Friday, December 21, 2012
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The Self-Deprecating Narcissist
I have a riotous, subtle, ironic, and sharpened sense of humor. I can be self-deprecating and self-effacing. I do not recoil from making my dilapidated ego the target of my own barbs. Yet, this is true only when I have narcissistic supply aplenty. Narcissistic supply — attention, adulation, admiration, applause, fame, celebrity, notoriety — neuter the sting of my self-directed jokes. In my more humorous moments I can present myself as the opposite of what is widely known to be true. I can unfold a tale of fatuous decisions followed by clumsy misbehavior — yet, no one would take me to be fatuous or clumsy. It is as though my reputation protects me from the brunt of my own jocular modesty. I can afford to be magnanimously forgiving of my own shortcomings because they are so outweighed by my gifts and by my widely known achievements or traits.
Still, the gist of what I once wrote stands:
"A narcissist rarely engages in self-directed, self-deprecating humor. If he does, he expects to be contradicted, rebuked and rebuffed by his listeners ('Come on, you are actually quite handsome'), or to be commended or admired for his courage or for his wit and intellectual acerbity ('I envy your ability to laugh at yourself'). As everything else in a narcissist's life, his sense of humor is deployed in the interminable pursuit of Narcissistic Supply."
I am completely different when I lack narcissistic supply or when in search of sources of such supply. Humor is always an integral part of my charm offensive. But, when narcissistic supply is deficient, it is never self-directed. Moreover, when deprived of supply, I react with hurt and rage when I am the butt of jokes and humorous utterances. I counterattack ferociously and make a complete arse of myself.
Why these extremes?
"The absence of Narcissistic Supply (or the impending threat of such an absence) is, indeed, a serious matter. It is the narcissistic equivalent of mental death. If prolonged and unmitigated, such absence can lead to the real thing: physical death, a result of suicide, or of a psychosomatic deterioration of the narcissist's health. Yet, to obtain Narcissistic Supply, one must be taken seriously and to be taken seriously one must be the first to take oneself seriously. Hence the gravity with which the narcissist contemplates his life. This lack of levity and of perspective and proportion characterize the narcissist and set him apart.
The narcissist firmly believes that he is unique and that he is thus endowed because he has a mission to fulfill, a destiny, a meaning to his life. The narcissist's life is a part of history, of a cosmic plot and it constantly tends to thicken. Such a life deserves only the most serious attention. Moreover, every particle of such an existence, every action or inaction, every utterance, creation, or composition, indeed every thought, are bathed in this cosmic meaningfulness. They all lead down the paths of glory, of achievement, of perfection, of ideals, of brilliance. They are all part of a design, a pattern, a plot, which inexorably and unstoppably lead the narcissist on to the fulfillment of his task. The narcissist may subscribe to a religion, to a belief, or to an ideology in his effort to understand the source of this strong feeling of uniqueness. He may attribute his sense of direction to God, to history, to society, to culture, to a calling, to his profession, to a value system. But he always does so with a straight face, with a firm conviction and with deadly seriousness.
And because, to the narcissist, the part is a holographic reflection of the whole — he tends to generalize, to resort to stereotypes, to induct (to learn about the whole from the detail), to exaggerate, finally to pathologically lie to himself and to others. This tendency of his, this self-importance, this belief in a grand design, in an all embracing and all-pervasive pattern — make him an easy prey to all manner of logical fallacies and con artistry. Despite his avowed and proudly expressed rationality the narcissist is besieged by superstition and prejudice. Above all, he is a captive of the false belief that his uniqueness destines him to carry a mission of cosmic significance.
All these make the narcissist a volatile person. Not merely mercurial — but fluctuating, histrionic, unreliable, and disproportional. That which has cosmic implications calls for cosmic reactions. The person with an inflated sense of self-import, will react in an inflated manner to threats, greatly inflated by his imagination and by the application to them of his personal myth. On a cosmic scale, the daily vagaries of life, the mundane, the routine are not important, even damagingly distracting. This is the source of his feelings of exceptional entitlement. Surely, engaged as he is in securing the well being of humanity by the exercise of his unique faculties — the narcissist deserves special treatment! This is the source of his violent swings between opposite behaviour patterns and between devaluation and idealization of others.
To the narcissist, every minor development is nothing less than a new stage in his life, every adversity, a conspiracy to upset his progress, every setback an apocalyptic calamity, every irritation the cause for outlandish outbursts of rage. He is a man of the extremes and only of the extremes. He may learn to efficiently suppress or hide his feelings or reactions — but never for long. In the most inappropriate and inopportune moment, you can count on the narcissist to explode, like a wrongly wound time bomb. And in between eruptions, the narcissistic volcano daydreams, indulges in delusions, plans his victories over an increasingly hostile and alienated environment. Gradually, the narcissist becomes more paranoid — or more aloof, detached and dissociative.
In such a setting, you must admit, there is not much room for a sense of humor."
Monday, December 10, 2007
Sunday, December 09, 2007
When Dad Hurts Mom
by Lundy Bancroft
In this groundbreaking book, a leading expert on domestic abuse and its effects turns his unique perspective on the littlest victims of spousal abuse-the children.
