More on cptsd and narcissism - assessing oneself

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
This is another post about my explorations into whether my coping patterns are narcissistic. I loathe to think that I'm narcissistic, and I don't think I truly meet the definition of NPD. Also, I think my father's malignant narcissism is the main reason why I suffered and still do. But genuinely reflecting on whether my coping style could be narcissistic has been really helpful. OMG. In another podcast on narcissism, this time a different doctor, was saying that for a narcissist, all external objects (people and platforms) have exactly the same reliability. Different people can provide different quality in terms of narcissistic supply (a "hot" girl's attention is going to be higher in quality than someone who is percieved as not being hot), but to a narcissist, everyone has equal weight in terms of their reliability for assessing reality. He said that this is the case because the narcissist has a very weak sense of self, or perhaps more accurately, no self at all, so he or she is not confident in their memories and assessments of reality - they probably were inserting their own grandiose delusions over the situation, and so they are always confused about what is real and what is an illusion. So they automatically assume that when it comes to reality, other people are right. If someone criticizes the narcissist or challenges them, the narcissist automatically adopts the assessment as true, and that adoption reverberates to revise their view of themselves in all their previous memories. To compound the mortification that this causes the narcissist to experience, the narcissist cannot self-reflect and question their interpretation of the criticism. The narcissist is driven to believe that they are always right, so if they adopt the other's criticism as absolutely right, they cannot revise that because that would imply that they can be wrong. So to feed their narcissism, they have to persist in their belief that other people were right about their inferiority (strangely). I don't really identify with the way narcissists cope with that inability to revise, but I do relate to everything this doctor was saying. Whether it's my boyfriend, or a colleague, or even a stranger, if I perceive negative feedback, I crumble. I don't ask, "well, is that true?" I have no defense. The solution would be to have a stronger sense of self that could balance and assess other people's opinions and assessments. But like the narcissist, I don't think I have that.
 

internal

Sponsor
can i ask you why it is important to you to frame this in terms of narcissism? because what i see from you is that you get to the point of, when people criticize me i crumble and have no defenses-

which is frankly normal in complex trauma and is one of the bahavioral symptomology. people with cptsd are very vulnerable and often very fragile, and have personalities that are easily exploited because of this-or they overcompensate and become very disagreeable.

but i do not see you actually take it to narcissistic levels that you actually become narc injured, rage out, blame people, play the victim, plan elaborate revenge on them, gossip about them to other people, and so on and so forth. are those things you also do and just aren't talking about here?

or does framing it in this way help you with your own context having been abused by a narcissist? (i know in some npd circles they use terms like 'fleas' with varying degrees of, like, some people dislike that term more than they like it, so your mileage may vary.)

when i was first really settling down outside of my abusive reletionships (my father who had diagnosed aspd/ssd and my ex who very likely also had both of those disorders co-occurring) this was something i did as well that i related, relative to them, especially because i am diagnosed as cluster b, that makes the relativity much stronger-i'm more like him than i'm not like him.

but humanistically, this is wrong. personality disorders are patterns that are reflected in brain function and cognetive processing, but ultimately, we are all people. some people have more prevelent, more severe forms of these patterns-some people only use these patterns diagnostecally that they are desscribing patterns of behavior and not patterns of fixed personality states.

(so you're aspd because you're a criminal, you're not a criminal because you're aspd-but this is obviously variable and i don't necesserily agree with this as we do see structurel changes in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and less reactevity and so on and so forth.)

i'm nothing like him because i'm not cruel, regardless of what my personality disorder is-because these are disorders of fixed states, but, the limeted number of diagnosic criteria leads us to drawing false conclusions that these are all anybody is, that they are only these 9 things (in my case) and nothing else. even though everybody with bpd is a different person.

one person i really like listening to is dr. ramani, she's one of the leading people on npd and her insight is really pretty valuable, while also managing to recognize that many of her clients with npd are also traumatized, and are capable of growth of they are willing to be self aware and recegnize the harm they're causing in their own lives.
 

