Am I the narcissist? A look at inverted narcissism
In my work with victims of narcissistic abuse, most of the time I am asked the same question: “How do I know that I am not the narcissist?”
When I asked my own therapist this question all those years ago, she replied, “If you were the narcissist, you wouldn’t be asking that question, because narcissists won’t see that the problem is with them.” They are too busy projecting problems onto those around them.
However, our own narcissism is a topic worth exploring in more detail. For example: Why do we ask that question to begin with? What makes us feel like we are narcissists?
In speaking with a client today, I had a great understanding. She was telling me how she was always disappointed in her previous boyfriends or partners. They just didn’t live up to their expectations. As we dig a little deeper, he explained how he has oscillated between feelings of superiority and feelings of inferiority. She has built her own illusion or idea of who she was that in her own reality placed herself on a pedestal. So, in a sense, he was doing the same thing a narcissistic personality would do. He protected himself from his feelings of inferiority by placing himself on a pedestal. That pedestal created a false confidence.
So when the narcissistic personality enters your life, your false confidence is initially reflected in the narcissist who reflects the image worthy of the pedestal on which he has been placed. But as the relationship progresses, his feelings of inferiority are triggered when he projects his own inferiority onto her. Now she is experiencing the feeling of having her partner disappointed by their inadequacy, just as she has been disappointed in her previous partners by their inadequacy.
What is the difference between the narcissistic partner and the one who feels abused? Compassion and empathy! The client I was talking to today identified with his partner’s feelings of superiority and also with his feelings of inadequacy. She felt empathy for him. She didn’t want to see him hurt because she knows how painful it is to experience those same kinds of feelings. A pathological narcissist might worry about his partner’s hurt feelings. He only cares about himself and his own needs.
The inverted narcissist, as Sam Vaknin calls him, is the perfect match for the pathological narcissist. Because when their false selves meet, the illusion of who they think they are is reinforced to a point where it can feel like Cinderella meets her prince who brings her out of her hell, where she is forced to wear rags and sweep up the ashes. day. Suddenly, she falls in love, fits perfectly into the glass slipper and takes her to the castle adorned with beautiful dresses and riches worthy of the queen that she is.
Perhaps in this fairy tale, Cinderella always fantasized about being a queen, but lived the reality of being an ash maiden. She was ridiculed and condemned by those around her and made her feel unworthy of the good things in life. But she would show them to him one day. It would show them that she was actually a queen.
For those of us who come from a painful childhood in which we were somehow made to feel inferior, we can easily create fantasy worlds in which we escape. the never-never land. We imagine ourselves as fairy princesses and we imagine our prince riding a white horse and dragging us, taking us from our humble reality to a great castle where we are treated like a queen.
In the psychic realm, the psychosis of the pathological narcissist fits perfectly with the fantasy world of the inverted narcissist. Because in the world of fantasy a great fantasy is created where the King and Queen of the never-never land meet up and ride into the sunset. It’s such a beautiful love story, at first.
But all glass slippers eventually break and so do the glass houses in which the “ideal” couple resides. There love is not based on anything real, but on an illusion of perfection created by both parties. She is saying “be my prince” and he is saying “be my queen”. But once they settle in the Castle, the true beings begin to emerge. Feelings of inferiority begin to surface. Both partners really don’t want to be discovered, much less risk losing their status on that pedestal. “What if he finds out that I really am a frog?” You might think. And she might wonder “what if he knows the truth about me, that I’m just an ash sweeper?”
The narcissistic dance is really an ego dance. It is an escape from the real me. Because the true me has never been discovered and cultivated. The narcissistic facade is a preservation of the ego that needs to appear larger than it is. From that wounded child, he inflates his humble sense of himself into something others would envy. He strives for greatness, not for the sake of the task, but for revenge on those who would mock him for his inferiority.
We see this scenario often play out in movies where the ugly geek turns into the beautiful swan or the handsome prince and is the envy of those who used to make fun of him. But inside you can still feel like the ugly duckling. A true pathological narcissist is so smart to hide from that ugly duckling in him that he hides it from himself. You are no longer really aware of those feelings. He is separate from them. Where your victim is probably very much in touch with those feelings. She feels the depth of pain caused by his mistreatment and lack of consideration for her. It triggers all those feelings of unworthiness that he has been running from most of his life.
If the inverted narcissist does not take advantage of this opportunity for self-reflection and personal growth, he will probably revert to his old ways and create a similar scenario again. But there is the opportunity for a great transformation. One that comes from truly embracing self and becoming real! We remove the layers of who we are not and cultivate the truth of who we are. This starts with hugging that hurt little boy who has been rejected, mocked, mocked, and made to feel inferior in so many ways. We can begin by having compassion for that inner child in the same way that we find ourselves feeling compassion for the narcissist in our lives.
Once we own That rejected part of us there is no longer a need to hide it from the world behind a fantasy illusion. We don’t need to be seen as “the queen” anymore, but we’re okay with just being ordinary. Ironically, once we accept our normalcy, we really start to stand out, really. Because we stop trying to be something we are not and begin to accept who we really are. Our true selves always carry the greatest light.
As I work with more and more victims of narcissistic abuse, I begin to see narcissism as the catalyst for personal transformation. Narcissistic abuse spirals into our deepest and most fragile aspect of ourselves, the hurt and rejected child within us. I used to believe that we were just assuming the projection of the narcissist, but I am realizing this is not true. This is the part of the narcissist that we identify with. He also has the same rejected, lost, rejected inner child, covered by an illusion of grandeur. So our job is not simply to stop assuming the narcissist’s projections in our lives, but rather to allow ourselves to do that decent in the deepest and darkest places of our psyche and rescue that rejected child within.
Ironically, once we accept our shortcomings, we no longer feel so inadequate. We come to understand that no one is perfect, including us. We make mistakes, we have flaws, we have areas where we are ashamed of ourselves, and now we simply admit these realizations to ourselves. Instead of taking the inventory of the narcissist in our lives, we take our own inventory and list the areas in which we have deceived ourselves. When we finally see that being imperfect is being real, we accept ourselves as we are and stop trying to be something we are not.
Becoming real is a process. I call it growing up. We remove those layers of who we are not to refine who we really are. And … we came to look beautiful even with our flaws. Actually, it is our flaws that make us unique and beautiful. Perfection is the illusion!
At first, we may be angry that we are thrown into the deep pain of self-reflection and personal growth, while the narcissist is in another fairy tale; But instead of envying him for his ignorance, we should thank him for the gift he has given us. He has brought us to our true selves. The pain of discovery may be great at first, but it is worth the journey, because now we can truly live and truly love. Once we accept the imperfections in ourselves, we can accept the imperfections of our future partners and have a much greater opportunity for real love.