Narcissists and Sex.

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I can’t believe I’ve never written a post before about narcissists and sex, but sex is one of the biggest ways they manipulate and control the rest of us.

Many people mistakenly believe narcissists love sex. Actually, that isn’t true. They’re not even especially promiscuous. In fact, many narcissists are downright prudish. People with Borderline or Histrionic Personality Disorder are much more likely to be promiscuous, because in their minds, sexual attention is equated with love and acceptance.

Narcissists don’t love sex. Sex is merely a tool they can use to get what they want or to control or manipulate their victim. There are two kinds of narcissists: cerebral and somatic. While very different on the surface, at heart they really aren’t very different at all. Neither has any empathy and neither has any desire to emotionally connect to another person and will go to great lengths to avoid it. This means neither a cerebral or somatic narcissist is capable of making love to another person because making love implies an emotional connection to someone else.

Cerebral narcissists.

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Cerebral narcissists are the pretentious, insufferable intellectuals and achievers of the world. They think they’re smarter or more successful than everyone else and go to great lengths to be adulated and admired for their “intellectual superiority” or “successful lifestyle.” Cerebral narcissists often hate sex and avoid it. They may even be prudish, especially if religiously-bent (many of them are, because religion gives them “permission” to be hateful and judgmental toward others).

Cerebral narcissists suffer the deepest narcissistic injury when their intellectual prowess or success in the material world is threatened, someone else is deemed smarter or more successful than they are, or they are exposed as being of only average intelligence or ability. Because they aren’t normally promiscuous, they may be either asexual, or (to maintain the image of normality which benefits their lifestyle, or to fend off loneliness), they may desire to attract a spouse, which means sex is used to draw a potential mate to them and/or maintain a loveless marriage. Sex is never an expression of love or emotional connection, because love and genuine emotional connection are things all narcissists avoid like the plague and are incapable of anyway.

Sex with a cerebral narcissist is likely to be cold, machine-like, and lacking in spontaneity and emotional expression. The other partner is bound to feel frustrated and unfulfilled–and of course the narcissist could care less. A cerebral narcissist may also withhold sex as “punishment” or to control their partner. While not usually promiscuous, some male cerebral narcissists may go outside their marriage (such as to a prostitute) to fulfill their physical needs, since to them, sex with someone they don’t know or have a responsibility to is preferable because there’s no risk of emotional complications or demands from the sex partner.

Somatic narcissists.

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Somatic narcissists are concerned with their body image, health, or physical appearance. They believe themselves to be the most handsome, beautiful, or sexiest person in any given room. They go to great lengths to maintain and embellish their most prized possessions–their own bodies. They may use sex as a way to woo potential partners because they know they can. But they don’t genuinely enjoy sex; it’s merely a tool to get them the attention and praise they want. As with the cerebral narcissist, they’re incapable of making love–that is, feeling emotionally connected to another human being through the sex act.

Some somatic narcissists may be promiscuous, but unlike a Borderline, sex isn’t a “replacement” for love. It’s a tool that is used to control and manipulate a potential victim. A woman with somatic narcissism who has maintained an attractive body and style knows her sexual attributes are most likely to win her a potential mate. She knows she can bewitch a man with her body and doesn’t hesitate to use it for that purpose. But once she has won him over, she’s likely to begin to devalue and eventually discard him. If he has attributes she thinks she needs (money or success), she may even marry him because it benefits her lifestyle. But she’s likely to get bored and be unfaithful. It’s a game to her; sex is just the advantage she knows she has to win the game. Lest anyone think I’m being sexist here, there are plenty of somatic narcissist men who act the exact same way, and the women they attract mean nothing to them except a means to an end.

A few narcissists who have become sociopathic may even use sex as a means to control and terrorize their victims. In their minds, it has become equated with violence and rage. Some serial killers like Ted Bundy (diagnosed with NPD) use sex this way, to dehumanize and destroy their victims. Even some who aren’t murderers may use sex this way, like the abusive husband who mercilessly rapes his wife while he beats her.

What is good sex really? And why aren’t narcissists capable of it?

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Good sex is fun. It can be an incredible physical release. But without genuine emotional connection, it’s really no better than a drug–a temporary “fix” that might make you feel good for a little while, but doesn’t last and is ultimately unsatisfying.

Although being emotionally committed to another person isn’t all fun and games, and can be hard and sometimes painful work, sex between two people who genuinely love and care for each other transcends its physical boundaries and becomes a spiritual thing that only human beings are capable of. It leaves the realm of the animalistic and physical and becomes something that transforms both partners and connects them to the divine. Lovemaking requires complete vulnerability–it’s one of the only times in life (outside of childbirth and breast-feeding) that a person is both physically and emotionally naked with another person, leaving nothing hidden.

Such utter vulnerability makes lovemaking scary to many people. And it’s more scary to a narcissist than to anyone, because they’re so terrified of ever appearing vulnerable to someone else. It requires a level of trust they simply aren’t capable of. Even non-narcissists often find it difficult to connect with another person on such a profound level, and I think that’s what’s behind the shame and embarrassment people have when the “S” word is mentioned. It’s also what’s behind the almost universal corruption of a God-given act of love into something sordid, base, and shallow–almost the polar opposite of what it was intended to be.

A word about limerence.

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Most narcissists are entirely capable of limerence, a feeling of strong infatuation that is often mistaken for love.   It’s not a bad thing in itself.  Indeed, many long lasting relationships and marriages begin with limerence or “falling in love.” To make the transition to a healthy long term relationship, limerence must become replaced or be transformed into genuine attachment and feelings of deep caring about the other person. Limerence isn’t love and it doesn’t last. You can become limerent about a celebrity but you certainly don’t “love” them since you don’t know them at all. It probably evolved as a way humans could attach to someone else long enough to bear a child and see it through the first year of life, when an infant is at its most vulnerable and needs two parents. Research suggests that intelligent mammals, such as dogs, cats and monkeys, may feel the entire range of “human” emotions, and this includes feelings akin to limerence as well.

