More Data About Pathological
by Dr. Sam Vaknin
Most narcissists (75%) are men.
NPD (=the Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is one of a "family"
of personality disorders (formerly known as "Cluster B").
Other members: Borderline PD, Antisocial PD and Histrionic PD.
NPD is often diagnosed with other mental health disorders ("co-morbidity")
- or with substance abuse, or impulsive and reckless behaviours
NPD is new (1980) mental health category in the Diagnostic and
Statistics Manual (DSM).
There is only scant research regarding narcissism.
But what there is has not demonstrated any ethnic, social, cultural,
economic, genetic, or professional predilection to NPD.
It is estimated that 0.7-1% of the general population suffer
Pathological narcissism was first described in detail by Freud.
Other major contributors are: Klein, Horney, Kohut, Kernberg,
Millon, Roningstam, Gunderson, Hare.
The onset of narcissism is in infancy, childhood and early adolescence.
It is commonly attributed to childhood abuse and trauma inflicted
by parents, authority figures, or even peers.
There is a whole range of narcissistic reactions - from the
mild, reactive and transient to the permanent personality disorder.
Narcissists are either "Cerebral" (derive their narcissistic
supply from their intelligence or academic achievements) - or
"Somatic" (derive their narcissistic supply from their physique,
exercise, physical or sexual prowess and "conquests").
Narcissists are either "Classic" - see definition below - or
they are "Compensatory", or "Inverted" - see definitions here:
"The Inverted Narcissist" - http://www.geocities.com/vaksam/faq66.html
NPD is treated in talk therapy (psychodynamic or cognitive-behavioral).
The prognosis for an adult narcissist is poor, though his adaptation
to life and to others can improve with treatment.
Medication is applied to side-effects and behaviours (such as
mood or affect disorders and obsession-compulsion) - usually
with some success.
To learn more, go here:
Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited (link: http://www.geocities.com/vaksam/faq1.html
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (link: http://www.suite101.com/welcome.cfm/npd
I. PATHOLOGICAL NARCISSISM OVERVIEW
Whether narcissism and its pathology are the results of genetic
programming (see Anthony Benis and others) or of dysfunctional
families and faulty upbringing or of anomic societies and disruptive
socialization processes - is still an unresolved debate. The
scarcity of scientific research, the fuzziness of the diagnostic
criteria and the differential diagnoses make it unlikely that
this will be settled soon one way or the other.
It is the psychoanalytic belief that we are all Narcissists
at an early < stage of our lives. As infants and toddlers we
all feel that we are the center of the Universe, the most import
ant, omnipotent and omniscient beings.
At that phase of our development, our parents are perceived
by us to be mythical figures, immortal and awesomely powerful,
there solely to cater to our needs, to protect and nourish us.
Both Self and others are viewed immaturely, as idealizations.
This, in the psychodynamic models, is called the phase of "primary"
narcissism. Inevitably, the inexorable processes and conflicts
of life erode these perceptions and reduce the ideal into the
Adaptation is a process of disillusionment. If this process
is abrupt, inconsistent, unpredictable, capricious, arbitrary
and intense - the injuries sustained by the infant's tender,
budding, self-esteem, are severe and, often, irreversible. Moreover,
the empathic support of our caretakers (the Primary Objects,
the parents) is crucial. In its absence, our sense of self-worth
and self-esteem in adulthood tends to fluctuate, to alternate
between over-valuation (idealization) and devaluation of both
Self and others. Narcissistic adults are widely thought to be
the result of bitter disappointment, of radical disillusionment
in the significant others in their infancy. Healthy adults accept
their self-limitations (the boundaries and limitations of their
selves). They accept disappointments, setbacks, failures, criticism
and disillusionment with grace and tolerance. Their self-esteem
is constant and positive, not substantially affected by outside
events, no matter how severe.
II. PATHOLOGICAL NARCISSISM - SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT
The common view is that we go through the stages of a linear
development. We are propelled forward by forces. Various psychoanalytic
and psychodynamic models incorporate the libido (force of life)
and Thanatos (force of death) in Freud's thinking, Meaning in
Frenkel's, socially mediated phenomena (Adler, Behaviourism),
cultural context (Horney), interpersonal relations (Sullivan)
and neurobiological and neurochemical forces, to mention but
a few schools.
These thought systems differ on many issues. Some postulate
the cessation of personal development during childhood, others
- during adolescence. Yet others claim that development is a
process which continues throughout a person's life. Common to
all these schools of thought are the mechanics and dynamics
of the psychic process. Forces - inner or external - facilitate
the development of the individual. When an obstacle to development
is encountered, development is stunted or arrested - but not
for long. A distorted pattern of development, a bypass appears.
Hence, psychopathological conditions are the outcomes of disturbed
growth. Humans can be compared to trees. When a tree encounters
a physical obstacle to its growth - its branches or roots curl
around it. Yet, deformed and ugly, they still reach their destination,
however late and partially.
Psychopathologies are adaptive mechanisms. They allow the individual
to continue to grow around the disturbing factor. The personality
twists and turns, deforms itself, is transformed - until it
reaches a functional equilibrium, which is not too ego-dystonic.
There it settles down and continues its more or less linear
pattern of growth. But the thrust is clear: onwards. Adaptation
above all, growth at any price, straight or deformed. The forces
of life (as expressed in the development of the personality)
are stronger than any hindrance. The roots of trees crack mighty
rocks, microbes live in the most poisonous surroundings - humans
form the personality structure which is best suited to their
needs and outside constraints. Such a personality structure
may be abnormal - but it has triumphed in the delicate task
of successful adaptation.
III. Narcissistic Regression and the Formation of Secondary
Research shows that (Gunderson-Roningstam, 1996) when an individual
(at any age) encounters an obstacle to his orderly progression
from one stage of development to another - he retreats to his
infantile-Narcissistic phase rather than circumvent the hindrance.
The process is three-stepped:
(1) The person encounters an obstacle, (2) The person regresses
to the primary Narcissistic phase, and (3) The person recuperates
and moves back from the primary Narcissistic phase to attack
the obstacle again. While in step (2), the person displays childish,
immature behaviours. He feels that he is omnipotent and misjudges
his power and the power of his opponents and opposition. He
underestimates challenges facing him and pretends to be "Mr.
Know-All". His sensitivity to the needs and emotions of others
and his ability to empathize with them deteriorates sharply.
He becomes intolerably haughty and arrogant, with sadistic and
paranoid tendencies. Above all, he then seeks unconditional
admiration, even when he does not deserve it.
He is preoccupied with fantastic, magical, thinking and daydreams
his life away.
He tends to exploit others, to envy them, to be edgy and explode
with unexplained rage. A person undergoing a psychological development
crisis brought on by an insurmountable obstacle - will, mostly,
revert to excessive and compulsive behaviour patterns. To put
it succinctly: whenever we experience a major life crisis (which
hinders our personal growth and threatens it) - we suffer from
a mild and transient form of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder
(see further in this article).
This fantasy world, full of falsity and feelings hurt, serves
as a springboard. It is from there that the individual can resume
his progress towards the next stage of personal growth. Faced
with the same obstacle, he feels (falsely) sufficiently potent
to ignore it or to attack it. In most cases, success is guaranteed
by the very unrealistic assessment of the fortitude and magnitude
of the obstacle. The main function of the episodic NPD is this:
to encourage the individual to engage in magical thinking, to
wish the problem away or to enchant it or to tackle and overcome
it from a position of omnipotence.
A structural abnormality of personality arises only when recurrent
attacks fail constantly and consistently to eliminate the obstacle,
or to overcome the hindrance - especially if this failure happens
during the formative years (0-4 years of age). The contrast
between the fantastic world (temporarily) occupied by the individual
and the real world in which he keeps being frustrated - is too
acute to countenance for long. The dissonance gives rise to
the unconscious "decision" to go on living in the world of fantasy,
grandiosity and entitlement. It is better to feel special than
to feel inadequate. It is better to be omnipotent than psychologically
impotent. To (abuse others is preferable to being (ab)used by
them. In short: it is better to remain a pathological Narcissist
than to face the harsh unyielding realities. This phase of permanent
narcissism is often called "secondary" narcissism.
IV. The Dynamics of Narcissism - The Mother-Child Bond
Narcissism and its pathologies are commonly tackled by the application
of the various psychodynamic models.
According to these models, parents ("Primary Objects") and,
more specifically, mothers are the first agents of socialization.
It is through his mother that the child explores the most important
questions, the answers to which will shape his entire life.
How loved one is, how lovable, how independent can one become,
how guilty one should feel for wanting to become autonomous,
how predictable is the world, how much abuse should one expect
in life and so on. The mother, to the infant, is not only an
object of dependence (survival is at stake), love and adoration.
It is a representation of the Universe itself. It is through
her that the child first exercises his senses: the tactile,
the olfactory, and the visual.
