ARTICLE 1 of 10
(Dr. Vaknin has made the below available to us). His books are available at Barnes and Noble). At the bottom of this page is Dr. Vaknin's Resource Box & web site info as well as his address. Enjoy!)
I. The Spouse / Mate of the Narcissist| II. Narcissists, Sex and Fidelity | III. The Extramarital Narcissist | IV. Mourning the Narcissist
V. Narcissists, Love and Healing | VI. Narcissists and Women | VII. Surviving the Narcissist - A Series
THE SPOUSE / MATE OF THE NARCISSIST
What kind of a spouse/mate/partner is likely to be attracted to a
On the face of it, there is no (emotional) partner or mate, who typically "binds" with a narcissist. They come in all shapes and sizes.
The initial phases of attraction, infatuation and falling in love are pretty normal.
The narcissist puts on his best face - the other party is blinded by budding love. A natural selection process occurs only much later, as the relationship develops and is put to the test.
Living with a narcissist can be exhilarating, is always onerous, often harrowing. Surviving a relationship with a narcissist indicates, therefore, the parameters of the personality of the survivor. She (or,more rarely, he) is molded by the relationship into The Typical Narcissistic Mate/Partner/Spouse.
First and foremost, the narcissist's partner must have a deficient or a distorted grasp of his self and of reality. Otherwise, she (or he) is
bound to abandon the narcissist's grip early on. The cognitive distortion is likely to consist of a belittling and demeaning of the partner - while aggrandizing and adoring the narcissist. The partner is, thus, placing himself in the position of the eternal victim: undeserving, punishable, a scapegoat.
Sometimes, it is very important to the partner to appear moral, sacrificial and victimized. At other times, she is not even aware of his predicament. The narcissist is perceived by the partner to be a person in the position to demand these sacrifices from the partner, superior in many ways (intellectually, emotionally, morally, financially).
The status of professional victim sits well with the partner's tendency to punish his self, namely: with his masochistic streak. The torment, which is life with a narcissist is, as far as the partner is aware, a just punitive measure.
In this respect, the partner is the mirror image of the narcissist. By maintaining a symbiotic relationship with him, by being totally dependent upon the source of masochistic supply (which the narcissist most reliably constitutes and most amply provides) - the partner enhances certain traits and encourages certain behaviours, which are at the very core of narcissism.
The narcissist is never whole without an adoring, submissive, available, self-denigrating partner. His very sense of superiority, indeed his False Self, depends on it. His sadistic Superego switches its attentions from the Narcissist (in whom it often provokes suicidal ideation) to the partner, thus finally obtaining an alternative source of sadistic satisfaction.
It is through self-denial that the partner survives. She denies her wishes, hopes, dreams, aspirations, sexual needs, psychological needs, material needs, and much else besides. She perceives her needs as threatening because they might engender the wrath of the narcissist's God-like supreme figure.
The narcissist is rendered even more superior through and because of this self-denial. Self-denial undertaken to facilitate and ease the life of a Great Man is more palatable. The Greater the Man (=the narcissist), the easier it is for the partner to ignore her own self, to dwindle, to degenerate, to turn into an appendix of the narcissist and, finally, to become nothing but an extension, to merge with the narcissist to the point of oblivion and of dim memories of one's self.
The two collaborate in this macabre dance. The narcissist is formed by his partner inasmuch as he forms her. Submission breeds superiority and masochism breeds sadism. The relationships are characterized by rampant emergentism: roles are allocated almost from the start and any deviation meets with an aggressive, even violent reaction.
The predominant state of the partner's mind is utter confusion. Even the most basic relationships - with husband, children, or parents - remain bafflingly obscured by the giant shadows cast by the intensive interaction with the narcissist. A suspension of judgement is part and parcel of a suspension of individuality, which is both a prerequisite to and the result of living with a narcissist.
The partner no longer knows what is true and right and what is wrong and forbidden. The narcissist recreates for the partner the sort of emotional ambience that led to his own formation in the first place: capriciousness, fickleness, arbitrariness, emotional (and physical or sexual) abandonment. The world becomes uncertain and frightening and the partner has only one sure thing to cling to: the narcissist.
And cling she does. If there is anything which can safely be said about those who emotionally team up with narcissists, it is that they are overtly and overly dependent, even compulsively so. The partner doesn't know what to do - and this is only too natural in the mayhem that is the relationship with the narcissist is. But the typical partner also does not know what she wants and, to a large extent, who she is and what she wants to become.
These unanswered questions hamper the partner's ability to gauge reality, evaluate and appraise it for what it is. Her primordial sin is that she fell in love with an image, not with a real person. It is the voiding of the image that is mourned when the relationship ends.
The break-up of a relationship with a narcissist is, therefore, very emotionally charged. It is the culmination of a long chain of humiliations and of subjugation. It is the rebellion of the functioning and healthy parts of the partner's personality against the tyranny of the narcissist.
The partner is liable to have totally misread and misinterpreted the whole interaction (I hesitate to call it a relationship). This lack of
proper interface with reality might be (erroneously) labeled "pathological".
Why is it that the partner seeks to prolong her pain? What is the source and purpose of this masochistic streak? Upon the break-up of the relationship, the partner (and the narcissist) engage in a tortuous and drawn out post mortem. But the question who really did what to whom (and even why) is irrelevant. What is relevant is to stop mourning oneself (this is what the parties are really mourning), start smiling again and love in a less subservient, hopeless, and pain-inflicting manner.
Abuse is an integral, inseparable part of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
The narcissist idealizes and then DEVALUES and discards the object of his initial idealization. This abrupt, heartless devaluation IS abuse.
ALL narcissists idealize and then devalue. This is THE core of pathological narcissism. The narcissist exploits, lies, insults, demeans, ignores (the "silent treatment"), manipulates, controls. All these are forms of abuse.
There are a million ways to abuse. To love too much is to abuse. It is tantamount to treating someone as one's extension, an object, or an instrument of gratification. To be over-protective, not to respect privacy, to be brutally honest, or consistently tactless - is to abuse. To expect too much, to denigrate, to ignore - are all modes of abuse. There is physical abuse, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse. The list is long.
Narcissists are masters of abusing surreptitiously. They are "stealth abusers". You have to actually live with one in order to witness the abuse.
There are three important categories of abuse:
1. Overt Abuse - The open and explicit abuse of another person.
Threatening, coercing, beating, lying, berating, demeaning, chastising, insulting, humiliating, exploiting, ignoring ("silent treatment"), devaluing, unceremoniously discarding, verbal abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse are all forms of overt abuse.
2. Covert or Controlling Abuse - Narcissism is almost entirely about control. It is a primitive and immature reaction to life's circumstances in which the narcissist (usually in his childhood) was rendered helpless. It is about re-asserting one's identity, re-establishing predictability, mastering the environment - human and physical.
3. The bulk of narcissistic behaviors can be traced to this panicky reaction to the remote potential for loss of control. Narcissists are
hypochondriacs (and difficult patients) because they are afraid to lose control over their body, its looks and its proper functioning. They are obsessive-compulsive in their efforts to subdue their physical habitat and render it foreseeable. They stalk people and harass them as a means of "being in touch" - another form of narcissistic control.
But why the panic?
The narcissist is a solipsist. He carries the whole universe in his mind. To him, nothing exists except himself. Meaningful others are his extensions, assimilated by him, internal objects - not external ones. Thus, losing control of a significant other - is equivalent to the loss of control of a limb, or of one's brain. It is terrifying. It is paradigm-shattering.
Independent or disobedient people evoke in the narcissist the realization that something is wrong with his worldview, that he is not the centre of the world or its cause and that he cannot control what, to him, are internal representations.
To the narcissist, losing control means going insane. Because other people are mere elements in the narcissist's mind - being unable to
manipulate them literally means losing it (his mind). Imagine, if you suddenly were to find out that you cannot manipulate your memories or control your thoughts...
Moreover, it is often only through manipulation and extortion that the narcissist can secure his Narcissistic Supply. Controlling his sources of Narcissistic Supply is a (mental) life or death question for the narcissist.
The narcissist is a drug addict (his drug being the NS) and he would go to any length to obtain the next dose.
In his frantic efforts to maintain control or re-assert it, the narcissist resorts to a myriad of fiendishly inventive stratagems and mechanisms.
Here is a partial list:
The narcissist acts unpredictably, capriciously, inconsistently and irrationally. This serves to demolish in others their carefully crafted
worldview. They become dependent upon the next twist and turn of the narcissist, his next inexplicable whim, upon his next outburst, denial, or smile. Because he is assumed to be the only one intimately acquainted with his self -he becomes the source of certitude and veracity.
In other words: the narcissist makes sure that HE is the only reliable existence in the lives of others - by shattering the rest of their world through his seemingly insane behavior. He guarantees his stable presence in their lives - by destabilizing their own.
In the absence of a self, there are no likes or dislikes, preferences, predictable behaviour or characteristics. It is not possible to know
the narcissist. There is no one there.
The narcissist was conditioned - from an early age of abuse and trauma - to expect the unexpected. His was a world in motion where (sometimes sadistically) capricious caretakers and peers often engaged in arbitrary behaviour. He was trained to deny his true self and nurture a false one.
Having invented himself, the narcissist sees no problem in re-inventing that which he designed in the first place. The Narcissist is his own creator.
Hence his grandiosity.
Moreover, the narcissist is a man for all seasons, forever adaptable, constantly imitating and emulating, a human sponge, a perfect mirror, a non-entity that is, at the same time, all entities combined. The narcissist is best described by Heidegger's phrase: "Being and Nothingness". Into this reflective vacuum, this sucking black hole, the narcissist attracts the sources of his narcissistic supply.
To an observer, the narcissist appears to be fractured or discontinuous.
Pathological narcissism has been compared to the Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly the Multiple Personality Disorder). By definition, the narcissist has at least two selves. His personality is very primitive and disorganized. Living with a narcissist is a nauseating experience not only because of what he is - but because of what he is NOT.
He is not a fully formed human - but a dizzyingly kaleidoscopic gallery of mercurial images, which melt into each other seamlessly. It is incredibly disorienting.
It is also exceedingly problematic. Promises made by the narcissist are easily disowned by him. His plans are ephemeral. His emotional ties - a simulacrum. Most narcissists have one island of stability in their life (spouse, family, their career, a hobby, their religion, country, or idol) - pounded by the turbulent currents of a dishevelled existence.
Thus, to invest in a narcissist is a purposeless, futile and meaningless activity. To the narcissist, every day is a new beginning, a hunt, a new cycle of idealization or devaluation, a newly invented self. There is no accumulation of credits or goodwill because the narcissist has no past and no future. He occupies an eternal and timeless present. He is a fossil caught in the frozen lava of a volcanic childhood.
The narcissist does not keep agreements, does not adhere to laws, regards consistency and predictability as demeaning traits.
One of the favorite tools of manipulation in the narcissist's arsenal is the disproportionality of his reactions. He reacts with supreme rage to the slightest slight. He punishes severely for what he perceives to be an offence against him, no matter how minor. He throws a temper tantrum over any discord or disagreement, however gently and considerately expressed.
Or, he may act inordinately attentive, charming and tempting (even over-sexed, if need be). This ever-shifting conduct coupled with the
inordinately harsh and arbitrarily applied "penal code" are both designed by the narcissist and remain inaccessible to the "offenders".
Neediness and dependence on the source of all justice meted - on the narcissist - are thus guaranteed.