More than two-thirds of abused women have children, and the overwhelming majority of those children witness one or more incidents of violence. And that number would be even greater if we include children who have watched their mothers be verbally abused and intimidated. Studies have shown that children's exposure to domestic abuse is linked to virtually every category of emotional and behavioral problems.
When Dad Hurts Mom offers comfort, understanding, and a concrete plan of action to any woman concerned about the distress being caused to her children by her angry, controlling, or abusive partner. Written for mothers, this book aims to enlighten women about the effects of abuse on children, how an abusive partner distorts familial relationships, and what can be done about it.
Abused mothers are desperately seeking guidance on how to help their children heal from the abuse they witness. This is the first book to provide these women with the insight, support, and, most important, the solutions they need.
From Publishers Weekly
Nearly three-quarters of women who are chronically mistreated by their partners have children. In this sensitive, respectful book, counselor, speaker, trainer and activist Bancroft (Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men) gives those women ways to help their children heal from the pain of seeing such abuse. Using anecdotes, Q&As, bulleted "points to remember" and a caring but firm tone, Bancroft tells abused mothers exactly what actions they should take to help their children. Don’t blame children (or yourself), he says, and let children know it’s good to talk about the verbal or physical abuse they’ve been exposed to. Bancroft coaches moms to tell their children abuse is wrong, but warns them not to criticize the abuser as a person if he is a father-figure to the children. Bancroft’s important book addresses peripheral issues, too, such as the effects of separation and divorce, and dealing with child protective services and the family court system.
Bancroft draws on 16 years of counseling men who abuse women and as a custody evaluator and child-abuse investigator to offer sound advice to women who are abused by their partners and are concerned about the impact on their children. Without judging women in abusive situations, Bancroft emphasizes that they are in the best position to help their children heal after witnessing abuse. She begins by describing how children view abuse from verbal put-downs of their mother to physical abuse and how their conflict and confusion manifest in a range of symptoms from sleeping and eating disorders to underperformance in school. She ends each chapter with action guidelines for women called "What Can I Do?" Bancroft analyzes the pros and cons of deciding whether to stay with or leave an abusive partner and offers coping strategies that include teaching children to be open about their feelings and devising a "safety plan" of escape if necessary. She also offers advice on choosing therapists and support groups, and practical skills for rebuilding the family. Vanessa Bush Copyright © American Library Association.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Mental Health Today - Message Board
The Mental Health Today
Message Board is worth a visit and a read.
Here is a sample:
is there hope at all? - maple5596
"I have read many stories of having a NPD husband. Almost all of them are really sad and frightening. Well, I have had bad experience with a NPD man myself. Whenever thinking of those frustration when being with him ( I am now living in different city from him), it scares me. He disturbed and poisoned my life. He has almost all the signs of a NPD.
But, I know it sound naive, maybe, I believe he loved me. He is very warm and loving. when he is alert, sometime, he hated himself so much for not being able to act "normal". I could tell the love lighten up his eyes when he saw me. When he is peaceful - feel accepted and loved totally, with all the attention that I couldn't always give. He is wonderful. He has all the good will, although in reality he doesn't act responsibly at all. I believe him for being lost than being bad. The thoughts of leaving him forever while cannot forget his crying, childlike eyes hurt me terribly. The sense of abandoning a lost child hurt me more than anything.
We all human, we all want our love to be received well. It is obvious that my being with him is very good for him - he become calm, happy, if only I can bear the pain of his unconscious abuse that I forgive him. I forgive him for his illness - it is not his fault. It is not by his choice after all.
I know very clearly that I cannot bear the abuse for long - I was driven almost crazy before moving away from his city. But how I hope that he will be cured somehow!! Isn't there a hope at all?
He is soulful, he wants to love and to be loved, just like every one of us, but more so. There is always hope, right?"
Friday, December 07, 2007
Narcissistic Rage In Leaders
A world leader can make a huge mistake such as leading their nation to an unjust war, then, after the reasons for the war are shown to be invalid, not be able to bring themselves to admit that the mistake that the war was wrong or be “big enough” to reverse policy and stop the war. Instead, they continue to maintain that the war was right all along, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They defend their error, fail to reverse course, and allow many more to die needlessly.
This happens often in history. One thinks of Napoleon’s foolish invasion of Russia. Hitler did the same a century later. One thinks of Vietnam. One thinks of Iraq.
Psychiatrists call it "narcissistic rage in leaders". It is direct evidence of a leader's fundamental psychological weakness--a damaged and fragile self-concept. But it can also lead to the destruction of individuals, groups, organizations, and even entire nations.
According to Drs. Mardi Horowitz and Ransom Arthur, leaders who exhibit narcissistic rage use "states of rage" to intimidate subordinates. That is, they use their anger, threats, and tyrannical tantrums to get their way. Narcissistic rage characterizes many historical figures, present world leaders, lesser politicians, corporate executives, heads of organizations, and even factory bosses.
Dr. Horowitz is the Director of the Center for the Study of Neuroses at the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute in San Francisco and a professor of psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco. Dr. Arthur is a professor of psychiatry at the University of California-Los Angeles. Their classic 1988 study still stands as the definitive work on this topic.