Later on, she is the subject of his nascent sexual cravings
(if the child is a male) - a diffuse sense of wanting to merge,
physically, as well as spiritually. This object of love is idealized
and internalized and becomes part of our conscience ("superego"
in the psychoanalytic model).
Growing up (attaining maturity and adulthood) entails the gradual
detachment from the mother. At first, the child begins to shape
a more realistic view of her and incorporates the mother's shortcomings
and disadvantages in this modified version. The more ideal,
less realistic and earlier picture of the mother is stored and
becomes part of the child's psyche. The later, less cheerful,
more realistic view enables the infant to define his own identity
and gender identity and to "go out to the world". Partly abandoning
mother is the key to an independent exploration of the world,
to personal autonomy and to a strong sense of self. Resolving
the sexual complex and the resulting conflict of being attracted
to a forbidden figure - is the second, determining, step. The
(male) child must realize that his mother is "off limits" to
him sexually (and emotionally, or psychosexually) and that she
"belongs" to his father. He must thereafter choose to imitate
his father in order to win, in the future, someone like his
mother. This is an oversimplified description of the very intricate
psychodynamic processes involved - but this, still, is the gist
of it all. The third (and final) stage of letting go of the
mother should be reached during the delicate period of adolescence.
The person then seriously ventures out and, finally, builds
and secures his own universe, replete and complete with a new
"mother-lover". If any of these phases is thwarted - the process
of differentiation is not successfully completed, no autonomy
or coherent self is achieved and dependence and "infantilism"
characterize the person.
What determines the success or failure of these developments
in one's personal history? Mostly, the mother herself. If she
does not "let go" - the child will not go. If the mother herself
is the dependent, Narcissistic type - the growth prospects of
the child are, indeed, dim.
There are numerous mechanisms, which mothers use to ensure the
continued presence and emotional dependence of their offspring
(of both sexes).
The mother can cast herself in the role of the eternal victim,
a sacrificial figure, who dedicated her life to the child (with
the implicit or explicit proviso of reciprocity: that the child
will dedicate his life to her).
Another strategy is to treat the child as an extension of the
mother or, conversely, to treat herself as an extension of the
child. Yet another tactic is to create a situation of "follies
a deux" (the mother and child united against external threats),
or an atmosphere suffused with sexual and erotic insinuations,
leading to an illicit psychosexual bonding between mother and
child. In the latter case, the adult's ability to interact with
members of the opposite sex is gravely impaired and the mother
is perceived as envious of any feminine influence other than
hers. The mother will criticize the women in her offspring's
life pretending to do so in order to protect him from dangerous
liaisons or from ones which are "beneath him" ("you deserve
more"). Other mothers exaggerate their neediness: they emphasize
their financial dependence and lack of resources, their health
problems, their emotional barrenness without the soothing presence
of the child, their need to be protected against this or that
(mostly imaginary) enemy. The latter tactic is a pernicious
variant of the guilt-related species. Guilt is a prime mover
in the perverted relationships of such mothers and their children.
V. The Dynamics of Narcissism - Primitive Defence Mechanisms
"When the habitual narcissistic gratifications that come from
being adored, given special treatment, and admiring the self
are threatened, the results may be depression, hypochondriasis,
anxiety, shame, self destructiveness, or rage directed toward
any other person who can be blamed for the troubled situation.
The child can learn to avoid these painful emotional states
by acquiring a narcissistic mode of information processing.
Such learning may be by trial-and-error methods, or it may be
internalized by identification with parental modes of dealing
with stressful information." (Jon Mardi Horowitz - "Stress Response
Syndromes: PTSD, Grief, and Adjustment Disorders", Third Edition)
Narcissism is fundamentally an advanced version of the splitting
defense mechanism. The Narcissist cannot regard humans, situations,
entities (political parties, countries, races, his workplace)
as a compound of good and bad elements. He is an "all or nothing"
primitive "machine" (a common self metaphor among narcissists).
He either idealizes his object - or devalues it. The object
is either all good or all bad. The bad attributes are always
projected, displaced, or otherwise externalized. The good ones
are internalized in order to support the inflated ("grandiose")
self-concepts of the narcissist and his grandiose fantasies
- and to avoid the pain of deflation and disillusionment. The
Narcissist's earnestness and his (apparent) sincerity make people
wonder whether he is simply detached from reality, unable to
appraise it properly - or willingly and knowingly distorts reality
and reinterprets it, subjecting it to his self-imposed censorship.
It would seem that the Narcissist is dimly aware of the implausibility
of his own constructions. He has not lost touch with reality.
He is just less scrupulous in reshaping it, remolding its curvatures
and ignoring the uncomfortable angles.
"The disguises are accomplished by shifting meanings and using
exaggeration and minimization of bits of reality as a nidus
for fantasy elaboration. The narcissistic personality is especially
vulnerable to regression to damaged or defective self-concepts
on the occasions of loss of those who have functioned as self-objects.
When the individual is faced with such stress events as criticism,
withdrawal of praise, or humiliation, the information involved
may be denied, disavowed, negated, or shifted in meaning to
prevent a reactive state of rage, depression, or shame." (Jon
Mardi Horowitz - ibid)
The second mechanism which the narcissist employees is the active
pursuit of "Narcissistic Supply". The Narcissist actively seeks
to furnish himself with an endless supply of admiration, adulation,
affirmation and attention. As opposed to common opinion (which
infiltrated literature) - the narcissist is content to have
ANY kind of attention. If fame cannot be had - infamy and notoriety
will do. The narcissist is obsessed with the obtaining of narcissistic
supply, he is addicted to it. His behavior in its pursuit is
"The hazard is not simply guilt because ideals have not been
met. Rather, any loss of a good and coherent self-feeling is
associated with intensely experienced emotions such as shame
and depression, plus an anguished sense of helplessness and
disorientation. To prevent this state, the narcissistic personality
slides the meanings of events in order to place the self in
a better light. What is good is labeled as being of the self
(internalized) Those qualities that are undesirable are excluded
from the self by denial of their existence, disavowal of related
attitudes, externalization, and negation of recent self-expressions.
Persons who function as accessories to the self may also be
idealized by exaggeration of their attributes. Those who counter
the self are depreciated; ambiguous attributions of blame and
a tendency to self-righteous rage states are a conspicuous aspect
of this pattern. Such fluid shifts in meanings permit the narcissistic
personality to maintain apparent logical consistency while minimizing
evil or weakness and exaggerating innocence or control. As part
of these maneuvers, the narcissistic personality may assume
attitudes of contemptuous superiority toward others, emotional
coldness, or even desperately charming approaches to idealized
figures." (Jon Mardi Horwitz, ibid)
VI. Narcissism - Freud versus Jung
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is credited with the promulgation
and presentation of a first coherent theory of narcissism. He
described transitions from subject-directed libido to object-directed
libido through the intermediation and agency of the parents.
To be healthy and functional, the transitions must be smooth
and unperturbed. Neuroses are the results of such perturbations.
Freud conceived of each stage as the default (or fallback) of
the next one.
Thus, if a child reaches out to his objects of desire and fails
to attract their love and attention - the child will regress
to the previous phase, to the narcissistic phase. The first
occurrence of narcissism is adaptive.
It "trains" the child to love an object. It ensures gratification
through availability, predictability and permanence. But regressing
to "secondary narcissism" is mal-adaptive. It is an indication
of failure to direct the libido to the "right" targets (to objects,
such as the child's parents).
If this pattern of regression persists and prevails, a "narcissistic
neurosis" is formed. The narcissist stimulates his self habitually
in order to derive pleasure and gratification. He prefers this
mode of deriving gratification to others. He is "lazy" because
he takes the "easy" route of resorting to his self and reinvesting
his libidinal resources "in-house" rather than making an effort
(and risking failure) to seek out libidinal objects other than
his self. The narcissist prefers fantasyland to reality, grandiose
self-conception to realistic appraisal, masturbation and sexual
fantasies to mature adult sex and daydreaming to real life achievements.
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) had a mental picture of the psyche
as a giant warehouse of archetypes (the conscious representations
of adaptive behaviors). Fantasies to him were just a way of
accessing these archetypes and releasing them.
Almost ex definition, regression cannot be entertained by Jungian
Any reversion to earlier phases of mental life, to earlier coping
strategies, to earlier choices - in other words, any default
- is interpreted as simply the psyche's way of using yet another,
hitherto untapped, adaptation strategy.
Regressions are compensatory processes intended to enhance adaptation
and not methods of obtaining or securing a steady flow of gratification.
Actually, there is little difference between Freud and his disciple
turned-heretic, Jung. They seem to be sparring in a linguistic
field. In other words, it is a matter of semantics. When libido
investment in objects (esp. the Primary Object) fails to produce
gratification, maladaptation results. This is dangerous. A default
option is activated: secondary narcissism. This default enhances
adaptation, it is functional and adaptive and triggers adaptive
behaviors. As a by-product, it secures gratification.