Dehumanization and Objectification (Abuse)
People have a need to believe in the empathic skills and basic good-heartedness of others. By dehumanizing and objectifying people - the narcissist attacks the very foundations of the social treaty. This is the "alien" aspect of narcissists - they may be excellent imitations of fully formed adults but they are emotionally non-existent, or, at best, immature.
This is so horrid, so repulsive, so phantasmagoric - that people recoil in terror. It is then, with their defenses absolutely down, that they are the most susceptible and vulnerable to the narcissist's control.
Physical, psychological, verbal and sexual abuse are all forms of dehumanization and objectification.
Abuse of Information
From the first moments of an encounter with another person, the narcissist is on the prowl. He collects information with the intention
of applying it later to extract narcissistic supply. The more he knows about his potential source of supply - the better able he is to coerce, manipulate, charm, extort or convert it "to the cause". The narcissist does not hesitate to abuse the information he gleaned, regardless of its intimate nature or the circumstances in which he obtained it. This is a powerful tool in his armory.
The narcissist engineers impossible, dangerous, unpredictable, unprecedented, or highly specific situations in which he is sorely and indispensably needed. The narcissist, his knowledge, his skills or his traits become the only ones applicable, or the most useful to resolving them. It is a form of control by proxy.
Control by Proxy
If all else fails, the narcissist recruits friends, colleagues, mates, family members, the authorities, institutions, neighbors - in short, third parties - to do his bidding. He uses them to cajole, coerce, threaten, stalk, offer, retreat, tempt, convince, harass, communicate and otherwise manipulate his target. He controls these unaware instruments exactly as he plans to control his ultimate prey. He employs the same mechanisms and devices. And he dumps his props unceremoniously when the job is done.
Another form of control by proxy is to engineer situations in which abuse is inflicted upon another person. Such carefully crafted scenarios involve embarrassment and humiliation as well as social sanctions (condemnation, opprobrium, or even physical punishment). Society, or a social group become the instruments of the narcissist.
The fostering, propagation and enhancement of an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability, unpredictability and irritation. There are no acts of traceable or provable explicit abuse, nor any manipulative settings of control. Yet, the irksome feeling remains, a disagreeable foreboding, a premonition, a bad omen. This is sometimes called "gas lighting". In the long term, such an environment erodes one's sense of self-worth and self-esteem.
Self-confidence is shaken badly. Often, the victims adopts a paranoid or schizoid stance and thus render themselves exposed even more to criticism and judgment. The roles are thus reversed: the victim is considered the mentally disordered component of the dyad and the narcissist - the suffering soul.
ARTICLE 2 of 10
NARCISSISTS, SEX and FIDELITY
Are Narcissists mostly hyperactive or hypoactive sexually and to what extent are they likely to be infidel in marriage?
Broadly speaking, there are two types of narcissists loosely corresponding to the two categories mentioned in the question. Sex for the narcissist is an instrument designed to increase the number of Sources of Narcissistic Supply. If it happens to be the most efficient weapon in then narcissist's arsenal - he will make profligate use of it.
In other words: if the narcissist cannot obtain adoration, admiration, approval, applause, or any other kind of attention by other means (e.g., intellectually) - he resorts to sex. He then become a satyr (or a nymphomaniac): indiscriminately engages in sex with multiple partners.
His sex partners are considered by him to be objects not of desire - but of Narcissistic Supply. It is through the processes of successful seduction and sexual conquest that the narcissist derives his badly needed narcissistic "fix".
The narcissist is likely to perfect his techniques of courting and regard his sexual exploits as a form of art. He is very likely to expose this side of him - in great detail - to others, to an audience, expecting to win their approval and admiration. Because the Narcissistic Supply in his case resides in the act of conquest and (what he perceives to be) subordination - the narcissist is forced to move on and to switch and bewitch partners very often.
The first sexual encounter with a partner always includes these elements - not so the second or third encounters.
Some narcissists prefer "complicated" situations. If men - they prefer virgins, married women, avowed maidens, etc. The More "difficult" the target - the more rewarding the narcissistic outcome. Such a narcissist may be married, but he does not regard his extra-marital affairs as either immoral or a breach of any explicit or implicit contract between him and his spouse.
He keeps explaining to anyone who cares to listen that his other sexual partners are nothing to him, meaningless, that he is merely taking advantage of them and that they do not constitute a threat and should not be taken seriously by his spouse. In his mind a clear separation exists between the honest "woman of his life" (really, a saint) and the whores that he is having sex with. He tends to cast the whole feminine sub-species in a bad light (with the exception of the meaningful women in his life).
His behaviour will, thus, have achieved a dual purpose: the securing of Narcissistic Supply, on the one hand - and bringing about a replay of old, unresolved conflicts and traumas (abandonment and the Oedipal conflict, to mention but two). When inevitably abandoned by his spouse - the narcissist is veritably shocked and hurt.
This is the sort of crisis, which might drive him to psychotherapy. Still, deep inside, he feels compelled to continue to pursue precisely the same path. His abandonment is cathartic, purifying. Following a period of deep depression and suicidal ideation - the narcissist is likely to feel cleansed, invigorated, unshackled, ready for the next round of hunting.
But there is another type of narcissist. He also has bouts of sexual hyperactivity in which he trades sexual partners and tends to regard
them as objects. However, with him, this is a secondary behaviour. It appears mainly after major narcissistic traumas and crises. A painful divorce, a major personal financial upheaval - and this type of narcissist adopts the view that the "old solutions" do not work anymore.
He frantically gropes and searches for new ways to attract attention, to restore his False Ego (=his grandiosity) and to secure the subsistence level of Narcissistic Supply. Sex is handy and is a great source of the right kind of supply: immediate, interchangeable, comprehensive (it encompasses all the aspects of the narcissist's being), natural, highly charged, adventurous, pleasurable.
Thus, following a life crisis, the cerebral narcissist is likely to be deeply involved in sexual activities - very frequently and almost to the exclusion of other matters.
However, as the memories of the crisis fade, as the narcissistic wounds heal, as the Narcissistic Cycle re-commences and the balance is restored - the second type of narcissist reveals his true colours. He abruptly loses interest in sex and in all his sexual partners. The frequency of his sexual activities deteriorates from a few times a day - to a few times a year.
He prefers intellectual pursuits, sports, politics, volunteering - anything but sex. This kind of narcissist is afraid of encounters with the opposite sex and is even more afraid of emotional involvement or commitment that he fancies himself prone to develop following a sexual encounter.
In general, such a narcissist withdraws not only sexually - but also emotionally. If married - he loses all overt interest in his spouse, sexual or otherwise. He confines himself to his world and makes sure that he is sufficiently busy to preclude any interaction with his nearest (and supposedly dearest).
He becomes completely immersed in "big projects", lifelong plans, a vision, or a cause - all very rewarding narcissistically and all very demanding and time consuming.
He then regards sex as an obligation, a necessity, or a maintenance operation needed to preserve the comfortable human cell that he has constructed (his family or household). He does not enjoy sex and by far prefers the auto-erotic variety - to masturbate - or object sex, like going to prostitutes. Actually, he uses his mate or spouse as an "alibi", a shield against the attention of other women, an insurance policy which preserves his virile image while making it socially and morally commendable for him to avoid any intimate or sexual contact with other women.
Even while ignoring women around him (a form of aggression) he can feel righteous in saying: "I am loyal to my wife". At the same time, he feels hostility towards her for ostensibly preventing him from freely expressing himself sexually with others, for isolating him from carnal pleasures.
The thwarted logic goes like this: "I am married/attached to this woman. Therefore, I am not allowed to be in anykind of touch with other women, which might be interpreted as more than casual or businesslike. This is why Irefrain from having anything to do with women - because I am loyal, as opposed to most other immoral men.However, I do not like this situation. I envy my free peers.
They can engage in sex and romance as much asthey want to - while I am confined to this marriage, chained by my wife, my freedom curbed. I am angry at her and I willpunish her by abstaining from having sex with her." He minimizes all types of intercourse with his close circle (spouse, children, parents, siblings, very intimate friends): sexual, verbal, or emotional. He limits himself to the rawest exchanges of information and isolates himself socially.
This way he insures against a future hurt and avoids the intimacy that he so dreads. But, again, this way he also secures abandonment and the replay of old, unresolved, conflicts.
Finally, he really is left alone by everyone, with no secondary sources of supply. In his search for them, he again embarks on ego-mending bouts of sex, followed by the selection of a spouse or a mate (a secondary Narcissistic Supply Source).
Then the cycle re-commence: a sharp drop in sexual activity, emotional remoteness and cruel detachment leading to abandonment.
The second type of narcissist is mostly sexually loyal to his spouse. He alternates between what appears to be hyper-sexuality and
non-sexuality (really, forcefully repressed sexuality). In the latter phase, he feels no sexual urges, bar the most basic. He is, therefore, not compelled to "cheat" upon his mate, betray her, or violate the marital vows. He is much more interested in preventing a worrisome dwindling of the Narcissistic Supply that really matters. Sex, he says to himself, contentedly, is for those who can do no better.
I am often asked whether narcissists are some variant of exhibitionists.
Somatic Narcissists tend to verbal exhibitionism. They tend to brag in graphic details about their conquests and exploits. In extreme cases, they might introduce "live witnesses" and revert to total, classical exhibitionism. This sits well with their tendency to "objectify" their sexual partners, to engage in emotionally-neutral sex (group sex, for instance) and to indulge in auto-erotic sex. The exhibitionist sees himself reflected in the eyes of the beholders. This constitutes the main sexual stimulus, this is what turns him on. This outside "look" is also what defines the narcissist. There is bound to be a connection. One (the exhibitionist) may be the culmination, the "pure case" of the other (the narcissist).
ARTICLE 3 of 10
THE EXTRAMARITAL NARCISSIST
My husband has a liaison with another woman. He has been diagnosed as suffering from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. What should I do?
Narcissists are people who fail to maintain a stable sense of self-worth.
Very often, though only where Somatic Narcissists (narcissistic who use their bodies and their sexuality as Sources of Narcissistic Supply) are concerned, they tend to get involved in extra-marital affairs. The new "conquests" sustain their grandiose fantasies and their distorted and unrealistic self-image. It is, therefore, nigh impossible to alter this particular behavior trait in a Somatic Narcissist. Sexual interactions serve as a constant, reliable, easy to obtain Source of Narcissistic Supply.
It is the only source of such supply if the narcissist is not cerebral (=does not rely on his intellect, intelligence, or professional
achievements for Narcissistic Supply).
You should set up rigid, strict and VERY WELL DEFINED rules of engagement.
Ideally, all contacts between your spouse and his lover should be immediately and irrevocably severed. But this is usually too much to
ask for. So, you should define when is she allowed to call, whether she is allowed to write to him at all and in which circumstances, what are the subjects she is allowed to broach in her correspondence and phone calls, when is he allowed to see her and what other modes of interaction are permissible. CLEAR AND PAINFUL SANCTIONS must be pre-defined in case the above rules are violated. Both rules and sanctions MUST BE APPLIED RIGOROUSLY AND MERCILESSLY and MUST BE SET IN WRITING IN UNEQUIVOCAL LANGUAGE.
The problem, as I see it, is that the narcissist never really separates from his Sources of Narcissistic Supply until and unless they cease to be ones.
They never say a REAL good-bye. She is likely to still have an emotional hold on him. Even a victim must collaborate in order to be
Your husband must first have his day of reckoning. Help him: tell him what will be the price that he will pay if he does not obey the rules and sanctions you have agreed on. Tell him that you cannot live like this any longer.
That if he does not get rid of this presence - of the echoes of his past, really - he will lose his present, he will lose you. Don't be
afraid to lose him. If he prefers this woman to you - it is important for you to know.
