Inverted Narcissist is a term, coined by Sam Vaknin which suggests a type of “dependent disorder” that is the compliment of a narcissistic personality. It is the compliment because someone who is considered an inverted narcissist depends upon a narcissistic personality for their affirmation of their worth, which is ironic since a narcissistic personality is the least likely to affirm their partner.
To sum it up an inverted narcissist is a Co-dependent whose dependency is the narcissist rather than the drug addict, sex addict or alcoholic.
However I believe this is just another label that serves to keep one trapped in the continuing belief that there is something terribly wrong with them. The feeling that you are rotten to the core is called shame! Shame wears many faces but has the underlying sense that there is something wrong with you.
If we had one or more narcissistic parents it would make sense that we would migrate towards narcissism and continue the dysfunctional dance we grew up with, because this is what is familiar and on many levels makes us feel normal. We don’t have any other sense for what normal is. For most what is familiar is what is normal.
When we are constantly subject to the subtle undermining abuse of the narcissist as a child we can easily develop a belief that we are flawed and deserve the punishment and withholding that we get. Yet there is another part of us that wants things to be different. It is like the abused child who just wishes Mommy or Daddy would be the loving parent of his/her fantasies.
As we become adults it is natural that we continue the dance of having relationships with those who constantly undermine us and try to get them to behave differently. It is the attempt to control our realty and also right the wrongs of our past by converting the unloving parent to the loving parent. Although most of us know, on an intellectual level, that this cannot be done. It is our emotions that run the show. Somewhere in our emotional development we developed a belief that if only the narcissistic parent would love us, we would be healed and cured of our inadequacy.
What we don’t realize is the inadequacy is within the parent, not the child. The parent projects his inadequacy onto the child and punishes the child for it. So the child comes to believe he is inherently flawed.
The interesting thing is that this is also the reality of the narcissist. The narcissist, through narcissistic parenting develops a belief that he is flawed at the core but his defense mechanism is to reject the disapproving parent and anyone else who might challenge his worth and value. In the narcissistic fantasy world he paints a new picture of himself based on what he believes would bring him the most approval and admiration by society. He rejects that part of himself rooted in strong feelings of inadequacy and superimposes the new improved version of himself which is flawless. This is simply how he has learned to survive in a narcissistic reality.
One of the reasons it is so difficult for a narcissist to have relationships is that relationships by their very nature challenge us and take us to those place within ourselves that are wounded and locked away. Love opens doors and unleashes memories deep within.
Relationships can be a powerful personal growth path of self realization, if we embark upon our relationships consciously. Unfortunately most do not. We partner with someone who will push all our buttons, bring up our pain and reject us because this is what we, on some unconscious level, believe we deserve.
This is not only the saga of the inverted narcissist. It is the saga of nearly everyone in our society who enters into relationship unconsciously hoping that the relationship will right all their wrongs and fulfill them in some magical way that will wipe away all past wounds. Unfortunately the opposite happens. Instead of wiping away the wounds, our relationships bring them to the surface, which can be a great opportunity for growth, if we understand what is happening.
A truly narcissistic person will not see the pain coming to the surface as his own. He has become a master at projection and will unload his unconscious pain onto his partner or others around him. If his partner is not aware of what is happening she will somehow believe this is all about her, because isn’t this what happened in childhood? Didn’t she believe that she was the problem? Didn’t her parents project their disowned pain onto her? She has learned that whenever something goes wrong it is somehow her fault. What an ideal match for a narcissist who has built a belief that nothing is his fault.
So if you have developed a belief that you are an inverted narcissist doomed to pick one narcissist after another, it is time to change your belief. You will stop choosing narcissistic mates when you learn to affirm yourself! If you look for someone outside of you for your sense of self worth, you will always be looking.
And if you believe you are a narcissist, then it is time to begin self reflecting. It is time to begin taking responsibility for what is being created in your life. Who you are isn’t your partners fault. Stop blaming your parent, your friends or your loved ones for your state of unhappiness.
If you are an adult than you are responsible for where you are. If you don’t like where you are, then make a change within yourself. Changing from one partner to the next will only bring temporary relief. All true change must happen from within and the circumstances of your life will also change.
