Thursday, July 15, 2010

Quotes on Narcissim

Sam Vatkin's book has some food for thought:

"Narcissism (n. sing.)
A pattern of traits and behaviours which signify infatuation and obsession with one's self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one's gratification, dominance and ambition." (p. 12)

"The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) has been recognised as a separate mental health disorder in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM) in 1980. Its diagnostic criteria and their interpretation have undergone a major revision in the DSM-III-R [1987] and were substantially revamped in the DSM-IV-TR in 2000. The European ICD-10 basically contains identical language.

An all-pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration or adulation and lack of empathy, usually beginning by early adulthood and present in various contexts. Five (or more) of the following criteria must be met:
_ Feels grandiose and self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents to the point of lying, demands to be recognised as superior without commensurate achievements);
_ Is obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome power or omnipotence, unequalled brilliance (the cerebral narcissist), bodily beauty or sexual performance (the somatic narcissist), or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion;
_ Firmly convinced that he or she is unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people (or institutions);
_ Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation - or, failing that, wishes to be feared and to be notorious (Narcissistic Supply);
_ Feels entitled. Expects unreasonable or special and favourable priority treatment. Demands automatic and full compliance with his or her expectations;
_ Is "interpersonally exploitative", i.e., uses others to achieve his or her own ends;
_ Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledge the feelings and needs of others;
_ Constantly envious of others or believes that they feel the same about him or her;
_ Arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted, or confronted.Chapter VI 13." (pp. 12-13)

"The narcissist is forced to use other people in order to feel that he exists. It is trough [sic] their eyes and through their behaviour that he obtains proof of his uniqueness and grandeur. He is a habitual "people-junkie". With time, he comes to regard those around him as mere instruments for his satisfaction, as two-dimensional cartoon figures with negligible lines in the script of his magnificent life. He becomes unscrupulous and suppresses all the discomfort that he might have felt in the past concerning his conduct. He seems never to be bothered by the constant use he makes of his milieu. He seems not to mind the consequences of his acts: the damage and the pain that he inflicts on others and even the social condemnation and sanctions that he often has to endure." (p. 18)

"A personality whose very existence is a derivative of its reflection in other people's minds - is perilously dependent on these people's perceptions." (p. 18)

"The narcissist lives in a world of all or nothing, of a constant "to be or not be". Every discussion that he holds, every glance of every passer-by reaffirms his existence or casts doubt upon it. This is why the reactions of the narcissist seem so disproportionate: he reacts to what he perceives to be threats to the very cohesion of his self." (p. 18)

"First I build you up because that's what you need. Your skies are blue. Then, out of the blue, I start tearing you down. You let me do it because that's what you are used to and you are dumfounded. I was wrong to take pity on you. You really are incompetent, disrespectful, untrustworthy, immoral, ignorant, inept, egotistical, constrained, disgusting. You are a social embarrassment, an unappreciative partner, an inadequate parent, a disappointment, a sexual flop, a financial liability. I tell you this to your face. I must. It is my right, because it is. I behave, at home and away, any way I want to, with total disregard for conventions, mores, or the feelings of others. It is my right, because it is. I lie to your face, without a twitch or a twitter, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. In fact, my lies are not lies at all. They are the truth, my truth. And you believe them, because you do, because they do not sound or feel like lies, because to do otherwise would make you question your own sanity, which you have a tendency to do anyway, because from the very beginning of our relationship you placed your trust and hopes in me, derived your energy from me, gave me power over you. Run to our friends. Go. See what that will get you. Ridicule. I am to them what I originally was to you. They believe what they see and that's what they see, and they also see the very mixed up person that you obviously have become." (p. 8)

"The more outrageous your account of what happened, the more convinced they will be that the crazy one is you." (p. 8)

"I use people who are dependent on me to keep my illusions alive. In actuality it is I who am dependent on them. Even the rage, that orgasmic release of pain and anger, doesn't work without an audience." (p. 9)

