GUEST AUTHOR Sam Vaknin:
How Does the Narcissist React to Illness and Disability?

"Under Water" detail by Mimi Stuart ©

“Under Water” detail by Mimi Stuart ©

Guest Author Sam Vaknin writes:

When narcissists fall victim to chronic or acute diseases, or survive a traffic accident, they react in either of four typical ways, depending on the type of narcissist:

1. The schizotypal reaction the belief that the narcissist’s predicament is a part of a larger, cosmic plan, or of a blueprint that governs the narcissist’s life and inexorably leads him to greatness and to the fulfillment of a mission.

2. Narcissistic rage intended to allay feelings of helplessness, loss of control, and impotence and to re-establish the narcissist’s omnipotent, grandiose self.

This is frequently followed by a schizoid phase (withdrawal) and then by a manic spurt of activity, seeking narcissistic supply (attention).

3. The paranoid reaction: the narcissist deludes himself that the accident was no accident, someone is out to get him, etc. The narcissist casts himself in the role of a victim, usually in the framework of some grand design or conspiracy, or as the outcome of “fate” (again, a schizotypal element).

4. The masochistic reaction: in the wake of the illness or accident, the narcissist’s constant anxiety is alleviated and he is relieved, having been “punished” properly for his inherent “evilness” and decadence.

Narcissists hate weak (sick) people and hate it even more when their source of narcissistic supply ceases to function properly. Most of them just move on: they abandon the sick spouse and find another, healthier one. Some of them play the role of martyrs, victims, selfless saints and thus garner narcissistic supply as they “treat” their bedridden spouse.

The permanently disabled narcissists adopt one or more of three strategies:

1. Exaggerated helplessness which justifies emotional blackmail and the kind of insidious dependence that cripples his caregivers;

2. Control freakery in a frenzied attempt to reassert his grandiose sense of omnipotence now gravely challenged by his invalidity;

3. Sadism which renders his victim as helpless as he is and as frustrated as he feels and, thus, “levels the playing field” and normalizes his disability (“everyone is helpless and frustrated so there is nothing really wrong with me, I am, after all, still perfect.”)

Possessing a distorted physical self-image is called a Body Dysmorphic Disorder. All narcissists have it to some degree. Somatic narcissists are especially prone to misjudge their bodies – either positively or negatively. They believe themselves to be physically irresistible, exuding sex and energy, statuesquely shaped, and, in general, stunning hunks. This grandiose self-image rarely corresponds with reality, though.

Aware of this, the somatic narcissist dedicates inordinate amounts of time and effort to body building, exercising, mastering sexual advances and foreplay and the intricacies of the coital act itself. To enhance his belief system, the somatic narcissist co-opts others by forcing them to compliment his build, shape, constitution, health, sexual prowess, physical regime and attractiveness. The somatic narcissist is a compulsive consumer of “body complements or extensions” – objects that he thinks increase his attraction, irresistibility, appeal, and the value of his propositions. Fancy cars, flashy clothing, sumptuous residences, first class flights, luxury hotels, platinum credit cards, lavish parties, name-dropping, celebrity “friends”, hi-tech gadgetry – all serve to enhance the narcissist’s self-image and to bolster his grandiose fantasies.

Thus, this positive Dysmorphic Disorder serves to elicit Narcissistic Supply and buttress a distorted, unreal, self-image. But it is also a control mechanism. It allows the narcissist’s False Self to manipulate both the narcissist and his human environment. It is as though by morphing his body – the narcissist moulds and designs his world, his nearest and dearest, his self in flux, his projected image and the reactions to it. By lying about his body, his health, his sex appeal, his longevity, his possessions (his bodily extensions), his sexual prowess, his attractiveness, his irresistibility, his friends and lovers, adventures and affairs – the narcissist transforms the REAL world. To him, the REAL world – is how people PERCEIVE him to be. By changing their perceptions, by indoctrinating and “brainwashing” them – the narcissist secures a Pathological Narcissistic Space in which his Self False can thrive, fully nourished.

