2014-03-10

Compensatory Narcissism

I don't know much about psychology, and I'm certainly not qualified to engage in too much conjecture about it. But I do have a casual interest in it, I do think about it, and so things like this tend to catch my eye:
The general problem with the narcissist is that he can't see the other, he only sees others in relationship to him. It's a movie, or a video game. It's Grand Theft Auto. Sure, the other characters are real characters, but what matters is you. You don't even have to be a good guy, or the best guy-- just the main character. It is impossible to conceive that any of the characters in GTA can have thoughts that aren't about him. "But it's a game, it's not like real life." No, to the narcissist, "real life" isn't real either, it's simulacrum. Every action is about him, positively or negatively.
And later:
Shame, however, means you are caught doing something wrong, and so people get to decide how to see you, and see you as less. This is the narcissistic injury. You can't convince the other person you are more than what they see. "Wait, it's not how it looks! I can explain-- why won't you let me explain?!" That's why narcissists aren't loners: they need the reinforcement of their identity from other people, as a bulwark against reality.
The Last Psychiatrist is writing about malignant narcissism in this case, and that's the kind of narcissism with which most people are familiar. It's the "jerky" narcissism, the kind that produces a megalomaniac or - as in the above case - a killer.

But what about the compensatory narcissist? PTypes.com (whatever that is) gives Million's definition of compensatory narcissism: "overtly narcissistic behaviors [that] derive from an underlying sense of insecurity and weakness rather than from genuine feelings of self-confidence and high self-esteem." The whole page is worth reading if you're interested in the topic, but I'd like focus on a few points of interest.

The "five factor" model of psychology shows that compensatory narcissists score as follows:

  1. High neuroticism,
  2. High extraversion,
  3. High openness,
  4. Low agreeableness, and
  5. Low concientiousness.
This seems to produce a surprising blend of traits. For example, the compensatory narcissist is highly extraverted, and yet shows a great deal of withdrawal, rejectivity, and "pseudospeciation." I presume this is driven by her low levels of agreeableness, which renders itself as "cynicism." Wikipedia reports (however apocryphally) that there may be a connection between narcissism and eating disorders, and that the connection can be expressed by in terms of anorexia/bulemia or of over-eating.

Also, there's thistheatophilia.

The picture of the compensatory narcissist is an interesting one. Imagine one who is cynical, skeptical, and quick to argue; yet somehow also highly aloof and withdrawn. Imagine one who is hyper-sensitive to all criticism and who, once having received it, will deflect and project and cut down others in order to make oneself appear more magnificent - or at least more right. Imagine one who's best surrogate for empathy is vicariousness.

It is simultaneously a ghastly picture and a pitiful one. The devil is both incorruptibly evil and yet only evil because he hasn't the self worth to stand on his own two hooves.