January 16, 2010

Normal or Malignant Narcissism?

Soap Bubbles by Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin, 1773


My last entry described healthy narcissism as a developmental process. Today, I’d like to write about ‘malignant’ narcissism and how people’s lives are endangered when society accepts self-admiration as ‘normal’, even desirable. My concern with the increasing acceptance of narcissistic behavior as normal (healthy) is that we are eroding the warning signs of pathology. The more normal self-admiration becomes, the more likely we are to rationalize, minimize and maybe even ‘idealize’ signs of pathology. 

In my generation, we made decisions based false assumptions about people’s capacity to change in a loving relationship. Now we are facing an interesting turn of events: the belief that self-admiration is normal or healthy. This concerns me because of my personal experience with ladder-climbing narcissists perceived to be confident and successful. For them, people are means to an end. Ambition is the measure of success and relationships are disposable. As long as the individual achieves success (fame or fortune), we ignore all the other people whose goals and right to happiness were destroyed. 

Theorists like Otto Kernberg and Heinz Kohut describe narcissism differently and people may prefer one theory to another, or even a combination of several theories. No matter how psychologists define the etiology of malignant narcissism, the symptoms are the same: excessive self-sufficiency, entitlement, exploitativeness, exhibitionistic, vanity, authority, and superiority. These seven traits are similar to traditional indications of unhealthy behavior: pride, wrath, greed, lust, envy, sloth, and gluttony. (Harkens back to the original seven sins, doesn’t it?) Just like those aggravating sins we each commit to some degree, most people repent and get their lives back on track---and other people don’t. Learning about pathological narcissism and reading about people’s real-time experiences with narcissists is a good way to protect yourself from undo harm so YOU can work on your own sins instead of worrying about the narcissist’s eternal welfare. 

Kernberg’s description of the pathological grandiose self fits my experience with a narcissist who was unable to resolve serious complications in his childhood. For me, when discussing narcissistic personality disorder or the incurable syndrome of malignant narcissism, the theory that rings most 'true' is the concept by Otto Kernberg. In my 'recovery' experience, Kernberg’s theories have done a better job bursting illusive bubbles than Kohut’s theory of arrested development. I don’t claim to be proficient in arguing psychological theory, but a woman learns what she needs to learn in order to save her life and many of my assumptions about human nature were completely wrong, especially the intractability of malignant narcissism. It has been a long journey questioning my assumptions and beliefs about loving someone into happiness. 

For the most part, Kohut’s theory of arrested development aligned with my basic premise about maturation: that people went through stages of development, assisted by empathic partners who remained consistent and attached. It was my belief that immature behavior would self-correct over time. That people continued growing into old age, gaining wisdom, generativity, and a sense of humor, and all those good things Erik Erikson defined in his eight stages of psychosocial development. Though it’s of no doubt to me that should a narcissist rate him or herself on Erickson’s scale, or even Maslow’s, they’d be right up there at the top. Standing on everyone else’s head and justifying the crumpled heap of broken people under their feet. 

So based on my relational experiences, it was natural to assume self-centeredness decreased as people aged…if they had a reliably supportive family that is. Once somebody provided the love they never got as a child, they'd change their narcissistic ways and grow up. If they got the love they needed, they'd not only love us back---they'd be grateful. This is how we were thinking back in the 1970's when the self-esteem movement was gaining headway. 

My beliefs about people’s ability to change underscored my patience with people who struggled connecting to others, or living UP to responsibilities and expectations. If we examine our personal history, we see how life experiences influence the way we think, act, and feel. 

It’s natural to assume other people are similar to ourselves and will mature in the same way. 

If someone supported our ‘changed behavior’ when we failed or made mistakes, we may be inclined to support other people when they make mistakes. Assuming of course, that they aren’t pathological---which most of us don’t know at the time. The signs were there but without context for interpreting those signs, we rationalized the narcissist’s behavior by assuming their motivation was similar to our own. 

When the best I could offer a partner resulted in hateful aggression, devaluation and betrayal, I finally uttered the word “pathological” instead of the euphemism, “midlife crisis”. My bubble burst with a resounding POP after admitting to myself that nothing I could do (or did) had an impact on my partner. So whoever it was that released me from my ignorance, ‘thank you.’ 

