Encyclopedia > Inverted narcissists

  Article Content

Inverted narcissists

The Inverted Narcissist

By: Sam Vaknin (Submitted to Wikipedia by the copyright-holder)

The Clinical Picture and Developmental Roots - Opening Remarks



People who depend on other people for their emotional gratification and the performance of Ego or daily functions. They are needy, demanding, submissive. They fear abandonment, cling and display immature behaviours in their effort to maintain the "relationship" with their companion or mate upon whom they depend. No matter what abuse is inflicted upon them – they remain in the relationship.

See also the definition of the Dependent Personality Disorder in the DSM-IV-TR.

Inverted Narcissist

Previously called "covert narcissist", this is a co-dependent who depends exclusively on narcissists (narcissist-co-dependent). If you live with a narcissist, have a relationship with one, are married to one, work with a narcissist, etc. – it does NOT mean that you are an inverted narcissist.

To "qualify" as an inverted narcissist – you must CRAVE to be in a relationship with a narcissist, regardless of any abuse inflicted on you by him/her. You must ACTIVELY seek relationships with narcissists – and ONLY with narcissists – no matter what your (bitter and traumatic) past experience has been. You must feel EMPTY and UNHAPPY in relationships with ANY OTHER kind of person. Only THEN – AND if you satisfy the other diagnostic criteria of a Dependent Personality Disorder – can you be safely labelled an "inverted narcissist".


The DSM-IV-TR uses 9 criteria to define the NPD. It is sufficient to possess 5 of them to "qualify" as a narcissist. Thus, theoretically, it is possible to be NPD WITHOUT being grandiose. Many researchers (Alexander Lowen, Jeffrey Satinover, Theodore Millon and others) suggested a "taxonomy" of pathological narcissism. They divided narcissists to sub-groups (very much as I did with my somatic versus cerebral narcissist dichotomy). Lowen, for instance, talks about the "phallic" narcissist versus others. Satinover and Millon make a very important distinction between narcissists who were raised by abusive parents – and those who were raised by doting and smothering or domineering mothers.

Glenn O. Gabbard in "Psychodynamic Psychiatry in Clinical Practice" [The DSM-IV-TR Edition. Comments on Cluster B Personality Disorders – Narcissistic. American Psychiatric Press, Inc., 2000] we find this:

"…what definitive criteria can be used to differentiate healthy from pathological narcissism? The time honoured criteria of psychological health – to love and to work – are only partly useful in answering this question."

"An individual's work history may provide little help in making the distinction. Highly disturbed narcissistic individuals may find extraordinary success in certain professions, such as big business, the arts, politics, the entertainment industry, athletics and televangelism field. In some cases, however, narcissistic pathology may be reflected in a superficial quality to one's professional interests, as though achievement in and acclaim are more important than mastery of the field itself.

Pathological forms of narcissism are more easily identified by the quality of the individual's relationships.

One tragedy affecting these people is their inability to love. Healthy interpersonal relationships can be recognised by qualities such as empathy and concern for the feelings of others, a genuine interest in the ideas of others, the ability to tolerate ambivalence in long-term relationships without giving up, and a capacity to acknowledge one's own contribution to interpersonal conflicts. People who are characterised by these qualities may at times use others to gratify their own needs, but the tendency occurs in the broader context of sensitive interpersonal relatedness rather than as a pervasive style of dealing with other people. One the other hand, the person with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder approaches people as objects to be used up and discarded according to his or her needs, without regard for their feelings.

People are not viewed as having a separate existence or as having needs of their own. The individual with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder frequently ends a relationship after a short time, usually when the other person begins to make demands stemming from for his or her own needs. Most importantly, such relationships clearly do not 'work' in terms of the narcissist's ability to maintain his or her own sense of self-esteem."

"…These criteria [the DSM-IV-TR's – SV] identify a certain kind of narcissistic patient – specifically, the arrogant, boastful, 'noisy' individual who demands to be in the spotlight. However, they fail to characterise the shy, quietly grandiose, narcissistic individual whose extreme sensitivity to slights leads to an assiduous avoidance of the spotlight."

