Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Extreme (Pathological) Immaturity of a Narcissist

Grown-ups are able to consider other people's rights and feelings, and they have a sense of fairness. Three-year-olds and narcissists aren't mature enough.

To be sure, they entice their prey into a close, dependent relationship through bribery, by heroic acts of generosity. But, once thus suckered into the spider's web, you always pay.

And pay.

And pay.

Narcissists often meet people who immediately see them as obnoxious attention-pigs. These people can't stand them from the get-go. Several times I have seen ordinarily pleasant people have a surprisingly hostile reaction to a narcissist they've met for the first time.

Most of us are too tolerant though.

But in the end, no amount of enticement or bribery will make people able to put up with a narcissist. They refuse to grow up and stop thinking they're the center of the universe. They refuse to pay even half as much attention as they get.

Demand it and they will stamp their foot and cross their arms like a little brat sticking out the lower lip in a pout and emphatically shaking their head "No!" Their cerebral circuitry has never developed beyond that mental age.

Because it's too hard for these omnipotent little gods to get real and reasonable. No matter what their age. Because their egos are still that fragile.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Enough Already!

Just received these words in an email message, and I couldn't say it better:

When I first learned of NPD and believed I was married to someone with the disorder, I wondered why there were not public service announcements about it. Why wasn't it front-page news? Is it news only if someone is murdered as a result of domestic violence? If there is no "body", does it mean no one has been hurt? Much light needs to be shone on this disorder and on those who suffer from it. Because although they may be compelled by their feelings to abuse others, they are nonetheless accountable. I believe there are more people suffering from NPD than the reported 1%, since most knowledge of these people is supplied by their victims.

I wholeheartedly agree. In more ways than one, this abuse ruins whole lives. It is absolutely dehumanizing. Internet support groups are fine but do nothing to stop the spread of all this pain. People find out about NPD too late, after they're already in too deep to readily escape the relationship. Children are damaged for life, many becoming narcissists themselves.

If you know people who can help, in the media or government, push the issue.

There should be public service announcements. People should know the warning signs so they take them seriously when somebody they're dating exhibits them. And people should know that some of the slanderers they listen to are malignant narcissists lieing their heads off.

I too am sure that NPD is much more common than the estimates -- because narcissists never admit there's anything less-than-perfect about themselves and because they are cunning wolves in sheep's clothing and because they usually never kill anybody. But they condemn people, especially their children, to a life sentence in hell, by killing the soul.

It's always the same old story: the malignant one comes out smelling like a rose, and the innocent victim gets the bad reputation.

Enough already. What every victim needs more than anything is justice. And so long as this living, breathing, walking disease stalks victims among us, justice will never come.
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Monday, February 20, 2006

Truth as a Relative Quantity

On Saturday, I explained that, like little children, narcissists view truth as a relative quantity, not an absolute.

People whose thinking is thus screwed up go around talking about "your truth" and "my truth," "your reality" and "my reality." They have conveniently slipped from acknowledging that people have different points of view (and therefore different perspectives) into the logical error that they actually view different objects or events.

I mentioned that such people think to determine THE truth by making their version bigger than yours. This is why people whose thinking is thus screwed up go around talking as though truth is determined by popular opinion. For example, here's the typical anti-American's favorite club:

The whole world hates you Americans, so you're hateful.

(Sorry, Charlie, the people full of hate are the hateful ones.) Anti-Americanism is collective narcissism, and we see the same behavior pattern in individuals suffering from NPD. They want to be better than you, so they go and tell everybody some big lie about you. Then they say ...

You are a bad person because everybody says so.

They thus make "their truth" bigger than yours by ganging up on it. The "truth" is thus determined by popular vote. To a narcissist, truth is nothing more than a perception, a thing that may be falsified.

If your brain is programmed with that logical error, it acts as a virus in a computer does, screwing up your reasoning ability. This is why willful irrationality (if habitual) damages mental health and can end in insanity.

