Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Malignance of NPD

There are some who cling to Dr. Otto Kernberg's description of malignant narcissism as being between Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder (virtually the same as psychopathy) on a continuum.

It seems that very few still hold that view, except those who want the malignance out of NPD.

I don't see how benign narcissism, like acquired situational narcissism, can be viewed as a "milder" form of the same thing. Let alone a personality disorder.

Maybe someone can explain it to me, but it seems to me rather like putting bats (mammals) in the same class with birds. They aren't closely related at all. So what if they both fly?

Benign narcissism comes from elevated self esteem. Malignant narcissism comes from the opposite. It is a compensatory act in denial of low esteem. So, the similarity in the way these two kinds of people behave is purely superficial.

People with benign narcissism have usually had fame, fortune, or success go to their heads. They start to believe they're really special. Sooner or later - CRASH - they find out they're not. Which is usually the best thing that ever happened to them. But they never have been malignant.

They aren't envious, so they don't go around tearing people down off pedestals to be greater than them. They can and do love and empathize. Hurting others doesn't make them feel good. They just strike us as obnoxious because they think they're God's greatest gift to the world, that's all.

At worst, they're snobby. But not abusive.

Even if they are narcissistic because they were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, I doubt people with a narcissistic personality have a disordered personality.

The DSM-IV-TR criteria don't just describe NPD as grandiosity. They specify purely negative behaviors, such as envy and exploiting others as objects, without empathy.

That is malignance.

Envy is malignance. Exploiting others is predation, which is malignant. Having no empathy is being brutally unfeeling, callous, and having utter disregard for the rights, feelings, and human dignity of others. That's malignant, too.

That's NPD. Where anyone gets the idea that it isn't malignant, I'd like to know.

It sounds to me like some folks are falling for narcissists' whining that they don't mean to be mean, that being mean just kinda happens to them.

Yeah sure. That's why they're such angels where there are witnesses and such demons in the dark.

What they are is a kind of drunk. Like the guy who hides a bottle in his desk drawer at the office. He wants it all the time. Like a narcissist wants to get the high from letting Mr. Hyde out all the time. But he doesn't dare when others might see. He can't wait for a chance to, because it's the only thing that makes him feel good. So, he just waits till no one is looking.

No, a drunk doesn't love alcohol for it's own sake, and narcissist doesn't love evil for its own sake. The drunk has a love-hate relationship with alcohol. And that's the relationship a narcissist has with evil. Vaunting himself on others makes him feel good, by reinforcing his delusions of grandeur, period.

He's just hooked on evil, because it's the only thing that enables him to maintain those delusions. For, if they fade away, he'll be left alone with the hell within.

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At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Benign narcissism comes from elevated self esteem. Malignant narcissism comes from the opposite. It is a compensatory act in denial of low self esteem. So, the similarity in the way these two kinds of people behave is purely superficial". Thankyou for putting it this way. There really is a difference. jt

At 1:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way my N is the malignant kind. Must be kind of painful for him too. But of course he runs from the pain and uses me as the extension of himself to punish. He exhibits many of the "closet behaviors" to me only. Though he hardly seems happy about it. Only I seem to "know" the pain he's been through. But tell you what, I'm starting to hate him, his mom, her husbands, and her freakya## father. If I have trouble crawling out from their legacy of pain and abuse as an innocent who married into it, how could they have, being children at their time of injury? Children pay for the sins of the parents comes to mind. They had to go into denial to survive I'm sure but now we their families have to suffer too. And it is sad and it is wrong, but it is just very true. jt

At 1:48 PM, Anonymous GH said...

I don't know if it's what you refer to as situational, but I theorize (with no actual background to qualify me... ) that there's a temporary form of narcissism that we all occasionally go through when we are suffering psychological injury. An acute rather than chronic NPD, perhaps? We get hurt and in trying to protect ourselves resort to many of the same manipulative, grandiose tricks of a narcissist. The difference being, we eventually recover from our whatever the injury, wake up from our narcissism, regret the ways we may have acted out, and have genuine gratitude for the patience and understanding of people who put up with our crap.

At 2:53 PM, Anonymous dandelion said...

Interesting comment, gh. I've been wondering about that element of transience as well. When I go back in time to reflect on what in my early relationship with N husband could possibly have predicted where we are now, there really isn't that much. I go through all the lists of red flags from various websites, and most of these things really didn't come into play until about ten years into our marriage. But the searching I've done on "situational narcissism" doesn't seem relevant at all.

