinds of people who flip each other off, aren't attracted to the kinds of people who don't. :-)


    7. Caliban's Sister wrote:

      "There ARE NO SHORTCUTS. I'm a pretty sharp cookie, I've been reading the hard-core materials on psychology for decades, and still it's only been the last few years that I've come to truly understand how the pieces fit together in my own life. This shit ain't easy. It's work, man, work. It's just about a full-time job. ON top of your other full time job. God my hands hurt."

      My hands hurt too, which is another loss to add on top of all the others, me being a potter and sculptor--a Jill-of-all-trades. Typing doesn't hurt, so now that my favorite tasks can't occupy my day...I blog.

      I'm so sorry your hands make your job even more difficult, CS! Writing notes in margins, typing papers...how painful. Well, it makes your time posting comments even more valuable to me because you are busy and because you care. <3

      I appreciate your friendship and hope other people will recognize your humannness and kindness instead of being threatened by your academic prestige. You have no need to grovel for respect. You've been nothing but generous with your time and support, even before you came out as Caliban's sister. :-)

      I have been studying narcissism for ten years now. I cut my teeth on Sam Vaknin and moved on to clinical descriptions of NPD. Then I zeroed in on the social psychologists topping the number one Amazon Hit Parade.

      Researchers must be SHOCKED over their celebrity! What researcher would ever have predicted his and her name would be recognized by the general public; or that they'd be sought out for interviews? Keith Campbell kinda looked like a deer in headlights at first. Now he's a Natural!

      What a good friend of mine said about healing and recovery is that "the longest journey we'll ever take is the distance between our heads and our hearts."

      I think what this cliche is suggesting is integration of affect and cognition.

      Or as they say in 12-step: Learning to walk the talk.

      And YES. "This shit ain't easy. It's work man, work."

      I'm putting your quote on my favorite quotes page. LOL!

      Sending sum love,

    8. Hi, I tried this a couple of days ago and my comment didn't go; don't know if that was on your end or mine. Now I've lost all my thoughts and am still fuzzy with a head cold so I just wanted to say I've enjoyed reading all of yours, CZ and CS. And yes, this shit ain't easy. :)


  6. I had an awakening a couple of hears ago that caused a self-help journey which begat some progress, but eventually led me to a dead end where I realized I was a 44 year old man with the emotional mind of a 5 year old (or maybe, sexually, as a 14 year old). The adult of me is intelligent, rational and mature, but I have created this narcissistic personality to accomodate this 5 year old. And that kid has way too much influence in my relationships.

    So being an N who is completely fluent in the self-help lingo makes perfect sense to me. The language of improvement comes from my adult self. But true authenticity is not possible without coming to terms with the 5 year old within me. I'm not big on "inner child" stuff but I have to admit my must humiliating interpersonal dysfunctions can be pegged at right about that age.

    1. Yes, Steve. You are exactly right. Loving a very intelligent man is why I've felt compelled to criticize self-help. What narcissists need is professional therapy. It's hard to know that until they're writing books about Living the Authentic Life but don't have a basic clue how to do that for themselves.

      Since my X was well-schooled and self-taught both (a true seeker), it was reasonable to assume he had integrated what he was teaching. When he could not do that, of course my reaction was sympathy! I wanted to help and support his growth and that is where women like myself make mistakes. We are not, and can never be, our husband's mother, his therapist, nor his teacher. This only perpetuates his perceptions of inferiority, weakness, & vulnerability.

      I was foolishly naive at the time and hope that because of my experience, other people might benefit. Even if the only benefit anyone gets from my writing is this: the best help is PROFESSIONAL help. And don't let any self-help guru convince you otherwise!

      My X would never have believed he'd do what he did after thirty years of marriage...if someone had told him that, he'd surely have laughed in their faces. He was a remarkable man, truly emulative. And then...he got old and his narcissism failed him.

      I appreciate your courage writing about your experience as an intelligent man who has, similar to my X, sought information via self-help to improve your life and your relationships. I commend you for being willing to listen to your family's concerns and seek help wherever you can find it.

      However, I will caution you and everyone with narcissistic personalities, PLEASE talk to a professional and commit yourself to a long-term process. Treating narcissism is a commitment so once we have a realistic perspective on the enormity of the problem, then we can relax into a lifelong process of change.

