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Definitions of terms used on this Website.

Narcissistic rage
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Displacement (as a defense mechanism)
Projection (also projective identification)
Codependent, enabler, follower, covert/inverted/co-narcissist
Ego psychology
Object relations
Deny the object
Character assassination
Transference (Paternal Transference and Maternal Transference)
Transference vs projection
Authoritarian leadership
Democratic leadership

The degree to which one values oneself. Also faith in oneself, pride, self-assurance, self-regard, self-respect, and vanity. Narcissists have low underlying self-esteem (see Recognize a Narcissist), but they address this problem by over-compensating; they present a mask (see Narcissism: Behind the Mask), an entirely false image of themselves to the world designed to engineer a constant flow of admiration from others. This enables them to maintain their self-esteem at a relatively high level.  (Top)

Paranoia is a functional disorder characterized by symptoms of delusions of jealousy, and delusions of either grandeur and / or persecution, which can't be explained by other psychological disorders. Intellectual functioning is not impaired. The paranoid is quite capable of coherent behaviour within his or her delusional state. Narcissists often suffer from paranoia.  (Top)

Narcissists suffer from narcissism (see Recognize a Narcissist). Narcissism relates to an exceptional interest in or admiration for oneself, especially in one's physical appearance or mental endowments.  (Top)

Narcissistic rage
Narcissistic rage, as the name suggests, occurs when a narcissist goes into a rage. This happens when the narcissist suffers a psychological wounding of his essential self. Such a blow to his core identity will typically lower his self-esteem and produce feelings of humiliation, shame and rage.  (Top)

Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, is the handbook used most often in diagnosing mental disorders in the United States and internationally. The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) is a commonly used alternative.  (Top)

Diagnostic Criteria (DSM-IV-TR)
A narcissistic personality disorder as defined by the DSM (see also DSM cautionary statement) is characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g. exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. believes that he or she is 'special' and 'unique' and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  4. requires excessive admiration
  5. has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  6. is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  7. lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  8. is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes  (Top)

Envy is a feeling or an emotional state of grudging or admiring discontent aroused by the possessions, achievements, or qualities of another, involving the desire to have for oneself something possessed by another; covetousness. Envy is usually linked to narcissism, paranoia and projection (or projective identification) and tends to be evident in varying degrees in all narcissists. "Envy always involves a comparison - we envy that which we lack".1

A common method used by narcissists to get rid of the painful envy emotion is to use projection, or projective identification (see definition below). The narcissist projects the feelings that he does not want to have into the person he envies, that is, the object of his envy.

For example, a narcissist who is envious of a better qualified colleague at work may greatly exaggerate and publicise minor failures by his colleague, and at the same time ignore or greatly understate his successes.  (Top)

Displacement (as a defense mechanism)
Displacement is when a person shifts his/her impulses from an unacceptable target to a more acceptable or less threatening target. For example, if you are very angry at your narcissistic boss because you think he has been unfair to you, you may become angry with him. But, you can't yell at him, hit him, or express your anger in any other hostile way toward him, so you go home and "displace" your anger by being angry at your wife instead. (Top)

Projection (also projective identification)
Projection, also called projective identification, involves the tendency to see your own unacceptable desires in other people. In other words, the desires are still there, but they're not your desires anymore. The objective is to make yourself feel superior.

An important motive for projection lies in the 'projector's' wish to control the person who is reminding them of their low self-esteem, or feelings of inferiority, inadequacy and worthlessness, to prevent him or her from making the 'projector' feel bad.2

Projective identification may be differentiated from projection when the individual does not completely disavow what is projected. Instead, the person remains aware of his or her own feelings or emotions, but misattributes them and regards them as being justifiable reactions to the behaviour of the other person.3

Melanie Klein described projective identification as a common way of getting rid of the painful envy emotion and taking over the feelings that we do want to have.4 Kate Barrows described how this occurs:5 "If envy is the feeling we want to get rid of... instead of feeling envious ourselves, we project envy into the other person, subtly emphasizing his (or her) inadequacies and hinting at our supposedly superior resources. We put ourselves in the smart shoes, and try to get him to wear our shabby ones, our feeling of inadequacy."  (Top)

