Monday, August 20, 2007

Malignant Narcissism & Psychopathy

One of the oldest and most powerful propaganda devices is confusing (literally "pouring together and fusing") two different things as one. In ancient times, doing this was known as speaking the language of babbel/Babel. To this day, the root meaning of babble is "confused language." It was also known as speaking with tongues.

Confusing mere narcissism as a character trait with malignant narcissism, a personality/character disorder does great damage. It makes malignant narcissists seem much less bad than they are.

When authorities, who are supposed to know better, do this, what are we to conclude?

In fact, narcissism and malignant narcissism are FUNDAMENTALLY different. Narcissism is the fruit of inflated self esteem, whereas malignant narcissism is the fruit of deflated self-esteem. The resemblance is purely superficial and due to the fact that malignant narcissists compensate for their sense of inferiority with a superiority act that mimics simple narcissism. But simple narcissism is benign, whereas malignant narcissism is predatory. A world of difference.

We see the same thing with psychopathy and Antisocial Personality Disorder. They have been confused. This makes psychopathy sound much less serious than it is.

Incredibly, the DSM itself does this!

The distinction between psychopathy and ASPD is of considerable significance to the mental health and criminal justice systems. Unfortunately, it is a distinction that is often blurred, not only in the minds of many clinicians but in the latest edition of DSM-IV.

Why? To justify their cavalier attitude toward predators = malignant narcissists and psychopaths? To shore up cherished myths that there are no bad people in the world and that society is the one guilty of every crime someone commits and that some people having more money than others is to blame? Why?

Malignant narcissism should be taken seriously, and psychopathy should be taken taken seriously. So, the mental healthcare industry must stop obstinantly camouflaging them by confusing them with relatively minor matters.

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13 Comments:

At 10:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kathy,

Love your blog, but I disagree with you about the differences between narcissism and malignant narcissim. Both are the result of insecurity and both forms of narcissism inevitably hurt those around them. The main difference between the two is that the malignant narcissist must hurt you in order to alleviate his pain.

 
At 7:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

is it possible for a narcissist to not always have the presence of malice- just that they are truly self centered ?

 
At 2:27 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

I can maybe answer both at once. I think you may be right that narcissism is is a result of insecurity. Not sure, but it seems that it could make sense. I am thinking of the person who has let fame and fortune go to their heads, like a Hollywood star.

Surely people like this hurt the feelings of those around them. But in them I see no malice, no intent to harm.

In the malignant narcissit, consider the kinds of abuse we are talking about. It is much more serious. It is a relentless campaign of pounding people down, even your own children. It gets vicious with character assassination, ruining lives and careers. There's a diabolical facade. A conning of people into your confidence only to prey on them once you have them in your clutches.

I see a world of difference. It may be that you haven't seen a real malignant narcissist in action. They are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with no exaggeration. Only their victims see the diabolical Mr. Hyde = Hide behind the facade of Dr. Jeckyll.

Confusing the two waters down the seriousness of malignant narcissism. It's practically indistinguishable from psychopathy.

And it does also make people who are merely narcissistic seem much worse than they really are.

 
At 1:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kathy, I found (sought out is probably more appropriate) your blog, because I was deeply hurt by a malignant narcissist. So I'm well aware of the differences between an ordinary narcissist and a malignant one.

I'm not making the argument that the two forms of narcissism are equally hurtful, rather that both are the result of self-doubt. The act of boasting is a form of overcompensation and suggests insecurity.

Also, I don't fully agree that non-malignant narcissism is as benign as you suggest. Both forms of narcissicism lead to neglecting the needs of others, and in one way or another belittling them.

Ordinary narcissists inflict pain by unintentionally neglecting the needs of others, while malignant narcissists seek ways to deliberately inflict pain. Unable to fully experience his own pain, a malignant narcissist vicariously experiences it through you. And his pain is deep. His self-loathing is unbearable for him so he wants you to feel as worthless as he feels. Malignant narcissists feel powerless and weak. Hence, his drive to control and to assert his power over others. All his behaviors are forms of overcompensation.

I suspect that the difference between ordinary narcissists and malignant narcissists is the degree of insecurity. Ordinary narcissists I speculate are very insecure. Malignant narcissist have crossed the line into self-loathing.

 
At 5:26 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

You said at the top that you disagree, that you think both forms of narcissism are the result of insecurity, not inflated or deflated self esteem. That just doesn't agree with any known explanation I've ever seen.

And I never said anything about insecurity, so I never denied its presence in both types of narcissists. Therefore, this is like debating with a straw man.

>I'm not making the argument that the two forms of narcissism are equally hurtful, rather that both are the result of self-doubt. The act of boasting is a form of overcompensation and suggests insecurity.<

And what is the act of calumniating your betters at work to destroy their careers? What is the act of rape? What is the act of screaming viciously at your three-year-old for trying to get your attention? We are not just talking about boasting here.