Limerence is actually very narcissistic. It’s common for two people who have just met and are “falling in love” to say things like, “I can see myself in your eyes,” or “I feel like we’re one person.”  Popular music is filled with such sentiments.  The person you’re limerent about becomes a kind of mirror. You aren’t seeing them as they actually are; you are projecting your own needs onto them and imbuing them with qualities you desire but they don’t necessarily actually have (if they do, it’s a happy coincidence-and that could become the basis for genuine love).  A narcissist in limerence can SEEM vulnerable and loving, and in the beginning of a relationship with one, no one can act more romantic.  You’ll be wined and dined and woo’d with flowers and candy until you develop diabetes. But all these gifts and promises of undying love aren’t about you at all–it’s all about them and what they think they see in you that can give them what they want and need. Once you reveal that you’re only human and can never be all things to them, the D&D will begin and they will think nothing of tossing you in the trash like an old broken mirror, as if they never knew you at all.

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Emotional vs. “cold” narcissists.

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Narcissists can be divided many different ways–covert vs. overt; somatic vs. cerebral; malignant vs. “benign,” etc. They can be divided another way too. Narcissists are either extremely emotional…or cold as machines. Underneath their mask, they’re all hypersensitive though, even if they hide behind a stone cold exterior. Malignant narcs are the HSPs who went bad. Somatic narcissists are probably more likely to be hyper-emotional, similar to people with HPD; and cerebrals more often the “cold, calculating” type, though not always.

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I’d venture to guess emotional, dramatic narcs have HPD or BPD traits (borderlines can’t regulate their emotions) while the colder types have ASPD or Schizoid traits. Avoidant PD traits could go either way.

I wonder if any studies have been done to determine which MBTI types narcissists are most likely to be. I’d guess the emotional ones are probably INFJ and the second type INTJ. I don’t think most narcissists are that extroverted, even if their mask includes extroversion and sociability. Narcs really don’t like people and are too self-involved to be anything other than introverted, in spite of any outgoing front.

This means there isn’t a whole lot of difference between an emotional narcissist and an unemotional one, except for the thinking vs. feeling aspect. But even when they don’t show it, all narcissists are emotional and easily hurt when it comes to themselves. None of them feel much for others.

Graphic example of how Facebook feeds narcissism in young women.

Young girl using laptop on Facebook page

Okay, so my daughter isn’t exactly a kid anymore, since she’s 22, but she’s still young enough that she likes participating in those awful Facebook groups where random people rank your photo based on how attractive they think you are.

Her profile picture was ranked along with 3 other girls in this group.
Here she sums up what happened.

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She got a lot of comments telling her not to be upset, or that people were just jealous of her good looks (she is very pretty, but I didn’t see the photos of the other girls). This morning she told me her feelings were still hurt today in spite of encouraging comments she got from her friends and boyfriend who kept telling her how beautiful she is.

This sort of thing isn’t unusual. It happens every day, all over social media. Not only can such online “contests” lead to bullying based on one’s appearance by total strangers, but they also feed a girl’s narcissistic supply or cause narcissistic injury, even in non-narcissists (my daughter does not have NPD, but can act very narcissistic). Let’s be honest here–we all have some need for narcissistic supply (positive feedback), especially when we’re still young and unsure of our place in the world.

The teenage and young adult women who participate in these contests learn to value surface attributes such as physical appearance or sexiness above anything else. I see it happening everywhere. Millennial girls seem more obsessed with how cute, sexy or pretty they are than any generation that came before them, and I think this is due to the plethora of reality shows, beauty contests and Facebook photo rankings they are inundated with, as well as the trend for taking as many Selfies or Youtube videos of yourself as you possibly can and posting them for the public to see and comment on. This seems to be a generation with more than its fair share of female somatic narcissists and girls with HPD (histrionic personality disorder).

I can’t keep my daughter from participating in these sort of activities since she’s an adult and she seems to enjoy them (and usually gets a lot of compliments about how pretty she is), but I worry about a “low ranking” (which really wasn’t that bad) like she got yesterday damaging her self esteem (which is shaky to start with) or teaching her to value physical appearance above other qualities like personality, intelligence, or kindness.

Histrionic personality disorder: the other Cluster B disorder

Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is the forgotten step-child of the Cluster B group of personality disorders, which also includes the Borderline, Narcissistic and Antisocial personality disorders.

HPD: the “other” Cluster B disorder.

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NPD is of course the King of the Cluster B disorders (which is exactly the way a narcissist would have it). It’s one of the hottest topics on the Internet right now, with ACONs everywhere (adult children of narcissists) rising from the silence of abuse like vampire slayers on a mission of justice. In addition, there are probably hundreds of blogs and forums about NPD and the damage people with that disorder inflict on everyone else. If you Google the word “narcissist” or “narcissism” you will see thousands of articles, personal stories, quotes, videos and support groups for victims of narcissistic abuse (but only a sprinkling of the same for people WHO HAVE the disorder–because NPD normally hurts its victims more than its sufferers).

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is also widely discussed on the web, and it appears to be a common catch-all diagnosis, especially for women who were victims of abuse or sexual abuse and show emotional instability resulting from that. People diagnosed with BPD may actually be suffering from an array of other disorders (such as PTSD) and labeled BPD because the experts have so little understanding of BPD and it might not even be a real disorder anyway. Or maybe it is a real disorder but is a lot rarer than you’d think because so many people (mostly women) are erroneously diagnosed with it. In any case, there are blogs, support groups and forums all over the web for people with BPD and those who love them (or must cope with them).