If he prefers you to her - your nightmare will be over.
If you insist on staying on with him - you must also be prepared to serve as a Source of Narcissistic Supply, an alternative to the supply provided by his lost lover. You must brace yourself: serving as a Narcissistic Supply Source is an onerous task, a full time job and a very ungrateful one at that. The narcissist's thirst for adulation, admiration, worship, approval, and attention can never by quenched. It is a Sisyphean, mind-numbing effort, which heralds only additional demands and disgruntled, critical, humiliating tirades by the narcissist.
That you are afraid to confront reality is clear to me. You are afraid to set clear alternatives. You are afraid that he will leave you. You
are afraid that he will prefer her to you. AND YOU MAY WELL BE RIGHT.
But if this is the case and you go on living with him and tormenting yourself - THIS IS PATHOLOGICAL. If you have difficulties facing the fact that it is all over between you, that only an empty shell is left, that your husband is with another woman - do not hesitate to seek help from professionals and non-professionals alike. But do not let this situation fester into psychological gangrene. Amputate now while you can.
ARTICLE 4 of 10
MOURNING THE NARCISSIST
If the Narcissist is as abusive as you say - why do we react so badly when he leaves?
At the commencement of the relationship, the Narcissist is a dream come true. He is often intelligent, witty, charming, good looking, an achiever, empathetic, in need of love, loving, caring, attentive and much more. He is the perfect bundled answer to the nagging questions of life: finding meaning, companionship, compatibility and happiness. He is, in other words, ideal.
It is difficult to let go of this idealized figure. Relationships with narcissists inevitably and invariably end with the dawn of a double
realization. The first is that one has been (ab)used by the narcissist and the second is that one was regarded by the narcissist as a disposable, dispensable and interchangeable instrument (object).
The assimilation of this new gained knowledge is an excruciating process, often unsuccessfully completed. People get fixated at different stages. They fail to come to terms with their rejection as human beings - the most total form of rejection there is.
We all react to loss. Loss makes us feel helpless and objectified. When our loved ones die - we feel that Nature or God or Life treated us as playthings. When we divorce (especially if we did not initiate the break-up), we often feel that we have been exploited and abused in the relationship, that we are being "dumped", that our needs and emotions are ignored. In short, we feel objectified.
Losing the narcissist is no different to any other major loss in life.
It provokes a cycle of bereavement and grief (as well as some kind of mild post traumatic stress syndrome in cases of severe abuse). This cycle has 4 phases: denial, rage, sadness and acceptance.
Denial can assume many forms. Some go on pretending that the narcissist is still a part of their life, even going to the extreme of
"interacting" with the narcissist by pretending to "communicate" with him or to "meet" him.
Others develop persecutory delusions, thus incorporating the imaginary narcissist into their lives as an ominous and dark presence. This ensures "his" continued "interest" in them - however malevolent and threatening that "interest" is perceived to be. These are radical denial mechanisms, which border on the psychotic and often dissolve into brief psychotic micro-episodes.
More benign and transient forms of denial include the development of ideas of reference. The narcissist's every move or utterance is
interpreted to be directed at the suffering person and to carry a hidden message which can be "decoded" only by the recipient. Others deny the very narcissistic nature of the narcissist attributing to him ignorance, mischief or vicious intentions.
This denial mechanism leads them to believe that the narcissist is really not a narcissist but someone who is not aware of his "true"
being, or someone who enjoys mind games and to toy with people's lives, or part of a dark conspiracy to defraud and abuse gullible victims.
Often the narcissist is depicted as obsessed or possessed - imprisoned by his "invented" condition and, really, a nice and gentle and lovable person. At the healthier end of the spectrum of denial reactions is the classical denial of loss - the disbelief, the hope that the narcissist may return, the suspension and repression of all information to the contrary.
Denial in mentally healthy people quickly evolves into rage. There are a few types of rage. It can be focused and directed at the narcissist, at other facilitators of the loss - such as the narcissist's lover, or at specific circumstances. It can be directed at oneself - which often leads to depression, suicidal ideation, self-mutilation and, in some cases, suicide.
Or, it can be diffuse, all-pervasive, all-encompassing and engulfing.
Such loss-related rage can be intense and in bursts or osmotic and permeate the whole emotional landscape.
Rage gives place to sadness. It is the sadness of the trapped animal, an existential angst mixed with acute depression. It involves dysphasia (inability to rejoice, to be optimistic, or expectant) and an hedonia (inability to enjoy, to experience pleasure, or to find meaning in life).
It is a paralyzing sensation, which slows one down and enshrouds everything in the gray veil of randomness. It all looks meaningless and empty.
This, in turn, gives place to gradual acceptance and renewed activity.
The narcissist is gone both physically and mentally. The void left in his wake still hurts and pangs of regret and hope still exist. But, on the whole, the narcissist is transformed into a narrative, a symbol, another life experience, a truism and a (tedious) cliché. He is no longer omni-present and the person entertains no delusions as to the one-sided and abusive nature of the relationship or as to the possibility and desirability of its renewal. The narcissist is no more.
ARTICLE 5 of 10
NARCISSISTS, LOVE and HEALING
Why does the narcissist react with rage to gestures or statements of love?
NOTHING is more hated by a narcissist than this sentence, "I Love You".
It evokes in the narcissist almost primordial reactions. It provokes him to uncontrollable rage. Why is that?
a. The narcissist hates women virulently and vehemently. Being a misogynist he identifies being loved with being possessed, encroached upon, engulfed, digested and excreted. To him love is a dangerous intestinal tract.
b. Loving someone means knowing him intimately. The Narcissist likes to think that he is so unique that no one can ever really fathom him.
The narcissist believes that he is above mere human understanding and empathy.
The Narcissist believes that he is ONE of a kind (sui generis). To say to him "I love you", means to negate this feeling, to try to drag him to
the lowest common denominator, to threaten his sense of uniqueness. After all, everyone is capable of loving and everyone, even the basest
human being actually loves. To the narcissist it is an ANIMAL trait - exactly like sex.
c. The Narcissist knows that he is a con artist, a fraud, an elaborate hoax, a script, hollow and really non-existent. The person who claims
to love a narcissist is either lying (after all, what is there to love in a narcissist) - or a dependent creature, blind and immature, unable
to discern the truth. The narcissist cannot tolerate the thought that he selected a liar or an idiot for a mate. Indirectly, a declaration of
love is a devastating critique of the narcissist's own powers of judgement.
The narcissist hates love - however and wherever it is manifested.
Thus, for instance, when his spouse demonstrates her love to their children, he wishes them all ill. He is so pathologically envious of his spouse that he wishes she never existed. Being a tad paranoid, he also nurtures the growing conviction that she is doing it (showing her love to her children) ON PURPOSE, to remind him how miserable he is, how deficient, how deprived and discriminated against. He regards her interaction with their children to be a provocation, an assault on his emotional welfare (emotional balance).
Seething envy, boiling rage and violent thoughts is the flammable concoction that floods the narcissist's brain whenever he sees other people happy.
Many people naively believe that they can cure the narcissist by flooding him with love, acceptance, compassion and empathy. This is not so. The only time a transformative healing process occurs is when the narcissist experiences a severe narcissistic injury, a LIFE crisis.
Forced to shed his malfunctioning defenses - a window of vulnerability is formed through which therapeutic intervention can try and sneak in.
However, this opportunity is ephemeral.
The narcissist perceives love and compassion as narcissistic supply. But this window of opportunity CANNOT COEXIST with available narcissistic supply. The narcissist is susceptible to treatment ONLY when his defenses are down because they FAIL to secure a steady stream of narcissistic supply.
The roles of narcissistic supply should be clearly distinguished from those of an emotional connection (such as love). Narcissistic supply has to do with the functioning of primitive defense mechanisms in the narcissist.
The emotional component of the narcissist has been repressed to oblivion. It does not permeate the conscious level. The narcissist pursues narcissistic supply as a junkie seeks drugs.
Junkies can have emotional "connections" but they are always subordinate to their habit. Their connections are the victims of their habits. Ask children or spouses of alcoholics or drug addicts.
There is no possibility to have any real, meaningful, or lasting emotional relationship with the narcissist - until his primitive defense mechanisms are discarded. Dysfunctional interpersonal relationships are one of the diagnostic criteria of most personality disorders.
So, the right order of healing is:
1. Cut the narcissist from his sources of supply and thus precipitate a narcissistic crisis or injury;
2. Utilize the window of opportunity to treat the narcissist, to help him mature emotionally;
3. Encourage him in his emotional, self forming baby steps.
"Emotional" connections which appear to co-exist with the narcissistic defence mechanisms are part of the narcissistic theatrical repertoire, fake and doomed.
The narcissist does not employ his defense mechanisms because he needs them - but because he knows no different.
His defense mechanisms proved useful in his infancy. They were adaptive in an abusive environment. Old tricks and old habits die hard.
The narcissist is a primitive person with a disorganized personality (Kernberg). He may heal simply to avoid the pain of a certain or recurrent narcissistic injury - and not with the intention of reaching an emotionally "safe harbour". No place is safe. No one is to be trusted. Avoidance of pain is a powerful manipulative therapeutic tool.
Narcissists come to therapy in the first place to try and alleviate some of what has become an intolerable pain. None of them goes to therapy because he wants to improve his lot in life or to better interact with his loving significant other. Love is important - but to fully enjoy its emotional benefits, first the narcissist must heal.
ARTICLE 6 of 10
NARCISSISTS and WOMEN
Do narcissists hate women?
Narcissists abhor and dread getting emotionally intimate. The cerebral ones regard sex as a maintenance chore, something they have to do in order to keep their source of Secondary Supply. The somatic narcissist treats women as objects and sex as a means to obtaining narcissistic supply.
Moreover, many narcissists tend to engage in FRUSTRATING behaviors towards women. They refrain from having sex with them, tease them and then leave them, resist flirtatious and seductive behaviors and so on.
Often, they invoke the existence of a girlfriend/fiancée/spouse (or boyfriend/etc. - male and female are interchangeable in my texts) as the "reason" why they cannot have sex/develop a relationship. But this is not out of loyalty and fidelity in the empathic and loving sense.
This is because they wish (and often succeed) to sadistically frustrate the interested party.
This pertains ONLY to cerebral narcissists, but NOT to somatic narcissists and HPDs (Histrionic Personality Disorder) who use their
BODY, sex and seduction/flirtation to extract narcissistic supply from others.
Narcissists are misogynists. They team up with women as mere sources of SNS (secondary narcissistic supply). The woman's chores are to accumulate past NS and release it in an orderly manner, so as to regulate the fluctuating flow of primary supply. Otherwise, cerebral narcissists are not interested in women. Most of them are non-sexual (engage in sexual acts very rarely, if at all). They hold women in contempt and abhor the thought of being really intimate with them.
Usually, they choose submissive women, well below their level, to perform these functions. This leads to a vicious cycle of neediness,
self-contempt ("how come I am dependent on this inferior woman") and contempt directed at the woman. Hence the abuse. When primary NS is available - the woman is hardly tolerated, as one would reluctantly pay the premium of an insurance policy.
The narcissist does regard the "subjugation" of an attractive woman to be a source of narcissistic supply.
It is a status symbol, proof of virility and masculinity and it allows him to engage in "vicarious" narcissistic behaviors (=being a
narcissist through others, transforming others into tools at the service of his narcissism, into his extensions). This is done by employing defense mechanisms such as projective identification. Many of my FAQs and the essay are dedicated to these issues.
