My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.
Over the years, I have corresponded with hundreds of inverted narcissists and thousands of codependents.
Here is a selection from these correspondents. This is part three out of three.
Be sure to watch the previous two.
Why do inverted narcissists stick to narcissists?
Why this selection mechanism?
Well, one inverted narcissist tried to enlighten me. She said, I am built this way. I may have overstated it by saying that I have no choice, because in fact, I do.
The choice is living in an emotionally deadened monochrome world where I can reasonably interact with normal people, or I can choose to be with a narcissist, in which case my world is technicolor, emotionally satisfied, alive and wondrous.
Yes, I admit, it can also be turbulent and a real roller coaster ride for the unprepared, not to mention incredibly damaging for people who are not inverted narcissists and who fall into relationships with narcissists.
But as I have walked on both sides of the street, and because I have developed coping mechanisms that protect me really quite well, I can reasonably safely engage in a primary intimate relationship with a narcissist without getting hurt by it.
The real why of it all is that I learned as a young child that being eaten alive by a narcissist parent, to the point where your existence is but an extension of his own, was how all relationships ought to work.
It's a psychological imprint. It's my love map, my comfort zone. It is what feels right to me intrinsically, a pattern of living.
I don't know how else to describe it, so you and others will understand how very natural and normal this is to me.
It is not a torturous existence that most of the survivors of narcissism describe.
My experiences with narcissists to me are normal for me, comfortable like an old pair of slippers that fit perfectly.
I don't expect many people to attempt to do this, to make themselves into this kind of person. I don't think anyone could, even if they try.
It is my need to be engulfed and merged that drives me to these relationships.
When I get those needs met, I feel more normal, better about myself.
I am the outer extension of the narcissist. In many ways, I am a vanguard, a public two-way warning system, fiercely defending my narcissist from power and fiercely loyal to him, catering to his every need and all this in order to protect his fragile existence.
These are the dynamics of my particular version of engulfment.
I don't need anyone to take care of me. I need only to be needed in this very particular way by a narcissist who inevitably possesses the ability to engulf in a way that normal, fully realized adults cannot.
So it is somewhat paradoxical. I feel more free and more independent with a narcissist than without one.
I achieve more in my life when I am in this form of relationship. I try harder, I work harder, I am more creative, I think better for myself, I excel in most every aspect of my life.
Not all inverted narcissists feel this way.
Here is what another woman had to say.
I go ahead and cater to him and pretend that his words don't hurt. Later, I engage in an internal fight with myself for being so damn submissive.
It is a constant battle and I can't seem to decide which voice in my head I should listen to. I feel like a fool. Yet I would rather be a fool with him than a lonely well-rounded woman without him.
I have often said that the only way that we can stay together is because we feed off each other. I give him everything he needs and he takes it. Seeing him happy and pleased is what gives me pleasure.
I feel very successful then.
How common is inverted narcissism? Is it yet another form of full-fledged narcissists?
A woman wrote to me, I do think it's uncommon for girls to develop these patterns as they are usually trained to be self-effacing. I certainly was.
However, I have a lot of the very same underlying patterns the full-blown, obnoxiously-gotistical narcissists have.
But I am not a-gotistical because I didn't develop the pattern of inflated ego and grandiosity.
All the rest of it is there. I have a fragile ego, a lack of center or self. I am super sensitive to criticism and rejections. I have pathological obsessive envy. I have comparisons and competitive attitudes towards others and a belief that everyone in the world is either superior or inferior to me and so on. Sometimes I kind of wish I had developed the inflated ego of a complete narcissist because then I would at least be able to hide from all the pain that I feel.
But at the same time, I am glad that I didn't because those people have a much lower chance of recovery.
How can they recover if they don't acknowledge anything is wrong? Whereas it's pretty clear to me that I have problems and I have spent my life working on these problems and try to change myself and to heal.
So what does it look like, this battlefield of relationships between narcissists and inverted narcissists?
Here's an insider view from a woman who wrote to me. She says, you have asked, can a narcissist and a non-narcissist ever maintain a long-lasting marriage?
Well, it would seem that a non-narcissist would have too much self-esteem to lend himself to a lifetime of catering and pandering to the narcissist's unending need for unearned adoration and glory.
I, as a non-narcissist, got tired of these people and their unremitting attempts to drain my psyche within a relatively short period of time. And so I abandoned them as soon as I realized what I was dealing with to preserve my own sanity.
Other women feel differently.
It depends on the non-narcissist, says one of them.
Narcissism is rigid. It's a systemic pattern of responses that is so all-pervasive and so all-encompassing that it amounts to a personality disorder.
If the non-narcissist is codependent, for instance, then the narcissist is a perfect match for him or her and the union will last.
A woman describes the daily mechanics of living with a narcissist.
You have to pimp for the narcissist intellectually and sexually. If your narcissist is somatic, you are much better off lining up the sex partners than leaving him to do it.
Intellectual pimping is more varied. You can think of wonderful things and then subtly string out the idea in the most delicate of packages and watch how the narcissist cogitate their way to their brilliant discovery while still basking the glow of their perfection and success.
The point of this entire exercise is to assure your supply, which is the narcissist himself. It is not to punish yourself by giving away a great idea or to abase yourself because, of course, you're not worthy of having such a great idea on your own.