And finally, if you’re like me and enjoy reading about psychopathic and sociopathic murderers, serial killers, mass murderers, cult leaders, and other violent (and non-violent) criminals, you are going to find out a lot about Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), which is actually at the top of the narcissistic spectrum if you’re of the school of thinking that believes narcissism runs on a continuum from merely manipulative to heinous beyond words. Sociopath World is an interesting website that features blog posts written by ASPD writers. If you like this sort of stuff, or are just curious to find out what the inside of a sociopath’s head is like, I recommend checking out the site.

A fourth (and rather interesting) Cluster B disorder, HPD or Histrionic personality disorder, somehow got lost in the Cluster B shuffle. You don’t hear much about it and there’s very little written about it either, except for cursory mentions in the psychological and psychiatric literature, and it’s rarely featured by itself–it’s only mentioned in articles about the Cluster B disorders in general. But while it’s not widely talked about, Histrionics (mostly women) are frequent characters in movies, novels and TV shows because they make good theater.

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People with HPD crave attention, so much that Sam Vaknin speculates that HPD may actually be the somatic, “female” form of NPD–or at least resembles it a lot. Most (but not all) Histrionics are women. A woman with HPD will act very much like a somatic narcissist, but may show somewhat more empathy or genuine (but shallow) emotion than a true narcissist. In fact, showing emotion is what Histrionics do best–hence their name. Their exaggerated emotional displays are over-the-top and dramatic. They are the original drama queens. I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that a lot of male HPD’s are probably flamboyantly gay men of the type who have exaggerated feminine affectations and interests (this is certainly not a slur on gay men, just an observation). Histrionics are also easily bored and besides attention, crave constant activity or social interaction. They tend to smother those they become attached to.

For convenience’s sake (and because most histrionics are women), I’ll describe a hypothetical woman with this disorder.

Histrionic Haley.

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Haley was the youngest child of her family of origin, and also the prettiest. At the age of 12, her parents divorced and her mother remarried. Haley’s stepfather appeared to love her–but that was just how things appeared. In actuality, he came into her room at night and forced himself on her, telling her how pretty she was and what a beautiful woman she was turning into. He made her strip naked and lie down on the bed while he fondled her developing breasts. When Haley questioned him about why he did this, her stepfather told her he was just “checking to see how she was developing.”

Haley was spoiled by both her mother (a narcissist who actually hated Haley for “seducing my husband” but still needed her because Haley made HER look good) and her stepfather, who constantly bought her clothes, mostly revealing outfits that showed off her adolescent curves.

Haley was never encouraged to think for herself or develop her mind or any skills other than her physical appearance and flirting ability. Her mother, a somatic narcissist, taught Haley that acting helpless and exaggeratedly feminine was the most effective way to attract a boy. Haley was spoiled rotten but abused at the same time. She was attractive, obsessed with clothes, makeup and shopping, and used her “feminine wiles” to attract boys, who she proceeded to manipulate (usually using sexy smiles, skimpy outfits, exaggeratedly demure behavior, or tears) to get whatever she wanted.

Haley was highly romantic–besides being obsessed with cheap romance novels, she was constantly “in love” with someone. Unfortunately she never learned how to love anyone on a deeper level because she didn’t know how to give, only take. She learned that sex was the best way to obtain what she wanted, and that’s all most of her lovers wanted her for anyway, so she was more than happy to oblige. Due to her immaturity and emotional instability, she was prone to drawn out, over the top tantrums when she didn’t get her way. Of course, her frequent temper tantrums, crying jags, unreasonable demands, and general high-maintenance behavior caused all her relationships to be short lived. With each breakup, Haley got worse, and upped the ante for the next relationship, believing she hadn’t asked for enough the last time. It never occurred to Haley that she might be too demanding and high maintenance. She never learned from her own mistakes, because being needy and demanding was all she had ever been taught.

Haley had good social skills, and became the life of any party she attended. While she had no close friends (due to her inability to maintain any deep and meaningful relationship), she had plenty of acquaintances and casual friends, who though of her as a dynamic, fun and exciting woman. She had lots of charm, was very pretty, and adored being the center of attention–just as she had been in her family growing up. Each year she would throw herself a huge birthday party, and expansively invite more people than she could realistically afford to entertain. But that didn’t matter because she had so many admirers, no one cared that the food and drink always ran out. Haley kept everyone entertained. Even though she’d almost always wind up sobbing loudly and theatrically at some point due to some slight during these parties, even that in itself kept her admirers around, who became protective of her. Haley basked in all the solicitous attentions she received.

Haley also used her sexuality in inappropriate ways. On several job interviews, she wore revealing see-through tops or short shorts, or allowed her bra strap to “accidentally” fall down her shoulder from under a tight spaghetti strap tank top. She openly flirted with her male interviewers. While a couple of employers fell for the bait and hired her–Haley was never taken seriously as an employee and then she’d tearfully complain to anyone who would listen about how she was treated like a sex object and got no respect.

How HPD differs from BPD

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Histrionic personality disorder resembles BPD in some ways–but the Borderline is ambivalent about relationships and tends to alternately smother and abandon people–their tendency toward “splitting” (black and white thinking) causes them to idealize others followed by devaluation or pre-emptive rejection when they perceive a slight. A histrionic will just keep on smothering and making more demands. They lack the ambivalence of a borderline.

While a borderline may be sexually promiscuous or seductive, not all are–and they don’t use their sexuality or body to exclusively the way someone with HPD does. Borderlines also tend to be more self-destructive (cutting, eating disorders, drug abuse, compulsive gambling, etc.) than a Histrionic, and more prone to suicide or suicidal ideation, as well as having dissociative and sometimes psychotic symptoms that Histrionics lack.