Splitting is a Freudian defence mechanism in which an object or idea (or, alternatively, the ego) is separated into two or more parts in order to remove its threatening meaning. Freud referred to splitting as a mental process by which two separate and contradictory versions of reality could co-exist.6 This conceptualization of splitting defines an ego that allows reality to be both acknowledged and denied. Splitting is a defence mechanism present in all narcissists and codependents. They see people and situations in black and white terms, all bad or all good, with no shades of gray.  (Top)

High neuroticism is characterized by anxiousness, worrying, moodiness, and frequent depression,7 and is linked to obsessive behaviour.8 Carl Rogers described neurosis as the gap between the real self and the ideal self, or the “I am” and the “I should”. The greater the gap, the more suffering for the neurotic.  (Top)

Is a theory developed by Heinz Kohut whereby children have their talk and accomplishments acknowledged, accepted and praised by others, e.g. parents. It is important for a child's legitimate feelings of grandiosity to be mirrored by its parents. Children who do not get enough mirroring (admiration, attention etc.) are considered by many psychologists to be at risk of developing a narcissistic personality later in life. The parent's mirroring gets internalized in time, so as the child gets older he (or she) can provide his own mirroring, his own sense of self-appreciation.

The basis of healthy self-esteem is that one's natural self, with all its emotions, with its successes and failures, is acceptable and loveable. If the child does not feel his parents love him for himself, apart from accomplishments, he will develop what object relations theorists call the "false self," the self that is fabricated in order to get the approval of his parents, based on the ability to achieve good grades, a good job, a good mate, etc.

Pathological narcissism is a result of faulty self-development and results in the narcissist presenting a false self. He (or she) constantly 'mirrors' himself against others.   (Top)

Codependent, enabler, follower, covert narcissist, inverted narcissist, co-narcissist
The terms 'codependent',9 'enabler',10 'follower',11 'covert narcissist'12 'inverted narcissist'13 and co-narcissist14 are used interchangeably in respect of people who are emotionally dependent on narcissists. Narcissists surround themselves with codependents etc as they tend to work beyond healthy (and sometimes ethical) limits to do whatever the narcissist needs. Narcissists crave power and codependents etc crave security, so they are drawn to one another.

Codependency is a condition that affects a large percentage of the adult population. Individual characteristics vary in degree from individual to individual. Codependent patterns of behavior include, among others: 15, 16, 17, 18, 19

  • Avoiding decision making and confrontation
  • External referencing (always checking outside oneself before making choices)
  • Subordinating one's needs to those of the person with whom one is involved [the narcissist]
  • Perfectionism
  • Over-controlling
  • Manipulation
  • Lack of trust
  • Lying

Often, the same person displays both narcissistic and codependency (co-narcissistic) behaviors, depending on circumstances. Both narcissists and codependents tend to assume that in any interpersonal interaction one person is narcissistic and the other codependent, and often can play either part.20  (Top)

Ego psychology
Ego psychology relates to ego processes such and memory, language, judgement, decision-making and other reality-oriented functions.21  (Top)

Object relations
Object relations are the emotional bonds between oneself and another. Typically expressed in the sense of one's capacity to love and care for another as balanced against interest in and love for the self.22  (Top)

Denial is a defense mechanism that simply disavows or denies thoughts, feelings, wishes or needs that cause anxiety. It is used purely for unconscious operations that function to 'deny' that which cannot be dealt with consciously.23  (Top)

Deny the object
To 'deny the object' is a defense used to deny someone deserved recognition, usually as a result of a narcissist's envy. Typically, the narcissist (or enabler who supports the narcissist's world view) will take every opportunity to deny the importance of the envied target (Note: 'Object' is used here in its broadest sense, which is simply to indicate the 'other' to whom the self is related. In the English language object tends to be depersonalised; an object is a thing. However, when Melanie Klein used the word object it was as derived from the German 'objekt'. For example, in its grammatical usage, a verb relates a subject to an object, whether the object in question is a person or a thing.) The pathological aspects of narcissism, treating others as a means to an end, ruthless self-centredness, and lack of empathy, are all manifestations of the envious need to deny the importance of the object.  (Top)

Character assassination
Character assassination is an intentional attempt, usually by a narcissist and/or an enabler, to influence the portrayal or reputation of someone in such a way as to cause others to develop an extremely negative, unethical or unappealing perception of him or her. It typically involves deliberate exaggeration or manipulation of facts, the spreading of rumours and deliberate misinformation to present an untrue picture of the targeted person, and unwarranted and excessive criticism.  (Top)

Transference (Paternal Transference and Maternal Transference)
Is the redirection of attitudes and emotions towards a substitute. For example, an employee may see his manager as a father figure (paternal transference), especially if the employee had a difficult relationship with his father during childhood.

