This is part 8 of my second series about the similarities and differences between those with borderline and narcissistic personality disorders. For the second series, here is part 1. Here is part 2. Here is part 3. Here is part 4, part 5 , 6, and 7. T o see a list of the 10 parts of the first series, click here and view the top of the post.
In my last post, part 7, I explained that Just like people with diabetes have a problem regulating their blood sugar and must test it several times a day, people with BPD find it difficult to be emotionally consistent. This is why you're continually walking on eggshells, never knowing what to expect when you walk in the door.
This post, on the other hand, contrasts those with BPD and those with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) While BPs feel too much, narcissists' emotions are too shallow.
Alexander Lowen, M.D., author of Narcissism: Denial of the True Self, believes that the basic disturbance in narcissistic personality is the denial of feeling. He says (p. 48) that, "The need to project and maintain an image [the False Self that the narcissist wishes to portray] forces the narcissist to prevent any feeling from reaching consciousness that would contradict with the image." Since the False Self is perfect, of course, that means that a lot of feelings have to be suppressed.
Thus, narcissists feel emotions like vulnerability, sadness, empathy and compassion in a shallow way, if at all, and cover them up with rage, blame, manipulation and disdain for others.This coping mechanism has a heavy price: they don't feel secure enough to relax and really feel happiness and joy, although they may have fleeting moments of those emotions. As therapist Nina Brown says, "They may speak the words, but the feelings behind the words is missing," (p. 27 of Loving the Self Absorbed).
Narcissist and author Sam Vaknin (Malignant Self-Love-Narcissism Revisited), writes, "Deep inside, the narcissist knows that something is amiss. He does not empathise with other people's feelings. Actually, he holds them in contempt and ridicule. He cannot understand how people are so sentimental, so 'irrational' (he identifies being rational with being cool headed and cold blooded). He becomes suspicious, embarrassed, feels compelled to avoid emotion-tinged situations, or, worse, experiences surges of almost uncontrollable aggression in the presence of genuinely expressed sentiments. They remind him how imperfect and poorly equipped he is."
This pattern of coping may stem from very early childhood, so NPs may be unaware that these deeper feelings may exist. So changing this defensive, protective pattern is very difficult That's why most narcissists don't seek or even comprehend therapy. (Jeffrey Young, founder of Schema Therapy, says that clinicians in his practice try to keep narcissists in therapy by continually reminding them of the negative feelings that brought them there, or the negative outcomes that may occur if they drop out, such as divorce from a spouse who is remaining in the marriage on the condition that the NP seek treatment.)
There is an important exception to this. Narcissists can be divided into two main subtypes, just like those with borderline personality disorder. While researchers and clinicians have come up with a wide variety and number of subtypes, for simplicity I'll share the two main types: vulnerable narcissists and invulnerable, or grandiose narcissists. Vulnerable NPs share some characteristics with borderline personality disorder; invulnerable NPs share some characteristics with antisocial personality disorder. So far in this series, we've been speaking of grandiose NPs; when it comes to emotions, there is a difference.
Vulnerable narcissists can better access feelings like insecurity and weakness, whereas grandiose NPs better shield themselves with confidence and high self-worth. Vulnerable NPs appear to be overcompensating for low self-esteem and a deep-seated sense of shame that may have emerged during early childhood as a coping mechanism to deal with parental neglect or abuse. (Typically, grandiose NPs were not neglected; instead, they were treated like mommy and daddy's little prince or princess. As adults, they still expect to be treated as special, superior and powerful.)
Vulnerable NPs see themselves as victims of those who don't understand how superior they are, and unlike grandiose NPs, they actually care about how their partners see them. They also have some different behaviors: they:
But the main difference between vulnerable NPs and invulnerable NPs is in the way they feel (or don't feel). Specifically,
Cut off from their true feelings, narcissists don't find intimacy and true sharing within their comfort zones. (This is a big topic; I'll talk about it more in depth in another blog post.)
Family members say:
Copyright © 2015, Randi Kreger. This post (or any part of it) may not be reproduced without prior written permission.
Randi Kreger is the owner of BPDCentral.com and the Welcome to Oz online family community. You can find her books "The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder," "The Stop Walking on Eggshells Workbook," "Stop Walking on Eggshells," and "Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist," at her store at BPDCentral.com.