As for the insecurity you posit, that may well be true. In fact, I suspect that it is. The acquired narcissism of a movie star, for example, has a large element of insecurity in it. Any delusion of grandeur will.

But how can mere insecurity be the root of malignance? Insecurity seeks security, not superiority.

It isn't the same thing as deflated self esteem. Insecurity and self doubt are not forms of deflated self esteem, so your objection is wide of the mark in the first place.

In other words, that movie star may be insecure (because he/she fears they aren't really that great and can't reproduce a triumph), but they haven't got deflated self esteem. So, lets's unconfuse the two and see where any disagreement really lies.

>Also, I don't fully agree that non-malignant narcissism is as benign as you suggest. Both forms of narcissicism lead to neglecting the needs of others, and in one way or another belittling them.<

Yes, both forms lead to neglecting the needs of others and in one way or another belittling them. But malignant narcissism leads to far waorse. Read back through the comments here and on the main website about what malignant narcissists do to people, including their own children. You are not appreciating the seriousness of this abuse with the words "neglecting the needs of others and in one way or another belittling them." Malignant narcissism is sadistic.

Big difference. As for "benign," using it opposite "malignant" should mean that mere narcissism is benign like a benign tumor. That does not mean it's good. It's still a tumor, and some benign tumors can be life threatening. Same here. Benign narcissism isn't good, but there is no malignance = malice = in it.

I do my best to make sure people understand that I understand how hurtful and obnoxious mere narcisists can be, but they are not twisted. They aren't predators. They don't go around riuning lives and careers with character assassination. That is not just "neglecting needs and belittling others" - it is destroying them.

They just are inconsiderate of others and look down on them. Through self-centeredness but without any malice.

>Unable to fully experience his own pain, a malignant narcissist vicariously experiences it through you.< Do you mean he abuses you to feel pain? This contradicts what you said in your first comment. Nobody seeks to feel to pain. He abuses you to kill his pain.

>I suspect that the difference between ordinary narcissists and malignant narcissists is the degree of insecurity.<

No, it is the presence of inflated self esteem or deflated self esteem (shame). Both may well be incsecure in their delusions of grandeur. Delusions are ephemeral things that constantly melt away if you don't keep them reinforced.

But insecurity is not deflated self esteem.

>Ordinary narcissists I speculate are very insecure. Malignant narcissist have crossed the line into self-loathing.<

What line? How does insecurity lead to self loathing? Insecurity is not a personality disorder. Many normal people are insecure and do not come to hate themselves, let alone become narcissistic.

You might like to check out Dr. Sanity's blog on the topic of narcissism, to see how malignant narcissism is connected with shame and low self esteem. She explains it much better than I.

People who have suffered the abuse of a real malignant narcissist have not merely had their needs neglected and been belittled. I dare say they wouldn't be complaining if that's all their N did to them: they'd have better things to do.

 
At 6:04 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

On rereading the whole thread, I see that i have missed a point you make.

If all narcissits are just insecure, then to fix them we need to build up their - what? Ego?

And how well has that type of therapy worked with malignant narcissists and psychopaths? It has failed miserably. It has made them worse and more dangerous, more manipulative.

When you lump a whole truckload of nonmalicious people into these two groups - with malignant narcissists and psychopaths - you camouflage the latter. Then you can no longer characterize the people in this group as "malicious," because many of them aren't. I think that is the aim of the social engineers who insist on confusing them. To cloud the issue.

Since some sympathy is appropriate for mere narcissists and antisocials, we must therefore give sympathy to malignant narcissists and psychopaths too - poor "suffering" things. The myth that there is no such thing as a bad person dies hard, doesn't it?

 
At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion. I also struggled with the 'insecurity issue'. For a long time I tried to boost up their ego, help anyway I could, only to find they got more hostile, devaluating, crueler. The more I helped the more I reminded them of their feeling of 'nothingness' which they could not bear and compensated with their fantasy and attitude of supriority by trying to make you feel that you are nothing instead of them.
I've concluded that the basic ground of NPS (malignant) is an kept-unconsious very low 'self-picture' compensated with the fantasie of a very ideal self-picture. Everyone or everything who reminds her of her real 'self-picture' must be destoyed to keep the fantasie alive. She herself would die to see her real self. So it's a very malignant way to survive but she never will know it works this way. She struggles to keep it unconsious. The fear keeps her away from knowing.
So I also think that in case of NPS a very deep insecurity is at the base of their behaviour but so deeply ingraind in their personality that they are beyond possible modification. Just like real psychopaths (but I think that also difference them, only the outcome is virtualy the same).