This phenomenon is not limited to the somatic narcissist. The cerebral narcissist also deforms the true image of his body in his mind. He may exaggerate the dimensions of his head, the height of his forehead, or the length of his (sensitive) fingers. He may attribute to himself ailments and syndromes typical of high powered intellectuals – consumption (tuberculosis), tendonitis, headaches. The cerebral narcissist almost always lies about his IQ, his mental capacities, his skills. He tends to completely ignore and belittle the rest of his body. To him, it is a burdensome and unnecessary appendage. He may complain of the need to “maintain” the flesh and of the derided dependence of his magnificent brain on his abject and decaying body. “I would have willingly placed my brain in a laboratory jar, to be artificially nourished there, and given up my body” – they may say. They rarely exercise and regard with disdain the activities, proclivities, and predilections of the somatic narcissist. Physical pursuits – sex included – are perceived by them to be bestial, demeaning, common, wasteful, and meaningless. This is also a result of Body Dysmorphic Disorder. The cerebral narcissist underestimates the needs of his own body, misreads its signals, and ignores its processes. The body, to him, becomes abstract, a background noise, or nuisance.

Cerebral narcissists sometimes go through somatic phases and somatic narcissists – if capable – adopt cerebral behaviour patterns. Their attitudes change accordingly. The temporarily somatic narcissist suddenly begins to exercise, groom himself, seduce, and have creative and imaginative sex. The somatic made cerebral tries to read more, becomes contemplative and a-social, and consumes culture. But these are passing phases and the narcissist always reverts to true – or should I say, false – form.

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by Guest Author Sam Vaknin, who is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site.

Read Guest Author Sam Vaknin’s “Munchausen and Munchausen by Proxy Syndromes: Forms of Pathological Narcissism?”

Read Narcissism Part 1 (of 5): “My husband is so selfish! Is he a narcissist?” Symptoms of Narcissism.

Posted in Personality Traits, Vaknin, Sam PhD, Visiting Authors | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When is it time for an adult child to move out.

"Limitless" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Limitless” by Mimi Stuart ©

“My son is 20 and we are having a great deal of trouble with his selfish behavior. He stays at home and commutes to school, and this summer he is basically just doing what he wants and getting angry and impatient if we ask for help around the house. He swears often as is critical of me even though he knows I don’t like it. He blames other people when confronted about his own attitude. He definitely has a good side and can be very funny and entertaining. Lately though, I feel depressed, as though I had failed as a parent.”


This is a very common situation, although a painful one. Unless your son has always been rude and selfish he will probably turn out fine in the end. I believe your son resents you because he is an adult yet he is dependent on you. He doesn’t feel good about himself because he is functioning as a child. Yet he’s too comfortable and afraid to change the situation. Fear is what is driving his resentment and his lashing out at you.

Behavior and the Brain

The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until we’re about 25 years. Typically it develops more slowly in males. It develops through experiencing the repeated consequences to our actions, both positive and negative. A person develops the ability to resist immediate gratification or impulsive behavior such as being rude and critical when there are repeated negative consequences to such behavior.

If a young man experiences no consequences when he swears, is rude, and does not contribute in a supportive way, then he will be unlikely to develop the ability to resist those impulses later in life with people close to him. Now is the time when you can influence him so that his prefrontal cortex does not remain underdeveloped.

Consequences

You need to keep two things in mind. One, your home is your sanctuary and two, he is an adult.

You should not tolerate an entitled, rude, critical person living in YOUR home. Enabling bad behavior doesn’t do anyone any good. It merely strengthens neural pathways of negative behavior. There need to be consequences and firm boundaries to his conduct in YOUR home.

There is no need to be angry or mean when discussing a problem. It’s much more effective to be kind but resolute when expressing your own boundaries, specifically that it is time for your son to move out of your home. I suggest being very honest with him, but start with something positive and retain a firm but compassionate tone of voice.

For example, “You’re often funny and enjoyable to be with. We love you. However, perhaps because you’re 20 and an adult who needs his independence, you seem to resent us. We understand that young adults who are not adequately separated from their parents may become critical of and annoyed with their parents. However, your criticism, swearing, and hostile attitude toward us in our home are unacceptable to us. We know you’re better than that and don’t want to enable you further.”

“While you are in our home we expect appreciation, support and consideration and we expect you to live by our rules. Since you haven’t been doing that, we think that for our own sakes as well as yours, it is time that you should live elsewhere. This is not a punishment, but what’s best for everyone.”