"How many others like me are there? More than you might think, and our numbers are increasing." (p. 9)

"It is simply not possible for so much visible positive to contain so much concealed negative. It is simply not possible." (p. 9)

"He feeds off other people, who hurl back at him an image that he projects to them. This is their sole function in his world: to reflect, to admire, to applaud, to detest - in a word, to assure him that he exists.  Otherwise, they have no right to tax his time, energy, or emotions - so he feels." (p. 11)

""Malignant Self-Love - Narcissism Revisited" was written under extreme conditions of duress. It was composed in jail as I was trying to understand what had hit me. My nine years old marriage dissolved, my finances were in a shocking condition, my family estranged, my reputation ruined, my personal freedom severely curtailed. Slowly, the realisation that it was all my fault, that I was sick and needed help penetrated the decades old defences that I erected around me. This book is the documentation of a road of self-discovery. It was a painful process, which led to nowhere. I am no different - and no healthier - today than I was when I wrote this book. My disorder is here to stay, the prognosis is poor and alarming." (p. 11)

"This book is heavy reading. It is not intended to please or to entertain. NPD is a pernicious, vile and tortuous disease, which affects not only the narcissist. It infects and forever changes people who are in daily contact with the narcissist. In other words: it is contagious. It is my contention that narcissism is the mental epidemic of the twentieth century, a plague to be fought by all means." (p. 12)

"Most narcissists (75%) are men." (p. 13)
"NPD is new [1980] mental health category in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM)." (p. 13)
"It is estimated that 0.7-1% of the general population suffer from NPD." (p. 13)
"Pathological narcissism was first described in detail by Freud. Other major contributors are: Klein, Horney, Kohut, Kernberg, Millon, Roningstam, Gunderson, Hare." (p. 14)

"Narcissists are punished by echoes and reflections of their problematic personalities
up to this very day." (p. 16)

"They are said to be in love with themselves. But this is a fallacy. Narcissus is not in love with HIMSELF. He is in love with his REFLECTION. There is a major difference between True Self and reflected-self. Loving your True Self is a healthy, adaptive and functional quality.
Loving a reflection has two major drawbacks. One is the dependence on the very existence and availability of a reflection to produce the emotion of self-love. The other is the absence of a "compass", an "objective and realistic yardstick", by which to judge the authenticity of the reflection and to measure its isomorphic attributes. In other words, it is impossible to tell whether the reflection is true to reality - and, if so, to what extent." (p. 16)

" If he cannot love himself - he has to love his reflection. But to love his reflection - it must be loveable. Thus, driven by the insatiable urge to love (which we all possess), the narcissist is grossly preoccupied with projecting a loveable image of himself unto others." (p. 17)

"The narcissist has to condition his human environment to refrain from expressing criticism and disapproval of him or of his actions and decisions. He has to teach people around him that these will provoke him into frightful fits of temper and rage attacks and turn him into a constantly cantankerous and irascible person. The disproportion of his reactions constitutes a punishment for their lack of consideration and their ignorance of his true psychological state. In a curious reversal of roles - the narcissist blames others for his behaviour, accuses them of provoking him and believes firmly that "they" should be penalised accordingly. There is no way to dissuade the narcissist once he has embarked on one of his temper tantrums. Apologies - unless accompanied by verbal or other humiliation - are not enough. The fuel of his rage is spent mainly on vitriolic verbal send-offs directed at the (often imaginary) perpetrator of the (oft imaginary) offence." (p. 18-19)

"These rapid alterations between absolute overvaluation to complete devaluation of others make the maintenance of long-term interpersonal relationships all but impossible." (p. 19)

"Displays supercilious imperturbability (except when the narcissistic confidence is shaken), nonchalant, unimpressed and cold-blooded;" (p. 19)