Typically, the pattern projected onto the other person comes from a childhood relationship. This may be from an actual person, such a parent or an idealized figure. This transfers both power and also expectation. "If you treat me as a parent, I can tell you what to do, but you will also expect me to care for you." This can have both positive and negative outcomes.

Narcissistic managers actively seek subordinates who treat them as a parent figure through transference. They assume wisdom. They speak with authority. They reassure their subordinates that all will be well if they do as they are told. This makes the narcissistic manager feel good (child like respect and admiration gives them a boost to their fluctuating self esteem) and gives them power. For male narcissistic managers this is known as paternal transference, and for female narcissistic managers this is known as maternal transference.

The narcissistic manager uses the power of his or her position of authority to provide protection and control in return for loyalty and obedience.  (Top)

Transference vs projection
Transference and projection are not the same thing. Projection is caused by the transference. Transference is activated in the person (probably through unmet emotional needs as a child), and projection is the release of that transference out of the person.  (Top)

Authoritarian leadership
Authoritarian (or autocratic) leadership is characterised by intolerance of difference and challenge. It requires, above all, obedience and conformity.  (Top)

Democratic leadership
Democratic (or participative) leadership involves the leader including team members in the decision making process (determining what to do and how to do it). The leader maintains the final decision making authority. Using this style of leadersip is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.  (Top)

If you have a question that is not answered here, please go to the Contact page, write it in the box and click the 'submit' button.  (Top)

For more information about narcissism, codependency, envy, and paranoia, read Narcissism: Behind the Mask.

1 Barrows, K. (2002), Ideas in psychoanalysis: Envy, Icon Books, UK (Page 11).
2, 4 Klein, M. (1975), Envy and Gratitude and Other Works 1946-1963, The Hogarth Press and The Institute of Psycho_Analysis, London.
3, 21, 22, 23 Reber, A.S. (1995), Dictionary of Psychology (2nd Edition), Penguin, UK.
5 Barrows, K. (2002), Ideas in psychoanalysis: Envy, Icon Books, UK (Page 42).
6 Freud, S. (1940), Splitting of the ego in the process of defence, Standard Edition 23:271-278, Hogarth Press, London.
7 Eysenck, H.J. and Eysenck, S.B.G. (1991), Manual of the Eysenck Personality Scales (EPS Adult), Hodder and Stroughton, London.
8 Davis, C. and Claridge, G. (1998), The eating disorders as addiction: a psychobiological perspective, Addictive Behaviours, Vol. 23, pp. 463-475.
9 "E.g. Wilson-Schaef, A. (1987), When society becomes an addict, Harper & Row, San Francisco.
10 Downs, A. (1997), Beyond the Looking Glass: Overcoming the Seductive Culture of Corporate Narcissism, AMACOM, New York.
11 Sandowski, D. (1995), The Charismatic Leader as Narcissist: Understanding the Abuse of Power, Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 23, Iss. 4, pp. 57-71.
12 E.g. Lowen, A. (1997), Narcissism: Denial of the True Self, Touchstone Books ISBN 0743255437.
13 Vaknin, S. (1197-2005), Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited, Skopje and Prague, Narcissus Publications.
14, 20 Pappoport, Alan (2005), Co-Narcissism: How We Accommodate To Narcissistic Parents, Article in press, The Therapist (See
15 Baker, R. and Newport, S. (2003), Dysfunctional Managerial Behavior in the Workplace: Implications for Employees, Supervisors, and Organizations, Problems and Perspectives of Management, Vol. 1, pp. 108-113.
16 Hagan, K. (1989), Codependency and the myth of recovery: A feminist scrutiny, Fugitive Information, Vol. 1, pp. 1-12.
17 Shaef, A.W. and Fassel, D (1988), The Addictive Organization, Harper & Row, San Francisco.
18 Wegsheider-Cruse, S. (1984), Choice-Making for Codependents, Adult Children, and Spirituality Seekers, Health Communications, Deerfield Beach, FL.
19 Woititz, J.G. (1987), Home Away From Home, Health Communications, Pompano Beach, FL.

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