Narcissists and Codependents: Same Problems, Different Solutions

Uploaded 10/8/2016, approx. 5 minute read

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

In 1997, I wrote a series of articles suggesting that codependence and narcissism are flip-sides of the same coin.

In both cases, these are reactions to childhood abuse and trauma. Both reactions, codependence and narcissism, are pathological. They both involve fantasy as a defense mechanism.

The codependent has a pretty realistic assessment of herself, but her view of others, especially her intimate partners, is very fantastic.

On the contrary, the narcissist's self-image and self-perception are fantastic, delusional, grandiose, but he has a penetrating view of others, and it is blood-curdling accurate.

This is what I call empathy.

So, to summarize, the codependent fantasizes about others. She tends to idealize her intimate partner.

The narcissist fantasizes about himself. He tends to idealize himself. He tends to attribute to himself grandiose traits and qualities, such as omnipotence, omniscience, brilliance and perfection.

The codependent tends to devalue herself. The narcissist tends to devalue others.

As you see, codependence is a mirror image of narcissism.

But this raises a few interesting questions.

I've been asked in a recent seminar in London, what's the difference between seeking narcissistic supply and seeking validation?

The codependent also goes around seeking some kind of input, exactly as the narcissist.

The narcissist goes around looking for adulation, admiration, affirmation.

So, what's the difference between them?

Well, the difference is pretty big.

The codependent asks other people, especially her intimate partner, to give her a realistic assessment of herself, to help her restore her reality test.

Codependent wants others to calibrate her, to provide her with the appropriate dimensions of appraisal and evaluation.

She wants them to tell her, for example, that she's not crazy, that she perceives reality properly, that her actions and reactions are a bit too much, a bit too little.

So, she's looking for others to sort of show the path, kind of draw the trajectory that she should follow.

She is relying on others and on input from others to gauge reality, to perceive reality properly.

So, her validation is about restoring a sense of the real, not the fantastic.

The narcissist is exactly the opposite. The narcissist is looking for input from the outside, looking for narcissistic supply, not in order to restore some kind of sense of reality, not in order to feel better in the world or to fit in with the universe.

The narcissist seeks input from the outside to support and enhance and buttress his fantastic view of himself, his grandiosity, his delusions.

The narcissist wants others to help him avoid reality, escape reality, evade reality. He wants them to help him construct a Disney land-like kingdom in which he is king, ruler, judge, and jury.

Codependent wants others to help her restore a sense of reality.

Narcissist wants others to help him to construct an alternative reality, an alternate universe, a virtual reality in which he can be whatever he imagines himself to be, usually grandiosely.

So, this is the first important distinction.

Then there is an issue of, can codependents be narcissists? Can narcissists be codependents?

Well, some codependents, a very small minority, can be narcissists and are actually narcissists. I call them inverted narcissists.

These are narcissists who are covert narcissists. They are narcissists who are not able to obtain narcissistic supply except via another person.

These kind of narcissists who are, as I said, a subsection, a subtype of covert narcissists cannot obtain narcissistic supply because they are introverted and they avoid the limelight. They are avoidant. They are afraid of public exposure. They are terrified of rejection, shy, they are fragile, and they are vulnerable.

So, in order to obtain narcissistic supply, they must team up with someone who is exactly the opposite, who is extroverted, outgoing, the life of the party, and the center of attention.

So, they team up with a classic narcissist.

So, here we have a type or subtype of covert narcissists teaming up with a classic or overt narcissist in order to obtain vicarious supply, supply by proxy.

And yet, the inverted narcissist, who is a full-fledged narcissist, is also a codependent. So, that's the only subtype of codependent who is also a narcissist.

The overwhelming majority of codependents are not, and by definition cannot be, narcissists because they possess empathy and because of other traits. They cannot be narcissists.

The opposite is not true. The overwhelming majority of narcissists actually have codependent traits. They depend on other people for the regulation of their sense of self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-image. They need other people. They need the input from other people. Without the input from other people, the narcissist crumbles like the proverbial vampire. He crumbles to dust. He requires input from other people, known as narcissistic supply, simply to maintain the precarious balance of his personality. And his personality as a record is composed or composed of two parts.

