Tag Archives: self-compassion

Narcissism and Masochism: The Origins of Eternal Victimhood

In my last post, How to make yourself fall out of love, I mentioned my tendency to devalue those who treat me well and idealize those who treat me poorly. It’s something I’ve done over and over again throughout my life with little awareness.

But after writing that line, it stuck with me all week. I wondered why that was.

If I feel hurt, I will express rage. I may attempt to counter-control, counter-manipulate or straight up fight. But inside, there’s this nagging feeling that says I must deserve this. I am lower than. My opinions count less. My feelings count less.

Having no empathy means having none for myself either.

I think the person doing this to me is better. I obsess over why they would hurt me. Why I’m unworthy of their love or respect.  I want to understand them, and understand why I didn’t measure up. I assume their feelings are valid, but question my own and search constantly for outside validation that tells me I am not defective. Only no amount of outside validation is ever enough.

Am I stupid? Am I ugly? Fat? Wrong? Do I have terrible taste in music? Not interesting enough? What is it? Why was I unworthy? What could I have done differently to make them love me?

Why do I do this to myself? What am I, some sort of masochist?

Well, apparently, yes. And apparently, all narcissists are. In my search, I found this abstract of a larger piece, Narcissism and masochism. The narcissistic-masochistic character:

“Developmentally and clinically, narcissistic and masochistic pathology are so intertwined that their theoretic and clinical unraveling requires specific attention to their linkage and the predictable forms of response to interpretation.

It is therefore useful to think of the narcissistic-masochistic character as a clinical entity. In this condition, pathologic narcissistic tendencies are unconscious vehicles for attaining masochistic disappointment and masochistic injuries are an affirmation of distorted narcissistic fantasies.”

The eternal victimhood of narcissists suddenly makes so much sense.

I have been getting narcissistic supply from ruminating and obsessing over past hurts. I replay the pain over and over again, dissecting every aspect of it. Going over every detail with a fine tooth comb, looking for anything I may have missed that could explain how I failed. Rinse and repeat.

I search for any slight—real or perceived—to latch on to and continue the dynamic, if only in my head.

I initially had trouble understanding the Borderline urge to self-harm. But I self-harm emotionally, by obsessing over past hurts and humiliations, and by devaluing myself.

No one remains to hurt me, so now I do it myself. With memories and a never ending series of questions I will never get answers to.

It won’t hurt anymore if I’d just stop caring. But I can’t stop myself from caring. In this way I’ve become my own abuser. The pain would have been long over by now, only I won’t let it be.

Sexually my fantasies often revolve around degradation and situations where I am controlled, humiliated, used, and where consent straddles the line. This is not an all-the-time thing for me. But every so often I play out these fantasies in my head and am satisfied by the  mistreatment.

Self-compassion is one of the first things my therapist began suggesting to me when I started therapy. It’s something I try to remind myself of, but it’s the hardest thing for me to do. Harder than any of the DBT skills I’ve learned so far. Harder than learning to feel empathy for others.

Aiden reminds me often. He says, “Are you being kind to yourself today?” That always makes me smile and reminds me to give myself some credit. I guess hearing that someone else thinks I am worthy of compassion is still more powerful than me telling myself.

I hope that’s not always the case.

I have noticed that the more emotionally connected I feel to Aiden, the less I fantasize sexually about being hurt.

I am learning to allow myself to be pleasured. Actual intimacy. It takes a level of vulnerability that before now, I’ve never allowed myself to experience. It’s like an entire erotic world has been opened up to me, that I guess I never believed I had a right to.

Maybe feeling more connected to myself emotionally can help me stop the emotional turmoil I put myself through.

Guest Post: Narc-hate sites make recovery hard

Voices of NPD spotlights guest posters with Narcissistic Personality Disorder to share their stories of what it is like to live with NPD, becoming self-aware and personal growth. 

By Rudy Schmitz

I got my Narcissistic degree in 2012 when I was supposed to be recovering from severe depression. Three months later I was back at the Doc’s worse than I was before. Additional assessments were required and eventually it seemed to be a coin toss between High-Functioning Autism or a Cluster B personality disorder. The institute where I was treated had no autism specialists, so I was tested for autism someplace else. I failed the test. So, Cluster B, it was. Not too long after, I was diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Little did I know at that time that this label would have the huge impact it did on my life.

