The term malignant narcissism is now being used by many as an alternative to narcissist personality disorder. It reflects the nastiness, destruction and the draining of life energy imposed by narcissists on their victims.
Some psychologists think of pathological narcissism as a spectrum with psychopaths at the worst end, malignant narcissists in the middle and narcissistic personality disorder as the least severe.
A narcissist is someone who is totally engrossed in themselves, they believe they are superior to others, they have a huge sense of entitlement, they want praise and admiration, they make themselves the centre of attention, they are selfish and they manipulate others for their own gains.
You may recognize some of these traits in others, or even in yourself. Does this mean we can all call ourselves narcissists? Not at all. If that were the case the distinction would be useless.
The group of malignant narcissists are different from normal human beings in that they have no conscience, no remorse, no guilt, no ability to feel pity or compassion for others. Malignant narcissists are considered to have narcissistic personality disorder with aggression, sadism, paranoia and antisocial behavior.
It means that these people can treat others in any way whatsoever, without being emotionally involved.
This is very important if you want to understand narcissism. It's almost impossible for a person with a conscience to imagine what it would be like not to have a conscience, not to have the socializing emotions that direct our relationships with others.
Narcissists can abuse others physically, emotionally, lie to them, steal from them, take advantage of them, sexually abuse them, and generally walk all over them, without feeling the least bit sorry for their victims.
In fact, it often gives them pleasure to dominate, control, manipulate and take from those around them. It's what drives them. It's what motivates them to do cruel and sadistic things to others to show their superiority.
Malignant narcissists will often befriend their victim before starting to take advantage of them. For example, the woman who seduces a man and tricks him into marrying her, the worker who sucks up to the boss and presents a marvellous image before beginning his abuse, or the seminar leader who makes a great first impression before duping the listeners into joining his cult.
They then go on to use a variety of mind control methods and techniques to influence the decision making in order to keep their victims ensnared in a web of lies and deceit so that they can continue to take, take and take some more...
And take they will, time, energy, money, skills, effort, sex, emotions... whatever they want... for as long as they get away with it...
Erich Fromm invented the term malignant narcissism in 1964
saying it was "the quintessence of evil"!
There is debate about the origins of this disorder and some think that narcissists are born while others believe that it is a result of childhood trauma/abuse.
It is likely that there is a genetic component and childhood traumas can aggravate the symptoms. Having said that, some with malignant narcissism are born into normal, stable families and in no way can they be said to have a difficult childhood, and they still become very manipulative predators.
Otto Kemberg, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, suggested that those with malignant narcissism have the ability to internalize aggressive and idealized ideas, making them more aggressive and sadistic. Because psychopaths have paranoid tendencies they are unwilling to internalize even the values of others.
He also says that malignant narcissists can identify with other powerful figures which allows some loyalty, for example in sadistic gangs or terrorist groups. Psychopaths are loyal to no-one except themselves.
Malignant narcissism is said to have a cruel, sadistic element, in effect being a sadistic psychopath.
If these academic distinctions do not make much sense, don't worry about it. If you think you are living with a narcissist, these distinctions may not be useful. What is useful is to learn about mind control and how specifically they control you so that you can break free.
It's also useful to learn about narcissistic behavior, narcissistic rage and symptoms of malignant narcissism in order to make sense of what has been happening to you (or someone close to you!). You can read more about narcissistic abuse recovery here...
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