“We all have to be creative in figuring out how this can be done. Perhaps you can get a loan for your tuition and use the money we’re spending on tuition on your room and board. You can get another part-time job, or get a full-time job and take fewer classes. Whatever you decide is up to you, and we would be glad to help in any way we reasonably can.”

Facing challenges

This is the time when young people should be meeting the daily challenges in life. Facing such challenges is how he will build self-confidence, and as a result have more positive interactions with others including you, as long as you don’t mollycoddle him.

College

You may worry that it will be harder for your son to complete college if he has to get another job. Yet the gift of gaining self-respect, respect for others, and the skills to deal with life challenges will balance out the fact that it may take longer for him to complete college. Moreover, it is probable that he will appreciate the gift of a college education more than he currently does when he sees what it takes to get by on his own. In the meantime, I would also ask him to do more chores, let him cook his own meals, and do less for him.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “Setting Boundaries”

Read Angry Adult Child:“The years of terror from my mother has made me make sure that my son knows I love him. I fear, more than anything, his total rejection. HOWEVER, he often seems angry at me.”

Read “I worry a lot over my adult children and I often call them to give advice.”

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“It’s not as though I don’t do anything around here!”

"The Kiss" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“The Kiss” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

If someone says, “Did you see all the stuff I did for you today?” ignore your impulse to get defensive or to snap back “I do a lot for you too !” or worse, “Why do you always have to list all the things you’ve done for me!” These types of responses are very detrimental to your relationship.

When people mention the things they’ve done, they simply want acknowledgement and appreciation. Yet many people respond defensively as though they are being attacked. Even IF the other person is implying that you never do anything, show him or her the appreciation desired as follows:

“Thank you so much! I really appreciate it. You are wonderful for doing that for me.” If you want, you could add, “Please let me know when you need help. I would love to do something for you,” or simply do something considerate for them.

So many arguments could be avoided if people could understand the underlying desires that motivate a person’s apparent complaints. It is usually a simple desire for recognition, which should be a joy to satisfy, rather than an excuse to become critical, hostile and argumentative.

To have a loving, trusting, and mutually-enhancing relationship, there must be a constant effort to be kind and see the best in other people and acknowledge them for their efforts. Then everyone will shine and try to live up to their best.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “Overgeneralization: ‘You never show appreciation.’”

Watch “How to ask for more affection, intimacy and sex…and…how not to.”

Read “Seeking approval: ‘Why doesn’t my father appreciate me and all that I have accomplished?’”


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“How can you be so naïve! Don’t get mad at me when I’m just pointing out how he takes advantage of you!”

"Syncopation" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Syncopation” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

John Gottman’s research shows that the first three minutes of a discussion determines the tone and direction of the remainder of the discussion in 96% of cases. Criticisms, such as “You’re so naïve,” or “Why are you so selfish?” do the most harm at the beginning of a discussion. So be careful how you start a conversation.

Gottman found that happy couples express near zero contempt toward their partner even in times of conflict. They usually discuss their problems in a neutral way. Moreover, when they do experience conflict, they have fewer emotional exchanges during the conflict than unhappy couples.

Thus, it is critical to avoid expressing negative emotions during a conflict or an argument. This includes thinly-veiled contempt or an air of superiority.

The following behaviors are very predictive of a doomed relationship:

1. escalation of conflict

2. negative interpretation of comments

3. invalidation of the partner

4. withdrawal from the partner

How to approach your partner to talk about a problem

It’s best to startup the conversation in a positive way, particularly if you’re dealing with someone who tends to become defensive.

1. Be positive. “Honey, I love you and care about you very much. I’d like to talk to you about a concern I have. Is this a good time?”

2. Neutrally and briefly mention the facts, your feelings and your wishes without being critical, superior, or controlling. “In the past, I’ve seen your friend not follow through on his end of the deal. I appreciate that you want to see the best in people. Yet it makes me sad and frustrated to see you disappointed and aggravated when he disappoints you. I don’t want to tell you what to do. I am just reminding you that he has taken advantage of you in the past, and I hope that you can avoid letting a similar situation happen again.”

