Malignant narcissism is a more severe and more dangerous version of narcissistic personality disorder. NPD is an extreme and pervasive set of traits associated with narcissism, a common human quality that most of us possess in small amounts — while some have it to excess, and even great excess. Those folks conversely have less or even no empathy for others, which means they are deficient in the area of basic conscience.
Adolf Hitler is the prototype
While there are several vocabularies around the phenomenon of narcissism and antisocial personalities, the historical clarity of the term malignant narcissism can make for helpful reference. Social psychologist Erich Fromm first coined the term to describe the mentality of the Nazis during the aftermath of World War II.
As the world reeled to understand the nature of the atrocities of the Holocaust and the unfathomable destruction wrought by the Third Reich, Fromm searched for a model to explain what he referred to as the “quintessence of evil.” He thought the extreme inhumanity exhibited by the Germans was emblematic of severe pathology and mental sickness, at the root of vicious destructiveness unleashed on the world.
Core traits of narcissism
- Grandiosity; sense of self-importance
- Obsessive fantasies of unlimited success, power, money, sex, etc.
- Belief in their inherent specialness that necessitates associating with high-status individuals
- Excessive need for admiration
- Sense of entitlement
- Superficial and exploitative relationships
- Low empathy
- Lack of conscience
- Has deep jealousies and believes others are envious of him or her
- Arrogant, haughty behaviors and attitudes
- Chronic feelings of emptiness and boredom
Add a dash of sadism
As we push higher on the scale to psychopathy from narcissism we enter an arena with even less empathy, less conscience, and more sadism. It’s not merely that these folks are extremely self-absorbed (which they are), it’s also that they enjoy other people’s pain. They get off on hurting others for their own enjoyment, and feel like guilt or shame in doing so.
Quotes about malignant narcissism
- “regressive escape from frustration by distortion and denial of reality” — Edith Weigert
- “a disturbing form of narcissistic personality where grandiosity is built around aggression and the destructive aspects of the self-become idealized” — Herbert Rosenfeld
- “These people are preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love, and with chronic feelings of envy for those whom they perceive as being more successful than they are” — DSM-III-R
- ‘exploitative and parasitic:’ it is as if they feel they have the right to control others and to exploit them without guilt — Otto Kernberg
- “The defect, to be precise, is chiefly his missing conscience, which makes him incapable of empathy, guilt, and shame, unable to experience higher level feelings, and understand and respect higher values.” — Elizabeth Mika