The DSM-III-R alluded to at least TWO TYPES of narcissists, but the DSM-IV-TR committee chose to delete this: "…included criterion, 'reacts to criticism with feelings of rage, shame, or humiliation (even not if expressed)' due to lack of 'specificity'."

Other theoreticians, clinicians and researchers similarly suggested a division between "the oblivious narcissist" (a.k.a. overt) and "the hypervigilant narcissist" (a.k.a. covert).

The Compensatory versus the Classic Narcissist

Another interesting distinction, suggested by Dave Kelly in his excellent PTYPES Web site (http://www.ptypes.com) is between the Compensatory Type NPD and the Classic NPD (DSM-IV-TR type).

Here are the Compensatory NPD criteria according to Dave Kelly:

"Personality Types proposes Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Disorder as a pervasive pattern of unstable, covert narcissistic behaviours that derive from an underlying sense of insecurity and weakness rather than from genuine feelings of self-confidence and high self-esteem, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by six (or more) of the criteria below.

The basic trait of the Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Type is a pattern of overtly narcissistic behaviours (that) derive from an underlying sense of insecurity and weakness, rather than from genuine feelings of self-confidence and high self-esteem."

The Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Type:

Seeks to create an illusion of superiority and to build up an image of high self-worth [Millon]; Strives for recognition and prestige to compensate for the lack of a feeling of self-worth; May "acquire a deprecatory attitude in which the achievements of others are ridiculed and degraded" [Millon]; Has persistent aspirations for glory and status [Millon]; Has a tendency to exaggerate and boast [Millon]; Is sensitive to how others react to him, watches and listens carefully for critical judgement, and feels slighted by disapproval [Millon]; "Is prone to feel shamed and humiliated and especially (anxious) and vulnerable to the judgements of others" [Millon]; Covers up a sense of inadequacy and deficiency with pseudo-arrogance and pseudo-grandiosity [Millon]; Has a tendency to periodic hypochondria [Forman]; Alternates between feelings of emptiness and deadness and states of excitement and excess energy [Forman]; Entertains fantasies of greatness, constantly striving for perfection, genius, or stardom [Forman]; Has a history of searching for an idealised partner and has an intense need for affirmation and confirmation in relationships [Forman]; Frequently entertains a wishful, exaggerated and unrealistic concept of himself, which he can't possibly measure up to [Reich]; Produces (too quickly) work not up to the level of his abilities because of an overwhelmingly strong need for the immediate gratification of success [Reich]; Is touchy, quick to take offence at the slightest provocation, continually anticipating attack and danger, reacting with anger and fantasies of revenge when he feels himself frustrated in his need for constant admiration [Reich]; Is self-conscious, due to a dependence on approval from others [Reich]; Suffers regularly from repetitive oscillations of self-esteem [Reich]; Seeks to undo feelings of inadequacy by forcing everyone's attention and admiration upon himself [Reich]; May react with self-contempt and depression to the lack of fulfilment of his grandiose expectations [Riso]. Sources:

Forman, Max. Narcissistic Disorders and the Oedipal Fixations. In Feldstein, J.J. (Ed.), The Annual of Psychoanalysis. Volume IV. New York: International Universities [1976] pp. 65-92.

Millon, Theodore, and Roger D. Davis. Disorders of Personality: DSM-IV and Beyond. 2nd Ed. New York: Wiley, [1996] pp. 411-12.

Reich, Annie, [1986]. Pathological Forms of Self-Esteem Regulation. In Morrison, A. P., (Ed.), Essential Papers on Narcissism. pp. 44-60. Reprint from 1960. Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. Volume 15, pp. 205-32.

Riso, Don Richard. Personality Types: Using the Enneagram for Self-Discovery. Boston: Houghton Mifflin [1987] pp. 102-3.

Speculative Diagnostic Criteria for Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of self-inflation, pseudo-confidence, exhibitionism, and strivings for prestige, that compensates for feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, as indicated by the following:

Pseudo-confidence compensating for an underlying condition of insecurity and feelings of helplessness; Pretentiousness, self-inflation; Exhibitionism in the pursuit of attention, recognition, and glory; Strivings for prestige to enhance self-esteem; Deceitfulness and manipulativeness in the service of maintaining feelings of superiority; Idealisation in relationships; Fragmentation of the self: feelings of emptiness and deadness; A proud, hubristic disposition; Hypochondriasis; Substance abuse; Self-destructiveness. Compensatory Narcissistic Personality Disorder corresponds to Ernest Jones' narcissistic "God Complex", Annie Reich's "Compensatory Narcissism", Heinz Kohut's "Narcissistic Personality Disorder", and Theodore Millon's "Compensatory Narcissist".

