- Psychological Issues
The Clinical Picture and Developmental Roots – Opening Remarks
People who depend on other people for their emotional gratification and the performance of Ego or daily functions. They are needy, demanding, submissive. They fear abandonment, cling and display immature behaviors in their effort to maintain the “relationship” with their companion or mate upon whom they depend. No matter what abuse is inflicted upon them – they remain in the relationship.
See also the definition of the “dependent personality disorder” in the DSM IV.
Previously called “covert narcissist”, this is a co-dependent who depends exclusively on narcissists (narcissist-co-dependent). If you live with a narcissist, have a relationship with one, are married to one, work with a narcissist, etc. – it does NOT mean that you are an inverted narcissist.
To “qualify” as an inverted narcissist – you must WANT to be in a relationship with a narcissist, regardless of any abuse inflicted on you by him/her. You must ACTIVELY seek relationships with narcissists – and ONLY with narcissists – no matter what your (bitter and traumatic) past experience has been. You must feel EMPTY and UNHAPPY in relationships with ANY OTHER kind of person. Only THEN – AND if you satisfy the other diagnostic criteria of a dependent personality disorder – can you be safely labeled an “Inverted Narcissist”.
The DSM IV uses 9 criteria to define the NPD. It is sufficient to possess 5 of them to “qualify” as a narcissist. Thus, theoretically, it is possible to be NPD WITHOUT being grandiose. Many researchers (Alexander Lowen, Jeffrey Satinover, Theodore Millon and others) suggested a “taxonomy” of pathological narcissism. They divided narcissists to sub-groups (very much as I did with my somatic versus cerebral narcissist dichotomy – SV). Lowen, for instance, talks about the “phallic” narcissist versus others. Satinover makes a very important distinction between narcissists who were raised by abusive parents – and those who were raised by doting and smothering or domineering mothers. See an expansion of the Satinover classification in The Narcissist’s Mother.
In “Psychodynamic Psychiatry in Clinical Practice / The DSM-IV Edition’s comments on Cluster B Personality Disorders – Narcissistic” we find this:
“…what definitive criteria can be used to differentiate healthy from pathological narcissism? The time honored criteria of psychological health – to love and to work – are only partly useful in answering this question.”
“An individual’s work history may provide little help in making the distinction. Highly disturbed narcissistic individuals may find extraordinary success in certain professions, such as big business, the arts, politics, the entertainment industry, athletics and televangelism field. In some cases, however, narcissistic pathology may be reflected in a superficial quality to one’s professional interests, as though achievement in and acclaim are more important than mastery of the field itself.
Pathological forms of narcissism are more easily identified by the quality of the individual’s relationships.
One tragedy affecting these people is their inability to love. Healthy interpersonal relationships can be recognized by qualities such as empathy and concern for the feelings of others, a genuine interest in the ideas of others, the ability to tolerate ambivalence in long-term relationships without giving up, and a capacity to acknowledge one’s own contribution to interpersonal conflicts. People who are characterized by these qualities may at times use others to gratify their own needs, but the tendency occurs in the broader context of sensitive interpersonal relatedness rather than as a pervasive style of dealing with other people. One the other hand, the person with a narcissistic personality disorder approaches people as objects to be used up and discarded according to his or her needs, without regard for their feelings.
People are not viewed as having a separate existence or as having needs of their own. The individual with a narcissistic personality disorder frequently ends a relationship after a short time, usually when the other person begins to make demands stemming from for his or her own needs. Most importantly, such relationships clearly do not ‘work’ in terms of the narcissist’s ability to maintain his or her own sense of self-esteem.”
“…These criteria (the DSM IV’s – SV) identify a certain kind of narcissistic patient – specifically, the arrogant, boastful, ‘noisy’ individual who demands to be in the spotlight. However, they fail to characterize the shy, quietly grandiose, narcissistic individual whose extreme sensitivity to slights leads to an assiduous avoidance of the spotlight.”
The DSM-III-R alluded to at least TWO TYPES of narcissists, but the DSM-IV committee chose to delete this:
“…included criterion, ‘reacts to criticism with feelings of rage, shame, or humiliation (even not if expressed)’ due to lack of ‘specificity’.”
Other theoreticians, clinicians and researchers similarly suggested a division between “The Oblivious Narcissist” (a.k.a. overt) and “The Hypervigilant Narcissist”(a.k.a. covert).
The Compensatory versus the Classic Narcissist
Another interesting distinction, suggested by Dave Kelly in his excellent PTYPES web site is between the “Compensatory” type NPD and the “Classic” NPD (DSM IV type):
Here are the Compensatory NPD Criteria according to Dave Kelly:
“Ptypes Personality Types proposes Compensatory narcissistic personality disorder as a pervasive pattern of unstable, covert narcissistic behaviors that derive from an underlying sense of insecurity and weakness rather than from genuine feelings of self-confidence and high self-esteem, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by six (or more) of the following:
The basic trait of the Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Type is a pattern of ‘overtly’ narcissistic behaviors [that] derive from an underlying sense of insecurity and weakness, rather than from genuine feelings of self-confidence and high self-esteem.”
The Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Type:
Forman, Max, (1976). Narcissistic disorders and the oedipal fixations. In Feldstein, J. J., (Ed.), The Annual of Psychoanalysis. Vol. IV. pp. 65-92, New York: International Universities.
Millon, Theodore, and Roger D. Davis. Disorders of Personality: DSM-IV and Beyond. 2nd ed. New York: Wiley, 1996. pp. 411-12.
Reich, Annie, (1986). Pathological forms of self-esteem regulation. In Morrison, A. P., (Ed.), Essential Papers on Narcissism. pp. 44-60. Reprint from (1960) Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. Vol. 15, pp. 205-32.