      That is how I have viewed my own life, having grown up with some very unhealthy behaviors that are so ingrained and 'normal' to me, that I don't even realize they're there.

      Because I value my relationships, other people's feedback becomes a valuable catalyst for change. Healthy change! (that doesn't mean people like it, no matter how authentic we become...ha!)


  7. Hi CZ,

    I am studying your 13 suggestions from the "Help I'm a Narcissist" article and taking them to heart (to the best my ability).

    I've started up with my therapist again. I think in the past I'd duped her and I into thinking we'd reached an acceptable level of perfection. Doh!

    In the mean time I'm looking through additional material as extra credit if you will. What can I say, I'm an over achiever. :)

    1. "An acceptable level of PERFECTION"??!!!###! ha! Well...ahem...maybe you do need to get yourself back in therapy! Doh!

      I remembered you had re-committed to therapy. Sometimes I post in a general way for other readers like yourself. Your willingness to go back to therapy is why I have hope for you, Steve. Therapists have made progress treating narcissistic disorders, so I hope you'll feel comfortable letting me know how you're doing.

      Are you receiving a specific type of therapy? (You don't have to answer that if you aren't comfortable replying.) I would like to know what works and what doesn't.

  8. CZ, I think we're talking about CBT. I'll keep you posted. Thanks for your support.

  9. Replies
    1. Thank you, Paulette! I finally found your blog! When I clicked on your screenname before, it pulled up a profile so I didn't even realize you had a blog!

      All my links are down at the moment as I'm revising some of my lay-out. There's too many links and gidgets and gadgets on my blog and it takes forever to load my page. When I get things better organized, I'd love to add your blog to my shortlist if you're comfortable with me doing that.

      I will be posting many more articles and personal thoughts about the narcissism continuum--healthy versus pathological. This is a much better way to look at narcissism in my view. Not everyone else agrees of course!

      Love seeing your photo!


  10. Hi CZ and folks here...

    I find a lot of what written here very painful: and that is GOOD! I baled from the narcissism issue, etc...because it was a hot ball of wax for me. I wallowed in it for so many unproductive years, and only in the last 6 have I understood what it has done to me, and how to avoid the rest of the show.

    Having a mother such as mine, who was in a position to diss Barbara Walters (for NO GOOD REASON, either) made it even more confusing for me when I was growing up. LOL!

    She was just seen as plain mean, not with a serious disorder. That made people shy away from her, but it didn't make it any better for us kids. We were branded by the general isolation. Not good. Just recovering from this.

    I was also one who came across Sam Vadkin early (for me) and learned a lot from this man. When I took membership from another narcissism site....I was told to shut up about Vadkin...he was a horrible narcissist and who in HELL was he to teach anyone about Narcissism? I fell to this line and got in line.

    In my opinion, Vadkin did a lot of good: he brought forth his own behavior and of course it was shocking, but he was 'honest' enough to reveal the raw threads of his personality. Or perhaps he was one of the earliest of writers, along with M.Scott Peck. I think about the cruelty of women, especially, on these different sites, ready to castrate him for even showing his face in the light of day. He was being demonized just because he was a Path. Narcissist, and probably more than that. I believe this is knee jerk behavior, and not commendable. It also makes people who believe they are bpossibly narcissistic to shut up, slink away and not seek any relief or therapy...they are dead meat anyway.

    There is this continuum. And (at the far end) there is this issue of wires so twisted that the 'normal' response, such as empathy, sympathy, compassion isn't even on the radar. I strongly belief this: that Pathological Narcissists don't have the ability for empathy for others, but they do suffer: the amount of self-doubt and energy they expend in the cold hours of the night thinking....of their isolation, friendlessness, etc...probably hits them throughout their lives. I know this to be true in a couple of too close cases for me. An old Pathological Narcissist is probably the most bitter, broken person one can come upon. In a very important way, their life has reaped the hell they set out to bestow on everyone else. Their life is one of no growth, nor is it characterized (at least to healthy others...) as one of humane behavior to the rest of the world. Except to the stupid, the opportunists, etc...they are isolated in a real sense.