What Kohut offered that has been very useful is his concept of narcissistic rage. Narcissistic rage is not a temper tantrum or ‘venting’, what most of us assume is happening when the narcissist erupts out-of-the-blue. Most of us were/are unaware that the narcissist’s rage is based on perceived threats to their pseudo-self: the toxic bubble protecting their inflated esteem and grandiose self.

As I wrote above, having my bubble poked with realistic, albeit unwanted information, freed me from an illusion that was making life miserable. Here's some truth that might cut through denial for some of you: 

1-Malignant narcissists do not mature into wise and loving people 

2-You cannot apply what you know about human development to pathological narcissists

3-Assumptions, drawn from your own experience, are W-R-O-N-G 

4-Your capacity for intimacy will be rejected and degraded 

5-Your Love and support will be perceived by the narcissist as neediness and control. 

“DREAM SQUASHER! BUBBLE BUSTER! STICK-PIN FANATIC!”

Now this is the reason I posted Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin’s bubble blower masterpiece today: I am a Dream Squasher, a dedicated bubble-popper. When someone lives in a bubble of their own blowing, it’s my moral responsibility to stick pins in the gaseous container---gently and nicely, of course. After all, most people appreciate a reality check, including myself. Are we not each susceptible to floating in bubbles from time-to-time, especially when reality is overwhelming, uncertain, and frightening?

"You're right, Mom. Anyone who is too afraid to perform in public isn't gonna be a rock star." Bursting his bubble gave the kid half a chance to figure out what he was good at doing. Over Christmas, I got some mighty big hugs for helping my son face reality in his early twenties. He didn’t like having his grandiose bubble busted; but now he is living his dream as a computer game programmer. Something he is much better suited for. Was he ‘narcissistic’ as a young man, living inside a bubble of grandiosity and fantasy? Yea. But he wasn’t pathological. 

Then there was this friend of mine who insisted her relationship with a married man was her glorious destiny. That some genie in the sky had accepted her fervent pleas for a soul mate and directed her feet to the married man's side of the street. I didn’t validate that grandiose illusion either, which doesn't make me very popular at sex-in-the-city-luncheons these days. When her bubble burst (because it always does), she thanked me for suggesting she look herself square in the eye and admit that her magical thinking had been a lie. Was she ‘narcissistic’ to believe she could escape reality with a ‘married’ soulmate? Yea. But she wasn’t pathological. 

If we valued our liberation from self-delusion, we may believe we’re doing people a favor when we release them from their unhealthy fantasies. To tell y’all the truth, a few friends poked my bubble of self-delusion at appropriate times, sealing our friendship forever. I loved them even more afterwards because they cared enough to bring stickpins to lunch. 

The danger is that we assume reality checks are a loving thing to do. That people will respond favorably to having their ‘illusions and unrealistic dreams’ squashed. What we don’t know is that when the fat head inside the bubble is a malignant narcissist, bursting his bubble is akin to bombing his house. In the malignant narcissist's paranoid perceptions, we are threatening his existence and he will protect himself as if we were throwing grenades on his front porch. Woe be the person who pokes pins in a malignant narcissist’s bubble! You may need to run for your life…I am not kidding. 

He will want to kill you. 

One thing I hope to impress on everyone’s minds is that narcissism is nothing to pooh-pooh or consider ‘normal’. Healing malignant narcissism is not a simple matter of ‘loving’ or ‘forgiving’ or ‘mirroring’ the narcissist’s behavior so he or she will jump on the bandwagon and work through eight stages of authenticity, eventually turning into Jolly Old Saint Nick. 

Pathological narcissism (NPD) is a dangerous disorder. It is especially dangerous for people with pockets full of pins who have the mistaken notion that everyone prefers a reality check when self-inflated arrogance lofts them into the ethers, ruining their chances for happiness and life satisfaction. So please, never mistake a malignant narcissist for what people are calling ‘normal’ narcissists. It’s easy to be confused now that self-admiration and grandiosity and self-promotion are considered “normal,” even desirable. 

It's time to stop viewing narcissistic behavior as acceptable because in the process, we blur the lines of malignancy. 