Riso, Don Richard. Personalty Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-discovery. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987. pp. 102-3.
Speculative Diagnostic Criteria for Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Disorder
A pervasive pattern of self-inflation, pseudo-confidence, exhibitionism, and strivings for prestige, that compensates for feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, as indicated by the following:
Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Disorder corresponds to Ernest Jones’s narcissistic “God Complex”, Annie Reich’s “compensatory narcissism”, Heinz Kohut’s “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”, and Theodore Millon’s “Compensatory Narcissist”.
Millon, Theodore, and Roger D. Davis. Disorders of Personality: DSM-IV and Beyond. 2nd ed. New York: Wiley, 1996. 411-12.
Compare this to the classic type:
Narcissistic Personality Type
The basic trait of the Narcissistic Personality Type is a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.
The Narcissistic Personality Type:
This is mainly the DSM – III – R view. Pay attention to the not so subtle changes in the DSM IV – SV:
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders, Fourth Edition describes Narcissistic Personality Disorder as a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
Summarized from: American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV. 4th ed. Washington: Author, 1994.
The Inverted Narcissist
It is clear that there is, indeed, an hitherto neglected type of narcissist. It is the “self-effacing” or “introverted” narcissist. We call it the “Inverted Narcissist” (hereinafter: “IN”). Others call it “Narcissist-codependent” or “N-Magnet”.
This is a narcissist who, in many respects, is the mirror image of the “classical” narcissist. No one is sure why. The psychodynamics of such a narcissist are not clear, nor are his developmental roots. Perhaps he is the product of an overweening primary object/caregiver. Perhaps excessive abuse leads to the repression of even the narcissistic and other defense mechanisms. Perhaps the parents suppress every manifestation of grandiosity (very common in early childhood) and of narcissism – so that the narcissistic defense mechanism is “inverted” and internalized in this unusual form.
These narcissists are self-effacing, sensitive, emotionally fragile, sometimes socially phobic. They import all their self-esteem and sense of self-worth from the outside (others), are pathologically envious (a transformation of aggression), are likely to intermittently engage in aggressive/violent behaviors, are more emotionally labile that the classic narcissist, etc.
We can, therefore talk about three “basic” types of narcissists:
1. The Offspring of Neglecting Parents
They resort to narcissism as the predominant object relation (with themselves as the exclusive object).
2. The Offspring of Doting or Domineering Parents (often narcissists themselves)
They internalized their parents’ voices in the form of a sadistic, ideal, immature Superego and spend their lives trying to be perfect, omnipotent, omniscient and to be judged “a success” by these parent-images and their later representations (authority figures).
3. The Offspring of Abusive Parents
They internalize the abusing, demeaning and contemptuous voices and spend their lives in an effort to elicit “counter-voices” from their human environment and thus to extract a modicum of self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
All three types exhibit recursive, recurrent and Sisyphean failures. Shielded by their defense mechanisms, they constantly gauge reality wrongly, their actions and reactions become more and more rigid and ossified and the damage inflicted by them on themselves and on others ever greater.
The Narcissistic parent seems to employ a myriad of primitive defenses in his dealings with his children. Splitting – idealizing the child and devaluing him in cycles, which reflect the internal dynamics of the parent rather than anything the child does. Projective Identification – forcing the child into behaviors and traits, which reflect the parents’ fears regarding himself or herself, his or her self-image and his or her self-worth. This is a particularly powerful and pernicious mechanism. If the narcissist parent fears his own deficiencies (“defects”), vulnerability, perceived weaknesses, susceptibility, gullibility, or emotions – he is likely to force the child to “feel” these rejected and (to him) repulsive emotions, to behave in ways strongly abhorred by the parent, to exhibit character traits the parent strongly rejects in himself. The child, in a way, becomes the “trash bin” of the parents’ inhibitions, fears, self-loathing, self-contempt, perceived lack of self-worth, sense of inadequacy, rejected traits, repressed emotions, failures and emotional reticence. Coupled with parent’s treatment of the child as the parent’s extension, it serves to totally inhibit the psychological growth and emotional maturation of the child. The child becomes a reflection of the parent – a vessel through which the parent experiences and realizes himself for better (hopes, aspirations, ambition, life goals) and for worse (weaknesses, “undesirable” emotions, “negative” traits). A host of other, simpler, defense mechanisms put to use by the parent are likely to obscure the predominant use of projective identification: projection, displacement, intellectualization, depersonalization. Relationships between such parents and their progeny easily deteriorate to sexual or other modes of abuse because there are no functioning boundaries between them.
It seems that the child’s reaction to a narcissistic parent can be either accommodation and assimilation or rejection.
ACCOMMODATION and ASSIMILATION
The child accommodates, idealizes and internalizes the primary object successfully. This means that the child’s “internal voice” is narcissistic and that the child tries to comply with its directives and with its explicit and perceived wishes. The child becomes a masterful provider of narcissistic supply, a perfect match to the parent’s personality, an ideal source, an accommodating, understanding and caring caterer to all the needs, whims, mood swings and cycles of the narcissist, an endurer of devaluation and idealization with equanimity, a superb adapter to the narcissist’s world view, in short: the ultimate extension. This is what we call an “inverted narcissist”.
We must not neglect the abusive aspect of such a relationship. The narcissistic primary object always alternates between idealization of his progeny and its devaluation. The child is likely to internalize the devaluing, abusive, demeaning, berating, diminishing, minimizing, upbraiding, chastising voices. The parent (or caregiver) goes on to survive inside the adult (as part of a sadistic and ideal Superego and an unrealistic Ego ideal, to resort to psychoanalytic parlance). These are the voices that inhibit the development of reactive narcissism, the child’s defense mechanism.