So, it ain't smart to trash your mind by deluding yourself and "rationalizing" things. That's what narcissists do to themselves by being Peter Pans who refuse to grow up = refuse to put away Magical Thinking at the Age of Reason like children normally do.

You can understand why they like it in Never-Never Land and refuse to come out. But it's such a tragedy. For themselves and for everyone they attack ever after.
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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Narcissistic Grandiosity

Why does a narcissist's false image need to be so ridiculously grandiose?

A person who never outgrows the need to be the center of attention is a case of arrested development. She behaves like a little child because she thinks like a little child. And truth has no objective reality to a little child. To a child's way of thinking (Magical Thinking) yelling down any assertion to the contrary makes whatever she says true. So, the bigger the truth to deny, the louder she yells.

In other words, she regards truth as a relative quantity, not an absolute. It is determined by sheer volume.

And, by "volume," I don't necessarily mean just decibles of sound. There are other ways to make her version of the truth bigger than yours.

One way is by just being stubborner about it. This is where you get the typical childish quarrel that goes like this ...

Did not!
Did not!
Did not!
Did not!
Did not!

... till the more childish antagonist gets the last word. If you run into an adult who does that, look out. He or she may be a malignant narcissist.

Another way to make your version of the truth bigger is by sheer exaggeration. This is why, for example, children and terrorists often needlessly exaggerate a lie into a whopper: they think that by doing so, they make it more true.

Exaggeration: that's what a narcissist is doing by projecting a grandiose false image. It's her way of "shouting down" the shaming image of herself reflected in the mirror of a parent's eye.

We all internalize and carry that picture around with us our whole life. It stamps its impression deeply on our self-concept. In the case of a narcissist, it is so unlovable, abject, faulty and severely disfigured that she must paint a much thicker ("louder") coat of make-up on it than people with other personality disorders. That is, she must project a more gratifying false image to obliterate the truth.

This means that an image of herself as merely important isn't grandiose enough for the narcissist. You might think of it as too small a dose to kill the pain. I think this is why a narcissist needs to be nothing less than a god.

Yes, that's laughable, but that's the way a three-year-old thinks. This is why narcissists and many who know them say that not being the best makes a narcissist feel like they're the worst. If they're not perfect, they're contemptible. There is no middle ground.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Dr. Sanity on Narcissism

Dr. Sanity is a blog by a psychiatrist "Shining a psychological spotlight on a few of the insanities of life." Though it's primarilly a political blog, she offers a great explanation of narcissism that you may benefit from.

I quote from Part I below:

A healthy Self has two fundamental and equally important parts:

1) Self-Esteem – or a sense that one has a right to Life and success; ambition; a healthy exhibitionism and comfort with one’s body. This part of the Self supplies the instinctual fuel for ambition and purpose; and for enjoyment of Life’s activities.

2) Ideals – a belief in something outside the “Self” that guides and gives meaning to one’s Life. Having ideals make developing one’s goals in Life possible. It is this part of the Self that also makes healthy interpersonal relationships possible.

The development of BOTH parts is essential to psychological health. When one part develops at the expense of the other—it has grave consequences for the individual and society.

She goes on to explain that ...

The infant is born with what is called “Primary Narcissism”. Mothers know that the newborn child is not able to differentiate between the Mother (referred to as “Other”) and himself (referred to as “Self”). For example, the Mother's breast is treated by the infant initially as a part of himself. Slowly over months and years, the child begins to differentiate himself from the Mother; and as he goes through normal biological development he becomes more and more independent and self-sufficient.

At some point, the Self and the Other--once "perfectly" merged--are now two distinct objects. This important process of separation-individuation is facilitated by the normal shortcomings(i.e. imperfections) in maternal care, which spur the child's development as an individual. For example: baby demands food, but mother is unavailable right now and doesn’t feed baby until her schedule permits (but doesn’t let him starve either!). Such natural and normal imperfections of empathy with the child are actually healthy. I won’t go into a full discussion of this, but suffice it to say that the Other must not be too perfect, nor too imperfect, as either extreme carried on for too long will interfere with the developing Self of the child.

