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When the Narcissist Becomes Dangerous/Psych Central

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Recently at a dinner party, talk turned to the current news story about Bill Cosby. As the only psychologist at the table, everyone looked at me as one person asked with intense curiosity, “How could anyone victimize women all those years, and still live with himself? How could you sleep at night?”

Since I don’t know Bill Cosby, I can’t speak for him; nor do I know if he is guilty of the accusations against him or not. But generally, in an actual situation like this, there is an answer to the question. The answer is one word: narcissism.

In many ways, it seems like it would be fun to be narcissistic. Wouldn’t it be great to go through life feeling superior to other people, and with unwavering self-confidence? Yes!

But as we all know, there is a dark side to narcissism. That unwavering self-confidence is as brittle as an eggshell. Narcissists don’t move back and forth on a continuum of self-esteem as the rest of us do. Instead, they run on full-tilt until something taps that protective shell of self-importance hard enough. Then, they fall into a million pieces. Under that fragile, brittle cover lies a hidden pool of insecurity and pain. Deep down, the narcissist’s deepest and most powerful fear is that he is a nothing.

With his brash, self-centered ways, the narcissist can hurt the people around him emotionally, and often. His deepest fear is of being exposed as “a nothing.” So he will protect his own fragile shell above all else, even if it sometimes emotionally harms the people he loves the most.

Why is the narcissist in such fear of being a nothing? Because she was raised by parents who responded to her on a superficial level, lauding or even worshiping certain aspects of her which they valued, while completely ignoring or actively invalidating her true self, including her emotions. So most narcissists grew up essentially over-valued on one level, and ignored and invalidated on another (Childhood Emotional Neglect – CEN). CEN on its own does not cause narcissism, but combined with other essential ingredients, it plays a part.

Some narcissists need to do more than just protect their shell. Their need to be special is so great that they also need to feed it with accolades, acknowledgment, or their own personal version of specialness.

This is when narcissism becomes dangerous.

There are four characteristics of the narcissist which can work together to make him a danger. They are:

The need to protect his inflated sense of self can make him desperate.
The need to feed his sense of specialness can drive him to violate others’ boundaries.
Lack of empathy for others can make him incapable of seeing when he hurts others.
His belief that he is special can make it easy for him to rationalize his actions.

Most narcissists do not pose any real danger to the people around them (except perhaps emotionally). The risk comes from #2. What’s his Special Ingredient? What does the narcissist need to feed his specialness?

Does he need to have a “special relationship” with young boys, like Jerry Sandusky (severe boundary violations)? Does he need to be seen as a mentor to Olympic wrestlers like John DuPont, as portrayed in The Foxcatcher (exploitation)?

What does the narcissist need to feed his specialness, to what lengths will he go to get it, and is his specialness extreme enough to enable him to rationalize his behavior? Those are the factors which determine a narcissistic person’s potential dangerousness.

Jerry Sandusky said that he felt his special relationship with boys was helpful to the boys. John DuPont appeared to rationalize that his money and privilege would make his minions better wrestlers.

If you have a narcissist in your life: a parent, sibling, friend, spouse, or ex, it is possible to manage the relationship in a healthy way. Your best approach is to walk a figurative tightrope. Have empathy for the pool of pain that lies beneath the surface of your narcissist’s blustery shell. Understand that he or she is protecting herself from the hurt that she experienced in childhood. But at the same time, it is vital to protect yourself as well. Keep your boundaries intact.

Do not let your compassion make you vulnerable.

To learn more about the effects of emotional invalidation in childhood, see;or the book Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect.

Scapegoating / Out of the Fog

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This article was originally posted on Out Of The Fog ( link below)




Scapegoating – Singling out one child, employee or member of a group of peers for unmerited negative treatment or blame.

Picking a Target

Its You - Creative Commons

Everyone has some relationships that feel less comfortable, natural or rewarding than the others. Some people simply annoy us more, tire us more or challenge us more than others.

For example, many parents struggle to show equitable treatment to their children, who usually have different interests, abilities and behavior patterns, just as employers typically find a broad spectrum of abilities and attitudes within their staff. Teachers find they aren’t able to relate to every student in the same way. Some relationships just take more work than others. That’s life. It’s not possible or practical to treat everyone as if they were exactly the same, all the time.

Differential treatment becomes dysfunctional, however, when it translates into actions such as inequitable systems of reward and punishment or inequitable access or denial of access to opportunities, resources and liberties. It becomes a form of abuse when one child, employee or member of a group is singled out for special punishment, undeserved negative treatment or arbitrarily denied some benefit available to the others.

People with Personality Disorders are particularly susceptible to showing dysfunctional differential treatment because they sometimes allow their feelings to override facts. This means their feelings become so intense that what they feel about a person or situation can receive more of their attention or take a higher priority than what they know about that person or situation. This can then lead to distortions in how they interpret a given situation which are then used to rationalize or justify the way they feel and the way they behave as a result.

