Friday, June 02, 2006


Have you noticed the following on some message boards?

Someone who has recently spit up with a narcissist vents. Most posters think nothing of it, remembering their own anger, and they readily supply what the victim of a narcissist needs: a hearing, understanding, and a response that tells the victim that he or she matters, that what was done to him or her wasn’t nothing. That’s what the victim has been devalued by being deprived of (not only by the narcissist but also generally by all “bystanders” who don’t know what a narcissist does to you).

Then somebody pipes up with a religious “testimony” (= preaching) that censures the victim’s FEELINGS as a sin and says that the victim would be as happy-happy-happy-and-carefree as she if only he gave his anger to God like she had.

Gag me with a spoon. Is that not exactly what the narcissist did to the victim?

Playing the “I-am-holier-than-thou” game is no different than playing the “I-am-smarter-than-thou” game or the “I-am-better-looking-than-thou” game or the “I-am-inherently-superior-to-thou” game in any of its myriad narcissistic manifestations.

That in itself should be a warning. Is this critic a narcissist themselves? Is this message board just a stalking ground for him or her? Could be. Narcissists DO stalk boards.

It is at least very likely that the holier-than-thou has never really been abused by a narcissist and is just whining on that board about some lover who couldn’t stand her holier-than-thou act and broke up with her.

Which is why I suggest that you not use your true identity on the Internet. When joining give an email address from a free email account, which can’t be traced to find your street address, phone number, and real name. And use an alias, not your real name.

A board is supposed to be a safe place for victims to air their feelings. But the holier-than-thous make it dangerous to do so. In fact, the "I-am-holier-than-thou" game is the most oppressive one of all. For, everyone fears the labels holier-than-thous put on people, which characterize you as bad. Moreover, when it gets to the point that victims dare not even feel their feelings without censure, that environment is about as oppressive as one can get.

As for what to do about a holier-than-thou coming down on a victim, that's a good question. It usually abruptly ends a thread. And perhaps the quiet wisdom of the masses is best. For, if you do attempt to defend the victim and deny that feelings are a sin, be prepared for a trip to the Argument Clinic. Funny how it's just like trying to make a point with a narcissist.

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At 2:30 AM, Blogger BB said...

Hi Kathy,

Let me start off by saying that I have been a very appreciative and ardent fan of your ‘What Makes a Narcissist Tick’ site for a couple of years now. It has served as a kind of beacon for me, if you will, and still to this day continues to give me those precious few doses of validation needed to survive the inescapable tie I have to my ex husband.

I just wanted to comment on this post in regard to the bystanders and proxies that compound the abuse with their own. I had dealt with it frequently before, but the biggest slap in the face I have ever received to date was during the mediation session required by the court prior to our divorce. My own attorney had already subjected me to it, so it wasn’t the first for him. But while trying to explain the reasoning for my request that he receive a psychological evaluation for determining his visitation (the allegations of sexual abuse made by his daughter from a previous marriage, my concern for my own daughter and the abuse I had personally been subjected to by him), the mediator, whose sole basis for participation is defined by the ideal of being neutral and unbiased, condescendingly suggested more than once that I “move on” and consider counseling and Zoloft! Horrified but not surprised, I asked her just how I was supposed to “move on” while being subjected to his campaign of abusive control and harassment in regard to both my daughter and myself. She suggested to just act like whatever he does isn’t an issue, and let it roll off of my back. She also came to the conclusion after just thirty minutes of interaction with him that he was a very devoted father that wants a close relationship with his daughter, and in her opinion wasn’t the “type” that would be capable of my allegations of abusiveness.

It has always amazed me how almost effortlessly he gains such strong alliances, with most willing to act on his behalf to boot; my own family included. Having the misfortune of him in my life and trying to protect my daughter (unsuccessfully) has without a doubt been the heaviest and loneliest burden I have ever had to bear.

Sorry for the long post… I just wanted to add that example.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Jay said...

Hello Kathy,

First, thank-you for all your work and the information you provide. On Mother's Day, I gave a copy of your book to my mom. Her father, a narcissist, has yielded his destructive forces on the family for many years. My mom and the Stockholm Syndrome, will always attempt to provide some sort of reasoning for his behavior and that the family should, "just do the Christian thing, forgive and love, dear old grandfather." For myself, I do not hold to this belief as it seems to be part of the game and we all know the injustice over the centuries that have been committed in the name of religion. When I tell my parents the severe sexual and emotional abuse inflicted on me by my grandfather, they seem untouched and very detached from the situation, not angry. My mom, also has had the same sexual and emotional abuse experiences with my grandfather, when she too was a child. I am told to pray, pray, and pray for God to take away my hate. However, being PREY has left me devoid of any empathy for this man. When having a family dinner, I remove myself to the outdoors to eat. I can imagine my fork going straight into my grandfathers' jugular vein. That is exactly how I feel and therefore I choose to remove myself from all situations where sharp objects are in the same vicinity of myself and the narcissist. Your book has allowed my parents to began to unravel the many mysteries of this complex situation. Thank-you so much!