Becoming NPD Diagnosed

Of course I had been diagnosing myself. According to me, I had every Cluster B disorder, traits of some in Cluster A and a bunch of markers from the Cluster C too. And then I had a couple of mental illnesses on the side, or at least, I could have, that were not disorders just illnesses. I made myself into a nut-job basket case, ready to be locked up, put away, put down even. Confirmation bias, squared. And then squared again.

But there it was, with official papers and everything: Narcissistic Personality Disorder. And from what I had read about that, it made sense. From what I would learn about it in the near future, it would make a lot more sense. A lot, a lot. There suddenly were explanations for tons of things I never understood before, but always wondered why they had happened.

NPD on the Internet: Confusing NPD with ASPD

I started reading everything I could get my hands on. I began taking it all in – every word ever written about the subject that I could find. I felt sick to my stomach. I started hating myself. I started hating other narcissists, I started hating people that were victims. The amount of bitter, dark and evil material that is written about Narcissistic Personality Disorder is simply overwhelming.

In my opinion these websites are responsible for a lot of misconceptions about narcissistic personalities. This is the impression that arises when you read those websites:

Narcissists are evil, selfish, malicious and violent. They will go through great lengths to get what they want from you. They will manipulate you, mentally abuse you and some will even use physical violence.

Reading the material online, I thought, this could not be true. That cannot be what Narcissistic Personality Disorder is. I am not that evil of a person. This can’t be correct, this can’t be the truth. People would have told me. I have friends that would have told me. The narc hate sites really affected me in bad ways, and I was becoming what they told me I was. I had to take a few steps back from this and reflect. And that is when I started seeing patterns.

This description depicts the narcissistic personality as an evil predator that consciously uses and abuses its victims to get whatever they want. I do not deny that fact that people displaying this kind of behavior exist. I am not blind to reality. I see these people. I see the results of this behavior every day.

But I am opposed to the idea that these people suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. There is an explanation for why these people are called narcissists today. The same reason they were called psychopath 25 years ago. Fashion. Back in those days psychopath was a fashionable word, under the influence of Hollywood movies.

Today, narcissist is the fashionable word. I’m not quite sure why, but it is. People doing this though neither are psychopaths nor are they narcissists. They have an even more complex condition that gathers the worst of a couple of disorders in it, Narcissistic Personality Disorder likely to be one of them. Their disorders are co-morbid.

Narcissistic Abuse “Survivors”

The way narcissistic behavior is generalized, people just copy their material from each other without even validating it. The amount of pseudo-science that is on some websites is baffling. Numbers and percentages given without validation, statements not backed up by any explanation or proof. And of course, almost every one of those websites is run by previous “survivors of narcissistic abuse”.

These people often think they have a right to address and advise the world on the subject of narcissism because they spend a couple of months, maybe years in a relationship. Well, I have driven several cars in my life, but I don’t advise people on which one they should buy, and certainly not on how to drive one. I have crashed a couple, and that does not make me a safety expert either. On the contrary I would say. And yes, I survived the crashed too.

They often do not seem to realize that what they communicate in public is just their perception of the things they experience in their relationship with that partner, who is most of the time not even diagnosed with NPD. Especially in the cases where there is severe abuse at hand, it is unlikely that this is even the case. It is much more likely that that specific partner has a complex disorder of antisocial and narcissistic disorder in comorbidity. Even statistically it is more likely that the man or woman is a sociopath than a narcissist. But what the hell, narcissist is a cool and hip word, so we just call them narcissists.

I am a narcissist yes. But I am not abusive by nature. I am not violent by nature. Exploitative yes, abusive no. I will use you, but won’t abuse you. At least not intentionally. And that it unintentionally at times comes across that way, is unfortunate. But contrary to popular belief, I will feel guilty about that. I do feel guilt. Tons of it.

History of NPD in the public eye

So when did the definition of a narcissist change for what Kohut and Kernberg thought of and published in 1967 and 1968? Since then, Narcissistic Personality Disorder has been a willing subject of discussion among psychiatrists, psychologists and even neurologists and biologists. In the past decade it seem however that the subject has crossed the borders of the professional field of science and made its way into the world of the laymen. And in from where I am standing, it did not do people with NPD much good.

The movies Psycho (original 1960, remake 1998), American Psycho (2000), and the Hannibal Lecter quartet have had a big impact on the use of the term “psychopath” in the late 90’s and first decade of the 21st century. Apparently something has had a same sort of impact on the use of the term “narcissist” in the current era. The remarkable fact is that often the same kind of person is referred to when using the term. I just wonder, what it is that has had this influence on society. I can’t seem to be able to figure it out, but suggestions are welcome.

