The Paradox of the Narcissist’s Unrequited Self-Love
If you’ve been on the receiving end of traumatizing narcissistic abuse or even treated to the repugnant spectacle of narcissistic self-puffery, it can be easy to miss the desperate vulnerability underlying the behavior. Widely misunderstood, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) derives not from self-love but from fundamental feelings of inferiority, which the narcissist strives continuously to hide from others and from herself through overcompensating entitlement, self-aggrandizement, and assertions of superiority over others.
Narcissism as Maladaptive
As a result of parental loss, abuse, and/or overindulgence in childhood, NPD occurs in about 6.2 percent of people in the United States (with a higher incidence in men than women), according to the National Institutes of Health.
While NPD is an adaptive strategy adopted early in life, it is cripplingly maladaptive in adulthood. The narcissist is particularly toxic to others, most traumatically to his family, because he operates emotionally at the developmental level of a toddler but with the cognitive ability of an adult, which he beams with laser focus on one thing: manipulating his environment to fuel his limitless need for self-affirmation at virtually any cost.