Narcissistic individuals are one of two “independent” personality patterns on the Evolutionary Model. They exhibit a primary reliance on self rather than others and have learned that maximum pleasure and minimum pain are achieved by diminishing the significance of others and turning passively to the high status they assign to themselves. Although equally imbalanced as dependent patterns in the self-other polarity, their orientation is towards self rather than others. In this way they are opposite to dependent and histrionic personalities. The latter rely on others to provide the reinforcements of life. In contrast, both the CEN narcissistic spectrum and the ADA antisocial spectrum turn to self for gratification, having learned to rely on themselves rather than others for safety and self-esteem (Britton, 2004). Weakness and dependency are threatening to individuals on the CEN and ADA spectra. (Millon 2011 375)
Both CEN narcissists and ADA antisocials are preoccupied with aggrandizing personal adequacy, power, and prestige. They fear the loss of self-determination and constantly seek to be in a superior position in terms of status and superiority. They proudly display their achievements and strive to enhance themselves, seeking to be ascendant, stronger, more beautiful, wealthier, and more important than others. In essence, their sense of security and contentment is derived from their self-perception, not from external validation or support from others. (375)
While both passive-independent CENs and active-independent ADAs devalue the standards and opinions of others, finding gratification primarily within themselves, their life histories and strategies for meeting their needs are substantially different. For those in the CEN narcissistic spectrum, self-esteem is based on a blind and perhaps naïve assumption of personal worth and superiority. On the other hand, for those in the ADA antisocial spectrum, self-esteem stems from a deep-seated distrust, assuming that others have been and will be humiliating and exploitative. ADA personalities, who exhibit an active, angry, and aggrandizing character in their pursuit of independence from others, see self-determination as a protective and compensatory maneuver. It is a means for them to counter the hostility, deception, and victimization they anticipate from others with their own power and prestige. (375-376)
The term “narcissistic” connotes more than mere egocentricity, as it refers to individuals who overvalue their personal worth, direct their affections towards themselves, and expect others to cater to their high esteem. This self-confidence and self-assurance can lead to success and admiration in a society that values external validation. However, it can falter as a lifestyle if the belief in one’s specialness is poorly founded or if the arrogance becomes exaggerated and alienates others.
In contrast to the ADA antisocial personality, the self-centeredness of the CEN narcissist is not rooted in deep distrust and animosity. Narcissistic individuals are benignly arrogant, exhibiting a disdainful indifference to social conventions and cultural norms. They assume that others will prioritize their comfort and welfare, and they believe that their desires justify possessing whatever they seek. Their disdainfulness is matched by exploitativeness, as they feel entitled to be served without making effort to merit such favor.
In short, CEN narcissists possess illusions of inherent superiority and move through life with the belief that they are entitled to special considerations, without considering the needs or perspectives of others. (376)
Figure 8.1 from Millon 2011
According to Millon’s ecological framework and its evolutionary model of polarities, the narcissistic personality is characterized by the primacy of both passive/accommodation and self/individuation in their adaptive style. Narcissists focus on themselves as the center of their existence and show indifference towards nurturing others. This is often a result of an unusual developmental background where others have unconditionally provided attention and tribute, leading to an inflated sense of self-worth without the need to elicit admiration through effort or achievement. Narcissists are passive in their approach, expecting the world to cater to their desires without reciprocal efforts.
In contrast, ADA antisocial personalities do not make such assumptions. They believe that they have been mistreated and undervalued, and the active/modifying polarity is preeminent in their adaptive style. They feel they must actively usurp and take from others what they assume will never be given to them voluntarily. They do not expect anything from others and, therefore, feel the need to take what they can to fulfill their needs.
In summary, CEN narcissists passively expect others to cater to their desires without reciprocal efforts, while ADA antisocial personalities actively take from others due to a belief that nothing will be voluntarily supplied to them.
Table of Trait Domains of the CEN Spectrum
Figure of Salience of the Trait Domains in the CEN Spectrum
Expressive Emotions: Haughty: CENs exhibit a calm and self-assured demeanor in social situations when they are not faced with humiliating or stressful circumstances. Some may interpret their behavior as confident and composed, while others may view it as immodest, presumptuous, and arrogant. CENs often display an air of superiority and entitlement, acting in an arrogant, supercilious, and disdainful manner towards others.
