Narcissism Shapeshifting Camouflage: Conceals Other Disorders (University Lecture)

Uploaded 1/18/2021, approx. 49 minute read

Imagine this typical exchange with a narcissist. The narcissist says, by cheating on me with other men, you are rejecting me as a man, and by abandoning and betraying me, you are rejecting me also as a person.

And the intimate partner answers, you are never there, you are absent, you are never there either as a man or as a person. If I'm cheating on anyone, I'm cheating on your absence as a man. And if I'm abandoning anyone, I'm abandoning your absence, not you.

To which the narcissist answers, but I am my absence. You're not getting it. This absence is me.

Otto Kahnberg had written a brilliant article about the time dimension, the perception of time among narcissists. He espouses views which are strikingly similar to my views expressed in an article that I had written six years prior to that in 2001.

Both of us are saying, to cut a long story short, that the narcissist's inner absence, inner emptiness, because the narcissist is absent not only from your life, he is absent from his life. He is nowhere to be found even in his own life.

And Kahnberg points out correctly that this is the outcome of internal impoverishment. The narcissist is unable to maintain any type of object relations, let alone love.

And the narcissist, consequently, is focused 100% on maintaining the grandiose self. It's a maintenance chore. It doesn't lead to the formation of memories.

And in the absence of memories, there's identity diffusion. There's no identity. And of course, in the absence of identity, there's no life lived. And there's no life lived. There's a sense that time has flew by and that you have done nothing with it as a narcissist.

The narcissist constantly feels that life had passed him by, that he had wasted it, squandered it, that he should have much more time at his disposal. That's where his entitlement comes in.

But this is an interesting observation because it indicates that pathological life narcissism is a narrative. And it's a narrative intended to disguise discontinuities in memory and breaks in identity.

Now, Kahnberg and many others observe that such dissociation, such massive dissociation and splitting, they're very typical of post-traumatic conditions, especially PTSD, but of course also CPTSD.

So people who had been traumatized, they experience time very differently.

And the narcissist, as a grandiose self, and this grandiose self wants to live forever because it is godlike. The narcissist wants to freeze time to, in the language of Andrei Green, he wants to murder time.

Andrei Green has this very colorful vocabulary. His mother is dead. The mother is dead in his theory and time is murdered by the narcissist.

So post-traumatic people have this very convoluted irregular relationship with time and narcissist above them all.

So narcissism is a script. It's a movie. It's a theater intended to camouflage, intended to paper over discontinuities, lack of memory and lack of identity. But it has another role.

And that role is to glamorize dysfunction, to elevate dysfunction to the level of an ideology of superiority.

If I'm dysfunctional, means I'm superior to you. What you call dysfunction is actually the next stage in evolution.

Children with impaired and incompetent, disorganized personality, or with self-defeating, or honorary temperament, this kind of children shunt, ridiculed, ostracized, excommunicated, mocked, bullied. Other children don't like them. They're not liked. They're disliked actively. They're punished. They're tortured.

So this kind of children whose personality hasn't coalesced fully, whose self hasn't constellated in the language of Jung, children who are simply disagreeable, not pleasant to be around, this kind of children suffer and they suffer throughout their childhood and to compensate, to compensate for these painful experiences, these children sometimes recast their freakish idiosyncrasies, their nerdy uniqueness, their rejected offerings. They cast these not as misfortune, but as choices.

And so by casting everything that's wrong about them as choices, you know, I am the way I am because I choose to be the way I am, not because I'm defective, not because I'm well formed, not because I'm underdeveloped, but because that's how I choose to be my way or the highway.

And by doing this, they restore an internal locus of control.

They actually say this is a choice which I am making. And consequently it's a choice which I can unmake, which of course is not true. It's counterfactual.

And that's the first substantial, profound, fundamental confabulation underlying the fantasy that is narcissism.

And so for example, consider the schizoid, the schizoid or the autistic person.

They boast grandiosely about being self-sufficient, emotionally imperturbable, resilient, cool-minded, with razor sharp focus, and with an extreme IQ. They boast and brag about being socially selective. I don't just date anyone. I don't just befriend anyone.

And many of them even elevate their asexuality into a principle of life, into an ideology, as I said, into a form of wisdom, and definitely into something that sets them apart from the animalistic and bestial behavior of other people.

These deformities, these malfunctions, these dysfunctions become superhuman in the eyes of the compensating schizoid or the compensating autistic person.

And of course, such grandiosely is a hallmark of narcissism.

So in the case of the schizoid person or the autistic person, the narcissism is a veneer. It's an overlay. It's not the core issue. It's not the primary disorder.

Similarly, take the sadist, or actually don't take it, bad advice.

Consider the sadist. The sadist brags about his altruism, his rationality, his perspicacity, and his imperviousness to weakness and to pain. Whatever he's doing is because of tough love. He is just out to educate, to reform, to mold.

When he inflicts pain, it's because he's well-intentioned. It's an example of a narrative that elevates the sadist into sainthood.

So a lot of what we consider to be narcissism is actually camouflage. It's disguise. It's intended to hide a primary disorder, which many would consider even much worse than narcissism.

For example, the schizoid personality is on the verge of schizophrenia. And these people don't have a personality, in effect. They don't exist. They're utterly robotic.

The sadist, of course, derives pleasure and joy from inflicting pain on others. Arguably, it's even much worse than narcissism.

Dilute down to find that compensatory narcissism is merely the fantasy, aggrandizing a veneer, superimposed on other mental health disorders and on the harrowing lifelong costs of these mental health disorders. It's like splashing a coat of paint in order to disguise the dirt underneath.

And this is the topic of today's video, today's lecture.