They theorize that leaders prone to narcissistic rage have inner fantasies of having unlimited power (omnipotence) while they actually possess varying degrees of real power. Because they realize, on some psychological level at least, that it is their fantasies that are invariably greater, they become easily threatened when their power is in the slightest way challenged. Even a subordinate's hesitation in carrying-out a leader's command can be misinterpreted as a threat, thus triggering an angry outburst--a narcissistic rage.
Referring to the classic cases of Caligula, Nero, Hitler, and Mussolini, Drs. Horowitz and Arthur write that "we infer that their inner psychodynamics also involved a fundamentally damaged self-concept, and that this might be why any action which appeared to cast doubt on the leader's omnipotence was savagely punished."
They note, "because of this situation, all independent thinkers must eventually leave the inner circle of advisers of such leaders. They will tend to be replaced by individuals whose primary objective is keeping the leader pleased. In order to keep the leader serene, bad news, however true, is either not presented or is presented in such a way that a scapegoat other than the leader can be found and punished."
One immediately thinks of Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam War or Richard Nixon during Watergate.
In fact, there is much evidence that the advisers of many of today's leaders do precisely this. In fact, John F. Kennedy was the last U.S. President who was allowed by his minders to read newspapers in their original. All U.S. Presidents since have been given selected newspaper clippings and news briefings by White House staff. One former White House insider claims that on many days, Ronald Reagan was given only the comic strips. And even these were "edited". For instance, he was not given “Doonesbury” whenever it was critical of him.
George W. Bush “browbeat” advisers to find a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Quieda when they continually found none.
Drs. Horowitz and Arthur further theorize that when a leader's narcissistic rage is triggered, the target of the rage is portrayed as "a hostile aggressor who might insult, injure, subjugate, or engulf the [leader's] self. Instead of fear of deflation, injury, or subjection, the manifest feeling is anger." They add, "all evil attributes are externalized and others, not the self, are blamed. The self becomes the aggressor and an attack on the other becomes justified by the bad intentions attributed to him."
Perhaps this helps to explain, among other events such as Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini's revengeful outrage at Salmond Rushdie. In Rushdie's THE SATANIC VERSES, a character similar to the Ayatollah is satirized unmercifully. Rushdie is still in hiding, afraid for his life.
Saddam Hussein becomes the receptacle in which is contained all evil. “He tried to kill my Daddy” is frosting on the cake of war justification. No matter that Hussein was once an ally.
But not only are individuals the victims of the narcissistic rage in leaders. Wars, genocide campaigns, and the devastation of nations can result. Millions can perish because a leader is plagued by a fragile self-concept and a profound, but continually denied, sense of inferiority. In a desperate attempt to satisfy an insatiable thirst caused by an internal weakness of the self, the narcissistic leader drinks the hopefully quenching waters of external power. However, in doing so the leader must forever guard the well--lest others steal one drop for themselves.
It is no wonder that Hussein, an abused and neglected child, extracts revenge upon his enemies with genocide against the Kurds and ruthless elimination of his rivals.
The narcissistic rage of leaders can be extremely destructive to any organization, business, or political group. In his 1921 essay, "Group Psychology and the Analysis of Ego", Sigmund Freud partially described six phases of a group's behaviour after its leader exhibits narcissistic rage. Drs. Horowitz and Arthur have expanded on Freud's description. They write that at the end of the sixth phase, one of three scenarios results: "a) Ruination: The organization succumbs; b) Blood Bath: The leader removes most subordinates and starts over by a massive expenditure of his resources; c) Mutiny: The leader is removed, perhaps by a new hero who challenges and defeats him, and himself becomes the leader."
They observe, "The person who becomes a leader has usually done so in part because he has both extraordinary skills and ambitions for this goal. During his or her quest for power the person fantasized the pleasure he or she would experience in wielding it. To some extent, especially in those vulnerable to narcissistic rages, the pleasure may be in the relief of the chronic pain of a damaged self-concept and pervasive sense of inferiority."
Nevertheless, they ironically add, "When power is actually obtained by such individuals, it is found to be imperfect in relation to expectations. The majority of leaders weather such flies in the ointment of success in a mature manner, with wisdom and humor. Those leaders with vulnerable self-concepts cannot accept the disappointment, and strive for omnipotence."
Drs. Horowitz and Arthur observe, "What is so dramatically seen in the famous continues to be found at a more ordinary level of leadership and group process. Although injuring far fewer people than is the case with a head of state, narcissistic executives still impair institutions or individual lives through the destructiveness of bullying rages and their effects on group processes."
Our leaders are more fragile than they think.
Horowitz, M. & Arthur, R. (1988) Narcissistic Rage In Leaders: The Intersection Of Individual Dynamics And Group Process. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SOCIAL PSYCHIATRY 34:2:135-141
Dr Stephen Juan
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Obsessive Love: When It Hurts Too Much to Let Go
When It Hurts Too Much to Let Go
by Susan Forward & Craig Buck
In this invaluable self-help guide, Dr. Susan Forward presents vivid case histories as well as the real-life voices of men and women caught in the grip of obsessive passion. Whether you're an obsessive lover or the target of such an obsession, here is a proven, step-by-step program that shows you how to recognize the "connection compulsion," what causes it, and how to break its hold on your life so that you can go on to build healthy, lasting, and pain-free relationships.
