Narcissism, a Typology
|Narcissism has been defined in many ways, even by people in the same discipline who
usually come up with some consensus, except about narcissism. That means there are lots of
theories floating around.
( Healthy narcissism is a common term in many of the mental health disciplines and means knowing
what do to survive and doing it, even if it gives others unpleasant feelings [not bodily harm].
Those who have trouble with healthy narcissism (self-care) resist doing what it would take for them to
survive; or they survive but resist soaring. They have been trained from infancy to protect those they're closest
to from their own anger and hurt, as well as to protect others from feeling angry or hurt. The consequence of
this protection is called the "narcissistic defense" and will sabotage attempts to acknowledge that the world
isn't the parent.
Before the narcissistic defense is resolved people defer too much, they sacrifice too much, they give up what
they need and want too frequently; they might get sick, passive-aggressive, self-harming, self-torment, all
kinds of suffering until this defense is resolved. And they are burdened with disappointment, resentment,
anger and obstacles.)
A theory of problematic narcissism is:
--any emotional problem or issue (trouble, burden) that began before language (that is, it
started in the preverbal phase of life, infancy);
--any emotional disorder that started when the person could talk but wasn't taught, or
permitted, to express any emotional language in order to prevent negative feelings from
turning into a disorder.
"Disorder" means symptoms or thoughts that remain stuck in place, interfering with self, with
relationships, parenting and work, in the absence of an on-going therapeutic environment.
What is the narcissist? Someone who
--doesn't know (is unconscious of) the impact he/she is having on others; or
--does know (is conscious of it), but doesn't care.
(Note: doesn't genuinely care. Many narcissists say they care but they're lying. They never
get around to making any effort to change the behaviors that consistently hurt or disappoint
people the people they say they love.)
(Skip to #2 if you aren't familiar with diagnostic categories.) This is a side note for those who separate
"neurotic" from "narcissistic personality disorders". I do not believe in the common definition of neurosis as
separate from other problematic narcissistic disorders, because the incompletely analyzed (thinks
themselves finished when they aren't) neurotic behaves in enough destructive and self-destructive activity to
be concerned about his or her unresolved, unconscious narcissism.
--A theory about the exaggerated splitting of the neurotic from personality disorders among mental health and
psychoanalytic communities is that therapists are more comfortable thinking of their most likeable patients
as neurotic (less pathology), even when behavior outside the session expresses volumes of destructive, or
misinformed, unconscious action. Through my professional and personal observations, although the
neurotic as defined in the literature, and the neurotic analyst, appear to have "resolved" (become conscious
of) enough narcissism to consider certain patients and themselves "high-functioning", or "cured", or the
polite "conflicted yet verbal"--the neurotic certainly fits into the continuum of narcissism.)
2. My conception of a continuum of narcissism is based more on HOW, not why, people act
the way they do towards themselves and others, especially regarding the ability to access
(identify), then verbalize, not act impulsively or compulsively, on their thoughts, wishes, urges
We all have a bit of all of these thoughts and behaviors and express them all in certain ways
at different times in their lives. Ideally we become conscious of times we're "being" schizoid or
"being" hysteric or neurotic, so on, instead of unaware. The more conscious we become
(usually through parents who have had good therapy, or by being in therapy ourselves), the
more our defenses against emotional pain become generally adaptive instead of maladaptive.
The descriptions depict diagnosis in a different way than what is written in psychiatric and
psychoanalytic literature, but there are similarities, too:
The schizophrenic is surrendered to unconscious rage, from such an early stage of life,
infancy, that it has made him entirely psychotic. ("Psychotic" simply means any thought that
has no relation to reality. The schizophrenic has only psychotic thoughts unlike everyone else
who have occasional, or few, psychotic thoughts, belief systems and actions that could be
They are so consumed with internal rage that they are capable of verbalizing only in ways that
are unconsciously designed to be unintelligible, garbled. If he were conscious of (could
"access") the feelings underneath the psychotic thoughts, he would have to kill himself or
someone else. Then he'd be a psychopath, not a schizophrenic who wants to protect you
from his rage by turning it against himself by becoming crazy.
(The paranoid schizophrenic is distinguished in psychiatry from other types of schizophrenia.
The paranoid psychotic does leak sometimes, becomes dangerous.)
The schizophrenic's communications are disguised to such an extent that he will appear to be
talking not to you, but only to the voices that live inside his head. But he is definitely
communicating to you. He is ambivalent about whether or not he wants you to listen but for
the most part, throughout history, induces caregivers and others to not want to listen, in fact,
to medicate him, shut him up.
Attempts to be nice to schizophrenics only make them more enraged (read "Psychoanalysis of
the Schizophrenic Patient" by Hyman Spotnitz).
The schizophrenic has historically (predating Freud and beyond Freud) driven psychiatrists
so crazy that they have unconsciously responded by devising torture techniques to mute the
patient, quiet him down, rather than have to deal with the intolerable feelings stimulated by
having therapeutic discussions with them, for example antipsychotic medication, brutal
restraint, and electroshock therapy.
Continuing this line of thinking, one theory of many is that those who work with schizophrenics
are unconsciously induced to respond to the murderous, suicidal, terrified, tortured,
tormented, nightmare wishes of the schizophrenic by gratifying them with poison and electric
shocks, and other shocks (insulin therapy in the recent past; ice baths; restraints) to their
brain. In other words, the history of the treatment of the schizophrenic reflects
countertransference actions that haven't been explored very much in the literature, the
collusion between patient and psychiatrist.
How do they get back at the doctors in this play? They periodically refuse to take the
medication and go crazy on the doctors, torturing them again. When they've had enough they
hand the torturer role back to the doctors, who shock and medicate them again to
"deadness". Back and forth. Just a theory.
The days when psychoanalysts, including Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, Robert Lindner,
Theodore Issac Rubin, Hyman Spotnitz and Harold Searles, and neurolinguistic experts like
Gregory Bateman, cured schizophrenia, joining their crazy talking by responding with
considered "crazy" talking are over, as antipsychotic medication works well enough, and
quickly, to shut the patient up, until they go off their medicine because they can't stand the
side effects or because (see previous paragraph), and are persuaded to go back on them.
Our society has decided that it's better that no one is trained anymore to do unmedicated
therapy with a schizophrenic.
|Narcissism = unconscious ?
|Being unconscious regarding certain
important areas (relationships, work,
implies a narcissistic disorder.