We are gratified when we are at peace with our model of our
We are at such peace when we exert reasonable control over our
environment, i.e., when our behaviors are adaptive. The compensatory
process has TWO results: enhanced adaptation and inevitable
Perhaps the more serious division between them is with regards
to introversion. Freud regards introversion as an instrument
in the service of a pathology (introversion is indispensable
to narcissism, as opposed to extroversion which is a necessary
condition for libidinal object-orientation).
As opposed to Freud, Jung regards introversion as a useful tool
in the service of the endless psychic quest for adaptation strategies
(narcissism being one such strategy). The Jungian adaptation
repertoire does not discriminate against narcissism. To Jung
it is as legitimate a choice as any. But even Jung acknowledged
that the very need to look for a new adaptation strategy means
that adaptation has failed. In other words, the search itself
is indicative of a pathological state of affairs. It does seem
that introversion per se IS NOT pathological (because no psychological
mechanism is pathological PER SE). Only the use made of it CAN
One would tend to agree with Freud, though, that when introversion
becomes a permanent feature of the psychic landscape of a person
- it facilitates pathological narcissism.
Jung distinguished introverts (those who habitually concentrate
on their selves rather than on outside objects) from extroverts
(the convese preference). Not only was introversion a totally
normal and natural function in childhood, it remains normal
and natural even if it predominates the mental life.
Yet, the habitual and predominant focusing of attention upon
one's self, to the exclusion of others is THE definition of
pathological narcissism. What differentiates the pathological
from the normal is degree.
Pathological narcissism is ex-clusive and all-pervasive.
Other forms of narcissism are not. So, although there is no
healthy state of habitual, predominant introversion, it remains
a question of form and degree of introversion. Often a healthy,
adaptive mechanism goes awry. When it does, as Jung himself
recognized, neuroses form.
Freud regards Narcissism as a POINT while Jung regards it as
a CONTINUUM (from health to sickness).
VII. Narcissism - Kohut's Approach
In a way, Heinz Kohut took Jung a step further. He said that
pathological narcissism is not the result of excessive narcissism,
libido or aggression.
It is the result of defective, deformed or incomplete narcissistic
(self) structures. Kohut postulated the existence of core constructs
which he named: the Grandiose Exhibitionistic Self and the Idealized
Parent Imago (see below). Children entertain notions of greatness
(primitive or naive grandiosity) mingled with magical thinking,
feelings of omnipotence and omniscience and a belief in their
immunity to the consequences of their actions. These elements
and the child's feelings regarding its parents (which are also
painted by it with a brush of omnipotence and grandiosity) -
coagulate and form these constructs.
The child's feelings towards its parents are reactions to their
responses (affirmation, buffering, modulation or disapproval,
punishment, even abuse).
These responses help maintain the self-structures. Without the
appropriate responses, grandiosity, for instance, cannot be
transformed into adult ambitions and ideals.
To Kohut, grandiosity and idealization were positive childhood
development mechanisms. Even their reappearance in transference
should not be considered a pathological narcissistic regression.
In his "Chicago Lectures 1972-1976" he says:
"You see, the actual issue is really a simple one . . . a simple
change in classical [Freudian] theory, which states that auto-erotism
develops into narcissism and that narcissism develops into object
love . . . there is a contrast and opposition between narcissism
and object love. The[forward] movement toward maturation was
toward object love. The movement from object love toward narcissism
is a [backward]regressive movement toward a fixation point.
To my mind [this] viewpoint is a theory built into a nonscientific
value judgment . . . that has nothing to do with developmental
Kohut's contention is nothing less than revolutionary. He says
that narcissism (subject-love) and object-love coexist and interact
throughout life. True, they wear different guises with age and
maturation - but they always cohabitate.
Kohut: "It is not that the self-experiences are given up and
replaced by... a more mature or developmentally more advanced
experience of objects."
This dichotomy inevitably led to a dichotomy of disorders. Kohut
agreed with Freud that neuroses are conglomerates of defence
mechanisms, formations, symptoms, and unconscious conflicts.
He even did not object to identifying unresolved Oedipal conflicts
(ungratified unconscious wishes and their objects) as the root
of neuroses. But he identified a whole new class of disorders:
the self-disorders. These were the result of the perturbed development
It was not a cosmetic or superficial distinction. Self disorders
were the results of childhood traumas very much different to
Freud's Oedipal, castration and other conflicts and fears. These
are the traumas of the child either not being "seen" (an existence,
a presence which are not affirmed by objects, especially the
Primary Objects, the parents) - or being regarded as an object
for gratification or abuse. Such children develop to become
adults who are not sure that they do exist (lack a sense of
self-continuity) or that they are worth anything (lack of self-worth,
or self-esteem). They suffer depressions, as neurotics do. But
the source of these depressions is existential (a gnawing sensation
of emptiness) as opposed to the "guilty-conscious" depressions
Such depressions: "... are interrupted by rages because things
are not going their way, because responses are not forthcoming
in the way they expected and needed. Some of them may even search
for conflict to relieve the pain and intense suffering of the
poorly established self, the pain of the discontinuous, fragmenting,
undercathected self of the child not seen or responded to as
a unit of its own, not recognized as an independent self who
wants to feel like somebody, who wants to go its own way (see
They are individuals whose disorders can be understood and treated
only by taking into consideration the formative experiences
in childhood of the total body-mind-self and its self-object
environment - for instance, the experiences of joy of the total
self feeling confirmed, which leads to pride, self-esteem, zest,
and initiative; or the experiences of shame, loss of vitality,
deadness, and depression of the self who does not have the feeling
of being included, welcomed, and enjoyed." (From: The Preface
to the "Chicago Lectures 1972-1976 of H. Kohut, by: Paul and
One note: "Constructs" or "Structures" are permanent psychological
This is not to say that they do not change - rather, that they
are capable only of slow change. Kohut and his Self-psychology
disciples believed that the only viable constructs are comprised
of self-self object experiences and that these structures are
lifelong ones. Melanie Klein believed more in archaic drives,
splitting defenses and archaic internal objects and part objects.
Winnicott (and Balint and other, mainly British researchers)
as well as other ego-psychologists thought that only infantile
drive wishes and hallucinated oneness with archaic objects qualify
VIII. Narcissism - Karen Horney's Contributions
Horney is one of the precursors of the "Object Relations" school
of psychodynamics. She said that personality was shaped mostly
by environmental issues, social or cultural. She believed that
relationships with other humans in one's childhood determine
both the shape and functioning of one's personality. She expanded
the psychoanalytic repertoire. She added needs to drives. Where
Freud believed in the exclusivity of the sex drive as an agent
of transformation (later he added other drives) - Horney believed
that people (children) needed to feel secure, to be loved, protected,
emotionally nourished and so on. She believed that the satisfaction
of these needs or their frustration early in childhood were
as important a determinant as any drive. Society was introduced
through the parental door. Biology converged with social injunction
to yield human values such the nurturance of children.
Horney's great contribution was the concept of anxiety. Freudian
anxiety was a rather primitive mechanism, a reaction to imaginary
threats arising from early childhood sexual conflicts. Horney
argued convincingly that anxiety is a primary reaction to the
very dependence of the child on adults for his survival. Children
are uncertain (of love, protection, nourishment, nurturance)
- so they become anxious. Defenses are developed to compensate
for the intolerable and gradual realization that adults are
human: capricious, arbitrary, unpredictable, non-dependable.
Defenses provide both satisfaction and a sense of security.
The problem still exists, even as the anxiety does, but they
are "one stage removed". When the defenses are attacked or perceived
to be attacked (such as in therapy) - anxiety is reawakened.
Karen B. Wallant in "Treating Addictions and the Alienated Self":
"The capacity to be alone develops out of the baby's ability
to hold onto the internalization of his mother, even during
her absences. It is not just an image of mother that he retains
but also her loving devotion to him. Thus, when alone, he can
feel confident and secure as he continues to infuse himself
with her love. The addict has had so few loving attachments
in his life that when alone he is returned to his detached,
alienated self. This feeling-state can be compared to a young
child's fear of monsters<without a powerful other to help
him, the monsters continue to live somewhere within the child
or his environment. It is not uncommon for patients to be found
on either side of an attachment pendulum. It is invariably easier
to handle patients for whom the transference erupts in the idealizing
attachment phase than those who view the therapist as a powerful
and distrusted intruder."
So, the child learns to sacrifice a part of his autonomy, of
WHO is in order to feel secure. Horney identified three NEUROTIC
strategies: submission, aggression and detachment. The choice
of strategy determines the type of personality, or rather of
NEUROTIC personality. The submissive (or compliant) type is
fake. He hides aggression beneath the facade of friendliness.
The aggressive type is fake as well: at heart he is submissive.