Friday

Moderator
But genuinely reflecting on whether my coping style could be narcissistic has been really helpful.
The vast majority of supporters I’ve known (both family & friends/lovers) knee-jerk in dealing with PTSD assume narcissism / narcissistic traits / NPD (depending ONLY on how well they’re versed in psych)… in explanation for “their sufferers” behavior.

PTSD? Is a selfish f*cking disorder. Full stop.
People with PTSD? Often treat others badly. And that needs to stop.

The understanding that Trauma is the cause of seeeeeriously f*cked up, self centered, unsat behavior? Changes the landscape. In the same way that delusions, or drunkenness changes the landscape. The behaviors themselves? Are still wrong. The causes are different. As are the solutions.


I loathe to think that I'm narcissistic
Good. Treating others like shit? When you don’t want to be? Is a bad thing. Regardless of the source/cause.

, but to a narcissist, everyone has equal weight in terms of their reliability for assessing reality
That’s that black & white thinking… so common to PTSD… and many many maaaaaany other disorders. Because PTSD shares symptoms with nearly all disorders. If it takes removing things a step to recognize why it doesn’t work / isn’t actually “real”? No harm, no foul. Whether it’s seeing the result through the lens of a different disorder, or via chemical distance, or whatever… it’s still recognising the distortion, as a distortion.


He said that this is the case because the narcissist has a very weak sense of self, or perhaps more accurately, no self at all, so he or she is not confident in their memories and assessments of reality
Again, recognition is the important thing, IMO. If you recognize / it takes looking outside yourself to recognize the cause AND the effect ? Win.

The solution would be to have a stronger sense of self that could balance and assess other people's opinions and assessments. But like the narcissist, I don't think I have that.
But it’s something you want… and therefore? Can acquire.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
If someone criticizes the narcissist or challenges them, the narcissist automatically adopts the assessment as true, and that adoption reverberates to revise their view of themselves in all their previous memories. To compound the mortification that this causes the narcissist to experience, the narcissist cannot self-reflect and question their interpretation of the criticism. The narcissist is driven to believe that they are always right, so if they adopt the other's criticism as absolutely right, they cannot revise that because that would imply that they can be wrong. So to feed their narcissism, they have to persist in their belief that other people were right about their inferiority (strangely).
The doctor who was laying this out was (I think) espousing a theory of NPD's origins, and it's not necessarily accurate. It sort of makes sense, but falls apart in that last sentence I bolded. A narcissist will move heaven and earth to obliterate any inner sense (or external accusation) of inferiority.

I do relate to everything this doctor was saying. Whether it's my boyfriend, or a colleague, or even a stranger, if I perceive negative feedback, I crumble. I don't ask, "well, is that true?" I have no defense. The solution would be to have a stronger sense of self that could balance and assess other people's opinions and assessments. But like the narcissist, I don't think I have that.
And that's not a narcissist's issue. When confronted or challenged, a person with NPD will lash out quite aggressively. It may be caused by some sort of inner crumbling or panic/loss of identity - but the blind spot with all personality disorders is the inability to effectively observe the true inner catalyst for the dysfunction. You sound profoundly aware of the crumbling, and you're clear that you're lacking in the defense of your own identity.

Even if you were aware of panic, crumble, and then lashed back in anger - that would be more indicative of a few other cluster B personality types, but that sense of crumble or collapse just doesn't fit with (what I understand of) NPD.

And lets bear in mind here, also - personality disorders are extremely difficult to identify and diagnose; possibly because every individual has a personality, and no personality is without dysfunctions. This is why there are so many criteria for all personality disorders, and also why the diagnostic concept of them is continually being debated (and generally rather hotly) by the clinical psychology community at large.

And the standard caveat - I am absolutely not a doctor and therefore cannot make any diagnostic claims, nor would I aspire to. BUT - as someone who reads an awful lot of this stuff - I wouldn't recommend going too far down this rabbit hole. It's not uncommon to display narcissistic traits of one kind or another, but it's a complex metric to truly fit within the established parameters of any actual personality disorder.

It's more straightforward (and clinically, more correct in practice) to understand your patterns and responses within the context of PTSD (or CPTSD, whichever it may be for you).
 