Let me also point out that a lot of people are dedicated to recovery and healing their 'narcissistic wounds'. We're avidly learning about narcissism---even confronting ‘unhealthy’ narcissism in our selves. But remember: if you empathize with people, value community, and commit to relationships, you ain’t pathological. Developmental arrests can be ameliorated through self-help work, lots of support, and consistent attempts to eradicate dysfunctional behavior, childish assumptions, and invalid beliefs. If you are willing to examine sacred assumptions and take a good, hard look at yourself, and if you are able to stick with your resolutions, tolerate set-backs, value your relationships, and keep making progress, then it’s fair to say you have healthy-enough narcissism to sustain the work you must do.

If you have enough healthy narcissism, you can and will pop your annoying bubbles yourself. You may resent a friend suddenly squashing your bubble-istic fantasies, but you won’t want to kill the person with the pins.

19 comments:

  1. As usual, these two blogs on narcissism, side by side, are exquisite in content and understanding, providing a clear picture of what involved people experience. The damage is easy to predict after years and years of this behavior. It never gets any prettier, no matter how often it is described.

    The only minute, additional point to be made is that recovery from such abuse requires healthy self-support and, yes, even a speck of narcissism in order to restore the level of competence and confidence a person was developing before the onset of narcissistic abuse.

    For those whose entire lives are made up of narcissist abuse, it may take years for healing to bring a period of self respect and loving relationships. It all begins with the victim, and is a very difficult but rewarding challenge. It is worth the effort.

    Life can be wonderful again.

    Cornfield

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  2. How nice to hear from you on my blog, Cornfield! It's always a pleasure to talk to another person who never gave up hope that her partner would change. ha!

    Well, we finally gave up hope but not until we'd given the relationship our 'best shot', right?

    For all the regrets most of us suffer, I have no regrets about Not Doing the Best I Could to create a healthy family. O my heavens...I gave it my 'all'. And still, it wasn't enough.

    I appreciate your comments about my last two blog entries. Now that Narcissism is being talked about in the media, people might be getting confused about Normal versus Pathological narcissism.

    It's funny, but I didn't see that coming! Not at all!

    I had hoped that once people were familiar with 'narcissism', they'd have context for the narcissist's crazy-making behavior.

    Now we are reducing the pathology of this MENTAL DISORDER, and that concerns me.

    I hope my writing clarifies the distinction for people. I'll keep trying to put words to what I know and feel in my gut...

    Hugs,
    CZBZ

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  3. Thank you so much for what you've written here. I had an on and off "relationship" with a man who I now realize was a narcissist, for almost 5 years. Most of it was online and long distance, and I've had the worst time in the world trying to recover from what he did to me (much of it sexual in nature). Part of the problem for me, has been that he is a very public person and I can see what he's doing all the time, and there is a HUGE disconnect between his public image and what I know to be true about his real values and behaviors. That's been extremely difficult for me. I too, had these very same assumptions about "if I only loved him enough" etc etc. It helps me to see it written here, because no one I know really understands why it was so hard for me to get away from him. And what's worse is that it was mostly online...I have felt violated and exploited in a way no one in my life has ever made me feel. I am in therapy because of what he did, and it's helping, but what you've written here makes me understand it better and helps me to realize I am not a horrible person (disposable, as he's made me feel). Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
    -B

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  4. You are welcome, Anon! I hope you will find articles on my blog that resonate with your experience.

    The impact of the narcissistic relationship on partners (and family members) is not well understood by most people. It's easy to keep blaming ourselves or viewing ourselves as 'defective' in a society that is basically ignorant about pathology. We each have so much to learn about human behavior.

    If I can help you make sense of your relationship, then that pleases me very much. The hardest thing for me was not being able to get people to hear me, to validate my experience, to tell me that what happened was abnormal and NOT okay.

    You are not a horrible person and yes, narcissists make us feel as though we are. We have a lot of work to do on ourselves once we're out but I hope my blog inspires you to keep doing everything you can to restore your inner peace and your self-worth.

    Narcissists may not be able to change. But we can.

    Hugs,
    CZ

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  5. " What we don’t know is that when the fat head inside the bubble is a malignant narcissist, bursting his bubble is akin to bombing his house. In the malignant narcissist's paranoid perceptions, we are threatening his existence and he will protect himself as if we were throwing grenades on his front porch. Woe be the person who pokes pins in a malignant narcissist’s bubble! You may need to run for your life…I am not kidding.

