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Pathological Narcissism

Narcissism defined is the psychological movement that functions to preserve structural cohesiveness, stability and positive emotional reflection on the individual’s self-representation. While that sounds pretty heady, exploring abstract concepts doesn’t always leave us with metaphorically language to define it. Basically, narcissism functions to assist in identity formation, identity expression and provides us with the motivation to care for ourselves.

Whether narcissism is actually a fixed or permanent personality trait remains highly debated within professional circles. While much has been written about the differences that exist between healthy and pathological narcissism; even the most well-read researchers avoid stating absolutes leaving open the door to ongoing research and hope that clinical interventions will be discovered that can address and possibly intervene in pathological forms of narcissism. Wisely, narcissism is viewed on a continuum from healthy and adaptive being at one end to severely maladaptive at the other.

There are two principal types of narcissistic dysfunction. While they have been defined in a wide variety of terms, they can be categorized into two hues: grandiose and vulnerable. Grandiose types appear to be quite obvious and are typically the representation when people label a person as a Narcissist. Grandiose narcissism manifests through self-inflation, arrogance, and entitlement and the internal world is filled with fantasies of unlimited success all the while disavowing (denying) any negative self-representation (shortcomings).

In contrast vulnerable narcissism refer to feelings of helplessness, suffering and anxiety regarding threats to self-reflection reflecting a sense of inadequacy, emptiness and shame. Grandiosity and vulnerability can be expressed both overtly and covertly. Both states operate in opposing and reciprocal ways with grandiosity masking feelings of vulnerability and the vulnerable type masking fantasies of grandiosity. Neither is overtly expressed initially, but remain psychologically prominent in self-representation. It is this very tension, which makes it difficult to detect or discern the depth of pathology and where on a narcissistic scale the individual lands before a emotional bond has been established and significant relational damage has occurred.

Next blog I will explore the different subtypes and try to discover why there are so many definitions and manifestations…

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