To re-iterate, Primary Narcissistic Supply (NS) is ANY kind of NS provided by others who are not "meaningful" or "significant" others.
Adulation, attention, affirmation, fame, notoriety, sexual conquests - are all forms of NS.
Secondary NS emanates from people who are in CONSTANT, repetitive or continuous touch with the narcissist. It includes the important roles of narcissistic accumulation and narcissistic regulation, among others.
The narcissist believes that being in love IS actually going through the motions and pretending. To him, emotions are mimicry and pretence.
He says: "I am a conscious misogynist. I fear and loathe women and tend to ignore them to the best of my ability. To me they are a mixture of hunter and parasite."
Most male Narcissists are misogynists. After all, they are the warped creation of a woman. A woman gave birth to them and moulded them into what they are: dysfunctional, maladaptive, emotionally dead. They are angry at this woman and, by implication, mad at all women.
The narcissist's attitude to women is, naturally, complex and multi-layered but it can be summarized using four axes:
a. The Holy Whore b. The Hunter Parasite c. The Frustrating Object of Desire d. Uniqueness Roles
The narcissist divides all women to saints and whores. He finds it difficult to have sex ("dirty", "forbidden", "punishable", "degrading")
with feminine significant others (spouse, intimate girlfriend). To him, sex and intimacy are mutually exclusive rather than mutually expressive propositions. Sex is reserved to "whores" (all other women in the world). This division provides for a resolution of his constant cognitive dissonance ("I want her but...", "I don't need anyone but...").
It also legitimizes his sadistic urges (abstaining from sex is a major and recurrent narcissistic "penalty" inflicted on female "transgressors"). It also tallies well with the frequent idealization-devaluation cycles the narcissist goes through. The idealized females are sexless, the devalued ones - "deserving" of their degradation (sex) and the contempt that, inevitably, follows thereafter.
The narcissist believes firmly that women are out to "hunt" men and that this is almost a genetic predisposition. As a result, he feels threatened (as any prey would). This, of course, is an intellectualization of the real, absolutely opposite, state of things: the narcissist feels threatened by women and tries to justify this irrational fear by imbuing women with "objective" qualities which make them, to his mind, ominous. This is a small detail in a larger canvass
of "pathologizing" others as a means of controlling them.
According to the narcissist's scenario, once the prey is secured - the woman assumes the role of a "body snatcher". She absconds with the narcissist's sperm, she generates an endless stream of demanding and nose dripping children, she financially bleeds the men in her life to cater to her needs and to the needs of her dependants. Put differently, she is a parasite, a leech, whose sole function is to suck dry every man she finds and Tarantula-like decapitate them once no longer useful. This, of course, is exactly what the narcissist does to people. Thus, his view of women is a projection.
Heterosexual narcissists desire women as any other red-blooded male does (even more so due to the special symbolic nature of the woman in the
narcissist's life - humbling a woman in acts of faintly sadomasochistic sex is a way of getting back at mother). But he is frustrated by his inability to meaningfully interact with them, by their apparent emotional depth and powers of psychological penetration (real or attributed) and by their sexuality. Their incessant demands for intimacy are perceived by him as a threat.
He recoils instead of getting closer. The cerebral narcissist also despises and derides sex, as we said before. Thus, caught in a seemingly intractable repetition complex, in approach-avoidance cycles, the narcissist becomes furious at the source of his frustration. Some of them set out to do some frustrating of their own. They tease (passively or actively), or they pretend to be non-sexual and, in any case, they turn down, rather cruelly, any attempt by a woman to court them and to get closer.
Sadistically, they tremendously enjoy their ability to frustrate the desires, passions and sexual wishes of women. It endows them with a
feeling of omnipotence and with the pleasing realization of malevolence.
Narcissists regularly frustrate all women sexually - and engage in frustrating significant women in their lives both sexually and emotionally. Somatic narcissists simply use women as objects and then discard them. The emotional background is identical. While the cerebral narcissist punishes through abstention - the somatic narcissist penalizes through excess.
The narcissist's mother kept behaving as though the narcissist was and is not special (to her). The narcissist's whole life is a pathetic and pitiful effort to prove her wrong. The narcissist constantly seeks confirmation from others that he IS special - in other words that he IS.
Women threaten this. Sex is "bestial" and "common". There is nothing "special or unique" about sex. Women are perceived by the narcissist to be dragging him to their level, the level of the lowest common denominator of intimacy, sex and human emotions. Everybody and anybody can feel, copulate and breed.
There is nothing to set the narcissist apart and above others in these activities.
And yet women seem to be interested ONLY in these pursuits. Thus, the narcissist emotionally believes that women are the continuation of his
mother by other means and in different guises.
The narcissist hates women virulently, passionately and uncompromisingly.
His hate is primal, irrational, the progeny of mortal fear and sustained abuse. Granted, most narcissists learn how to suppress, disguise, even
repress these untoward feelings. But their hatred does swing out of control and erupt from time to time. It is a terrifying, paralyzing sight. It is the true narcissist.
To live with a narcissist is an arduous and eroding task. Narcissists are atrabilious, infinitely pessimistic, bad-tempered, paranoid and sadistic in an absent-minded and indifferent manner. Their daily routine is a rigmarole of threats, complaints, hurts, eruptions, moodiness and rage. The Narcissist rails against slights true and imagined. He alienates people.
He humiliates them because this is his only weapon against the humiliation of their indifference.
Gradually, wherever he is, the Narcissist's social circle dwindles and then vanishes. Every narcissist is also a schizoid, to some extent. A schizoid is not a misanthrope. He does not necessarily hate people - he simply does not need them. He regards social interactions as a nuisance to be minimized.
The Narcissist is torn between his need to obtain narcissistic supply (monopolized by human beings) - and his fervent wish to be left alone.
This wish is peppered with contempt and feelings of superiority.
There are fundamental conflicts between dependence and contempt, neediness and devaluation, seeking and avoiding, turning on the charm to
attract adulation and being engulfed by wrathful reactions to the most minuscule "provocations". These conflicts lead to rapid cycling between
gregariousness and self-imposed ascetic seclusion.
Such an unpredictable but always bilious and festering atmosphere is hardly conducive to love or sex. Gradually, both become extinct.
Relationships are hollowed out. Imperceptibly, the Narcissist switches to a non-sexual co-habitation.
But the vitriolic environment that the Narcissist creates is only one hand of the equation. The other hand is the woman herself.
As we said, heterosexual narcissists are attracted to women, but simultaneously repelled, horrified, bewitched and provoked by them.
They seek to frustrate and humiliate them. Psychodynamically, the Narcissist probably visits upon them his mother's sins - but such an instant explanation does the subject great injustice.
Most narcissists are misogynists. Their sexual and emotional lives are perturbed and chaotic. They are unable to love in any true sense of the word - nor are they capable of developing any measure of intimacy.
Lacking empathy, they are unable to offer to the partner emotional sustenance.
Do Narcissists miss loving, would they have liked to love and are they angry with their parents for crippling them so?
To the Narcissist, these questions are incomprehensible. There is no way they can answer them. Narcissists never love. They do not know what is it that they are supposedly missing. Observing it from the outside, love seems to them to be a risible pathology. They equate love with weakness.
They hate being weak and they hate and despise weak people (and, therefore, the very old and the very young). They do not tolerate what they consider to be stupidity, disease and dependence - and love seems to encompass all three.
These are not sour grapes. They really feel this way.
Narcissists are angry men - but not because they never experienced love and probably never will. They are angry because they are not as powerful, awe inspiring and successful as they wish they were and, to their mind, deserve to be. Because their daydreams refuse so stubbornly to come true.
Because they are their worst enemy. And because, in their unmitigated paranoia, they see adversaries plotting everywhere and feel discriminated against and contemptuously ignored.
Many of them (the "borderline" Narcissists) cannot conceive of a life in one place with one set of people, doing the same thing, in the same field with one goal within a decades-old game plan. To them, this is death. They are most terrified of boredom and whenever faced with its daunting prospect, they inject drama into their life, or even danger.
This is the only way some of them can feel alive. The Narcissist is a lonely wolf. He is a shaky platform, indeed, on which to base a family, or future plans.
(Feel free to publish as a SERIES)
SURVIVING THE NARCISSIST
Is there a point in waiting for the Narcissist to heal? Can it ever be better?
"It is true that he is a chauvinistic narcissist with repulsive behaviors. But all he needs is a little love and he will be straightened out. I will rescue him from his misery and misfortune. I will give him the love that he lacked as a kid. Then his narcissism will vanish and we will live happily ever after."
Loving a Narcissist
I believe in the possibility of loving narcissists if one accepts them unconditionally, in a disillusioned and expectation-free manner. Narcissists are narcissists. This is what they are. Take them or leave them.
Some of them are lovable. Most of them are highly charming and intelligent.
The source of the misery of the victims of the narcissist is their disappointment, their disillusionment, their abrupt and tearing and tearful realization that they fell in love with an ideal of their own making, a phantasm, an illusion, a fata morgana. This "waking up" is traumatic.
The narcissist is forever the same. It is the victim who changes.
It is true that narcissists present a facade in order to generate sources of narcissistic supply. But this facade is easy to penetrate because it is inconsistent and too perfect. The cracks are evident from day one but often ignored. And what about all those who KNOWINGLY and WILLINGLY commit their wings to the burning narcissistic candle?
This is the catch-22. To react emotionally to a narcissist is like talking atheism to an Afghan fundamentalist. Narcissists have emotions, very strong ones, so terrifyingly strong and negative that they hide them, repress, block and transmute them. They employ a myriad of defense mechanisms: projective identification, splitting, projection, intellectualization, rationalization. Any effort to emotionally relate to a narcissist is doomed to failure, alienation and rage. Any attempt to "understand" (in retrospect or prospectively) narcissistic behavior patterns, reactions, his inner world in emotional terms - is equally
hopeless. Narcissists should be regarded as "stychia", a force of nature, or an accident.
There is no master-plot or mega-plan to deprive anyone of happiness.
Being born to narcissistic parents, for instance, is not the result of a conspiracy. It is a tragic event, for sure. But it cannot be dealt with emotionally, without professional help, or haphazardly. Stay away from narcissists, or face them aided by your own self-discovery through therapy.
It can be done. As opposed to narcissists, the prognosis for the victims of narcissists is fairly bright.
Narcissists have no interest in emotional or even intellectual stimulation by significant others. Such stimulation is perceived as a threat.
Significant others in the narcissist's life have very clear roles: accumulation and dispensation of past primary narcissistic supply in order to regulate current NS. Nothing less but definitely nothing more.
Proximity and intimacy breed contempt for reasons that I mentioned earlier. A process of devaluation is in full operation throughout the life of the relationship.
A passive witness to the Narcissist's past grandiosity, a dispenser of accumulated NS, a punching bag for his rages, a co-dependent, a possession (though not prized but taken for granted) and nothing much more. This is the ungrateful, FULL TIME, draining job of being the Narcissist's significant other.
But humans are not instruments. To regard them as such is to devalue them, to reduce them, to restrict them, to prevent them from realizing
their potential. Inevitably, Narcissists lose interest in their instruments, these truncated versions of full-fledged humans, once they cease to serve them in their pursuit of glory and fame.
Consider "friendship' with a narcissist as an example of a relationship.
One cannot really get to know a Narcissist "friend". One cannot be friends with a Narcissist and ESPECIALLY - one cannot love a Narcissist.
Narcissists are addicts. They are no different to drug addicts. They are in pursuit of gratification through the drug known as "narcissistic supply".
Everything and EVERYONE around them is an object, a potential source (to be idealized) or not (and, then to be cruelly discarded).