It is because of the slow separation of Self from Other that the two developmental lines come into being. The first line Kohut refers to as the “Grandiose Self”(or idealized self image) and the second is referred to as the “Idealized Parent Image”. Both of these images represent psychological attempts to save the original experience of "perfection" by the infant when the Mother (Other) and the infant (Self) were “one”.

The “Grandiose Self” will develop over time (if not disrupted) into healthy Self-Esteem; and the” Idealized Parent Image” will eventually lead to the development of Ideals that give meaning to the individual’s life; and to healthy interpersonal relationships.

Read the whole thing: Narcissism and Society.
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Monday, February 06, 2006

The Mirror of a Parent's Eye

UPDATE: Be sure to read the comments for this post. One makes me think that this theory goes too far -- that there are parallels between narcissism and autism but that they are fundamentally different.

The paralells between autism and narcissism are striking. Now, before I even get started here, I must warn you not to jump to conclusions about people. If a child is autistic, that doesn't mean his or her mother witheld attention during infancy. It isn't that simple.

Long before I heard of NPD and knew more than what I had learned on a TV show about autism, I spotted the similarity between autism and what was strange about a certain narcissist I knew. Both seem held back from paying any attention to you. Their obduracy is invincible. It's almost as though they think they don't dare pay any attention to you and at the same time couldn't do so if they tried -- like it's a knee-jerk reflex to withold attention from you.

Both seem not to know that others have . . . what to call it? It's such a basic assumption that we hardly have a word for it. But what I mean is that they don't seem to know that others have a soul, a self, an inner life, a mind. To them you are but an object.

At best, to an adult narcissist, even the others in his immediate family are but one-dimensional cartoon characters, extras in a crowd scene of the stageplay of his life. Consequently, you could ask him any question about his wife's or children's characters, and he wouldn't know the answer. Is his wife religious? He doesn't know. Is his daughter loyal? He doesn't know. Is his son excitable? He doesn't know. You couldn't even give him three character descriptions, one of each, and have him match these three people to them. He would therefore not know better than to believe any preposterous lie somebody told him about one of them.

Ask any narcissist what he or she thinks you think about anything. They will act stunned by the question, as though you spoke it in Greek. The question makes no sense to them! Because you might as well ask them what a tree or a stone thinks. At best, they are taken aback by the notion that there is some correct answer and that you may tell them whether they are correct about what you think. That does not compute in the brain of a narcissist. He can't imagine that you needn't be thinking whatever he (the author of his fiction) decides to make-believe you think.

All but the narcissist have bit parts in his world. They are one-dimensional (cartoon) characters without depth or significance in his eyes. They are of no more interest to him than extras in a crowd scene. And worthy of as little individual attention. Just there "to swell a progress" as the poet T.S. Eliot would say (in "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock"). In other words, just there to be of use in a story about him, focusing all attention on the star of the show.

Since he pays no attention to other people, he notices nothing about them. It's as though he somehow manages to block out even the look of their face so that he can't recognize anybody or remember their name. Consequently, people are all the same to him.

One narcissist I knew was so successful at viewing others as part of the furniture that in 50 years never did learn to distinguish his daughters. He never got names straight! Half the time he called Terry "Ka-terry" and Kathy "Te-kathy." Often, it was worse than that. He'd sometimes get halfway through a rant at, say, "Terry," before he'd use the name and Kathy would have to tell him what her name was. Over the phone he'd keep forgetting which one he was talking to. Though they were different as night and day (one was a narcissist) they were both the same to him. If he ran into one of them in an unusual setting, such as in the grocery store or on the street, he would stand gaping at her as though wondering why that woman was looking at and approaching him (= he didn't recognize his own daughter) until she said, "Dad" and started talking talking to him!

Truth is stranger than fiction, eh?