By A Customer
When I first got this book, I was so addicted to a person that I did not realize I was stalking him and invading his privacy. This book deals out some harsh truth in the beginning. At first I felt no sympathy for my painful ordeal and I couldn't read it. I would recommend reading this book after you have explored why you are the way you are and accepted that are obsessed or addicted to a person. Before reading this book, you might want to try How to Break an Addiction to a Person. That book is a little more sympathetic to how you feel and it helps you to understand why you are acting the way you act. Once you come to terms with yourself and your problems, read Obsessive Love. It gives clear concise directions on how to stop obsessing using behavior conditioning. The psychological techniques in this book really work because they do not focus on appealing to your logical mind but to your illogical emotions and thoughts. This book also provides some insight on how you got this way and it helps you to understand how the person you are obsessing over feels. That is important. This is a great book that really helps deal with a sickness appropriately. It is not a quick fix it is not cheesy. It deals you the truth and then tells you exercises to do everyday to help you deal with the pain. It takes work and dedication to make yourself a healthier person but with this book, you can do it.
Healing and Moving on...,
By A Customer
This book helped me break the Infatuation Cycles I had developed. It is written in a very concise and non-invasive way so as not to offend and make you feel...well...like a deranged and sick person. My behavior was deranged and sick, but after reading this book I made a determined and solid decision to move on AND not look back. I have not repeated my Obsessive Cycle since.
By W. Kaplan "calyndula" (Wynnewood, PA United States)
I can't count the times I have pontificated by saying that I would never read or recommend a self-help book. Well I was wrong. "Obsessive Love..." is a gem of the genre, a truly insightful and helpful book for all ages.
In clear, thoughtful, and easy-to-read English, Susan Forward explains the difference between love--and obsession, quite a different animal altogether. Because it is written with a nonjudgmental attitude and the compassion comes through on every page, it allows the reader who may be caught up in such a relationship to take the first painful step: admitting that he/she is indeed caught up in this unhealthy situation.
The book then gives advice on how to break the attachment and to see the relationship for what it is--or is not. It is aimed at giving the obsessor his/her life back, and of course, the object of the obsession gains the same bonus. Those who are caught up in such a relationship often feel hopeless, helpless, and truly terrified at the prospect of ending a relationship that in fact may not even exist (or that exists no longer). Forward understands this, and does not try to explain it away. She simply guides the reader, quietly and firmly, if you will, through a series of steps that she says will help. And they do.
Letting go is never an easy process, and Forward does not pretend that it is. But her advice works, and leaves the obsessor with dignity and a sense of having come through a serious situation, and out to the other side.
I would imagine that this book would not help a truly psychotic stalker. I have recommended it repeatedly to friends who are locked into relationships that are obsessive and unhealthy, or that are over entirely. The advice has worked every time. I recommend this book to anyone who is grieving over a failed love affair, or a preoccupation with a person who does not reciprocate one's affections. If nothing else, this book will provide strong comfort.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
War and Peace with the Narcissist
What SHOULD you do? Which party is the obstacle to reconciliation here? You or your abuser?
What should you do? Just accept it. It's a fact. Let it be. You cannot really change it: all you can do is delude yourself about it.
You can pretend to have "forgiven" your abuser all you want, but there is nonetheless, a state of war between you. It exists whether you admit it or not.
This is because your abuser owes you something he or she refuses to pay. The narcissist refuses to even admit what they DID yesterday. She may have punched you for 20 minutes straight, but today she denies that it happened, accusing you of "making things up" or of being the one who attacked.
Since she won't even admit what she did, she is also denying you acknowledgement that it was wrong. That she has wronged you.
So, what is there to "forgive," pray tell?
She is also denying you a promise and guarantees to stop it.
So, how can you "forgive" ongoing abuse in progress?
Fact: life with the narcissist continues as ever: whenever she feels like taking a crap on somebody, you're it. "Forgiving" that is just a codeword for permitting it.
You are not required to forgive that. You cannot forgive it. The narcissist's sin obligates the NARCISSIST to do something about it, not you. It obligates the narcissist to repent it duh.
Oh, yeah - that little prerequisite to forgiveness - repentance. The self-righteous harpies on you to "forgive" conveniently let it slip their slippery minds.
So, you can pretend there is peace between you and the narcissist, but there ain't any. There are just lulls between the surprise attacks.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Is the Narcissist Ever Sorry?
But he has a diminished capacity to empathise, so he rarely feels sorry for what he does. He almost never puts himself in the shoes of his "victims". Sure, he feels distressed because he is intelligent enough to realise that something is wrong with him in a major way. He compares himself to others and the outcome is never favourable. His grandiosity is one of the defence mechanisms that he uses to cover up for this disagreeable state of things. But its efficacy is partial and intermittent. The rest of the time, the narcissist is immersed in self-loathing and self-pity. He is under duress and distress most of his waking life. In a vague way, he is also sorry for those upon whom he inflicts the consequences of his personality disorder. He knows that they are not happy and he understands that it has something to do with him. Mostly, he uses even this to aggrandise himself: poor things, they can never fully understand him, they are so inferior. It is no wonder that they are so depressed.