Millon, Theodore, and Roger D. Davis. Disorders of Personality: DSM-IV and Beyond. 2nd ed. New York: Wiley, 1996. 411-12.

Compare this to the classic type:

Narcissistic Personality Type

The basic trait of the Narcissistic Personality Type is a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.

The Narcissistic Personality Type:

Reacts to criticism with feelings of rage, shame, or humiliation; Is interpersonally exploitive: takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends; Has a grandiose sense of self-importance; Believes that his problems are unique and can be understood only by other special people; Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love; Has a sense of entitlement: an unreasonable expectation of especially favourable treatment; Requires much attention and admiration of others; Lacks empathy: fails to recognise and experience how others feel; Is preoccupied with feelings of envy. This is mainly the DSM-III-R view. Pay attention to the not so subtle changes in the DSM-IV-TR – SV:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [American Psychiatric Association. DSM-IV-TR, Washington, 2000] describes Narcissistic Personality Disorder as a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognised as superior without commensurate achievements); Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love; Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions); Requires excessive admiration; Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations; Is interpersonally exploitive, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends; Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others; Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her; Shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes. Summarised from: American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR, Washington [2000]

The Inverted Narcissist

It is clear that there is, indeed, an hitherto neglected type of narcissist. It is the "self-effacing" or "introverted" narcissist. We call it the Inverted Narcissist (hereinafter: IN). Others call it "narcissist-codependent" or "N-magnet".

This is a narcissist who, in many respects, is the mirror image of the "classical" narcissist. No one is sure why. The psychodynamics of such a narcissist are not clear, nor are its developmental roots. Perhaps it is the product of an overweening Primary Object or caregiver. Perhaps excessive abuse leads to the repression of even the narcissistic and other defence mechanisms. Perhaps the parents suppress every manifestation of grandiosity (very common in early childhood) and of narcissism – so that the narcissistic defence mechanism is "inverted" and internalised in this unusual form.

These narcissists are self-effacing, sensitive, emotionally fragile, sometimes socially phobic. They derive all their self-esteem and sense of self-worth from the outside (others), are pathologically envious (a transformation of aggression), are likely to intermittently engage in aggressive/violent behaviours, are more emotionally labile than the classic narcissist, etc.

We can, therefore talk about three "basic" types of narcissists:

The offspring of neglecting parents – They resort to narcissism as the predominant object relation (with themselves as the exclusive object). The offspring of doting or domineering parents (often narcissists themselves) – They internalised their parents' voices in the form of a sadistic, ideal, immature Superego and spend their lives trying to be perfect, omnipotent, omniscient and to be judged "a success" by these parent-images and their later representations (authority figures). The offspring of abusive parents – They internalise the abusing, demeaning and contemptuous voices and spend their lives in an effort to elicit "counter-voices" from their human environment and thus to extract a modicum of self-esteem and sense of self-worth. All three types exhibit recursive, recurrent and Sisyphean failures. Shielded by their defence mechanisms, they constantly gauge reality wrongly, their actions and reactions become more and more rigid and ossified and the damage inflicted by them on themselves and on others ever greater.

The narcissistic parent seems to employ a myriad of primitive defences in his dealings with his children. Splitting – idealising the child and devaluing him in cycles, which reflect the internal dynamics of the parent rather than anything the child does. Projective Identification – forcing the child into behaviours and traits, which reflect the parents' fears regarding himself or herself, his or her self-image and his or her self-worth. This is a particularly powerful and pernicious mechanism. If the narcissist parent fears his own deficiencies ("defects"), vulnerability, perceived weaknesses, susceptibility, gullibility, or emotions – he is likely to force the child to "feel" these rejected and (to him) repulsive emotions, to behave in ways strongly abhorred by the parent, to exhibit character traits the parent strongly rejects in himself.