The adult maintains these traits. He keeps looking for narcissists in order to feel whole, alive and wanted. He wishes to be treated by a narcissist narcissistically (what others would call abuse is, to him or her, familiar and constitutes narcissistic supply). To him, the narcissist is a source of supply (primary or secondary) and the narcissistic behaviors constitute narcissistic supply. He feels dissatisfied, empty and unloved if not loved by a narcissist.
The roles of Primary Source of Narcissistic Supply (PSNS) and Secondary Source of Narcissistic Supply (SSNS) are reversed. To the inverted narcissist, a spouse is a source of PRIMARY supply, for instance.
The other reaction to the narcissistic parent is:
The child may react to the narcissism of the Primary Object with a peculiar type of rejection. He develops his own narcissistic personality, replete with grandiosity and lack of empathy – BUT his personality is antithetical to the personality of the narcissistic parent. If the parent were a somatic narcissist – he is likely to be a cerebral one, if his father prided himself being virtuous – he is sinful, if his mother bragged about her frugality, he is bound to flaunt his wealth.
An Attempted DSM Style List of Criteria
We came up with a DSM-IV “style” inventory for an inverted narcissist, using the narcissists’ characteristics as a template, because they are, in many ways two sides of the same coin, or “the mold and the molded” hence “mirror narcissist” or “inverted narcissist”.
The Narcissist tries to merge with an idealized but badly internalized object. He does so by “digesting” the meaningful others in his life and transforming them into extensions of his self. He employs various techniques to achieve this. To the “digested” this is the crux of the harrowing experience called “living with a narcissist”.
The “Inverted Narcissist” (IN), on the other hand, does not attempt, except in fantasy or in dangerous, masochistic sexual practice, to merge with an idealized external object. This is because he so successfully internalized the narcissistic primary object to the exclusion of all else. The IN feels ill at ease in a relationship with a non-narcissist because it is unconsciously perceived by him to be “betrayal”, “cheating”, an abrogation of the exclusivity clause he had with the narcissistic primary object.
This is the big difference between narcissists and their inverted version. The former REJECTED the primary object in particular (and object relations in general) in favour of a handy substitute: themselves.
The IN accepted the (narcissist) primary object and internalized it – to the exclusion of all others (unless they are perceived by him to be faithful renditions, replicas of the narcissistic primary object).
The IN possesses a rigid sense of lack of self-worth
The narcissist has a badly regulated sense of self-worth. However this is not conscious. He goes through cycles of self-devaluation (and experiences them as dysphorias). The IN’s sense of self-worth does NOT fluctuate. It is rather stable – but it is very low. Whereas the narcissist devalues others – the IN devalues himself as an offering, a sacrifice to the narcissist. The IN preempts the narcissist by devaluing himself, by actively devaluing his own achievements, or talents. The IN is exceedingly distressed when singled out because of actual achievements or demonstration of superior skills.
The inverted narcissist is compelled to filter all of his narcissistic needs through the primary narcissist in their lives. No independence is permitted. The IN feels amplified by the narcissist’s commentary (because nothing can be accomplished by the invert without the approval of a primary narcissist in their lives).
Pre-occupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance and beauty or of an ideal of love
This is the same as the DSM-IV criterion for narcissistic personality disorder but, with the IN, it manifests absolutely differently, i.e. the cognitive dissonance is sharper here because the IN is so absolutely and completely convinced of their worthlessness that these fantasies of grandeur are extremely painful “dissonances”.
With the narcissist, the dissonance exists on two levels:
Between the UNCONSCIOUS feeling of lack of stable self-worth and the grandiose fantasies AND between the grandiose fantasies and reality (the Grandiosity Gap).
In comparison, the “Inverted Narcissist” can only vacillate between lack of self-worth and reality. No grandiosity is permitted, except in dangerous, forbidden fantasy. This shows that the invert is psychologically incapable of fully realizing their inherent potentials without a primary narcissist to filter the praise, adulation or accomplishments through. They MUST have someone to whom praise can be redirected. The dissonance between the IN’s certainty of self worthlessness and genuine praise that cannot be deflected is likely to emotionally derail the inverted narcissist every time.
Believes that he is absolutely un-unique and un-special (i.e., worthless and not worthy of merger with the fantasized ideal) and that no one at all could understand him because he is innately unworthy of being understood. The IN becomes very agitated the more one tries to understand him because that also offends against his righteous sense of being properly excluded from the human race.
A sense of worthlessness is typical of many other PDs (AND the feeling that no one could ever understand them). The narcissist himself endures prolonged periods of self-devaluation, self-deprecation and self-effacement. This is part of the narcissistic cycle. In this sense, the Inverted Narcissist is a PARTIAL narcissist in that he is permanently fixated in a part of the narcissist wheel, never to experience its complementary half: the narcissistic grandiosity and sense of entitlement.
The “righteous sense of being properly excluded” comes from the sadistic Superego in concert with the “overbearing, externally reinforced, conscience”.
Demands anonymity (in the sense of seeking to remain excluded at all costs) and is intensely irritated and uncomfortable with any attention being paid to him – similar to the Schizoid PD.
Feels that he is undeserving and not entitled.
Feels that he is inferior to others, lacking, insubstantial, unworthy, unlikeable, unlovable, someone to scorn and dismiss, or to ignore.
Is extinguishingly selfless, sacrificial, even unctuous in his interpersonal relationships and will avoid the assistance of others at all costs. Can only interact with others when he can be seen to be giving, supportive, and expending an unusual effort to assist.
Some narcissists behave the same way but only as a means to obtain Narcissistic Supply (praise, adulation, affirmation, attention). This must not be confused with the behavior of the IN.