Even though I realize that there is an external source for the ignorance with which people use the term, unlike a psychopath, as a narcissist, I do care. In fact, I can’t help but care, because the pathology of narcissistic personalities forces us to base our self-worth solely on external sources. The external sources though generally think that we are monsters.

Let me tell you this: Did you know that Mother Theresa, a person declared a saint only 20 years after her death – making her the “youngest” saint ever—is believed to have been a narcissistic personality, to the extent that there’s a sub-species of narcissists name after her? How is that for being a monster? Monsters do not have the habit of becoming saints, you know.

And I struggle with this. I’m not ashamed to admit that. Being a self-aware narcissistic personality opposed to an unaware one redefines the world for you, but it does not necessarily make it better.

Reaching out to others

I talked to the moderator of a forum for narcissistic abuse “survivors” (I consider that a ridiculous term, as if one is likely to die of narcissistic abuse… really?) and I wanted to help. I am convinced that the insight of a self-aware narcissist, speaking to narcissistic behavior – as well as the behavior of the “survivors”— is a valuable tool and source of information for such a group.

She agreed and let me join the forum. I did not pull up a facade, and introduced myself for what I was. Without exchanging one single word with me, half the people already wanted me out and were against me. If you know one narcissist you know them all seemed to be the code of arms. They don’t even give you a chance, you are condemned already. For what you are, and condemned again for being honest. And condemned again for trying to help.

It is these kind of experiences that make rehabilitation a struggle. You want to do good. You do not want to be a secret, because when people find out later, you just know you will get the “why-did-you-not-tell-me-such-an-important-thing-out-front” drama. And before you know it you will be called a gaslighting, manipulative bastard again.

Most of the stigma that stick to the name “narcissist” are rarely applicable to the person that actually is a narcissist. The stigma are often exaggerated, ignorant and even false. And every person is their own person. Just like every narcissist is.

Please follow my blog No! It’s Not Your Fault or find me answering questions about NPD on Quora.

Interested in sharing your story? Contact Healing from NPD.

Hello, My Name is Yara, and I’m a Crack Addict for Approval

What happens when you become self-aware? For one, you start questioning your own sanity.

I look back and I cringe at things I’ve done in the past. At the time, my behavior made perfect sense to me. I was totally justified.

But as a healthier person seeing it through another lens, it’s embarrassing. I can’t believe I walked around acting the way I did – I overshared to the point of embarrassment, I showed no empathy for others, I (unknowingly) used people, I had no control over my temper, I was condescending and rude. Finally, I was easily manipulated because all it took was a little flattery, ego stroking, or approval and I was putty in a manipulator’s hands.

The anger is what I remember the most. I was always angry – or always looking for a reason to be. I wore all my insecurities on my sleeve. I was a caricature of a person.

Knowing that, today if I feel offended or manipulated – even if the manipulation is resulting in a good feeling—I find myself wondering, what part of this is real and what part is my disorder?

I wonder, is this person doing this on purpose? Do they mean to hurt or offend me? Are they pretending to like me to get something from me? Are they manipulating me? My rational mind tells me, probably not. This is your disorder talking, it is probably not even about you. Stop making everything about you!

But there’s always the possibility that I am actually being manipulated or mistreated. What then?

Because I now recognize I’ve been so completely detached from reality for so long, I have trouble separating fact from the fiction I have a habit of creating in my head.  Not being able to tell real from fake is disorienting. My inner compass is broken. I can’t trust myself.

Recently, I’ve been trying to break the cycle. Yesterday, after dealing with a highly manipulative person, I found myself questioning the interaction. I went over the conversation in my head again and again, picking apart what they said, what they were trying to get from me, how they were trying to make me feel, how it did make me feel.

That last one is the key: How did it make me feel?  In the end, it doesn’t matter if the other person is trying to manipulate me, because with strong boundaries I can protect myself. What matters is why I feel manipulated and what the root cause of that insecurity is.

The answer was what it almost always is for me—approval. This person was offering me approval and I soaked it right up. Despite my self-awareness. Despite working so hard on changing my behaviors and addressing my triggers. Despite that they have shown me little respect in the past.

Did they do it on purpose? Maybe. Does it matter? It shouldn’t. I’m working on not letting it.

Step one: Mindfulness. Stop letting my mind wander back to the interaction (obsessing). Every time it does, gently bring my focus back to the present.

Step two: Awareness of my feelings. Acknowledging, valuing and respecting my own feelings. Whether the person is actively trying to manipulate me or not, I know I don’t like how I feel. Being aware also helps me to be more vigilant in monitoring my own responses and protecting my boundaries.