    A continuum, yes, but those on the far scale of PN are desperate, empty and soulless people. The trick for us (for me) is to keep them at a far distance from their constant destruction of your own soul, but at the same time, not to fall to rampant hatred. That is very, very hard to do when you whole life has been cut with the demented behavior of such a person. Our growth, I believe is measured in our own compassionate hearts.

    And it takes a long time to get there.

    Lady Nyo

    1. I actually participated as an assistant manager on a forum promoting Sam Vaknin. And he was really mean to me. wah wah wah, how do people expect a malignant narcissist to act, huh? Of course he was meaN to me. He hates women and admits it with pride because why? O yes. Because he's a malignant narcissist and they are misogynists whether they're male or female.

      I got in a huge fight with Sam once and he said the meanest things you can't even imagine. Then the next day, he apologized to me. In public. I thought to myself, "Wow dude! Great example of the abuse cycle you can't get out of because why? O yea. Because you are a malignant narcissist!"

      I have no anger towards Sam Vaknin anymore (I certainly did, though) and value his autobiographical contributions towards understanding malignant narcissism. Which is, in case people don't know, Narcissism + Psychopathy. This is what people like myself didn't understand a decade ago.

      Now that Sandra Brown is offering her insights on pathology, I'm ready to tackle narcissism as a 'normal' and measurable trait. I have already formulated future articles distinguishing normal from pathological narcissism.

      People have not been kind about the suggestion that they have narcissistic traits, though. ;-P

      Some psychologists prefer categorical definitions of narcissism. The debate continues even among clinical and social psychologists who resort to ad hominem attacks just like the rest of us. ha! I've read some of their debates and chuckled. It's never easy to disagree.

      I think, and this is purely my opinion, that the reason people view narcissism as pathological and intractable is because most of the psychologists writing about narcissism have been CLINICAL psychologists. They were describing pathological narcissism as it was presented in their 'clinics'. Like your mother, Lady Nyo; and my X, who was the poster boy for Kohut's depiction of The Tragic Man.

      Then from stage left, a whole bunch of social psychologists added their research to the topic. And social psychologists were viewing narcissism as a "constellation of traits" in everyone. Their studies go back several decades, suggesting in their view, that narcissism is on the increase.

      As far as pathological narcissism goes (malignant narcissism in particular), the estimate of 1% of the population remains pretty much the same.

      What has grown is Unhealthy Narcissism for every person in society---each of us being more narcissistic than prior generations. Is that a good or a bad thing? Social psychologists also suggest narcissism to be viewed as neither good nor bad, it just 'is'.

  11. "I strongly belief this: that Pathological Narcissists don't have the ability for empathy for others, but they do suffer: the amount of self-doubt and energy they expend in the cold hours of the night thinking....of their isolation, friendlessness, etc...probably hits them throughout their lives."
    The following is the DSM-IV #7 Criteria for persons with Narcissistic Personality Disorder...

    7. Lacks empathy

    Translation: They are unwilling to recognize or sympathize with other people's feelings and needs. They "tune out" when other people want to talk about their own problems.

    I am recently divorced from my N who I believe also has the disorder: NPD but we are currently in couples counseling (he says he is doing it for a reconciliation; I am saying it is for the benefit of co-parenting and clarity). Either way...the notion of having "no" empathy seems to occur frequently here in blog posts. I'd like to think that my N just LACKS empathy. I think having no empathy is one distinction between sociopath/psychopath and the narcissist. I think narcissists do have empathy (they just lack it)...they can have many moments where they 'do the right thing', where they read books to their children, where they bring their sick cat to the vet, where they support their wife's interest in changing careers, etc., etc. it's just that if they have pathological narcissism eventually they will sabotage themselves and the lives of the people or persons who are closest to them. In other words, if you had been living with Dr. Jeckyll for several years and he had been treating you like royalty seemingly out of nowhere Mr Hyde will show up and knock you off your feet; ultimately no one, not his wife, his mother, his father, his son (sadly) is more important than himself and, sometimes, when a lucid moment comes to him he becomes aware of himself and he hates this about himself.