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ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
I really do think narcissistic traits are normal and in many aspects, healthy. Thinking you're right by default, as long as you haven't a contraction strong enough to make you revise X opinion, is normal and desirable. And I know no human who doesn't cringe at some criticism, especially if that criticism is true.

It becomes pathological when there is no reflection and that it impairs function in some area of your life.

I agree with @joeylittle that any personality disorder has similarities to certain types of personality. But it's not because you share a few borderline or narcissistic traits that you're disordered in that way.

Understand cluster b personality disorders to understand how certain sets of responses are plaguing your life? I think it's useful.

Whipping yourself with self loathing about "your narcissism"? Might not be very efficient.

For what you're saying these coping styles are a surface for something else. Likely trauma and emotional flashbacks. When I'm criticized or even complimented, I have such a cringe I just keep frost or say something off of weird and get the f*ck out. Which has given to me a certain reputation for being cold, brutal and antisocial. However I do not meet, hopefully, the clinical definition of ASPD or NDP.

I guess some gentleness with yourself and taking the time to reflect on yourself and others, perhaps with a paper and a pen, might be useful. Decomposing the small cognitive steps and having an idea for yourself instead of fitting in a big fat narrative of personality disorders. Would that make sense to you?
 

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
Thanks for your thoughtful replies. I admit that framing my "issues" around narcissism might be unwarranted and maybe even wrong-headed, but though it may be highly idiosyncratic to me right now at this time in my life, it has been really productive. I think the main way this framing is helping me is busting a main false dichotomy that is at work in cptsd, as well as cluster B disorders - good and bad. I'm embracing the fact that I can also be bad, but that is okay. I have things in me that leads to bad behaviors and can be selfish and dumb. I feel like people tend to defend and justify bad behavior based on the good. My father literally has said to us kids that he was a "good father". My ex bf saw himself as saintly, and identified with St. Francis of Assisi, and when he looked at me like he wanted to kill me because he was triggered and angry, it was because he couldn't believe I was so bad to him when he was so good. My ex husband would abandon, discard, gamble away the mortgage and even steal my child's savings for his addiction, but would then come home and want sympathy for all of his pain. No one says to themselves, I am doing this because I want/intend to be bad and destructive. But by relating to the narcissist, I have recently been more able to admit to myself, hey, I have this bad motivation. For example, for some reason I think about my boyfriend's ex a lot whom I believe to be narcissistic. I wondered a lot about why I think about her so much. I can say I'm concerned about her treatment of their child, that I was worried about her continued affect on my ex. But it also occurred to me that part of my fixation is that I'm directing my anger at my dad towards her and I want vindication of some kind. I want my dad, via her, to get his comeuppance. I accept that he never will, but acknowledging that I've been feeling this way has helped to defuse it a bit. Also, I realized that in being around others, I can sometimes feel that I am "above" everyone because of the suffering I've endured, and how I survived it all, etc. The exact attribution is not so much important as the realization that that there is a part of me that feels apart. But recently, I've been feeling very humbled. Yet, that humility isn't shameful or humiliating. I have been feeling less need to be above or special, and I've been more able to see others as all equal in our needs, frailties, and humanity.

I don't know. I just know that I've been really interested in exploring more about narcissism. I thought there were a lot of good comments and insights above. I wanted to address these in particular:

I'm nothing like him because i'm not cruel, regardless of what my personality disorder is-because these are disorders of fixed states, but, the limeted number of diagnosic criteria leads us to drawing false conclusions that these are all anybody is, that they are only these 9 things (in my case) and nothing else.
That's a good point. I think that it's important to differentiate. The doctor on the podcast was saying that the codependent's strategy is to meld with the other in order to control, whereas the narcissist outsources. I have way too often taken the blame for my perps' misdeeds. For example, condemning myself for "making" my ex husband gamble the mortgage for the umpteenth time. If I only I would just shut it and not trigger him, our lives would be great. I feel like what I'm going through now is different.

