A Malignant Narcissist: You must have heard about how narcissists love to hurt people and devalue them every step of the way, but do you know how a malignant narcissist functions?
A malignant narcissist is one step above the conventional narcissist, who derives pleasure from destroying other’s sense of dignity.
Their absolute lack of conscience, sense of grandiosity and their thirst for power lead to them wreaking havoc on other’s mental health.
Are You Dealing with a Malignant Narcissist?
The narcissist in your life may be trying to destroy your self-esteem.
By Dr. Elinor Greenberg
I first learned about the malignant form of narcissistic personality disorder from reading Grimm’s’ fairy tales. If you know the story of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” you already have a classic example of a malignant narcissist in action. Snow White had to go hide deep in the forest at the dwarves’ home because her very beautiful and highly competitive stepmother, the evil Queen, could not stand the idea that Snow White was more beautiful than she. She demanded that her huntsman kill Snow White and bring her back the girl’s heart in a box. This example maybe a little bit extreme, as most malignant narcissists are not murderers, but it conveys the essence of the malice that is often present in their interactions with other people.
What Is Malignant Narcissism?
The main qualities that define malignant narcissism and differentiate it from the more common exhibitionist and closet varieties are that malignant narcissists get most of their narcissistic supplies by destroying other people’s self-esteem and happiness. Instead of exhibiting themselves to an admiring audience or basking in the glow of someone else’s approval, malignant narcissists get sadistic pleasure from dominating other people and causing them harm.
Note: I am using the terms “narcissist” or “narcissistic” as a shorthand way of referring to people who exhibit the pattern of thinking and behavior that is commonly diagnosed as a narcissistic personality disorder.
Some malignant narcissists are subtly destructive.
Example: Sweet Aunt Sally
Jenna’s elderly aunt Sally looked like a sweet harmless old lady. But somehow every time Jenna visited her, she came away feeling depressed and bad about herself. It wasn’t until she brought her friend Mary with her to visit her aunt, that she finally figured out how subtly malicious her aunt could be. “Mary,” her aunt said, “a girl as big as you should never wear horizontal stripes. If you ever want to get married, you need to lose some weight. More cookies, dear?”
“Imagining that you are deep and complex, but others are simple, is one of the primary signs of malignant selfishness.” —Stefan Molyneux
Example: Jack’s Helpful Boss
Every Monday morning Jack’s boss held a meeting. He went around the room and asked each person to talk about some mistakes they had made in the prior week and what they should have done instead. He said the purpose of the meeting was for them to improve their work by learning from each other’s failures. Instead, everyone felt humiliated and insecure and grew to hate Monday mornings. Jack noticed that as everyone else in the meeting started to look more depressed, his boss looked happier and happier.
Some malignant narcissists are more overt.
Example: James and his Blanket
My client James was speaking in therapy about an old blanket that he had been very attached to as a child. When I asked if he still had it, he said that it was sitting unused in a closet in his father’s house. I asked why he didn’t go get it, if he liked it so much. I will never forget his answer.
If I let my father know I value it, he will throw it out. I have to find another way to get it.
As I learned more about James’ early life, the blanket story became symbolic of their whole relationship. Whenever James had shown that he cared about something, his father would find a way to destroy it. He gave away James’ dog while he was at camp, refused to allow James to go with the rest of his class on their trip to Washington, D.C., and on James’ birthday, made sure when he cut the cake that he never gave any of the pieces with the buttercream flowers to James.