3. Stop and listen carefully to the other person’s response without jumping in to clarify or defend yourself.

4. When the person’s finished, try to be understanding. Repeat his concerns back to him so he knows you are listening. End the conversation with humor and/or appreciation. “Thanks for listening to my concern.”

5. If the time comes when your partner complains about being used, simply use humor or compassion, and say, “Yep, that’s too bad,” without being drawn into any drama.

6. If he continues to complain, say “I know. It’s disappointing. But let’s focus on something we can change. Hopefully you will not trust him in the future. ”

Finally, it’s important to avoid trying to control another person. You can give a warning to him and protect yourself as best you can. But remember that if you allow differences in personality to lead to an escalatiion in conflict, the resulting negativity is likely to become more damaging than the issue you are arguing about.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Reference: John Gottman’s “The Science of Trust.”

Read “I end up arguing with him because he’s usually too busy working to talk.”

Watch “How to Respond to Rudeness: ‘I TOLD you to get it for me!!!’”

Read “Dealing with conflict and volatility: ‘You’re being irrational!’”

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Dealing with conflict and volatility: “You’re being irrational!”

"Question"—Einstein by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Question”—Einstein by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

Be a skilled listener

“Talk to me” is the motto for the New York City hostage negotiations team. When dealing with extremely dangerous, volatile, and emotionally-laden situations, the most effective skill is active listening. The best negotiators interrupt less and listen more. They ask questions, generally simple ones. The same can be said for negotiating differences of opinion in any relationship.

There is a universal desire to be heard and understood. Often people become angry and irrational because they can find no other way to be heard. When people shout, repeat themselves, withdraw, or attack, you can surmise that they feel and resent not being heard.

Hold off responding to their actions or behavior. Do not argue. First you need to really listen and understand their underlying interests.

Skilled listening will satisfy their desire to be heard, build trust and connection, and buy time in a difficult situation. Skilled listening is more likely to win the other person’s consideration toward you and is one of the best ways to find out the other person’s interests so you can find creative solutions.

Ask simple questions

Rather than arguing, ask questions to uncover the other person’s underlying desires and needs. Often the most powerful question is the simplest question, and may even feel like an obvious one. Rather than objecting, arguing and responding, just truly listen in order to understand the other person’s perspective.

Minimal prompts are best, “Hmmm.” “Go on.” “I see.” But it’s critical that body language conveys that you are interested in what they have to say. Demonstrate curiosity and understanding, not skepticism or contempt. For example, lean forward, look at the person, and demonstrate a relaxed interested demeanor.

Check your understanding

Every now and then repeat back and paraphrase what the other person says to make sure you’re getting that perspective right. Mirroring the other person should be neither a linguistic trick nor compliance, but a true effort to reflect back the other person’s perspective.

Many high stakes professions involve active listening and mirroring. Think of pilots talking to the control tower and how each repeats what the other has said. Think of doctors and assistants during surgery, as well as lawyers and court reporters in court proceedings.

Showing that you understand and that you are addressing a person’s interests calms everyone down and makes problem solving possible. Mirroring the other person also builds rapport. The goal is to get the other person to say “Exactly!” when you paraphrase him or her.

Start with broad open-ended questions that don’t have a yes or no answer.

1. “Talk to me.”

2. “Would you explain to me your situation.”

3. “I would like to understand what your perspective is on the matter.”

4. “Tell me about your needs and desires and what you’re hoping for.”

Insights emerge from what the other person says and doesn’t say.

Then ask narrower questions, such as,

“You say you want to have more time together. Can you say more about that.”

Eventually you can ask more specific yes or no questions.

“Would you feel happy if we could a weekly date night and Saturday afternoons together?”

While hostage negotiations are much more explosive than typical day-to-day negotiations or relationship conflicts, the same principles hold. Research shows that the most successful sales people talk less and let the buyer talk more. Happy couples spend more time trying to understand and support their partner than trying to drive home their point and get their way. So, to become happier and more successful in your relationships, move away from the football metaphor of offense and defense to that of a scientist and focus on curiosity and understanding.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Reference: Professor Seth Freeman’s “The Art of Negotiating the Best Deal.” Thanks to Professor Freeman and his excellent Audio course from The Great Courses.

Read “Conversation and Active Listening: ‘It seems like I do all the talking.’”