People with PTSD? Often treat others badly. And that needs to stop.
Yes, @Friday, I think you're always good about reality checking about this issue. When I was younger and very untreated and unhealed, I could not at all fathom how anyone could dare question my anger and crying when I was triggered. I felt like my pain was a 911 emergency, like my head was bleeding, and you are peskily bothering me about being considerate. Everything felt like a distant second to my pain. I couldn't see that I was justifying scary behavior with my pain. Was it narcissistic rage perhaps? Was it the rage of a borderline? Or maybe just a cry for help by a cptsd victim? Whatever the cause, I did have such an episode in front of my toddler once, and I guarantee he still has that memory somewhere in his body. I did that, no one else.

It sort of makes sense, but falls apart in that last sentence I bolded.
I didn't see any bold.

And that's not a narcissist's issue. When confronted or challenged, a person with NPD will lash out quite aggressively. It may be caused by some sort of inner crumbling or panic/loss of identity - but the blind spot with all personality disorders is the inability to effectively observe the true inner catalyst for the dysfunction.
I do think I've been blind to my true inner catalysts. And it feels like when I do have insight, there's always another layer. I feel like as someone who has cptsd, I point the finger at the narcissist and say that he alone is without insight. But I'm realizing that even if he lacks insight, I could also lack insight. But no, I don't think I act aggressively, and certainly have not exploded in many years. I think that one result of being with so many cluster B type partners is that I was able to hide behind my victimhood.

I wouldn't recommend going too far down this rabbit hole. It's not uncommon to display narcissistic traits of one kind or another, but it's a complex metric to truly fit within the established parameters of any actual personality disorder.
I think this is an important point for anyone reading this. I'm making these claims and observations, but am not really qualified to do so. Not sure I can promise not to go down the rabbit hole. But I feel pretty regulated and grounded. This is not having a destabilizing affect on me.

I guess some gentleness with yourself and taking the time to reflect on yourself and others, perhaps with a paper and a pen, might be useful. Decomposing the small cognitive steps and having an idea for yourself instead of fitting in a big fat narrative of personality disorders.

Thanks for this thought, @ruborcoraxxx! I hope I'm not using this to do more self-flagellation. But maybe.
 

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
Ah, sorry, I fixed it.


Glad to hear this.
Thanks. I was surprised about his observation too, and you can disagree. But it resonated with me that the narcissist persisting in the other's correct judgment about his inferiority is a covert way of manifesting his deep feelings of insecurity.
 

TruthSeeker

MyPTSD Pro
This is another post about my explorations into whether my coping patterns are narcissistic. I loathe to think that I'm narcissistic, and I don't think I truly meet the definition of NPD. Also, I think my father's malignant narcissism is the main reason why I suffered and still do. But genuinely reflecting on whether my coping style could be narcissistic has been really helpful. OMG. In another podcast on narcissism, this time a different doctor, was saying that for a narcissist, all external objects (people and platforms) have exactly the same reliability. Different people can provide different quality in terms of narcissistic supply (a "hot" girl's attention is going to be higher in quality than someone who is percieved as not being hot), but to a narcissist, everyone has equal weight in terms of their reliability for assessing reality. He said that this is the case because the narcissist has a very weak sense of self, or perhaps more accurately, no self at all, so he or she is not confident in their memories and assessments of reality - they probably were inserting their own grandiose delusions over the situation, and so they are always confused about what is real and what is an illusion. So they automatically assume that when it comes to reality, other people are right. If someone criticizes the narcissist or challenges them, the narcissist automatically adopts the assessment as true, and that adoption reverberates to revise their view of themselves in all their previous memories. To compound the mortification that this causes the narcissist to experience, the narcissist cannot self-reflect and question their interpretation of the criticism. The narcissist is driven to believe that they are always right, so if they adopt the other's criticism as absolutely right, they cannot revise that because that would imply that they can be wrong. So to feed their narcissism, they have to persist in their belief that other people were right about their inferiority (strangely). I don't really identify with the way narcissists cope with that inability to revise, but I do relate to everything this doctor was saying. Whether it's my boyfriend, or a colleague, or even a stranger, if I perceive negative feedback, I crumble. I don't ask, "well, is that true?" I have no defense. The solution would be to have a stronger sense of self that could balance and assess other people's opinions and assessments. But like the narcissist, I don't think I have that.
Learn the words "Is that reasonable and then is that true?" when you hear someone tell you something about yourself that you don't want to hear and honestly appraise....easier said than done.
 
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