When confronted with major crises (a traumatic divorce, a financial entanglement, a demotion) – the narcissist experiences real, excruciating, life-threatening pain. This is the narcissist's "cold turkey", his withdrawal symptoms. Narcissistic Supply is, like any other drug, habit forming (psychologically). Its withdrawal has broad implications, all severely painful.
Only then is the answer unqualified, unequivocal and unambiguous: yes, the narcissist is in pain – when devoid of his stream of adoration and other positive reinforcements.
Monday, December 03, 2007
The Narcissistic Organization
Here is how Professor Manfred Kets de Vries, writing in The European Management Journal (Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 183–200, April 2004), describes the “reactive” (i.e. negative) narcissistic leader:
"Reactive narcissistic leaders are not prepared to share power. On the contrary, as leaders they surround themselves with ‘yea-sayers.’ Unwilling to tolerate disagreement and dealing poorly with criticism, such leaders rarely consult with colleagues, preferring to make all decisions on their own. When they do consult with others, such consultation is little more than ritualistic. They use others as a kind of ‘Greek chorus,’ expecting followers to agree to whatever they suggest. Reactive narcissistic leaders learn little from defeat. When setbacks occur, such leaders don’t take any personal responsibility; instead, they scapegoat others in the organization, passing on the blame. Even when things are going well, they can be cruel and verbally abusive to their subordinates, and they are prone to outbursts of rage when things don’t go their way. Likewise, perceiving a personal attack even where none is intended, they may erupt when followers rebel against their distorted view of the world. Such ‘tantrums,’ re-enactments of childhood behavior, originate in earlier feelings of helplessness and humiliation. Given the power that such leaders now hold, the impact of their rage on their immediate environment can be devastating. Furthermore, tantrums intimidate followers, who then themselves regress to more childlike behavior."
How can you spot a narcissistic organization? Here are some clues:
* The members of the top leadership are revered and accorded almost god-like status.
* Employees treat the organizationally-approved way of thinking or acting as Holy Writ.
* No one ever admits to any mistakes. Problems are always blamed on someone else—often people outside the organization.
* People treat the bombastic, dictatorial behavior of certain bosses as justified by their exceptional status.
* Questioning any aspect of the organization is strongly discouraged. Objections to policy or procedures from outsiders are met by an amused and superior smile.
* Obtaining employment within the organization is seen as a life-changing achievement and a gift of immeasurable value, which must be repaid with unquestioning loyalty.
My own experience of narcissistic organizations confirms how easily they become a mutual admiration society, where employees act as if simply being part of the organization confers automatic superiority; and the leaders are more concerned to polish their image than take tough decisions. Such an idealized view of themselves and their organization quickly seduces executives into believing that they are in truth the wonderful managers and flawless business strategists that the organization’s PR has made them out to be.
One of the most negative aspects of working in a narcissistic organization is the way it forces everyone to take sides. Since narcissistic leaders typically show strong hostility to anyone who fails to give them the unquestioning loyalty to which they believe they are entitled, employees are faced with a stark choice: do what the leader wants or suffer nasty career consequences. Worse still, there will be no support from colleagues for any “rebellion.” As organizational “cult members,” people rapidly become like their leaders: deeply hostile to anyone who questions the prevailing organizational culture. Independent thought is squashed. Leaders are deprived of truthful feedback. The self-satisfied blindness that results can lead to catastrophe, as leaders are deprived of sensible reality-testing and followers provide sycophantic praise for personal gain. As Max McKeown wrote recently in Management Issues:
"Far too many organizations are stuffed with sycophants prepared to overlook anything shady, illegal, or unethical as long as they are getting to hang around and share some power."
Narcissistic organizations breed arrogant, power-obsessed leaders and sycophantic, manipulative followers. The archetypal “organization man” is a product of a narcissistic organization. So is the status-obsessed CEO who believes that he or she is entitled to use the organization’s resources to demonstrate superior standing. And, since whatever demands the organization sees as “reasonable” must be met, narcissistic organizations quickly produce zombie-like employees who sacrifice any other parts of their life to the organization’s needs. There can be no work/life balance where employment in the organization is seen as such a stupendous gift.
Is that where you want to spend your time? The longer you stay, the less your capacity for independent thought will be, and the more you will come to believe that whatever the organization approves is automatically right. I have known several people who spent most of their careers in an organization of this type. In conversation, their constant praise for the organization quickly became embarrassing. It was also obvious that they formed an elite group, at least in their own estimation. For example, all agreed that in any problem situation, anywhere in the world, their automatic response would be to turn to the local branch of their organization for help and guidance. Not the authorities. Not friends or neighbors or family. Not even their own commonsense or critical thinking ability. If you hadn’t worked in their organization, you were automatically seen as somehow inferior.
Unless this seems an ideal world to you, don’t be tempted to work in such an environment. If you’re in one, and haven’t yet succumbed to group-think, start job hunting right away.
