Confessions of Inverted Narcissists - Part 1 of 3

Uploaded 8/9/2011, approx. 9 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

Over the years, I have corresponded with many men and women who presented themselves as inverted narcissists.

To remind you, inverted narcissists or covert narcissists or narcissist codependents is a codependent who depends exclusively on narcissism. So pay attention.

If you are living with a narcissist, if you have a relationship with one, you are married to one, you are working with one, it does not mean that you are an inverted narcissist.

To qualify as an inverted narcissist, you must crave to be in a relationship with a narcissist regardless of any abuse inflicted on you by him or her. You must actively seek relationships with narcissists and only with narcissists, no matter what your bitter and traumatic past experiences have been. You must feel empty and unhappy in relationships with any other kind of person, non-narcissist.

Only then, and if you satisfy the other diagnostic criteria of dependent personality disorder, can you safely be labeled as inverted narcissist.

So here's something a woman has written to me about her upbringing and how it brought about what she believes to be her inverted narcissist.

In the religious culture I grew up in, women are so suppressed, their roles are so carefully restricted. They are the representations in the flesh of all that is sinful, degrading, all that is wrong with the world. These are the negative gender cultural images that were force fed to us. This is the negative otherness of women as defined by men.

And it was fed to me. I was so shy, withdrawn, unable to really relate to people at all, from as early as I can remember.

Another woman writes, I grew up in the shadow of my father who adored me, put me on a pedestal and told me I could do or be anything I wanted because I was incredibly bright. But it ate me alive. I was his property and an extension of him.

I also grew up with the mounting hatred of my narcissist brother who got none of this attention from our father and got no attention from our mother either. My function was to make my father look wonderful in the eyes of all outsiders. This wonderful parent with a genius wunderkind as his last child, the only child of six that he was physically present to raise from the get go.

The overvaluation combined with being objectively ignored or raged by him when I stepped out of line even tiniest bit, these were enough to warp my personality.

How do narcissists react to competition?

Inverted narcissist. How do they react to competition and pathological envy?

A man, an inverted narcissist, describes his relationship with a female narcissist. Quite a rare combination.

He says, I have a dynamic that comes up with every single person I get close to where I feel extremely competitive toward and envious of the other person.

But I don't act competitive because at the very outset I see myself as the loser in the competition. I would never dream of trying to beat the other person because I know deep in my heart that they would win and I would be utterly humiliated.

There are fewer things on earth that feel worse to me than losing a contest and having the other person gloat over me, especially if they know how much I cared about not losing.

This is one thing that I actually feel violent about. I guess I tend to project the grandiosity part of the narcissistic personality disorder package onto the other person rather than on a false self of my own.

So most of the time I'm stuck in a state of depresentment and envy toward her. To me, she's always far more intelligent, likable, popular, talented, self-confident, emotionally developed, morally good and attractive than I am. And I really hate her for that. I feel humiliated by it.

So it's incredibly hard for me to feel happy for this person when she has a success because I'm overcome with humiliation about myself.

This has ruined many a close relationship.

I tend to get this way about one person at a time, usually the person who is playing the role of my better half, best friends, others, partners.

It's not like I'm unable to be happy for anyone ever or that I envy every person I meet.

For instance, I don't get obsessed with how rich or beautiful movie stars are or anything like that. It only gets projected onto this partner person, the person I'm depending on most in terms of supplies, attention, reassurance, security, bending up my self-esteem and so on.

The really destructive thing that happens, continues this man, this inverted narcissist, he says, the really destructive thing is that I see her grandiose traits as giving her the power to have anything and anyone she wants.

So I feel a kind of basic insecurity because why should she stay with a loser like me? She obviously is so out of my league.

So really, what I'm envious of is the power that all that talent, social mobility, beauty, etc. gives her to have choices.

For instance, the choice to stay with me or to leave me. Whereas I am utterly dependent on her.

It's this emotional inequality that I find so humiliating.

A woman writes, I agree with the inverted narcissist designation. Sometimes I've called myself a closet narcissist. That is, I've internalized the value system of grandiosity, but have not applied the grandiose identity to myself.

I believe I should be these grandiose things, but at the same time, I know that I'm not and I'm miserable about it.

So people don't think of me as having an inflated ego and indeed I don't have one.

But scratch the surface and you will find all these inflated expectations.

I mean to say that perhaps the parents suppressed every manifestation of grandiosity in me. It's very common in early childhood.

Maybe they have suppressed my narcissism.

So the defense mechanism that narcissism was inverted and internalized in this unusual form.

A woman inverted narcissist suggests maybe there aren't two discrete states.

Narcissistic personality disorder versus regular low self-esteem. Maybe it's more of a continuum. Maybe it's just the degree and depth of the problem that distinguishes one from other.

My therapist describes narcissistic personality disorder as the inability to love oneself. As she defines it, the narcissistic wound is a deep wounding of the sense of self, the image of oneself.

That doesn't mean that other disorders or for that matter other life stressors can't also cause a low self-esteem.

But I think narcissistic personality disorder is actually low self-esteem. That's what the disorder is really about.

An image of yourself that is profoundly negative. The inability to attain a normal and healthy self-image concludes this inverted narcissist woman.

A woman wrote to me to describe a harrowing childhood which brought about what she believes to be a kind of codependence or narcissism.

She says, yes, I am a survivor of child abuse.

But remember that not all abuse is a lie. There are different kinds of abuse. There are different effects.

My XXX style of abuse had to do with trying to annihilate me as a separate person. It also had to do with the need to put all his negative self-image onto me to see in me what he hated in himself.

So I got to play the role of the loser that he secretly feared that he was. I was flipped back and forth in those roles.

Sometimes I'd be a source of narcissistic supply for him. At other times I was the receptacle of all his pain and rage. Sometimes my successes were used to reflect back on him, to show off to the rest of the family. At other times my successes were threatening to my father, who suddenly feared that I was superior to him and had to be squelched.

I experience emotions that most people I know don't feel. Maybe they do feel them but to far less extreme intensity. For example, the envy and comparison competition I feel towards others is really intense. I experience emotions that most people don't feel to that extent.

I guess most of us have experienced rivalry, jealousy being compared to others. Most of us have felt envy at another success. Yet most people I know seem able to overcome these feelings to some extent, to be able to function normally.

In a competition, for example, they may be driven to do their best so they can win. But for me the fear of losing and being humiliated is so intense that I avoid competition completely. I'm terrified of showing people that I care about doing well because it's so shaming for me if I lose.

So I underachieve and I pretend that I don't care. Most people I know may envy another person's good luck of success but it doesn't prevent them from also being happy for them and supporting them.

But for me when I'm in a competitive dynamic with someone I can't hear about any of their successes or compliments they've received etc. I don't even like to see the person doing good things like bringing Thanksgiving leftovers to the sick old guy next door.

Because those things make me feel in fear for not thinking of doing that myself and not having anyone in my life that I do it for. It's just so incredibly painful for me to see evidence of the other person's good qualities because it immediately brings up my feeling of inferiority.

I can't even stand to date someone who looks really good because I'm jealous of their good looks. So this deep and obsessive envy has destroyed my joy in other people. All the things about other people that I love and take pleasure in is a double edged sword because I also hate them for having these good qualities, while presumably I don't.

I don't know. Do you think this is a garden variety, low self-esteem? She asked me. I know plenty of people who suffer from lack of confidence, from timidity, social awkwardness, hatred of their body, feeling unlovable etc. But they don't have this kind of hostile, corrosive resentment of another person for being all the wonderful things that they can't be or aren't allowed to be etc.

One thing I hate is when people are judgmental of me about how I feel as though I can help it. It's like you shouldn't be so selfish, you should feel happy for her that she's successful etc. They don't understand that I would love to feel those things but I can't. I can't stop the incredible pain that explodes in me when these feelings get triggered and I often can't even hide the feeling. It's just so overwhelming, I feel so damaged sometimes.

There's more but that's the crux of it for me anyway.

She concluded her letter. Be sure to watch the next segment. To remind you there are three videos which include correspondence addressed to me written by inverted narcissists. Most of them women, some of them men.

This is the end of part one, onto part two.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like the following:

Inverted Narcissist (Narcissist Codependent)

Inverted narcissists are a type of codependent who exclusively depend on a narcissist. They are self-effacing, sensitive, emotionally fragile, and sometimes socially phobic. They derive all their self-esteem and sense of self-worth from the outside and are pathologically envious. Inverted narcissists are narcissists, and it is possible to compose a set of criteria for them by translating the criteria available in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for the classical narcissist.

