Malignant Narcissism

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Just as all people display some necrophilic behavior, so too do all have some narcissistic tendencies. Healthy people manifest a benign form of narcissism, that is, an interest hi their own body. However, in its malignant form, narcissism hnpedes the perception of reality so that everything belonging to a narcissistic person is highly valued and everything belonging to another is devalued.

Narcissistic individuals are preoccupied with themselves, but this concern is not lhnited to admiring themselves hi a mirror. Preoccupation with ones body often leads to hypochondriasis, or an obsessive attention to ones health. Fromm (1964) also discussed moral hypochondriasis, or a preoccupation with guilt about previous transgressions. People who are fixated on themselves are likely to internalize experiences and to dwell on both physical health and moral virtues.

Narcissistic people possess what Horney (see Chapter 6) called "neurotic claims." They achieve security by holding on to the distorted belief that then extraordinary personal qualities give them superiority over everyone else. Because what they have—looks, physique, wealth—is so wonderful, they believe that they need not do anything to prove their value. Then sense of worth depends on then narcissistic self-hnage and not on their achievements. When their efforts are criticized by others, they react with anger and rage, frequently striking out agahist then critics, trying to destroy them. If the criticism is overwhelming, they may be unable to destroy it, and so they turn their rage inward. The result is depression, a feeling of worthlessness. Although depression, intense guilt, and hypochondriasis may appear to be anything but self-glorification, Fromm believed that each of these could be symptomatic of deep underlying narcissism.

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