They may also disregard social norms and conventions, viewing reciprocal social responsibilities as inapplicable to themselves. They may show a lack of humility and generosity, taking others for granted and expecting to be served without reciprocating in return. This self-centered and ungenerous behavior is often seen as unwarranted and without substance to justify their self-conceit.
CENs are often perceived as overly self-centered, lacking in personal integrity, and indifferent to the rights of others. Their behavior may come across as “uppity” and superior, but without the necessary substance to support it. Their tendency to exploit others, take them for granted, and expect special treatment without giving much in return is often viewed negatively by others. (388-389)
Interpersonal Conduct: Entitled: CENs have a sense of entitlement and expect special treatment from others without assuming reciprocal responsibilities. They are unempathic, taking others for granted and using them to fulfill their own desires. They seek to arrange their environment in a way that others contribute to their desires and provide them with applause. They may contribute minimal effort and reciprocity in return. Unlike dependent personalities who learn to submit and acquiesce for rewards, or histrionic types who perform and seek attention for praise, CEN narcissists often contribute little or nothing in return for the gratifications they seek. They may assume that others would feel honored to have a relationship with them and that others receive as much pleasure in providing them with favors and attention as they do in accepting these tributes.
The presumptuousness and confidence exhibited by narcissistic types often elicit admiration and obedience from others. CEN narcissists are skilled at sizing up those around them and training those who are disposed to honor them. For example, they may choose a dependent mate who will be obedient, solicitous, and subservient without expecting anything in return except for reassurance of fidelity. It is central to CENs’ interpersonal styles that they believe good fortune will come to them without reciprocity. Due to their sense of entitlement and past success in having others provide them with comforts they feel they haven’t deserved, CEN narcissists have little incentive to discontinue their presumptuous and exploitative behaviors. (390)
Cognitive Style: Expansive: CEN narcissists tend to have an unrestrained imagination and often indulge in immature and self-aggrandizing fantasies of success, beauty, or romance. They are not bound by reality, although they may not be delusional. They have a tendency to take liberties with facts, embellishing them or even lying, in order to uphold their illusions about their own self-worth. CENs are expansive in their cognitive processes, allowing their imagination to roam freely without the constraints of reality or the perspectives of others. They are prone to exaggerating their abilities, transforming failures into successes, and constructing elaborate rationalizations that inflate their sense of self-worth or justify their perceived entitlement. They may quickly devalue those who do not accept or enhance their self-image.
Self-Image: Admirable: Narcissists feel justified in claiming special status and often lack awareness that their behaviors may be objectionable or irrational. Similarly, CENs believe that they are special or even unique individuals who deserve admiration from others. They frequently exhibit grandiose and self-assured behaviors, even without commensurate achievements. However, despite their expectation of being seen as meritorious, CENs are often viewed by others as egotistic, inconsiderate, and arrogant. They have a fixed self-image of being superior and entitled to unusual rights and privileges, rarely questioning the validity of their self-worth. They view those who do not respect them with contempt or scorn.
The behaviors of CENs are gratifying to them as they reinforce their self-perception through self-reinforcement. They treat themselves kindly, imagine their own prowess, beauty, and intelligence, and revel in their perceived superiorities and talents. They gain rewards, through self-reinforcement, that most people achieve through genuine attainments. CENs do not need to depend on anyone else for gratification; they always have themselves to rely on, which provides them with a sense of self-sufficiency (Rivas, 2001). (390-391)
Intrapsychic Content: Contrived: The internalized representations of past experiences play a significant role in the lives of CENs and serve as a template for evaluating new experiences. However, for CENs, these object-representations are composed more of illusory and changing memories compared to individuals without narcissistic traits. Problematic past relationships are readily reshaped to appear consistent with their inflated self-worth. Unacceptable impulses and negative evaluations are quickly transformed to maintain their preferred and contrived image of themselves and their past.