Are all vain people narcissists?

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People who don’t know much about NPD confuse narcissism with physical vanity. If you say the word ‘narcissist’ to them, they visualize a glamorous woman preening in the mirror or trying on 10 different outfits and spending an hour on her makeup before she goes out. Or they picture a buff man with a well defined six pack, lifting weights in front of a mirrored wall.

The confusion is understandable. But not all people who seem to obsess over their appearance or fitness are narcissists. And of course, not all narcissists are physically vain. In fact, most cerebral narcissists care nothing about their appearance.

If a vain person is a narcissist, they are of the somatic subtype. My mother was this type of narcissist, and many of them do spend a lot of time looking at themselves in the mirror, working out at the gym, or constantly shopping for new clothes. But they are in the minority. Most narcissists, even somatic ones, don’t spend a lot of time doing these things. Their narcissism isn’t defined by how much time they spend preening before a mirror, but by their lack of empathy, self-centeredness, and their propensity to manipulate others to get what they want. Some of the most out of shape, slovenly looking people you could imagine are narcissists. And some of the most physically fit and well-dressed and groomed people are not.

A gorgeous woman who spends several hours a day trying to look perfect is not a narcissist if she also cares about the feelings of others and is making herself look good for her husband, boyfriend or herself. But if the same woman tries to look perfect because she wants to attract a man who is married to another woman–and feels no shame about this–then she is a narcissist.

There is nothing wrong with interest in one’s physical appearance. Most of us want to look attractive. For some people, it’s almost a hobby. An attractive man or woman usually knows they’re attractive, but that doesn’t automatically make them narcissists.

The only danger with having too much interest in your physical appearance is you may fail to develop other qualities that make you a more well-rounded, interesting person. Getting older will be tough for a person who has failed to develop their mind or their personality because their appearance was their first priority. A person only interested in how they look is also a very boring person. But they may not be narcissistic, just vain.

I used to know a beautiful woman who spent all her money on clothes and makeup, and worked out at the gym every day. People used to accuse her of being vain and narcissistic, but she was also one of the most sincere and sweet people you could ever hope to meet. Her vanity, in fact, was due to her anxiety that she didn’t look good enough for her overly critical, narcissistic husband. This woman was codependent and worked hard to please him, and that meant she had to look like a fashion model at all times–and it still was never good enough for him.

When her husband finally divorced her for a younger woman, she became depressed and let herself go. She gained about 50 pounds, stopped styling her hair, and stopped wearing makeup. It was hard to believe she was the same person. Eventually she recovered from her depression enough to start caring about her appearance again, but this time it wasn’t an obsession. She also began to develop her interest in art and signed up for art classes at the local community college. Today she looks attractive again, and has a fashion style all her own that reflects her artistic style.

Narcissists come in all shapes and sizes. Some are obsessed with their appearance, but the vast majority are not. Don’t dismiss someone as a narcissist just because they seem to spend too much time on their physical appearance. Like the woman I described above, they may not even be doing it for themselves.

Narcissist parents demonize their own children.

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Most parents like to tell cute and funny stories about when their children were young, or brag about their school accomplishments or tell sweet stories that show their child in a flattering or loving light. They are also proud of their children when they’re kind and nice to others. That’s the way things should be.

Not for narcissistic parents though.

Narcissists who “erase” memories of their children.
Some narcissistic parents don’t like to talk about their children at all. It’s as if they erase any memories of their offspring’s childhoods and don’t want to be reminded of it. It’s weird. My malignant cerebral narcissist sperm donor used to get bored and annoyed if I talked about the children when they were young. Inexplicably, he couldn’t stand it and became annoyed when I wanted to put some of their baby and early school pictures around the house. (He didn’t like that I displayed our wedding photos either).

He isn’t interested in his son’s accomplishments, even though Ethan (not his real name) has recently been asked to join a semi-professional urban dance crew and has been told he is a shoo-in for the finals at the next dance competition he will be performing in next month. Ethan is seriously considering auditioning for the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance” in about a year or two, when he gets just a little better. He’s completely self taught and has never had a dance lesson and yet people are always impressed by his dancing skills.

I am so proud of my son but his father could care less. I thought maybe it was because he thought dancing was “too gay” (because my son is gay or possibly bisexual–he recently told me he may have some interest in women) but he acts the same way about all of Ethan’s other accomplishments too. It’s almost as if he wants to erase him from his mind, even though he insists he loves him.

And when they “brag” about you, watch out.

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My mother, also a malignant narcissist (of the somatic rather than cerebral type), loves to talk about me as a child. But her “bragging” is never about the things a normal parents would brag to their friends and relatives about. It’s never about how smart I was or what a good student I was, or what a good painter or writer I was, or how kind and generous or big-hearted or animal loving I was. Instead, she tells stories that illustrate the many ways I was “too sensitive” or how much I cried as a little girl. When she talks about me, she always brings up the most embarrassing stories, like how afraid I was of thunderstorms and how I used to run into the closet in terror (I like thunderstorms now) or how “hysterical” (she loves to use that word about me as a child) I used to get when I was frustrated or scared of something (I was afraid of many things but loved a lot of things too).

Whenever she talks about me to people, she makes me sound like there was something wrong with me (there was–I was an Aspie child with attachment issues–but surely there were good things too she could choose to talk about instead of what a pitiful, awkward, oversensitive crybaby I was). She loves to tell everyone the still-embarrassing story of my first period and how happy I was when I shouted the big news from the bathroom, because I had always been “so hysterical” and panic stricken because I was slower to hit puberty than most other girls my age (I was 13 and really not far behind at all–and I never got “hysterical” or “panic stricken” the way she insists).

