The manner in which we relate to others defines our personality. And the capacity we have to genuinely care for and love others defines our character. Narcissists relate to others in some highly toxic ways. Moreover, each of the two major kinds of narcissists obstruct true intimacy in relationships in different ways.
Narcissists Come in Two Varieties
I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that narcissists come in two varieties. Each type relates in different but nonetheless highly problematic ways. I became aware of this while doing clinical case study research for my books In Sheep’s Clothing and Character Disturbance. I used the terms “neurotic” versus “character-disturbed” or disordered type to describe the two types. At the time, there was no research to supporting the notion that there were indeed two types of narcissism. Currently, researchers seem to prefer the labels vulnerable versus grandiose to describe the two types. Today, I’d like to focus on vulnerable narcissists and the nature of their relationships.
Dealing with The Approval-Demanding
Words mean things. So, I’m very careful with my words. It’s so important these days to be careful. Too many professionals, authors, and lay persons have played fast and loose with terms. As a result, we’ve lost the true meaning of many important concepts. In the title above, I didn’t say “approval-needy.” Nor did I say, “approval-hungry.” Approval-demanding carries a different connotation. It means the narcissist demands what what they neither need nor what we all rightfully hunger for. And they do so with a sense of entitlement.
Vulnerable narcissists don’t feel like much underneath. That’s because they lack the capacity to love – even themselves. So, they seek the approval of others. It can get so bad that they even seek adoration. And they seek these things in place of being either seen or loved for who they really are. They do all sorts of things to “prove” they’re love-worthy. But they don’t know their true worth. And they neither know how to love nor how to be loved.
The Price of Fawning
When you’re in a relationship with a vulnerable narcissist, as long as you’re fawning all over them things can seem okay. But as many have learned the hard way, you can pay a big price for denying them adulation. As the narcissist sees it, you exist to testify to their worth. That’s because they they haven’t fashioned a balanced or well-grounded view of their own worth. Pay attention to them and revere them, and all is fine. Ask anything of them, and you’ll quickly learn how “shallow” they are. This makes true intimacy impossible.
Some Concluding Thoughts
I’ll have more to say about relationships with vulnerable narcissists next week. And we’ll be discussing the “grandiose” types in some upcoming posts.
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