There is the dilapidated, degenerated dysfunctional true self, which is at the level of a four-year-old child to a nine-year-old child, frozen, ossified in space at the corner crying. That's the true self of the narcissist.

And then there is the fourth self, which is everything the true self is not. The fourth self is all-powerful, all-knowing, divine, God-like. It is perfect and relieved. The narcissist tends to identify to the fourth self to the exclusion of the true self. He becomes gradually, over the years, the narcissist becomes his fourth self. As he becomes his fourth self, this kind of narcissist becomes a drug addict. He develops an addictive personality, and his drug of choice is narcissistic supply. And without pushers around, without people who provide him with this supply, known as sources of narcissistic supply, the narcissist is totally dysfunctional.

So narcissists need input from other people in order to merely function, merely get up in the morning.

They, of course, react with severe dysphoria to the absence or deficiency of narcissistic supply. So narcissists are dependent on other people, and they do develop marked, pronounced codependent traits.

Isn't that an irony?

The narcissist who regards codependence as weaklings, as despicable human beings or sub-humans, it is the very narcissist who is actually, themselves, codependence.

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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.

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.

Confessions of Inverted Narcissists - Part 1 of 3

Inverted narcissists are codependents who depend exclusively on narcissism and crave to be in a relationship with a narcissist regardless of any abuse inflicted on them. Narcissists react to competition with pathological envy, and inverted narcissists tend to feel envious and resentful towards their partners. Narcissistic personality disorder is the inability to love oneself, and it is about having a profoundly negative self-image. Survivors of child abuse may develop a kind of codependence or narcissism, and they may experience intense envy and competition towards others.

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.

Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers

Narcissistic mothers can have a significant impact on their adult daughters' relationships, with children of narcissistic parents being ill-adapted and prone to deploying psychological defense mechanisms. They can become co-dependent, needy, demanding, and submissive, fearing abandonment and displaying immature behaviors. Some children of narcissistic parents become inverted narcissists, craving relationships with narcissists, while others become counterdependent or even narcissists themselves. Narcissistic mothers micromanage their child's life and encourage dependent and infantile behaviors, emotionally blackmailing them and threatening to disinherit them if they do not comply with their wishes.

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.

Corporate Narcissists and Fraud

Perpetrators of financial frauds in the United States have been diagnosed as malignant, pathological narcissists. Narcissists are driven by the need to maintain a grandiose self-image and seek attention to validate their self-worth. This leads them to engage in fraudulent activities to bridge the gap between their grandiose fantasies and reality. Pathological narcissism is pervasive and independent of culture and society, but its manifestation and experience depend on the particulars of societies and cultures.

Narcissist Father: Save Your Child

Parents who are worried about their children becoming narcissists under the influence of a narcissistic parent should stop trying to insulate their children from the other parent's influence. Instead, they should make themselves available to their children and present themselves as a non-narcissistic role model. Narcissistic parents regard their children as a source of narcissistic supply and try to control their lives through guilt-driven, dependence-driven, goal-driven, and explicit mechanisms. The child is the ultimate secondary source of narcissistic supply, and the narcissistic parent tries to perpetuate the child's dependence using control mechanisms. The narcissistic parent tends to produce another narcissist in some of their children, but this outcome can be effectively countered by loving, empathic, predictable, just, and positive upbringing, which encourages a

Narcissist's Cycles of Ups and Downs

Narcissists go through cycles of mania and depression, which are caused by external events or circumstances known as triggers. The cycles are different from manic depressive cycles in bipolar disorder, which are endogenous. The narcissist is addicted to narcissistic supply and seeks admiration, adoration, approval, attention, and so on. The narcissist goes through ups and downs, including a depressive phase, a hibernation phase, and a manic phase, which are all part of the process of obtaining and securing narcissistic supply.

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.

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