Most CEN narcissists were raised by parents who led them to believe that they were always lovable and perfect, regardless of their actions or thoughts. This idyllic view of themselves could not be sustained indefinitely, as the world outside of their home is typically less benign and accepting. As a result, CEN narcissists often feel the need to transform the less favorable aspects of their past to align with the idealized self-image they wish to maintain, rather than confronting the reality of their past experiences as they were. (391)
Intrapsychic Dynamics:Rationalization/Fantasy: CENs may face challenges when their unrealistic self-perceptions and behaviors are challenged by personal failures or social humiliations. When their facade of eminence and superiority is shattered by realistic events, CENs may initially resort to rationalizations and alibis to justify their self-centered and socially inconsiderate behaviors. They may exhibit arrogance and attempt to put themselves in the best possible light, despite evident shortcomings or failures on their part.
If rationalizations fail, CENs may experience dejection, shame, and emptiness. Unlike more aggressive and manipulative forms of narcissism, milder CENs may not have learned to be ruthless or histrionic in soliciting rewards or protections. Instead, they may turn to their own imagination for solace. CENs may rely on their lifelong talent for imagination to create a fanciful world in which they can redeem themselves and reassert their pride and status. Due to their lack of self-control and objective reality testing, CENs may engage in elaborate fantasy processes to resolve their difficulties.
However, what CENs are unable to resolve through fantasy may be repressed and kept from awareness. They may invent flimsy alibis, excuses, and “proofs” to maintain their self-perception of superiority, but with a diminished sense of confidence and authority. As CENs may not have learned to be skilled at deception, their rationalizations may fail to bring relief and may even evoke scrutiny and deprecating comments from others. At this point, CENs may resort to projection as a defense mechanism and may even develop primitive delusions as a means of coping with their shattered self-image.(391)
Intrapsychic Architecture: Spurious: When CENs face personal failures and social humiliations, their typical behaviors may include deceiving themselves with rationalizations and alibis to justify their self-centered and socially inconsiderate behaviors. They may continue to display confidence and self-assurance, but their inner world may be flimsy and transparent to discerning observers. They may view everyday responsibilities as demeaning and intrusive, as they disrupt their illusion of self as superior and godlike. They may utilize a variety of defense mechanisms, such as projection and accusing others of their own shortcomings, to maintain their illusion of superiority. However, their defensive maneuvers may be transparent and their inability to dissemble thoroughly may contribute to them being seen as arrogant.
In some cases, CENs may experience “breakdowns” in their defensive structure, where their fragility and pathology become evident. However, more commonly, their exploitative behaviors and intrapsychic maneuvers prove to be highly adaptive and provide them with means to avoid prolonged periods of dejection or decompensation. Their past experiences of high expectations and encouragement may have led them to trust others and have a sanguine outlook on life, but their lack of inner skills to regulate their impulses, channel their needs, and resolve conflicts may make them vulnerable to difficulties in coping with realistic events that challenge their illusion of superiority.
Overall, CENs may employ various mechanisms to salve their wounds, but their coping strategies may be maladaptive, self-centered, and socially inconsiderate. Their lack of self-reflection and inability to objectively assess their behaviors and perceptions of reality may contribute to their persistent patterns of narcissistic behaviors and difficulties in maintaining healthy relationships with others.
Mood/Temperament: Insouciant: When the grandiose illusions of CENs are threatened or punctured, their typical response may involve a rapid shift in mood and behavior. While they usually experience a pervasive sense of well-being, buoyancy, and optimism in their everyday life, this may change when their sense of superiority is challenged. They may become irritable, annoyed, and edgy with others, displaying a sense of entitlement and frustration when their inflated self-image is threatened. Alternatively, they may experience repeated bouts of dejection characterized by feelings of humiliation and emptiness.
The rapid vacillation between rage, shame, and emptiness may reflect the fragility of their self-esteem and the lack of inner resilience to handle setbacks or challenges to their grandiose self-concept. Their feigned tranquility and imperturbability may crumble when faced with reality that contradicts their distorted perception of themselves as superior beings. These fluctuations in mood and behavior may also be influenced by their tendency to rely on external validation and approval to maintain their sense of self-worth, which can be easily shaken when their grandiose illusions are shattered.