Narcissists home in on potential suppliers like cruise missiles. They are excellent at imitating emotions, exhibiting the right timely behaviors and at manipulating.
All generalizations are false, of course, and there are bound to be some happy relationships with Narcissists. I discussed the narcissistic couple in one of my FAQs. One example of a happy marriage is when the narcissist teams up with another narcissist of a different kind (somatic with cerebral or the reverse). Narcissists can be happily married to submissive, subservient, self-deprecating, echoing, mirroring and indiscriminately supportive spouses.
They also do well with masochists. But it is difficult to imagine that a healthy, normal person would be happy in such a follies-a-deux ("madness in twosome").
It is also difficult to imagine a benign and sustained influence on the narcissist of a stable, healthy mate/spouse/partner. One of my FAQs is
dedicated to this issue ("The Narcissist's Spouse / Mate / Partner").
BUT many a spouse/friend/mate/partner like to BELIEVE that - given sufficient time and patience - they will be the ones to release the narcissist from his wrenching bondage. They think that they can "rescue" the narcissist, shield him from his (distorted) self, as it were. The Narcissist makes use of this naiveté and exploits it to his benefit. The natural protective mechanisms, which are provoked in normal people by love - are cold bloodedly used by the narcissist to extract yet more narcissistic supply from his writhing victim.
The narcissist affects his victims by infiltrating their psyche, by penetrating their defenses. Like a virus, it establishes a new genetic strain within his/her victims. It echoes through them, it talks through them, it walks through them. It is like the invasion of the body snatchers.
You should be careful to separate your selves from the narcissist inside you, this alien growth, this spiritual cancer that is the result of living with a narcissist. You should be able to tell apart your real you and the YOU assigned to you by the narcissist. To cope with him/her, the narcissist forces you to "walk on eggshells" and develop a False Self of your own.
It is nothing as elaborate as his False Self - but it is there, in you, as a result of the trauma and abuse inflicted upon you by the narcissist.
Thus, perhaps we should invent "VoNPD", another mental health category - Victims of NPD. They experience shame and anger for their past
helplessness and submissiveness. They are hurt and sensitized by the harrowing experience of sharing a simulated existence with a simulated
person, the narcissist.
They are scarred and often suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Some of them lash out at others, offsetting their frustration with bitter aggression (a classic mechanism).
Like his disorder, the narcissist is all-pervasive. Being the victim of a narcissist is a condition no less pernicious than being a narcissist.
Great efforts are required to abandon a narcissist and physical separation is only the first (and less consequential) step. One can abandon a narcissist - but the narcissist is slow to abandon its victims. It is there, lurking, rendering existence unreal, twisting and distorting with no respite, an inner, remorseless voice, lacking in compassion and empathy for its victim.
The narcissist is there in spirit long after it has vanished in the flesh.
This is the real danger that the victims of the narcissist face: that they become like him, bitter, self-centered, lacking in empathy. This is the last bow of the narcissist, his curtain call, by proxy as it were.
The narcissist tends to surround himself with his inferiors (in some respect: intellectually, financially, physically). He limits his interactions with them to the plane of his superiority. This is the safest and fastest way to sustain his grandiose fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience, brilliance, ideal traits, perfection and so on.
Humans are interchangeable and the narcissist anyhow does not distinguish one individual from another. To him they are all inanimate parts of "his audience" whose job is to reflect his False Self. This generates a perpetual and permanent cognitive dissonance:
The narcissist despises the very people who sustain his Ego boundaries and functions. He cannot respect people so expressly and clearly
inferior to him - yet he can never associate with people evidently on his level or superior to him, the risk of narcissistic injury in such associations being too great. Equipped with a fragile Ego, precariously teetering on the brink of narcissistic injury - the narcissist prefers the safe route. But he feels contempt for himself and for others for having preferred it.
Some NPDs are ALSO Antisocial PDs (AsPDs) and/or sadists. Antisocials don't really ENJOY hurting others - they simply don't care one way or
the other. But sadists do enjoy it.
"Pure" NPDs do not enjoy hurting others - but they do enjoy the sensation of omnipotence, unlimited power and the validation of their grandiose fantasies when they hurt others or in the position to do so. It is more the POTENTIAL to hurt others than the actual act that turns them on.
The Never ending Story
Even the official termination of a relationship with a narcissist is not the end of the affair. The Ex "belongs" to the narcissist. She is an inseparable part of his Pathological Narcissistic Space. This possessive streak is not terminated with the official, physical, separation. Thus, the narcissist is likely to respond with rage, seething envy, a sense of humiliation and invasion and violent-aggressive urges to an ex's new boyfriend, or new job (to her
new life without him). Especially since it implies a "failure" on his part and, thus negates his grandiosity.
But there is a second scenario:
If the narcissist were to firmly believe (which is very rare) that the ex does not and will never represent any amount, however marginal and
residual, of any kind (primary or secondary) of narcissistic supply - he remains utterly unmoved by anything she does and anyone she may choose
to be with.
Narcissists do feel bad about hurting others and about the unsavoury course their lives tend to assume. Their ego-dystony (=feeling bad about themselves) was only recently discovered and described. But my suspicion is that a narcissist feels bad only when his supply sources are threatened because of his behaviour or following a narcissistic injury (such as a major life crisis: divorce, bankruptcy, etc.).
The narcissist equates emotions with weakness. He regards the sentimental and the emotional with contempt. He looks down on the sensitive and the vulnerable. He derides and despises the dependent and the loving. He mocks expressions of compassion and passion. He is devoid of empathy. He is so afraid of his True Self that he would rather disparage it than admit to his own faults and "soft spots".
He likes to talk about himself in mechanical terms ("machine", "efficient", "punctual", "output", "computer").
He slaughters his human side diligently and with a dedication derived from his drive to survive. To him, to be human and to survive are a contradiction. He must choose and his choice is clear. The narcissist never looks back, unless and until forced to by life circumstances.
ALL narcissists fear intimacy. But the cerebral narcissist deploys strong defences against it: "scientific detachment" (the narcissist as the eternal observer), intellectualizing and rationalizing his emotions away, intellectual cruelty (see my FAQ regarding inappropriate affect), intellectual "annexation" (regarding the other person as his extension or territory), objectifying the other and so on. Even emotions that are expressed (pathological envy, neurotic or other rage, etc.) have the not totally unintended effect of alienating rather than creating intimacy.
Abandoning the Narcissist
The narcissist INITIATES his own abandonment BECAUSE of his fear. He is so afraid of losing his sources (and of unconsciously being emotionally
hurt) - that he would rather "control", "master", or "direct" the potentially destabilizing situation - than confront its effects if initiated by the significant other. Remember: the personality of the narcissist has a low level of organization. It is precariously balanced.
Being abandoned could cause a narcissistic injury so grave that the whole edifice can come crumbling down. Narcissists usually entertain
suicidal ideation in such cases. BUT, if the narcissist initiated and directed his abandonment, if the abandonment is perceived by him to be a
goal HE set to himself to achieve - he can and does avoid all these untoward consequences.
The Dynamics of the Relationship
The Narcissist lives in a fantasized world of ideal beauty, incomparable (imaginary) achievements, wealth, brilliance and unmitigated success.
The narcissist denies his reality constantly. This is what I call the "Grandiosity Gap" - the abyss between his sense of entitlement and his
inflated grandiose fantasies - and his incommensurate reality and achievements.
The narcissist's partner is perceived by him to be a source of narcissistic supply, an instrument, an extension of himself. It is inconceivable that - blessed by the constant presence of the narcissist - such a tool would malfunction. The needs and grievances of the partner are perceived by the narcissist as THREATS and INSULTS. He considers his very existence as sufficiently nourishing and sustaining. He feels entitled to the best others can offer without investing in maintaining relationships or in catering to the well being of his "suppliers".
To rid himself of deep-set feelings of (rather justified) guilt and shame - he pathologizes the partner. He projects sickness unto her. Through the intricate mechanism of projective identification he forces her to play an emergent role of "the sick" or "the weak" or "the naive" or "the dumb" or "the no good". What he denies in himself, what he is terrified of facing in his own personality - he attributes to others and moulds them to conform to his prejudices against himself.
The Narcissist MUST have THE best, the MOST glamorous, stunning, talented, head turning, mind-boggling spouse in the WORLD. Nothing short of this fantasy will do. To compensate for the shortcomings of his real life spouse - he invents an idealized figure and relates to it instead. Then, when reality conflicts too often and too evidently with the ideal figure - he reverts to devaluation. His behaviour turns on a dime and becomes threatening, demeaning, contemptuous, berating, reprimanding, destructively critical and sadistic - or cold, unloving, detached, "clinical". He punishes his real life spouse for not living up to his standards as personified in his Galathea, in his Pygmalion, in his ideal creation. The Narcissist plays a wrathful and demanding God.
To preserve one's mental health - one must abandon the narcissist. One must move on.
Moving on is a process, not a decision or an event. First, one has to acknowledge and accept reality. It is a volcanic, shattering, agonizing series of little, nibbling, thoughts and strong, voluptuous resistances.
Once the battle is won, and harsh and painful realities are assimilated, one can move on to the learning phase.
We label. We assemble material. We gather knowledge. We compare experiences. We digest. We have insights.
Then we decide and we act. This is "to move on". Having gathered sufficient emotional sustenance, support and confidence - we leave to
face the battlefields of our relationships, fortified and nurtured. This stage characterizes those who do not mourn - but fight; do not
grieve - but replenish their self-esteem; do not hide - but seek; do not freeze - but move on.
After being betrayed and abused - we grieve. We grieve for the image we had of the traitor and abuser - the image that was so fleeting and so
We mourn the damage he did to us. We experience the fear of never being able to love or to trust again - and we grieve this loss. In one
stroke, we lost someone we trusted and even loved, we lost our trusting and loving selves and we lost the trust and love that we felt. Can
anything be worse?
The emotional process of grieving is multiphased. At first, we are dumbfounded, shocked, inert, immobile. We play dead to avoid our inner
monsters. We are ossified in our pain, cast in the mould of our reticence and fears. Then we feel enraged, indignant, rebellious and
hateful. Then we accept. Then we cry. And then - some of us - learn to forgive and to pity.
And this is called healing.
ALL stages are absolutely necessary and good. It is bad NOT to rage back, not to shame those who shamed us, to deny, to pretend, to evade.
But it is equally as bad to stay like this forever. Permanent grieving is the perpetuation of our abuse by other means. By endlessly recreating our harrowing experiences, we unwillingly and defiantly collaborate with our abuser to perpetuate his or her evil deeds. It is by moving on that we defeat our abuser, minimizing him and his importance in our lives. It is by loving and by trusting anew that we annul that which was done to us. To forgive is never to forget. But to remember is not necessarily to re-live.
Forgiving and Forgetting
Forgiving is an important capability. It does more for the forgiver than for the forgiven. But, to my mind, it should not be a universal, indiscriminate behaviour. I think it is legitimate not to forgive sometimes. It depends, of course, on the severity or duration of what was done to you. In general, it is unwise and counter-productive, in my view, to establish "universal" and "immutable" principles in life. Life is too chaotic to succumb to rigid principles. Sentences, which start with "I never" are either not very credible or, worse, they lead to self-defeating, self-restricting and self-destructive behaviours.
Conflicts are an important and integral part of life. One should never seek them out willingly - but when confronted with a conflict, one should not avoid it. It is through conflicts and adversity as much as through care and love that we grow.