I did find some stuff under "complex PTSD," that refers specifically to repeated exposure to small traumas while relatively powerless, such as during childhood (as opposed to a single traumatic event as in regular PTSD). The site on Wikipedia suggests that untreated complex PTSD could develop into a PD such as NPD in adulthood.

Looking at it from that angle, and remembering N husband expressing pain at how he was treated by his parents and siblings growing up (emotional abuse/neglect), I can see that the trigger for his bad behavior might have been a difficult phase that our daughter went through in middle school. He did once say in anger to my daughter that she picking on her brothers reminded him of his sisters picking on him. So, my daughter's bad behavior triggered these old memories, but instead of keeping his head and disciplining her in a reasonable way, he generally engaged in the emotionally abusive, distorted, and unempathic overreactions typical of N's, including blaming and evasiveness when I tried to talk to him about it. When I came to her defense, I became part of the enemy. My daughter and I have been his enemy for the last 4-5 years, because of his old baggage. He has been a lot better recently, and the only thing I can link it to is an emotional growth spurt by our daughter, who is much more mature and easier to get along with at home now.

So, was it just a transient narcissistic phase triggered by memories of his emotionally abusive childhood? Could I stay with him if he goes back to the way he was before in terms of (reasonable) behavior? My gut says no, for one thing because of what he's put me (and our daughter) through, and for another because I've seen that he can't work out serious problems like an adult. I might be able to deal with a certain lack of compassion or critical thinking in a mate, but to know that he could take leave of both for extended periods, and there's nothing I can do about it, is just too much.

At 3:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dandelion, your first two paragraphs sound a LOT like us.I think that must be my Hs deal. And I'm starting to think of our marriage in a parallel way to a childhood in that we had our early developmental stage our middle learning years and not sure what to call this phase yet. But looking backwards trying to analyze where what went wrong, I see where I was like a child and was hurt and confused along the way only to discover I was powerless with him, I understood that something was wrong but didn't know what, so I carried on like things must be ok,right? Only when our kids got old enough to point out there were problems, which by that time I was in so deep-well lets just say my oldest brought up the terms Stockholm syndrome and passive aggressive before I ever read about them.anyway I'm getting long. One of my friends asked if maybe H was somehow trying to recreate in our home something from his past.Threw me a little but I think she may have an insight there. Many unresolved issues. could explain the feeling of having to reparent him, of trying to be so unlike stories of his mom, trying to detach from him, feeling like he was a mean big brother ,brat instead of a father to his kids. The PTSD sounds interesting applied to his childhood and also to me concerning our marriage. I show many of the symptoms myself. The shame is particularly interesting. The "slow release" is too. Maybe the term malignant could apply too in some way? I just know sometimes watching and listening to him can be eerie. Grieving the loss of watching a family members mental health slipping is hard.I struggle to maintain mine. But sometimes I worry about his. jt

At 5:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since my mother died five years ago
my brother has done nothing but manipulate, lie, try to destroy me, my marriage. He was a narcissist when
I was growing up, as was my mother.

But I didn't know it until recently. My dad has been very ill,
my brother has Power of attorney and
medical. He has done everything to shut me out of my Dad's life. He is
not taking good care of my Dad, giving him alcohol at the nursing
home that makes my Dad's conditions

He was very angry because I called him on the alcohol. He said
if you had the brains God gave you
in a very condescending manner.
I was tired of his treatment of me,
so I said How old are you anyway,
you look 80.

He promptly left.

A few days later I received a letter slammingme. He writes me letters. tells me not to call him,
but to write him back. He said I
was disavowed, he never wanted me
to speak to him again.

Also I left messages on his machine, he said he would charge
me with harrassment. He's a lawyer,
no one will take a case against him
to get guardian ship of my father.

My relatives are bystanders, they
will not even sympythize with me.
They don't even want to hear about it.

I really want to forget I had a brother, he has been so abusive all
my life.

But I want to get my Dad better
care. I might as well give up on that. But after Dad dies I will
probably never see him again.

I don't answer his letters, tho people say I should.

He is evil, I don't know that he
does good, unless it's a show. He
wants all the money, and he can't stand that Dad loves me, that I have a husband that loves me, that
he can't destroy what I have.

I feel at the end of my rope at times, with Dad so sick, and a constant turmoil with his sick,
evil actions.

Like I said to him once, I wish I
had never known him. My Dad deserves better.

I want to live my life and enjoy myself without having him in my thoughts too much! When my Dad dies
it will be possible.


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