Monday, June 11, 2007

The Difference Between Narcissism and Malignant Narcissism

There are two kinds of narcissists. Your garden variety narcissist and your malignant narcissist. It is unfortunate that they go by the same name, because they are as different as night and day.

But most people think that a malignant narcissist is just an extreme form of narcissist. Hence they get the idea that narcissism is a mental disease that exists in varying degrees of severity.

In fact, many go further and say that psychopathy is just one more gradation of severity beyond malignant narcissism.

But this is flawed thinking. For then you're just a narcissist till you get caught and convicted of a physically violent crime, right?

That makes no sense. The very idea of a disease being the sick person's deed is absurd. For example, then Lee Harvey Oswald was only a malignant narcissist till the day he murdered President Kennedy, by which act he suddenly became a psychopath, right? Absurd.

As Dr. Robert Hare asserts, the vast majority of psychopaths never commit a physically violent crime. But that doesn't mean they aren't absolutely capable of committing one anytime they are tempted to and think they can get away with it.

And it certainly doesn't mean that they aren't destroyers nonetheless, who leave a vast pile of human destruction in their wake.

Because they have no conscience.

It's what people are CAPABLE of that counts, and that we never know. In fact, we never know what we ourselves are capable of in extremity until we discover it in extremity.

Everyone has a certain amount of narcissism as a personality trait. It is essential. It is responsible for our self love and instinct for self preservation. People we call "narcissists" are usually people who have inflated self esteem.

The typical stereotype is the one Mohamed Ali used to spoof when he was called Cassius Clay: "I am the greatest! The prettiest! The best!"

The narcissist puffs himself up. Note that this is POSITIVE.

Whom does it hurt? No one. At worst it can be inconsiderate, snobby, and condescending. Yes, the mere narcissist can be obnoxious. But he isn't a PREDATOR.

He doesn't have to hurt others to kill his pain. He doesn't have to establish his grandeur by tearing others down off that pedestal. He doesn't have to treat others like dirt to feel good about himself.

Why? Because he really does feel good about himself. In fact, his problem is that he feels too darned good about himself. He is typically someone spoiled, born with a silver spoon in their mouth, or someone in whom fame and fortune have gone to the head.

But is he capable of loving a spouse and his children? Yes! of course. If he sees a dog or person suffering in a gutter on the street will he kick them for the power rush it gives him? No! He will tenderly help them. He is a human being. He just has a bad personality trait. Who doesn't?

Now ask those same two questions about a malignant narcissist. The answers will be reversed. He will not respond humanly in either situation ... unless there's an audience to put on a kindly humanitarian act for.

The malignant narcissist is nothing at all like your garden variety narcissist. The malignant narcissist's narcissism isn't just a personality trait. He has a disordered personality, a broken one, a dysfunctional one. The malignant narcissist is a NEGATIVE narcissist. He thinks he can obtain grandeur by negative means. By taking it away from others.

Hence, he thinks to glorify himself by degrading you. He thinks to gain respect by denying any to you. He thinks to make himself important by treating you like dirt. He improves his reputation by ruining yours.

See the pattern? It is like he thinks grandeur some sort of substance he assimilates by devouring it in you. Like predator. That's what a predator is made out of - the bodies of all the prey it has eaten. Your malignant narcissist is just doing the same thing in the moral sphere of action.

He thinks all the regard, respect, love, attention, worth, and appreciation he robbed you of belongs to him now. In other words, the malignant narcissist is a moral cannibal. Kinda like a vampire who lives by drinking other people's blood (a symbol for life and suffering).

So, instead of praising himself like the garden-variety narcissist does, the malignant narcissist just denigrates you. See the difference? It's a huge difference.

Which is why he's a predator. He goes through life hungrily looking for good prospects to take a bite out of. He's addicted to that pain-killing narcotic. So the more he gets the more he wants.

Therefore, hurting people isn't something malignant narcissists do by accident: it's how they live.

In other words, they are not just mildly sick in the head: they are seriously sick in the head, no matter how good they are at passing for normal in public.

So, there you have it: the portrait of the narcissist and the malignant narcissist. The resemblance is purely superficial in that both are often (but not always) arrogant or even haughty. Both are inconsiderate.

But that's where the similarity ends. The narcissist has no malignance in him.