Scapegoating can occur in all aspects of life, however, it is most clearly demonstrated and can be most destructive when the person showing favoritism has some form of power or authority over others, such as in parent-child, teacher-student and boss-subordinate relationships.

In the US workplace, various laws such as The Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Equal Pay Act, The Age Discrimination Act, The Americans with Disabilities Act and The Civil Rights Act of 1991, prohibit discrimination based on ethnic origin, appearance, gender, religion and disability. Other countries have also passed similar legislation. However, these laws only protect against favoritism which can be objectively verified in a court of law and where an objective criterion for the discriminatory behavior (for example refusing to serve members of a particular ethnic group in a restaurant) can be demonstrated. Negative treatment based on a person’s subjective “gut-feel” judgment about someone’s personality, character or appearance is much harder to regulate or prove in court.

The term “scapegoat” has its origins in the traditional Jewish feast of Yom Kippur – in which the transgressions of the people were ceremonially transferred by the High Priest onto the head of a sacrificial goat – the “escape goat” – which was then banished into the wilderness, taking the sins of the people with it

Scapegoating is the opposite of favoritism as it involves punishments rather than rewards, although they are essentially similar kinds of dysfunction. They both involve judgments which are not based on objective ideas of fairness. Other names for scapegoating include reverse-favoritism, bullying, prejudice, discrimination, bias and partiality.

What Scapegoating in the Home Looks Like


A parent who systematically singles out one child for blame when things go wrong in the family.
A parent who punishes one child more severely than their siblings.
A parent who assigns undesirable responsibilities and chores etc. to just one child in the family.
A parent who routinely speaks more negatively to or about one child in the family.
A parent who refuses to intervene or take notice when other siblings bully, hurt or abuse one child in the family.

What Scapegoating in the Workplace Looks Like

A boss who systematically denies raises and promotions and benefits to just one employee, despite them demonstrating equal or superior performance or merit to others.

A teacher who gives poorer grades to one particular student than their work merits.
A boss who routinely assigns less pleasant or desirable tasks to one employee while giving the more desirable jobs to others.
A boss who covers up or shields other employees from responsibility or accountability while allowing one to face the consequences.
A boss who denies access or time and attention to one employee while giving extensive access to others.
How it Feels

Children who grow up as the scapegoat in a family are likely to develop trust issues, resentment and low self-esteem. Children often blame themselves for such treatment and look for rationalizations for the way they are treated. They may begin to feel worthless, ugly, stupid or incompetent. They may struggle academically and avoid competitive situations or opportunities. Adult children who have been scapegoated may struggle with explosive anger, pessimism and resentment in relationships, employment, and friendships.

Some children who are victims of scapegoating may try to prove their worth by becoming over-achievers, often to the detriment of their own aspirations and interests in life.

Children who are victims of parental scapegoating often seek validation outside of the home can be vulnerable to predatory groups and individuals who seek to take advantage of them. Religious cults, criminal gangs, terrorist organizations, thieves and violent or sexual predators often lure their victims by initially offering validation to people who have low self-worth.

What NOT to Do

Don’t blame yourself or assume that you did anything to deserve the way a person with a Personality Disorder treats you.
Don’t accept scapegoating as normal or allow it just to “go with the flow”.
Don’t persecute someone else who is being scapegoated. That is participating in abuse.
Don’t ignore it when someone else is being scapegoated. That is condoning abuse.
Don’t try to justify your worth by becoming an over-achiever. Don’t work yourself harder to earn the love of a parent or family member. Real love is a free gift; it doesn’t require people to jump through hoops.
Don’t immediately trust everybody or every organization who offers you validation. Save your trust for people who will treat you well and don’t have a hidden agenda of their own.
Don’t waste your time and energy trying to change another person’s opinion of you. As painful as it is to admit, you have almost no power or control over another person’s thoughts, words and actions.
Don’t retaliate or try to hurt a person who scapegoats you. Try, as best you can, to disengage from them.

What TO Do

End the conversation and remove yourself from the room and the house if possible whenever anybody treats you badly.
Call the police if anybody physically hurts you, threatens or bullies you. If you are young, report it to a responsible caring adult.
Try to base your own opinion of yourself based on your merits – your own unique strengths and weaknesses – not on other people’s emotions.
Speak up for what is right when you see injustice. Say it once and then don’t say it again or argue about it. Agree to disagree if necessary. Just saying it once can sometimes help.
Get support. Find validating and healthy friendships and relationships where people will appreciate your worth and encourage you to be the best that you can be.
If you are in an employment situation, you might want to try to find an alternate position or another group or employer.
If you are the recipient of inequitable treatment, politely decline the favor and request inclusion of your peers.
For More Information & Support…

If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.

Support Forum – Read real stories. Ask questions.


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Written by protectivemothersallianceinternational

November 2, 2014 at 7:50 pm

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