Overall, CENs may have a facade of relaxed mood and nonchalance, but their emotional state can be volatile and unstable when their sense of superiority is threatened. Their reactions may be driven by their deep-seated need for constant validation and admiration, and their inability to cope with reality that challenges their inflated self-image.(392)
The phenomenon of CEN narcissism may be considered a unique pattern of behavior that emerged in the late 20th century, primarily among the upper and upper-middle social classes in the United States, with some exceptions among historically well-to-do and regal individuals. This observation has been noted by writers such as Lasch (1978). It is worth mentioning that narcissistic styles are not prevalent among clinical populations in most nations, as demonstrated by international conferences and the absence of narcissistic personality disorder in the ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases, 10th edition).
However, in “narcissistic societies” like the United States, there has been an increasing focus on the pursuit of personal gratification and self-enhancement. The “normal” style of functioning in such societies emphasizes self-centeredness and self-promotion. (393)
Resourcefully Confident Personality Style: The resourcefully confident personality tends to have a positive outlook on life, being optimistic about the future and enjoying themselves easily. They are skilled at dealing with life’s ups and downs with imagination and equanimity. They value freedom and independence, but also find satisfaction in their relationships and activities. They possess attitudes that foster and enrich life, and actively seek out invigorating and pleasurable experiences.
Resourceful personalities are proactive in taking charge of their lives, and are not afraid to transform things to suit their creative impulses. They are risk-takers and are willing to arrange events to align with their innovative ideas and unconventional desires. They take initiative and intervene in the affairs of others, sometimes in unconventional ways, to ensure favorable events happen in their lives. They see themselves as being in control of their experiences through their adeptness and actions, rather than being subject to external forces.
Resourceful confident individuals prioritize fulfilling their own desires and pleasures before those of others. They prefer to make decisions on their own with little input from others, and are not overly concerned about pleasing others. They are comfortable with themselves and the world they have created through their energy and inventiveness. They are self-directed and self-actualizing, functioning as optimistic and independent individuals.
Resourceful personalities tend to look inward for enlightenment and have strong faith in their own intuitively derived beliefs and visions. They are distinctively individualistic and follow their own imaginative and novel interpretation of the world, often disregarding conventional authority or popular acceptance. However, they may keep most of these ideas to themselves unless opportunities arise for potential rewards. Their self-confidence is derived from both internal logic and tangible achievements, and they may express criticism of contradictory or alternative views, especially if they are presented by authorities.
Being unorthodox and independent-minded, resourceful personalities are most comfortable when given autonomy and self-direction. They may become irritable or resentful when forced to operate according to others’ views or under tightly controlled conditions. This need for autonomy may sometimes be perceived as arrogance or aloofness, but others are more likely to view them as serious-minded, skilled, and talented individuals who prioritize the inventive life.
In addition to their inner resourcefulness, resourceful confident individuals have a thirst for knowledge and seek to expand their experiences and enrich their knowledge through introspection, probing, and intuitive speculation. Once they form an idea, they tend to ponder it thoroughly and are not easily dissuaded by lack of acceptance or practicality by others. They may even attempt to convince others to work towards implementing their ideas, driven by their internal self-confidence and long-term goals. If the effort proves feasible and encounters minimal resistance, they may successfully see their ideas through to completion by viewing the larger picture and attending to the necessary details.
However, there are potential pitfalls that may diminish the probability of success for the resourceful confident personality. Their single-minded focus on strongly held beliefs may narrow their perspective and cause them to overlook difficulties or more productive alternatives. They may find more satisfaction in formulating well-reasoned plans than in effectively executing them, leading to potential challenges in implementation.(394-395)
Masterly Confident Personality Style: The masterfully confident personality avoids tasks or activities that cannot be translated into tangible results, delegated to others, or related to the present moment. They prefer tasks with visible and quick results, and often perform them themselves to ensure effectiveness and efficiency. They gain respect from others due to their reliability and seriousness in completing shared tasks on schedule. They are skilled in organizing steps and resources, and apply logic and analysis for success.