    1. The issue with talking and writing about narcissism is the 'degree' of pathology. LadyNyo writes about Malignant Narcissism, a cross-between NPD and Psychopathy. So it could be very fair to say "no empathy" in that case.

      In most people's cases though, NPD is not co-morbid with psychopathy (AsPD)and so you are right. Narcissists 'lack' empathy. They have the capacity to be loyal, committed to another person. This means of course, that the narcissist suffers because the narcissist has feelings, contrary to what some people might believe. They aren't robots, for heaven's sakes...

      We are all together in this effort to understand narcissism but we are each unique in the degree of narcissism we're dealing with. I don't think until psychologists can refine NPD as well as they're doing with BPD (for example), that anyone can say anything definite about narcissism. The especially difficult thing is that narcissism is considered to be 'normal'. So already we've set the stage of some pretty egregious behaviors. The first distinction to make is between normal and unhealthy narcissism. Then another distinction takes place between unhealthy and pathological narcissism. Then we have another distinction to make between pathological (NPD) and Malignant Narcissism Syndrome.

      It's kind of a mess. I try to meet each person where they're at when they write about the narcissistic relationship. Their experiences, insight and hard work is so important and valuable right now.


    2. Very well said! I was unaware of the (3) distinctions between narcissism: healthy vs. unhealthy narcissism, unhealthy vs. pathological narcissism, and pathological (NPD) vs. Malignant Narcissism Syndrome. I think you are completely correct in saying that "until psychologists can refine NPD as well as they're doing with BPD (for example)"...no one "can say anything definite about narcissism." It has been my personal experience that psychologists themselves are divided on this topic and are wary about making diagnoses and/or even approaching the subject of NPD/narcissism...which is enormously frustrating and invalidating for someone who has been the 'victim' in the N relationship...if the goddamn therapist is afraid to deal with the N or to diagnose the N, and his/her parents won't confront him, or the attorney, etc. how is the narcissist ever to know exactly 'who' he/she is and what he/she is doing wrong? It is exactly why he/she can keep bullying and manipulating [insert victim here].

    3. This is my extreme frustration because I enjoy talking with people about narcissism and yet, there aren't many resources about "managing" narcissistic relationships. Most people have a shallow understanding of the narcissistic pathology, assuming someone with a big ego is a serial killing psychopath in a suit. Maybe the Borderline community was similar before doctors and researchers and educators were able to help families cope.

      I have found my own ways of dealing with people who have a narcissistic personality but I'm not a professional. I recognize my own struggles with narcissism: the false self of the codependent, for lack of better words. However, it would be unfair to people with pathological narcissism to compare my journey to theirs.

      I will make an effort this week, to post about the three distinctions which I haven't seen on N-websites. I'm so glad you mentioned how much this helped you understand narcissism because it will probably help a lot of other people, too.

      How is the narcissist to know their pathology prevents them from having healthy relationships with other people and themselves?

      Well good question, Anonymous! You cannot confront someone with a narcissistic personality, most of us have tried. But many people with narcissistic personalities are more SELF-AWARE than people realize. The problem in my view is that they don't VALUE community (other people) enough to challenge/sacrifice their defenses and change their behavior. In their minds, any relationship is REPLACEABLE. Without connecting emotionally to someone, why would you go through the pain of change? You'd just apply for a new partner and move on. NPD is a baffling disorder that hurts other people AND the narcissist, too.


  12. - (Previous Post Continued...)