Lacks empathy. Is intensely attuned to others’ needs, but only in so far as it relates to his own need to perform the required self-sacrifice, which in turn is necessary in order for the IN to obtain his narcissistic supply from the primary narcissist.
By contrast, Narcissists are never empathic. They are intermittently attuned to others only in order to optimize the extraction of narcissistic supply from them.
Envies others. Cannot conceive of being envied and becomes extremely agitated and uncomfortable if even brought into a situation where comparison might occur – loathes competition and will avoid competition at all costs, if there is any chance of actually winning the competition, or being singled out.
Displays extreme shyness, lack of any real relational connections, is publicly self-effacing in the extreme, is internally highly moralistic and critical of others; is a perfectionist and engages in lengthy ritualistic behaviours, which can never be perfectly performed (obsessive-compulsive, though not necessarily to the full extent exhibited in OCD). Notions of being individualistic are anathema.
The Reactive Patterns of the Inverted Narcissist (IN)
The inverted narcissist does not suffer from a “milder” form of narcissism. Like the “classic” narcissists, it has degrees and shades. But it is much more rare and the DSM IV variety is the more prevalent.
The Inverted Narcissist is liable to react with rage whenever threatened, or…
… When envious of other people’s achievements, their ability to feel wholeness, happiness, rewards and successes, when his sense of self-worthlessness is enhanced by a behavior, a comment, an event, when his lack of self-worth and voided self-esteem is THREATENED. Thus, this type of narcissist might surprisingly react violently or ragefully to GOOD things: a kind remark, a mission accomplished, a reward, a compliment, a proposition, a sexual advance).
… When thinking about the past, when emotions and memories are evoked (usually negative ones) by certain music, a given smell, or sight.
… When his pathological envy leads to an all-pervasive sense of injustice and being discriminated against or treated unjustly by a spiteful world.
… When he encounters stupidity, avarice, dishonesty, bigotry – it is these qualities in him that the narcissist really fears and rejects so vehemently in others.
… When he believes that he failed (and he always entertains this belief), that he is imperfect and useless and worthless, a good for nothing half-baked creature.
… When he realizes to what extent his inner demons possess him, constrain his life, torment him, deform him and the hopelessness of it all.
Then even the inverted narcissist rages. He becomes verbally and emotionally abusive. He abuses unfairly confidences. He uncannily pierces the soft spots of his target, and mercilessly drives home the poisoned dagger of despair and self-loathing until it infects his adversary.
The calm after such a storm is even eerier, a thundering silence. The narcissist regrets his behavior but rarely admit his feelings, though he might apologize profusely.
He simply nurtures his feelings as yet another weapon of self-destruction and self-defeat. It is from this very suppressed self-contempt, from this very repressed and introverted judgment, from this missing emotional atonement that the narcissistic rage springs forth. Thus the vicious cycle is established.
One important difference between Inverted Narcissists and non-narcissists is that the former are less likely to react with ptsd (Post Traumatic Shock Syndrome) following a relationship with a narcissist. They seem to be “desensitized” to narcissists by their early upbringing. Whereas the reactions of normal people to narcissistic behavior patterns (and especially to the splitting and projective identification defense mechanisms and to the idealization devaluation cycles) is shock, profound hurt and disorientation – Inverted Narcissists show none of the above.
The Life of the Inverted Narcissist
The IN is, usually, exceedingly and painfully shy as a child. Despite this social phobia, his grandiosity (absorbed from the parent) might direct him to seek “limelight” professions and occupations, which involve exposure, competition, “stage fright” and social friction. The setting can vary from the limited (family) to the expansive (national media) – but, whatever it is, the result is constant conflict and feelings of discomfort, even terror and extreme excitement and thrill (“adrenaline rush”). This is because the IN’s grandiosity is “imported” and not fully integrated. It is, therefore, not supportive of his “grandiose” pursuits (as is the case with the narcissist). On the contrary, the IN feels awkward, pitted on the edge of a precipice, contrived, false and misleading, not to say deceitful.
The Inverted Narcissist grows up in a suppressive environment. It could be an orthodox, hyper-religious, or traditionalist culture, a monovalent, “black and white”, doctrinarian and indoctrinating society – or a family which manifests all the above in a microcosm all its own. The Inverted Narcissist is cast in a negative (emergent) role within his family. His “negativity” is attributed to his gender, the order of his birth, religious, social, or cultural dictates and commandments, his “character flaws”, his relation to a specific person or event, his acts or inaction and so on. In the words of one such IN:
“In the religious culture I grew up in. women are SO suppressed, their roles are so carefully restricted. They are the representation, in the flesh, of all that is sinful, degrading, of all that is wrong with the world.
These are the negative gender/cultural images that were force fed to us the negative ‘otherness’ of women, as defined by men, was fed to me. I was so shy, withdrawn, unable to really relate to people at all from as early as I can remember.”
The IN is subjected and exposed either to an overbearing, overvalued parent, or to an aloof, detached, emotionally unavailable one – or to both – at an early stage of his life.
“I grew up in the shadow of my father who adored me, put me on a pedestal, told me I could do or be anything I wanted because I was incredibly bright, BUT, he ate me alive, I was his property and an extension of him. I also grew up with the mounting hatred of my narcissist brother who got none of this attention from our father and got no attention from our mother either. My function was to make my father look wonderful in the eyes of all outsiders, the wonderful parent with a genius ‘wunderkind’ as his last child, and the only child of the six that he was physically present to raise from the get go. The overvaluation combined with being abjectly ignored or raged at by him when I stepped out of line even the tiniest bit, was enough to warp my personality.”