    He will want to kill you." My God, you ARE not exaggerating. My MaligNmate was hacking into my personal emails to friends, remote uploading my journals and PC documents, after HE suddenly decided to move out. He was paranoid about what I was sharing with friends. Even as I was weakened by chemo, he became more psychologically abusive. When his affair was exposed (she confessed to which even he knew further lies would be laughed at), he attacked me and slammed my bald head on a metal bedpost. He DID try to kill me.

    Yes, when the Emperor's new clothes become transparent, his cold-hearted instinct is to crush & destroy. Even if she is the mother of his children.

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  6. All very well to say; leave them (and I have, but fallen prey to others, and left them) but what do you do when you see your kids following their way. Any solutions welcome!

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  7. Wow. I can totally relate to this.I *love* to have people around me that will poke holes in my bubbles/fantasies, I need those people around me. And I try to do that with people I care about too. To give them reality checks in a loving, compassionate way. I assume they know I do it because I care. But then bam! I run into this man who is wired completely differently. The scary stares he gives me when I question anything. When I suggest helping in any way, he acts as if he's insulted by the mere insinuation that I could possibly help HIM with anything. He acts insulted! I just don't get this type of person. It feels like he's from another planet. I feel I've been very hurt in my interactions with him, but he acts as if I'm the one hurting him. So I feel stuck. Since he says I'm hurting him, I'm stuck trying to figure out if I'm the narcissist or him! I turn myself inside out, recounting all my sins. And I know I've done things I'm not proud of. But maybe that is the answer. That I know, and that I'm not proud. Maybe I'm not the narcissist then. I could never make amends to him for the wrong things I've done though, it's just impossible. It's like being trapped in a never ending nightmare.

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  8. "You're right, Mom. Anyone who is too afraid to perform in public isn't gonna be a rock star." Bursting his bubble gave the kid half a chance to figure out what he was good at doing."

    I am sorry, but I find this to be very detrimental in its own right. What is wrong with letting people find out for themselves what they are good at and what they are able to achieve? How do you really know what someone is suited for if they don't have an opportunity to try?

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    1. Hi Anonymous,

      I agree that it's important to let people find out what they're good at and try to make a living at it, too. I also believe its important for ambitions to line up with realistic possibilities.

      I am a bit of a stickler for 'grounding ourselves in reality' and if a child is headed in the wrong direction, our job is to redirect them towards their True Self. Not the Image of the Self they've been taught to admire in our celebrity culture.

      There are probably lots of american (especially) parents who would disagree with me. ;-)

      Hugs,
      CZ

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    2. CZ,

      Thank you for responding.

      I do believe that parents have a duty to instill positive values in their children. I totally agree with you on that.

      However, someone in their early 20's is no longer a child.

      Of course, celebrity culture is rife with difficulties - as are many other industries. However, I do find it interesting that, as an artist yourself, you are deciding for others which creative arts avenues are legitimate and which are not.

      But this is not the issue. Based upon what you had written, you had decided for this being, on their behalf, that they are "not suited" for something, rather than allowing them to discover whether they are prepared to overcome their obstacles (shyness or stage fright - something that many musicians face) in order to express themselves in their path of choice.

      This is not finding one's true self (which you can never do for another person anyhow), it is conditioning, which only serves to further obscure what's real.

      I do believe you have good intentions but this is not right.

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    3. Well, to be fair to both of us, that's a rather brief excerpt to draw conclusions from. However, I wrote it and you were kind enough to read and comment. I'll try to explain more thoughly.

      You've raised excellent points about parenting children to 'their' best welfare (and not as extensions of a mother’s wishes, needs and dreams). And you are absolutely right---it's not my job (nor is it possible) to find someone else's true self "for them." Nor should any mother who loves her child assume she knows their inner core self better than they.

      Being passionate about the creative arts and self-expression is something I’d love my children to share (and they do). What I hoped to convey to my son is that we can LOVE what we do without putting monetary value on it. We can be passionate about our ‘art’ even without an audience. And even if other people aren’t applauding or paying us, our immersion in the self-expression process is the reward. Sadly, in our commercialized society today, monetary value IS the meaning.

      I understand reader's concerns that I may have invalidated my son’s attempts to achieve his rock star dreams. That I intentionally rained on his parade (which sounds a bit sadistic and lordnose I’m not that). My comment might also lead readers to believe that parents know more about what their children should do than their children know about themselves.

