Thursday, August 31, 2006

Understanding Narcissistic Personality Disorder

As I say at the top on the main site, my purpose is to contribute what I can to the formal understanding of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and to help those attacked by a narcissist understand why and what is going on.

I feel that most of what's written on NPD isn't clear enough to the average person. Professionals naturally use jargon. But the average person may not already know what terms like "defense mechanisms" or "projection" or "idealization and devaluing" mean. Technical terms like these carry baggage - their ramifications and an understanding of the underlying mentality in them. The average reader hasn't the necessary background to grasp all that in the mere technical term. What's more, these terms are abstractions. Fuzzy.

There's nothing wrong with professionals writing this way. They are professionals writing for professionals. So, if they didn't write this way, they'd bore each other to death explaining everything their readers already know.

So, I use my training in Plain English writing principles to translate the information to plain English for the average person. I do explain and illustrate the abstractions with concrete examples the reader can imagine, or "picture." Doing so drives the message home so it sinks in with clear understanding.

Understanding is everything in the game a narcissist plays with you. Without it, you are lost in the paradoxes.

For example, some narcissists dote on their children, and some altogether ignore their children. Yet they all suffer from the same mental illness. To understand how this can be, you need to understand that it's all about attention and that there is a difference between critical attention and other kinds.

Again, for example, the jabberbox narcissist I referred to yesterday seems to be the opposite of the guy who portrays himself as "a man of few words" and holes up somewhere, denying you the grace of his presence. It seems impossible that they could be suffering from the same mental illness, but they are. Underneath they are doing the same thing: denying unworthy you of their attention. To realize that, you need to understand that it's all about attention, that a narcissist must have it all and can't let you have any. The jabberbox can command all of your attention while denying you any by never letting you get a word in edgewise. The ghost can't command all of everybody's attention, but he can set himself apart as if too good for everybody else and deny them any of his attention. So these two narcissists are just pursuing the same end by different means and with differing success. The means they choose depend on their situation in the Pathological Space.

As I mentioned the other day, there is too much evidence that many have missed the boat on NPD. Some are even professionals. Somehow, it hasn't sunk in that NPD isn't just having a big head, that it's LOW self esteem in denial, self HATRED in denial, caused by ignominious DEFEAT, not aggrandizement.

Result? People saying such things as that Americans are narcissistic. Sorry, but Americans are the only people who CAN'T be narcissistic. Because America has no nation to envy, no nation to tear down off that pedestal. It is the most powerful nation in the world by far. Knowing that isn't grandiosity: thinking you're powerful when you're weak (like France) - THAT'S grandiosity.

Similarly, some people class movie stars, politicians, and star athletes as narcissistic. In the case of actors, the profession may attract many people suffering from NPD, because they are excellent actors, having been practicing non-step since early childhood. But fame and fortune don't cause NPD. They just tend to go to your head and make you a jerk.

Frankly, I worry when I see even professionals making this mistake. I'm not saying they all do, but some do.

I saw a teaching video online (can't find it now) in which actors played the parts of patients with various personality disorders, while they visited a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, the training psychology students ware getting in it leaves much to be desired. The patient with NPD was just a snobby debutante . . . till, only once in the video, near the end, she did do something (an unnatural reaction) that was a red flag of NPD. Result? A lot of snobby but harmless debutantes get labeled as narcissistic, while the "regular guy" who must kill his bag limit of fish, fowl, or other "fair game" every single day (he uses canine hounds to hunt birds and human hounds to hunt human prey) isn't recognized as a flaming malignant narcissist.

Worse, that snobby debutante is silly, which promotes an unserious view of NPD.

I really do wonder whether professionals take NPD seriously enough. It isn't just obnoxious. People with NPD are predators. That sets them apart from the rest of the human race. For example, NPD is the usual diagnosis for your typical pedophile priest (though most are after teenage boys, so the term "pedophile" is a bit of a misnomer). Not harmless! Stalin, Hitler, Saddam Hussein? NPD. Not harmless. As I showed the other day, Lee Harvey Oswald sure looks like one too. Not harmless.

In fact, the more it's studied, the more any clear distinction between NPD and the psychopathy of the serial killer evaporates. Many authorities now view them as different expressions of the same underlying pathology, which causes misanthropy (hatred of humankind) and makes them view others the way a wolf views sheep. Not harmless.

You show me a person suffering from NPD, and I will show you a trail of pain and destruction in their wake stretching all the way to early childhood.

Those are the ones I care about. The people and animals they attack for no reason whatsoever. (I'm not talking about all hunting here - I'm talking about wanton need to destroy and torturing pets and other animals.)

People narcissists victimize need to know what hit them. Society needs AWARENESS of this disease among us, so that people who behave this way no longer pass for normal and are no longer to free to (a) abuse to their heart's content so long as they never lay a hand on anyone and (b) commit character assassination to their heart's content so long as they whisper to one listener at a time, leaving no willing witness to finger the assassin.

Because, my knowledge and experience has convinced me that the only rein on a narcissist's behavior is what he or she thinks they can get away with.

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At 7:04 PM, Blogger puglette said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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

The specific examples here really do make such a difference. Like Puglette said, the stories are so familiar -- at least to someone who's experienced life with an N. Since this stuff all sounds so incredibly bizarre to "normal" people, its so helpful to see that -- while it's still definitely bizarre stuff --I'm not just imagining it.

At 9:30 PM, Anonymous The Happy Feminist said...

This website is a real public service. Thank you so very very much.

I only just discovered NPD yesterday and it fits my dad to a T. While I have spent many years trying to figure him out, the NPD diagnosis provides a unifying theory that makes sense of all of his weird behavior. It's a great relief, and your website was a big part of solving this puzzle. I look forward to reading all of your site and all of this blog.

I have written about my own experience with NPD here:

At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, jabberbox. My ex, when in a group setting, would constantly berate me for dominating the conversation. The problem is, I hardly got a word in edgewise. It was she who was doing the dominating- a nonstop conversation mainly with herself. I guess that is what you mean by "projecting" her own traits on to me.



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