We are going to discuss the disguises of narcissism, the way narcissism and narcissism engage in mimicry, the way they come flush themselves and appear to be another type of animal.

Literature assignment, before we proceed, I would like you to visit the website, Freudians. They have a library there with a wonderful collection of text by the leading psychoanalysts, many books, and you can download them as well. I also remind you to visit the library of the book section of the International Psychotherapy Institute, thousands of books, amazing library, including many very famous titles, then including the incomparable Handbook of Psychiatry.

I would like to assign to you a few articles to read, and I'm indebted here to Darlene LaPier. She is a therapist and she is the author of Codependency for Dummies, which comes greatly recommended. It's a good exploration of the construct of codependency and dependent personality disorder, and Darlene has a blog online which surveys and analyzes and summarizes in capsule form the latest research on narcissism and so on, comes highly recommended.

This reading assignment is borrowed from one of her blog posts and she had put together a great compilation.

So I would like to read the article, Fluctuations in Grandiose and Vulnerable Narcissistic States, a Momentary Perspective by Erich and Wright.

I would like to read Three Faces of Narcissism, published in Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 53.

The author was Hallcroft, Boer and Monroe, and then Clinical Correlates of Vulnerable and Grandiose Narcissism, Personality Perspective by Kaufmann, Weiss and Miller, again Journal of Personality Disorders, Volume 34.

Kreis and Herlach in 2018, The Narcissism Spectrum Model, which I'm going to discuss, A Synthetic View of Narcissistic Personality, published in Personality and Social Psychology Review.

Miller, Leinem and Hyatt, Hyatt and Campbell, of course, Controversies in Narcissism, Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, Volume 13.

I'm going to discuss this article.

Rodwald and Morff, 1998, On Self-Agrondisement and Anger, A Temporal Analysis of Narcissism and Effective Reactions to Success and Failure, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Volume 74.

Darlene Lancer, thank you very much for putting this reading list together.

Before we proceed to clarify one thing, there are all kinds of self-tied experts, one of the coaches and gurus, pretending to know what they're talking about when they discuss narcissism. They don't. Some of them tell you that there is no such thing as a covert or vulnerable or shy or fragile narcissist. I have a surprise for them. There is. Not only there is, it is mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Edition 5, published in 2013, page 767.

In the alternative model of narcissistic personality disorder, the DSM-5 finally acknowledges the construct of covert narcissist or vulnerable narcissist, a construct first proposed by Cooper and Akhtar in 1989. They most definitely exist. All the textbooks, including Lynne Sperry's textbook that I keep referring to, Millon, many others, they include chapters and so on about covert and vulnerable, fragile, shy narcissist. This construct is well-validated. It definitely exists.

So if you come across anyone who pretends to know what he's talking about, but presents himself as an expert or coach or narcissism and says that there is no such thing as covert narcissist, dump him. He has no idea what he's talking about. He or she has no idea what they're talking about.

Okay. Now let me try and see if I can enlarge this.

Someone asked me to discuss the differences between narcissistic style and narcissistic. Let me see if I can enlarge this.

Right. Okay. Let's see. And I'm going to read to you the section from Lynne Sperry's book about the differences between narcissistic style and narcissistic personality. So here it is.

Narcissistic personality style, although emotionally vulnerable to negative assessments and reactions of others, they can handle these gracefully.

Shruti in dealing with others, utilizing the strengths and advantages of others to achieve their own goals, can energetically sell themselves, their ideas and their projects tend to be able to be competitors who love getting to the top and enjoy staying there can visualize themselves as the best, most accomplished in their field. They believe in themselves, their abilities and their uniqueness, but do not demand special treatment or privilege, except accomplishments, praise and admiration, gracefully, and with self-possession possess a keen awareness of their thoughts and feelings and have some awareness of these in others. Expect others to treat them well at all times.

So this is the narcissistic personality style.

Now let's talk about the disorder.

Reacts to criticism with feelings of rage, stress, or humiliation, even if they are not expressed. Interpersonally exploitive, taking advantage of others to achieve his or her own goals and ends, grandiose sense of self-importance, believe their problems are unique and understood only by other special people, preoccupied by fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love, have a sense of entitlement and unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment, require constant attention and admiration, possess a lack of empathy, inability to recognize an experience how other people feel, preoccupied with feelings of envy.

So these are the differences between the style and the disorder.

And now I'm going to read to you a segment from Len Sperry's book, which I kept mentioning in my previous videos about treatment and diagnosis of DSM-5 personality disorders. And here is a segment.

Although DSM-5 only describes one type or presentation of the narcissistic personality disorder, research describes three types overt, covert, and malignant. And he relies on an article published in 2015 by Caligore, C-A-L-I-G-O-R, Levi, and Ehrmanz. All three types are highly self-absorbed and have little genuine regard for the needs and feelings of others.

Then he discusses the overt type.

I wanted to listen well because this is the foundation for the continuation of the video, where we're going to discuss narcissism as a disguise and a camouflage of other disorders.

So the overt type, this type presents as grandiose and thick-skinned and is the embodiment of the DSM-5 criteria.

These individuals are characterized by overt grandiosity, attention-seeking, entitlement, arrogance, and little observable anxiety. They can be socially charming despite being oblivious to the needs of others and are interpersonally exploitive. The problem is that they have a fragile sense of self that is predicated on maintaining a self-view that they are exceptional.

Because genuine engagement can result in the painful realization that others have attributes that they lack, these narcissistic individuals engage in superficial relationships. They seek out external feedback that supports these grandiose self-definition.

And now to the covert type.

This type, and this is not subacne, this is lense-perry. This type presents as vulnerable, fragile, and thin-skinned.