    "Their life is one of no growth, nor is it characterized (at least to healthy others...) as one of humane behavior to the rest of the world. Except to the stupid, the opportunists, etc...they are isolated in a real sense."
    I'm not sure that I agree with this statement. Again, I think it's just another reason why narcissists are so maddening to the people who are closest to them and who know them the best...Ns are complicated and, although they may become toxic to us...they still may have positively impacted the world at large. Look at celebrity narcissists like: Tiger Woods, Arnold Shwarzenegger, Steve Jobs, and Lance Armstrong...(I don't have a psych degree as my N was always eager to point out to me) but I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I personally think all of these guys suffer from NPD and we can't say that their "life is one on no growth" especially if you play golf, watch movies, and currently use or own an Apple product. These guys are the supreme narcissists and the world 'loves' (to worship) them for their talents but not for their (lack of) empathy and their pathology has caught up with them and they have hurt their families deeply (and disappointed some fans). But it is amazing to me how the term narcissist rarely comes up in conversations regarding these men...in mass media, I mean. Why is it that 'we' are all mostly familiar with conditions like: bi-polar disorder, shizophrenia, mental illness, depression, sociopath/psycopath, anti-social behavior, but for some reason narcissism gets left out of the bunch? In other words, before I got married I WAS familiar with many of the aforementioned conditions/disorders but I had never heard of NPD. We have all heard of narcissism...Narcissus, Dorian Gray, anyone who has a Facebok acount, etc., but who ever heard of the clinical definition/distinction? And I'm not sure if anyone else can relate to this but it has also been my experience that even therapists are afraid of Narcissists...in couples therapy they won't even use the 'diagnosis'...the language of labels, attorneys just think that "you don't have to have a personality disorder" to behave like you have one (during divorce), and the families of Ns tend to support them (negative advocates) and not you (the partner), and since the general public has little to no knowledge of what pathological narcissism entails it is no wonder how guys like Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Lance Armstrong, and Steve Jobs can thrive under the radar and even after exposure. The media was quick to point out that Catherine Zeta Jones has bi-polar disorder...when are we going to start using the same language for men?...so that instead of just saying Arnold Shwarzeneggar isn't just unfaithful, or a player, or a don juan, or an egoist, or 'just a man', or maybe even narcissistic...maybe we can begin to look at our (male) fallen heroes more accurately and say that they have disorders, too. Hmm - wishful thinking?

    1. I just want to validate everything you've written, anonymous. Narcissism is not necessarily destructive or hurtful to other people. There are extreme narcissists who made positive contributions to society but there's no denying their narcissism. A term was coined by Macoby to capture this group of people as "Productive Narcissists." You can read his article here: http://www.maccoby.com/Articles/NarLeaders.shtml

      When the narcissist 'breaks down' though, which happens often enough at midlife, they will have relationship problems at work AND at home. Their grandiosity may lead to clinical depression when their high expectations *unrealistic* are not achieved. When they must admit they're only average, that they aren't gonna be captains of industry or celebrities or whatever their fantasy may have been. Adjusting to being a normal, ordinary human being may or may NOT be possible.

      I read a description in a book that helped me better understand pathological narcissism. It might be useful to elaborate:

      Imagine there are two men working at a highly respected hospital. One man is the Chief brain surgeon of international renown. The other man is the janitor cleaning doctor's offices during the night shift. Both men think they are Kings of Bunker Hill...they believe themselves to be outstanding specimens of high intelligence, professional competence, and self-reliance.

      Now the Chief surgeon IS outstanding. He IS highly competent and even though he relies on a competent staff, he is self-reliant in his ability to meet standards imposed both by himself and others. He takes his role very very seriously, always honing his skills and learning the latest techniques.

      The other man, the janitor, doesn't show up to work when he should and he likes to drink whiskey on his breaks but he believes he's the greatest janitor in the world. He doesn't work with his peers, he looks down on them. He also believes he's smarter than the surgeon and is being taken advantage of by the hospital.

      Both men are narcissistic. Which man is 'pathological' and therefore a problem for himself and others?

      That might help a little. It was awfully fun to write. ha!


    2. As always, thank you for responding and I look forward to reading the Macoby article. Regarding the 'pathological' example above: if that "Chief brain surgeon of international renown' was my husband..."outstanding, highly competent, self-reliant, takes his role very seriously, always honing his skills and learning the latest techniques"...he would also say that 'he was the greatest janitor' in the world, or a better cook than any Food Network chef, or there would be no need to confer with a financial advisor because 'I am one...I have my MBA', or 'I am a landscaper' (even though I hired a professional landscaper to put in the hardscaping and lilies), etc., etc.. I think you get the idea. I am forever the skeptical cynic...the Chief surgeon's pathology may show up not in his profession but at home...maybe he is leading a double life, has another family in a different country, and even though he is 'honing his skills and learning the latest techniques" (not unlike Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Arnold Shwarzeneggar) maybe he is also ignoring everyone else's skills and techniques. Another example: my girlfriend's N ex-husband IS a reputable physical therapist who had an affair with another married wife/mother from the same hospital; he barely acknowledged his own athletic daughter's injury to her ankle and yet if his reputation had been on the line he probably would have paid attention more closely.
      Most days this blog IS better than therapy! And I AM trying to figure it all out, whatever IT is. I think pathology is the N inability to see themselves clearly despite the facts...which IS kinda like mental illness...no? My independent therapist made the distinction between "mental illness" and personality disorders being that the former is treatable through meds and personality disorders are not...but when the N brain cannot process reality in the face of facts...total self denial...isn't that kind like mental illness? Also, how is narcissism separate from ego? It IS "awfully fun to write"!
      Anon in NH