I no longer hear these stories because I no longer have much contact with her, but I’m sure she still tells her friends and extended family (who she has isolated from me and turned some of them into flying monkeys against me) and they still all have a good laugh about “poor, over-sensitive, ‘hysterical’ little Lauren.” I know they also laugh about what a “loser” I am today, because I’m not wealthy like most of the family is and don’t have a great number of impressive professional accomplishments. Of course, that’s all due to my “poor choices” and not to the fact my self esteem was all but obliterated during childhood and adolescence, not only by my family but also by the bullies I often had to deal with at school.

Fivehundredpoundpeep posted an article today about the way her psychopathic MN mother (who was much worse than mine if that can be believed) and the rest of the family gave her a poem for her college graduation. Instead of it being a sincere congratulations or about how loved she was and how proud of her they were, it was a “humorous” ode to how afraid of crickets she was as a little girl. Notwithstanding the fact this poem had absolutely nothing to do with Peep’s college graduation, its real intention was to embarrass her and make her feel self conscious. It was a poem that could have easily ruined an otherwise joyous occasion.

The navy blue dress.

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What my mother saw whenever she looked at me. (Just for the record, I think this big lady is stunning.)

My mother always loved to point out my faults–even imaginary ones she had projected onto me–in public. I’ll never forget the birthday party I had one year as a teenager. My mother had invited several of her friends to the apartment and some of my friends were there too. When it came time to open the gifts, she made sure hers was the first one I opened.

In the fancily wrapped box was a rather conservative, navy blue sleeveless dress. It was a nice dress I suppose, had I been about 40. She made me go try it on and then have me come out into the living room where everyone was sitting to model it. I obeyed because what else could I do, and she scared the living shit out of me.

Now, I was not overweight. At 5’4″, 120-125 lbs was about the right weight for my frame. But my backside was a little on the big side (not Kim Kardashian big, but still pretty round) and my mother was constantly calling attention to it. It made me very self conscious and due to this (as well as my desire to rebel against the way she’d dressed me like a doll when I was younger), I had taken to wearing baggy, masculine clothes that hid my curves. She was convinced I was “fat” and was always threatening to send me away to weight loss camp. As a somatic narcissist, she was obsessed with her own weight, physical appearance, and health. She seemed to judge other people by the way they looked instead of their personal qualities. Almost every day she called attention to how much weight I was putting on, or reminding me not to have seconds because of my “weight issues.” I become incredibly self conscious about my body as a result. It’s a miracle I didn’t develop an eating disorder.

weight-loss

Getting back to the birthday party and my “modeling session” in front of all the guests, after I modeled it, she announced that the dress’s dark color and style was flattering for someone with “Lauren’s little weight problem.”

You could have heard a pin drop in that room. I think everyone was shocked at her callous and embarrassing remarks. As for myself, I was so mortified I ran out of the room crying, which of course was a huge mistake because that gave my mother ammunition to remind everyone once again about how sensitive I was (and she didn’t mean this in a complimentary way). She was always making jokes at my expense and then when I didn’t laugh or if I looked hurt, it was always “Lauren is just being over-sensitive again” or “Lauren has no sense of humor.” I’ve heard this is quite a common accusation narc parents use against the child they have chosen to be their scapegoat. They hate sensitivity and love to turn it into a bad thing because it takes the responsibility for their cruel behavior off of them and puts the blame onto the child.

This is the sort of “flattery” a scapegoated child can get from a parent who is a malignant narcissist. There are times I feel guilty that I don’t feel more love for my mother than I do, but when I think of all the years she demeaned me and put me down, always going out of her way to make me feel small and worthless, I don’t feel so guilty about my ambivalent feelings toward her.

I don’t hate my mother. Instead, I pity her for being so shallow and never having known who her true self might have been. She’s an intelligent woman but you would never know it because she never was interested in ideas or the life of the mind. Her eyes glaze over if you try to engage her in any “deep” topics. She reads pulp novels and fashion magazines, never anything scholarly or educational.

She has now lost her beauty due to age (and too many facelifts) and she is all too aware it. Knowing she has lost her physical beauty–the one thing that gave her an identity of sorts–has turned her bitter and angry in her old age.

Grandiose and “vulnerable” narcissists: how do they differ?

beggar_king
Both the beggar and the king could be narcissists with a different M.O.

An interesting article in Psychology Today explains the difference between grandiose (invulnerable) narcissists, and “vulnerable” narcissists. Either can be somatic or cerebral, and either can also be malignant or non-malignant.

The two kinds of narcissists can seem very different on the surface:

Grandiose narcissists can seem emotionally cold, convinced of their achievements or success, and rarely if ever talk about their fears or their problems. They can be very quick to judge others though. On the surface they seem strong and tough. You won’t see them show emotions other than rage or pride, and if they are ever sad or fearful, you will never see that side of them. Like all narcissists, they are never happy,but they can “act” happy if they need to. And like all narcissists, they are incapable of love but may be able to put on a show of “falling in love” to obtain a new source of narcissistic supply.

Grandiose narcissists are the CEOs, politicians, narcissistic celebrities and others who have achieved a high level of success. Those who haven’t achieved success will stop at nothing to rise to the top, even if it means destroying their competition in the process. They are ruthless predators. Our current society glorifies the traits of the grandiose narcissist and doesn’t seem to bemoan what they don’t have: the ability to show emotion and feel love or empathy. Grandiose narcissists don’t care what others think of them.