"Real leadership isn't an instant activity any more than a healthy diet is a hamburger, fries and a large soda."
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Masters of Denial
It has got so psychologist Lawrence Josephs can tell right away which patients are likely to fire him. The narcissists may be the worst. These are the ones who are there in the first place only because their spouse would not quit hectoring them to show more interest in the marriage, and the people at work just didn’t seem to give them the credit or attention they deserve. Often, they stay only long enough to decide that what they really need is to leave the marriage and quit the job. After that, they sack the shrink. “They come in under duress:’ says Josephs, a psychology professor at Adelphi University in Garden City N.Y. “But they don’t commit. What they really want is to have everything on their own terms
If it’s any comfort to Josephs, he’s not alone in having such trouble managing nar- cissists—and it’s not just the narcissists giving therapists such problems. Narcissism is one of 10 conditions under the diagnostic heading of personality disorders (PD), and by most accounts, narcissists are among psychology’s toughest nuts to crack. Talk therapy often doesn’t touch them; drug therapy may do just as little. Researchers know why. Common mental conditions, such as anxiety disorders, eating disorders and depression, can be thought of as a pathological rind wrapped around an intact core. Peel the skin away through talk therapy or melt it away with drugs, and the problem may abate. Personality disorders, by contrast, are marbleized through the entire temperament. Narcissists may be self-absorbed, but they believe they jolly well have a right to be. Histrionic personalities may make too much of things, hut how else can they be heard? It’s hard enough to persuade most people to see a therapist—harder still when the patient denies there’s a problem at all. “People rarely come in with a self-diagnosed personality disorder,” says Josephs. “Friends and family push them into it.”
These days they have more reason than ever to push. As families increasingly frag- ment and as societal pressures grow, experts say they are seeing more cases of personality disorder than ever. As much as 9% of the population is thought to suffer from some kind of personality disorder, and as many as 20% of all mental-health hospitalizations may be the result of such conditions. Epidemiologists have not done a very good job of comparing these figures with those of earlier years, but many doctors report—anecdotally—that their PD caseload is indeed on the rise. “The more severe ones are increasing:’ says Josephs, “especially among people who grew up in homes with divorce or drug and alcohol problems.”
As this happens, more and more researchers are looking for new ways to treat the conditions—exploring both genetic and environmental roots, seeking both thera- peutic and chemical cures. And well they might. “The social costs of personality disorders are huge:’ says Dr. John Gunderson, director of the Personality Disorders Service at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass. “These people are involved in so many of society’s ills—divorce, child abuse, violence. The problem is tremendous.” While solutions are elusive, the pathological arc of PDs is predictable. They tend to show up after age 18, striking men and women equally—though gender may influence which of the 10 disorders a person develops. The disorders are grouped into three subcategories, and of these, the so called dramatic cluster—borderline, antisocial, narcissistic and histrionic disorders—is the best known. But it’s the borderlines who cause doctors—to say nothing of families—the most headaches.
People with borderline-personality disorder form exceedingly volatile relationships, whipsawing between idealizing family and friends and dismissing them as worth- less or hateful. They are intensely afraid of being abandoned but react so savagely when a loved one disappoints them that abandonment is often just what they get. Prod these people into therapy, and the same dynamic unfolds there. “At one point, you’re their closest friend, and two weeks later, you’re the enemy,” says Norman Clemens, a psychology professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Histrionic and narcissistic personalities use drama or self-absorption in much the same way—pushing away family and exasperating therapists. People with antisocial personalities raise the stakes higher, exhibiting aggressiveness, lack of conscience and indifference to the law, often folding criminal behavior into their pathology. Less dramatic but just as stubborn is the so-called anxious cluster, including the straightforwardly named dependent personality, the socially withdrawn avoidant personality and the rigid and rule-bound obsessive-compulsive personality (a different diagnosis entirely from obsessive-compulsive disorder an anxiety condition). The third group—actually called the odd cluster—includes the paranoid, schizotypal and schizoid personalities. Paranoid sounds like just what it is. Schizotypals and schizoids both have problems forming relationships and interpreting social cues; schizotypals may also suffer delusions. “Schizoids are lone wolves:’ says Clemens. “Schizotypals skate along the edge of real schizophrenia’
Before scientists can figure out how to treat these conditions, they must first figure out what’s behind them. Few researchers doubt that when disorders are so woven into temperament, some of what causes them is written into genes. A Norwegian study published in 2000 examined identical and fraternal twins and found that matched pairs—with their matched genetic blueprints—were more likely to share personality disorders than unmatched pairs. The borderline personality had an estimated 69% level of inherit-ability This confirms the observations of doctors in the field who notice higher rates of personality disorders among descendants of PD sufferers. “There are almost certainly multiple genes involved in predisposing people to PD5,” says Gunderson.
