05 January 2008

Subtle and Malicious

An anonymous commenter recently shared a link to, and synopsis of, an excellent article by Nancy McWilliams, Ph.D., and Stanley Lependorf, Ph.D., titled "Narcissistic Pathology of Everyday Life: The Denial of Remorse and Gratitude".

This article is packed with useful information and insights from the "front lines". Here are a few samples to encourage further reading...
"When narcissistically absorbed, people tend to approach analysis - or supervision or intimate communication - with the corrupt premise that the point of attaining insight is to perfect the self rather than to learn about it, accept it, and direct it."

"The narcissistic image of a true love relationship amounts to omniscient emotional synchronicity between two ideal people."

"The least complicated way to receive admiration is, of course, with an appreciative expression of thanks. We have noticed that for people with narcissistic concerns, this response seems difficult. They commonly counterpoise a compliment with a protestation that they do not deserve it. ... Such behavior suggests an effort to hide one's grandiosity, an attitude of protesting too much."

"... the vague discomfort of the recipient with the effusively appreciative or apologetic person is a clue to the operation of an underlying grandiose attitude." [in the effusive individual]
[emphases mine] "We have noticed the tendency for narcissistically vulnerable people to engage in a kind of ritual self-castigation in the wake of an undeniable or unrationalizable failing toward someone. This is a process even more elusive than explaining, and harder to distinguish from true apologizing. This recrimination is expressed to witnesses and objects of the transgression with the implicit invitation that the transgressor should be reassured that despite the lapse, he or she is really fine (i.e., perfect or perfectable), after all. In the case of a person with a narcissistic character disorder, recrimination is probably as close as he or she ever comes to apologizing, and is doubtless believed to constitute sorrow and reparation.

Self-castigating statements, mild ones such as "I can't understand why I did that!" and severe ones such as "I must be a terrible person," appear to manifest remorse, and may on that basis elicit sympathy and a wish to relieve the offender's apparent guilt and pain. A close look at the transaction, however, reveals that the subject is suffering self-condemnation mainly for a lack of perfection, and that the injured object has been switched into the position of comforting the person who inflicted the hurt. The party who is legitimately entitled to an apology goes without it, while the transgressor achieves reinforcement for a pathological belief about the self.

We have found that a good way to discriminate between narcissistic recrimination and object-related remorse is to ask the allegedly regretful person whether, under identical circumstances, he or she would do the same thing again. A truly repentant sinner will unhesitatingly and believably say no, while a person protecting the grandiose self will tend to launch into a series of hedges, rationalizations, or less than credible denials."
The first quote above is an excellent presentation of the difference between narcissistic and non-narcissistic views of the recovery process. The last quote is a very concise summing-up of one primary process by means of which narcissists convert recovery to support, avoiding self-assessment or insight while draining the emotional resources of others to maintain their grandiose self-image.

Entire therapy groups, chapters of AA, Al-Anon, etc., can be indefinitely sidetracked and stalled by one sufficiently subtle narcissistic participant. Watch for this process in action; it may answer a lot of questions, and save you a lot of frustration.

Thank you, Anonymous!


Blogger Stormchild said...

Jordie, thank you for your comment to this post. It ended up linked to the preceding post, for some Blogspot reason, as did my reply...

I appreciate your comment and want people [you included :-) ] to know where they can find it.

08 January, 2008 08:49  

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