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The narcissist's guarded detachment is a sad reaction to his unfortunate formative years. Pathological narcissism is thought to be result of a prolonged period of severe abuse by primary caregivers, peers, or authority figures. In this sense, pathological narcissism is, therefore, a reaction to trauma. Narcissism is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that got ossified and fixated and mutated into a personality disorder.
All narcissists are traumatized and all of them suffer from a variety of post-traumatic symptoms: abandonment anxiety, reckless behaviors, anxiety and mood disorders, somatoform disorders, and so on. But presenting signs of narcissism rarely indicate post-trauma. This is because pathological narcissism is an efficient coping (defense) mechanism. The narcissist presents to world a facade of invincibility, equanimity, superiority, skilfulness, cool-headedness, invulnerability, and, in short: indifference.
This front is penetrated only in times of great crises that threaten narcissist's ability to obtain narcissistic supply. The narcissist then "falls apart" in a process of disintegration known as decompensation. The dynamic forces which render him paralyzed and fake - his vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and fears - are starkly exposed as his defenses crumble and become dysfunctional. The narcissist's extreme dependence on his social milieu for regulation of his sense of self-worth are painfully and pitifully evident as he is reduced to begging and cajoling.
At such times, narcissist acts out self-destructively and anti-socially. His mask of superior equanimity is pierced by displays of impotent rage, self-loathing, self-pity, and crass attempts at manipulation of his friends, family, and colleagues. His ostensible benevolence and caring evaporate. He feels caged and threatened and he reacts as any animal would do - by striking back at his perceived tormentors, at his hitherto "nearest" and "dearest".
Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He is the the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.