Just narcissism I see is not out of insecuraty, it's about over-securaty, an inflated personality as Jung call's it. They are off their feet, succes has gone to their heads. You can laugh at them and have a kind of pitty with them.
They behave a bit ridiculous. You wait for the day that they land on their feet. And when the succes has gone, they generally do and come back to their sences.

People with NPD never land on their feet. Their are no feet. Only a very empty, scared, feel-nothing, little child. Unconsious also and beyond repair I believe.
They should be build up from scratch and that's, I believe, impossible.

greetings, Gerard

 
At 1:40 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Gerard, Your comment starts out understandable and logical enough, but...

>Just narcissism I see is not out of insecuraty, it's about over-securaty, an inflated personality as Jung call's it.<

Right about there is where your whole answer turns over. If one isn't reading carefully by that point, one might miss it. Did you do this on purpose? It doesn't sound like the same person with the same opinon write the first and last halves.

What exactly are you trying to say? I am sorry to say this, but you are contradicting yourself and mushing things together.

First, the basic meanings of words must be respected. "Security" obviously isn't the word for what you are talking about. What might "oversecurity" be? Living in Fort Knox?

And how could oversecutity be the same as an inflated personality? This is yet another example of confusing things with what they ain't.

And where did this INflated personality come from? In the beginning you said that narcissists have a "feeling of nothingness" that they flee into denail of with DELUSION of superiority. That's DEflated self esteem, not inflated self esteem.

So your comment is mixed up and illogical, having gone round a complete circle.

Success has gone to their heads? Then you are not talking about NPD. You are talking about acquired situational narcissism, such as famous people sometimes get. It is not NPD. It is not malignant. It is not a personality disorder. It is not what this website is about.

NPD is a pervasive pattern of thinking present from childood or youth. Even the DSM says that much. NPD has nothing to do with success or failure.

>You wait for the day that they land on their feet. And when the succes has gone, they generally do and come back to their sences.<

Do you mean land on their face? or land on their butts?

If you mean that they fall, I agree with you 100%. It's almost proverbial that, when success has gone to someone's head, the best thing that can happen to them is a crash. They do snap out of it then. But people with real NPD never are cured.

People with real NPD have DELUSIONAL success, not real success. They are mediocre at best. They fake it. They make their work look better than it is by stealing the credit that belongs to others. Or by fudging test results. By cheating, in other words. They fast-talk people easily induced to think whatever you want into believing their work is just the greatest when it really is mediocre at best. They do this simply by using the herding instict - creating the myth that they already are acclaimed for excellence. Then everyone goes "Yup, yup, yup" and sucks it up.

And so a lousy composer like Verdi gets a reputation as glorious as Mozart's.

But people with acquired situational narcissism really do excel at what they do. They aren't being grandiose. Their accomplishment really is grand. They just let it go to their heads and make them think they are special.

That's as far in responding as I care to go, because your comment doesn't hang together enough to make it possible to address a point without getting tangled in one of the confusions or contradictions.

But one thing I must say: therapists have stubbornly refused to face facts about the failure of their methods. They still insist on treating narcissists and psychopaths as you suggest - by building them up. And the research shows that this only makes them worse. With psychopaths, for example, 59% end up back in jail for a violent crime without treatment, and 80% end up back in jail for a violent crime with treatment. They just learn tricks from the therapist, how to pass for normal better = how to con and manipulate people better.

Serach this blog for examples of how it happens.

That's a fact: building them up just makes them worse. And it's time all narcissist sympathizers faced that fact.

The only possible hope is treatment that is simple positive and negative reinforcement: every time they misbehave, whack them. That will teach them a new way of life in the only language that matters to them. Failing to punish them enables them, period.

Why should they reform when all they have to do is put on sad faces to sucker sympathy and win them the kind of ego build-up you suggest? That plays right into their hands. They are bad people. Bad peoeple. Just bad people.

Dr. Robert Hare and many others say they are not even comfortable calling psychopathy a disease. Many say it and NPD are nothing but character disorders. A growing number of experts characterize predation as an adaption, not an illness. It's just a way of cheating your way to good things in life, at others' expense.

If it's a disease, it's a spiritual one.

 
At 5:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it's a language problem. Giving differant meaning to words and definitions.
What I call 'just narcissism' is what you call 'aquired situational narcissism'.
I believe that's an inflated ego born out of, what you say, real achievements and basicly healty self-esteem/confidence/security. It's only gone to their head, often temporaly. They donn't want to hurt nobody on purpose and land on their feet when succes slows down.
What I've learned from people with NPD (so, not 'just narcissism') is that they in fact have very low self-esteem/self-cofidence/self-picture-image/self-security.
When I read your reaction I see that I mean the same.
I hope my reaction makes more sence now.

greetings, Gerard

 
At 12:53 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Gerard, You speak English too well! I didn't realize that it isn't your native language, or I might have guessed that it was a language problem.