Additionally, I am so happy that you have chosen to speak on sam vaknin. It seems as if so many victims have now chosen to be a follower of this man, therefore only maintaing a NS source for him. It is has been clear to me for some time now, his methods and it amazes me that these people choose to allow sam vaknin to revictimize them

Thanks Again,


At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Brenda said...

I hadn't thought to much about the holier than thous. I did see on person leave a bunch of religious information.

Its true what you say though.

At 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will a narcissist create a 'drama' that he will maintain for years? That may be what I have been given a 'supporting' role in for 4 years, and will the narcissist 'publicize' his misdemeanours (even if they are socially/morally unacceptable? there is a web site (claiming to be one of his childrens) which claims my ex-lover has abused his children. Has he posted that himself?

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Kathy K said...

>>Will a narcissist create a 'drama' that he will maintain for years?<<

Definitely a narcissist would and does in my experience. I have seen it change (e.g., the good guys become the bad guys and vice versa) when someone dies or something else important happens to alter the balance of power. But otherwise the fiction is pretty persistent, except for any details like who said/did what yesterday, which may change at the drop of a hat for convenience.

>>and will the narcissist 'publicize' his misdemeanours (even if they are socially/morally unacceptable? there is a web site (claiming to be one of his childrens) which claims my ex-lover has abused his children. Has he posted that himself?<<

Perhaps. Though Ns typically put on a saintly act, that's only because it gets them the attention and aggarandizement they crave. Also, it covers their tracks by fooling people about what kind of person they are. But they are just as likely to put on a monster act, if that will get them the attention and aggrandizement they want. Or if it will torment someone they are trying to drive crazy. For example, Saddam Hussein certainly wasn't out to put on a saintly act (till near the end). He didn't need to because no one could hold him to account. He got more out of making people fear him than he would have out of making people love him. I knew another narcissist who constantly sought negative attention from his immediate family.

So, who knows? You can't say yes or no for sure. If you can see what he may be getting out of that, and if the "voice" in the writing sounds to you like his instead of his child's, it's possible I think.

Maybe someone else can comment to shed more light on this. I say that because I am forever amazed about how non-unique narcissists are. If this person you are talking about is an N and is doing this, I bet there are 1000 people out there who can say, "Yeah, an N I know of did the exact same thing."

At 11:27 AM, Anonymous cosmo_topper666 said...


I thoroughly enjoyed reading your commentaries. My experience with NPD is as a member of the support group of a woman who fell victim to one, and who managed to remain in that group as all it's other members were systematically alienated (over a period of six years) by the N, since the existence of that group posed a threat (of course) to his ability to control her completely.

It was only after studying NPD on-line that I was able to understand her behaviors and occasionally inexplicable choices. To all the rest, it was easy to write her off using phrases like "She must like it." or "She's after his money." Years later, when she reached her own psychological breaking point, and realized I was still supportive of her (albeit I was a vocal critic of the situation all along), she finally began to open up and provide the insights necessary to help her get free of this guy.

The material I have read on line has been invaluable. But some of it suffers from a tendency to generalize or use half-baked analogies to 'prove' points which seem motivated more by a desire to feel good than to rigorously identify the problem itself. (I'm speaking of the larger body of work here, not picking on yours in particular.)

I find that to be helpful, whether we are commenting on NPD generally, or sharing the particulars of our own experience, it's important to focus on and distinguish information which is paricular to the disorder, and thereby distill the discussion such that we understand the building blocks of the behaviors these people use to control and damage their victims. Not that we don't need to feel good too, but in my view, understanding the specific behaviors that perpetuate these parasitic relationships is key to finding ways to end them.

Your observations about "withholding" ("keep away") provide a good example. This clarifies one of the most pervasive and pernicious behaviors/strategies by which the N influences the victim. Thinking of it as a form of extortion, it allows the N to require compliance with their smorgasboard of needs in order to get access to whatever it is the victim seems to want. But more insidiously, the process of drawing attention to the fact that the victim is asking for something from him tends to legitimize the idea that she is a burden on him, and enables hime to persuade her that she owes him something, or should feel guilty about something else.

By way of illustration, my friend's son decided to get married, but was having a hard time finding a place to live with his new wife. Her N happened to have a second home that was empty at the time, so he casually observed that maybe he could let them rent it from him until they found a new place. He deliberately planted this idea without representing it as an offer. He wanted them to ask for it, so he could 'consider it for awhile', and then make a show of granting the request. Since this was an expensive home, they could not afford to pay anywhere near the market value to rent it, so part of the effect he was seeking was to demonstrate his generosity by offering to rent it to them for $500 a month.

Keep in mind, this house was empty because the N used it as his 'primary residence', even though he actually occupied a second home of his which he 'rented' to my friend. His purpose there was twofold: on the one hand, he insisted on characterizing their relationship as non-committal, so by maintaining the primary residence he could still characterize himself as single and not obligated to my friend in any way. At the same time, by structuring it this way, he also charged her 'rent' for living there, and made her responsible for all household expenses, even though he was living there full time. This insured that her modest salary as a medical assistant was always consumed by the cost of maintaing this second home, and she was therefore continually dependent upon him for making ends meet. And that allowed him more ammunition for reminding her of all he was doing for her, and that she was at all times, a burden on him.