The child, in a way, becomes the "trash bin" of the parents' inhibitions, fears, self-loathing, self-contempt, perceived lack of self-worth, sense of inadequacy, rejected traits, repressed emotions, failures and emotional reticence. Coupled with the parent's treatment of the child as the parent's extension, it serves to totally inhibit the psychological growth and emotional maturation of the child. The child becomes a reflection of the parent – a vessel through which the parent experiences and realises himself for better (hopes, aspirations, ambition, life goals) and for worse (weaknesses, "undesirable" emotions, "negative" traits). A host of other, simpler, defence mechanisms employed by the parent are likely to obscure the predominant use of projective identification: projection, displacement, intellectualisation, depersonalisation. Relationships between such parents and their progeny easily deteriorate to sexual or other modes of abuse because there are no functioning boundaries between them.

It seems that the child's reaction to a narcissistic parent can be either accommodation and assimilation or rejection.


The child accommodates, idealises and internalises the Primary Object successfully. This means that the child's "internal voice" is narcissistic and that the child tries to comply with its directives and with its explicit and perceived wishes. The child becomes a masterful provider of Narcissistic Supply, a perfect match to the parent's personality, an ideal source, an accommodating, understanding and caring caterer to all the needs, whims, mood swings and cycles of the narcissist, an endurer of devaluation and idealisation with equanimity, a superb adapter to the narcissist's world view, in short: the ultimate extension. This is what we call an "inverted narcissist".

We must not neglect the abusive aspect of such a relationship. The narcissistic parent always alternates between idealisation of his progeny and its devaluation. The child is likely to internalise the devaluing, abusive, demeaning, berating, diminishing, minimising, upbraiding, chastising voices. The parent (or caregiver) goes on to survive inside the adult (as part of a sadistic and ideal Superego and an unrealistic Ego Ideal, to resort to psychoanalytic parlance). These are the voices that inhibit the development of reactive narcissism, the child's defence mechanism.

The child turned adult maintains these traits. He keeps looking for narcissists in order to feel whole, alive and wanted. He wishes to be treated by a narcissist narcissistically (what others would call abuse is, to him or her, familiar and constitutes Narcissistic Supply). To him, the narcissist is a Source of Supply (primary or secondary) and the narcissistic behaviours constitute Narcissistic Supply. He feels dissatisfied, empty and unloved if not loved by a narcissist.

The roles of Primary Source of Narcissistic Supply (PSNS) and Secondary Source of Narcissistic Supply (SSNS) are reversed. To the inverted narcissist, a spouse is a Source of PRIMARY Supply.

The other reaction to the narcissistic parent is:


The child may react to the narcissism of the Primary Object with a peculiar type of rejection. He develops his own narcissistic personality, replete with grandiosity and lack of empathy – BUT his personality is antithetical to the personality of the narcissistic parent. If the parent were a somatic narcissist – he is likely to be a cerebral one, if his father prided himself being virtuous – he is sinful, if his mother bragged about her frugality, he is bound to flaunt his wealth.

An Attempted DSM Style List of Criteria

We came up with a DSM-IV-TR "style" inventory for an inverted narcissist, using the narcissists' characteristics as a template, because they are, in many ways two sides of the same coin, or "the mould and the moulded" hence "mirror narcissist" or "inverted narcissist".

The narcissist tries to merge with an idealised but badly internalised object. He does so by "digesting" the meaningful others in his life and transforming them into extensions of his self. He employs various techniques to achieve this. To the "digested" this is the crux of the harrowing experience called "living with a narcissist".

The "inverted narcissist" (IN), on the other hand, does not attempt, except in fantasy or in dangerous, masochistic sexual practice, to merge with an idealised external object. This is because he so successfully internalised the narcissistic Primary Object to the exclusion of all else. The IN feels ill at ease in a relationship with a non-narcissist because it is unconsciously perceived by him to be "betrayal", "cheating", an abrogation of the exclusivity clause he had with the narcissistic Primary Object.

This is the big difference between narcissists and their inverted version. The former REJECTED the Primary Object in particular (and object relations in general) in favour of a handy substitute: themselves.

The IN accepted the (narcissist) Primary Object and internalised it – to the exclusion of all others (unless they are perceived by him to be faithful renditions, replicas of the narcissistic Primary Object).