Now notice how similar this is to the behavior of an autistic child. Though his physical development is normal, and his intelligence and language may be normal or even superior, an autistic child treats others as though they are inanimate objects. He doesn't make eye contact, and he doesn't seem to know that others have thoughts and feelings he could share. He pays no attention to others and makes no eye contact with them.

Maxson McDowell gives this example in The Image of the Mother's Eye: Autism and Early Narcissistic Injury:

An autistic child seems not to know that his or her mother has a subjective self. An autistic boy, for example, was playing with his mother when she hurt her finger with a toy hammer and gave a sudden exclamation of pain. Though he was emotionally attached to his mother the boy paid no attention to her exclamation.

Her cry had no more significance to him than the sound of the hammer pounding a piece of wood. A piece of wood and his mother are all the same to him -- though he is emotionally attached to his mother because she takes care of him and he needs her. Rather like a baby blanket he needs. In other words, he seems to have no concept of mind.

Now notice how similar this is to the behavior of newborn infant.

Clearly, something has gone wrong. Something didn't happen, or something broke, during that child's psychological development. Personality is a system of "insincts, impulses, feelings, images, memories, ideas, and attitudes, some conscious and and some unconscious." Much of the framework and foundation of personality is formed before we have any language to think with -- integrated information more profound than words and absolutely essential to the development of a human person-ality. This child is in the same predicament as a gosling that hatches and imprints on the first thing it sees -- which had better be his mother, because if it isn't (if, for example, it's a human caretaker), he is going to grow up to be a pretty weird goose. His behavior will indicate that that he thinks he's a human.

Autistic children characteristically refer to themselves in the third person. I will bet my bottom dollar that narcissists think of themselves in the third person, too. That is a strange way of relating to one's self. Normal people think of themselves in the first person as "I" except when distancing themselves from themselves because they are upset with themselves. But even then normal people don't think of themselves as "he" or "she." They think of themselves in the second person, as when a tennis player playing badly bawls himself out by thinking, "You couldn't hit a backhand in today to save your soul!"

What has gone wrong to make people think of themselves as "he" or "she?" It's like they're relating to a charcter in a novel. Everybody has a personal narrative, but it's memoir, not a work of fiction about some ficticious "he" or "she." Weird.

Normally, at the breast, his mother's eyes are about the only shapes at the focal-length an infant's eyes can bring into focus. The iris and whites sharply contrast to attract his attention. Their shape has sharply defined edges. They move to attract his attention. And they gaze lovingly into his eyes 70% of the time, in long gazes that average 20 seconds at a crack. How's that for attention?

It is through the eyes where we come into contact with the inner person of other human beings. Normal people look at the eyes on another person's face. People suffering from autism look at the mouth. And I will bet my bottom dollar that narcissists look at the mouth too.

All infant primates gradually learn to maintain continuous eye contact with their mother. Not others' eyes -- their mother's eyes. Which means they recognize her eyes. Which means they have a mental picture of their mother's eyes. They learn to follow their mother's eyes. Which means they know she is looking at something else when she glances away and that they want to share what she sees.

That doesn't sound like much does it? But it literally means that "I see it, and I know that she sees it too." In other words "she" is no inanimate object. In other other words, the infant now knows that Mother is another conscious being. Now she will notice that he begins to relate to her. Within his concept of her self, his concept of his self forms. In other words, his person-ality begins to take shape. At about eight months, an infant develops a sense that he and his mother each have inner mental states that they can share. If he could speak, he would say things like "I want that toy, and she knows I want it." Something he'd never think about a piece of wood.

He doesn't see himself. Mother is the only mirror he has. Mirroring is being looked on with joy and basic approval by a delighted parental figure. So in the mirror of his mother's eye, the infant sees himself as lovable. Soon the mirror of his father's eye is just as important.

Narcissistic parents refuse to mirror their children. Instead they demand that their children mirror them. And thus the curse is passed from generation to generation.

Read more here.
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