The invert cannot, or is prevented from developing full-blown secondary narcissism. The invert is so heavily preoccupied in his or her pre-school years in satisfying the narcissistic parent, that the traits of grandiosity and self-love, need for adoration and narcissistic supply from ANY viable source remain dormant or repressed.
The invert simply “knows” that only the narcissistic parent can provide the requisite amount of narcissistic supply. The narcissistic parent is so controlling that any attempt to garner praise or adulation from any other source (without the approval of the parent) is severely punished by swift devaluation and even the occasional spanking or abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual).
This is a vital part of the conditioning that gives rise to inverted narcissism. Where the narcissist exhibits grandiosity, the invert is intensely uncomfortable with personal praise, and wishes to always divert praise away from himself onto his narcissist. This is why the IN can only truly FEEL anything when he is in relationship with another narcissist. The IN is conditioned and programmed from the very beginning to be the perfect companion to the narcissist. To feed their Ego, to be purely their extension, to seek only praise and adulation if it brings greater praise and adulation to the narcissist.
The Inverted Narcissist’s Survival Guide
Listen attentively to everything the narcissist says and agree with it all. Don’t believe a word of it but let it slide as if everything is just fine, business as usual.
What are you getting from the relationship? Are you actually a masochist?
Why is this relationship attractive and interesting?
Define for yourself what good and beneficial things you believe you are receiving in this relationship. Define the things that you find harmful TO YOU. Develop strategies to minimize the harm to yourself. Don’t expect that you will cognitively be able to reason with the narcissist to change who they are. You may have some limited success in getting your narcissist to tone down on the really harmful behaviours THAT AFFECT YOU, which emanate from the unchangeable WHAT the narcissist is. This can only be accomplished in a very trusting, frank and open relationship.
We firmly believe that it is only the inverted narcissist who can have a reasonably good, long lasting relationship with the narcissist. You must be prepared to give your narcissist a LOT of space and leeway.
You don’t really exist for them as a fully realized person – no one does. They are not fully realized people so they cannot possibly have the skills, no matter how smart or sexy, to be a complete person in the sense that most adults are complete.
Somatic versus Cerebral Inverted Narcissists
The Inverted Narcissist (IN) is really an erstwhile narcissist internalized by the IN. Inevitably, we are likely to find among the inverted the same propensities, predilections, preferences and inclinations as we do among proper narcissists.
The cerebral IN is an IN whose source of vicarious primary narcissistic supply lies – through the medium and mediation of a narcissist – in the exercise of his intellectual faculties. A somatic IN would tend to make use of his body, sex, shape or health in trying to secure NS for “his” narcissist.
The inverted narcissist feeds on the primary narcissist and this is his narcissistic supply. So these two typologies can, in essence become a self-supporting, symbiotic system. In reality though, both the narcissist and the inverted narcissist need to be quite well aware of the dynamics of this relationship in order to make this work as a successful long-term arrangement. It might well be that this symbiosis would only work between a cerebral narcissist and a cerebral invert. The somatic narcissist’s capricious sexual dalliances would be far too threatening to the equanimity of the cerebral invert for there to be much chance of this succeeding, even for a short time.
It would seem that only opposing types of narcissists can get along when two classic narcissists are involved in a couple. It follows, syllogistically, that only identical types of narcissist and inverted narcissist can survive in a couple. In other words: the best, most enduring couples of narcissist and his inverted narcissist mate would involve a somatic narcissist and a somatic IN – or a cerebral narcissist and a cerebral IN.
Coping with Narcissists and Non-Narcissists
The inverted narcissist is a person who grew up enthralled by the narcissistic parent. This parent engulfed and subsumed the child’s being to such an over-bearing extent that the child’s personality was irrevocably shaped by this engulfment, damaged beyond hope of repair. The child was not even able to develop defense mechanisms such as narcissism.
The end result is an inverted narcissistic personality. The traits of this personality are primarily evident in relationship contexts. The child was conditioned by the narcissistic parent to only be entitled to feel whole, useful, productive, complete when the child augmented or mirrored to the parent their own sought after narcissistic image. As a result the child is shaped by this engulfment and cannot feel complete in any significant adult relationship unless they are with a narcissist.
The Inverted Narcissist in Relationship with the Narcissist
The inverted narcissist is drawn to significant relationships with other narcissists in his adulthood. These relationships are usually spousal primary relationships but can also be friendships with narcissists outside of the primary love relationship.
In a primary relationship, the inverted narcissist attempts to re-create the parent-child relationship. The invert thrives on mirroring to the narcissist his own grandiosity and in so doing the invert obtains his OWN narcissistic supply (the dependence of the narcissist upon the invert for their Secondary Narcissistic Supply). The invert must have this form of relationship with a narcissist in order to feel complete and whole. The invert will go as far as he needs to ensure that the narcissist is happy, cared for, properly adored, as he feels is the narcissist’s right. The invert glorifies his narcissist, places him on a pedestal, endures any and all narcissistic devaluation with calm equanimity, impervious to the overt slights of the narcissist.
Narcissistic rage is handled deftly by the inverted narcissist. The invert is exceedingly adept at managing every aspect of his life, tightly controlling all situations, so as to minimize the potential for the inevitable narcissistic rages of his narcissist.