But genes aren’t everything. Therapists who work with narcissists often uncover ~ childhood abuse or some other trauma leading to low self-esteem or even self-loathing—just the kind of emotional hole that pathological grandiosity would be designed to fill. Borderline-personality disorder affects more women than men, and some research has shown that up to 70% of borderline women were sexually or physically abused at some point in their lives. It’s hard to hang that kind of mistreatment on the genes. Poorly handled bipolar disorder or learning disabilities may also evolve into personality disorders. Dr. Larry Siever, professor of psychiatry at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, believes that some of the rise in PDs may be linked to the loss of natural support groups, as individuals in an increasingly mobile culture migrate farther and farther from home. “In the past,” he says, “we lived close to our extended families in highly structured communities. People could take care of their own and rein them in:’
Whatever the specific roots of the conditions, once those environmental and genetic die are cast, is that it for the disordered personality? The short, bleak answer is of- ten yes—at least as long as PD patients resist acknowledging the problem. Anxiety disorders such as phobias are generally referred to as ego-dystonic illnesses: the suf
ferer acknowledges the problem and wants to do something about it. Personality disorders are ego syntonic: individuals believe that the drama, self-absorption and other traits that characterize their condition are reasonable responses to the way the world is treating them. That’s a hard patient to heal, but there is hope, and some of it starts in the pharmaceutical lab.
Researchers are finding that anti-psychotics can help alleviate paranoid, schizoid and schizotypal symptoms. A variety of drugs—including mood stabilizers, such as lithium and Depakote; anticonvulsants like Tegretol; and ssRls—may help control the impulsive element of the dramatic disorders. And while antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications do little to rejigger something as fundamental as personality, doctors find that if they prescribe the drugs to relieve the stress that comes with living so disordered a life, some motivated patients may then take on the harder work of talk therapy.
For those who do, the options are growing. Analytic therapy, which explores past traumas, can uncover the deeply rooted conflicts behind the conditions. More immediate results can be gained through cognitive and behavioral therapy, which teach coping skills. A new treatment known as dialectical behavior therapy, developed by clinical psychologist Marsha Linehan of the University of Washington, can teach borderlines to recognize the situations that trigger explosive feelings, helping them squelch a reaction before it erupts. “The first thing we teach is to get control of the behavior,” says Linehan. “After that, we work on feeling bettet” When patients commit to some form of therapy, even the doctors can be surprised. A study conducted by Gunderson and colleagues at Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Brown looked at borderline, avoidant, obsessive-compulsive and schizotypal patients and found that, after two years of treatments, including medication, psychotherapy, DBT or group and family therapy, they showed a 40% improvement. “That’s big news,” says Gunderson. “Nobody would have thought we’d get better than 15%.”
Forty percent, however~ still leaves 60% suffering, and researchers hope to tip that balance the other way. At Mt. Sinai, Siever is looking deeper into what makes people neurologically susceptible to Pds, studying the structure and function of the brain itself in order to determine which areas misfire in the course of the disorders as well as the role played by such neurotransmitters as serotonin and dopamine. Others are studying such possible causes as high levels of stress hormones in the womb or even poor nutrition during brain development. Understanding the biochemistry should make it easier to develop medications.
Until then, it will mostly be up to patients to deny the lie that the disorder tells—that there’s really nothing wrong with them—and make the therapeutic commitment necessary to fix things. “Nobody totally changes,” says Josephs. “But anyone can become more flexible and resilient. Anyone can make progress:’ That alone is already a better prognosis than most patients have had.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Narcissism, Addictions, and Abuse in an Upscale Marriage
How did you ever find yourself in this predicament? you probably ask yourself almost daily now. Really, how could you marry a man who seemed so right but instead, has turned your life upside down?
I understand. After all, I made the same mistake.
There was an old Gladys Knight song they used to play on the radio on the oldies station. If it came on when my husband and I were listening to that station in the car, I would sing along, though not with such a terrific voice, of course. Yes, I would look at my husband with loving eyes and sing, "You're the best thing that ever happened to me."
I truly believed it at the time. I had fallen in love with a man whom I not only loved as a person, but I also considered myself fortunate because he provided me with the lifestyle of my dreams.
Yes, at least in the beginning, everything seemed so perfect. I admired his intellect and his success in an honorable profession. We shared some important common interests. And then he also supportive of me and my desire to go on and pursue a Ph.D. in clinical social work. In other words, what was there not to love?
Until the verbal abuse and emotional abuse began, that is.
I had never heard the Golden Rule to which many financially successful narcissists seem to adhere. No, really, I had always believed that you do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I also tried to let the Golden Rule guide the way I lived or approached my life.
It took me awhile to accept that he truly believed and lived his life by the premise that he who has the gold makes the rules.
Silly me since I had married with the expectation of a partnership whereas, like most men suffering from unhealthy levels or pathological narcissism, my husband believed that the rules did not apply to him anyway. But his rules certainly did apply to me!
You have undoubtedly encountered something similar. Really, isn't that way you are sitting here reading this article?
Dr. Susan Weitzman wrote a book, Not to People Like Us, where she deals with hidden abuse in upscale marriages. If you visit her website and run down the list she provides of the differences between the abusive men in these marriages and those in less affluent marriages, you will soon discover that basically, the men she is describing are narcissists. No, they might not be diagnosable as having full fledges Narcissistic Personality Disorder or NPD. Nonetheless, they suffer from what you might see referred to on the internet as unhealthy, pathological, or malignant narcissism.