The detached neurotic withdraws from people. This cannot be
considered an adaptive strategy.
Horney's is an optimistic outlook. Because she believes biology
is only ONE of the forces shaping our adulthood - culture and
society being the predominant ones - she believes in reversibility
and in the power of insight to heal. She believes that if an
adult were to understand his problem (his anxiety) - he would
be able to eliminate it altogether. Other theoreticians are
much more pessimistic and deteriministic.
They think that childhood trauma and abuse are pretty much impossible
to reprogram, let alone erase. Modern brain research tends both
to support this sad view - and to offer some hope. The brain
seems to be plastic. It is physically impressed with abuse and
trauma. But no one knows when this "window of plasticity" shuts.
It is conceivable that this plasticity continues well into adulthood
and that later "reprogramming" (by loving, caring, compassionate
and empathic experiences) can remold the brain permanently.
Yet others believe that the patient has to accept his disorder
as a given and work AROUND it rather than attack it directly.
Our disorders were adaptive and helped us to function. Their
removal may not always be wise or necessary to attain a full
and satisfactory life. additionally, we should not all conform
to a mold and experience life the same. Idiosyncrasies are a
good thing, both on the individual level and on the level of
IX. The Issue of Separation and Individuation
It is by no means universally accepted that children go through
a phase of separation from their parents and through the consequent
Most psychodynamic theories (especially Klein, Mahler) are virtually
constructed upon this foundation. The child is considered to
be merged with his parents until it differentiates itself (through
object-relations). But researchers like Daniel Stern dispute
this hypothesis. Based on many studies it appears that what
seems intuitively right is not necessarily right. In "The Interpersonal
World of the Infant" (1985) Stern seems to, inadvertently, support
Kohut by concluding that children possess selves and are separated
from their caregivers from the very start. In effect, he says
that the picture of the child, as depicted by psychodynamic
theories, is influenced by the way adults see children and childhood
in retrospect. Adult disorders (for instance, the pathological
need to merge) are attributed to children and to childhood.
This view is in stark contrast to the belief that children will
accept any kind of parents (even abusive) because they depend
on them for their self-definition.
Attachment to and dependence on significant others is the result
of the non-separateness of the child, go the classical psychodynamic/object-relations
theories. The Self is a construct (within a social context,
some add), an assimilation of the oft-imitated and idealized
parents plus the internalization of the way others perceive
the child within social interactions. The self is, therefore,
an internalized reflection, an imitation, a series of internalized
idealizations. This sounds close to pathological narcissism.
Perhaps pathological narcissism is really a matter of quantity
rather than of quality.
X. Childhood Traumas and the Development of the Narcissistic
Traumas are inevitable. They are an inseparable part of life.
But in early childhood - especially in the formative years of
infancy (ages 0 to 4 years) they acquire an ominous aura, an
evil, irreversible meaning.
No matter how innocuous the event and the surrounding circumstances
the child's vivid imagination is likely to embed it in the framework
of a highly idiosyncratic horror story.
Parents sometimes have to go away due to medical or economic
They may be too preoccupied to stay attuned at all times to
the child's emotional needs. The family unit itself may be disintegrating
with looming divorce or separation. The values of the parent
may stand in radical contrast to those of society.
To adults, such traumas are very different to abuse. Verbal
and psychological-emotional abuse or neglect are judged by us
to be more serious "offenses". But this distinction is lost
on the child. To him, all traumas are of equal standing, though
their severity may differ together with the permanence of their
emotional outcomes. Moreover, such abuse and neglect could well
be the result of circumstances beyond the abusive or negligent
parent's control. A parent can be physically or mentally handicapped,
for instance. But the child cannot see this as a mitigating
circumstance because he cannot appreciate it or even plainly
understand the causal linkage.
Where even the child itself can tell the difference is with
physical and sexual abuse. Here is a cooperative effort at concealment,
strong emotions of shame and guilt, repressed to the point of
producing anxiety and "neurosis". Sometimes the child perceives
even the injustice of the situation, though it rarely dares
to express its views, lest it be abandoned by its abusers. This
type of trauma which involves the child actively or passively
is qualitatively different and is bound to yield long term effects
such as dissociation or severe personality disorders. These
are violent, active traumas, not traumas by default and the
reaction is bound to be violent and active. The child becomes
a reflection of its dysfunctional family - it represses emotions,
denies reality, resorts to violence and escapism, disintegrates.
One of the coping strategies is to withdraw inwards, to seek
gratification from a secure, reliable and permanently-available
source: from the Self.
The child, fearful of further rejection and abuse, refrains
from further interaction. Instead, it builds its own kingdom
of grandiose fantasies wherein it is always loved and self-sufficient.
This is the narcissistic strategy which leads to the development
of a narcissistic personality.
XI. The Dysfunctional Family
The family is the mainspring of support of every kind. It mobilizes
psychological resources and alleviates emotional burdens. It
allows for the sharing of tasks, provides material supplies
coupled with cognitive training. It is the prime socialization
agent and encourages the absorption of information, most of
it useful and adaptive.
This division of labour between parents and children is vital
both to development and to proper adaptation. The child must
feel, in a functional family, that he can share his experiences
without being defensive and that the feedback that he is likely
to get will be open and unbiased. The only "bias" acceptable
(because it is consistent with constant outside feedback) is
the set of beliefs, values and goals that will finally be internalized
via imitation and unconscious identification. So, the family
is the first and the most important source of identity and of
emotional support. It is a greenhouse wherein a child feels
loved, accepted and secured - the prerequisites for the development
of personal resources. On the material level, the family should
provide the basic necessities (and, preferably, beyond), physical
care and protection and refuge and shelter during crises.
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
He participates in the day to day care, is an intellectual catalyst,
who encourages the child to develop his interests and to satisfy
his curiosity through the manipulation of various instruments
and games. He is a source of authority and discipline, a boundary
setter, enforcing and encouraging positive behaviours and eliminating
negative ones. He also provides emotional support and economic
security, thus stabilizing the family unit.
Finally, he is the prime source of masculine orientation and
identification to the male child - and gives warmth and love
as a male to his daughter, without exceeding the socially permissible
We can safely say that the Narcissist's family is as severely
disturbed as he is. He is nothing but a reflection of its dysfunction.
One or more (usually, many more) of the functions aforementioned
are improperly carried out. The narcissist is the "emergent"
pathology of his family, he embodies this pathology.
In a dysfunctional family, two important mechanisms operate:
First, the mechanism of self-deception: "I do have a relationship
with my parents. It is my fault - the fault of my emotions,
sensations, aggressions and passions - that this relationship
is not working. It is, therefore, my responsibility to make
amends. I will write a play in which I am both loved and punished.
In this play, I will allocate roles to myself and to my parents.
This way, everything will be fine and we will all be happy."
Second is the mechanism of over-valuation and devaluation. The
dual roles of sadist and punished masochist (Superego and Ego
in the psychoanalytic model), parent and child - permeate, then
invade and then pervade all the interactions that a Narcissist
has with his fellow humans. He experiences a reversal of roles
as his relationships progress.
At the beginning of every relationship he is the child in need
of attention, approval and admiration. He becomes dependent.
Then, at the first sign of disapproval (real or imaginary),
he is revealed as an avowed sadist, punishing and inflicting
XII. Narcissism - Otto Kernberg
Another school of psychology is represented by Otto Kernberg
(1975, 1984, 1987).
Kernberg is a senior member of the "Object Relations" school
in Psychology (Kohut, Kernberg, Klein, Winnicott).
Kernberg disagrees with Freud. He regards the division between
an Object Libido (=energy directed at Objects, people in the
immediate vicinity of the infant and who are meaningful to him)
and a Narcissistic Libido (=energy directed at the Self as the
most immediate and satisfying Object), which precedes it - as
Whether a Child develops a normal or a pathological form of
Narcissism depends on the relations between the representations
of the Self (=roughly, the image of the Self that he forms in
his mind) and the representations of Objects (=roughly, the
images of the Objects that he forms in his mind, based on all
the information available to him, including emotional data).
It is also dependent on the relationship between the representations
of the Self and real, external, "objective" Objects. Add to
this instinctual conflicts related both to the Libido and to
aggression (these very strong emotions give rise to strong conflicts
in the child) and a comprehensive explanation concerning the
formation of pathological Narcissism emerges.
Kernberg's concept of Self is closely related to Freud's concept
The Self is dependent upon the unconscious, which exerts a constant
influence on all mental functions. Pathological Narcissism,
reflects a libidinal investment in a pathologically structured
Self and not in a normal, integrative structure of the Self.
The Narcissist suffers from a Self, which is devalued or fixated
All object relations of such a Self are distorted: it detaches
these relations from the real Objects (because they often hurt),
it dissociates, represses, or projects them unto other objects.
Narcissism is not merely a fixation on an early developmental
stage. It is not confined to the failure to develop intra-psychic
structures. It is an active, libidinal investment in a deformed
structure of the Self.