Criterion ONE The IN possesses a rigid sense of lack of self-worth.

The narcissist has a badly regulated sense of self-worth. However this is not conscious. He goes through cycles of self-devaluation (and experiences them as dysphorias). The IN's sense of self-worth does NOT fluctuate. It is rather stable – but it is very low. Whereas the narcissist devalues others – the IN devalues himself as an offering, a sacrifice to the narcissist. The IN pre-empts the narcissist by devaluing himself, by actively devaluing his own achievements, or talents. The IN is exceedingly distressed when singled out because of actual achievements or demonstration of superior skills.

The inverted narcissist is compelled to filter all of his narcissistic needs through the primary narcissist in their lives. No independence is permitted. The IN feels amplified by the narcissist's commentary (because nothing can be accomplished by the invert without the approval of a primary narcissist in their lives).

Criterion TWO Pre-occupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance and beauty or of an ideal of love.

This is the same as the DSM-IV-TR criterion for Narcissistic Personality Disorder but, with the IN, it manifests absolutely differently, i.e. the cognitive dissonance is sharper here because the IN is so absolutely and completely convinced of their worthlessness that these fantasies of grandeur are extremely painful "dissonances".

With the narcissist, the dissonance exists on two levels:

Between the UNCONSCIOUS feeling of lack of stable self-worth and the grandiose fantasies AND between the grandiose fantasies and reality (the Grandiosity Gap).

In comparison, the inverted narcissist can only vacillate between lack of self-worth and reality. No grandiosity is permitted, except in dangerous, forbidden fantasy. This shows that the invert is psychologically incapable of fully realising their inherent potentials without a primary narcissist to filter the praise, adulation or accomplishments through. They MUST have someone to whom praise can be redirected. The dissonance between the IN's certainty of self-worthlessness and genuine praise that cannot be deflected is likely to emotionally derail the inverted narcissist every time.

Criterion THREE Believes that he is absolutely un-unique and un-special (i.e., worthless and not worthy of merger with the fantasised ideal) and that no one at all could understand him because he is innately unworthy of being understood. The IN becomes very agitated the more one tries to understand him because that also offends against his righteous sense of being properly excluded from the human race.

A sense of worthlessness is typical of many other PDs (AND the feeling that no one could ever understand them). The narcissist himself endures prolonged periods of self-devaluation, self-deprecation and self-effacement. This is part of the Narcissistic Cycle. In this sense, the inverted narcissist is a PARTIAL narcissist in that he is permanently fixated in a part of the narcissist wheel, never to experience its complementary half: the narcissistic grandiosity and sense of entitlement.

The "righteous sense of being properly excluded" comes from the sadistic Superego in concert with the "overbearing, externally reinforced, conscience".

Criterion FOUR Demands anonymity (in the sense of seeking to remain excluded at all costs) and is intensely irritated and uncomfortable with any attention being paid to him – similar to the Schizoid PD.

Criterion FIVE Feels that he is undeserving and not entitled.

Feels that he is inferior to others, lacking, insubstantial, unworthy, unlikeable, unlovable, someone to scorn and dismiss, or to ignore.

Criterion SIX Is extinguishingly selfless, sacrificial, even unctuous in his interpersonal relationships and will avoid the assistance of others at all costs. Can only interact with others when he can be seen to be giving, supportive, and expending an unusual effort to assist.

Some narcissists behave the same way but only as a means to obtain Narcissistic Supply (praise, adulation, affirmation, attention). This must not be confused with the behaviour of the IN.

Criterion SEVEN Lacks empathy. Is intensely attuned to others' needs, but only in so far as it relates to his own need to perform the required self-sacrifice, which in turn is necessary in order for the IN to obtain his Narcissistic Supply from the primary narcissist.

By contrast, narcissists are never empathic. They are intermittently attuned to others only in order to optimise the extraction of Narcissistic Supply from them.

Criterion EIGHT Envies others. Cannot conceive of being envied and becomes extremely agitated and uncomfortable if even brought into a situation where comparison might occur – loathes competition and will avoid competition at all costs, if there is any chance of actually winning the competition, or being singled out.

