Narcissist's Shame and Guilt

Uploaded 9/27/2010, approx. 4 minute read

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

The grandiosity gap is the difference between self-image, the way the narcissist perceives himself, and contravening cues from reality. The greater the conflict between grandiosity and reality, the bigger the gap, and the greater the narcissist's feelings of guilt and shame.

Reality is rough, shabby, routine, and boring, and the narcissist prefers to withdraw into his fantasy life.

There are two varieties of shame. Narcissistic shame is the narcissist's experience of the grandiosity gap, and its affective correlate. Subjectively, narcissistic shame is experienced as a pervasive feeling of worthlessness.

The dysfunctional regulation of self-worth is the crux of pathological narcissism, and the absence or deficiency of narcissistic supply generates this overwhelming or overpowering sense of shame of worthlessness.

The narcissist feels invisible, ridiculous. The patient feels pathetic and foolish, deserving of mockery, humiliation.

The narcissist adopts all kinds of defenses to counter this acute narcissistic shame. They develop addictive, reckless, or impulsive behaviors. They deny, withdraw, they rage, they engage in the compulsive pursuit of some kind of unattainable perfection. They display worthiness, exhibitionism, and so on.

All these psychological defense mechanisms are primitive. They involve splitting, projection, projective identification, and intellectualization. We will discuss these psychological defense mechanisms in the future in a series of videos.

The second type of shame is self-related. It is the result of the gap between the narcissist's grandiose ego ideal and his self or ego.

In other words, the gap between how the narcissist views himself ideally and how the narcissist really is.

This is a well-known concept of shame and it has been explored widely in the works of Freud, Reich, Jacobson, Kohut, Kingston, Sparrow, and especially Morrison.

Still, one must draw a clear distinction between guilt or control related shame and conformity related shame.

Guilt is an objectively determinable philosophical entity. Given the relevant knowledge regarding the society and culture in question, we can deduce guilt or even predict the emergence of a feeling of guilt. It is context dependent.

Guilt is the derivative of an underlying assumption by others that a moral agent exerts control over certain aspects of the world. This assumed control by the agent imputes guilt to the agent if it acts in a manner incommensurate with prevailing morals and mores or if it refrains from acting in a manner commensurate with them.

Shame in this case is the outcome of the actual occurrence of avoidable outcomes. These are events which impute guilt to a moral agent who acted wrongly or refrained from acting rightly. This could have been avoided and this ability to have avoided these outcomes is what confers shame.

We must also make a distinction between guilt and guilt feelings.

Guilt follows events. Guilt feelings can precede events. Guilt feelings and the shame attaching to them can be anticipatory. They can anticipate events. Moral agents assume that they control certain aspects of the world. This makes them able to predict the outcomes of their intentions and feel guilt and shame as a result even if nothing had happened.

People feel guilty and ashamed of their intentions. This is a kind of magical thinking, confusing what goes on in one's mind with what really happens outside in reality.

Guilt feelings are composed of a component of fear and a component of anxiety. Fear is related to the external, objective, observable consequences of actions or inactions by the moral agent. Anxiety has to do with inner consequences. Anxiety is egodystonic and threatens the identity of the moral agent because being moral is an important part of this identity.

The internalization of guilt feelings leads to a shame reaction.

Thus, shame has to do with guilty feelings, not with guilt itself.

To reiterate, guilt is determined by the reactions and anticipated reactions of others to external outcomes such as affordable waste or preventable failure. Fear also comes into this equation.

This is guilt. Guilty feelings are the reactions and anticipated reactions of the moral agent himself to internal outcomes. It is associated with helplessness or loss of presumed control, narcissistic injuries.

This is where anxiety comes into play, not fear, anxiety.

There is also conformity related shame as we have mentioned. This kind of shame has to do with the narcissist feeling of otherness. It similarly involves a component of fear, of the reactions of others to one's otherness. Also, it has a component of anxiety, of the reactions of oneself to one's otherness.

In other words, the narcissist realizes that he is a freak and he is ashamed of it and his shame is composed of two elements, fear and anxiety. He is afraid of other people's reactions and he is anxious about his own reactions to his otherness, to his abnormality.

Guilt-related shame is connected to self-related shame, perhaps through a psychic construct akin to the superego.

Conformative-related shame is more akin to narcissistic shame.

As usual, narcissists look to the outside in order to generate internal psychological processes.

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

Shame, Guilt, Codependents, Narcissists, and Normal Folks

Shame motivates normal people and those suffering from cluster B personality disorders, but it motivates them differently. Shame constitutes a threat to normal people's true self, and it constitutes a threat to the false self of narcissism. There are two varieties of shame when we talk about narcissists in effect. There is narcissistic shame, which is the narcissist's experience of the grandiosity gap and its affective correlate. The greater the conflict between grandiosity and reality, the bigger the gap and the greater the narcissist's feelings of shame and guilt.