Human relationships are dynamic. We must assess our friendships, partnerships, even marriages periodically. The past is insufficient in itself to sustain a healthy, nourishing, supportive, caring and compassionate relationship. It is a pre-condition, perhaps a necessary one - but not a sufficient one. We must gain and regain our friendships on a daily basis. Human relationships are a constant test of allegiance and empathy.
Remaining Friends with the Narcissist
But can't we act civilized and remain on friendly terms with our narcissist ex?
Never forget that Narcissists (full fledged ones) are nice to others when:
a. They want something - narcissistic supply, help, support, votes, money...
They prepare the ground, manipulate you and then come out with the "small favour" they need or ask you blatantly or surreptitiously for
narcissistic supply ("what did you think about my performance...", "do you think that I really deserve the Nobel Prize?").
b. They feel threatened and they want to neuter the threat by smothering it with oozing pleasantries.
c. They have just been infused with an overdose of narcissistic supply and they feel magnanimous and magnificent and ideal and perfect. To show magnanimity is a way of flaunting one's impeccable divine credentials.
It is an act of grandiosity. You are an irrelevant prop in this spectacle, a mere receptacle of the narcissist's overflowing, self-contented infatuation with his
This beneficence is transient. Perpetual victims often tend to "thank God for little graces" (God being the narcissist). This is the Stockholm syndrome: hostages tend to emotionally identify with the terrorists rather than with the police. We are grateful to our abusers and tormentors for ceasing their hideous activities and letting us breathe for a while.
Some people say that they prefer to live with narcissists, to cater to their needs and to succumb to their whims because this is the way they have been conditioned. It is only with narcissists that they feel alive, stimulated and excited. The world glows in technicolor in the presence of a narcissist and decays to sepia colours in his absence.
I see nothing inherently "wrong" with that. The test is this: If a person were to constantly humiliate and abuse you verbally using Archaic Chinese - would you have felt humiliated and abused? Probably not. Some people have been conditioned by the narcissistic primary objects in their lives (parents or caregivers) to treat narcissistic abuse as Archaic Chinese, to turn a deaf ear. This technique is effective in that it allows the "inverted narcissist" (the narcissist's willing mate) to experience only the good aspects of living with a narcissist: his sparkling intelligence, the constant drama and excitement, his lack of intimacy and emotional attachment (some people prefer this). Every now and then the narcissist breaks into abusive Archaic Chinese, so what,
who understands Archaic Chinese anyway?
I have only one nagging doubt, though:
If the relationship with a narcissist is so rewarding, why are inverted narcissists so unhappy, so ego-dystonic, so in need of help (professional or otherwise)? Aren't they victims who simply experience the Stockholm Syndrome (=identifying with the kidnapper rather than with the Police)?
Narcissists and Abandonment
Narcissists are terrified of being abandoned exactly as codependents and Borderlines are.
Their solution is different.
Codependents cling. Borderlines are emotionally labile and react disastrously to the faintest hint of being abandoned.
Narcissists FACILITATE the abandonment. They MAKE SURE that they are abandoned.
This way they achieve two goals:
1. Getting it over with - The narcissist has a very low threshold of tolerance to uncertainty and inconvenience, emotional or material.
Narcissists are very impatient and "spoiled". They cannot delay gratification OR impending doom. They must have it all NOW, good or bad.
2. By bringing the feared abandonment about, the narcissist can lie to himself persuasively. "She didn't abandon me, it is I who abandoned her.
I controlled the situation. It was all my doing, so I was really not abandoned, was I now?" In time, the narcissist adopts this "official version" as the truth. He might say: "I deserted her emotionally and sexually long before she left".
This is one of the important Emotional Involvement Prevention Mechanisms
Why the Failing Relationships?
Narcissists HATE happiness and joy and ebullience and vivaciousness - in short, they hate life itself.
The roots of this bizarre propensity can be traced to a few psychological dynamics, which operate concurrently (it is very confusing to be a narcissist):
First, there is pathological envy.
The Narcissist is constantly envious of other people: their successes, their property, their character, their education, their children, their ideas, the fact that they can feel, their good mood, their past, their future, their present, their spouses, their mistresses or lovers, their location...
Almost ANYTHING can be the trigger of a bout of biting, acidulous envy.
But there is nothing, which reminds the narcissist more of the totality of his envious experiences than happiness. Narcissists lash out at happy people out of their own deprivation.
Then there is narcissistic hurt.
The narcissist regards himself as the center of the world and of the lives of people around him. He is the source of all emotions, responsible for all developments, positive and negative alike, the axis, the prime cause, the only cause, the mover, the shaker, the broker, the pillar, forever indispensable. It is therefore a bitter and sharp rebuke to this grandiose fantasy to see someone else happy. It confronts the narcissist with a reality outside the realm of his
fantasies. It painfully serves to illustrate to him that he is but one of many causes, phenomena, triggers and catalysts. That there are things happening outside the orbit of his control or initiative.
The narcissist uses projective identification. He feels bad through other people, his proxies. He induces unhappiness and gloom in others to enable him to experience his own misery. Inevitably, he attributes the source of such sadness either to himself, as its cause - or to the "pathology" of the sad person.
"You are constantly depressed, you should really see a therapist" is a common sentence.
The narcissist - in an effort to maintain the depressive state until it serves some cathartic purposes - strives to perpetuate it by sowing constant reminders of its existence. "You look sad/bad/pale today. Is anything wrong?
Can I help you? Things haven't been going so well lately?"
Last but not least is the exaggerated fear of losing control.
The narcissist feels that he controls his human environment mostly by manipulation and mainly by emotional extortion and distortion. This is not far from reality. He suppresses any sign of emotional autonomy. He feels threatened and belittled by an emotion fostered not by him or by his actions directly or indirectly. Counteracting someone else's happiness is the narcissist's way of reminding everyone: I am here, I am omnipotent, you are at my mercy and you will feel happy only when I tell you to.
Narcissist, the Abuser
The Narcissist induces hate. We hate the perpetrator of abuse also because he made us hate ourselves. Trying to avert the ultimate act of self-hatred, trying to avoid self-liquidation, we "kill" ourselves symbolically by denying ourselves, our thoughts, our feelings. It is an act of magic, a ritual of exorcism, transubstantiation, a black Eucharist of hate. By denying our selves we deny our only possible saviour, our only feasible solution and absolution: our selves. We thus hope to avoid confronting the unthinkable, feeling the impossible, committing the irreversible. But, inevitably, it backfires. We feel
rage, helplessness, self-contempt, weakness and the temptation of requiting our misery once and for all.
It is more difficult to hate someone because of what he IS - than because of what he DID.
Some non-abusers are (perhaps) deserving of a generalized sort of repulsion or reticence (call it hate, if you wish). The abuser, in contrast, DID things, he committed acts of abuse. He is deserving of a focused, directed, intensive hate. This is because the abuser is RESPONSIBLE and CULPABLE for what he did.
Philosophically, morally, ethically (and legally) we often confuse impulses with responsibility.
That we have no control diminishes our responsibility.
But drives ARE controllable. So are impulses. The control can be primitive (fear) or of a higher level (a moral conviction). Had we really felt that the abuser had no control over what he did, we would not have hated him.
That we hate him is PROOF that he has control over his actions. Hate is the direct reaction to culpability. Do we hate tornadoes? Do we hate
sandstorms or avalanches or death? We do not. We hate disease because we intuitively feel that there MUST be something we can do about it. We
feel GUILTY for being ill. We hate collapsing bridges and train accidents - because they can be PREVENTED. We feel that they are avoidable.
We hate what could have been prevented by the exercise of judgement, including moral judgement, emotional judgement (love) or rational one.
We never hate what no amount of judgement and distinction between right and wrong could have prevented.
The abuser is GUILTY. He could have PREVENTED the abuse. He KNOWINGLY did what he did. He is CULPABLE. We hate him JUSTLY.
Here is a thought experiment:
If someone were to credibly threaten to imprison the abuser for his abuse - would he have still committed it?
The answer is no, he wouldn't have. This means that he can control his actions, given the right incentive (or, rather, disincentive).
Self-hatred is a way of assuming the abuser's guilt. To a child, a parent can never be guilty. Parents are perfect, above reproach, above vile thoughts. It is prohibited to think badly about a parent. The child thinks: "It must be I who is wrong and guilty and corrupt in hating my parents. I should be ashamed of myself."
It is a conflict. It is the confusion that all victims experience. Especially victims who have always been an extension of their parents. In such a case, even self-hatred is no real solution.
Very often we feel that perhaps we have collaborated with the abusing parent, seduced or tempted or angered or provoked him or her.
The crux of our problem as I see it is our inability to distinguish the child that the abuser once was (deserving of pity and empathy) - from the monstrous adult that the abuser became, which is deserving of condemnation, contempt, hate, punishment, repulsion and reticence. As long as we do not cease to confuse these two - we will remain immersed in conflict, perplexity and pain. We HAVE to sacrifice the image of our parents if we want to get better. We have to let go. We must hate in order to be able to love again.
We must place guilt, blame, rage, and contempt firmly where they belong.
Understanding, loving, compassion, empathy - must be directed at the deserving. It is natural not to love a Hitler. One can HATE and detest Hitler passionately, vehemently, wholeheartedly - and still be loving, compassionate, full of emotions and beauty. Actually I think that hating Hitler-like people is a PRECONDITION to experiencing true positive feelings.
If one does not hate a Hitler something is very wrong with one's emotional equipment. If one does not despise a monster - one is INCAPABLE of adult feelings, one's emotional intelligence is infantile and immature. Hating an abuser - is a sign of emotional maturation, not of emotional retardation.
It is wrong to UNIVERSALIZE one's feelings. We need to SEGREGATE them, instead. For instance: we can love our spouse WHILE hating our abusive parent or partner. Must we love EVERYONE, all the time? Must we be so terrified of being rejected?
The hearts of the Narcissist's victims are captivated. They love monsters.
They try to understand abusers. They make excuses for the inexcusable.
They mitigate their private holocaust. They legitimize abhorrent crimes. They lie to themselves. They are immorally not in touch with their real emotions.
And, this way, they perpetuate their own abuse, their own torture, they collaborate with the terrorists that are and were their only family.
Living with a Narcissist
You cannot change people, not in the real, profound, deep sense. You can only adapt to them and adapt them to you. If you do find your
Narcissist rewarding at times - you should do two things, in my opinion:
1. Determine your limits and boundaries. How much and in which ways can you adapt to him (i.e., accept him AS HE IS) AND to which extent and
in which ways would you like him to adapt to you (i.e., accept you as you are). Act accordingly. Accept what you have decided to accept and
reject the rest.
Change in you what you are willing and able to change - and ignore the rest.
It is sort of an unwritten contract of co-existence (could be written if you are more formally inclined).
2. Try to maximize the number of times that "...his walls are down", that you "...find him totally fascinating and everything I desire".
What makes him be and behave this way? Is it something that YOU say or do? Is it preceded by events of a specific nature? Is there anything
you can do to make him behave this way more often?
Sometimes we mistake guilt and self-assumed blame for love.
Committing suicide for someone else's sake is not love.
Sacrificing yourself for someone else is not love.
It is domination.
You control your Narcissist by giving, as much as he controls you through his pathology.
Your generosity prevents him from facing his True Self and thus healing.
But this you must remember as well:
It is impossible to have a relationship with a narcissist that is meaningful to the narcissist.
It is, of course, possible to have a relationship with a narcissist that is meaningful to you.
You modify your behaviour in order to secure the N's continuing love, not in order to be abandoned.
This is the root of the perniciousness of this phenomenon:
The narcissist IS a meaningful, crucially significant figure ("object") in the Inverted Narcissist's life.
