Saturday, September 30, 2006

Criticism and the Narcissist

or how the narcissist makes you the problem

There is an interesting article published in 1990 in a psychology journal that I'd like to reference in this and upcoming posts. Parts of the article are more interesting than others so I'll summarize some of them in my own words. The parts of this article that I plan to highlight here on my blog are those concepts that I've personally seen and experienced. If I've seen and experienced it, then it is likely you have too.

One of the concepts this article visits is the subject of criticism as used by the narcissist. One of the terms this article uses is "narcissistically defended person". What this means is that the person is either a narcissist, or they have adopted narcissistic defenses even if their over-all personality can not be classified as someone with NPD. So, some of the behaviors can be seen in a person who can not be reasonably classified as having the full-blown disorder of narcissism. But, I'm here to tell ya, it is likely you will see most, if not all, of the behaviors in a narcissist.

One of the ways that the "narcissistically defended person" avoids making reparations in a relationship is by making you the problem. One vehicle for this process is criticism. There are several ways that you open yourself up to criticism from the narcissist:

He may see you as an extension of himself therefore any imperfection in you is a reflection on him and threatens his view of himself as being perfect. "Grandiose self", as the professionals refer to it, is under threat when you fall short of his expectations.

Or you can disappoint him by not being the perfect counterpoise to his grand self. He expects you to be effortlessly all-knowing and all empathic. You are expected to perceive his needs, his wants, his thoughts without him ever having to ask you to. This, of course, preserves his delusion of himself that he is god-like.

As long as he doesn't have to ask you for something he can pretend he doesn't need you
This is very important to this discussion. His grandiose view of himself doesn't allow him to admit to himself that he needs anybody. Even those who could not be considered narcissistic can have a hard time admitting to needing others. It is sort of the human condition. With the narcissist, though, it is carried to an extreme. It is this unbending conviction that they need no one that makes either true gratitude or true remorse impossible for him to give to you. I'll elaborate on that more in another post.

What I'm talking about today is how you are set up by the narcissist for criticism. Not only does admitting to having needs of his own threaten his god-like status, but your expressing a need that you want the narcissist to fulfill, or your telling him how you feel about something he has said or done, puts a target on your head. Zap. You hardly know what hit you. He can turn it around on you in an instant.

Example: a narcissist who is nurturing a grandiose vision of herself as a spiritual paragon of virtue is asked to admit that she gossiped about you. Rather than admit to being a gossip she will tell you that she only stated the truth about you and apparently you can't handle the truth being said. Because there some truth in her gossip, you suddenly feel like you have no right to expect an apology or restitution. The narcissist successfully transfers attention from their defects of character to your alleged defects. You were disarmed because of the smidgen of truth in the accusations.

In psychological terms, the narcissist pathologizes you in order to preserve the false grand image of themselves. In the wake of the narcissistic attack you are left feeling like you are bad. This is related to the idea of projection. You challenged their god-like and perfect image in some way, so they are compelled to transfer their unconscious sense of badness onto you in order to render themselves without fault or imperfection. This is very destructive to you.

Something the article focuses on is how the narcissist can do this pathologizing of you all the more effectively if they are versed in psychoanalytic terms and processes. This can be someone who works in the field of psychology or simply someone who has immersed themselves in pop psychology books. I have experienced this personally with my sister. She became a much more adept manipulator, much more subtle manipulator, after she'd spent some time studying a Christian psychology-based course. After that she was always diagnosing everyone else's supposed faults and became very adept at pathologizing anyone who dared to contradict her in any way. Because she can sound so authoritative and use professional sounding terms to pathologize her victims, the victims are usually rendered voice-less and condemned without any hope of appeal. Not to mention the extra power of using a Christianized form of psychology to keep people subjected spiritually and morally as well as emotionally. I hate Christian psychology. It is mis-used much more than people like to admit.

There is a growing understanding out there among the professionals that traditional psychological methods tend to worsen personality-disordered individuals rather than help them for the same reasons that I have observed in my sister; the personality-disordered person uses the information to improve their manipulation skills, not to correct their own character defects. Keep this in mind if you are toying with the idea of dragging the narcissist into therapy with you. Chances are you will end up with a bigger problem on your hands than you started with.

Above are described some of the ways you can find yourself cut down and cut to pieces by a narcissist's projection and criticism so you can avoid this dance. You don't have to participate in the narcissist's attempts to annihilate you and thereby preserve their grand selves. The narcissist's criticism is their defense against any and all hints that they are less than God Himself. The narcissist's efforts to transfer all fault onto you is not about you. It is about him. You are simply a tool to prop up his false image. I hope this makes you feel used because that is the reality of it. Which brings me to my constant refrain: get the hell away from the alien freak. Save yourself before it is too late.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. I think I just now "woke up." I am getting out of the relationship I've suffered through for the past ten years.

gettingouttathedark said...

It was a long article, it's late but I am going to try to respond because I agree with what is being described AND I want to write my thoughts out. This is the exact description of what I have always seen in my nmothers behavior; she re-directs the issue from herself to me with criticism, accusation and anger. At that very moment I usually become disoriented, confused and emotional. I cry like a baby and deny whatever I am being blamed for. It happens in the blink of an eye! But you know what? That did not happen last Sunday 10/9/2016. I was able to view the entire scene as if I was watching from a balcony! She lies as she denies and she does not for one split second stand down. I offered her every way to acknowledge the truth and she continued to deny reality. It was really an amazing moment for me this time. After recovering from this event I have decided that I will not be speaking with her one to one. No more private conversations which is the only time, as I am the only person, that experiences this atrocious behavior from her. I always felt responsible for our failed relationship. Why is that? My doctor says because all children need their mother, children need their mother to see them, know them, receive them as a wholly separate individual. I think I am over this now! It has taken so much to get to this point. So complete no contact may be in the near future. Thanks again for all of the time you have given to me because you presented your knowledge for people like me in this world to find!