Narcissist's Insignificant Other: Typical Spouse or Intimate Partner

Living with a narcissist can be exhilarating, but it is always onerous and often harrowing. Surviving a relationship with a narcissist, maintaining a relationship, preserving it, insisting on remaining with a narcissist, indicates therefore the parameters of the personality of the victim, of the partner, of the spouse. The partner, the spouse, and the mate of a narcissist who insists on remaining in the relationship and preserving it is molded by it into the typical narcissistic mate, spouse, or partner. The two, the narcissist and his spouse, collaborate in this dance macabre.

Narcissist's False Modesty

False modesty is a defense mechanism used by narcissists to protect their grandiosity from scrutiny and to extract narcissistic supply from others. The narcissist publicly chastises themselves for being unfit, unworthy, lacking, and not formally schooled, but this is only to hedge their bets and secure adoring, admiring, approving, or applauding protestations from the listener. False modesty is a bet, and having received the narcissistic supply, the narcissist feels much better. The narcissist is a pathological liar, and with false modesty, they seek to involve others in their mind games and manipulate them.

Can Narcissist Truly Love?

Narcissists are incapable of true love, but they do experience some emotion which they insist is love. Narcissists love their significant others as long as they continue to provide them with attention, or narcissistic supply. There are two types of narcissistic love: one type loves others as one would get attached to objects, while the other type abhors monotony and constancy, seeking instability, chaos, upheaval, drama, and change. In the narcissist's world, mature love is nowhere to be seen, and their so-called love is fear of losing control and hatred of the very people on whom their personality depends.

Narcissist’s Losses Are His Life

Loss is a crucial aspect of the narcissist's life, serving as an organizing principle and a means of transformation. The narcissist's self-destructive behavior and manipulation of external objects are driven by the need to induce change in their internal environment. Losses are both intentional and evoked by the narcissist, who uses them to engender victimhood and manipulate others. The narcissist's fear of losses leads them to preemptively bring them on, ultimately sacrificing reality for the appearance of life.

Narcissist’s Never Give, Always Take Delusion: Effort Reward Imbalance, Overcommitment

The text discusses the concept of effort-reward imbalance in the context of narcissistic relationships. It explains how narcissists feel entitled to recognition and rewards without putting in the necessary effort. The text also delves into the impact of this imbalance on the mental and physical health of the partner, as well as the narcissist's tendency to externalize their reactions to the imbalance. It emphasizes the importance of understanding and addressing the imbalance in such relationships.

Narcissist Frustrates Women with Ostentatious Fidelity

Narcissists, particularly cerebral narcissists, often frustrate women who are attracted to them by withholding sex or teasing them. This is because they are misogynists who hold women in contempt and fear them. They divide women into saints and whores, and view sex and intimacy as mutually exclusive. The narcissist's frustrating behavior serves to secure a narcissistic supply and reenact unresolved conflicts with their mother. They pathologize women to control them and project their own parasitic behavior onto them.

Narcissist's Celibacy as a Religious Principle (ENGLISH responses)

Narcissists create an ideology that elevates sexual celibacy or sexual abstinence into a religion, which is a private religion with one God, the false self, and one worshiper, the narcissist. Eastern religions and mystical sects use sexual abstinence as the internalization and use of a positive life force to induce a transformation that elevates the person to a higher level. In contrast, Western tradition perceives sex as dirty, prohibited, taboo, negative force, to be suppressed, ignored, and ashamed of, which leads to a cycle of shame and guilt. Narcissists are conflicted about sex, and they treat other people as objects, commodify, objectify, and dehumanize them.

Money: Narcissist's License to Abuse

Money is a love substitute for the narcissist, allowing them to be their corrupt selves and buy absolution, forgiveness, and acceptance. It is a license to sin and a permit to be unmitigated self. Money liberates the mind of the narcissist, allowing them to concentrate on attaining the desired position on top. The narcissist is addicted to money because it is the freedom not to behave in a way that is unbearable to them in the long run.

When Narcissists Become Codependents

Living with a narcissist can be harrowing, and the partner of the narcissist is often molded into the typical narcissist mate, partner, or spouse. The partner must have a deficient or distorted grasp of herself and of reality, and the cognitive distortion of the partner of the narcissist is likely to consist of belittling and demeaning herself while aggrandizing and adoring the narcissist. The narcissist is perceived by the partner to be a person in the position to demand these sacrifices from her. The breakup of the relationship with the narcissist is emotionally charged and is the culmination of a long chain of humiliations and subjugation.

Transcripts Copyright © Sam Vaknin 2010-2024, under license to William DeGraaf
Website Copyright © William DeGraaf 2022-2024
Get it on Google Play
Privacy policy