      My brief comment might also be triggering to adult children who were subjected to criticism, undermining, and invalidation. A narcissistic mother would seize the opportunity to live through her child’s talents, basically treating her child like an object, not a human being. She’d be focused on the applause (for herself) and never intuit that her child was performing to please HER while ignoring himself.

      Today, my son loves his profession AND he loves his music. We have talked about this stage of his life so much that I quickly wrote that comment without considering how it might be interpreted, especially by children of narcissistic parents. I apologize if it was misleading because I’d hate to think anyone would justify destroying their child’s dreams based on what I wrote! I am deeply contemplative and empathic and while I made enough mistakes to write a book on what NOT to do, I’ve also intuitively done a few things that turned out to be exactly right. This situation was one of them.

      You've made some excellent points and I hope readers will pay attention to what you've written.


      Hugs,
      CZ

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    4. CZ,

      Again thank you for the lengthy reply in what is potentially quite a sensitive discussion topic.

      That paragraph you wrote did stand out to me very strongly. It was partly the tone (which is admittedly hard to read over the internet) but also the content of it. I understand there's a lot more to the story, and personal developments like that can be quite complex. But when I think about it further, it does still raise some questions.

      Quite evidently your son is very happy and successful in his life, which is really great to hear, particulary after having grown up in an environment with a strong NPD influence.

      It seems he's had a very strong idea about what he wanted to do with his life. Of course, a lot of people do, and we all know that as young children we fantasize about being all sorts of, well, fantastic things.

      However, when someone not only expresses a desire to do something, but is at the point where they're practicing for "hours every day", loving it, and dedicating themselves to it - then this person has a passion and a focus. Possibly a lifelong one.

      The considerations I have are these:

      He was told that:

      1) Despite his talent, it's unlikely that he would achieve success because of the fears that he faces.

      2) If he did overcome his fears and achieve it, that would be a bad result.

      3) If he tried diligently and yet failed, this will ruin him.

      Seriously there is a lot to unpack here and I'm not sure where to start with it all! But what it comes down to is this:

      What if being a recording artist is what he really, truly, wanted to do with his life?

      I fully understand he's a grown adult and has the ability to make his own choices. But it should never be underestimated how very easy it is to veer someone off their purpose and convince them to "settle for the next best thing", particularly if that person is highly impressionable and lacking in confidence.

      What do you think would have happened if you hadn't "stepped in" to say "no, you can't."?

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    5. “Again thank you for the lengthy reply in what is potentially quite a sensitive discussion topic.”

      You are welcome, anonymous. I don’t see our conversation as a potentially sensitive discussion topic. I wrote this blog entry while being fully aware people would be reading it and bringing their own biases to the discussion. Plus, if I can’t take the heat, I should stay out of the kitchen, right?

      Your question: "What do 'I' think would have happened if 'I' hadn't stepped in to say "No, you can’t?”

      At the risk of sounding contradictory, I think my son would have done whatever he wanted to do. What evidence do I have of that? History. My kids consider me a good listening ear and they trust my judgment; but I have no illusions about my power over them. They usually did whatever I told them not to; and didn’t do whatever I told them to do.

      I would suppose, in a psychological analysis benefited by hindsight, that I may have compensated for my X's grandiosity by being more reality and fact-based when it came to making decisions. It was my attempt to cut through the narcissist's pipe dreams and get real. If you've lived with a narc, you'll know what I mean.

      Anyway, I had to call my son to refresh my memory since it was over ten years ago and you know how hindsight is. Plus the 'affirmation bias' and the fact that I dare purport myself to be a good mother so I might be blinded to my not-so-good mothering. It's hard to say for sure although I can say this in response to your three conclusions:

      “He was told that: Despite his talent, it's unlikely that he would achieve success because of the fears that he faces.”

      1-I never said his fears would ruin his chances of success as a musician (re: Bob Dylan). Rock stars however, are on a limited time schedule. He was in his mid-twenties without ever performing for an audience.

      “He was told that: If he did overcome his fears and achieve it that would be a bad result.”

      2-I did not say being a rock star would be a bad thing. Some people think game programming is a bad thing. My main interest was helping him figure out what he wanted---without telling him what to do.

      “He was told that: If he tried diligently and yet failed, this will ruin him.”

      3-I certainly never said failure would ruin him! One thing I'm pretty comfortable with (thus, unafraid for my children) is Failure. Ha!

