The Narcissists Multi-addictions: The Addiction to “Self”

So what is the narcissist most addicted to?  In a word, the narcissist is most addicted to their own grand view of “self”, and they will not tolerate anything or anybody that is likely to obstruct them in their pursuit.  Being addicted to their own self, they are vigilantly looking for self-enhancement opportunities, especially in external quarters where their self-worth is vulnerable, and they feel a need to construct grandiose identities.  This need for self-enhancement opens the narcissist up to multi-addictions in order to grow their wide range of strategies for maintaining their ever growing inflated self-views.

What are the causes of narcissistic personality disorder?

I don’t think anybody really knows what causes Narcissistic Personality Disorder to develop in an individual.  Theorists differ in what they say, but it would seem that most believe that Pathological Narcissism results from extremes in child rearing;  such as a reaction to deficient bonding and dysfunctional attachment (Bowlby).  From the perspective of the Object Relations Theory, the narcissists are infantile and chaotic (Winnicott, Guntrip).  It is believed, that sometime during childhood, the narcissist internalises a “bad” object (typically, the mother) and develops forbidden emotions such as rage, hatred, envy, and other forms of aggression toward this object.   Other theorists say it may be caused by brain injury. Yet another school of thought, Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology,  believes that narcissism may be the result of trauma within a hostile womb before a child is even born, or during the birthing process due to mishandling.   So whether the damage to the individual is caused by neglect by an authoritative figure, bonding and attachment problems,  brain injury,  too high an expectation being placed on a child, excessive pampering and spoiling, or fetal trauma, the evidence of narcissism is usually showing itself by early adulthood.

It seems, because the narcissists raging aggression was unacceptable to the world, and therefore dangerous to him, he was forced to suppress it.  He soon learned how to successfully channel that aggressive energy into fantasies or to socially legitimate outlets such as dangerous sports, gambling, reckless driving, and compulsive shopping, etc.  Sadly, in his effort to repress those “bad” feelings he, unfortunately, also suppresses all of his emotions.  Naturally, these aggressive feelings reinforce the narcissist’s self-image as being bad and corrupt. Gradually, over time, he develops a dysfunctional sense of self-worth, and his self-confidence and self-image becomes unrealistically low and distorted.

As a result of their disturbance in the attachment stage, it seems that many narcissists have no psychological-object constancy at all, and consequently, they live in a world that appears very unsafe.  Their world becomes a world where they do not feel that other people are good-hearted, reliable, caring, constant, accessible, predictable, or trustworthy. So they avoid real contact with anybody, this includes their parents, siblings, spouse, children, friends, colleagues etc.  Consequently, they are totally disconnected from the real world.

This disconnection is intolerable for the narcissist; he is fearful and deeply lonely within himself, and he is unable to do anything about it.  Never having learnt the art of honest communication, he lacks the skills of forming healthy relationships.  In order to defend himself he compensates for this lack of ability (or willingness) to relate to real live people, he invents and shapes substitute-objects or surrogate-objects.  His first loving and completely controllable object he attaches to is “himself”.   Just like the mythical character Narcissus, he has become the object of his own desire, and he projects that idealized image onto the world through a persona that is a False Self, a false self that he sees as being omnipotent (all-powerful) and omniscient (all-knowing).  Unfortunately, these images are confabulations, merely elaborate works of fiction which have little or nothing to do with reality, but they serve their purpose, even if it is just temporarily.   From there he turns others into functions or to objects so that they pose no emotional risk.  These mental representations of meaningful or significant others become the “Sources of Narcissistic Supply”.  It is this reactive pattern that is called pathological narcissism.

Narcissists desperately crave love, but at the same time, because of their inordinate fear of abandonment, betrayal, and rejection, they are terrified of intimacy. Because the narcissist does not form safe secure relationships with anybody, they are very afraid to trust.  Their distrust and fear of people means that they cannot tolerate the discomfort of being wrong, making mistakes, failing, losing, being criticized, ignored, rejected, or disregarded, these all involve too much vulnerability, so they avoid all intimate contact.