Vulnerable narcissists, rather than brag about their achievements and never showing their feelings, are given to bouts of self pity, and use emotions (like crying, whining, demanding, or sulking) to manipulate others into giving them what they want. They are less likely to be materially successful, and may be dependent on others for their survival. In fact, they may seem to take a kind of perverse pride in their failures and hard luck. Vulnerable narcissists are the emotional and financial vampires who will suck your funds dry and constantly demand attention and comfort for their many problems. They are high-maintenance “drama queens.” They seem to have no self esteem. They will wear down their sources of supply with their constant demands and mind games. Both types of narcissists will shamelessly manipulate others to have their way.

…narcissists feel emotions like vulnerability, sadness, empathy and compassion in a shallow way, if at all, and cover them up with rage, blame, manipulation and disdain for others. This coping mechanism has a heavy price: they don’t feel secure enough to relax and really feel happiness and joy, although they may have fleeting moments of those emotions.

Vulnerable narcissists tend to swing back and forth between acting superior and feeling hurt; may become self-destructive when their vulnerabilities are pointed out; they may accuse their spouse or significant other of having affairs and being unfaithful, and may resort to spying on their partner or constantly asking for reassurance. They also have a pattern of looking for the “perfect mate” and then demand constant reassurance they are loved and valued.

Grandiose narcissists have much in common with people with Antisocial Personality Disorder; while vulnerable narcissists have more in common with people who have Borderline Personality Disorder. Both of these disorders, along with NPD and Histrionic Personality Disorder, comprise the Cluster B (dramatic) personality disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It can be very difficult to distinguish those who have NPD from those suffering from one of the other two disorders.

Grandiose narcissists were more likely to have been spoiled as children and treated like a little king or queen by their families; vulnerable narcissists are much more likely to have been abused or neglected as children.

But both types are still narcissists, so they still have many things in common under the surface, especially their sense of entitlement, lack of empathy and inability to feel joy.

According to the Psychology Today article, the main difference between vulnerable narcissists and and invulnerable narcissists is in the way they feel:

With their fragile self-esteem, vulnerable narcissists experience helplessness, anxiety, and depression when people don’t treat them as they desire.

They feel shamed and humiliated by negative feedback or when others challenge their superior self-image. They also experience anxiousness, bitterness, dissatisfaction, and disempowerment.

They suffer from many BPD-like emotions, like feelings of emptiness and inadequacy. Others find them sensitive and emotional; preoccupied with fears of rejection and abandonment. They are touchy, quick to be offended, and easily provoked.

A vulnerable narcissist may seem “nice” at first, but their constant demands will wear you out and they will never ask you how your day was or how you feel. They don’t care. Vulnerable narcissists may seem sensitive but they are only sensitive about themselves and how others feel about them; they are oblivious (or just don’t care) if you are suffering or have been hurt or need to talk. They are unable to give love in return for the love they demand. They cannot feel joy or ever appreciate anything. They are vampires who will keep taking until you have nothing left to give–or leave.

Earlier I said both types of narcissists can be somatic or cerebral. My guess is that women, who are more likely to be somatic narcissists, are also more likely to be the “vulnerable” type of narcissist. Acting needy and helpless are traits that are still found more socially acceptable in females than in males. That being said, I’ve known several males of the vulnerable type and some of them are cerebrals. My ex-husband is a great example of a “vulnerable” cerebral narcissist.

I also think it’s possible to be both types at once, swinging back and forth between acting invulnerable/grandiose and vulnerable/helpless. Their dramatic mood swings would probably make this hybrid type of narcissist easily misdiagnosed as suffering from the manic-depressive form of Bipolar Disorder.

A narcissist can also be vulnerable in one area of their life and grandiose in another. The high achieving company president who never seems ruffled and terrifies his underlings may go home to his wife and demand attention and sympathy from her, and sulk or whine if he doesn’t get it. The snobbish, perfectly groomed and physically fit trophy wife may fall apart and act helpless and needy if forced to look for a job.

Cerebral vs. somatic narcissists

cerebral_narc somatic_narc
Either of these narcs are poison–run away as fast as you can. The chihuahua is probably okay.

I’m in a blah, uncreative mood tonight and can’t think of anything to write about (I had an irritating day and just want to read), so tonight I’m just going to post this interesting article by Sam Vaknin here where he describes the differences between the two types of narcissists: cerebral and somatic. Either type can be malignant or non-malignant. I haven’t really covered the two types of narcissists in much depth before, so this should take care of that oversight.

My mother is a somatic narcissist, histrionic type. They are prone to over the top dramatic behavior, shallow sexual relationships, and tantrums. If my daughter is a narcissist, then she would also be a somatic histrionic type (which can be confused with Borderline PD, which she may actually be). Female narcissists are probably more likely to be somatic (vain, preening, overly concerned with appearance and/or health) but both types can be found in either gender. Most gay male narcissists I’ve met are of the somatic type, but that doesn’t mean most gay narcissists are necessarily somatic. I’ve know one or two cerebral ones too.

Here is that article.

Dr. Jackal and Mr. Hide: Cerebral vs. Somatic Narcissist

Narcissists are either cerebral or somatic. In other words, they either generate their Narcissistic Supply by applying their bodies or by applying their minds.

The somatic narcissist flaunts his sexual conquests, parades his possessions, exhibits his muscles, brags about his physical aesthetics, youthfulness, sexual prowess or exploits, and is often a health freak and a hypochondriac. The somatic narcissist regards his body as an object to be sculpted and honed (via extreme diets, multiple cosmetic surgeries, bodybuilding, or weightlifting). When coupled with psychopathic tendencies, the somatic appropriates other people’s bodies and treats these as “raw materials” to be dismembered, tampered with, altered, invaded, or otherwise abused.

