My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
How does a typical inverted narcissist react to compliments?
A woman inverted narcissist wrote to me, I love getting compliments and rewards and do not react negatively to them.
In some moods, when my self-hate has gotten triggered, I can sometimes get to places where I am inconsolable, because I get stuck in bitterness and self-pity, so I doubt the sincerity or the reliability of the good thing that someone is saying to me, to try to cheer me up or whatever.
But if I am in a reasonable mood, that someone offers me something good, I am all too happy to accept it. I don't have a stake in staying miserable.
Some women contest the very diagnosis of inverted narcissist, the very condition. A woman wrote, I do agree that it's atypical on your inverted narcissism, and not a milder thing.
But how I see it is that inverted narcissism is partial. The part that's there is just as destructive as it is in the typical narcissist.
But there are parts missing from the total, the full-blown disorder. And I see that as healthy, actually. I see it as parts of myself that were not affected by the pathology, that are still intact.
In my case, I did not develop the over-winning ego part of the disorder.
So in a sense, what you have with me is the naked pathology, with no covering, no suave-ness, no charm, no charisma, no confidence, no persuasiveness, but also no excuses, no lies, no justifications for my feelings, just the ugly, safe, self-hatred for all to see.
The self-hate part is just as bad as it is with a full-blown narcissist.
So again, inverted narcissism is not a milder form of narcissism. It's just a pure form.
But because I don't have the denial part of the disorder, I have a lot more insight, continues this woman.
I have a lot more motivation to do something about my problems. That is to self-refer to therapy, for instance.
And therefore, I think a lot more hope of getting better than people whose defense involves totally denying that they even have a problem.
Another woman wrote to me, when my full-blown pathological envy would get triggered, he would respond by putting down the person he was envious of, or by putting down the accomplishment itself, or whatever good stuff the other person had. He would trivialize it, or outright contradict it, or find some way to convince the other person, often me, that the thing they are feeling good about isn't real, or isn't worthwhile, or is somehow bad, etc.
He could do this because the inflated ego defense was fully formed and operating with him.
When my pathological envy gets triggered, I would be bluntly honest about it. I'll say something self-picking, such as, you always get the good stuff and I get nothing. You are so much better than I. People like you better. People like you better. You have good social skills. I'm a jerk, and so on. Or I might even get hostile and sarcastic. I might say, well, it must be nice to have so many people worshipping you, isn't it? I don't try to convince myself that the other person's success isn't real, or isn't worthwhile.
Instead, I'm totally flooded with the pain of feeling utterly inferior and worthless, and there's no way for me to convince myself or anyone else otherwise.
I'm not saying that the things I say are pleasant to hear, and it is still manipulative of me to say them, because the other person's attention is drawn away from their joy and unto my pain and hostility.
And instead of doubting their success's worth of reality, they feel guilty about it, or about talking about it, because it hurts me so much.
So, from the other person's point of view, maybe it's not any easier to live with a partial narcissist than with a full-blown one in that their joys and successes lead to pain in both cases. It's certainly not easier for me being flooded with rage and pain instead of being able to hide behind the delusion of grandeur.
But from my therapist's point of view, I'm much better off than a full-blown narcissist, because I know I'm unhappy. It's in my face all the time, so I'm motivated to work on it and to change it.
And time has borne her words out. Over the past several years that I've worked on this issue, I've changed a great deal in how I deal with it.
Now, when the envy gets triggered, I don't feel so entwined with the other person. I recognize that it's my own pain getting triggered, not something they are doing to me. And so I can acknowledge the pain in a more responsible way, taking ownership of it by saying the jealousy feelings are getting triggered again, and I'm feeling worthless and inferior.
Can you reassure me that I'm not? And that's a lot better than making some snide, hostile, self-pitying comment that puts the other person on the defensive or makes them feel guilty.
This woman continues to write, I do prefer the term partial rather than inverted. So partial narcissist not inverted narcissist, because that's what it feels like to me. It's like a building that's partially built, the house of narcissism, uncompleted.
For me, the structure is there, but not the outside. So you can see inside the skeleton to all the junk that's inside, but there's no facade. It's the same junk that's inside a full-blown narcissist, but their building is completed, so you cannot see inside. Their building is a fortress and it's almost impossible to bring it down.
My defenses are not as strong as a full-blown narcissist, which makes my life more difficult in some ways because I really feel my pain. But it also means that the house can be brought down more easily and the junk inside cleaned out.
How do inverted narcissists think about the past and the world in general?
An inverted narcissist female grow to me. I don't usually get rageful about the past. I feel sort of emotionally cut off from the past, actually. I remember events very clearly, but usually can't remember the feelings attached to them.
When I do remember the feelings, my reaction is usually one of sadness and sometimes of relief that I can get back in touch with my past, but not rage. All my rage seems to get displaced on the current people in my life.
Another inverted narcissist says, when I see someone being really socially awkward and geeky, passive-aggressive, indirect and victim-like, he does trigger anger in me because I identify with that person and I don't want to. I try to put my negative feelings onto them to see that person as the jerk, not me. That's what a narcissist does, after all.
But for me, it doesn't completely work because I know consciously what I'm trying to do and ultimately I'm not kidding anyone, least of all myself.
Two inverted narcissists experience self-pity and depression.
Here's one woman's take.
More self-pity and depression here, not so much rage.
One of the things that triggers my rage more than anything else is the inability to control another person, the inability to dominate them and force my reality on them. I feel impotent, humiliated, forced back on my empty self.
Part of what I'm feeling here is envy. That person who can't be controlled clearly has a self and I don't and I just hate them for it.
But it's also a power struggle.
I want to get narcissistic supply by being in control and on top and having the other person become submissive and complied.
Do inverted narcissists regret or admit mistakes as opposed to classic narcissists?
Here's what one inverted narcissist woman writes.
I regret my behavior horribly and I do admit my feelings.
I'm also able in the aftermath to have empathy for the feelings of the person I've hurt.
And I'm horribly sad about it and ashamed of myself.
It's as though I've been possessed by a demon, acted out all this abusive, horrible stuff.
And then after the departure of the demon, I'm back in my right mind and it's like, what have I done?
I don't mean that I'm not responsible for what I did.
In other words, the demon made me do it.
But when I'm triggered, I have no empathy.
I can only see my projection onto that person as a huge threat to me, someone who must be demolished.
But when my head clears, I see that person's pain.
He's hurt, he's fear.
And I feel terrible.
I want to make it up to them.
And that feeling is totally sincere.
It's not an act.
I'm genuinely sorry for the pain, of course, the other person.
Is narcissistic rage the exact equivalent of the rage felt by the inverted narcissist?
Here's what one woman has to say.
I wouldn't say that my rage comes from repressed self contempt. Mine is not repressed.
I'm totally aware of my self contempt. And it's not missing atonement either, since I do atone.
The rage comes from feeling humiliated, from feeling that the other person has somehow statistically and gleefully made me feel inferior, that they are getting off on being superior, that they are mocking me and ridiculing me, that they have scorn and contempt for me and find it all very amusing, that whether real or imagined, I know it's usually imagined, that is what causes my rage.
Stay with me for the next and last segment of correspondence with inverted narcissists.
This is the end of part two.
Move on to part three.