If you are silently suffering the almost daily onslaught of your husband's verbal abuse and emotional abuse while living in a home worthy of House Beautiful, if not even Architectural Digest, you are likely living with a narcissistic abuser.
When you read Dr. Weitzman's list, you will note that she talks about how these abusive men are not remorseful, but they seem to feel entitled to do what they do. Also, they lack any empathy for their abused wives.
Have you read enough articles now about narcissism to recognize that these are some of the diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder? Indeed, this personality disorder is about a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. So, it makes sense that the abusive man with high levels of narcissism would behave this way, wouldn't you agree?
What Dr. Weitzman also points out is that most of us who have ended up married to these successful narcissistic men with their abusive ways did not come from abusive homes ourselves. We often did not know people who engaged in the type of ongoing verbal abuse and emotional abuse that our husbands suffering from narcissism do. Perhaps because we did not, but we held a world view that included adherence to the ideals of a marital partnership and living life according to the Golden Rule as stated in the Bible and not as it might spill forth from the mouths of narcissistic men, we were easy prey for these manipulative individuals.
Even after I left my husband with his narcissism, addictions, and abuse, I used to say he was still the best thing that ever happened to me, however. After participating in therapy, attending Al-Anon, participating in a step-study groups, and working the program, I could say this for a much different reason than I had before.
I could say it because the pain and destructiveness of this marriage caused me to awaken not only to my codependency, or the fact I was looking to a man and a lifestyle to provide me with a sense of self worth or a self identity, but to the underlying problem.
I was spiritually bankrupt. And indeed, I needed to turn within and come to know and embrace my higher and true self to become the powerful woman I was meant to become.
Yes, this was why my financially successful narcissistic spouse was the best thing that ever happened to me, despite his narcissism, addictions, and abuse. I was forced to find and embrace my true self.
I hope the same ultimately happens for you, too.
Diane England, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical social worker with other degrees in family studies and child development who specializes in women's issues. Visit her website now: Narcissism, Addictions, and Abuse.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Talking to the Owl
Quince: You, Nick Bottom, are set down for Pyramus.
Bottom: What is Pyramus? a lover, or a tyrant?
Quince: A lover, that kills himself most gallant for love.
Bottom: That will ask some tears in the true performing of
it: if I do it, let the audience look to their
eyes; I will move storms, I will condole in some
measure. To the rest: yet my chief humour is for a
tyrant: I could play Ercles rarely, or a part to
tear a cat in, to make all split. (blah…blah…blah)
So here is the wonderful introduction of the “workaday narcissist” he must function with charm to gather the idolation he feeds on but his real desire is to be a tyrant (like Richard III).
As Quince presents the roles to the other actors, Bottom interjects at each one, claiming to be able to do it better and he really would rather any role but the one he has been given. I can’t help but extrapolate to the development arena and think of how Bottom would act if he were a developer and not an actor. Bottom would want to write everything by himself! Instead of leveraging frameworks and application servers, Bottom would build not just the framework, but the entire application server - from scratch! His massive applications will transform computing as we know it!
The really funny thing about a Midsummer Night’s dream is Bottom’s treatment by Titiana after he becomes an infantile ass, braying about oats in the arms of a beautiful fairie. It is a wonderful deconstruction of the bully that he was in a few scenes before.
There’s a lot of interesting psychological stuff on narcissism on the net, but Bottom is my character study. I can usually spend about 10 minutes talking to someone and if their grandiose ideas and subtle intimidations start to trigger a “HeeHAW” in the back of my mind, I know I’ve made aquantance with a narcissist, and I would do well to let them crawl back into the unimportant anonymity where they belong.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Whose Catastrophe?: The Narcissism of Nick Saban
We've all heard the quotes—Alabama head coach Nick Saban comparing his team's loss to Louisiana-Monroe to September 11th and Pearl Harbor, as well as to an alcoholic hitting "rock bottom."
As the university tries to do damage control, Saban has remained silent—perhaps because he has both feet inserted firmly in his mouth.
"Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event," Saban said after the loss. "It may be 9/11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to catastrophic events. Pearl Harbor kind of got us ready for World War II, and that was a catastrophic event."
And Saban wasn't done yet.
"They talk about alcoholics and people like that who never ever change until they hit rock bottom," he continued. "Well, they change because when they hit rock bottom they have an awareness, they have an acceptance and a commitment to change. That's what our players need to do right now because the past two weeks since the LSU game, I haven't seen the same spirit, the same work ethic. That's something we have to get right."
The shocking thing about the comments isn't just Saban's insensitivity—it's his narcissism.
However Alabama tries to spin it, it's entirely clear that Saban was indeed comparing the loss to the disasters. And that speaks volumes as to what's going on inside the coach's head.
The loss to Louisiana-Monroe was a 9/11-type catastrophe for Saban. In his little world, losing a football game to an opponent he considers unworthy is on par with the deaths of thousands of innocent people.
If Saban had had a relative or friend who perished on 9/11, maybe he wouldn't feel as comfortable drawing comparisons between a mass murder and a football game.
Or maybe he'd have a better understanding of where a game stands in terms of life's priorities.
In any event, I'm not angry with Nick Saban—I feel sorry for him.
We all should.