XIII. The Narcissist and his Family - An Integrative Framework
"For very young children, self-esteem is probably best thought
to consist of deep feelings of being loved, accepted, and valued
by significant others rather than of feelings derived from evaluating
oneself against some external criteria, as in the case of older
children. Indeed, the only criterion appropriate for accepting
and loving a newborn or infant is that he or she has been born.
The unconditional love and acceptance experienced in the first
year or two of life lay the foundation for later self-esteem,
and probably make it possible for the preschooler and older
child to withstand occasional criticism and negative evaluations
that usually accompany socialization into the larger community.
As children grow beyond the preschool years, the larger society
imposes criteria and conditions upon love and acceptance. If
the very early feelings of love and acceptance are deep enough,
the child can most likely weather the rebuffs and scoldings
of the later years without undue debilitation.
With increasing age, however, children begin to internalize
criteria of self-worth and a sense of the standards to be attained
on the criteria from the larger community they observe and in
which they are beginning to participate. The issue of criteria
of self-esteem is examined more closely below.
Cassidy's (1988) study of the relationship between self-esteem
at age five and six years and the quality of early mother-child
attachment supports Bowlby's theory that construction of the
self is derived from early daily experience with attachment
figures. The results of the study support Bowlby's conception
of the process through which continuity in development occurs,
and of the way early child-mother attachment continues to influence
the child's conception and estimation of the self across many
years. The working models of the self derived from early mother-child
inter-action organize and help mold the child's environment
"by seeking particular kinds of people and by eliciting particular
behavior from them" (Cassidy, 1988, p.133). Cassidy points out
that very young children have few means of learning about themselves
other than through experience with attachment figures.
She suggests that if infants are valued and given comfort when
required, they come to feel valuable; conversely, if they are
neglected or rejected, they come to feel worthless and of little
In an examination of developmental considerations, Bednar, Wells,
and Peterson (1989) suggest that feelings of competence and
the self-esteem associated with them are enhanced in children
when their parents provide an optimum mixture of acceptance,
affection, rational limits and controls, and high expectations.
In a similar way, teachers are likely to engender positive feelings
when they provide such a combination of acceptance, limits,
and meaningful and realistic expectations concerning behavior
and effort (Lamborn et al., 1991). Similarly, teachers can provide
contexts for such an optimum mixture of acceptance, limits,
and meaningful effort in the course of project work as described
by Katz and Chard (1989)." (Distinctions between Self-Esteem
and Narcissism: Implications for Practice - ERIC database)
Kohut, as we said, regarded Narcissism as the final product
of the failing efforts of parents to cope with the needs of
the child to idealize and to be grandiose (for instance, to
Idealization is an important developmental path leading to Narcissism.
The child merges the idealized aspects of the images of the
parent (Imago in Kohut's terminology) with those parts of the
image of the parent which are cathected (infused) with object
libido (=in which the child invests the energy that he reserves
to Objects). This exerts a great and important influence on
the re-internalization processes (=the processes in which the
child re-introduced the Objects and their images into his mind)
which are right for each of the successive phases.
Through these processes, two permanent nuclei of the personality
a. The basic, neutralizing texture of the psyche and b. The
Both of them are characterized by an invested instinctual Narcissistic
cathexis (=invested energy of self-love which is instinctual
in its nature).
At first, the child idealizes his parents. As he grows, he begins
to notice their shortcomings and vices. He withdraws part of
the idealizing libido from the images of the parents, which
is conducive to the natural development of the Superego. The
Narcissistic sector in the child's psyche remains vulnerable
throughout its development. This is largely true until the Child
re-internalizes the ideal parent image. Also, the very construction
of the mental apparatus can be tampered with by traumatic deficiencies
and by object losses right through the Oedipal period (and even
in latency and in adolescence).
The same effect can be attributed to traumatic disappointment
Disturbances leading to the formation of NPD can be thus grouped
1. Very early disturbances in the relationship with an ideal
These lead to structural weakness of the personality which develops
a deficient and/or dysfunctional stimuli filtering mechanism.
The ability of the individual to maintain a basic Narcissistic
homeostasis of the personality is damaged. Such a person will
suffer from diffusive Narcissistic vulnerability.
2. A disturbance occurring later in life - but still pre-Oedipally
- will effect the pre-Oedipal formation of the basic fabric
of the control, channeling and neutralizing of drives and urges.
The nature of the disturbance has to be a traumatic encounter
with the ideal object (such as a major disappointment). The
symptomatic manifestation of this structural defect is the propensity
to re - sexualize drive derivatives and internal and external
conflicts either in the form of fantasies or in the form of
3. A disturbance formed in the Oedipal or even in the early
latent phases - inhibits the completion of the Superego idealization.
This is especially true of a disappointment related to an ideal
object of the late Pre-Oedipal and the Oedipal stages, where
the partly idealized external parallel of the newly internalized
object is traumatically destroyed.
Such a person will possess a set of values and standards - but
he will forever look for ideal external figures from whom he
will aspire to derive the affirmation and the leadership that
his insufficiently idealized Superego cannot supply.
Everyone agrees 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 idealize is hampered. He is constantly shadowed
by the feeling that only he can satisfy his emotional needs
and he regards.
The Narcissist is born into a dysfunctional family. It is characterized
by massive denials, both internal ("you do not have a real problem,
you are only pretending") and external ("you must never tell
the secrets of the family to anyone"). The whole family unit
suffers from an affective dysfunction. It leads to affective
and other personality disorders displayed by all the members
of the family and ranging from obsessive - compulsive disorders
to hypochondriasis and depression. Such families are reclusive
and autarkic. They actively reject and encourage the rejection
of social contacts.
This inevitably leads to defective or partial socialization
and differentiation and to problems with sexual identity.
This attitude is sometimes applied even to other members of
the extended family. The nuclear family feels emotionally or
financially deprived or threatened by them. It reacts with envy,
rejection, self-isolation and rage.
Constant aggression and violence are permanent features of such
The violence can be from verbal (degradation, humiliation) and
up to severe cases of psychological, physical and sexual abuse.
Trying to rationalize and intellectualize its unique position
and to justify it, the family resorts to emphasizing logic,
cost effectiveness, and calculations of feasibility. It is a
transactional approach to life and it regards knowledge as an
expression of superiority and as an advantage.
These families encourage excellence - mainly cerebral and academic
- but only as means to an end. The end is usually highly Narcissistic
("to be famous/rich/to live well, etc.").
Some Narcissists react by creatively escaping into rich, imagined
worlds in which they exercise total physical and emotional control
over their environment. But all of them react by diverting libido,
which should have been object-oriented to their own Self.
The source of all the Narcissist's problems is the foreboding
sensation that human relationships invariably end in humiliation,
betrayal and abandonment. This belief is embedded in them during
their very early childhood by their parents and by their experiences
But the Narcissist always generalizes. To him, any emotional
interaction and any interaction with an emotional component
is bound to end this way.
Getting attached to a place, a job, an asset, an idea, an initiative,
a business, or a pleasure is bound to end as badly as getting
attached to a human being. This is why the Narcissist avoids
intimacy, real friendships, love, other emotions, commitment,
attachment, dedication, perseverance, planning, emotional or
other investment. Narcissists are unable to empathize and have
little morale or conscience (which are only meaningful if there
is a future to consider). They never developed a sense of security,
The Narcissist emotionally invests only in things which he feels
that he is in full, unmitigated control of: himself and, at
times, not even that.
XIV. Narcissism - Cultural Considerations
The ethnopsychologist George Devereux ("Basic Problems of Ethnopsychiatry",
University of Chicago Press, 1980) suggested to divide the unconscious
into the id (the part that was always instinctual and unconscious)
and the "ethnic unconscious" (repressed material that was once
conscious). The latter includes all our defence mechanisms and
most of the superego.
Culture dictates what is to be repressed. Mental illness is
idiosyncratic (cultural directives are not followed and the
is unique and schizophrenic) - or conformist, abiding by the
dictates of what is allowed and disallowed.
Our culture, according to Christopher Lasch teaches us to withdraw
into ourselves when we are confronted with stressful situations.
It is a vicious circle. One of the main stressors of modern
society is alienation and a pervasive sense of isolation. The
solution our culture offers us - to further withdraw - only
exacerbates the problem.
Richard Sennett expounded on this theme in "The Fall of Public
Man: On the Social Psychology of Capitalism" (Vintage Books,
1978). One of the chapters in Devereux's aforementioned tome
is entitled "Schizophrenia: An Ethnic Psychosis, or Schizophrenia
without Tears". To him, the whole USA is afflicted by what came
later to be called a "schizoid disorder". C. Fred Alford (in
"Narcissism: Socrates, the Frankfurt School, and Psychoanalytic
Theory", Yale University Press, 1988) enumerates the symptoms:
"...withdrawal, emotional aloofness, hyporeactivity (emotional
flatness), sex without emotional involvement, segmentation and
partial involvement (lack of interest and commitment to things
outside oneself), fixation on oral-stage issues, regression,
infantilism and depersonalization. These, of course, are many
of the same designations that Lasch employs to describe the
culture of narcissism. Thus, it appears, that it is not misleading
to equate narcissism with schizoid disorder." (page 19).