    3. I view NPD as a mental illness. It is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (Axis II). Narcissism is a personality disorder, but the rigidity is the illness, the inability to mature in an emotional, psychological and spiritual manner.

      There are usually accompanying illness/disorders, too. Such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders, etc. It would be hard to find a person with NPD who didn't also exhibit other mental illnesses.

      The new guidelines for diagnosing NPD suggests the person must exhibit failure or difficulty in two areas: their personal life and work life. If someone is a high-functioning narcissist such as the brain surgeon, they would qualify to be called "a narcissist" but not NPD. NPD is the mental illness.

      You wrote a great example of the high-functioning narcissist who takes his 'entitlement' as far as society allows. I enjoyed reading that, anon!

      We may not want to be married to the brain surgeon because of his giant EGO, but s/he's still capable of empathy, loyalty, and commitment. S/he still submits to a social agreement precluding exploitation. IF at some point, the brain surgeon abuses, exploits, breaks the law by stealing money from the hospital for example, then s/he'd be a likely candidate for the NPD diagnosis. This would be "anti-social" behavior; i.e.: pathology.

      I think people have adopted the word "Ego" to describe narcissistic personalities. "Ego" in and of itself, is not a pejorative or negative term so it's a safer way to say someone is a narcissist without being accused of armchair psychoanalysis. ha!


  13. OK, so my wife has been calling me a narcissist for months and of course I denied it. I ran the tests (several times) and even playing the game a little scored quite highly. I did it again several times and averaged 29. But I thought the questions were very black and white and would benefit from a graded scale. I scored highly in everything except vanity, but in my 40's and using a Wok when ironing your shirt will definitely take that away. So convinced was she that I was, and so convinced was i that I wasn’t, we agreed to see a psychiatrist (together as she claimed I was a master manipulator and would get out of the session what I wanted) to prove her wrong. Even in the sessions I heard one thing and she another. So I asked him to write it in a letter and be very specific, still believing I was right. But no, not only do i have NPD, but Borderline and Anti-social too. Now i would expect to have some narcissistic traits, i run my own business, make a reasonable living and we do pretty well and have done for years. Although a bankruptcy interfered a few years ago.
    So I am a workaholic and also drink almost every day and use substances on a frequent basis too. I have joined CA to try and sort that out. Step One is about admitting that we are powerless against our vices and our lives have become unmanageable. (which as you can imagine doesn't sit well) but i know that my life hasn’t hit bottom yet. And I want it to stay that way.
    Even now I am questioning the validity in the diagnosis and am terrified I am the one being manipulated. I am reaching out for a permanent treatment solution but have been told I have to wait 12 weeks. The good old NHS.
    Am I too old to change? Have I got the energy to change? I am extremely self-centred and wonder if I can do this just for other people?
    Is there a group thing for this or do I have to go it alone?



    1. Hello AH, thanks for commenting!

      If you've been learning about NPD, then you are aware that substance abuse is a common problem for people with narcissistic personalities. Until you have managed to stop using drugs or drinking though, it will be very difficult to know what your exact problems might be. I have personally known many narcissistic people who've gone to 12-step groups and you're right---that first step is a huge hurdle for them. Admitting you are powerless will be difficult and I'm guessing your brain does all kinds of mental gymnastics proving Step One does NOT apply to you. Still, I will encourage you to stick with the program because countless numbers of people have broken through their narcissism and improved their relationships with others and themselves because of 12-step programs. They get right to the center of the problems you are dealing with and they aren't using diagnostic language. These folks know exactly how the narcissistic mind operates and for decades, they've refined a program to break through narcissistic defenses. What works is the energy you put in to the program so even if you don't believe what they're saying, stick with it for at least six months. It's FREE and you can go to a variety of meetings (everyday if you need to) and the other thing I like is that you'll meet a variety of people with all kinds of backgrounds. These connections will hold you strong when you're feeling like giving up.

