My Particular Brand of Damage

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been studying pathological narcissism in order to better understand myself. For me, the acceptance of my disorder has been a powerful and rewarding experience. However it has also left me a shell of a human being with no sense of internal identity.

I’m okay with that now. I’m ready to move forward.

I want to understand where my false self arises from, where the split occurred, why it occurred, how to heal that wound, and how to move on with my life. I also want to work towards self-acceptance and self-healing. This is all very tricky though because narcissism can be extremely complicated.

That said, I’ve also decided to use my narcissism against itself. Within my narcissism, I am ruthlessly efficient in how I approach the deconstruction and ultimate destruction of a target. So why not then turn this ruthless efficiency in on my own FALSE SELF in order to dismantle it and take away its power over me?

The way my brain works is highly analytical. One of my TRUE strengths is large-scale systems thinking and analytical problem solving. I am often able to identify and describe connections between objects and events that lead directly to new insights and solutions. Some times these connections are only apparent to me – which I often find surprising.

While I agree that labels can often be counterproductive in a therapeutic setting, KNOWING that I have this thing inside me gives me a ‘root’ that I can grab ahold of and rip from the ground! I’m a root-cause analysis kind of guy – so I’ve chosen to embrace my narcissism in a new light. I want to solve the problem!

But therein lays the real problem. Narcissism is so poorly understood on so many levels that any question regarding the possibility of healing must really ask the question – from what?

In doing my own research and trying to isolate a specific root cause, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best diagnostic label for my brand of NPD is the label of the Fragile Narcissist as per the 2008 paper ‘Refining the Construct of Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Diagnostic Criteria and Subtypes’.

Prior to this I had also examined Sam Vaknin’s cerebral narcissist, but found it desperately lacking of real significance in terms of my own internal experience.

Another strong candidate for me was the covert narcissist, but ultimately the fragile narcissist won out.

According to the 2008 paper, a very impressive NPD study was carried out that included some 1,200 patients. As a result of their work, the team responsible for the paper concluded that there are actually three diagnostically different representations of NPD:

• Grandiose/malignant narcissism is characterized by seething anger, interpersonal manipulativeness, pursuit of interpersonal power and control, lack of remorse, exaggerated self-importance, and feelings of privilege. Grandiose/malignant narcissists do not appear to suffer from underlying feelings of inadequacy or to be prone to negative affect states other than anger. They have little insight into their own behavior and tend to blame others for their problems.

• Fragile narcissism is characterized by grandiosity that serves a defensive function, warding off painful feelings of inadequacy, smallness, anxiety, and loneliness. The fragile narcissist wants to feel important and privileged, and when defenses are operating effectively, he does. However, when the defenses fail, there is a powerful undercurrent of negative affect and feelings of inadequacy, often accompanied by rage.

• High-functioning/exhibitionistic narcissism has received little empirical attention but is well represented in the clinical literature (e.g., see reference 23). Patients in this subtype have an exaggerated sense of self-importance but are also articulate, energetic, and outgoing. They tend to show good adaptive functioning and use their narcissism as a motivation to succeed.

Fragile narcissists also “suffer the most; they have the poorest global adaptive functioning and the highest comorbidity with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder”.

As for treatment options, “fragile narcissists may respond best to empathic understanding and interventions that acknowledge underlying pain, insecurity, and vulnerability. These patients would require the clinician’s help to tolerate feelings of vulnerability without resorting to grandiosity or devaluation of others”.

That last little bit is EXTREMELY valuable information to me.  It tells me that 1) I have selected a therapist that will guide me in a manner most therapeutically appropriate to my situation; and 2) that there is HOPE!

Within this and other data, I feel that have now obtained the intelligence needed to begin my fight against this enemy.

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