Narcissists and Codependents: Same Problems, Different Solutions

Codependence and narcissism are pathological reactions to childhood abuse and trauma. The codependent has a realistic assessment of herself but a fantastic view of others, while the narcissist has a fantastic view of himself but a penetrating view of others. The codependent seeks validation to restore a sense of reality, while the narcissist seeks narcissistic supply to enhance his grandiosity. Inverted narcissists are a subtype of covert narcissists who team up with classic narcissists to obtain vicarious supply. The overwhelming majority of narcissists have codependent traits and are dependent on other people for their sense of self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-image.

So, Is My Narcissist a Covert Narcissist? Nonsense vs. Scholarship

Covert narcissists are individuals who suffer from an in-depth sense of inferiority, have a marked propensity towards feeling ashamed, and are shy and fragile. They are unable to genuinely depend on others or trust them, suffer from chronic envy of others, and have a lack of regard for generational boundaries. Covert narcissists are not goal-orientated, have shallow vocational commitment, and are forgetful of details, especially names. Inverted narcissists are a subspecies of covert narcissism and are self-centered, sensitive, vulnerable, and defensive, sometimes hostile and paranoid.

Confessions of Codependent Inverted Narcissists - Part 3 of 3

Inverted narcissists stick to narcissists because it is their psychological imprint and comfort zone. They feel more free and independent with a narcissist than without one. Inverted narcissism is not a form of full-fledged narcissism, but it shares some underlying patterns. Narcissism is a systemic pattern of responses that is so all-pervasive and so all-encompassing that it amounts to a personality disorder. It is important for inverted narcissists to become emotionally and financially independent.

Narcissist's Pathological Space: His Kingdom

The pathological narcissistic space is a geographical area, group of people, or an abstract field of knowledge in which the narcissistic pathology reaches its full expression and effectiveness. It is a territorially expanded false self that is achieved via sources of narcissistic supply. The existence of the pathological narcissistic space is independent of the existence of sources of narcissistic supply. The pathological narcissistic space constantly consumes and drains narcissistic supply, and it generates negative narcissistic accumulation.

Inner Voices, Narcissism, and Codependence

Narcissists and codependents possess introgets, which are inner voices that are mostly negative and sadistic. These voices enhance the narcissist's underlying ego destiny, rendering them unhappy with who they are and discontent with the way they act. The narcissist's sense of self-worth is affected by their sadistic and uncompromising superego, which affects their sense of self-worth and worthiness, self-knowledge, and self-confidence. The narcissist's whole life is an attempt to satisfy the demands of their inner tribunal and to prove their judgment wrong, which is at the root of their unresolved and unresolvable conflicts.

Idealized, Devalued, Dumped

Narcissists have a cycle of overvaluation and devaluation, which is more prevalent in borderline personality disorder than in narcissistic personality disorder. The cycle reflects the need to be protected against the whims, needs, and choices of other people, shielded from the hurt that they can inflict on the narcissist. The overvaluation and devaluation mechanism is the most efficient one available to the narcissist, as the narcissist's personality is precariously balanced and requires inordinate amounts of energy to maintain. The narcissist's energies are all focused and dedicated to the task concentrated upon the source of supply he had identified.

Narcissist: Destructive Envy and Romantic Jealousy

Envy is a compounded emotion brought on by the realization of some lack or deficiency in oneself. Narcissists cope with their pathological envy by either subsuming the object of envy via imitation or destroying it. The most dangerous species of narcissists are those who derive contentment from their own humiliation and end up driving the objects of their own devotion and accumulation to destruction and decrepititude. Romantic jealousy is a narcissistic defense that reflects the narcissistic traits and behaviors of possessiveness, objectification, and treating the spouse as an extension of oneself.

When the Narcissist's Parents Die

The death of a narcissist's parents can be a complicated experience. The narcissist has a mixed reaction to their passing, feeling both elation and grief. The parents are often the source of the narcissist's trauma and continue to haunt them long after they die. The death of the parents also represents a loss of a reliable source of narcissistic supply, which can lead to severe depression. Additionally, the narcissist's unfinished business with their parents can lead to unresolved conflicts and pressure that deforms their personality.

External Regulation: Inverted Narcissist not Codependent or Borderline (with Daria Żukowska)

Inverted narcissism is a form of covert narcissism where the individual derives their narcissistic supply from an overt narcissist. They have a symbiotic relationship with the overt narcissist, as they receive attention and supply from them, even if it's in the form of abuse. Inverted narcissists are different from echoists, as they focus on self-annihilation and becoming their source of supply, while echoists are more focused on their own internal dynamics. Inverted narcissists are unlikely to become classic narcissists, as they are a subtype of covert narcissism and are more focused on obtaining supply in any form.

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