The invert wishes to be subsumed by the narcissist. The invert only feels truly loved and alive in this kind of relationship. The invert is loth to abandon his relationships with narcissists. The relationship only ends when the narcissist withdraws completely from the symbiosis. Once the narcissist has determined that the invert is of no further use, and withholds all narcissistic supply from the invert, only then does the invert reluctantly move on to another relationship. The invert is most likely to equate sexual intimacy with engulfment. This can be easily misread to mean that the invert is himself or herself a somatic narcissist, but it would be incorrect. The invert can endure years of minimal sexual contact with their narcissist and still be able to maintain the self-delusion of intimacy and engulfment. The invert finds a myriad of other ways to “merge” with the narcissist, becoming intimately, though only in support roles, involved with the narcissist’s business, career, or any other activity where the invert can feel that they are needed by the narcissist and indispensable. The invert is an expert at doling out narcissistic supply and even goes as far as procuring primary narcissistic supply for their narcissist (even where this means finding another lover for the narcissist, or participating in group sex with the narcissist). Usually though, the invert seems most attracted to the cerebral narcissist and finds him easier to manage than the somatic narcissist. The cerebral narcissist is disinterested in sex and this makes life considerably easier for the invert, i.e., the invert is less likely to “lose” their cerebral narcissist to another primary partner. A somatic narcissist may be prone to changing partners with greater frequency or wish to have no partner, preferring to have multiple, casual sexual relationships of no apparent depth which never last very long.
The invert regards relationships with narcissists as the ONLY true and legitimate form of primary relationship. The invert is capable of having primary relationships with non-narcissists. But without engulfment, the invert feels unneeded, unwanted and emotionally uninvolved.
Relationships between the Inverted Narcissist and Non-Narcissists
The inverted narcissist can maintain relationships outside of the symbiotic primary relationship with a narcissist. But the invert does not “feel” loved because the non-narcissist is not “engulfing” them. Thus, the invert tends to devalue their non-narcissistic primary partner as less than worthy of the inverts’ love and attention.
The invert may be able to sustain a relationship with a non-narcissist by finding other narcissistic symbiotic relationships outside of this primary relationship. The invert may have a narcissistic friend, to whom he pays extraordinary attention, ignoring the real needs of the non-narcissistic partner.
Consequently, the only semi-stable primary relationship between the invert and the non-narcissist occurs where the non-narcissist is very easy going, emotionally secure and not needing much from the invert at all by way of time, energy or commitment to activities requiring the involvement of both parties. In a relationship with this kind of narcissist, the invert may become a workaholic or very involved in outside activities that exclude the non-narcissist spouse.
It appears that the inverted narcissist in a relationship with a non-narcissist is behaviorally indistinguishable from a true narcissist. The only important exception is that the invert does not rage at his non-narcissist partner – he instead withdraws from the relationship even further. This passive-aggressive reaction has been noted, though, with narcissists as well.
Inverted and Other Atypical / Partial (NOS)
Inverted Narcissists Talk about Themselves
Competition and (Pathological) Envy
“I have a dynamic that comes up with every single person I get close to, where I feel extremely competitive toward and envious of the other person. But I don’t ‘act’ competitive, because at the very outset, I see myself as the loser in the competition. I would never dream of trying to beat the other person, because I know deep in my heart that they would win and I would be utterly humiliated. There are fewer things on earth that feel worse to me than losing a contest and having the other person gloat over me, especially if they know how much I cared about not losing. This is one thing that I actually feel violent about. I guess I tend to project the grandiosity part of the NPD package onto the other person rather than on a false ego of my own. So most of the time I’m stuck in a state of deep resentment and envy toward her. To me, she’s always far more intelligent, likable, popular, talented, self-confident, emotionally developed, morally good, and attractive than I am. And I really hate her for that, and feel humiliated by it. So it’s incredibly hard for me to feel happy for this person when she has a success, because I’m overcome with humiliation about myself. This has ruined many a close relationship. I tend to get this way about one person at a time, usually the person who is playing the role of ‘my better half’, best friends or lovers/partners. So it’s not like I’m unable to be happy for anyone, ever, or that I envy every person I meet. I don’t get obsessed with how rich or beautiful movie stars are or anything like that. It only gets projected onto this partner-person, the person I’m depending on the most in terms of supplies (attention, reassurance, security, building up my self-esteem, etc.)…
…The really destructive thing that happens is, I see her grandiose traits as giving her the power to have anything and anyone she wants. So I feel a basic insecurity, because why should she stay with a loser like me, when she’s obviously so out of my league? So really, what I’m envious of is the power that all that talent, social ability, beauty, etc., gives her to have ‘choices’ – the choice to stay or leave me. Whereas I am utterly dependent on her. It’s this emotional inequality that I find so humiliating.”
“I agree with the Inverted Narcissist designation – sometimes I’ve called myself a ‘closet narcissist’. That is, I’ve internalized the value system of grandiosity, but have not applied the grandiose identity to myself. I believe I ‘should be’ those grandiose things, but at the same time, I know I’m not and I’m miserable about it. So people don’t think of me as having an inflated ego – and indeed I don’t – but scratch the surface, and you’ll find all these inflated expectations. I mean to say that perhaps the parents suppressed every manifestation of grandiosity (very common in early childhood) and of narcissism – so that the defense mechanism that narcissism is was ‘inverted’ and internalized in this unusual form.”