Criterion NINE Displays extreme shyness, lack of any real relational connections, is publicly self-effacing in the extreme, is internally highly moralistic and critical of others; is a perfectionist and engages in lengthy ritualistic behaviours, which can never be perfectly performed (obsessive-compulsive, though not necessarily to the full extent exhibited in OCD). Notions of being individualistic are anathema.

The Reactive Patterns of the Inverted Narcissist (IN)

The inverted narcissist does not suffer from a "milder" form of narcissism. Like the "classic" narcissists, it has degrees and shades. But it is much more rare and the DSM-IV-TR variety is the more prevalent.

The inverted narcissist is liable to react with rage whenever threatened, or…

…When envious of other people's achievements, their ability to feel wholeness, happiness, rewards and successes, when his sense of self-worthlessness is enhanced by a behaviour, a comment, an event, when his lack of self-worth and voided self-esteem is THREATENED. Thus, this type of narcissist might surprisingly react violently or rage-fully to GOOD things: a kind remark, a mission accomplished, a reward, a compliment, a proposition, a sexual advance).

…When thinking about the past, when emotions and memories are evoked (usually negative ones) by certain music, a given smell, or sight.

…When his pathological envy leads to an all-pervasive sense of injustice and being discriminated against or treated unjustly by a spiteful world.

…When he encounters stupidity, avarice, dishonesty, bigotry – it is these qualities in him that the narcissist really fears and rejects so vehemently in others.

…When he believes that he failed (and he always entertains this belief), that he is imperfect and useless and worthless, a good for nothing half-baked creature.

…When he realises to what extent his inner demons possess him, constrain his life, torment him, deform him and the hopelessness of it all.

Then even the inverted narcissist rages. He becomes verbally and emotionally abusive. He uncannily pierces the soft spots of his target, and mercilessly drives home the poisoned dagger of despair and self-loathing until it infects his adversary.

The calm after such a storm is even eerier, a thundering silence. The narcissist regrets his behaviour but rarely admits his feelings, though he might apologise profusely.

He simply nurtures his feelings as yet another weapon of self-destruction and self-defeat. It is from this very suppressed self-contempt, from this very repressed and introverted judgement, from this missing emotional atonement that the narcissistic rage springs forth. Thus the vicious cycle is established.

One important difference between inverted narcissists and non-narcissists is that the former are less likely to react with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) following a relationship with a narcissist. They seem to be "desensitised" to narcissists by their early upbringing. Whereas the reactions of normal people to narcissistic behaviour patterns (and especially to the splitting and projective identification defence mechanisms and to the idealisation devaluation cycles) is shock, profound hurt and disorientation – inverted narcissists show none of the above.

The Life of the Inverted Narcissist

The IN is, usually, exceedingly and painfully shy as a child. Despite this social phobia, his grandiosity (absorbed from the parent) might direct him to seek "limelight" professions and occupations, which involve exposure, competition, "stage fright" and social friction. The setting can vary from the limited (family) to the expansive (national media) – but, whatever it is, the result is constant conflict and feelings of discomfort, even terror and extreme excitement and thrill ("adrenaline rush"). This is because the IN's grandiosity is "imported" and not fully integrated. It is, therefore, not supportive of his "grandiose" pursuits (as is the case with the narcissist). On the contrary, the IN feels awkward, pitted on the edge of a precipice, contrived, false and misleading, not to say deceitful.

The inverted narcissist grows up in a suppressive environment. It could be an orthodox, hyper-religious, or traditionalist culture, a monovalent, "black and white", doctrinarian and indoctrinating society – or a family which manifests all the above in a microcosm all its own. The inverted narcissist is cast in a negative (emergent) role within his family. His "negativity" is attributed to his gender, the order of his birth, religious, social, or cultural dictates and commandments, his "character flaws", his relation to a specific person or event, his acts or inaction and so on.

In the words of one such IN:

"In the religious culture I grew up in. Women are SO suppressed, their roles are so carefully restricted. They are the representation, in the flesh, of all that is sinful, degrading, of all that is wrong with the world.

These are the negative gender/cultural images that were force fed to us the negative 'otherness' of women, as defined by men, was fed to me. I was so shy, withdrawn, unable to really relate to people at all from as early as I can remember."