This is not true only of narcissists but of everyone. We all must learn to be responsible for what we create in our lives. There really are no victims or perpetrators. We are all just souls doing a dance and attracting people into our lives who will bring some core issue to the surface to be healed. If we reject the opportunity and become terminal victims than we have signed up for a life of unhappiness.
The true lesson for all of us, whether we believe we are narcissistic, inverted narcissists, co-dependents, addicts, or personality disordered, is to go within and seek our wholeness there. Life is a journey of personal and spiritual growth. It is not about pursuing money, wealth, possessions, sex, and achievement, but rather about revealing our true selves; finding our authentic self expression. Anything else is just a game of the ego. The ego is all about survival and appearances. Life is so much more!
When I was reading Sam Vatkins description of an inverted narcissist it was a pretty bleak picture for anyone who believes they are one. According to Sam, an inverted narcissist is not happy with anyone who is NOT a narcissist and is not happy with a narcissist, so in general they are doomed to an unhappy life.
Now I can relate to this personally. I was very unhappy when I left my narcissistic partners and I was unhappy in my relationship with them. There was a belief that once I got out of the relationship my life would magically transform into what I wanted it to be. But that was simply a lie I told myself. Because to suggest that my narcissistic mate was the cause of all my troubles would be just another form of projection. “It is all his fault and once I leave him, my life will be good again!” This must surely be the narcissistic illusion.
Life is not magically “good again” when we leave a narcissistic mate. We have bonded with this mate and we have loved them to the best of our ability. Our sense of self-worth is at an all time low. We miss the good times and have a tendency to minimize the bad. Our pain is often intensified by our partner’s obvious rejection of us, through devaluation, discarding or replacing us with someone else right away. All our shame and feelings of low-self worth that were lurking far beneath the surface, before our relationship with the narcissist, is now a festering open wound causing us the greatest pain of our lives. If all the pain we are feeling now is all the narcissists fault then why didn’t it go away after we left the relationship?
There are many reasons the pain didn’t go away. One is that part of the pain belongs to us. Another reason is we have taken on his repressed pain and believe it belongs to us, which is still our problem, and another part of our pain is that we feel we have failed again to right the wrongs of our past. There is a core belief that we will never have the love we want and it causes us to feel hopeless. There are other factors as well such as the numbing that can happen when we are subject to constant abuse and when we leave the situation we begin to feel what we never allowed ourselves to feel within the relationship. So we can become overwhelmed with painful emotion that comes from being subject to constant abuse. But even so, it is our painful emotion and we are the ones who have to deal with it.
Blaming the narcissist for our pain will not make us better. What will make us better is to take responsibility for what is ours and embark upon the path of self-healing that will lead us to having more empowering relationships in the future. The first key to having an empowering relationship with another is to develop an empowering relationship with ourselves. This means we have to learn to affirm ourselves on a daily basis, do kind things for ourselves, make ourselves important, and make ourselves and our own healing a priority.
Whether you fit all the criteria for a narcissist or an inverted narcissist, if you can still self reflect and see the possibility of your own responsibility in what has been created in your life, then there is an opportunity for healing.
The first step in healing is to stop identifying yourself with a label. Use the criteria as a launching pad for your growth. When you can go back over the list and realize that many of those criteria don’t really apply to you anymore, then you can see where you have grown. For example, a narcissist who makes it a priority to learn how to walk in someone else’s shoes has embarked upon a journey that can be more difficult than a child learning to walk in his own shoes, but it can be done. Simply by setting the intention and being willing to do the work will create change. Anyone who is willing to see their own responsibility in what is created in their life can change.
Identifying with labels and identifying ourselves as a victim doesn’t serve us in our growth. The only way that any of us will truly thrive in our lives is to embark on the spiritual journey of inner growth and transformation. We must delve deeply into the darkness that contains our fears, and our feelings of inadequacy. We must be willing to walk through the pain instead of finding coping mechanisms to avoid it. We must be willing to open our hearts to love even if we fear being hurt. We must be willing to look towards the light, even when we are in our greatest darkness. Because it is the light that causes us to grow and when we push through the earth and bloom into our full potential, we will realize it was well worth the journey.