"This choice - to concentrate on the self - is the result of an unconscious decision to give up an unrewarding effort to love others and to trust them.  The child learns that the only one he can trust to always and reliably be available - is he. Therefore, the only one he can love without being abandoned or hurt - is again he. Meaningful others were inconsistent in their acceptance of the child and the only times they paid attention to him were when they wished to satisfy their
needs. They tended to ignore him when these needs were no longer pressing or existent. So, the child learned to side-step deeper relationships in order to avoid this approach-avoidance pendulum. Protecting himself from hurt and from abandonment, he would rather not have anything to do with people around him. He digs in - rather than spring out." (p. 20)

"The family is the mainspring of support of every kind. It mobilises psychological resources and alleviates emotional burdens. It allows for the sharing of tasks, provides material supplies coupled with cognitive training. It is the prime socialisation agent and encourages the absorption of information, most of it useful and adaptive." (p. 21)

"The role of the mother (the Primary Object) has been often discussed and dissected. The father's part is mostly neglected, even in professional literature. However, recent research demonstrates his importance to the orderly and healthy development of the child." (p. 21)

"It is commonly agreed that a loss (real or perceived) at a critical junction in the psychological development of the child - forces him to refer to himself for nurturing and for gratification. The child ceases to trust others and his ability to develop object love or to idealise is hampered. He is constantly shadowed by the feeling that only he can satisfy his emotional needs." (p. 23)

"The narcissist is aloof and distanced, demonstrates his superiority in a myriad of ways, resents what he perceives to be an intrusion on his innermost sanctum. He is offended by any hint regarding defects or dysfunctions in his personality or in his behaviour. A narcissist is a narcissist is a narcissist - even when he asks for help with his world and worldview shattered." (pp. 23-24)

"Pathological narcissism involves an impaired, dysfunctional, immature (True) Self coupled with a compensatory fiction (the False Self). The sick narcissist's sense of self-worth and self-esteem derive entirely from audience feedback. The narcissist has no self-esteem or self-worth of his own (no such Ego functions). In the absence of observers, the narcissist shrivels to non-existence and feels dead. Hence the narcissist's preying habits in his constant pursuit of Narcissistic Supply. Pathological narcissism is an addictive behaviour." (p. 24)

"In time, the narcissist learns how to leverage his pathology, how to use it to his advantage, how to deploy it in order to maximize benefits and utilities - in other words, how to transform his curse into a blessing. Narcissists are obsessed by delusions of fantastic grandeur and superiority. As a result they are very competitive. They are strongly compelled - where others are merely motivated. They are driven, relentless, tireless, and ruthless. They often make it to the top. But even when they do not - they strive and fight and learn and climb and create and think and devise and design and conspire. Faced with a challenge - they are likely to do better than non-narcissists. Yet, we often find that narcissists abandon their efforts in mid-stream, give up, vanish, lose interest, devalue former pursuits, or slump. Why is that? A challenge, or even a guaranteed eventual triumph - are meaningless in the absence of onlookers. The narcissist needs an audience to applaud, affirm, recoil, approve, admire, adore, fear, or even detest him. He craves the attention and depends on the Narcissistic Supply only others can provide. The narcissist derives sustenance only from the outside - his emotional innards are hollow and moribund." (pp. 24-25)

"These psychotic episodes may be closely allied to another feature of narcissism: magical thinking. Narcissists are like children in this sense. Many, for instance, fully believe in two things: that whatever happens - they will prevail and that good things will always happen to them. It is more than a belief, really. Narcissists just KNOW it, the same way one knows gravity - directly, immediately and surely. The narcissist believes that, no matter what he does, he will always be forgiven, always prevail and triumph, always come on top. The narcissist is, therefore, fearless in a manner perceived by others to be both admirable and insane. He attributes to himself divine and cosmic immunity - he cloaks myself in it, it renders him invisible to his enemies and to the powers of "evil". It is a childish phantasmagoria - but to the narcissist it is very real." (p. 26)

"instability is so ubiquitous, so all-pervasive, and so prevalent and dominant - that it might well be described as the ONLY stable feature of the narcissist's personality." (p. 30)

(Originally written February 28, 2009)

Hannah Ihms
Graduate Student, Chemistry
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

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