The IN is subjected and exposed either to an overbearing, overvalued parent, or to an aloof, detached, emotionally unavailable one – or to both – at an early stage of his life.

"I grew up in the shadow of my father who adored me, put me on a pedestal, told me I could do or be anything I wanted because I was incredibly bright, BUT, he ate me alive, I was his property and an extension of him. I also grew up with the mounting hatred of my narcissist brother who got none of this attention from our father and got no attention from our mother either. My function was to make my father look wonderful in the eyes of all outsiders, the wonderful parent with a genius Wunderkind as his last child, and the only child of the six that he was physically present to raise from the get go. The overvaluation combined with being abjectly ignored or raged at by him when I stepped out of line even the tiniest bit, was enough to warp my personality."

The invert cannot, or is prevented from developing full-blown secondary narcissism. The invert is so heavily preoccupied in his or her pre-school years in satisfying the narcissistic parent, that the traits of grandiosity and self-love, need for adoration and Narcissistic Supply from ANY viable source remain dormant or repressed.

The invert simply "knows" that only the narcissistic parent can provide the requisite amount of Narcissistic Supply. The narcissistic parent is so controlling that any attempt to garner praise or adulation from any other source (without the approval of the parent) is severely punished by swift devaluation and even the occasional spanking or abuse (physical, emotional, or sexual).

This is a vital part of the conditioning that gives rise to inverted narcissism. Where the narcissist exhibits grandiosity, the invert is intensely uncomfortable with personal praise, and wishes to always divert praise away from himself onto his narcissist. This is why the IN can only truly FEEL anything when he is in relationship with another narcissist. The IN is conditioned and programmed from the very beginning to be the perfect companion to the narcissist. To feed their Ego, to be purely their extension, to seek only praise and adulation if it brings greater praise and adulation to the narcissist.

Somatic versus Cerebral Inverted Narcissists (IN)

The inverted narcissist is really an erstwhile narcissist internalised by the IN. Inevitably, we are likely to find among the inverted the same propensities, predilections, preferences and inclinations as we do among proper narcissists.

The cerebral IN is an IN whose source of vicarious Primary Narcissistic Supply lies – through the medium and mediation of a narcissist – in the exercise of his intellectual faculties. A somatic IN would tend to make use of his body, sex, shape or health in trying to secure NS for "his" narcissist.

The inverted narcissist feeds on the primary narcissist and this is his Narcissistic Supply. So these two typologies can, in essence become a self-supporting, symbiotic system. In reality though, both the narcissist and the inverted narcissist need to be quite well aware of the dynamics of this relationship in order to make this work as a successful long-term arrangement. It might well be that this symbiosis would only work between a cerebral narcissist and a cerebral invert. The somatic narcissist's capricious sexual dalliances would be far too threatening to the equanimity of the cerebral invert for there to be much chance of this succeeding, even for a short time.

It would seem that only opposing types of narcissists can get along when two classic narcissists are involved in a couple. It follows, syllogistically, that only identical types of narcissist and inverted narcissist can survive in a couple. In other words: the best, most enduring couples of narcissist and his inverted narcissist mate would involve a somatic narcissist and a somatic IN – or a cerebral narcissist and a cerebral IN.

Coping with Narcissists and Non-Narcissists

The inverted narcissist is a person who grew up enthralled by the narcissistic parent. This parent engulfed and subsumed the child's being to such an over-bearing extent that the child's personality was irrevocably shaped by this engulfment, damaged beyond hope of repair. The child was not even able to develop defence mechanisms such as narcissism.

The end result is an inverted narcissistic personality. The traits of this personality are primarily evident in relationship contexts. The child was conditioned by the narcissistic parent to only be entitled to feel whole, useful, productive, complete when the child augmented or mirrored to the parent their own sought after narcissistic image. As a result the child is shaped by this engulfment and cannot feel complete in any significant adult relationship unless they are with a narcissist.

The Inverted Narcissist in Relationship with the Narcissist

The inverted narcissist is drawn to significant relationships with other narcissists in his adulthood. These relationships are usually spousal primary relationships but can also be friendships with narcissists outside of the primary love relationship.