Read “Didn’t you hear what I just said!”

Watch “Dealing with Angry People.”

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Guest Author Sam Vaknin: Big Organizations and Government Stonewall and Obstruct. Why Is That? Is It in Their Nature?

"Intimidator" Theo Fleury by Mimi Stuart©  Live the Life you Desire

“Intimidator” Theo Fleury by Mimi Stuart©
Live the Life you Desire

GUEST AUTHOR Sam Vaknin writes: Collectives – especially bureaucracies, such as for-profit universities, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), the army, and government – tend to behave passive-aggressively and to frustrate their constituencies. This misconduct is often aimed at releasing tensions and stress that the individuals comprising these organizations accumulate in their daily contact with members of the public.

Additionally, as Kafka astutely observed, such misbehavior fosters dependence in the clients of these establishments and cements a relationship of superior (i.e., the obstructionist group) versus inferior (the demanding and deserving individual, who is reduced to begging and supplicating).

Passive-aggressiveness has a lot in common with pathological narcissism: the destructive envy, the recurrent attempts to buttress grandiose fantasies of omnipotence and omniscience, the lack of impulse control, the deficient ability to empathize, and the sense of entitlement, often incommensurate with its real-life achievements.

No wonder, therefore, that negativistic, narcissistic, and borderline organizations share similar traits and identical psychological defenses: most notably denial (mainly of the existence of problems and complaints), and projection (blaming the group’s failures and dysfunction on its clients).

In such a state of mind, it is easy to confuse means (making money, hiring staff, constructing or renting facilities, and so on) with ends (providing loans, educating students, assisting the poor, fighting wars, etc.). Means become ends and ends become means.

Consequently, the original goals of the organization are now considered to be nothing more than obstacles on the way to realizing new aims: borrowers, students, or the poor are nuisances to be summarily dispensed with as the board of directors considers the erection of yet another office tower and the disbursement of yet another annual bonus to its members. As Parkinson noted, the collective perpetuates its existence, regardless of whether it has any role left and how well it functions.

As the constituencies of these collectives – most forcefully, its clients – protest and exert pressure in an attempt to restore them to their erstwhile state, the collectives develop a paranoid state of mind, a siege mentality, replete with persecutory delusions and aggressive behavior. This anxiety is an introjection of guilt. Deep inside, these organizations know that they have strayed from the right path. They anticipate attacks and rebukes and are rendered defensive and suspicious by the inevitable, impending onslaught.

Still, deep down bureaucracies epitomize the predominant culture of failure: failure as a product, the intended outcome and end-result of complex, deliberate, and arduous manufacturing processes. Like the majority of people, bureaucrats are emotionally invested in failure, not in success: they thrive on failure, calamity, and emergency. The worse the disaster and inaptitude, the more resources are allocated to voracious and ever-expanding bureaucracies (think the US government post the 9/11 terrorist attacks). Paradoxically, their measure of success is in how many failures they have had to endure or have fostered.

These massive organs tend to attract and nurture functionaries and clients whose mentality and personality are suited to embedded fatalism. In a globalized, competitive world the majority are doomed to failure and recurrent deprivation. Those rendered losers by the vagaries and exigencies of modernity find refuge in Leviathan: imposing, metastatically sprawling nanny organizations and corporations who shield them from the agonizing truth of their own inadequacy and from the shearing winds of entrepreneurship and cutthroat struggle.

A tiny minority of mavericks swim against this inexorable tide: they innovate, reframe, invent, and lead. Theirs is an existence of constant strife as the multitudes and their weaponized bureaucracies seek to put them down, to extinguish the barely flickering flame, and to appropriate the scant resources consumed by these forward leaps. In time, ironically, truly successful entrepreneurs themselves become invested in failure and form their own vast establishment empires: defensive and dedicated rather than open and universal networks. Progress materializes despite and in contradistinction to the herd-like human spirit not because of it.

by Guest Author Sam Vaknin, who is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.

Visit Sam’s Web site.

Read Guest Author Sam Vaknin’s “Tips: How to cope with financial abuse.”

Read “Stonewalling: ‘I’m busy. I don’t have the time to deal with this right now.’”

Posted in Money, Relationship Skills, Vaknin, Sam PhD | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment