My cptsd or narcissistic traits?

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
I was listening to a podcast on narcissism. I believe my bf's ex is narcissistic and my father was highly narcissistic, so I find listening to these podcasts helpful. But this time, rather than seeing those two people in what the doctor was saying, I started recognizing myself in the behaviors that the doctor was describing. He was talking about how narcissists are motivated by a deep-seated need to be the star of the show and to be propped up. None of this is surprising, but as I listened, I realized that I was guilty of exactly the same behaviors as the narcissist. For example, the narcissist is hyper-sensitive to negative feedback and basically modifies their behavior to avoid or prohibit that. They build up a false reality of self that is meant to elicit praise or sympathy. Of course, they still have a shadow self that they bury deep down. The doctor said that narcissists cannot tolerate other people's freedom. They can't allow people to have free opinions about them because they fear that they will be negative and not go along with the narcissist's program. So they control, manipulate, insist to get good treatment. In a way, that's exactly what I do. I live in fear of doing something "wrong" or being perceived as such - in my childhood that meant getting abandoned and hostility from my parents. I get triggered if I think I've gotten on the wrong side of someone or if I sense criticism, so I try to act in a way that would elicit positive responses. Another thing I related to was his saying that narcissists need to be constantly propped up as "legitimate." This of course speaks to their extreme fragility on the inside and the feeling that they are not legit. I related to this characteristic in the way I sometimes shatter when I think I did something weird or wrong and I think my bf will abandon me. I become triggered and revert to a time when doing something wrong meant abuse and trauma. During those times, I intensely need reassurance. But isn't that exactly what is motivating the narcissist? The narcissist insists that her supply needs to prop her up and will not accept any other reaction; she has to control the situation and get only positive feedback or she'll collapse. I'm finding it liberating to identify with these narcissistic traits because I see how despite the intensity of the feelings behind those behaviors, they still might not be based in reality or justified. It felt liberating the thought that people are free to have their own opinions about me. I will be okay, I can assess my own self and I don't need someone else to prop me up. It was also liberating to think that I don't have to spend my life constantly scanning for negative feedback about me. So what if someone thinks low of me, I don't have to think low of myself. I'm pretty sure that I was going down the road of narcissism just like my father in my early 20's, but time and therapy lead me down a different path, or so I thought. Whether I actually do have narcissistic tendencies or not, I think it's helpful to identify with some of these tendencies. In many ways, I don't identify with narcissistic tendencies like manipulating, exploiting, gaslighting, breadcrumbing, etc.

About ten years ago, I started recognizing myself in the way personality disorders were being described - rages and extreme fear of abandonment, etc. It came at a time that I healed a lot already, and it was really helpful for me to see that even if my pain seemed like a 911 emergency, it needn't have to be everyone else's. It helped me to put a distance between my triggers and my reactions, and allowed me to inject more empathy into how I communicated. I feel like I'm having such a moment in which I feel strong enough to reflect and feel accountable.
 

grief

Sponsor
He was talking about how narcissists are motivated by a deep-seated need to be the star of the show and to be propped up.
this is not true. narcissism as in narcissistic personality disorder is a disorder of fragile ego. a malignant or grandoise narcissist would probably prefer to be the star of the show but that is not their motivation for why they are behaving the way they are.

the biggest way to start examining your own narcissistic traits (everybody has them. it doesn't mean you have npd, it just means you're a person. for me it's vulnerable, i get stuck in feeling horrible or bad or like i'm the worst or most horrible thing ever-which i can't be, because that's insane.)

is by looking at how you respond to criticism. that is one of the biggest indicators. if you have a meltdown when people criticize you and especially if you rage out, that is a narcissistic trait. it doesn't mean you have npd. especially if you are willing to work on it or capable of changing your behavior.

but it's something of a yardstick i use when interacting with people. narcissists are very difficult to joke around with and tease because they have a very fragile ego and foundational instability (which is also present in all the other cluster bs, but for npd the fragile ego is the most severe symptom).

rage is also very common with bpd, especially so is fear of abandonment. the cluster b disorders all have a little bit of an overlap though so i wouldn't use "rage" as a symptom, and that's why it's not listed in the dsm under any of them.

npd also deals with affective empathy, and this one is more difficult to self identify (especially if you actually do have bpd or cptsd) but essentially deals with your feelings about other people's experiences. a person with npd is much less likely to actually give a shit, or to fake giving a shit.

npd also deals with delusions in a milder scale, but they are less prevalent than some of the delusions you can get with other cluster bs (specifically bpd). often times the narc actually is successful and good at things so they aren't exactly wrong.

but they can have meltdowns and things because people are not perceving them as the best thing in existence when they believe they are-which is a false belief.

During those times, I intensely need reassurance. But isn't that exactly what is motivating the narcissist?
no. a narcissist inherently doesn't need reassurance because they already believe that they are correct. the narc ego state specifically deals with people who contradict what they "know" to be right. they believe that there is an injustice because they are not successful, they do not need for people to reassure them that they are legitimate.

typically they know that and they are angry that no one else knows it. however a need for reassurance is common in cptsd and bpd. i am like addicted to needing people to tell me that i'm okay and like compulsively apologizing-to the point that it is an actual flaw in my character because it's manipulative and annoying.

but it's so so strong that i still sometimes cannot resist doing it. that's very different to npd because for me it's like i don't know if i'm good unless people tell me. someone with npd knows they are good and they get pissed off when people don't acknowledge what they already know to be true.
 

grit

Not Active
I think reading your posts here for a while, IMHO, you are far from narcissistic personality disorder. A true Narc personality sounds like trump. Even all the power and adulation of the world just made him more vulnerable and victimized rather than what most people would be like humbled and feeling the heaviness of the responsibility bestowed upon them. How close are you to that?

The mere fact you are reflecting on this says you may have some experience with it from parents or family etc. but you actually being one - you would be arguing with the doctor and telling the doctor you know better than her to stay true narc!
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
I think the whole thing about narcs is that they wouldn't be worrying about if they are a narc or not! Because they are perfect and nothing wrong with them. If anything is wrong in their lives: it is someone else's doing.
So the worry about being a narc is a sure sign you're fine in that department.
I get it though. I worry I am too. Because I think I was brought up by at least one narc parent. And I think something must have rubbed off.
But I suppose none of us are perfect and maybe there are things in our behaviour or thinking that could be better. But it doesn't mean we're narcissistic. Just human, flawed, and trying to be better.
 

Mee

MyPTSD Pro
Fwiw PreciousChild, this is something I have feared too and have discussed quite a bit with my T. Do you have a therapist? My T said some of the same stuff as grief said - but not all - and focused on empathy and desire to gain empathetic insight where it did not arise for me as this left me feeling a ‘little blind’. ( not how I would have described it until recently) .

I especially like how grief included that we all have narcissistic traits. I think we all have ( the potential) for all traits - and they get dialled up or down according to various factors. I think of it like a giant mixing desk ( music) with many thousands of dials- one being faded or cranked impacts on how the others sound. If you can get an analogy that works for you it might help?
 

Sideways

Moderator
When it comes to considering "narcissism" (definitely the current fad in psychology), I start from a simple factual basis: everyone (including me) is the centre of their own world. We all see the world through own eyes, nobody else's.

Doing that? Makes a person...normal. Identifying how a situation makes you feel, such as vulnerable and wanting reassurance? Is the primary way we experience life - first and foremost from our own perspective.

To avoid narcissism completely? We'd have to not be able to see the world from our own perspective. Imagine how dysfunctional that would be!

So, with anything I read or hear about narcissism? I take it with a grain of salt. Personality disorders are a dysfunctional extreme of typical, normal, healthy human personality traits. So, being able to recognise PD traits in yourself, when they aren't causing the degree of dysfunction that rises to the level of having a PD? Makes you normal. So, high fives for being normal, yeah!? You and me both:)
 

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
Thank you all for your feedback. @grief, I appreciate you taking the time to write a detailed analysis, and I have comments for you below. @grit and @Movingforward10, those are kind reminders, and deep down, I don't think I have full blown narcissism because of the fact that I can reflect on myself. But denial is a part of narcissism, and in listening to the podcast, I thought maybe I could be in denial on a small scale about certain traits and behaviors. But as @grief and @Sideways are saying, to some extent, we all have narcissistic traits as a normal way of being.

if you have a meltdown when people criticize you and especially if you rage out, that is a narcissistic trait.
You were saying that being the star is not the motivation, but just a way narcissistic traits manifest in some types. I think the doctor on the podcast does acknowledge that there are coverts and vulnerable types. But what rang true to me is that all types have this script in which everyone is a bit player whose roles are to cater and support the star, the narcissist. I've seen that in both grandiose and vulnerable types. They get mad when you want attention instead of recognizing their supporting role.

typically they know that and they are angry that no one else knows it. however a need for reassurance is common in cptsd and bpd.
That's an interesting distinction. One is entitled, and the other is uncertain and kind of desperate. Still, wouldn't you say that the narcissist is looking to the other to prop him up?

To your observation that narcissists crumble at criticism, that was very true of me most of my life. My job entails regular critiquing though, so with healing and sheer exposure, I think I've been able to be better about receiving and reflecting on certain kinds of criticism. But if I'm triggered, I'll spin out. The doctor on the podcast talked about how the narcissist is like someone with a broken foot that's been shattered into a dozen pieces. Someone like that would scan the environment for anything that could re-injure that foot. The narcissist is constantly scanning his environment for any reminders/triggers that could re-injure their totally broken souls. Again, it was insightful for me to identify with that. I do scan for negativity in my world, and in reflecting on his discussion, I realize that there is this other possibility that maybe I could live a life where I am not completely controlled by anticipating disaster. It might be about self-protection and avoiding hurt, but in the way I'm reacting to others based on this self-protection may be self-defensiveness, lack of interest in the other or even invalidation, etc. all those things the narcissists in my life have inflicted on me.

Do you have a therapist?
Yes, for decades. So crucial to healing, right?
everyone (including me) is the centre of their own world. We all see the world through own eyes, nobody else's.

So true. In Body Keeps the Score, van der Kolk talks about how in a "normal" person's resting state, they are focused on themselves, according to cat scans or something. But in traumatized people, in a resting state, the focus is on others. I think self-focus is a healthy starting point, as well as a certain amount of confidence, assertiveness, etc.

I was thinking about Freud's theory of primary narcissism. In hearing this podcast, my way of understanding why the narcissist has to be the star and to be propped up right now, immediately even if such a demand might harm the relationship, is because she is stuck at a very infantile stage of navigating the world. The narcissist acts just like a baby. She is the center of the universe, and no one else's needs matter but hers. And the food and comfort better be right now without delay or she'll cry out. Only much, much later does she recognize that there will be other considerations that will help her to delay gratification - empathy will teach her that parents might need a little more time to get her what she wants; ethics will teach her that she sometimes will forgo gratification for higher values, like charity; etc., etc. But it seems to me that the narcissist is stuck in a very primitive style probably because those deeply felt needs were never met. I understand getting stuck. I think a part of me stopped developing at 4 years old due to extreme events that I've talked about a lot here. The four year old's needs re-emerge when I get triggered and they're recurring because they never stop seeking satisfaction or resolution. Unfortunately, the time has passed for my parents to have been able to meet them. My T and authors like van Der Kolk and others have taught me ways of resolving these old, recurring, and maladaptive demands. I think that "normies" have their needs met, and can develop into the next stage of maturity. But I think for the narcissist, they are still crying out for the narcissistic needs that they were entitled to when they were completely helpless and dependent. They deserved to be the center of the universe and to have those needs satisfied in order to move on to the next stage, but they didn't get it. But when you're still doing that at 30, 40 and 50 years old, to your spouse and to your children, I think it becomes about protecting others from you.
 

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
Idk much about narcissism, but I've got a feeling it does entail the Universe revolving around one's self in their perspective in a big way. I once heard it said, "Better than other people? You mean there are other people??" But also an inability or incapacity to be wrong, hence not much self reflection; the blaming of others. Or as one relative told me, "You were made for me". I have no skills or capacity to determine what sticks out as such, but I do know with parent-caregiver/ child even the child's accomplishments (or 'failures') are what the parent sees as a reflection of/ on themself. There is no room to be one's self or loved as is, just because.

I have never got the impression of that of you @PreciousChild . But as you say, the self-reflection and work to get where you hope to be is always a good thing.
 

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
Idk much about narcissism, but I've got a feeling it does entail the Universe revolving around one's self in their perspective in a big way. I once heard it said, "Better than other people? You mean there are other people??" But also an inability or incapacity to be wrong, hence not much self reflection; the blaming of others. Or as one relative told me, "You were made for me". I have no skills or capacity to determine what sticks out as such, but I do know with parent-caregiver/ child even the child's accomplishments (or 'failures') are what the parent sees as a reflection of/ on themself. There is no room to be one's self or loved as is, just because.

I have never got the impression of that of you @PreciousChild . But as you say, the self-reflection and work to get where you hope to be is always a good thing.
Thanks for your thoughts, @Rosebud!
 

Friday

Moderator
but as I listened, I realized that I was guilty of exactly the same behaviors as the narcissist.
I'm finding it liberating to identify with these narcissistic traits because I see how despite the intensity of the feelings behind those behaviors, they still might not be based in reality or justified.
It felt liberating the thought that people are free to have their own opinions about me. I will be okay, I can assess my own self and I don't need someone else to prop me up.
It was also liberating to think that I don't have to spend my life constantly scanning for negative feedback about me. So what if someone thinks low of me, I don't have to think low of myself.
I think it's helpful to identify with some of these tendencies.
It came at a time that I healed a lot already, and it was really helpful for me to see that even if my pain seemed like a 911 emergency, it needn't have to be everyone else's.
It helped me to put a distance between my triggers and my reactions,
and allowed me to inject more empathy into how I communicated

I’ve been meaning to reply for a few days… Just wanted to say that I love all of this so hard!!! 😍 I hope you are seeeeeriously proud of yourself, over the moon proud; because those are amazing connections, with stellar results, and you? Are a total badass. Well done. Very very well done.
 
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