XV. Narcissism and Schizoid Disorders - Melanie Klein
The first to seriously consider the similarity between Narcissistic
and Schizoid pathologies was Melanie Klein. She broke with Freud
in that she believed that we are born with a fragile, easily
fragmentable, weak and unintegrated ego. The most primordial
human fear is the fear of disintegration (death), according
to Klein. Thus, the infant is forced to employ primitive defence
mechanisms such as splitting, projection and introjection to
cope with this fear (actually, with the result of aggression
generated by the ego). The ego splits and projects this part
(death, disintegration, aggression). It does the same with the
life-related, constructive, integrative part of itself. The
result of all these dynamics is to view the world as either
"good" (satisfying, complying, responding, gratifying) - or
bad (frustrating). Klein called it the good and the bad "breasts".
The child then proceeds to introject (internalize and assimilate)
the good object while keeping out (=defending against) the bad
objects. The good object becomes the nucleus of the forming
ego. The bad object is felt as fragmented. But it is not gone,
it is there.
This (the fact that the bad object is "out there", persecutory,
threatening) - gives rise to the first schizoid defence mechanisms,
foremost amongst them the mechanism of "projective identification"
(so often employed by Narcissists). The infant projects parts
of himself (his organs, his behaviours, his traits) unto the
bad object. This is the Kleinian "paranoid-schizoid position".
The ego is split. This is terrifying but it allows the baby
to make a clear distinction between the "good object" (inside
him) and the "bad object" (out there, split from him).
If this phase is not transcended the individual develops schizophrenia
and a fragmentation of the self.
Around the third or fourth month of life, the infant realizes
that the good and the bad objects are really facets of one and
the same object. He develops the depressive position. This depression
(Klein believes that the two positions continue throughout life)
is a reaction of fear and anxiety.
The infant feels guilty (at his own rage), anxious (lest his
aggression harm the object and eliminate the source of good
things). He experiences loss (of his own omnipotence since the
object is outside his self). The infant wishes to erase the
results of his own aggression by "making the object whole again".
By recognizing the wholeness of other objects - the infant comes
to realize and to experience his own wholeness. The ego re-integrates.
But the transition from the paranoid-schizoid position to the
depressive one is by no means smooth and assured. Excess anxiety
and envy can delay it or prevent it altogether. Envy seeks to
destroy all good objects, so that others don't have them. It,
therefore, hinders the split between the good and the bad "breasts".
Envy destroys the good object but leaves the persecutory , bad
object intact. Moreover, it does not allow the re-integration
("reparation" in the Kleinian term) to take place. The more
whole the object - the greater the envy. Thus, envy feeds on
its own outcomes. The more envy, the less integrated the ego
is, the weaker and inadequate it is - the more reason for envying
the good object and other people. Envy is the hallmark of narcissism
and the prime source of what is known as narcissistic rage.
The schizoid self - fragmented, weak, primitive - is intimately
connected with narcissism through envy.
Narcissists prefer to destroy themselves and to deny themselves
- rather than to endure someone else's happiness, wholeness
and "triumph". They will fail an exam - to frustrate a teacher
they adore and envy. They will fail in therapy - not to give
the therapist a reason to feel professionally satisfied. By
failing and self-destructing, narcissists deny the worth of
others. If the narcissist fails in therapy - his analyst must
If he destroys himself by consuming drugs - his parents are
blameworthy and should feel guilty (bad). One cannot exaggerate
the importance of envy as a motivating power in the narcissist's
The psychodynamic connection is obvious. Envy is a rage reaction
at not controlling or "having" or engulfing the good, desired
Narcissists defend themselves against this acidulous, corroding
sensation by pretending that they DO control, possess and engulf
the good object. This is what we call "grandiose fantasies (of
omnipotence or omniscience)". But, in doing so, the narcissist
MUST deny the existence of ANY good outside himself.
The narcissist defends himself against raging, all consuming
envy - by solipsistically claiming to be the ONLY good object
in the world. This is an object that cannot be had by anyone,
except the narcissist and, therefore, is immune to the narcissist's
threatening, annihilating envy. In order not to be "owned" by
anyone (and, thus, avoid self destruction in the hands of his
own envy) - the narcissist reduces others to "non-entities"
or avoids all meaningful contact with them (the schizoid solution).
The suppression of envy is at the CORE of the narcissist's being.
If he fails to convince his self that he is the ONLY good object
in the universe - he is exposed to his own murderous envy. If
there are others out there who are better than he - he envies
them, he lashes out at them ferociously,
uncontrollably, madly, hatefully and spitefully. If someone
tries to get emotionally intimate with the narcissist - he threatens
the grandiose belief that no one but the narcissist can possess
the good object (the narcissist himself). Only the narcissist
can own himself, have access to himself, possess himself. This
is the only way to avoid seething envy and certain self-annihilation.
Perhaps it is clearer now why narcissists react as raving madmen
to ANYTHING, however minute, however remote that seems to threaten
their grandiose fantasies, the only protective barrier between
themselves and their envy.
There is nothing new in trying to link narcissism to schizophrenia.
Freud did as much in his "On Narcissism" (1914). Klein's contribution
was the introduction of immediately post-natal internal objects.
Schizophrenia, she proposed, was a narcissistic and intense
relationship with internal objects (such as fantasies or images,
including fantasies of grandeur). It was a new language. Freud
suggested a transition from (primary, object-less) narcissism
(self directed libido) to "objects relations" (objects directed
libido). Klein suggested a transition from internal objects
to external ones. While Freud thought that the common denominator
of narcissism and schizoid phenomena was a withdrawal of libido
from the world - Klein suggested it was a fixation on an early
phase of relating to internal objects.
But is the difference not merely a question of terminology?
"The term 'narcissism' tends to be employed diagnostically by
those proclaiming loyalty to the drive model (Otto Kernberg
and Edith Jacobson, for instance - SV) and mixed model theorists
(Kohut), who are interested in preserving a tie to drive theory.
'Schizoid' tends to be employed diagnostically by adherents
of relational models (Fairbairn, Guntrip), who are interested
in articulating their break with drive theory... These two differing
diagnoses and accompanying formulations are applied to patients
who are essentially similar, by theorists who start with very
different conceptual premises and ideological affiliations."
(Greenberg and Mitchell - "Object Relations in Psychoanalytic
Theory" - Harvard University Press - 1983)
Klein, in effect, said that drives (e.g., the libido) are relational
A drive is the way a relationship between an individual and
his objects (internal and external) is. Thus, a retreat from
the world (Freud) into internal objects (object relations theorists
and especially the British school of Fairbairn and Guntrip)
- IS the drive itself. Drives are orientations (to external
or internal objects). Narcissism is an orientation (a preference,
we could say) to internal objects - the very definition of schizoid
phenomena. This is why narcissists feel empty, fragmented, "unreal"
(movie-like) and diffuse. It is because their ego is still split
(never integrated) and because they withdrew from the world
(of external objects). Kernberg identifies these internal objects
with which the narcissist maintains a special relationship with
the idealized, grandiose images of the narcissist's parents.
He believes that the narcissist's very ego (self-representation)
fused with these parental images.
Fairbairn's work - even more than Kernberg's, not to mention
Kohut's - integrates all these insights into a coherent framework.
Guntrip elaborated on it and together they created one of the
most impressive theoretical bodies in the history of psychology.
W. R. D. Fairbairn internalized Klein's insights that drives
are object-orientated and their goal is the formation of relationships
and not primarily the attainment of pleasure. Pleasurable sensations
are the means to achieve relationships. The ego does not look
to be stimulated and pleased but to find the right "good", supporting
object. The infant is fused with his primary object, the mother.
Life is not about using objects for pleasure under the supervision
of the ego and superego, as Freud postulated. Life is about
separating, differentiating, achieving independence from the
Primary Object and the initial state of fusion with it. Dependence
on internal objects is narcissism. Freud's post-narcissistic
(anaclitic) phase of life can be either dependent (immature)
The new-born's ego is looking for objects with which to form
relationships with. Inevitably, some of these objects and some
of these relationships frustrate the infant and disappoint him.
He compensates for these setbacks by creating compensatory internal
objects. The initially unitary ego thus fragments into a growing
group of internal objects. Reality breaks our hearts and minds,
according to Fairbairn. The ego and its objects are "twinned"
and the ego is split in three (Harry Guntrip added a fourth
A schizoid state ensues.
