Narcissism FAQ: Self Defeating and Self Destructive Behaviors

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Question:

The Narcissist often engages in self-defeating and self-destructive behaviors. Can you tell me more about it?

Answer:

We can group these behaviors according to their underlying motivation:

The Self-Punishing, Guilt-Purging Behaviors

These are intended to inflict punishment and to provide the punished party with a feeling of instant relief.

This is very reminiscent of a compulsive-ritualistic behavior. The person harbors guilt. It could be an “ancient” guilt, a “sexual” guilt (Freud), or a “social” guilt. He internalized and introjected voices of meaningful others that consistently and convincingly and from positions of authority informed him that he is no good, guilty, deserving of punishment or retaliation, corrupt. His life is thus transformed into an on-going trial. The constancy of this trial, the never adjourning tribunal IS the punishment. It is Kafka’s “trial”: meaningless, undecipherable, never-ending, leading to no verdict, subject to mysterious and fluid laws and presided by capricious judges.

The Extracting Behaviors

People with Personality Disorders (PDs) are very afraid of real, mature, intimacy. Intimacy is formed not only within a couple, but also in a workplace, in a neighborhood, with friends, while collaborating on a project. Intimacy is another word for emotional involvement, which is the result of interactions in constant and predictable (safe) proximity. PDs interpret intimacy (not DEPENDENCE, but intimacy) as strangulation, the snuffing of freedom, death in installments. They are terrorized by it. The self-destructive and self-defeating acts are intended to dismantle the very foundation of a successful relationship, a career, a project, or a friendship. NPDs (narcissists), for instance, feel elated and relieved after they unshackle these “chains”. They feel they broke a siege, that they are liberated, free at last.

The Default Behaviors

We are all afraid of new situations, new possibilities, new challenges, new circumstances and new demands. Being healthy, being successful, getting married, becoming a mother, or someone’s boss – are often abrupt breaks with the past. Some self-defeating behaviors are intended to preserve the past, to restore it, to protect it from the winds of change, to inertially avoid opportunities.

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love, and runs the website Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited.Sam has served as the author of the Personality Disorders topic, Narcissistic Personality Disorder topic, the Verbal and Emotional Abuse topic, and the Spousal Abuse and Domestic Violence topic, Suite101.

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  1. Pingback: Narcissism FAQ: Myths about Narcissism - Mental Health Matters

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