These individuals are characterized as inhibited, manifestly distressed, hypersensitive to the evaluations of others, while chronically envious and evaluating themselves in relation to others.

Interpersonally, they tend to be shy, outwardly self-effacing, and hypersensitive to slights, but are covertly or secretly grandiose and jealous.

Unlike the overt type, these tend to withdraw from social situations.

And finally, there's the malignant type.

This type is also referred to as malignant narcissist by Kernberg in 1984. These individuals are characterized by these individuals are characterized by the typical symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, as well as prominent antisocial behavior, paranoid features, and sadism towards others. They may engage in chronic lying, intimidation, and financial or interpersonal secondary gains, which maintain their malignant pattern.

Taking a more behavioral tack, Turkat, T-U-R-K-A-T in 1990, differentiates this disorder into three other types, the self-centered impulsive type, the ruthless impression management type, and the acceptance-oriented impression management type.

Of course, he considers the acceptance-oriented impression management type to have the best therapeutic prognosis. Nevertheless, he formulates each type as behavioral manifestations of an impulse control deficit that is learned in early childhood.

By the way, the third type is actually codependent. Specifically, these individuals had learned to seek reinforcers and ablers without having to work for them. So they want to be reinforced, they want to be enabled, but without investing in it. This resulted in their development as self-indulgent, egocentric, and impulsive individuals.

Individuals with the second and third types focus on creating a favorable impression on others.

However, they are unable to maintain close relationships because while they have excellent skills at reading superficial cues, they have empathic deficits.

There's another proposed topology which again corresponds, if you listen carefully, if you tune your mind, this topology, as all the previous topologies have mentioned, correspond to other mental health disorders.

It seems that narcissism may be a camouflage, an overlay, a veneer, a coat of paint or polish over real primary disorders.

There is the topic of comorbidity.

Narcissism is very often diagnosed with other mental health disorders, personality disorders, mood disorders, depressive disorders, anxiety disorders.

And so this comorbidity should have alerted us, should have warned us, should have told us that narcissism may actually be a secondary phenomenon, not a primary phenomenon.

Based on a survey of, and this is from the book Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, authored by one Saint Vachon, based on a survey of 1201 therapists, I don't know who was the last one, and psychologist in clinical practice, Professor Drew Vaknin of Emory University postulated the existence of three subtypes of narcissists.

Number one, high-functioning or exhibitionistic narcissist has an exaggerated sense of self-importance, but is also articulate, energetic, outgoing and achievement-oriented. This is what I would call perhaps the cerebral narcissist.

The second type is the fragile narcissist. Again, fragile, vulnerable, shy, covert.

Weston describes the fragile narcissist, wants to feel important and privileged in order to ward off, to fend off painful feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. And that's of course the equivalent of the compensatory or covert narcissist.

And the third type is the grandiose or malignant narcissist, has an exaggerated sense of self-importance, feels privileged, exploits others and lusts after power. And that would be the classic overt type.

Okay, let's go, let's get to business, a bit late, but better late than never.

I am going to quote from the article, exploring the structure of narcissism towards an integrated solution. It was published in February 2019. It was a culmination of three years of joint work by the authors.

I'm going to read to you the last article first and the initiating article, the first article they had published last.

Because I want you to see the way their thinking had evolved.

This particular article was published in the February 2019 edition of Journal of Personality.

And the authors are Michael Crow, of the University of Georgia, Donald Lynamon of Purdue University, the famous Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia. He collaborated with John Twenge on multiple studies, very crucial and important studies. He's a chronicler of the rise of narcissism in society, and Joshua Miller of the University of Georgia.

And so this is the article exploring the structure of narcissism towards an integral solution.

Earlier they had published another article called, titled Controversies in Narcissism. This one was published in March 2017 in the annual review of Clinical Psychology.

So I would like to try to read to you a composite of their thinking.

There has been a surge in interest in and research on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder, the authors say. Despite or because of this increased attention, there are several areas of substantial debate that surround the construct, including descriptions of granules and vulnerable dimensions or variants, questions regarding the existence of a consensual description, central versus peripheral features of narcissism, distinctions between normal and pathological narcissism, possible etiological factors, the role of self-esteem in narcissism, where narcissism should be studied, how it can be assessed and its representation in diagnostic nosologies.

We suggest, say the authors, that a failure to distinguish between grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. The grandiose narcissism is overtly immodest, self-centered and title domineering.

And the vulnerable narcissist is self-centered, distrustful, neurotic and introverted.

If we fail to distinguish between the presentations, these two presentations of narcissism, this has led, the authors say, to a less cohesive and coherent literature and that trait-based models of personality and personality disorder can bring greater clarity to many of these important debates.

Despite decades, the authors continue, despite in the next article, despite decades of work on narcissism.

There remain many active areas of exploration and debate. And they repeat some of the, I mean, that's how they define their agenda.

This is the earlier article.

There is no clear and consensual description of the underlying components of narcissism.

Understanding narcissism factor structure is necessary for precise measurement and investigation of specific psychological and behavioral processes.

The aim of the current study is to explore the structure of narcissism by examining it at varying hierarchical levels.

And so they continue to describe the way they constructed the article and they used 46 scales.

It was an interesting study. And they use essentially the five factor model, self-esteem, aggression and externalizing behavior. These were the things they measured.

And the results were this, a series of factor analysis revealed the factor structure of narcissism in a range of specificities. No more than five meaningful factors were found, grandiosity, neuroticism, antagonism, distrustful self-reliance and attention seeking.

And the most parsimonious model appears to be a three factor structure, actually.

Narcissism scales that effectively capture each of the identified factors are identified in the article. Factors diverged in their association with criterion variables.

