Healthcare Training Institute - Quality Education since 1979
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3 Aspects of the Ambivalence of Feeling
♦ Aspect #1: Early Childhood Development
At this point in the client’s life, he or she may feel inner struggles about his or her own feelings he or she is experiencing. Coupled with their own developing associations with the lack of emotion to the lack of power, clients begin to imitate that which they see and wish to emulate. Although they may be experiencing strong emotions as a result of a developing identity, they fight these emotions and resultantly fight their own development.
Jonathan, age 26, reported a great lack of emotion since an early age. I asked if one of his parents exhibited a great deal of emotion or a considerable lack thereof. Jonathan replied, "It was both, actually. Mom was always on the verge of hysteria and Dad showed no feeling at all. My dad’s coldness and hostility nearly drove my mom crazy! It was really nightmarish at times!"
As you can clearly see, there was already an ambivalent presentation of emotion during Jonathan’s early years. His mother, provoked by her husband’s emotional drought, compensated with her own flood of feelings. Jonathan, however, identified with his father and equated will, reason, and logic with sanity and power.
♦ Aspect #2: Confidence vs. Self-Dissatisfaction
They depend on the positive assessment of others and because of this, they strive to maintain an image of what they believe to be the socially exceptional standard of society. They control their image almost as rigidly as they control those around them.
Nicole, age 32, expressed her self-doubt through her constant diligence to her appearance. She stated, "I never let anyone see me without makeup and my hair done! If I haven’t exercised the day before, I don’t go outside! If anyone saw me like that, they may get the wrong impression. I can’t risk that!" Although in our earlier sessions, Nicole exhibited a great deal of confidence, this only came with the bolster of makeup and her projected image.
I stated, "The confidence that you related to me last week seems to only be the result of your image, and not of yourself. You have created an image of beauty and that image may give you confidence, but without that image, you feel self-conscious and anxious. In short, you are feeding off the image you created instead of using your own identity to guide you." Think of your Nicole. How does he or she exhibit his or her own self-dissatisfaction? Could it be hidden behind a wall of confidence?
♦ Aspect #3: Altruism and Manipulation
They disembody themselves to the point of becoming merely a "thing" that is to be used by a larger cause. This is accompanied by a need to manipulate those around them. What many clients describe as "doing good" is actual a distortion of reality. These altruistic deeds really represent an exercise of power over those who the clients claim to be helping and loving. This type of exploitation through affection often appears in the client’s intimate relationships, which are less like a mutual exchange of passions and more like a conquest of power.
Eric, age 25, could not understand why his girlfriend, Kelly, was leaving him. He stated, "She has everything a girl could want. I attend to her every need, I’m not cruel, and I respect her."
Kelly, during a private session, stated, "Something is missing from our relationship. He does things to please me, but only physically. When he shows affection, I never feel that it’s because he wants to show affection. He feels he has to. I don’t even think he knows what love is. Whenever I try to leave him, he tells me I’m being selfish and that I have it ‘good’ with him. So after one of those arguments, I assess the situation and realize that I really don’t have any concrete reason to leave; I just feel that I should."
In this section, we discussed three aspects of the ambivalence of feeling commonly found in narcissistic clients. These three aspects of the ambivalence of feeling in narcissistic clients included: early childhood development; confidence vs. self-dissatisfaction; and altruism and manipulation.
In the next section, we will examine four degrees of narcissism. The four degrees of narcissism include: phallic narcissism; the narcissistic character; the borderline personality; and the psychopathic personality.