      Contrary to how my comment may have sounded, it is easier to fluff up a kid’s grandiose dreams than it is to be ‘real’ with them. We see this all the time on reality shows when parents push kids towards a dream the kids may not even want for themselves! So I didn't say "no you can't." I more or less listened to him talk about what he wanted in life and then burst the bubble holding him hostage. Once he realized that he was chasing a dream he didn't even want, he could think more rationally about what he DID want out of life. This is where my comment on finding his True Self comes from.

      As he and I recall, he was talking about his love for music and the (crippling) problems he was having performing and he felt that he would be a failure IF he didn't achieve fame. This is the essence of the conversation to which I replied, "Anyone who is too afraid to perform in public isn't gonna be a rock star." Basically, listening carefully and then validating what he needed to hear (and already knew) to free himself from his fear of failure and the trap of public approval.

      Hugs,
      CZ

      p.s. I linked Part Two of this post but you may not have read it. I hope the second article helps with any questions people might have about my good or not-so-good mothering. :-)

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    6. Hi CZ,

      I really appreciate your patience and depth of response. I also apologise for the personal nature of the discussion.

      Yes, I have read part two, and I had related some of my responses to that. Perhaps I have not used the best words while responding.

      In part two, you had expressed strong concerns about what might happen if he were to fail - and how that major part of his life might be gone forever. I think it's only natural to have concerns for the wellbeing of another.

      I am really speaking as an individual about how these things can very easily come across to someone who is still finding their way, particularly in an N environment. I have observed this in myself and also in others who have shared similar experiences.

      For instance, I had always been told that programming is not a suitable career for me because "I have never been any good at maths." So then, in this particular case, maths becomes the hurdle.

      But rather than saying "it's great that you want to do X, and of course Y needs to be learnt too", it becomes "you can't do X because of hurdle Y". The former is a statement of "you can do it - if you look after all the aspects" whereas the latter is "oh well - better look for something else."

      The thoughts about "What if I fail?" and "I have to succeed!" are very natural concerns in the individual who is looking to find their goal or purpose. This is why it can be so easy to dissuade someone who is in deep doubt - by confirming their worst fears.

      I have seen this happen with people who don't realise that they're capable of more (or something other) than what they've been told, until very late in life. I won't say it's too late by that point, but it can be very upsetting.

      For myself, I've had to go through painful periods of separating out what I really believe about myself and what I can do with my life compared to what I have been told by parents, teachers, and so on, and discovering what I've fallen into agreement with. Particularly for someone who has had an NPD influenced upbringing, it is not easy to overcome.

      On the upside, I have seen people find a way to work with their limitations and create some amazing stuff. For themseleves, and for others. It definitely is possible.

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    7. Hi anon,

      Most mothers would be concerned about the rock star industry. It has a pretty bad track record. But if my son had decided to pursue a rock star career, I’d have pierced both eyebrows and shaved my head in support. :-P

      You wrote: "I had always been told that programming is not a suitable career for me because "I have never been any good at maths." So then, in this particular case, maths becomes the hurdle."

      I like what you’ve written about “hurdles TO BE MASTERED”, not hurdles as LIMITATIONS. In the narcissistic family, a child's limitations are labeled as personal failures and DEFECTS, not an objective reality check.

      When my son decided to be a game programmer, we talked at length about what he needed to do to get there. For one thing, he had to start with basic math. That meant he didn't get credit for the first class before he could start with basic algebra. By the time he finished his schooling, he had minored in physics and is now considering doctoral work in astrophysics. Because his very first job was a programmer for the new Star Wars game, :-) he is grateful he learned the difference between realistic dreams and narcissistic fantasies.

      In your situation though: instead of encouraging you to master math, it sounds like you were told you were INCAPABLE of mastering math. Instead of building your sense of self, you were attacked as deficient, incapable, defective. This is what it sounds like, but don't let me put words in your mouth.

      I think it’s true that people don’t realize they’re capable of more than what they’ve been told. The challenge children of narcissists have is breaking through layers of imposed conditioning. Yes, I think I understand where you are coming from now.

      I hope you have found your life direction, anonymous. No matter how old you might be---it’s never too late to work on whatever lies your parents may have told you. The journey of self-discovery is always worth the pain and struggle.