They prefer well-structured jobs and enjoy working with energetic and task-oriented individuals. Setting priorities is an important part of their style in both work and social relationships. They are mentally organized and make lists to ensure systematic achievement of their goals.
Achieving their goals is more important to them than considering the needs and habits of others involved. They can be demanding or overbearing when faced with inefficiency or laziness, but they usually avoid such problems by preparing in advance and using strong social skills. However, they may fail to listen to opposing views or show sensitivity to the feelings and wishes of those they work or live with. Such tendencies could result in difficulties that could have been avoided with a more caring and less self-concerned attitude. While generally easy to get along with, they prefer to be surrounded by yielding and compliant individuals when difficult decisions need to be made.
The masterfully confident personality is quietly self-assured and may feel special in all regards – not only competent, talented, and accomplished, but also effective in achieving self-fulfillment and leading others towards the same. Along with faith in themselves, they are ambitious and driven to achieve bold aspirations. They are goal-directed, pragmatic, hardworking, and conscientious, with the discipline and persistence to pursue their goals until they are achieved. They possess skills to attract and motivate others to join them in their pursuit. Unlike others who may be sidetracked by self-doubt or distractions, they have the confidence and single-minded purposefulness to overcome setbacks and stay focused on obtaining what they believe they are due. They have the potential to be a gifted and serious leader, readily delegating responsible tasks to others and giving them considerable freedom to work independently, as they prefer for themselves, as long as they acknowledge who has ultimate control and decision-making authority when differences arise. (395)
Typically, a Confident personality does not experience a collapse in psychic cohesion. However, the individual’s haughtiness and entitled behaviors may provoke annoyance and withdrawal from others. Instead of adapting and subduing their habitual annoying behaviors, the Confident personality may intensify into pervasive Egotism.
The confident style, though characterized by arrogance and self-serving behaviors, often achieves success in life. However, when their egoism becomes overly intrusive and fails to gain admiration, their sense of superiority is undermined, leading to a demoralization of self. In an attempt to restore their status, they may become even more self-indulgent, exhibiting increasingly fragile self-centeredness that typifies the behavior of the egoistic personalities.(396)
Elitist Egotistic Personality Type: Reich (1949) described the elitist egotist as a self-assured, arrogant, and energetic person who is often impressive in their bearing and ill-suited to subordinate positions among the rank and file. Similar to compensatory narcissists (described below), elitist egotists are more focused on their inflated self-image than their actual self. They create a false facade that bears minimal resemblance to their true selves. However, unlike compensatory narcissists who may not be aware of their fraudulent self-image, elitist egotists are deeply convinced of their superior self-image, even though it may be grounded in few realistic achievements. Elitists perceive the way things appear to them as objective reality, and their inflated self-image is their intrinsic substance. It is only when their illusory self-worth is seriously undermined that they may recognize and acknowledge their deeper shortcomings.
Due to their sublime self-confidence, elitists feel secure in their apparent superiority. They often seek attention from others and make efforts to persuade them of their specialness, rather than focusing on acquiring genuine qualifications and achievements. They feel privileged and empowered based on their class status and pseudo-achievements, and many are upwardly mobile, seeking to cultivate their sense of specialness by associating with those who possess genuine achievements and recognition. They often create comparisons between themselves and others, turning personal relationships into public competitions and contests. Their goal is not determined by genuine accomplishments, but rather by the degree to which they can convince others of their false reality of being the greatest.
As described above, many elitists are social climbers who seek to cultivate their image and social status by associating with certain individuals. To them, it is not guilt by association, but rather status by association. They idolize public recognition and get caught in the game of one-upmanship, striving to win at least comparatively. Status and self-promotion are all that matter to elitist egotists. They are driven to be celebrated and famous, rather than achieving substantive accomplishments. They invest their efforts in advertising themselves, bragging about achievements, whether substantive or fraudulent, and making everything they have done appear wonderful, better than what others have done, and better than it actually is. By making excessive claims about themselves, elitists expose a great divide between their actual selves and their self-presentations. Unlike many compensatory narcissists who recognize this disparity, elitists are convinced and absolute in their belief in themselves. Instead of backing off, withdrawing, or feeling shame when slighted or responded to with indifference, elitist personalities intensify their efforts, acting increasingly erratically to exhibit deeds and awards worthy of high esteem. They may present grandiose illusions about their powers and future status, puff up their limited accomplishments, and seek to outdo those who have achieved actual success.