This is the narcissist's leverage over the IN. And since the IN is usually very young when making the adaptation to the N - it all boils down to fear of abandonment and death in the absence of care and sustenance.
I don't think that the IN's accommodation of the narcissist is as much a wish to gratify one's narcissist (parent) - as the sheer terror of forever withholding gratification from one's self.
The Need to be Hopeful
I understand the need to be hopeful.
There are gradations of narcissism. In all my writings, I am referring to the extreme and ultimate form of narcissism, the NPD.
We often confuse shame with guilt.
Narcissists feel shameful when confronted with a failure. They feel (narcissistically) injured. Their omnipotence is threatened, their sense of perfection and uniqueness is questioned. They are enraged, engulfed by self-reprimand, self-loathing and internalized violent urges.
The narcissist punishes himself for failing to be God - not for the maltreatment of others.
The narcissist makes an effort to communicate his pain and shame in order to elicit the NS needed to restore and regulate his failing sense of self-worth. In doing so, the narcissist resorts to the human vocabulary of empathy. The narcissist will say anything to obtain NS.
It is a manipulative ploy - not a confession of real emotions or an authentic description of internal dynamics.
Yes, the narcissist is a child - but a very precocious and young one.
Yes, he can tell right from wrong - but is indifferent to both.
Yes, it is a process of "re-parenting" (what Kohut called a "selfobject") that is required, of growth, of maturation. In the best of cases, it takes years and the prognosis is dismal.
Yes, some narcissists make it. And their mates or spouses or children or colleagues or lovers rejoice.
But is the fact that people survive tornadoes - a reason to go out and seek one?
The Narcissist is very much attracted to vulnerability, to unstable or disordered personalities or to his inferiors. Such people constitute secure sources of narcissistic supply. The inferior offer adulation. The mentally disturbed, the traumatized, the abused become dependent and addicted to him.
The vulnerable can be easily and economically manipulated without fear of repercussions.
I think that "a healing narcissist" is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron (though NOT in all cases, of course).
Still, healing (not only of narcissists) is dependent upon and derived from a sense of security in a relationship.
The Narcissist is not particularly interested in healing. He tries to optimize his return, taking into consideration the scarcity and finiteness of his resources. Healing, to him, is simply a bad business proposition.
In the Narcissist's world being accepted or cared for (not to mention loved) is a foreign language.
That is: meaningless.
One might recite the most delicate haiku in Japanese and it would still remain meaningless to a non-Japanese.
That non-Japanese are not adept at Japanese does not diminish the value of the haiku OR of the Japanese language, needless to say.
Narcissists damage and hurt but they do so off-handedly and naturally.
They are aware of what they are doing to others - but they do not care.
Sometimes, they sadistically taunt and torment people - but they do not perceive this to be evil - merely amusing.
They feel that they are entitled to their pleasure and gratification (narcissistic supply is often obtained by subjugating and subsuming others).
They feel that others are less than human, mere extensions of the narcissist, or instruments to fulfill the narcissist's wishes and obey his often capricious commands.
The narcissist feels that no evil can be done to machines, instruments, or extensions.
The Social and Cultural Context
Personal incompatibility is a stand-alone fact. It requires no apportioning of guilt or evocation of shame. It is the outcome of life itself. Taking into consideration the number of variables, it is a great miracle that any two people fit together, however loosely. Yes, marriages are miracles and, in this sense, they are really "made in heaven". Add to this the growing intolerance, the narcissism, the hedonism and the consumerism, which characterize Western civilization.
Mix in the wide field of alternatives wrought by modern technologies. And the end result is the demise of long-term commitment and
relationships. This is the soundbite age, the era of virtual sex, of the shortest-term attention span ever. Individualism has gone cancerous
and was replaced by Malignant Self Love. The result?
Narcissism Revisited by everyone.
We are victim to forces which re-shape whole societies. It is not our fault that we are living here and now. Half of all marriages dissolve in the first few years. One third of all children are born to single mothers. People are withdrawing, drawing their bridges, folding their communal tents. They interact via screens and handsets. They go wireless. They watch flickering images instead of watching each other.
They don't think or read or listen - they consume and gulp. And sex is just one other commodity to be traded for thrills and frills.
One time English language print North American Rights and right to maintain in an archive indefinitely - granted.
Sam's note to Women Are Dreamers Too
I have included a few articles regarding relationships with people who are pathological narcissists. I hope you will find them of interest:
My full CV is available here:
THE RESOURCE BOX
Sam Vaknin is the author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited"
and the editor of mental health categories in The Open Directory,
Suite101, and searcheurope.com.
His web site: http://samvak.tripod.com
Frequently asked questions regarding narcissism:
Narcissistic Personality Disorder on Suite101:
Narcissistic Personality Disorder at a Glance:
Narcissistic Personality Disorder Tips:
(1) Alford, C. Fred - Narcissism: Socrates, the Frankfurt School and
Psychoanalytic Theory - New Haven and London, Yale University Press -
(2) Fairbairn, W. R. D. - An Object Relations Theory of the
Personality - New York, Basic Books, 1954
(3) Freud S. - Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905) - Standard
Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud - Vol. 7 -
London, Hogarth Press, 1964
(4) Freud, S. - On Narcissism - Standard Edition - Vol. 14 - pp. 73-107
(5) Golomb, Elan - Trapped in the Mirror : Adult Children of Narcissists
in Their Struggle for Self - Quill, 1995
(6) Greenberg, Jay R. and Mitchell, Stephen A. - Object Relations in
Psychoanalytic Theory - Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1983
(7) Grunberger, Bela - Narcissism: Psychoanalytic Essays - New York,
International Universities Press - 1979
(8) Guntrip, Harry - Personality Structure and Human Interaction - New
York, International Universities Press - 1961
(9) Horowitz M.J. - Sliding Meanings: A defense against threat in
narcissistic personalities - International Journal of Psychoanalytic
Psychotherapy - 1975;4:167
(10) Jacobson, Edith - The Self and the Object World - New York,
International Universities Press - 1964
(11) Kernberg O. - Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism -
New York, Jason Aronson, 1975
(12) Klein, Melanie - The Writings of Melanie Klein - Ed. Roger
Money-Kyrle - 4 vols. - New York, Free Press - 1964-75
(13) Kohut M. - The Analysis of the Self - New York, International
Universities Press, 1971
(14) Lasch, Christopher - The Culture of Narcissism - New York, Warner
(15) Lowen, Alexander - Narcissism : Denial of the True Self -
Touchstone Books, 1997
(16) Millon, Theodore (and Roger D. Davis, contributor) - Disorders of
Personality: DSM IV and Beyond - 2nd ed. - New York, John Wiley and
(17) Millon, Theodore - Personality Disorders in Modern Life - New York,
John Wiley and Sons, 2000
(18) Roningstam, Elsa F. (ed.) - Disorders of Narcissism: Diagnostic,
Clinical, and Empirical Implications - American Psychiatric Press, 1998
(19) Rothstein, Arnold - The Narcissistic Pursuit of Reflection - 2nd
revised ed. - New York, International Universities Press, 1984
(20) Schwartz, Lester - Narcissistic Personality Disorders - A Clinical
Discussion - Journal of Am. Psychoanalytic Association - 22 (1974):
(21) Stern, Daniel - The Interpersonal World of the Infant: A View from
Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology - New York, Basic Books,
(22) Vaknin, Sam - Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited - Skopje
and Prague, Narcissus Publications, 1999, (Revised Edition) 2001
(23) Zweig, Paul - The Heresy of Self-Love: A Study of Subversive
Individualism - New York, Basic Books, 1968
Ignorance regarding the dynamics of domestic violence gives the impression that the victims are to blame for their own abuse, or that they enjoy being abused. The fact is leaving an abusive relationship does not guarantee that the abuse will cease.
All batterers are brutish louts who act like the scourge of society whether they are in their victims' presence, drunk in a bar, or at work.
Get Help If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, click on our Help map Find help where you live.
Or call the national hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
There is no composite for the "average" abuser. He may be rich or poor. He may be very well respected in his community, his church, and his job. Abusers are very charming and friendly people. Con artists. A woman certainly is not initially attracted to a brute. The charming, friendly persona is just that -- a persona. Very slowly, over a long period of time, the controlling, manipulative side comes out. By the time the woman realizes she is in an abusive relationship, she is already enmeshed in it, and it may be very difficult for her to leave safely. This is compounded if children are involved.
MYTH: Abused women don't leave their abusers.
FACT: The overwhelming majority -- over 75% -- of abused women eventually DO leave their abusers. Leaving an abuser is a process, not an event. A woman may make several attempts to leave her abuser before she in fact is completely successful. If a woman left her abuser before she was actually ready to do so, and if she did not have enough resources and support such as friends, family and other women who have been through similar situations backing her up, she may return to her abuser.
There are a wide variety of reasons that a woman does not leave an abuser at a given point in time. She may have young children, and is not in a position to leave. She may be financially dependent on the abuser. He may have made threats that should she try to leave him that he will hurt or kill her and the children, destroy her property, or hurt or kill her pets. He may threaten that should she leave, he will take her to court, impoverish her, refuse to pay child support, and gain custody of the children so that she will never see them again. On the other hand, there is the honeymoon period, during which the abuser makes an abrupt about face, becomes very contrite and shame-faced, and swears he will never, ever hurt her again.
He may even go into counseling. This usually occurs after a severe episode of abusive behavior. The woman believes him, and gives him another change because he's begun to treat her well -- which may mean that being treated well in her mind equates with an absence of abuse. She really believes him when he says he'll never do it again. Also, she may still love him. She remembers the man she first met, and wants him to replace this other person who terrorizes her. She wants things to be the way they were when they first met. Many abused women blame themselves for their own abuse; i.e., if she wasn't fat or had a better job or didn't make demands on him or kept the kids out of his hair or cooked better meals or kept a cleaner house he'd have no reason to abuse her. Of course she thinks this because he is constantly telling her that is the case. In many instances, his family and even her family may be telling her the same thing. She will do everything she can to change her behavior in the mistaken belief that she is causing her own abuse.
When it not only doesn't change but becomes worse, her self esteem plummets because she sees her situation as a personal failure, especially if she ends up divorced. After years of emotional and psychological abuse, she may not be in a strong enough frame of mind to be able to handle the added stress involved in leaving the abuser. Consider the state of mind an abused woman is in, and the war zone in which she lives. It's very easy to say "why doesn't she just leave" from the safety and security of your own home. Once you place yourself in the abused woman's shoes and understand her situation from her point of view, you will realize exactly what she is up against. It takes a great deal of resolve, energy, and courage to leave an abusive relationship.
Domestic violence means a man is beating a woman.
Physical beating is only one form of domestic violence. Other forms, and these forms often occur concurrently, are:
The batterer tries to frighten the victim by intimidating her, threatening to harm her or others, threatening to kidnap her, harassing her, or killing pets and destroying property.
Emotional Abuse: The batterer undermines his victim's sense of self-worth by constant criticism, belittling, name calling, the silent treatment, subverting parent-child relationship, making and breaking of promises, and so forth.
This includes making, or trying to make, a person financially dependent -- for instance, by maintaining control over both parties' income, withholding money or access to money, keeping the victim from outside activities such as school or employment, harassing the victim at work, and requiring her to justify all money spent.
Sexual abuse is coerced sexual contact -- for instance, rape and beating of the sexual parts of the body, as well as forced bestiality, prostitution, unprotected sex, fondling, sodomy, sex with others, or use of pornography. Sexual abuse may also include undermining a person's sexuality with insults and unfounded accusations of infidelity. Rape in marriage is illegal, yet it happens all too often. Rape can happen if intercourse starts while the victim is asleep.