In a primary relationship, the inverted narcissist attempts to re-create the parent-child relationship. The invert thrives on mirroring to the narcissist his own grandiosity and in so doing the invert obtains his OWN Narcissistic Supply (the dependence of the narcissist upon the invert for their Secondary Narcissistic Supply). The invert must have this form of relationship with a narcissist in order to feel complete and whole. The invert will go as far as he needs to ensure that the narcissist is happy, cared for, properly adored, as he feels is the narcissist's right. The invert glorifies his narcissist, places him on a pedestal, endures any and all narcissistic devaluation with calm equanimity, impervious to the overt slights of the narcissist.

Narcissistic rage is handled deftly by the inverted narcissist. The invert is exceedingly adept at managing every aspect of his life, tightly controlling all situations, so as to minimise the potential for the inevitable narcissistic rages of his narcissist.

The invert wishes to be subsumed by the narcissist. The invert only feels truly loved and alive in this kind of relationship. The invert is loth to abandon his relationships with narcissists. The relationship only ends when the narcissist withdraws completely from the symbiosis. Once the narcissist has determined that the invert is of no further use, and withholds all Narcissistic Supply from the invert, only then does the invert reluctantly move on to another relationship. The invert is most likely to equate sexual intimacy with engulfment. This can be easily misread to mean that the invert is himself or herself a somatic narcissist, but it would be incorrect. The invert can endure years of minimal sexual contact with their narcissist and still be able to maintain the self-delusion of intimacy and engulfment. The invert finds a myriad of other ways to "merge" with the narcissist, becoming intimately, though only in support roles, involved with the narcissist's business, career, or any other activity where the invert can feel that they are needed by the narcissist and indispensable. The invert is an expert at doling out Narcissistic Supply and even goes as far as procuring Primary Narcissistic Supply for their narcissist (even where this means finding another lover for the narcissist, or participating in group sex with the narcissist). Usually though, the invert seems most attracted to the cerebral narcissist and finds him easier to manage than the somatic narcissist. The cerebral narcissist is disinterested in sex and this makes life considerably easier for the invert, i.e., the invert is less likely to "lose" their cerebral narcissist to another primary partner. A somatic narcissist may be prone to changing partners with greater frequency or wish to have no partner, preferring to have multiple, casual sexual relationships of no apparent depth which never last very long.

The invert regards relationships with narcissists as the ONLY true and legitimate form of primary relationship. The invert is capable of having primary relationships with non-narcissists. But without engulfment, the invert feels unneeded, unwanted and emotionally uninvolved.

Relationships between the Inverted Narcissist and Non-Narcissists

The inverted narcissist can maintain relationships outside of the symbiotic primary relationship with a narcissist. But the invert does not "feel" loved because the non-narcissist is not "engulfing" them. Thus, the invert tends to devalue their non-narcissistic primary partner as less than worthy of the inverts' love and attention.

The invert may be able to sustain a relationship with a non-narcissist by finding other narcissistic symbiotic relationships outside of this primary relationship. The invert may have a narcissistic friend, to whom he pays extraordinary attention, ignoring the real needs of the non-narcissistic partner.

Consequently, the only semi-stable primary relationship between the invert and the non-narcissist occurs where the non-narcissist is very easy going, emotionally secure and not needing much from the invert at all by way of time, energy or commitment to activities requiring the involvement of both parties. In a relationship with this kind of narcissist, the invert may become a workaholic or very involved in outside activities that exclude the non-narcissist spouse.

It appears that the inverted narcissist in a relationship with a non-narcissist is behaviourally indistinguishable from a true narcissist. The only important exception is that the invert does not rage at his non-narcissist partner – he instead withdraws from the relationship even further. This passive-aggressive reaction has been noted, though, with narcissists as well.

Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited


HealthyPlace Narcissistic Personality Disorder Community


Narcissistic Personality Disorder Suite101 Topic


The Suite101 Emotional and Verbal Abuse Web site


Spousal and Domestic Abuse on Suite101


Archives of the Narcissistic Abuse Study List


All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article
Thomas a Kempis

... world. That which makes it acceptable to all Christians is the supreme stress it lays upon Christ and the possibility of immediate communion with him and God. Th ...

This page was created in 27.5 ms