As a result of their persistent and socially intrusive behaviors, elitist egotists may begin to alienate themselves from others and the admiration they seek. They may insulate themselves from signs of painful indifference and psychic injury, trying to distance or screen out negative and judgmental responses. Some may become overtly hostile, acquiring characteristics of the querulous paranoid, quickly losing the remaining elements of their former charm and cleverness, and becoming increasingly contemptuous of those they feel are treating them poorly. Despite still believing themselves to be special, these elitists may see little need to listen or follow the dictates of others. They may react with outright anger and irritability, convinced that they need no one. As their self-protective beliefs and actions become more defensive and negative, the elitist may be seen as an undesirable and embarrassing person, a touchy and inflated character whom others wish to avoid. (396-397)
Exploitive Egotist Personality: The exploitive egoist exhibits traits of both ADA antisocial and SPH histrionic personalities, displaying a lack of conscience, indifference to truth and social responsibility, and a tendency to engage in deceitful behavior.
These exploitative individuals often derive their self-worth from engaging in sexual temptation and seduction of others, particularly of their desired gender/s. They may exhibit an air of dignity and confidence, and can be skilled in deceiving others with their charm and glibness. They are adept at enticing, bewitching, and tantalizing individuals who are needy or naïve, but are not inclined to invest in realistic tasks or genuine intimacy. Instead of focusing on building meaningful relationships, they may seek to acquire multiple partners, often lying and swindling as they move from one pathological relationship to another.
The pursuit of public conquests, validation, and ego gratification is often a driving force for these exploitative individuals, who may engage in outrageous acts such as swindling, sexual excesses, pathological lying, and fraud without malicious intent. They may feel restless and unsatisfied even when they achieve their desired goals, and continue their pursuit of validation and recognition. They often disregard truth and social responsibilities, feeling that they are above the rules of human relationships and the responsibilities of shared living.
Exploitative individuals often lack genuine social responsibility and are unwilling to change their ways. They may refuse to commit to serious relationships and may use their talents for manipulation and deception, rather than tangible achievements or genuine connections. They may fabricate stories to enhance their self-image and seduce others into supporting their behaviors, dismissing criticism and punishment as the products of jealous inferiors.
Overall, individuals with the exploitative personality exhibit a self-centered, deceitful, and manipulative orientation towards others, often deriving their self-worth from engaging in sexual temptation and seduction. They tend to lack conscience, disregard truth and social responsibilities, and may engage in deceptive behaviors to fulfill their desires for validation and recognition. (397-401)
As the Egotist continues to exhibit entitled and self-inflating thoughts, they may face negative reactions from others and experience personal humiliations. This can lead to unprincipled behaviors or compensatory developments of Narcissism. The self-centeredness of the Egotist becomes more pervasive as they lose awareness of their own exploitative behaviors and engage in rationalizations to cover up their failures and lack of achievements. Haughtiness and indifference become more overt and socially intrusive, which can further perpetuate a vicious circle of increasing humiliations. The Egotist may decline into Narcissism as their sense of self-importance and grandiosity becomes more pronounced, and they may exhibit behaviors associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, such as a lack of empathy, exaggerated self-importance, and a need for constant admiration from others. (401)
Unprincipled Narcissistic Personality: The behavior of unprincipled narcissists is characterized by an arrogant sense of self-worth, indifference to the welfare of others, and a fraudulent and intimidating social demeanor. They have a strong desire to exploit others, expecting special treatment without assuming reciprocal responsibilities. They lack a social conscience, often flouting conventions, engaging in actions that raise questions of integrity, and disregarding the rights of others. They justify their deficits in achievement and social responsibility with expansive fantasies and blatant lies. They lack a superego, exhibiting an unscrupulous, amoral, and deceptive approach to relationships with others. They may be found among con men and charlatans in society, many of whom are vindictive and contemptuous of their victims. The features exhibited by unprincipled narcissists support the conclusion that they display a mix of narcissistic and antisocial personality characteristics.