But who knows? It may seem that way to the inverted narcissist.
It really depends on how self-aware the inverted is.
The only rejection you need to hear is the possibility of losing the narcissist.
And if one is doing everything else right, this is very unlikely to happen.
So by emotionally independent, I'm talking about being self-assured, doing your own thing, having a life, feeling strong and good about yourself, getting emotional sustenance from other people. I mean, let's face it. A drug is a drug. It's a habit. Habits are just and what they are not, are the be and all of love. Habits are part of commitment and syringe, symmetrical, balanced emotional perfection, that is the ideal of the romanticized, love for a lifetime, all-American relationship.
An inverted narcissist confesses, I am terribly turned on by narcissists. The most exciting moments of my life in every venue have been with narcissists.
It is as if living and loving with normal people is a great thing by comparison, not fueled by sufficient adrenaline.
I feel like a junkie now that I no longer permit myself the giddy pleasure of the rush I used to know when I was deeply and hopelessly involved with a narcissist. I'm like a lotus eater and I always feel guilty about this and also sorry that I ever succumbed that first time to my first narcissist lover.
Another woman agrees, I'm exactly this way and I feel exactly as you do, that the world is a CPM motion picture.
But when I'm intimately involved with a narcissist, it breaks out into three-dimensional technicolor and I can see and feel in ways that are not available to me otherwise.
In my case, I developed this inverted narcissism as a result of being the favorite of my father who so completely absorbed me into his personality that I was not able to develop a sense of separation.
So I'm stuck in his personality, in this matrix of needing to be engulfed, adored by and completely taken over by a narcissist in my life. In turn, I worship, defend, regulate and procure a narcissistic supply for my narcissist.
It is like the mould and the moulded.
Another woman writes, in my case, I realized that while I can't stop loving my current narcissist, it isn't necessary for me to avoid as long as I can understand.
In my way of looking at it, he is deserving of love and since I can give in love without hurting me, then as long as he needs it, he shall have it.
My personal theory is that dogmatic religious culture is a retarding influence on the growth and maturation of those heavily involved.
More and more autonomy and enhanced personal responsibility seems to be blithely sacrificed to the group mind spirit.
It is as though the church members become one personality and that personality is narcissistic and the individual just falls under the weight of that kind of group pressure, particularly if you're a child.
If I displayed behavior that made my XXX look good to others, I was insipidly overvalued. When I dared to be something other than who she wanted me to be, the sarcastic criticism and total devaluation was unbelievable.
So I learned to be all things to all people.
I get a heavily high from surrendering my power to a narcissist in catering to them, in having them overvalue and need me, and it is the only time that I truly feel alive.
We have very little choice in all of this. We are as vacant and warped as a narcissist.
XXX was one to say, I don't have a personality disorder. I am a personality disorder.
He defines who we are and how we will respond. You will always and only have real feelings when you are with a narcissist. It is your love, man. It is the programming within your psyche.
Does it need to control your behavior? Not necessarily. Knowing what you are can at least give you the opportunity to forecast the effect of an action before you take it.
So loveless black and white may be the very healthiest thing for you for the foreseeable future.
I tend to think of these episodes with narcissist as being cyclical.
You will likely need to cut loose for a while when your child is older, but you will revert.
A woman writes, do not feel ashamed please. Should a physically handicapped person feel ashamed for their handicap? No, and neither should we. The trouble with us is that we are fooled into thinking that these relationships are guilty pleasures. They feel so very good for a time, but they are more akin to addiction satisfaction than being the right match or an appropriate relationship.
I am still very conflicted myself about it. I wrote a few months ago that it was like having a caged, very dangerous animal inside of me. When I get near narcissists, the animal smells its own kind and it wants out.
I very carefully micromanage my life. This means that I daily do fairly regular reality checks, and I keep a very tight reign of myself and my behaviors. I am also obsessive compulsive.
Another woman writes, I feel as though I am constantly on an emotional rollercoaster. I may wake up in a good mood, but if my narcissist partner does obsess something which is dreadful to me, my mood changes immediately.
I now feel sad, empty, afraid. All I want to do at this point is anything that will make him say something nice to me. Once he does, I am back on top of the world.
This pattern of mood changes, or whatever you want to call them, can take place several times a day, each and every day. I have gotten to the point where I am not sure that I can trust myself to feel any one way, because I know that I have no control over myself.
He has the control, and it is scary, yet I have sort of come to depend on him determining how I am going to feel.
When I was first involved with my cerebral narcissist, concluded another inverted narcissist, I was like this. But after a while I just learned to become more emotionally distant. The ups and downs were just too much.
And I found emotional gratification with other people, mostly girlfriends, and one or two male friends.
I make a point of saying that the invert must be or become emotionally and financially independent, and if you don't want to do this, he will eat you up. And when he has finished with you and you are nothing but a husk, you will be expelled from his life in one big vomit.
It is really important for you to start to take responsibility for your own emotional wellness, says this woman, without regard to how he treats you.
Remember that the narcissist has the emotional maturity of a two-year-old. Don't expect much in the way of emotional depth or support in your relationship. He simply is not capable of anything that sophisticated.
This concludes excerpts from my correspondence with inverted narcissists. Be sure to watch all three parts and to read the chapter Inverted Narcissist in my book Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited or online on my website.