And the conclusion of the authors is a three factor model, a genetic extroversion, narcissistic neuroticism and self-centered antagonism seems to be the most parsimonious conceptualization enough to capture narcissism.

Larger factor solutions are discussed, but future research will be necessary to determine the value of these increasingly narrow factors.

So this is what is known today as TMN, the trifarcated model of narcissism.

It starts with what they call foundational traits. And as I mentioned, the foundational traits are extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. And all these three are transformed malignantly in narcissism.

Extroversion becomes assertive extroversion. I would use the term aggressive extroversion.

Agreeableness becomes antagonism in narcissism, and neuroticism remains neuroticism.

And then when you put the three together, assertive extroversion, antagonism, neuroticism, you get two types of narcissists, grandiose narcissist or vulnerable narcissist.

And this is the Campbell Miller TMN model, trifarcated model of narcissism.

Let's talk a bit about the grandiose narcissism.

The authors and others admit that there are degrees and types of narcissism. So everyone now agrees that there is a spectrum, we should have a dimensional approach to narcissism.

But most of the studies we have are focused on exhibitionistic narcissists. The narcissist who seeks the limelight, the narcissist who can't live one minute without attention. These are boastful grandiose narcissist.

And this is the stereotype of the narcissist. The stereotype is so powerful that it made it into the DSM-4 and the text revision of DSM-4 and into DSM-5.

Although the author's committee of DSM-5 tried to divorce itself from this stereotype by proposing an alternative model which incorporates covert narcissism.

And so these overt exhibitionistic narcissists, grandiose, they're charming, they're attention-seeking, they're extroverted, they're vain, they're bold, audacious even, they're obnoxious, they're shameless and guiltless, they're self-absorbed, entitled, callous, exploitative, authoritarian, aggressive, etc, etc.

And of course, when I described this in 1995, I showed the inexorable connection between this list of traits and the behaviors attendant on these traits. And I coined the phrase, narcissistic abuse.

abuse could be anything. It's verbal in the case of the cerebral narcissist, but it could be physical.

Physical abuse is also a part of narcissistic abuse in many cases. These narcissists have a self-aggrandizing self-perception and self-image. Because they lack empathy and they feel superior, haughtily superior, they're arrogant, they're also contemptuous. And yet at the same time, they are dependent on other people for the regulation of their self-esteem and sense of self-worth, and they are extroverted.

So when you talk to these narcissists, they tell you, I'm very happy with myself. You know, they're egosyntonic. They have very high self-esteem, too high. They are satisfied with their lives. And they don't give a second thought, sometimes not even a first thought, to the pain and hurt that they inflict on other people.

They are focused like a laser beam on obtaining attention, acclaim, domination, narcissistic supply. Even they bring this attitude even to intimate relationships. Every relationship becomes a competition or a power play, a hierarchy, a dominance, who would be top lobster. And because they are outgoing and because they're charming and because they know which buttons to push and which levers to pull, because they have cold empathy, highly developed cold empathy, they do have relationships.

But these relationships are cold and sterile and empty. There's no intimacy. There's no happiness. And there is only the infatuation with the charisma, with the audacity, with the daring, with the adventure, with the risk, with the novelty. They cater these narcissists to the psychopathic and narcissistic elements of their own partners.

And these are the overt or grandiose narcissist.

And then there is the vulnerable, shy, fragile, covert narcissist, closet narcissist, introverted narcissist. There are many names.

Similarly, they are self-absorbed.

Narcissism is an inability to maintain object relations.

The only relationship a narcissist, any narcissist, truly has is with himself.

And since he doesn't have a self, he doesn't have a self, the narcissist has a relationship with his absence.

I know this is mind boggling. It's extremely difficult to comprehend.

But you know what? Consider religious people. God is an abstract. God is an idea. It's a concept.

And yet religious people convert God into a presence. It's a delusional presence, but it's a presence.

And they interact with God as though God were there.

Similarly, the narcissist deifies his false self. Narcissism is a religion, I keep explaining.

So he deifies his false self. And then he has a relationship with his false self that is akin to a religion.

He misperceives his false self as a presence, when actually the false self is defensive, 100% defensive.

The false self is not about including anything or anyone. The false self is about keeping out, pushing away, excluding others, and circumstances, and competitors, and objects of envy.

The false self is busy firewalling the narcissist.

The false self, in other words, guarantees an empty space.

And yet the narcissist perceives the false self as a presence. So he has a relationship, the only relationship and the only libidinal cathexis, the only investment of emotions that the narcissist is capable of, if at all, is in this emptiness.

He is married to absence. And of course, because he has no true self to counter this absence, gradually he identifies with the absence. He becomes the absence. He merges with the absence and fuses. He has a codependent relationship with his false self.

It's very intricate. And so the false self includes all the internal objects, including representations and introjects of the narcissist intimate partners who had been internalized, interiorized.

That's the snapshotting mechanism that I'm describing.

Okay, so covert narcissists are also self-centered. Of course, although in the absence of self, one would say they are centered around the absence of self. In their case, they're also envious, envious of overt narcissist and functional people.

So in the case of covert narcissist, I would say that the relationship, the cathexis, is in the envy.

But envy is about emptiness, because envy is destructive.

The impulse of envy is to destroy the source of envy, to destroy the object you envy, to destroy the person you envy. So it's about destruction. It's about annihilation. It's about disappearing and vanishing. It's about emptiness and absence.

So while the overt narcissist interacts with emptiness and absence via grandiosity, he interacts with the fantasy, which is not there. The covert narcissist interacts with absence and emptiness via envy. And so he feels entitled. If he's exploitative, he has no empathy, he's manipulative, aggressive, exactly like the overt. But he is also socially shy to the point of being avoidant. One could even argue that covert, the covert narcissist, is a compensatory reaction to avoidant personality disorder, or schizoid personality disorder.

There's a debate now, and it seems that schizoid personality disorder will be subsumed within avoidant personality disorder, not kept as a separate clinical entity.

So the covert narcissist shies away from attention because he's afraid of criticism and rejection and abandonment.

Ring the bell? Yes, borderline.

We're beginning to see the seamless integration of all so-called separate personality disorders and clinical entities.

Each one of them functions as primary or secondary, foundational and overlay. That's why people who are traumatized, for example, victims of complex trauma, CPTSD, that's why they suddenly develop borderline traits, or become narcissistic, or become secondary psychopaths.

Because trauma doesn't create a single personality disorder. Trauma creates all personality disorders, and then a few of them, one or two, usually one actually, becomes primary, becomes the cornerstone, the core.

And around these, there are overlays. This core personality disorder, this core disturbance, picks up traits and behaviors, and affect, and emotions, and memories, and fears, and wishes, and hopes, and elements of identity, because the identity is shattered, there's identity diffusion, identity disturbance.

So the core serves as a giant black hole, as a giant magnet, if you wish, and accumulates an overlay, or actually a series of overlays, like an onion, of other personality disorders.

But these personality disorders, which are visible to the therapist, visible to the intimate partner, visible to colleagues and friends, these personality disorders, let's call them the presenting personality disorder, the facade personality disorder, they're hiding the core personality disorder, or the core disturbance, the core disturbance in identity formation, the core disturbance in effect, and emotion, and regulation, the core disturbance in memory, dissociation, that's the core.

So covert narcissists, probably the core is avoidant schizoid, or what Melanie Klein described as a schizoid posture, position, overt or grandiose narcissist, maybe compensating for something else, for example, a psychopath.

So when we are presented with a personality disorder, we should take it with a mountain of salt. It's like a visit card, you know, the person is giving you a visit card. Hello, my name is Sam, I'm a narcissist. Wait a minute. Hello. What is your narcissism hiding?

Narcissism is compensatory. What is it compensating for?

Sam, dude, what is your problem?

The real one, not the one you're presenting to me. Don't forget that most personalities engage in numerous defense mechanisms, including fantasy, confabulation, rationalization, intellectualization. I mean, you name it, everything is distorted endlessly in an infinite hall of mirrors.

You're not getting real information by interrogating the personality disorder person.

So the covert narcissist shares a lot with the overt narcissist, but probably is hiding another core problem, another core issue.

And so both of them, for example, present as autonomous, but they're not, they're highly dependent. Both of them present exude information but this information is fraudulent. They're imposters and they suffer from imposter syndrome. They have no self, they have no ego.

And yet everyone thinks they're egodystonic or they're driven by ego, including one of the experts who spew endless nonsense about ego and ego death and I don't know why. They are self- alienated.

And perhaps the only difference between them is the intensity and extent of experiencing internal objects, experiencing and reacting to introjects, experiencing and interacting to disembodied emotions, not identified as emotions, experiencing and interacting with internal processes and dynamics.

And so you could be confident, you can be egosyntonic, self-satisfied, gratified, you can be insecure, you can be happy, all this is not relevant. It's a mistake to focus on this.

Psychology is deteriorated to the composition of lists and to structured interviews. For some reason psychology assumes that self-reporting is honest reporting.

So today the dominant tests for narcissism and psychopathy rely on self-reporting, two types of people who lie as soon as they breathe.

And the distress, the anxiety, the guilt, the shame, the depression, the hypersensitivity, the hypervigilance, it's all, these are all the grandiosity, these are all cognitive deficits. You can't rely on the cognition of these people. You can definitely not rely on their emotions because their emotions are either dysregulated and overwhelm them, which provokes them to become psychopaths or as a defensive posture. Or they deny themselves access to their emotions.

No measure of self-reporting should be employed, engaging personality. These are conflicted characters, irrational, and they engage in a monopoly of very primitive defense mechanisms such as splitting and projection and projective identification and many others. And they create in the evaluator, in the assessor, in the diagnostician, they create very bad dynamics like counter transference or introjection, projective introjection.

So if you engage with them as you would with a normal person, you're going to be infected even if you are a highly trained diagnostician. Trust me, I've seen it happen. It would behoove us perhaps to resurrect the concept of neurosis.

Somehow it was discarded together with psychoanalysis and Sigmund Freud.

This towering genius, Sigmund Freud, didn't wear a white coat, didn't pretend to be a physicist, and didn't play the experimental game. And he wrote well, which is a minus.

So he was discarded and the baby in the bath and the water and the room and the building, everything was discarded.

And one of the things that was discarded is the concept of neurosis.

Neurosis is intimately connected to personal growth. I recommend that you read the works of the books, any book, anything you can lay your hand on by Karen Horney.

So neurosis was both all- encompassing. It was a unifying organizing principle. And on one hand, and on the other hand, it was intimately connected to lifespan development.

Now you can take the work of integrationists, such as, for example, Erichsen, and to some extent, Anna Freud. And you can go from there.

But it's important for us to have a language that captures the fact that as people grow up from the first moment through the formative years, up to death, as they evolve throughout the lifespan, they're going to present kaleidoscopically different facets of their personality. And some of these facets will be dysfunctional. And to cage them or to limit them to the grocery lists of symptoms defies any editing and everything we know about the human animal.

And so there are questions we should borrow elements from psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychology.

And the concept of neurosis, we should resuscitate a lot of knowledge accumulated in the behaviorist school.

So concepts like operant conditioning, reinforcement, and so on and so forth. We should revive the study of defense mechanisms, much reviled and ridiculed, brilliant, a brilliant concept, a brilliant achievement of the human mind.

And we should work with all these things.

Sperry writes, unlike extroverted narcissists, covert narcissists lack positive relationships instead of boldly dominating people. They are threat-oriented and distrustful. Their attachment style is more avoidant and anxious. They withdraw from others with hostile blame and resentment, internalizing their narcissism.

And pathetic codependence feels sympathetic and want to rescue them from their misery, but end up self-sacrificing and feeling responsible for them.

And then he describes the communal narcissism, not realizing that I coined the phrase. Communal or prosocial narcissism is a phrase that I coined in 1997, I think.

And he describes the communal narcissism.

Even more difficult to identify is a third type of narcissism. It was only named recently, wrong, communal narcissism.

Communal narcissists value warmth, agreeableness, and relatedness. They see themselves and want to be seen by others as the most trustworthy and supportive person. And they try to achieve this through friendliness and kindness. They are outgoing like the grandiose narcissist.

However, whereas the grandiose narcissist wants to be seen as the smartest and most powerful, a communal narcissist wants to be seen as the most giving and helpful. Communal narcissist's vain selflessness is no less selfish than that of a grandiose narcissist.

They both share similar motives for grandiosity, esteem, entitlement, and power, although they each employ different behaviors to achieve these.

When their hypocrisy is discovered, it's a bigger fall.

And finally, the malignant narcissist, lens-sparing. Malignant narcissists are considered to be the extreme end of the continuum of types of narcissism due to their cruelty and aggressiveness. They are paranoid, immoral, and sadistic. They find pleasure in creating chaos and taking people down.

These narcissists aren't necessarily grandiose, extroverted, or neurotic, but are closely related to psychopathy, the dark triad, the dark tetrad now, and antisocial personality disorder.

And he refers to Howcroft, an article from 2012.

And so the question, of course, is where do we go from there? What do we achieve by by considering these classifications?

The previous sections I have read were partly from Darlene Lancer, partly from lens-sparing. And they presented a good overview.

But taxonomy and classification don't help us to gain insight into the core state, the experience of being a narcissist.

Identifying the type of narcissist is also useless because there's no type constancy.

As I've kept saying in all my videos, narcissists oscillate, they change, the grandiose becomes covert, the somatic becomes cerebral, the inverted becomes covert, etc., etc. They constantly fluctuate and they are reactive to the...

My interpretation is that various types of narcissism disguise core disorders. They are like overlaid on core disorders. And as circumstances change, life circumstances, these core disorders manifest.

This is why there's no type constancy.

The core disorder is like a body and narcissism is like clothing. You can change your clothes, but you can rarely, if ever, change your body.

There is a body of disruption with identity, memory, affect, emotion, cognition, disruptive in some individuals. And they overlay this with narcissistic defenses.

And each type of narcissistic defense creates another diagnosis. And of course, the circumstances change, the defenses change, and suddenly the diagnosis change.

Instability, fluctuation are very common.

And so while typically when you are in the type, you are unlikely to exhibit attributes of the other type, you can definitely switch to the other type, completely.

So work by Edershall and Wright and Odwalt and others, which I've mentioned before, they discuss this type constancy and type inconstancy.

And so is there anything we can say about narcissism that is not dependent on these core disorders? Are there any personality traits out there? Is there anything that we can point the finger at and say, regardless of the core disorder, regardless of the primary disruption of the primary problem, this is narcissism?

So there is a trifaried model that I mentioned, agentic extroversion, disagreeableness, and neuroticism, and agentic extroverts are authoritative, bold, audacious, go-getters, they are after money, power, acclaim, achievement, leadership positions, etc. They are extroverts, they are leader types.

But it would seem as Jordan Peterson also notes in many of his writings that disagreeableness is a core. Narcissists are disagreeable. It's one of the big five personality traits.

It seems that narcissism is about conflict, interpersonal antagonism, both as they covered at the overt, the somatic and the cerebral, you name it, all types of narcissists. They're going to fight with you. They're going to fall out with you. They're going to hurt you. They're going to abuse you.

There is an element of constant battle, constant conflict. One could even venture to say functional sadism, not emotional sadism in the sense that most narcissists hurt other people and abuse them not in order to derive pleasure, but functionally as a psychopath would do.

But if we have a class of people whose overriding common denominator is hurting other people, can't we safely call these kind of people operational or functional sadists? I think yes. Narcissists are manipulative, hostile, entitled, callous and angry, and they put all these assets at the service of antagonizing others, fighting them, humiliating them, establishing hurtful dominance, etc.

Kaufmann in a recent article, 2020, has mentioned this, granted antagonism and conflict are expressed differently. Some narcissists are more hostile, others more distrustful. Some are domineering, others are more submissive and so on, but it's still at the core, hostile conflict.

I want to quote from a blog by Darlene LaPier about the spectrum model. She summarized it nicely.

The narcissism spectrum model, NSM, created by Curzon and Herlak in 2017, considers narcissism as existing on a spectrum from grandiose to vulnerable. It demonstrates how NPD varies in severity and how traits manifest.

The model reveals that both types of narcissists share a common psychological core of entitled self-importance. Narcissists believe that they and their needs are special and take precedence over those of others. This core is made up of arrogance, self-involvement, and entitlement.

In fact, entitlement is reportedly the most toxic element in relationships. Narcissists deferring personalities, express diverse qualities at various times.

This model captures a fluid functional analysis that is more representative of real life.

The greater a person's grandiosity, the less is their vulnerability and vice versa. More entitlement and risk-taking increase professional and interpersonal difficulties. The greater the vulnerability, the further away, or lower, is the grandiosity.

So we are beginning to reconceive of narcissism as a spectrum of behaviors and traits united by specific factors, five factors, three factors.

There's a debate about the factors, but we are beginning to have a factor view of narcissism. It could be antagonism, self-importance, entitlement, disagreeableness, which ever ultimately we are going to settle on a list, evidence-based list, verified and proven via experiments and studies.

But I think we are there, where we are no longer going to talk about narcissism as a personality disorder. We are going to discuss it in terms of a post-traumatic condition that relies on several factors or brings forth several personality factors.

And because it's a condition, not a disorder, in other words, because it's a process, not a disorder, it's a reactive process, it can be attached to any other mental health issue, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, even eating disorders.

You can find narcissism everywhere, even in schizophrenia, in psychotic disorders, we have grandiose psychotic disorders.

Narcissism is not a mental health issue. Narcissism is the very foundation and core of personality formation and personal growth.

Primary narcissism is what drives the baby to become effectively human.

And then we have narcissism, healthy narcissism throughout life.

Narcissism is who we are. It can go bad like cells which become cancerous. But we have cells everywhere. And we have narcissism everywhere. And we have narcissism in everything, self-confidence, self-esteem and mental health issues.

So we should get rid of the conception of narcissism as a specific disorder with a list of criteria and symptoms. And if we only get five out of mind, this is nonsense.

The spectrum model, which is a dimensional model, is much closer to the reality. And the reality is, if you have a mental health issue, you're going to react to the internal trauma of experiencing your mental illness with narcissism. That is inevitable.

So experiencing mental illness exactly like experiencing COVID or chronic illness is a traumatic experience. And it's superimposed on a traumatic early childhood.

So it's a double trauma. It's a resonant trauma.

The trauma of being mentally ill resonates with a trauma that had led to the mental illness. It's an echo chamber.

And to cope with this, we need narcissistic defenses. These are the only defenses we have, even as healthy people.

So ultimately, when we have mental illness, we're going to end up being narcissistic. If we are exposed to trauma, complex trauma, we're going to end up being narcissistic. If we get sick physically, we're going to end up becoming more narcissistic.

Narcissism is a survival mechanism. It's a positive adaptation in extreme situations.

The problem is, when these defenses are leveraged and used in day-to-day life, there's no emergency, no trauma, no mental illness, and no chronic illness. That's where the trouble starts.

Narcissists need you to manage their internal environment.

Narcissist, by definition, is a bad, not a person. Narcissist doesn't have a personality, which makes the whole concept of narcissistic personality disorder counterproductive, not to say nonsensical. Narcissists have no ego.

How can they have a personality?

Narcissists borrow your personality. You help them to regulate their needs, their cognitions, their emotions, everything, their sense of self-worth, and exactly like people with borderline personality disorder who also have a false self.

The aim of the false self is to hail, to interpolate, to cause people to react in highly rigid and structured forms, rendering them in many ways pseudo-narcissist as well.

And so, I want to read to you what Millon has to say about the compensatory narcissist.

The Theodor Millon, personality disorders in daily life, second edition, published in 2004.

The compensatory narcissist, the compensatory variant essentially captures the psychoanalytic understanding of the narcissist personality.

The early experiences of compensating narcissists are not too dissimilar to those of avoidant and negativistic passive-aggressive personalities.

You see he's noting the resemblances.

All these have suffered wounds early in life, rather than collapse under the weight of inferiority and retreat from public view, like the avoidant, or vacillate between loyalty and anger, like the negativist passive-aggressive.

The compensatory compensatory narcissist develops an illusion of superiority. Life becomes a quest to fulfill aspirations of status, recognition, and prestige. Every small certificate and plug the individual has ever received may be displayed on the office wall, for example.

At other times, they may bore others while they present a complete biography of their most minuscule successes and achievements.

Like avoidant personalities, compensating narcissists are exceedingly sensitive to the reactions of other people, called empathy, noting every critical judgment and feeling slighted by every sign of disapproval.

Unlike avoidance, however, they seek to conceal their deep sense of deficiency from other people and from themselves by creating a facade of superiority.

Though they often have a degree of insight into their functioning, remember I kept telling you that narcissists are self-aware. It's another type of nonsensical myth propagated and spewed by self-styled experts.

So Milan agrees they have self-awareness. Though I quote from Milan, though they often have a degree of insight into their functioning, they nevertheless indulge themselves in grandiose fantasies of personal glory and achievement.

Some procrastinate in doing anything effective in the real world for fear of evaluation and failure. Instead of living their own lives, they often pursue the leading role in a false and imaginary theater unrelated to the real world.

When they are threatened with reality, compensatory narcissists may defend themselves by becoming more and more arrogant and dismissive until the offending stimulus withdraws. If reality overturns their illusions completely, compensatory narcissists may retreat more and more into an imaginary world of others who recognize their supposed accomplishments.

They become schizoids in other words.

And I would like to read to you descriptions of other mental health disorders which will immediately remind you of the narcissist.

So these are other than this is not narcissistic personality disorder. This is not narcissism.

But I'm going to read to you the description of these disorders and you immediately will recognize the narcissist, what you call narcissist, what I call narcissist.

So the insular part paranoid, the insular paranoid. It's a paranoid, not a narcissist. The insular paranoid combines aspects of the paranoid and avoidant personalities.

Such individuals are often moody, apprehensive and hypersensitive to criticism, especially where their worth and achievements are concerned.

Extremely vulnerable, many insular paranoid seek solace in self-focused ways. For example, they may engage in abstruse intellectual activities to enhance their self-esteem, or they may indulge in drugs and alcohol to calm their fears, especially fearful of shame and humiliation.