“Maybe there aren’t two discrete states (NPD vs. ‘regular’ low self-esteem) – maybe it’s more of a continuum. And maybe it’s just the degree and depth of the problem that distinguishes one from the other. My therapist describes NPD as ‘the inability to love oneself’. As she defines it, the ‘narcissistic wound’ is a deep wounding of the sense of self, the image of oneself. That doesn’t mean that other disorders – or for that matter, other life stressors – can’t also cause low self-esteem. But I think NPD IS low self-esteem…
That’s what the disorder is really about – an image of yourself that is profoundly negative, and the inability to attain a normal and healthy self-image…”
“Yes, I’m a survivor of child abuse. But remember that not all abuse is alike. There are different kinds of abuse, and different effects. My XXX’s style of abuse had to do with trying to annihilate me as a separate person. It also had to do with the need to put all his negative self-image onto me – to see in me what he hated in himself. So I got to play the role of the loser that he secretly feared he was. I was flipped back and forth in those roles – sometimes I’d be a source of NS for him, and other times I was the receptacle of all his pain and rage. Sometimes my successes were used to reflect back on him, to show off to the rest of the family. Other times, my successes were threatening to my father, who suddenly feared that I was superior to him and had to be squelched. I experience emotions that most people I know don’t feel. Or maybe they do feel them, but to far less extreme intensity. For example, the envy and comparison/competition I feel toward others. I guess most of us have experienced rivalry, jealousy, being compared to others. Most of us have felt envy at another’s success. Yet most people I know seem able to overcome those feelings to some extent, to be able to function normally. In a competition, for example, they may be driven to do their best so they can win. For me, the fear of losing andbeing humiliated is so intense that I avoid competition completely. I am terrified of showing people that I care about doing well, because it’s so shaming for me if I lose. So I underachieve and pretend I don’t care. Most people I know may envy another person’s good luck or success, but it doesn’t prevent them from also being happy for them and supporting them. But for me,when I’m in a competitive dynamic with someone, I can’t hear about any of their successes, or compliments they’ve received, etc. I don’t even like to see the person doing good things, like bringing Thanksgiving leftovers to the sick old guy next door, because those things make me feel inferior for not thinking of doing that myself (and not having anyone in my life that I’d do that for). It’s just so incredibly painful for me to see evidence of the other person’s good qualities, because it immediately brings up my feeling of inferiority. I can’t even stand to date someone who looks really good, because I’m jealous of their good looks! So this deep and obsessive envy has destroyed my joy in other people. All the things about other people that I love and take pleasure in is a double-edged sword because I also hate them for it, for having those good qualities (while, presumably, I don’t). I don’t know – do you think this is garden-variety low self-esteem? I know plenty of people who suffer from lack of confidence, from timidity, social awkwardness, hatred of their body, feeling unlovable, etc. But they don’t have this kind of hostile, corrosive resentment of another person for being all the wonderful things that they can’t be, or aren’t allowed to be, etc. And one thing I hate is when people are judgmental of me about how I feel, as though I can help it. It’s like, ‘You shouldn’t be so selfish, you should feel happy for her that she’s successful’, etc. They don’t understand that I would love to feel those things, but I can’t. I can’t stop the incredible pain that explodes in me when these feelings get triggered, and I often can’t even ‘hide’ the feelings. It’s just so overwhelming. I feel so damaged sometimes. There’s more, but that’s the crux of it for me, anyway.”
“I love getting compliments and rewards, and do not react negatively to them. In some moods, when my self-hate has gotten triggered, I can sometimes get to places where I’m inconsolable, because I get stuck in bitterness and self-pity, and so I doubt the sincerity or the reliability of the good thing that someone is saying to me (to try to cheer me up or whatever). But, if I’m in a reasonable mood and someone offers me something good, I’m all too happy to accept it! I don’t have a stake in staying miserable.”
The Partiality of the Condition
“I do agree that it’s (atypical or inverted narcissism) not ‘milder’. But how I see it is that it’s ‘partial’. The part that’s there is just as destructive as it is in the typical narcissist. But there are parts missing from that total, full-blown disorder – and I see that as healthy, actually. I see it as parts of myself that ‘weren’t’ infected by the pathology, that are still intact.
In my case, I did not develop the overweening ego part of the disorder. So in a sense, what you have with me is the naked pathology, with no covering: no suaveness, no charm, no charisma, no confidence, no persuasiveness, but also no excuses, no lies, no justifications for my feelings. Just the ugly self-hate, for all to see. And the self-hate part is just as bad as it is with a full-blown narcissist, so again, it’s not milder. But because I don’t have the denial part of the disorder, I have a lot more insight, a lot more motivation to do something about my problems (i.e., I ‘self-refer’ to therapy), and therefore, I think, a lot more hope of getting better than people whose defense involves totally denying they even have a problem.”
“When my full-blown XXX’s pathological envy would get triggered, he would respond by putting down the person he was envious of – or by putting down the accomplishment itself, or whatever good stuff the other person had. He’d trivialize it, or outright contradict it, or find some way to convince the other person (often me) that the thing they’re feeling good about isn’t real, or isn’t worthwhile, or is somehow bad, etc. He could do this because the inflated-ego defense was fully formed and operating with him. When ‘my’ pathological envy gets triggered, I will be bluntly honest about it. I’ll say something self-pitying, such as, ‘You always get the good stuff, and I get nothing.’ ‘You’re so much better than I.’ ‘People like you better – you have good social skills and I’m a jerk.’ and so on. Or I might even get hostile and sarcastic: ‘Well, it mustbe nice to have so many people worshipping you, isn’t it?’ I don’t try to convince myself that the other person’s success isn’t real or worthwhile, etc. Instead, I’m totally flooded with the pain of feeling utterly inferior and worthless – and there’s no way for me to convince myself or anyone else otherwise. I’m not saying that the things I say are pleasant to hear – and it is still manipulative of me to say them, because the other person’s attention is drawn away from their joy and onto my pain and hostility. And instead of doubting their success’s worth or reality, they feel guilty about it, or about talking about it, because it hurts me so much. So from the other person’s point of view, maybe it’s not any easier to live with a partial narcissist than with a full-blown, in that their joys and successes lead to pain in both cases. It’s certainly not easier for me, being flooded with rage and pain instead of being able to hide behind a delusion of grandeur. But from my therapist’s point of view, I’m much better off because I know I’m unhappy – it’s in my face all the time. So I’m motivated to work on it and change it. And time has borne her words out. Over the past several years that I’ve worked on this issue, I have changed a great deal in how I deal with it. Now when the envy gets triggered, I don’t feel so entwined with the other person – I recognize that it’s my ‘own’ pain getting triggered, not something they are doing to me. And so I can acknowledge the pain in a more responsible way, taking ownership of it by saying, ‘The jealousy feelings are getting triggered again, and I’m feeling worthless and inferior. Can you reassure me that I’m not?’ That’s a lot better than making some snide, hostile, or self- pitying comment that puts the other person on the defensive or makes them feel guilty. … I do prefer the term ‘partial’ because that’s what it feels like to me. It’s like a building that’s partially built – the house of narcissism. For me, the structure is there, but not the outside, so you can see inside the skeleton to all the junk that’s inside. It’s the same junk that’s inside a full-blown narcissist, but their building is completed, so you can’t see inside. Their building is a fortress, and it’s almost impossible to bring it down. My defenses aren’t as strong… which makes my life more difficult in some ways because I ‘really’ feel my pain. But it also means that the house can be brought down more easily, and the junk inside cleaned out…”
Thinking about the Past and the World
“I don’t usually get rageful about the past. I feel sort of emotionally cut off from the past, actually. I remember events very clearly, but usually can’t remember the feelings. When I do remember the feelings, my reaction is usually one of sadness, and sometimes of relief, that I can get back in touch with my past. But not rage. All my rage seems to get displaced on the current people in my life.”