A malignant narcissist doesn't really have inflated self-esteem. He lives in terror of moments of self-awareness so as to unknow that though. He is just ACTING the part of a god, acting the part of someone who thinks his you-know-what doesn't stink. He is a little child playing Pretend by dressing up in Daddy's cloths. He actually despises himself. So much that he won't even know his true self.

He won't identify with his true wretched self. He prefers to be a mirage he makes in mirrors.

So, a malignant narcissist isn't just a severe case of narcissism. A malignant narcissist is a whole other thing.

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At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank goodness you're here. i am so grateful you keep this site going. just reread your page on playing pretend. it's good to review that one. my N is malignant. he does hate himself. but has become so
'out of touch' with himself. he has weird enough tried to become more 'in touch' with everyone else lately which i wish i could think of as a learning opportunity. but it is really hard not to have bad feelings about it. at times i feel like i'm being betrayed in some way. i can't speak for someone else but lets say the script looks like this. wife gains deeper understanding that H is a N. wife changes attitude=behavior change. NH catches the change. reacts with rages til he notices wife may rage right back. NH turns into mr. rogers. (disgusting to me- the big phony) stand off of wills between wife and NH to see who will crack first. stubborn little brat won't budge- wife doesn't give an inch either cuz she knows watch in disgust til they must start to feel enough relief and start acting like hey dad's not such a bad guy (they don't remember. nice break for them but it's hard for me to stay mature about this)what do you think? think the N ran out of supply?-or at least he recognized a shortage-- NO WONDER he seemed so mad at me!! and i think i just figured out why this new stubborn streak of 'acting so nice' is bugging me-- because he is holding on to that act to SPITE me for derailing him for a little while (pardon me for talking to myself online here)(i think i'm having an epiphany) gosh- i think i feel better. it really does help to share what you are thinking and feeling with other people until you find someone who understands. i am finding (for myself at least lately) that when i recognize and sort out my FEELINGS with another human being- my THOUGHTS become more clear- and my conduct becomes more controlled- which activates my N- which spooks me- which leads to more communication with people (you guys) that can help me. the less emotional i get especially around the N, the more understanding i gain, the better equipped i am to keep on living healthy.
his behavior plus your articles=more understanding= less trauma. OMG THANKYOU Kathy. jt

At 7:08 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

I'm very glad to hear that. Talking to people who understand or even journaling helps you see things clearly. I think that's for the simple reason that, to explain to others, you have to choose words for things. And you invariably notice that what the N or the thoughtless bystanders call things ain't what they are.

It's a revelation. You then see clearly what's going on.

Calling things what they ain't is the principle trick, not only of narcissits, but also of propaganda and brainwashing. The old word for it is "babble" = confusing one thing with another. And yes the Biblical language of "babel" is the language of propaganda, deciet. Slippery language with a forked tongue.

We miss a lot of the falsehoods in the delusions the N tries to impose on us untill we need to choose words to express ourselves and notice that, say for example, "self defense" is no "offense."

Bingo, that turns the lights on.

Clear thinking is absolutely crucial to protecting your own mental health from a narcissist's disease. So, there's no magic in venting, but if you're willing to think, it really helps and guides you to a clear understanding of what is going on.

At 6:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Clear thinking is absolutely crucial to protecting your own mental health from a narcissist's disease." (Kathy)
When I read this I said yeah it is a disease that they try to inflict upon you. Many times I've questioned my own sanity when dealing with my "N" brother. He lies and fabricates and projects instinctively and with a straight face. He really believes what he is saying.Afterwards I would think to myself "did I really say that" "Did I really do that." No of course not but he accomplished his goal by derailing the argument or getting off one topic and on to another. This always occurs when you have them pinned down with facts and so they throw any garbage they can think of to escape.Before my total disassociation with him I learned to ignore his words and plow on with the truth. Of course this would eventually lead to nowhere because they are incapable of hearing the truth. But at least afterward I would not doubt or question my actions as much or put any weight into his words. Abel

At 7:26 AM, Anonymous Lynn0407 said...

My first comment seems to have gone missing, so I'll try again.

Thanks Kathy, for the great information you provide here. The differences you have explained about the malignant variety as opposed to the garden variety fit my N partner perfectly. It also helps me when I explain narcissism to others or simply how the mind of an abuser works. The reference to Cassius Clay is a good one to use and everyone can easily understand what is being said.

