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For this page, the pronoun "he"
will be used, although both men and women can develop
a narcissistic personality.
- Q. Do Narcissists only love themselves?
A. Narcissists cannot love in a healthy or traditional
way. They profess love only in order to be loved back
- this is narcissistic love. In a healthy relationship,
loving someone is not dependent upon emotional reciprocity.
If your child stops loving you - you do not stop loving
him. You simply cannot not love him. For the Narcissist,
when the admiration from the other person stops, their
"love" for that person stops. Narcissists love
the reflection of themselves. In other words, they cannot
formulate self love solely on who they are (because inside
they feel worth-less), so they project an image of themselves
for others to see (i.e. someone very intelligent, rich,
accomplished etc.). Then when people around them buy into
that projected image, and begin to reflect it back to
the narcissist (through admiration, awe, or clinging behavior),
the narcissist is able to love that reflected image of
himself (i.e. "everyone can see how wonderful I am
so I must be wonderful").
Q. Can the Narcissist live a normal life?
A. What's normal? If you mean like most
people, then the answer is no. Instead of realistic goals,
the Narcissist has a grandiose fantasy. The fantasy cannot
be effectively pursued because it is an elusive, ever
To the Narcissist, life is too difficult. The Narcissist
does have achievements which might be judged as being
very good, but he has to "minimise" them as having been
"too easy" to achieve. The Narcissist cannot admit that
he has worked hard to achieve something – this will shatter
his fantasy of being grandiose or better than everyone
else. He must outwardly belittle every achievement of
his and make it sound uneventful, nothing special, quite
routine. This enables him to support the dreamland
quality of his fragmented personality. But it also prevents
him from feeling accomplished by having reached a goal:
he side steps the opportunity to get social support for
his achievement which would help develop his sense of
self-confidence,and strengthening his sense of self-worth.
When he does achieve something – he degrades it to enhance
his own sense of omnipotence (to keep from facing reality).
Q. What kind of parent does the Narcissist make?
A. Narcissism tends to breed Narcissism. The
Narcissistic parent regards his or her child as a multifaceted
source of Narcissistic supply. The child is considered
and treated as an extension of the Narcissist's personality.
It is through the child that the Narcissist seeks to settle
"open accounts" with the world. The child is supposed
to materialize the unfulfilled Narcissistic dreams and
fantasies of the Narcissistic parent.
This "Life by Proxy" can develop in two possible ways:
the Narcissist can either merge with his child or be ambivalent
towards him. The ambivalence is the result of a conflict
between the attainment of Narcissistic goals and pathological
(destructive) envy. To ameliorate the unease bred by emotional
ambivalence, the Narcissist resorts to a myriad of control
mechanisms. The latter can be grouped into: guilt-driven
("I sacrificed my life for you…"), dependence-driven ("I
need you, I cannot cope without you…"), goal-driven ("We
have a common goal which we must achieve") and explicit
("If you do not adhere to my principles, beliefs, ideology,
religion or any other set of values – sanctions will be
Q. What kind of person is attracted to a narcissistic
A. The narcissist's partner must have a distorted
grasp of himself and of reality. Otherwise, he (or she)
is bound to abandon the narcissist early on. The tendency
is for the narcissist to belittle and demean the partner
– while aggrandizing and adoring himself. The partner
is, thus, placing himself in the position of the eternal
victim: undeserving, punishable, a scapegoat. Sometimes,
it is very important to the partner to appear moral, sacrificial
and victimized. At other times, he is not even aware of
The Narcissist is perceived by the partner to be superior
in many ways (intellectually, emotionally, morally, financially).
The status of professional victim sits well with
the partner's tendency to punish himself. The partner,
by playing the role of dependent/victimb encourages certain
traits and behaviors, which are at the very core of Narcissism.
A Narcissist is never whole without an adoring, submissive,
available, self-denigrating partner. His very sense of
superiority, indeed his false self, depends on
it. He needs a source of continual validation that he
It is through self-denial that the partner survives.
He denies his wishes, hopes, dreams, aspirations, sexual
needs, psychological needs, material needs, everything,
which might engender the wrath of the Narcissist Godlike
supreme figure. The Narcissist is rendered even more superior
through and because of this self-denial.
Q. Can the Narcissist ever get better?
A. A Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an all-pervasive
condition. It is an inseparable part of the personality,
a recurrent set of behavior patterns. Recent research
shows that there is a condition which might be called
"Transient or Temporary or Short Term Narcissism" as opposed
to Narcissistic Personality Disorder, (NPD)". The phenomenon
of "Reactive Narcissistic Regression" is well known: people
regress to a temporary narcissistic phase in reaction
to a major life crisis which threatens their mental composure.
There are Narcissistic traits in every personality
and in this sense, all of us are Narcissists to this or
to that extent. However the person with NPD lives his
life entrenched with the extreme symptoms of the disorder.
No one knows why, but as with age (in one's late forties)
the Disorder seems to decrease in intensity and levels
off to a lesser degree of intensity. This does not universally
Q. Can the Narcissist feel empathy for others?
A. The Narcissist always feels bad. He experiences
all manner of depressive episodes and lesser dysphoric
moods. He goes through a full panoply of mood disorders
and anxiety disorders. He experiences panic from time
to time. It is not pleasant to be a Narcissist. But he
has a diminished ability to empathize, so he rarely
feels sorry for what he has done. He almost never puts
himself in the shoes of his "victims". Sure, he feels
distressed because he is intelligent enough to realize
that something is wrong with him in a major way. He compares
himself to others and the outcome is never favorable.
His grandiosity is one of the defense mechanisms that
he uses to cover up for this disagreeable state of things.
However this is his darkest secret. He doesn't want others
to see his inner feelings of inferiority. The Narcissist
is immersed in self-loathing and self pity. He is under
duress and distress most of his waking life. When others
around him are in pain he will use even this to aggrandize
himself: "poor things, if they had just listened
to me," or "they are so inferior. It is no wonder
that they are so depressed." With the narcissist
everything is me me me. The narcissist will listen to
a friend's troubles by topping their story with one of
his own, rather than offer comfort. The only way a Narcissist
can train himself to feel something close to empathy is
to imagine that the story is about him. His responce might
be "That happened to me once and it was awful."
Q. What causes Narcissism to develop?
A. Narcissism is thought to develop in young children
who are not given the nurturing and admiration they need
from their caregivers. While the young child's personality
is developing they internalize their experience with emotional
neglect as inadequacy in themselves. They get the message
that they are undeserving of love and attention and learn
to defend their ego by puffing themselves up with their
peers. Children who continually lie about their life by
creating fantastic stories representing their inflated
sense of power or importance are exhibiting narcissistic
traits. They feel so unimportant that they fear what others'
would think of them if they found out how dull and painful
their life really was. As they grow into adulthood, this
tendency to lie about their life often develops into an
intense need to identify themselves in some way with people
they see as important or superior. For instance, after
seeing an actor in an airport, they might begin to tell
stories about their friendship with the actor in an attempt
to place themselves on the actors perceived status level
in the eyes of others. They might join organizations or
elite clubs in an attempt to make connections with important
people. However their circle of peers will be composed
of people whom the narcissist looks down on, people who
look up to him as they listen to his stories of grandiosity.
All the while, the narcissist is desperately trying to
create what was missing in childhood.
a listing of the symptoms and personality traits that
a diagnosis of NPD, click here.
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Choices You Make Today, Determine Your Tomorrow,
Karen Dougherty MS -