Tag Archives: Defense Mechanism

5 Defenses Used By Narcissists To Hide Inner, Extreme Fragility

 

 

As we have seen in many other articles that I have published on this site, despite superficial indicators of the polar opposite, internally narcissists are wracked by intense feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, vulnerability, fragility, worthlessness and self-loathing ; in essence, their internal, camouflaged self is that of a highly anxious, uncertain, frightened and deeply insecure child.

And, because it is so painful to live in a state of mind which is acutely conscious of these weaknesses, the narcissist desperately needs to  defend him/herself, psychologically,  from living in a state of perpetual awareness of them and so, unconsciously, develops defensive psychological mechanisms in an attempt to keep them mentally subjugated and prevent them impinging upon and  dominating his / her conscious awareness.

Below, I list some examples of the kinds of psychological defense mechanisms the narcissist employs (on an unconscious level) in order to be able to keep his / her potentially paralyzing, self-denigrating inner feelings at bay.

PSYCHOLOGICAL DEFENSE MECHANISMS EMPLOYED BY THE NARCISSIST :

GRANDIOSITY : The defense mechanism of ‘grandiosity’ serves to protect the narcissist from his / her inner feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy.

PROJECTION : Projection is a psychological defense mechanism employed by individuals to deny and repudiate faults that exist in themselves by attributing them, instead, to other people. For example, a narcissist who is controlling and demanding may acuse others of being controlling and demanding.

ENTITLEMENT : This defense mechanism, a kind of ‘the-world-owes-me-a-living’ attitude is used to disguise inner feelings of being fundamentally undeserving of anything good in life.

FANTASIES OF GREAT SUCCESS : Internally, the narcissist feels deeply inferior to others and an object of scorn and contempt ; fantasies of great success help to defend against this. S/he may, for example, believe they are an, as yet, undiscovered genius who will, sooner or later, achieve the recognition of which s/he has, thus far (due to the imbicility of others, naturally), been so cruelly deprived, and become the object an envy, jealousy, worship and devotion (i.e. his/her rightful place in the world). Or, the narcissist may fantasize about having great power and control over others to protect against feelings of impotence and incompetence.

ARROGANCE AND SANCTIMONY : Narcissists can hide behind attitudes of ‘better-than-you’ and ‘holier-than-thou’ to ward off inner feelings of inferiority and shame.

Taking all of the above into account, one way to view narcissism itself is as a psychological defense to distance awareness from an inner, psychological reality that is too emotionally painful, distressing and potentially catastrophic to confront directly.

To read my previously published article about how narcissistic mothers may invalidate us, click here.

Alternatively, to read my previously published article about charateristics of narcissistic parents, click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Three Unconscious Psychological Defenses Against Inner Feelings Of Shame

According to psychodynamic theory, if, as babies, we are subjected to significant emotional abuse by the primary caregiver (usually the mother) such as constantly being subjected to her extreme anger, rage and hostility, we are at risk of developing a profound and pervasive sense of inner shame – the unshakeable inner conviction that we are bad beyond redemption and worthless to humanity.

This can have extremely long-lasting, even lifelong (in the absence of effective therapy) effects, including great difficulty developing meaningful and satisfying relationships with others  and the unconscious adaptation of three main psychological defense mechanisms, according to the psychodynamic psychoanalyst, Burgo PhD.

inner shame

Burgo identifies these three psychological defense mechanisms against the almost unbearable emotional pain our feelings of inner shame cause us as follows :

1) NARCISSISM

2) BLAMING OTHERS

3) TREATING OTHERS WITH CONTEMPT

1) Narcissism : Narcissists feel a desperate need to be admired by others and to feel superior to them. They may try to achieve this through their appearance (expensive clothes, jewelry, cosmetic ‘enhancements’ etc), occupational/professional success, social popularity and various other means, ‘Above all, they need to be the centre of attention (even notoriety is better than being ignored in their eyes). Their interest in others tends to be superficial at best (unless it involves exposing said others’ weaknesses and ‘inferiority, of course).

All these devices are a largely unconscious (usually) way of trying to keep hidden, concealed and buried a (from themselves and others) their profound inner sense of shame and unworthiness.

2) Blaming others : Because those afflicted by deep, internal feelings of shame cannot bear to be reminded of their own imperfections or to have them exposed, they deflect any blame that it might be their responsibility to accept onto others.

3) Treating others with contempt : This psychological defense works in a similar way to the psychological defense of blaming others (see above). Viewing and/or treating others in a contemptuous manner is very frequently a projection of one’s sense of one’s own inferiority onto others.

RESOURCES :

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Intellectualization as a Defense Mechanism Following Childhood Trauma

Intellectualisation is a psychological defense mechanism which serves as an escape route from interacting on an emotional level with others, and the outside world in general, into the refuge of ‘the life of the mind’. People who employ this defence mechanism, then, prefer to ‘live in their heads’, finding participating overly in the harsh and unforgiving reality of the outside world somewhat distasteful and, therefore, best, as far as feasible, avoided.

Research shows that people who rely upon this defence mechanism tend to have had disrupted early relationships with their primary carer, especially the mother. Indeed, the psychologist, Winnicott, stated that a compulsive need to gain knowledge could be regarded as a kind of self-mothering – knowledge standing in as a substitute for the mother’s love/care/attention/interest (of which the individual was deprived).

Intellectualisation can also be viewed as a type of dissociation, leading the individual to suppress/repress his/her emotions. This can be problematic as it is usually necessary to feel, and process, emotions connected to one’s childhood trauma in order to fully resolve one’s psychological difficulties that have arisen as a result of it. (Click here to read my article about childhood trauma and its link with dissociation).

The early traumatic experience of not forming a secure attachment to their primary caregiver disrupts affected individuals’ ability to self-sooth in response to stress, and this inability can persist into adulthood.

As a result, such persons’ sympathetic nervous systems can become ‘stuck’ in a permanent and highly debilitating state of overarousal (I, myself, suffered from this for many years – it can be quite agonising).

Alongside this tormenting state of hyperarousal can often exist an unrelenting and merciless sense of profound dread (even though one is often unable to pinpoint why this should be so

The overarousal will inevitably manifest itself somatically and physiologically (i.e. in the body) leading the individual with the need to dissociate, and disconnect, from his/her body and escape into a ‘life of the mind.’ Interacting with others also leads to extreme psychological discomfort.

intellectualization_defence_mechanism

Therefore, those who suffer in this way will often choose careers involving solitary academic work, computer programming etc. which minimises the need to mix with other people. Or they may become philosophers, possibly becoming great thinkers.

These individuals also tend to be exquisitely vulnerable to the effects of further stress in their lives and can feel like a frightened child forced to masquerade as a functional adult.

They tend, furthermore, to have a weak and hazy sense of their own identity and, as a result, their work can become vital to them as a way of bolstering this poorly formed sense of who they are.

Most distressingly, too, such people often suffer from a deep inner conflict involving, on the one hand, being very frightened of interacting with others, yet, on the other, feeling a profound need to do so. So, they find themselves in the no-win situation of needing intimacy but being unable to tolerate it due to the level of psychological discomfort which it affords them.

As a result, those affected in such a way tend to feel utterly ’empty’. They will usually be aware that their compulsion to follow intellectual activities does not solve this problem, yet be too scared to change their focus in life.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Childhood Trauma Recovery