For the first poster - I say, be careful. I discovered NPD about March and suggested my partner tell his psych that it fitted him more than bi-polar as he was going back to see him to get his meds changed. The psych was impressed with my observations and my partner was clinically diagnosed as being NPD. He displays all 9 traits, too, along with the abusive and controlling behaviours.

But, to anonymous poster, be careful. Even though the knowledge and understanding is power to you, you'll find your head spinning much less now that you have NPD information to hand, and you start raging back, and especially if you start to mirror him back - he could get violent.

That is what has happened with me. After several months of raging back, being forceful with boundaries, and calling him up on abusive nature almost every single time he does it, I used the tactic of throwing his words right back at him. Earlier in the week he'd threatened, "I'm going to tic off, quit my job, stop paying for the house and leave you penniless." (not an uncommon statement from him I might add). So I picked him up on it, and told him to carry out what he'd threatened. "Go, nick off, I think you better do as you said, go, you're not wanted here. Quit your job, and leave me penniless, and I think you had better do it right now. Please leave!"

He took a swipe at me.

So much for saying he'd NEVER use violence. Well buster, I got news for you. I called the cops to let him know it was not acceptable.

It has taught me 2 things. Yes, he will resort to physical violence if he feels trapped into a corner and the trigger is mirroring.

Of course, he came out with the classic line that he was provoked. Pffffft, to that!

I'm on my guard now.

Oh, and one other thing. Since I've removed the supply aspect, he's escalated the controlling to freakish levels, and escalated the verbal threats to now have a physical fist shaking as well.

I really want him out of the house and definately out of my life and our little daughters life too.

Still planning my strategy on that.

Good luck to you.

At 7:59 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Thank you for re-posting, Lynn. This is good information.

I should have posted at the top saying that I suspected a comment went to Never NeverLand yesterday afternoon, but I wasn't sure. Finding out that one did, I figure it is a bug in Blogger that isn't likely to recur unless I am in the act of commenting myself at that very moment. Then if things happen just right (or "just wrong" rather), Blogger can get confused.

At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lynn - stop planning - plan where you're safe - stop keeping the children in the middle of this horror. GET OUT NOW.

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Lynn, about the escalation.

I think this common among Ns, because I too have seen them suddenly boost the intimidation and violence when the old, less forcing tactics no longer work. To incredible levels! In fact, I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. I'd have never thought this person capable of such wild behavior.

So, thanks for the example. I don't know this for sure, but I too feel that an N will go just as far as they think they need to (and can get away with) to get the job done.

If subtle mind-control tactics work, why risk landing in jail for physical violence? My guess is that this is the only consideration that normally holds them back from illegal acts and physical violence.

But that isn't morality. The absence of physical violence does NOT mean that an N is incapable of it. It doesn't mean the won't someday (just like a three-year-old) instantly resort to it when frustrated.

I think that is one of the gravest dangers, because people get the idea that since their N doesn't hit or do something as outrageous as guit his job or hit anyone, he or she isn't as bad. Isn't likely to ever do anything like that.

Then you are stunned when the day comes that the N needs to up the ante and he murders someone or does something else you'd never have dreamed him capable of. And he does it just as off-handly as he used to merely insult them before.

Because his pea shooter doesn't work anymore, so he took out his canon. Ns are mental children, so they think like that.

That's just my opinion, from my own shocked observations and from accounts of others. Which is why I always say that I think the only limit on what a N will do is what he thinks he can get away with.

In other words, I suspect that malignant narcissists are capable of anything. I know many people can't buy that and even some authorities disagree. And I don't blame them. I myself wouldn't have believed it till I saw it. I was always thinking, "Oh he'd never do this" or "She'd never do that." And I was dead wrong in every case. It was only a matter of time till something happened to trip their trigger and shock you with what they IMPULSIVELY just did without the slightest compunction.

But should it be a surpise when we know they care only about one thing - getting what they want?

Nothing else is even a consideration to them. So why should doing a big evil be any harder for them than doing a little evil is?

I think it's a mistake to keep assuming they think like normal people do. They don't. They think like a spoiled three-year-old thinks. And you know what's going to happen if you let a spoiled three-year-old carry a gun. The moment stomping her foot and screaming at her playmates doesn't work, she will thoughtlessly whip it out.


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