The "original" (Freudian or libidinal) ego is unitary, instinctual,
needy and object seeking. It then fragments as a result of the
three typical interactions with the mother (gratification, disappointment
and deprivation). The Central Ego idealizes the "good" parents.
It is conformist and obedient. The Antilibidinal Ego is a reaction
to frustrations. It is rejecting, harsh, unsatisfying, against
natural needs. The Libidinal Ego is the seat of cravings, desires
and needs. It is active in that it keeps seeking objects to
form relationships with. Guntrip added the Regressed Ego which
is the "True Self" in "cold storage"; the "lost heart of the
Fairbairn's definition of psychopathology is quantitative. Which
part of the ego is dedicated to relationships with internal
objects rather than with external ones (e.g., real people)?
In other words: how Fragmented (=how schizoid) is the ego?
To achieve a successful transition from internal objects to
external ones - the child needs the right parents (in Winnicott
parlance, the "good enough mother" - not the perfect, but the
"good enough"). The child internalizes the bad aspects of his
parents in the form of internal, bad objects and then proceeds
to suppress them, together ('twinned") with portions of his
Thus, his parents become PART of the child (though a repressed
one). The more bad objects are repressed, the "less ego is left"
for healthy relationships with external objects. To Fairbairn,
the source of all psychological disturbances is in these schizoid
phenomena. Later developments (such as the Oedipus Complex)
are less crucial. Fairbairn and Guntrip think that if a person
is too attached to his compensatory internal object - he will
find it hard to mature psychologically. Maturing is about letting
go of internal objects. Some people just don't want to mature,
or are reluctant to do so, or are ambivalent about it. This
reluctance, this withdrawal to an internal world of representations,
internal objects and broken ego - is narcissism itself. Narcissists
simply don't know how to be themselves, how to acquire independence
and, simultaneously manage their relationships with other people.
Both Otto Kernberg and Heinz Kohut agreed that narcissism is
between neuroses and psychoses. Kernberg thought that it was
a borderline phenomenon, on the verge of psychosis (where the
ego is completely shattered). In this respect, Kernberg identifies
narcissism with schizoid phenomena and with schizophrenia more
than Kohut did. This is not the only difference between them.
They also disagree on the developmental locus of narcissism.
Kohut thinks that narcissism is an early phase of development,
fossilized, forever to be repeated (a massive repetition complex)
while Kernberg maintains that the narcissistic self is pathological
from its very inception. Kohut believes that the narcissist's
parents provided him with no assurances that he does possess
a self (in his words, with no self object). They did not explicitly
recognize the child's nascent self, its separate existence,
its boundaries. The child learned to have a schizoid, split,
fragmented self - rather than a coherent and integrated one.
To him, narcissism is really all-pervasive, at the very core
of being (whether in its mature form, as self-love, or in it
regressive, infantile form as a narcissistic disorder).
Kernberg regards "mature narcissism" (also espoused by neo-Freudians
like Grunberger and Chasseguet-Smirgel) as a contradiction in
terms, an oxymoron. He observes that narcissists are already
grandiose and schizoid (detached, cold, aloof, asocial) at an
early age (at three years old, according to him!). Like Klein,
Kernberg believes that narcissism is a last ditch effort (defence)
to halt the emergence of the paranoid-schizoid position described
by Klein. In an adult such an emergence is known as "psychosis"
and this is why Kernberg classifies narcissists as borderline
Even Kohut, who is an opponent of Kernberg's classification,
uses Eugene O'Neill's famous sentence (in "The Great God Brown"):
"Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is
glue." Kernberg himself sees a clear connection between schizoid
phenomena (such as alienation in modern society and subsequent
withdrawal) and narcissistic phenomena (inability to form relationships
or to make commitments or to empathize).
C. Fred Alford in "Narcissism: Socrates, the Frankfurt School
and psychoanalytic Theory":
"Fairbairn and Guntrip represent the purest expression of object
relations theory, which is characterized by the insight that
real relationships with real people build psychic structure.
Although they rarely mention narcissism, they see a schizoid
split in the self as characteristic of virtually all emotional
disorder. It is Greenberg and Mitchell, in Object Relations
in Psychoanalytic Theory who establish the relevance of Fairbairn
and Guntrip... by pointing out that what American analysts label
'narcissism', British analysts tend to call 'schizoid personality
This insight allows us to connect the symptomatology of narcissism
- feelings of emptiness, unreality, alienation and emotional
withdrawal - with a theory that sees such symptoms as an accurate
reflection of the experience of being split off from a part
of oneself. That narcissism is such a confusing category is
in large part because its drive-theoretic definition, the libidinal
cathexis of the self - in a word, self-love - seems far removed
from the experience of narcissism, as characterized by a loss
of, or split in, the self. Fairbairn's and Guntrip's view of
narcissism as an excessive attachment of the ego to internal
objects (roughly analogous to Freud's narcissistic, as opposed
to object, love), resulting in various splits in the ego necessary
to maintain these attachments, allows us to penetrate this confusion"
XVI. Narcissism, Aggression, Anger and Narcissistic Rage
Anger is a compounded phenomenon. It has dispositional properties,
expressive and motivational components, situational and individual
variations, cognitive and excitatory interdependent manifestations
and psychophysiological (especially neuroendocrine) aspects.
From the psychobiological point of view, it probably had its
survival utility in early evolution, but it seems to have lost
a lot of it in modern societies.
Actually, in most cases it is counterproductive, even dangerous.
Dysfunctional anger is known to have pathogenic effects (mostly
Most Personality Disordered people are prone to be angry. Their
anger is always sudden, raging, frightening and without an apparent
provocation by an outside agent. It would seem that people suffering
from personality disorders are in a CONSTANT state of anger,
which is effectively suppressed most of the time. It manifests
itself only when the person's defenses are down, incapacitated,
or adversely affected by circumstances, inner or external.
The person thus affected was, usually, unable to express anger
and direct it at "forbidden" targets in his early, formative
years (his parents, in most cases). The anger, however, was
a justified reaction to abuses and mistreatment. The patient
was, therefore, left to nurture a sense of profound injustice
and frustrated rage.
Healthy people experience anger, but as a transitory state.
This is what sets the Personality Disordered apart: their anger
is always acute, permanently present, often suppressed or repressed.
Healthy anger has an external inducing agent (a reason). It
is directed at this agent (coherence). Pathological anger is
neither coherent, not externally induced.
It emanates from the inside and it is diffuse, directed at the
"world" and at "injustice" in general. The personality disordered
person is able to identify the IMMEDIATE cause of the anger.
Still, upon closer scrutiny, the cause is found lacking and
the anger excessive, disproportionate and incoherent. It might
be more accurate to say that the Personality Disordered is expressing
(and experiencing) TWO layers of anger, simultaneously and always.
The first layer, the superficial anger, is indeed directed at
an identified target, the alleged cause of the eruption. The
second layer, however, is anger directed at himself. The patient
is angry at himself for being unable to vent off normal anger,
normally. He often says that he feels like a miscreant. He hates
and loathes himself.
This second layer of anger also comprises strong and easily
identifiable elements of frustration, irritation and annoyance.
While normal anger generates action regarding its source (or
at least the planning or contemplation of such action) - pathological
anger is mostly directed at oneself or even lacks direction
altogether ("diffuse anger").
The Personality Disordered are afraid to show that they are
angry to significant cant others because they are afraid to
lose them. The Borderline Personality Disordered is terrified
of being abandoned, the Narcissist (NPD) needs his Narcissistic
supply sources, the Paranoid - his persecutors and so on. These
people prefer to direct their anger at people who are insignificant
to them, people whose withdrawal will not constitute a threat
to their precariously balanced personality. They will yell at
a waitress, shout at a taxi driver, or explode at an underling.
Alternatively, they will sulk, feel anhedonic or pathologically
bored, drink or do drugs - all forms of self-directed aggression.
From time to time, no longer able to pretend and to suppress,
they have it out with the real source of their anger. They rage.
They shout incoherently, make absurd accusations, distort facts,
pronounce allegations and suspicions.
These episodes are followed by periods of saccharine sweetness
and excessive flattering and submissiveness towards the victim
of the latest rage attack. These pendulum-like emotional swings
make life with the Personality Disordered difficult.
Anger in healthy persons is diminished through action. It is
an aversive, unpleasant emotion. It is intended to generate
action in order to eradicate this uncomfortable sensation. It
is coupled with physiological arousal.
But it is not clear whether action diminishes anger or anger
is used up in action. Similarly, it is not clear whether the
consciousness of anger is dependent on a stream of cognition
expressed in words? Do we become angry because we say that we
are angry (=we identify the anger and capture it) - or do we
say that we are angry because we are angry to begin with?