I am constantly amazed at how well people all over the world speak English. You used to be able to tell when someone wasn't a native speaker of English. But since the Internet, now you often can't.

I suppose it doesn't surprise Brits so much, but we Americans have to use a foreign language so seldom that we forget the foreign languages we learn a few years after we leave school.

You make a good point about acquired situational narcissism - it usually doesn't last forever. It can get better and worse at times, depending on how much praise and acclaim the person gets. These people can be helped by therapy. A personality disorder is deeply ingrained and doesn't change much except for the risk-taking.

I understand your last comment, and it sounds like we agree.

 
At 10:06 AM, Blogger Jen said...

Hi, love all of the comments! I am trying to help my step-daughter deal with her mother who clearly has NPD. It is so eerie to see how they all seem to act the same. It is very difficult to get my head around... The DSM describes NPD as a personality disorder because the N is still rooted in reality, as opposed to psychoses. Am I crazy or do you all not think that they are pretty close to psychotic?

 
At 10:39 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

I can only say what a narcissist I've known all her life has told me. On the pretext of talking about the book "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden," she said that "some people" (= her) stepped "across that line" into, and out of, insanity at will.

Till they did so once too often.

She added that "they" knew this would happen to them if they didn't stop checking out of their senses whenever they wanted to, but that they had to tempt fate by continuing to do it anyway.

Both psychopaths and narcissists are known to take "psychotic breaks." These are episodes of psychosis (which is different from psychopathy, BTW).

It's simplistic to think that psychosis is just something that happens to people. Narcs and psychopaths accept only as much reality as suits them. The rest they reject. I wouldn't call that being "rooted in reality." And their crazy act is very useful. Like a temper tantrum, it gets them what they want.

 
At 10:10 AM, Blogger Melanie Reed said...

After reading Kathy's writings and postings on NPD, her conclusions are cogent. I have experience with a couple of relatives who are NPD and I would agree that this is **not** an ilness as society has come to define illness of the mental sort. Her comment from a previous post gets pretty close to my own observations and studies of this kind of individual:
>>Dr. Robert Hare and many others say they are not even comfortable calling psychopathy a disease. Many say it and NPD are nothing but character disorders. A growing number of experts characterize predation as an adaption, not an illness. It's just a way of cheating your way to good things in life, at others' expense.

If it's a disease, it's a spiritual one.<<

Yes, I agree. It is a spiritual disease, one of the worst. It is rooted totally in pride, meaning that given the same circumstances, another individual who went through the same abuse they supposedly did (let's say for argument's sake) is fully capable of choosing to respond to that abuse differently. In other words, abuse does not **make** abusers. It is choice that makes an abuser. If abuse were the trigger, then all women who got raped would go around raping others; they don't. All those who are abused don't in turn go around abusing others. Being around crass people, doesn't always make you, in turn, a crass person. It may increase the likelihood of you and I picking up some unsavory comments to make, but it still all boils down to making the choice to say them or dwell on them. This is something that our society has got to start coming to terms with and stop thinking that depravity is an uncommon occurrance. It's a matter of looking at the material you start out with and going from that point and the choices of what use you make of it. The bottom rule for everyone, young and old, is that we are responsible. It's not rocket science to know what hurts you is more than likely going to hurt another. It's recognizing and not saying no to a fundamental truth: 'My pain is not more important than another's pain.' When I make it so, that is pride and greed working together: 'I shouldn't have to suffer this' and 'I want more peace so I'll steal that other person's share'. Pride has always been considered the most deadly of the sins, and from having read your posts and site, along with my background knowledge, I have learned it to be true. These individuals are missing the key ingredient that provides defense against this evil taking over, and as you put it "going back and forth across the line of insanity once too often". That key ingredient to redemption for NPD's is appreciation. Without their exercising the ability to appreciate, you can "love" NPD's all you want and it will be like trying to contain water in a sieve. What they need is the rap on the snout they didn't get out of agape love when growing up. It has to be 2 pronged: praise for what is real, a rap on the snout for what is not. They get called out on what is patently wrong calmly and quietly, firmly like flint. You praise them for what is real. In other words, you must build a wall of reality in a closed room for them. I watched a foreign film called "Black" about a deaf, mute, and blind girl, for whom just exactly that was done in order to reach her: She and the teacher were locked into a room so that she had to depend only on him for everything. Metaphorically, this is what has to happen to the soul of an NPD. I know of no better person than God to do that spiritual soul surgery. The best thing you and I can do is to pray with the same kind of intensity and firmness that 1 Thessalonians speaks to and maintain the "room" of 2 pronged treatment that Kathy speaks to when dealing with them. That is the love they need and it takes strength to give it.

 

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