Once her son & daughter-in-law moved into his other home, he used their presence as more evidence of the 'burden' she had placed on him, proof that she didn't have the ability to take care of herself or her own family, and yet another example of his generosity. It also provided additional support for the mantra he had been drumming into her head for years that without him, she would probably just 'go down the toilet' of life.

When I began to help her, this was one of the many constraints he had established which allowed him to control her behavior. I encouraged her to talk with her son, and make sure he set about finding his own apartment and moving out of the luxury home as soon as possible. She agreed, and when the N was informed that the couple was moving out at the end of the month, he suddenly became concerned. When he was told that the couple was going to clean up the house themselves and that they would be expecting their security deposit to be returned, the N became indignant, and suggested that to ask for it back was a collossal act of ingratitude since he had been renting the house to them at such a reduced rate. He then proceeded to inform her that there was no way he was going to return the deposit.

Since this was only one of several actions she took to free herself from the control this guy had established over her (I helped her acquire a used car so she could return the car her N had been allowing her to use, after he had pressured her to sell her own car a year or so earlier). During the ensuing weeks he started to panic as one-by-one, the constraints he had built up around her were being removed. Suddenly, the 'burden' of providing a place to live for her son and daughter-in-law became a privilege, and he actually offered to allow them to remain in the house rent-free. When she told him she planned to move out of the house she had been renting from him within the next three months, he became in enraged, and threatened to throw her and her other son out of the street literally the next day. He would have been successful in making that threat stick had she not immediately hired an attorney who made it clear to the N that (contrary to his assertion that she was a 'guest' in his second home) she had rights both as a renter, and as a domestic co-habitant of the house who had been subjected to abuse.

This is a classic example of "keep away" as you describe it, and a gratifying example of what happens once the victim learns to understand how they use that device. The real value of the thing they are keeping away from you is, to the N, simply their perception that you want it. Once you understand that, you can turn it around on them simply by ignoring the offer of something that carries with it a hidden pricetag far in excess of the value of the thing itself.

Withholding, Projection, Devaluation, Degradation, Coersion, Intimidation, Surveillance, Isolation. These strategies form the important building blocks of the psychological gulag that NPD's construct for their victims. Learning to recognize them clearly is key to escaping, and re-joining the world of the living.

At 12:15 PM, Anonymous cosmo_topper666 said...

Kathy, I have a question, and if you have time and care to respond, I would be curious to know your thoughts. (

I am confused about the role of Sam Vaknin in all of this. I have found his commentaries insightful and very helpful. I also noted that he characterizes himself as 'a narcissist'. I didn't know what to make of that, since it seemed paradoxical in a way.

The comment here by 'Jay' was the first one I have encountered which seemed critical of Dr. Vaknin, and suggested that he is using this on-line venue to continue to victimize people. (I hope I understood that correctly.)

If you have any insights on the apparent paradox posed by Sam Vaknin's contributions to these discussions, I would be interested in hearing them. Is he deliberately providing bad advice? Is he making people dependent on him by engaging in the discussion? Since many aspects of qualifying an N have to do with their capacity for dishonesty and self-delusion, it's difficult to see how Dr. Vaknin can legitimately claim to be one.

My experience is that the malignancy of NPD is that these individuals find ways to control the lives and self-esteem of their victims, and then feed off of their humanity both to sustain their own sense of well-being, and to prop up the public semblance that they are viable human beings, when in fact they are not.

I have no opinion on whether Sam Vaknin is victimizing people, so I'm truly curious if you think Jay's concern has merit. (Would welcome Jay's response to that question too if he cares to respond.) I'm not a regular visitor to this site, so I provided an e-mail address as well.

At 9:18 PM, Blogger Fighter said...

Gag me too, Kathy!! On my site (about cyberpaths -- which as you know are Ns or Ps with internet access) I have gotten mail telling me I should tell victims to: 1. find God & forgive; 2. "move on" or "let it go"; or 3. give the victims a good lecture because they MUST have been stupid NOT to see that they were dealing with an N or P or just a plain ole' loser.

Hello? Talk about not getting it. Thank God for people like you Kathy. I am not a big one on forgiveness - some things you just can't forgive.

At 10:14 PM, Blogger Kathy K said...


That really burns me too. It's so absurd. You can't forgive someone who doesn't even admit what they did, let alone that it was wrong, and isn't sorry, and fully intends to keep right on doing it because he or she claims a right to abuse you!

That's crazy. People who think you can forgive that -- I'm sorry -- are being stupid. It isn't even orthodox religion, for scripture says God doesn't forgive the unrepentant. You wish these holier-than-thous would focus on the bad guy isntead of hitting on Job/the victim for everything that happened to him. How absurd. The bad guys make up stupid rules like that, not the good guys. Jeez, I wonder why.

And forgiveness has nothing to do with healing. Your injury is to your self esteem. THAT's what needs repair. Forgiveness has nothing to do with it. When people sincerely repent something they've done, every decent person readily forgives. But you can't give that gift to somebody who won't accept it. It's just a bunch of nonsense.


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