Women Narcissists

Uploaded 9/19/2010, approx. 4 minute read

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

A sizable minority of narcissists are women. I keep using the male third person because most narcissists, about three quarters, are males, but more importantly because there is little difference between the male and female narcissists.

In the manifestation of their narcissism, female and male narcissists inevitably do tend to differ. They emphasize different things. They transform different elements of their personalities and of their lives into the cornerstones of their disorder.

Women, for instance, concentrate on their body. Many also suffer eating disorders. Women flaunt and exploit their physical charms, their sexuality, their socially and culturally determined femininity. They secure the narcissistic supply through their more traditional gender role, the home, children, suitable careers, their husbands, their feminine traits, their roles in society, etc.

It is no wonder that narcissists, both men and women, are chauvinistic and conservative. They depend to such an extent on the opinions of people around them that with time they are transformed into ultra-sensitive seismographs of public opinion, barometers of prevailing social fashions, and guardians of conformity.

The narcissists cannot afford to seriously alienate his constituency, the people who reflect his false self back at him. The very proper and ongoing functioning of the narcissist's personality depends on the goodwill and on the collaboration of his human environment.

It is true that besieged and consumed by pernicious guilt feelings, many narcissists finally seek to be punished. The self-destructive narcissist then plays the role of the bad guy or bad girl. But even then it is within the traditional socially allocated roles.

To ensure social opprobrium, in other words, attention, the narcissist exaggerates these roles of bad girl and bad guy to a caricature. A woman is likely to label herself a whore and a main narcissist to self-style himself a vicious, unrepentant criminal. Yet these again are actually traditional social roles.

Women are likely to emphasize intellect, power, aggression, money or social status. Women are likely to emphasize body, looks, charm, sexuality, feminine traits, homemaking, children and child rearing, even as they seek their masochistic punishment.

Another difference between male and female narcissists is in the way the genders react to treatment. Women are more likely to resort to therapy because they are more likely to admit to psychological problems.

But while men may be less inclined to disclose or to expose their problems to others, macho men, it doesn't necessarily imply that men are less prone to admit it to themselves. Women are also more likely to ask for help than men generally.

Yet the prime rule of narcissism is never forgotten. The narcissist uses everything around him or her to obtain his or her narcissistic supply.

Children happen to be more attached to the female narcissist, owing to the way our society is still structured and to the fact that women are the ones to give birth. It is easier therefore for a woman to think of her children as extensions because they once indeed were her physical extensions and because her ongoing interaction with them is both more intensive and more extensive.

This means that a male narcissist is more likely to regard his children as a nuisance than as a source of rewarding narcissistic supply. That is especially true as they grow older, become autonomous and critical.

Devoid of the diversity of alternatives available to men, narcissistic women fight to maintain their most reliable source of supply, their children.

Through insidious indoctrination, guilt formation, emotional sanctions, deprivation, emotional blackmail and other psychological mechanisms, women narcissists try to induce in their children dependence, which cannot be easily unraveled.

But when we tackle the foundations of narcissism, when push comes to shove in a way, there is no psychodynamic difference between children, money, intellect, possessions, positions. There are all sources of narcissistic supply. So there's no psychodynamic difference between male and female narcissists.

They simply choose different sources of supply, but it doesn't make them different.

The only real difference between them is, as I said, in their sources of narcissistic supply. All other facets are literally identical.

There are mental disorders which affect and afflict a specific sex more often than not.

This has to do with hormone or physiological dispositions, with social cultural conditioning through the socialization process and with role assignment through the gender differentiation process.

But none of these seem to be strongly correlated to the formation of malignant narcissism.

Narcissistic personality disorder, for instance, to borderline or histrionic personality disorder. Narcissistic personality disorder seems to conform to social mores and to the prevailing efforts of capitalism.

Social thinkers like Christopher Lash and even Theodore Millon speculated that modern American culture, narcissistic and vicious, individualistic and self-centered one, increases the rate of incidence of narcissistic personality disorder among both males and females.

As Kernberg observed, the most I would be willing to say, he said, is that society can make serious psychological abnormalities which already exist in some percentage of a population seem to be at least superficially appropriate.

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