Somatic narcissists are often portrayed as sex addicts or histrionic. But really they derive their narcissistic supply not so much from the sex act as from the process of securing it: the conspiracies and assignations, the chase and conquest, the subjugation and habituation of their targets, and even from dumping and discarding their prey, once having extracted the attention and admiration they had sought. These extracurricular activities endow them with a sense of omnipotence and all-pervasive control. Their sway over their paramours and would-be lovers proves to them (and to others) their uniqueness, desirability and irresistibility.

The cerebral narcissist is a know-it-all, haughty and intelligent “computer”. He uses his awesome intellect, or knowledge (real or pretended) to secure adoration, adulation and admiration. To him, his body and its maintenance are a burden and a distraction.

Both types are auto-erotic (psychosexually in love with themselves, with their bodies and with their brain). Both types prefer masturbation to adult, mature, interactive, multi-dimensional and emotion-laden sex.

The cerebral narcissist is often celibate (even when he has a girlfriend or a spouse). He prefers pornography and sexual auto-stimulation to the real thing. The cerebral narcissist is sometimes a latent (hidden, not yet outed) homosexual. [Interesting.]

The somatic narcissist uses other people’s bodies to masturbate. Sex with him – pyrotechnics and acrobatics aside – is likely to be an impersonal and emotionally alienating and draining experience. The partner is often treated as an object, an extension of the somatic narcissist, a toy, a warm and pulsating vibrator.

It is a mistake to assume type-constancy. In other words, all narcissists are BOTH cerebral and somatic. In each narcissist, one of the types is dominant. So, the narcissist is either OVERWHELMINGLY cerebral – or DOMINANTLY somatic. But the other type, the recessive (manifested less frequently) type, is there. It is lurking, waiting to erupt.

The narcissist swings between his dominant type and his recessive type. The latter is expressed mainly as a result of a major narcissistic injury or life crisis.

I can give you hundreds of examples from my correspondence but, instead, let’s talk about me (of course…:o))

I am a cerebral narcissist. I brandish my brainpower, exhibit my intellectual achievements, bask in the attention given to my mind and its products. I hate my body and neglect it. It is a nuisance, a burden, a derided appendix, an inconvenience, a punishment. Needless to add that I rarely have sex (often years apart). I masturbate regularly, very mechanically, as one would change water in an aquarium. I stay away from women because I perceive them to be ruthless predators who are out to consume me and mine.

I have had quite a few major life crises. I got divorced, lost millions a few times, did time in one of the worst prisons in the world, fled countries as a political refugee, was threatened, harassed and stalked by powerful people and groups. I have been devalued, betrayed, denigrated and insulted.

Invariably, following every life crisis, the somatic narcissist in me took over. I became a lascivious lecher. When this happened, I had a few relationships – replete with abundant and addictive sex – going simultaneously. I participated in and initiated group sex and mass orgies. I exercised, lost weight and honed my body into an irresistible proposition.

This outburst of unrestrained, primordial lust waned in a few months and I settled back into my cerebral ways. No sex, no women, no body.

These total reversals of character stun my mates. My girlfriends and spouse found it impossible to digest this eerie transformation from the gregarious, darkly handsome, well-built and sexually insatiable person that swept them off their feet – to the bodiless, bookwormish hermit with not an inkling of interest in either sex or other carnal pleasures.

I miss my somatic half. I wish I could find a balance, but I know it is a doomed quest. This sexual beast of mine will forever be trapped in the intellectual cage that is I, Sam Vaknin, the Brain.

Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye
And all my soul and all my every part;
And for this sin there is no remedy,
It is so grounded inward in my heart.
Methinks no face so gracious is as mine,
No shape so true, no truth of such account;
And for myself mine own worth do define,
As I all other in all worths surmount.
But when my glass shows me myself indeed,
Beated and chopp’d with tann’d antiquity,
Mine own self-love quite contrary I read;
Self so self-loving were iniquity.
‘Tis thee, myself, that for myself I praise,
Painting my age with beauty of thy days.

(Sonnet 62, William Shakespeare)

Plac’d on this isthmus of a middle state,
A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much;
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself, abus’d or disabus’d;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.

(Essay on Man, Alexander Pope)

Respect my boundaries!

momanddaughter

My daughter is either a somatic histrionic narcissist (same as my mother) or has borderline personality disorder (BPD) in addition to diagnosed PTSD and bipolar disorder. She would be somatic if she’s got NPD because she’s obsessed with clothes and shopping and she takes more selfies than every Hollywood starlet put together in one room. She’s very attractive and she knows it and has been able to use her looks to get what she wants, at least from males.

But due to her intense mood swings and the fact she does show some empathy and remorse, then she’s also likely to be be a borderline, a related Cluster B disorder which is more common in women than in men (narcissism is more common in men) but has much in common with NPD. Whatever she is, she’s a high maintenance drama queen. I’ve joked with her that she’d be perfect for a reality show like “Bad Girls Club,” but to be honest, I could definitely see someone like her on a show like that!

Of course I love my daughter dearly and enjoy her company too (she can be a lot of fun and easy to talk to, which is why she makes friends easily) but her disorders definitely make her difficult to deal with, especially now that she’s moved back in with me.

She has been home for almost two weeks. Things have been going swimmingly (okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration) and there have been no real problems. I read her the riot act on her return and she agreed to some new rules. She does not appear to be doing drugs and is taking steps to get her life in order, including seeing a therapist this week. I told her if I saw pain pills or any other evidence of hard drugs, there was the door.

But tonight she invaded my boundaries. She had gone to the mall with some friends, and came home in an upbeat mood, which was fine, but my daughter also gets a little obsessive and impatient when she’s excited and happy, and has a bad habit of not respecting my boundaries. I also think she’d had a drink or two.