Unprincipled narcissists show a reckless willingness to risk harm and often display fearlessness in the face of threats and punitive action. They tend to project malicious tendencies outward, resulting in frequent personal and family difficulties, as well as occasional legal issues. They often derive gratification from humiliating and dominating others. They operate as if they have no principles other than exploiting others for their personal gain, lacking genuine guilt and social conscience. They are opportunistic and deceitful, enjoying the process of swindling others in a game they relish playing, outwitting others and holding them in contempt for being easily deceived. Relationships with unprincipled narcissists survive only as long as the narcissist has something to gain, with no consideration for the potential anguish experienced by those they discard due to their careless and irresponsible behaviors.
Unprincipled narcissists display indifference to truth, and when confronted, they often respond with nonchalant indifference. They are skilled in social manipulation, capable of feigning innocence and deceiving others with charm and smooth-talking. Lacking deep feelings of loyalty, they may successfully hide their true nature beneath a veneer of politeness and civility. Their primary orientation is one of outwitting others, gaining power, and exploiting them before they can be exploited themselves. They often carry a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude, readily attacking those they distrust or can use as scapegoats. Some of these narcissists attempt to present an image of cool strength, acting tough, arrogant, and fearless. They may even invite danger and punishment to prove their courage, but such punishment only reinforces their exploitative and unprincipled behaviors, rather than deterring them. (402-405)
Compensatory Narcissistic Personality: Compensatory narcissists differ significantly from other types of narcissists, including the prototypical narcissist, in that their overtly narcissistic behaviors stem from an underlying sense of insecurity and weakness, rather than genuine self-confidence and high self-esteem (Akhtar 1997). Despite their surface pseudo-confidence and public posture, these narcissists are driven by forces similar to those of individuals who exhibit characteristics associated with the DRN negativistic and SRA avoidant personalities.
Compensatory narcissists are individuals who are labeled as narcissistic by the psychoanalytic community, as they have experienced early life wounds similar to those of negativistic, avoidant, and antisocial personality types. Essentially, these personalities seek to compensate for early life deprivations. However, unlike antisocial individuals who seek power and control over others or accumulate material possessions, compensatory narcissists try to fill their sense of emptiness by creating an illusion of superiority and building an image of high self-worth.
Compensatory narcissists crave recognition and approval from others to fulfill their pursuit of prestige and self-esteem. They often boast about their successes, no matter how minor, and actively worship themselves, viewing themselves as their own god. As their inflated and overvalued sense of self-worth grows, they begin to devalue and ridicule others, looking down on them as inferior. They see life as a pursuit of empty goals that serve no purpose other than self-enhancement, with little connection to tangible achievements. Instead of living authentic lives, they strive for the leading role in a false and imaginary theater.
When these pursuits lose touch with reality and become more entrenched in fantasy, compensatory narcissists may begin to deceive themselves, resembling fanatic paranoids. If we draw a line between these two personality types, we can see that compensatory narcissists seek prestige in a world that includes real people, while fanatics act out their aspirations in solitude, in an inner world that Cameron (1963) referred to as a “pseudo-community,” where imagination has replaced reality to a significant extent.
Due to the insecure foundations on which their narcissistic behaviors are built, compensatory narcissists are hypervigilant, as described by Gabbard (1994). This means they are acutely sensitive to how others react to them, constantly watching and listening for any signs of critical judgment, and feeling easily slighted by disapproval. Although not delusional like paranoid individuals, compensatory narcissists are prone to feeling shame and humiliation, hyperanxious and vulnerable to the judgments of others. They are aware at some level that they are pretending and projecting a higher status than they truly believe themselves to possess. However, instead of acting shy and hesitant, as one might expect, they cover up their deep sense of inadequacy and deficiency with pseudo-arrogance and superficial grandiosity. (405-406)
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