I am very excited to announce that the owner of the new blog about NPD and ACONs will be writing a guest post for this blog. You may remember I was discussing this blog the other day — she is an ACON (adult child of narcissists) who recently discovered she herself has NPD.
Up to 70% of children of narcissists develop the disorder themselves. I think this blogger is onto something huge, since that condition most of us call “fleas” could actually be low-level narcissism, but given a different name because it’s just too hard to face the truth. I can’t speak for others, but I certainly think that’s the case for me. I just can’t deny the sobering fact that I fit the profile for covert narcissism perfectly. In my heart, I’ve known this for a while (in fact it’s what made me start this blog), but I still keep finding excuses to think of my symptoms as indicating something other than what they actually are.
What is covert narcissism?
The author of the blog linked to in the first paragraph wrote an article that took the 9 DSM-IV criteria of NPD and adapted them to those of us who identify as ACONs with “fleas” and C-PTSD. Could this be a wake up call for many of us?
Only if we take off the horse blinders.
It was a wake up call for me.
Here are some of my own C-NPD symptoms:
— Constant worrying about what other people think of me.
— Shyness in social situations because of my worry over what others will think.
— “Rehearsing” what I am going to say in advance, while someone else is talking, so I never really hear what they say
— Rehearsing how I will act in social situations, which is very exhausting for me (and made me believe, for over a decade, that I had Aspergers).
–Withdrawing (sometimes with resentment)from situations in which I feel like I’m being ignored or not given the attention I think I deserve.
— Lack of empathy — not so much because I have a hard heart or don’t care about others (I’m not a sociopath!), but because I often don’t hear others because I’m too busy worrying about what I will say next to be seen in the best possible light.
— Feigning empathy
— Over-concern with being seen as a “good” or “smart” person.
— While feeling worthless and insecure, I still have this underlying resentment that others are getting the attention and adulation I deserve but have never received.
— I feel like if people “knew the real me” (a “me” I don’t even know) they would hate me, so I put on a show of being much nicer than I really am. (This doesn’t apply to online, where I am more fully “myself” and don’t have to wear that mask — but in the real world, this is very much what I act like)
— Deep down, although I hate myself and think I don’t deserve anything, I also feel like I’m “superior” to others because I’m more “deep” or intelligent than most people, only they can’t see or appreciate this fact.
–Similarly, I often feel “superior” to people who I perceive as shallow or who have conventional interests and beliefs (sometimes this is triggered by secret envy of their greater success or happiness).
— I do not react well to most criticism. I usually brood over it and fall into a depression.
— I tend to devalue those who become too critical (usually by avoiding them in the future).
— Fear of appearing too vulnerable (although I am working hard on accessing my vulnerability — it’s hard work though!)
— When I was less mindful and unaware, I engaged in things like negative gossip and devaluation (usually about people I was jealous of), gaslighting and projection (without knowing I was doing these things).
— When things are going well (and I’m getting more supply), I tend to revert to a more grandiose style –this can involve things like bragging, sometimes exaggerating my achievements, or name-dropping. (Covert or vulnerable “fragile” narcissism may actually be “failed narcissism”: when a narcissist–even a grandiose one–isn’t getting sufficient supply or they can’t deny they are failing in life, they tend to revert to the covert or vulnerable form, which is a type of “compensatory narcissism.”)
–Finding myself being disliked in many real world situations and not able to understand why (this has been improving as I’ve become more mindful and self aware). Before, it was always “them” and I was just a misunderstood victim who everyone else refused to (or couldn’t) understand.
I realize most people do some of these things sometimes, but these are things I do all the time (and used to do a lot more of before awareness). Although I try to be mindful and not do them, they are habits that are very hard to break because they’ve been with me so long; these are my default defense mechanisms when I am not paying attention and “watching myself.”
I understand now that my growing impatience with the pervasive negative stigma toward NPD and my need to understand narcissism from an “insiders perspective” was because deep down, I “knew” and was preparing myself to become self aware.
For a victim of childhood narcissistic abuse to get to the point of realizing they may have NPD themselves, it is necessary to let go of the all too common “us versus them,” black and white thinking that holds so many of us captive to our own narcissism and keeps us from looking inside ourselves to see the shocking truth.
But take heart: if you are a self aware narcissist (or suspect you may be one), it’s not your fault. It doesn’t mean you are a bad person and it doesn’t mean you can never change (I make an exception here for malignant or sociopathic narcissists, who probably cannot change and even like what they are even if they’re self aware). “Narcissists can never change” is a myth the Kool-Aid drinkers like to make everyone believe. Your narcissism was something that was done TO you, and you most likely had no control over it. You adopted those defense mechanisms to survive, and according to Pete Walker, narcissism is the “Fight” reaction to narcissistic abuse and is a manifestion of C-PTSD. You CAN change and you can even heal! Being self aware and WILLING to change means you have already taken a huge step toward healing, possibly the most difficult step of all.
Remember, narcissism begets narcissism. But we aren’t hopeless and a cure IS possible!
We can break the generational cycle by looking inside ourselves and working together to stop the stigma NPD has gained.
Just give me the diagnosis already!
I really wish my therapist would just go ahead and give me an NPD diagnosis because that would bring me some much needed closure and make me stop trying to find excuses that it’s really “something else.” It would confirm once and for all what I’ve suspected for over a year. But he probably isn’t going to do that since he hates psychiatric diagnoses and prefers to work with symptoms instead of disorders.
That being said, I know enough about psychology to recognize that many of the techniques he is using with me are those used on people with NPD (also BPD). I still think he’s a fantastic therapist who is helping me a lot, whether he ever gives me a label or not. Maybe he has diagnosed me, but just doesn’t want to tell me.