Because there are only two bedrooms (my roommate has the other one) and I took over Molly’s bedroom when she had moved in with Paul (and I won’t give it up!) she has been having to sleep on the couch in the living room. She’s turned it into a large bedroom and it actually looks nice, if a bit cluttered. I almost never have company anyway, so it’s not like I really need a living room.

But tonight when she got home at about 10:30 she wanted to pull some more of her things from my room (things she never uses and didn’t need tonight). I told her it was late, I have to be up early for work (and to drive her to the DMV) and I needed some alone-time before going to bed. I needed time online too. As an Aspie, she knows if I don’t get my “alone time” I get very cranky and snappish. I do not like my Aspie routine to be interrupted. She knows this well.

But she kept rummaging around in all the drawers and pulled boxes out of the closet, tossed shoes and bags and papers and stray clothes all over the floor, messed up my things in the process, and was making a racket doing so. I must have told her three times or more to please do this tomorrow, but she wouldn’t listen and kept saying “one more minute!” But it wasn’t one more minute, it wasn’t three more minutes or five or twenty: this shit went on for almost an hour. I was ready to scream and pull my hair out.

When she finally finished tearing my room apart looking for her things, she took them into the living room. Then she decided she needed to find a place to plug in her humidifier (she suffers from dry sinuses and mild asthma). She proceeded to start unplugging things from the wall, including the damned router. It took me another twenty minutes to get connected to the Internet again. I actually burst into tears of frustration (the kind of tears I shed more than any other kind–it’s almost impossible for me to cry when I’m sad).

It wasn’t that this was something that couldn’t be fixed easily, but I’d had more than enough. I was so stressed and completely frustrated with my daughter and the chaos she was creating and the boundaries she was violating due to her inability to wait for anything. She wants what she wants when she wants it.

In a near rage, tears streaming, I’m afraid I snapped and told her I wished she never moved back in because she had no respect for my boundaries or anything else. She started to cry, and I told her I was sorry and apologized. She asked me if I really meant what I said and I told her no truthfully. I explained again why I need my quiet time at night and why it was a bad time for her to decide to redecorate. She said she understood…but does she?

Time will tell.

My mother, the exhibitionist.

diaphanousgown
Painting of woman (title unknown) by Jeremy Lipking.

I have written before about how common it is for narcissists (especially somatic narcissists) to obsess over their (and their children’s) bodily functions. I even described my malignantly narcissistic mother’s obsession with my childhood BM’s and the Enema from Hell that was a constant threat if I failed to produce.

But there’s more to the obsession than this. For my mother, all bodily functions became performance art. Modesty was a foreign concept to her.

My mother was always an extremely beautiful woman with a sexy but slender body (which she spent hours every day keeping that way through constant exercise, yoga, and living on only salads, chicken and fish). She is still in good shape but has lost her facial beauty due to age and way too many facelifts which makes her appear to be wearing a mask–to my way of thinking, a sad and final physical manifestation of the psychological mask she has worn her entire life. She has become a walking, talking mask.

In her younger years she was an exhibitionist. She regularly walked around the house naked, or dressed in a flimsy diaphanous short negligee, with no panties on underneath. In fact, she never dressed in actual clothing unless she had to go out. My mother’s perfect naked body was almost completely visible under that sheer garment, especially when the light hit it a certain way. She cared not one whit that a child was present.

In the 1970s, during the womens’ movement, the popular book “Our Bodies, Ourselves” was her Bible. It was kept on the living room table for everyone to see, along with other coffee table books like “America the Beautiful.”

I remember being fascinated by that book, with its graphic descriptions of the most intimate female bodily functions, including sexual intercourse and masturbation. With equal parts of awe and a weird, squirmy, embarrassed feeling, I stared at the many black and white photographs of women breastfeeding, or giving birth, or lying on the OBGYN’s table with their legs in stirrups, or doing yoga naked, or dancing in groups with other naked women, pregnant or not.

our_bodies

I remember when my mother was married, I always could tell when she was having sex with my father, because she would groan loudly enough to make the whole house shake. Her moans and groans scared me at first, but after awhile I got used to it. I could tell when they were finished too, because she would announce loudly that she needed to douche to avoid getting pregnant.

After the divorce, when I was 14, things got even worse. We had moved to a small one bedroom apartment, and she took the living room (at least she had the human decency to let me have the bedroom). As a highly attractive and socially gregarious woman who always needed a source of male narcissistic supply, she had a running string of boyfriends. I was left alone overnight often–which I actually didn’t mind at all–because if she returned home with one of her dates, it meant they slept together on the pull out sofa,and THAT meant if I wanted to leave my room for any reason, I had to walk through the living room because there was no hallway.

Walking through the living room with them in there was so embarrassing, I would skulk through quickly with my eyes averted, trying not to see or be seen, but it never worked. She always wound up calling me in for some reason, sitting up from under the covers, her shapely naked breasts exposed, forcing me to look at her in bed with some man I did not know or want to know. I knew on some level that was her real reason for calling me in. She WANTED me to see.

She also always left the door open when she went to the bathroom. She didn’t care if I saw her. In fact, she would call me in while she was sitting on the toilet to ask me a question or tell me something. She wanted me to see but I have no idea why.

modesty

The worst thing was when she was having her period. I remember her describing loudly to anyone who would listen (or was forced to hear) the way the clotted menstrual blood would gush out and stream down her thighs when she got out of bed after it pooling inside her all night. She announced it as if she was announcing she just got a promotion at work or won some award.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a prude. I can appreciate the beauty of the female human body and even its mysterious, intimate, lifegiving functions, but these are private and not something a normal person shares publicly as if they’re discussing the news or the weather. Only a somatic narcissist (like my mother) does that. Because to them, it’s performance art and their body is an exhibit to be worshipped and admired, even during its uglier moments. Modesty is never on the radar.