Insular paranoid seek to defend themselves against both real and imagined dangers. More than most insular paranoid seek to protect themselves from a world both threatening and destructive.

As such, they may isolate themselves for long periods of time, a means of keeping the inevitable judgments of other people out of their lives.

Insular paranoid also have an unusually strong fear of being controlled. They not only seek to prevent external influence, but they also desire to rely solely on their own conclusions and beliefs.

Unwilling to check their thoughts against consensual reality, insular paranoid grow more and more out of touch with the surrounding world, eventually losing the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality.

Fears of shame and humiliation, an important component of both the paranoid and avoidant patterns, easily inflate to full-blown conspiracies.

Eventually, their thoughts may become so painful and terrifying that they begin intentionally to interrupt the continuity and focus of their perceptions, distracting themselves from their own thoughts.

By deserting themselves, their inner world becomes a chaotic melange of distorted, incidental and unconnected notions, the threshold of a decompensated, paranoid state.

Let's discuss another mental health disorder, which is not narcissism.

The reputation defending anti-social, psychopath. Not all anti-socials covet material possessions or power, says Theodore Millon. Those who share traits with the narcissistic personality are motivated by the desire to defend and extend a reputation of bravery and toughness.

Antisocial acts are designed to ensure that other people notice them in accordance with the respect that they deserve. As such, they are perpetually on guard against the possibility of belittlement.

Society should know that their reputation defending anti-social is somewhat significant, not to be easily dismissed, treated with indifference, taken lightly or pushed around. Whenever their status or ability is slighted, they may erupt with ferocious intensity, posturing and threatening until their rivals back down.

Some reputation defending anti-socials are loners, some are involved in adolescent gang activities, and still others simply seek to impress peers with aggressive acts of leadership or violence that secure their status as the alpha male, the dominant member of the pack.

Being tough and assertive is essentially a defensive act intended to prove their strength and guarantee a reputation of indomitable courage.

And finally, one last type which is not a narcissist and still resembles almost fully a narcissist, an overt narcissist, the vivacious histrionic.

Vivacious histrionics synthesizes the seductiveness of the histrionic with the energy level typical of hypomania.

The result radiates attractiveness, charm, playfulness, verve and intensity.

More than just bubbly or perky, vivacious histrionics are interpersonally cheerful, optimistic, spontaneous and impulsively expressionistic, often without regard to future consequences.

Driven by a need for excitement and instability, many vivacious histrionics are easily infatuated, attaching themselves to one person or after another in quick succession.

Their movements are quick and animated. They both enter and leave with a flourish.

Even though they are only superficial thinkers, their ideas often flow so quickly and easily that other people become infected by their excitement.

Those who are more normal, race around, get things done, start projects and persuade others to join them with an energy and friendliness that make for a natural salesperson.

Others, however, pursue momentary whims without completing much of anything, leaving broken promises, empty wallets and distraught associates.

Not surprisingly, many vivacious histrionics also possess narcissistic traits.


Personality disorders in general are storylines, storyboards, narratives. They are intended to disguise and camouflage discontinuities in identity caused by post-traumatic dissociation.

Narcissism is not a personality disorder. It is an integral part of personal growth, evolution and development over the lifespan.

We all have healthy narcissism. We all start with primary narcissism as infants and it is primary narcissism that allows us to develop and evolve and become adults.

So narcissism stays with us for life.

The malignant forms of narcissism, the sick forms, pathological forms of narcissism, the overt, the covert, the malignant, these forms could be conceived of as cancer. There are cells everywhere and so cancer can appear anywhere.

It is the same with cancerous or malignant narcissism. It can appear anywhere.

People with an underlying mental illness, mood disorder, affect disorder, eating disorder, psychotic disorder, another personality disorder, people with a mental health issue are likely to be traumatized twice once by the trauma that had led to the mental health issue and the second time by the mental illness itself, which is highly traumatic.

To compensate for these traumas, to paper over the resulting dissociation, to cope somehow, everyone who is mentally ill employs and deploys narcissistic defenses. Everyone who is mentally ill with any kind of mental illness whatsoever becomes a narcissist of one kind or another depending on the mental illness.

This expression of narcissistic defenses, if it is sufficiently long, if you know if you've been mentally ill for 20 years and you've been using narcissistic defenses for 20 years, if it is sufficiently all pervasive and above all, if it is successful, if it's a positive adaptation, allows you to cope properly with your mental illness, this narcissistic adaptation becomes entrenched, becomes fossilized and ossified, becomes an integral part of your identity and you become in this particular sense a narcissist.

So narcissism is an overlay, sometimes a rigid overlay, sometimes an integral integrated overlay over and above some underlying condition, mental disruption, mental health problem usually in reaction to a trauma.

Trauma can be an early childhood, trauma could be with your husband, trauma could be a natural disaster, but whenever mental illness erupts, all the arsenal of defenses comes into life and into action and a core feature of these defenses is narcissism.

So narcissism is with us as healthy people and with us if we get mentally ill and its manifestations vary, so there's no type constancy because it is attached to a primary disorder which is not narcissism and it acquires its features, it acquires its attributes, it acquires its symptoms, expressive symptoms, presenting symptoms.

So narcissism is like a chameleon, it shape shifts, it adopts itself to the problem it has to solve, it's a problem solving tool.

The problem starts with the fact that one of the narcissistic defenses suspends reality testing, involves cognitive deficits.

Another problem is lack of emotional regulation in narcissism. When narcissism goes up, emotional regulation goes down.

These two put together create behaviors, foster and gender, encourage behaviors which are essentially antisocial and abrasive and hurtful and abusive. That's where the problem starts.

Thank you for surviving this.

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