This is hurting someone or trying to hurt her -- for instance, by grabbing, pinching, shoving, slapping, hitting, hair pulling, biting, arm twisting, kicking, punching, hitting with objects, stabbing, shooting. Other kinds of physical abuse include withholding access to resources necessary to maintain health; e.g., medications, medical care, a wheelchair, food or fluids, sleep, hygienic assistance. An abuser may also force his victim to use alcohol or drugs.
The abuser may drag his victim through a vicious custody battle or an expensive court case when she leaves him. He may give her less than she deserves by law and may drag out the proceedings. He may refuse to pay court-ordered support or alimony or to turn over assets. This may sound like a typical divorce, but abusive divorces continue a pattern of abuse established in the marriage. Incredibly, the abuser often tries to win back his spouse during or after the abusive divorce. More incredibly yet, she sometimes goes back to him. (This is a part of the cycle of violence ...) The point is, the abuse does not end when the woman leaves. It will continue in another form.
Abuse stops when the woman leaves the abuser.
Abuse actually may increase when the woman is attempting to leave and after she has left because the abuser can see that he is losing control of his victim. He will not back down -- he will increase the severity, frequency, and methods of abuse as a means of re-establishing his power and control over his victim.
This period is the most dangerous period for an abused victim. The severest abuse, including murder, occurs during and after the period of separation. Other forms of abuse common during and after separation are stalking, obscene telephone calls, harassment at the woman's workplace, kidnapping or attempted kidnapping of children from school or daycare and his refusal to return them until the woman agrees to the man's demands, and making false allegations of child abuse against the woman. In cases where the custody dispute has lasted years, and the woman has remarried or has become involved with another man, the abusive ex may allege that child abuse is being committed by her partner.
An extreme example of continued abuse is when the man moves, without his ex's knowledge, out of state during his visitation time with the children as a means of establishing a new "home state" with the intention of gaining custody in the new domicile. He may not return the children once his specified visitation time is up, and she has no way to retrieve them since she does not know to where her ex-husband has moved. It may take years and thousands of dollars spent for her to find her children. By then, her ex may petition for a change in custody, citing "best interests of the children," because the children have over that period of time become established in the neighborhood, school system, and have made friends. A move to the custodial mothers' home would disrupt the status quo.
This tactic is described in Timothy J. Horgan's "Winning Your Divorce: A Man's Survival Guide" (Plume/Penguin Book, 1994). If she alleges he committed child sexual abuse and/or domestic violence he may insist that she is suffering from "Parental Alienation Syndrome." He may attempt to break in to her home, vandalize her property, slash her tires, and attempt to break into her car. He may also claim that she was abusing him should she file for an order of protection against domestic violence.
Men and women are equally abusive of each other.
This particularly heinous bit of propaganda is especially popular with the men's and father's rights movement, which also claims that most allegations of abuse made by women are false; a means of obtaining an upper hand in divorce proceedings. The idea that women are just as abusive as men comes from a purposeful misrepresentation of a survey conducted by Straus, Gelles, and Steinmetz, which is described in their book "Behind Closed Doors" (Straus, M.A., Gelles, R.J., and Steinmetz , S.K. Behind Closed Doors: Violence in American Families. Anchor/Doubleday, Garden City NY, 1980.)
These researchers used Conflict Tactic Scale (CTS) to count individual "hits" between partners in abusive relationships. Each partner was required to indicate how many times and in what form(s) they physically abused the other partner over the course of a year. What the researchers discovered was that women struck back just as often as men, if not more so, giving an impression that women are as physically violent as men.
There are several serious problems with this book and the research, which the researchers have acknowledged. The only form of abuse considered was physical abuse, which narrowed down the field considerably. Violent acts by husbands were more common than violent acts by wives, and the husbands' acts were much more physically debilitating. Husbands also had higher rates of the most injurious abuse such as use of a gun or beating. Gelles himself stated that "Data from studies of households where the police intervened in domestic violence, clearly indicate that men are rarely the victims of "battery" (Berk et al, 1983). Thus, although the [the CTS figures] show similar rates of hitting, when injury is considered, marital violence is primarily a problem of victimized women." (p79-80 - "A note on husbands as victims.")
PERSONAL PROTECTION AND EDUCATION
An abused woman should not focus on leaving her abuser. Her focus should be on doing what is necessary for her to get her life in order. If leaving the abuser is one of those things, she must be properly prepared for it. Her physical, psychological, and emotional health need to be restored and stabilized. She will need to get her finances in order. There are several ways to go about doing all of this. With renewed strength will come her resolve to better protect herself and her children.
Since her standard of living will plummet should she leave her abuser, extraneous debt may force her into personal bankruptcy. If she needs to have work done on her car, or if she and her children need medical care such as replacement of contact lenses and eyeglasses, standard checkups, or dental work, she should take care of it as quickly as possible. First and foremost, she must eliminate or greatly reduce her credit debt. She should also seek to increase the limits on her credit cards for emergencies.
If she does not have a credit history, she should establish one. She should never, ever use a credit card that is in her partner's name because she may be held responsible for half of that debt, even if she used the card only once. If she and her partner have joint credit accounts, she should remove her name and open a separate account in her name only. This will prevent her from being held responsible for future debts he may incur. If she has used that card in the past, she may be responsible for at least half of the debt should she and the abuser end up in court. Should he file for bankruptcy once a divorce is underway, the creditors will seek her out to pay the outstanding balance if she had cosigned. That's a reality she must be prepared to face.
One way women have been disadvantaged in court is to hold them responsible for half or more of a debt acquired by the partner through his excessive use of credit. This is common in cases of alcohol and drug abuse or gambling addictions in which monstrously high amounts of cash advances are acquired through the use of one or more credit cards.
In marriage, a woman has not only a right but a responsibility to be aware of all account balances held by herself and her husband. She should also call the IRS and request copies of past tax returns if she neglected to keep copies herself. She needs to know the value of all assets and investments such as automobiles, collectibles, money market funds, treasury notes, pensions, 401K's, and stock options acquired during the marriage.
If necessary, she may hire a private investigator or an asset search firm to determine if her husband has hidden assets from her since a percentage of the investment legally belongs to her, depending on property laws in her state. She should be knowledgeable of the values of all insurances, including life and auto. She needs to have on paper the amount of equity in the marital home, as well as any additional mortgages acquired.
One particularly nasty wake-up call for many divorcing women is learning that the marital home they had considered a financial asset has been deemed worthless by the existence of several home equity loans acquired without their knowledge by their partners. These loans are often acquired in order to pay off credit debt.
If she doesn't have a checking and savings account in her name only, she should get one even if she has no plans to divorce. She has a right to control her own finances. She needs to save a minimum $5,000 in order to pay the retainer for a lawyer should it come to that. If the divorce involves a contested custody case, the final payment may cost in the neighborhood of six figures because one form of continue abuse is his abuse of the legal system -- he will continue to force her into court on one charge after another until she is financially and emotionally exhausted. He does this as a means of punishing her for leaving him, as a means of maintaining control, and as a means of acquiring full custody of the children and/or extreme reduction or elimination of child support and alimony. If she actually does leave, she should withdraw her half before her husband cleans out and cancels all the accounts. She may qualify for reduced fee or pro-bono representation. Representation by legal council in contested custody cases is crucial.
If she is being physically, psychologically, emotionally, financially or sexually abused, she should contact her local domestic violence and/or sexual assault center. If addictions are involved, Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-anon, Narcotics-Anonymous and Co-dependents Anonymous may be located in the Yellow Pages. All of these resources are available at low cost or free to the public. It is important that an abused woman not isolate herself, which is exactly what the abuser wants because isolation enables him to maintain control over her. She needs to talk about the abuse. She may be able to obtain single or group therapy at a reduced cost (or for free) through a domestic violence shelter or through the county mental health system. The best thing a friend or family member can do for an abused woman is to listen. Do not tell her what she should do. Do not tell her that should leave because she may not be ready to leave. In time, most abused women do leave their abusers. But they cannot leave until they are ready to do so. Give her emotional support. Let her know that your home is available to her should she need it. Knowing that she does have a way out when the time is right is a wonderful stabilizer to a woman who has absolutely no stability in her life whatsoever. When she is ready to act, she will act.
She must educate herself. It is vitally important that an abused woman know her rights regarding family law. The law libraries in each state's capital are open to the public. The library staff will refer her to the texts she needs. Several family law reviews and magazines are available in each state, either in the public or courthouse libraries. The Internet provides an amazing wealth of information and assistance for women who are in abusive relationships and for women who are preparing to leave abusers. She should educate herself -- read, read, read!! If she has the resolve to do so, she may want to visit the misogynistic men's and father's rights sites (not all men's and father's-related sites are misogynistic, but too many of them are on the Internet) in order to get a grasp of exactly how these men and their subsequent wives and girlfriends educate each other regarding how to completely ruin the first wife. However, if a woman determines her abuser is involved with one or more of these groups, she should take a look at their material in order to understand exactly what she is up against. It won't be a pleasant experience, but it will most definitely be worthwhile. As Sun Tsu aptly wrote, "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."
A Court Watch may be available for women who fear misrepresentation in the courtroom. Court Watches consist of groups of men and women, dressed in business suits, who sit quietly in the back of the courtroom and take notes. The purpose is to let the court personnel and others present know that they are being watched, and that they will be held accountable for their behavior and decisions. The presence of a large and highly visible group of people is very effective. It also provides a source of support and empowerment for the woman who requests it. If there is no Court Watch in her area, she may be able to gain assistance from women's law centers and other women's groups in order to create one. Law students need to spend time in court observing cases as part of their education, so a Court Watch program may be an ideal situation for all involved.
Stop Domestic Violence: An Action Plan For Saving Lives
by Lou Brown, Francois Dubau, and Merritt McKeon, J.D.
(St. Martin's Griffin, 1997)
Healing Your Life: Recovery from Domestic Violence
by Candace Hennekens
(Pro Writing Services and Press 1991)
When "I Love You" Turns Violent
by Scott A. Johnson
(New Horizon Press, 1993)
When Love Goes Wrong: What to do When You Can't Do Anything Right
by Ann Jones and Susan Schechter
(Harper Perennial 1992)
Next Time She'll Be Dead: Battering and How To Stop It
by Ann Jones
(Beacon Press 1994)
Every Eighteen Seconds: A Journey Through Domestic Violence
by Nancy Kilgore
(Volcano Press 1992)
Dating Violence: Young Women in Danger
by Barrie Levy
(Seal Press 1991)
Battered Wives, Revised, Updated
by Del Martin
(Volcano Press 1976, 1981)
Getting Free: You Can End Abuse and Take Back Your Life
by Ginny NiCarthy
(Seal Press 1986)
The Ones Who Got Away: Women Who Left Abusive Partners
by Ginny NiCarthy
(Seal Press 1987)
You Can Be Free: An Easy-To-Read Handbook for Abused Women
by Ginny NiCarthy and Sue Davidson
(Seal Press 1989)
Domestic Tyranny: The Making of American Social Policy Against Family
Violence from Colonial Times to the Present
by Elizabeth Pleck
(Oxford University Press 1987)
The Art of War
by Sun Tsu (Edited and with a foreward by James Clavell, author of Noble House)
(Delacorte Press 1983 - originally published in China two and a half thousand years ago.)
The Battered Woman
by Lenore Walker
(Harper and Row 1979)
The Battered Woman Syndrome