Anger is induced by numerous factors. It is almost a universal
Threats to one's welfare (physical, emotional, social, financial,
or mental) is met with anger. But so are threats to one's affiliates,
nearest, dearest, nation, favorite football club, pet and so
on. The territory of anger is enlarged to include not only the
person - but all his real and perceived environment, human and
non-human. This does not sound like a very adaptive strategy.
Moreover, threats are not the only situations met with anger.
Anger is the reaction to injustice (perceived injustice, it
does not have to be real), to disagreements, to inconvenience.
But the two sources of anger are threat (a disagreement is potentially
threatening) and injustice (inconvenience is injustice inflicted
on the angry person by the world).
These are also the two sources of personality disorders. The
Personality Disordered is molded by recurrent and frequent injustice
and he is constantly threatened both by his internal and by
his external universes. No wonder that there is a close affinity
between the Personality Disordered and the acutely angry person.
And, as opposed to common opinion, the angry person becomes
angry whether he believes that what was done to him was deliberate
or not. If we lose a precious manuscript, we are bound to become
angry at ourselves, though no intent was involved. If his home
is devastated by an earthquake - a person will surely rage,
though no conscious mind was at work. When we perceive an injustice
in the distribution of incentives or wealth or love - we become
angry because of moral reasoning, whether the injustice was
deliberately applied or not. We retaliate and we punish as a
result of our ability to morally reason, to get even. Sometimes
even moral reasoning is lacking, as in when we simply wish to
alleviate our anger.
The Personality Disordered suppresses the anger, but he has
no effective mechanisms of redirecting it in order to correct
the inducing conditions. His hostile expressions are not constructive
- they are destructive because they are diffuse, excessive and,
He does not lash out at people in order to restore his lost
esteem, his prestige, his sense of power and control over his
life, to recover emotionally, or to restore his well being.
He rages because he cannot help it and is in a self destructive
and self-loathing mode. His anger does not contain a signal,
which could alter his environment in general and the behaviour
of those around him, in particular. His anger is primitive,
maladaptive, pent up.
Anger is a primitive, limbic emotion. Its excitatory components
and patterns are shared with sexual excitation and with fear.
It is cognition that guides our behaviour, aimed at avoiding
harm and aversion or at minimizing them.
Our cognition is in charge of attaining certain kinds of mental
gratification. A prognosis, a prediction regarding the future
values of the relief-gratification versus repercussions (reward
to risk) ratio- these can be obtained only with the use of cognitive
tools. Anger is evoked by aversive treatment, deliberately or
unintentionally inflicted. Such treatment must violate either
prevailing conventions regarding social interactions or some
otherwise deeply ingrained sense of what is fair and what is
just. The judgment of fairness or justice (namely, the appraisal
of the extent of compliance with conventions of social exchange)
- is also cognitive.
The angry person and the Personality Disordered both suffer
from a cognitive deficit. They are unable to conceptualize,
to design effective strategies and to execute them. They dedicate
all their attention to the immediate and ignore the future consequences
of their actions. In other words, their attention and information
processing faculties are distorted, skewed in favor of the here
and now, biased on both the intake and the output.
Time is "relativistically dilated" - the present feels more
protracted, "longer" than any future. Immediate facts and actions
are judged more relevant and weighted more heavily than any
remote aversive conditions. Anger impairs cognition.
The angry person is a worried person. The Personality Disordered
is also excessively preoccupied with himself. Worry and anger
are the cornerstones of the edifice of anxiety. This is where
the knot is finally tied: people become angry because they are
excessively concerned with bad things which might happen to
them. Anger is a result of anxiety (or, when the anger is not
acute, of fear).
The striking similarity between anger and personality disorders
is the deterioration of the faculty of empathy. Angry people
Actually, "counter-empathy" develops in a state of acute anger.
All mitigating circumstances related to the source of the anger
- will be taken as meaning to devalue and belittle the suffering
of the angry person.
His anger will thus increase the more mitigating circumstances
are brought to his attention. Judgment is altered by anger.
Later provocative acts are judged to be more serious - just
by "virtue" of their chronological position. All this is very
typical of the Personality Disordered. An impairment of the
empathic sensitivities is a prime symptom in many of them (in
the Narcissistic, Schizoid and Schizotypal Personality Disordered,
to mention but three).
Moreover, the aforementioned impairment of judgment (=impairment
of the proper functioning of the mechanism of risk assessment)
appears in both acute anger and in many personality disorders.
The illusion of omnipotence (power) and invulnerability, the
partiality of judgment - are typical of both states. Acute anger
(rage attacks in personality disorders) is always incommensurate
with the magnitude of the source of the emotion and is fuelled
by extraneous experiences. An acutely angry person usually reacts
to an ACCUMULATION, an amalgamation of aversive experiences,
all enhancing each other in vicious feedback loops, many of
them not directly related to the cause of the specific anger
episode. The angry person may be reacting to stress, agitation,
disturbance, drugs, violence or aggression witnessed by him,
to social or to national conflict, to elation and even to sexual
excitation. The same is true of the Personality Disordered.
His inner world is fraught with unpleasant, ego-dystonic, discomfiting,
unsettling, worrisome experiences. His external environment
- influenced and molded by his distorted personality - is also
transformed into a source of aversive, repulsive, or plainly
unpleasant experiences. The personality Disordered explodes
in rage - because he implodes AND reacts to outside stimuli,
simultaneously. Because he is prone to magical thinking and,
therefore, regards himself as immune, omnipotent, omniscient
and protected from the consequences of his own acts - the Personality
Disordered often acts in a self destructive and self defeating
manner. The similarities are so numerous and so striking that
it seems safe to say that the Personality Disordered is in a
constant state of acute anger.
Finally, acutely angry people perceive anger to have been the
result of intentional (or circumstantial) provocation with a
hostile purpose (by the target of their anger). Their targets,
on the other hand, invariably regard them as incoherent people,
acting arbitrarily, in an unjustified manner.
(1) Alford, C. Fred - Narcissism: Socrates, the Frankfurt School
and Psychoanalytic Theory - New Haven and London, Yale University
Press - 1988
(2) Fairbairn, W. R. D. - An Object Relations Theory of the
Personality - New York, Basic Books, 1954
(3) Freud S. - Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905)
- Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund
Freud - Vol. 7 - London, Hogarth Press, 1964
(4) Freud, S. - On Narcissism - Standard Edition - Vol. 14 -
(5) Golomb, Elan - Trapped in the Mirror : Adult Children of
Narcissists in Their Struggle for Self - Quill, 1995
(6) Greenberg, Jay R. and Mitchell, Stephen A. - Object Relations
in Psychoanalytic Theory - Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University
(7) Grunberger, Bela - Narcissism: Psychoanalytic Essays - New
York, International Universities Press - 1979
(8) Guntrip, Harry - Personality Structure and Human Interaction
- New York, International Universities Press - 1961
(9) Horowitz M.J. - Sliding Meanings: A defense against threat
in narcissistic personalities - International Journal of Psychoanalytic
Psychotherapy - 1975;4:167
(10) Jacobson, Edith - The Self and the Object World - New York,
International Universities Press - 1964
(11) Kernberg O. - Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism
- New York, Jason Aronson, 1975
(12) Klein, Melanie - The Writings of Melanie Klein - Ed. Roger
Money-Kyrle - 4 vols. - New York, Free Press - 1964-75
(13) Kohut M. - The Analysis of the Self - New York, International
Universities Press, 1971
(14) Lasch, Christopher - The Culture of Narcissism - New York,
Warner Books, 1979
(15) Lowen, Alexander - Narcissism : Denial of the True Self
- Touchstone Books, 1997
(16) Millon, Theodore (and Roger D. Davis, contributor) - Disorders
of Personality: DSM IV and Beyond - 2nd ed. - New York, John
Wiley and Sons, 1995
(17) Millon, Theodore - Personality Disorders in Modern Life
- New York, John Wiley and Sons, 2000
(18) Roningstam, Elsa F. (ed.) - Disorders of Narcissism: Diagnostic,
Clinical, and Empirical Implications - American Psychiatric
(19) Rothstein, Arnold - The Narcissistic Pursuit of Reflection
- 2nd revised ed. - New York, International Universities Press,
(20) Schwartz, Lester - Narcissistic Personality Disorders -
A Clinical Discussion - Journal of Am. Psychoanalytic Association
- 22 (1974): 292-305
(21) Stern, Daniel - The Interpersonal World of the Infant:
A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology - New
York, Basic Books, 1985
(22) Vaknin, Sam - Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited
- Skopje and Prague, Narcissus Publications, 1999, 2001
(23) Zweig, Paul - The Heresy of Self-Love: A Study of Subversive
Individualism - New York, Basic Books, 1968
One time English language print North American
Rights and right to maintain in an archive indefinitely - granted.
Compliments of Sam Vaknin who is the author of
"Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited" and "After the
Rain - How the West Lost the East". He is a columnist in
"Central Europe Review", United Press International (UPI) and
InternetContent.net and the editor of mental health and Central East
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