      Hugs,
      CZ

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  9. Part two is located here: "Do we idealize our children or do we love them? (2010)"

    http://n-continuum.blogspot.com/2010/02/do-we-idealize-our-children-or-do-we.html

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  10. Hi CZ and all....I wish I had read this earlier...would have spared me a lot of pain. My NM is, in my estimation, a malignant narcissist. She has gotten worse if this is possible and at the age of 93, well, what keeps these people producing vemon at that age?

    The wiring is so twisted that there is nothing left of compassion, empathy, etc. Actually, whatever was of the above was always in service to the life of narcissism.

    Actually, the issue of sadism comes into play with MN. It is something that seems to pop up even they are in a crying jag...and of course, they are crying not for the world, but because of some narcissistic injury done to them. But they remember that they have still some vemon to deliver, even to the person trying to 'comfort' them. I have seen this over and over again, and the pattern just never changes. That is why there is no hope for change with a pathological narcissist. It's in the wiring by the time they reveal themselves as pathological.

    The only thing to be done here is to run away. No Contact with a pathological/malignant/sadistic narcissist is the only way to save yourself. It just never quits. My MN has been doing this thing about suggesting I die first. Her daughter. I don't think this is magical thinking on her part, I think it is what a MN who is so far gone into the spectrum hopes for. But at 93 I think the reality will bite her in an uncomfortable place...like her heart. Oh, she doesn't have one. LOL! I don't wish the death of this old bird at all, but I acknowledge her sadism and see the great threads that bind her to a pattern of behavior. Myself, and many other people, including my dead father, tried to 'love' her into normalcy. Didn't work. The wires were too burnt. I am thinking of meme theory here for some reason...

    Oh, and this Narcisstic Rage? It is something that can kill...I see her as a puff adder...a very poisonous and aggressive snake...and I have seen people back up when she is in her rage. It is a sight to behold. As in..."If looks can kill"... She is a cold old bird, and formerly a nurse. If this sounds like a contradiction, well, the nursing and medical profession seems to have a lot of narcissists in their ranks. Sad.

    The only thing I think H. Kohut wrote that has memorable validity is about Narcissistic Rage...from a man who also was a narcissist. Kernberg is better, not as limiting. Just the last therapy session I had with my lovely, elderly Bavarian therapist, we were talking about the difference between Kernberg and Kohut. My therapist agreed. Kernberg is broader and more to the point.

    Jane Kohut-Bartels, also known as Lady Nyo

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  11. Thanks for posting this. just found out I was somewhat of a covert narcissist... and i think my dad is one too, which is why we don't really get along at all, each one thinking the other is 'plain selfish'. Well, that explains a lot. But seriously, thank you for the lucid writing, and especially for the last paragraph. I've tried to overcome to no avail what i thought before as a kind of hypersensitivity and self-consciousness that prevented me from connecting with others, but now i'm learning it's a manifestation of that deeper narcissism. But I sometimes I feel like I CAN empathize (I cry during movies, I am an animal-rights vegetarian) and care about others but not at the same time I'm thinking of myself. So I've heard some things about how personality disorders are just what they are. nothing you can do about that. but I'm pretty stubborn by nature I guess. I want to do something about it, and that last bit about pathological vs non-pathological narcissism gives me some hope.. so thanks!

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    1. Hi Anon,

      I am working on a graph to be posted this week. It might help people 'peg' their narcissistic behaviors/traits that are causing relationship problems (cuz they always do!). There is enough evidence today, to suggest personality disorders can be effectively treated, even changed. Unless of course, you're a bona fide intractable psychopath but it doesn't sound like you are...so carry on! Keep working on yourself! There's no excuse to remain a narcissist (if in fact, you are one).

      I wanted to add one more thing about empathy that's often misunderstood. Of course people with narcissistic disorders are able to empathize with how other people feel. I don't believe that's the problem. The problem is more about "not caring" and this "not caring" can be turned off or on like a light switch. Being self-serving to a pathological degree would mean "not caring" to serve one's purposes.

      Empathy also means this: recognizing how WE affect that other person. People with narcissistic disorders have a very hard time understanding how their behavior affects others. They're oftentimes confused (even defensive) when someone says, "Don't you understand HOW your behavior makes me feel?" Unfortunately, that kind of retort "shames" the narcissistic person and everything goes downhill from there.

      Thank you for reading, for considering my writing worthy of your time. I hope to hear from you again!

      Hugs,
      CZ

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