      What I don't understand is how you came about the NPD, APD and AsPD diagnosis. Was the therapist giving you a list of general traits or were you officially diagnosed by a clinical psychologist?

      Can you change? I am of the belief that we are never too old to change. It is harder to change habitual behaviors that have settled in over decades but that doesn't mean we can't. Do you have the energy to change? I don't know. Many people with narcissistic disorders say they didn't believe they had the energy to change and then used that as an excuse not to change. I have been hearing very hopeful things about treatments for people with narcissistic disorders so there's more hope for change now than there's ever been. It will take a lot of your time and it will be expensive but if you consider the costs of "hitting bottom", you could consider therapy to be a positive investment.

      You won't be doing this alone entirely because you need help. You will need some good connections (like a sponsor) who can tell you when you're thinking is stinking. A sponsor takes the burden off your marital relationship, too...because you cannot rely on your wife as your guide. It will (I promise) ruin your relationship with her if you expect her to be your therapist or sponsor. She can support you by validating your efforts to break through narcissistic defense but she has her own reactions and problems to deal with. So my advice is to immerse yourself in 12-step and even when you feel cynical about the God Talk and the Powerless-thing, keep going. Get a sponsor and spend the next 12 weeks making connections with people like yourself. You might decide 12-step is so fundamental to keeping your life manageable that you keep going even while you're in therapy.

      Best of luck to you and your partner,

  14. What does it mean if your score is low? I got an 8.

    I took it based on who I was before my narcissistic ex, and interestingly, I was more like a 15 then.

    I can hypothesize as to how to take that, but you're the professional, so let me ask you? Thanks.


    1. HI anonymous!

      Many people have reported scores that are far lower than the national average (about 15), especially after a major life event, like divorce or serious loss. Our self-esteem goes down and we may feel powerless to change our live for the better. We will lose confidence in our ability to trust and perhaps even in our ability to perceive reality. That happens when a narcissistic relationship ends and we've been "duped" into believing that person was as committed to the relationship as we were. Having a lower score on the NPI post-relationship is a reflection of how "unspecial" you feel right now and you can rest assured that as time goes on, you'll restore your normal and healthy sense of self.

      There's a new narcissism test by Dr. Craig Malkin that you might be interested in taking. I will be writing about his view of narcissism soon. You can find his test here:



    2. Hi! Sorry for the delay. Loll, not sure which one to respond to...I guess I'll do it here. That new test was interesting. I can't say I'm surprised, it sounds like me, but since I've gotten used to going way far down the rabbit hole, I expected more questions. How can you fixate on what's happening with something without more questions???

      On echoism, I am exactly right dead center of average.on healthy narcissism, same, but it seems to suggest "average" is really too low, and on extreme narcissism, I'm almost as low as I can go. Something like 1/16th of an inch off of the left-hand side of the scale.

      I haven't seen him in a year. I hate more than I can tell you that it still hurts. Really, HATE myself for it.

  15. What I meant was, I took it based on me now, and again based on my best memory of what it felt like to be me before him. Now is 8, then was about 15.

    1. I responded on your prior comment but thanks for the clarification! I'm sorry you're going through the awful aftermath of a narcissistic relationship. It can take awhile to recover, depending on how far down the rabbit hole we wanna go. You can use this recent experience to examine other losses in your life and even come to a deeper understanding of yourself. A deeper understanding that embraces your weaknesses and your strengths. Many of us have found meaning in the aftermath, becoming even more compassionate and understanding of our fellow human beings.


  16. Question: I always score 4 on the narcissism test. 2 on authority, 2 on self-sufficiency, 0 on everything else.

    I cannot imagine checking enough other responses to hit the 12-15 "typical" level.

    Is this a problem? If so, how would I address it?


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