Step three: Self-compassion. Not beating myself up for failing to have the perfect response, for soaking up the supply like a crack addict. I’m not a total failure. All hope is not lost. I’ve come a long way and I’m still working on it. Look at the positives: At least I realized what I was doing, albeit a little late. After all, before I wouldn’t have realized it at all. Next time I will do even better.

Step four: Self introspection. What are the root causes of my need for approval? How can I get those needs met in a healthy way?

Step five: Planning. How will I respond to situations like this in the future? Do I need to adjust my boundaries? How can I better recognize this stuff before acting next time?

What upsets me most about my need for supply is how vulnerable it makes me feel. Not to people like my husband, who loves me, but to others who haven’t earned that vulnerability from me. Brene Brown says, “You share with people who’ve earned the right to hear your story…It’s an honor to hold space for me when I’m in shame.”

But my need for approval, which stems from my childhood shame, is written all over me from my body language to my reactions. It’s as though I’m broadcasting my shame for the world to see. Until I can get it under control, I feel raw and exposed, out of control.

They say narcissists have addictive tendencies. My need for approval is my biggest addiction and I sometimes feel like a slave to it. Will I always have this addiction? Will I always be a narcissist, the way people in AA are always alcoholics even if they haven’t had a drink in 20 years? Will I have to fight against this for the rest of my life?

What a sad and terrifying thought.

I want to kick my habits now. But I know it takes time. And practice.

I want to be normal.

Why we inflict our pain on others and how to change

As a child I was scapegoated by my mother. Everything was somehow my fault.

She would pick and pick at me until she hit a nerve, then I would explode. After I got upset, she would calm down dramatically. In fact, more than acting “calm”, she seemed to have an inner peace about her now that I was upset: contentment. She looked downright pleased.

Since I had blown up, she could then shift any wrongdoing away from herself and blame me for my poor reaction. In turn, she used this as proof to others (smear campaigns) that I was an “angry”, “out of control” child.

This set of behaviors I believe, played more of a role in my development of NPD than any other. It’s the reason I expect my feelings to be rejected, that others have the worst intentions for me, and why I assume people won’t like me before they even meet me. She taught me early on that I was inherently flawed and unloveable.

While I don’t excuse her behavior, since becoming aware of my own NPD I am able to empathize with how she must have been feeling at the time. That’s in part because I have seen myself do the same thing to those closest to me.

And even though I knew what I was doing was wrong at the time, I didn’t consider myself to be evil or see my behavior as manipulative because in my mind, my actions weren’t about hurting the other person, they were about getting what I so badly needed: empathy.

Those of us who grew up without empathy often don’t realize we are missing it. The people who should have cared the most for us never showed us empathy and we don’t know what it looks or feels like. But we still crave it.

What’s going on in my mind when I act this behavior out? I’m usually feeling angry, frustrated or hurt, and I assume no one will care. So, rather than show vulnerability—which always ended up hurting me more as a child—I attempt to FORCE the other person to share my feelings. Once they seem to be as upset as me, I immediately feel better.

It’s never my intention to outright abuse someone else. It’s an inner cry for love and compassion. But my learned behaviors do exactly the opposite—they keep those who want to show me empathy at a distance and perpetuate my inner narrative that no one cares about my feelings.

When you feel this way, remember, this is an inner plea for love and empathy.

What can you do if you find yourself feeling this way?

  1. Show some self-compassion. Be kind to yourself, remember you’re not perfect, and you don’t have to be. It’s OK to feel the way you’re feeling. Just keep trying to do better.
  2. Don’t assume you won’t get the empathy you need if you ask. Your friends/partner are not your parent. Give them a chance to show you compassion.
  3. Be vulnerable. Share how you feel and why in a calm, non-confrontational, non-blaming tone. This is incredibly hard to do at first, so take baby steps.
  4. Ask for their understanding and kindness. More specifically, ask for their empathy. Ask them to put themselves in your shoes and then explain why you feel the way you do. Be straight forward with what you need. I find taking turns letting the other person talk uninterrupted until they go silent, helps dramatically. Many narcissists marry or gravitate toward other ACoNs (adult children of narcissists), who may also not have the emotional intelligence or experience to instinctively know what you need or how to give it. Work on it together.
  5. Make a mental note of how you felt when you needed empathy, and try giving that same thing to your partner the next time they are upset.

Do you ever perpetuate this behavior? How do you deal with it?