The only relationship that the narcissistic nature can manage is the relationship with their own self, which of course is built on the illusion of their superiority, power, and control.  Because they must always feel good about themselves, they live a life of lies (mendacity) in order to maintain the illusion of their grandiose self-image, not just to others, but to their own self, consequently they live through a False Self.  As a result they are susceptible to a life of obsessions, compulsions and addictions.

Whatever a narcissist does, they take it to the limits, whether it is drink, drugs, sex, food, sport, exercise, religion, shopping, health, career etc. The way they survive in the world is through their obsessions.  Everything they choose to obsess on represents who they are to themselves.

Regarding their family, it may be that they are obsessed with their family in a very controlling and harsh way; for example, their children are expected to be better than other children; winners in some way (looks, abilities, intelligence, achievements, music, etc.).  It does not really matter what they are good at, what matters is that the child reflects what a wonderful parent it has, and naturally all its gifts and talents are inherited, or at lease attributed, to the narcissistic parent in some way.

When it comes to their career, it is often taken to the ultimate degree. The reason for this is that, generally speaking, narcissistic children do not do very well at school.  Their disregard for rules, their truancy, their disruptive and chaotic thinking plays a big part in their schooling, a schooling in which they often do not attain high achievements.  As a result, as adults they feel inferior when it comes to education, so they need to over compensate for their deficiency.  This over-compensating behaviour helps the narcissist feel somewhat in control.

The narcissistic personality and its obsessive desire for control is not about control just for control’s sake, but an essential defense against the risk of receiving a narcissistic injury; a blow to the ego or self-esteem that may end in deep feelings of humiliation and shame.  They also have a tendency to become obsessed with their health, and  hypochondria is very common.   The hypochondrium is linked to their fear of losing control over their body, its looks, and its proper functioning.

To the narcissist, he is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions);   this belief shows itself in his arrogant, scornful and proud behaviors or attitudes. Because they believe they are so special they expect to win over every situation; in their minds, fate has made them winners, this makes them very susceptible to becoming gamblers and risk takers in all their undertakings.

So self-absorbed, narcissist believes that they are exempt from the mundane – they see themselves above the laws of other mortals, rules do not apply to them, and that they are owed preferential treatment at all times.  They are invincible, therefore above reproach altogether.  So, if for some reason they fail to deliver in some way, they will inevitably revert to blaming someone else. Because of their “specialness” they seem to think that others owe them the right of warning them of any dangers well in advance.  Failure to do so only confirms to the narcissist that people are useless and cannot be relied upon, or trusted to support them.

Narcissists love a distorted image of themselves, so in effect; their love for themselves is not true.  Somehow, through their own life experience, they have learned that they must be the picture of perfection if they are to be respected, admired or “loved”. They invest in their False Self-image at the expense of their True Self.  They believe that they are independent people, while in truth they are dependent on their endless narcissistic supply to bolster their egos.  Because they deny their emotions, they also deny their fragile vulnerable nature of being a human being.  As a result they deny that they have any problems, admitting such a thing is out of the question, because this would shatter their image.  Because of this denial they fail to love themselves, and as a result they suffer in many ways.  For example, their health suffers through their impulsive addictive behaviour.  They constantly leave themselves open to reprisals from people that they mistreat, they lie to themselves that people could really care about them.  No matter how well they look on the outside, they are suffering from a great inner hunger.

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Christine is a Psychotherapist, Educator, Author and Supervisor of mental health professionals for over 28 years. She was part of a team in the Trauma Unit of St. Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital, Dublin, and has worked specifically with victims of pathological narcissistic abuse in her private practice for many years.
Her books, “The Three Faces of Evil: Unmasking the Full Spectrum of Narcissistic Abuse” and “When Shame Begets Shame: How Narcissists hurt and shame their victims” set out to to help those who have been affected by a narcissist and also to address the shortfalls in a therapist’s education, so that they become better equipped to work with survivors of narcissistic abuse.Much of her knowledge has come from her post-grad studies in Criminology and Forensic Psychology, and it is through these disciplines that she has gained her understanding of “The Dark Triad”, (Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy).
These three faces of evil are vital information for understanding the full spectrum of narcissistic abuse and the dire effects on the victims.It is her vision that narcissistic abuse becomes part of the curriculum of all Mental Health clinicians.
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