“…When I see someone being really socially awkward and geeky, passive-aggressive, indirect and victim-like, it does trigger anger in me because I identify with that person and I don’t want to. I try to put my negative feelings onto them, to see that person as the jerk, not me – that’s what a narcissist does, after all. But for me it doesn’t completely work because I know, consciously, what I’m trying to do. And ultimately, I’m not kidding anyone, least of all myself.”
Self-Pity and Depression
“More self-pity and depression here – not so much rage. One of the things that triggers my rage more than anything else is the inability to control another person, the inability to dominate them and force my reality on them. I feel impotent, humiliated, forced back on my empty self. Part of what I’m feeling here is envy: that person who can’t be controlled clearly has a self and I don’t, and I just hate them for it. But it’s also a power struggle – I want to get Narcissistic Supply by being in control and on top and having the other person submissive and compliant…”
Regretting, Admitting Mistakes
“I regret my behavior horribly, and I ‘do’ admit my feelings. I am also able, in the aftermath, to have empathy for the feelings of the person I’ve hurt, and I’m horribly sad about it, and ashamed of myself. It’s as though I’d been possessed by a demon, acted out all this abusive horrible stuff, and then, after the departure of the demon, I’m back in my right mind and it’s like, ‘What have I DONE?’ I don’t mean I’m not responsible for what I did (i.e., a demon made me do it). But when I’m triggered, I have no empathy – I can only see my projection onto that person, as a huge threat to me, someone who must be demolished. But when my head clears, I see that person’s pain, hurt, fear – and I feel terrible. I want to make it up to them. And that feeling is totally sincere – it’s not an act. I’m genuinely sorry for the pain I’ve caused the other person.”
“I wouldn’t say that my rage comes from repressed self-contempt (mine is not repressed – I’m totally aware of it). And it’s not missing atonement either, since I do atone. The rage comes from feeling humiliated, from feeling that the other person has somehow sadistically and gleefully made me feel inferior, that they’re getting off on being superior, that they’re mocking me and ridiculing me, that they have scorn and contempt for me and find it all very amusing. That – whether real or imagined (usually imagined) – is what causes my rage.”
Pursuing Relationships with Narcissists
“There are some very few of us who actually seek out relationships with narcissists. We do this with the full knowledge that we are not wanted, despised even. We persist and pursue no matter the consequences, no matter the cost. I am an ‘Inverted Narcissist’. It is because as a child I was ‘imprinted/fixated’ with a particular pattern involving relationships. I was engulfed so completely by my father’s personality and repressed so severely by various other factors in my childhood that I simply didn’t develop a recognizable personality. I existed purely as an extension of my father. I was his genius ‘wunderkind’. He ignored my mother and poured all his energy and effort into me. I did not develop full-blown secondary narcissism… I developed into the perfect ‘other half’ of the narcissists molding me. I became the perfect, eager co-dependent. And this is an imprint, a pattern in my psyche, a way of (not) relating to the world of relationships by only being able to truly relate to one person (my father) and then one kind of person – the narcissist. He is my perfect lover, my perfect mate, a fit that is so slick and smooth, so comfortable and effortless, so filled with meaning and actual feelings – that’s the other thing. I cannot feel on my own. I am incomplete. I can only feel when I am engulfed by another (first it was my father) and now – well now it has to be a narcissist. Not just any narcissist either. He must be exceedingly smart, good looking, have adequate reproductive equipment and some knowledge on how to use it and that’s about it. When I am engulfed by someone like this I feel completed, I can actually FEEL. I am whole again. I function as a sibyl, an oracle, an extension of the narcissist. His fiercest protector, his purveyor/procurer of NS, the secretary, organizer, manager, etc. I think you get the picture and this gives me INTENSE PLEASURE.
So the answer to your question: ‘Why would anyone want to be with someone who doesn’t want them back?’ The short answer is, ‘Because there is no one else remotely worth looking at.'”
“I mostly apologize, and I give the person space to talk about what hurt them so that (1) they get to express their anger or hurt to me, and (2) I can understand better and know better how not to hurt them (if I can avoid it) the next time there’s a conflict. Sometimes the hurt I cause is unintentional – maybe I’ve been insensitive.