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  • Writer's picture Zalman Nelson - Therapist

Narcissism and the Life Patterns

Updated: Feb 9

Narcissism and the Life Patterns

Some People with the Emotional Deprivation Life Pattern* Counterattack; they compensate for their feelings of deprivation by becoming hostile and demanding. These people are narcissistic.

They act as if they are entitled to get all their needs met. They demand a lot, and often get a lot, from the people who become their partners. But regardless of how much nurturing they receive, they still feel that their need are not being met. However, instead of acting hurt or rejected about not getting enough, they becomes angry.

There are others who are also hypersensitive to emotional slights, but instead they remain silent about their needs. Two different styles of coping with Emotional Deprivation: anger and demandingness are typical of the Counterattack coping style,* while silence is characteristic of Surrender as a way of coping.

Why do some people react to Emotional Deprivation by becoming narcissistic?

The answer lies in a combination of the Emotional Deprivation Life Pattern and the Entitlement Life Pattern.* Although as children their emotional needs were not met in important ways, narcissists have learned to fight the feelings of deprivation by becoming very demanding about other, more superficial needs.

For example, you might be very demanding about what you eat, or how you dress, or whom you are with, or where you go. You might be very demanding about material things. You might be demanding about anything except the true object of your craving, which is emotional nurturance.

Unfortunately, these material demands are ultimately a poor substitute for love and understanding, and so you are not satisfied. You go on craving tangible rewards, never addressing the underlying issue, and are never satisfied.

As a child, you were not allowed to be demanding about emotional needs. Your mother (probably) did not respond. But if she allowed you to be demanding about other needs, it was at least a way for you to get something. Some children are neglected in both domains, emotionally and materially. No matter where they turn, they encounter deprivation. These children usually just give up and learn to nothing (the Surrender coping style). There is an inauthentic quality to a relationship with a narcissist. Intimate encounters, even with the people they are closest to, remain superficial. If this is you, at some level you feel a sense of despair at the shallowness of your relationships. It is because you are so seldom demanding about the needs that are most pressing, the primary emotional needs that your encounters strike a note of falseness.


* Emotional Deprivation is the belief that your need for love will never be met adequately by other people. You feel that no one truly cares for you or understands how you feel. You are probably attracted to cold and unforgiving people, or you may be cold and unforgiving yourself. Your relationships are typically unsatisfying and you probably feel cheated. Typically you alternate between feeling angry about it or feeling hurt and alone. Ironically your anger drives people away, even further, so it insures your continues deprivation. These people usually don't know what love is.

*There are 3 coping styles for dealing with a Life Pattern: Counterattack, Surrender, Escape.

*Entitlement: people with this Life Pattern feel special and they insist that they be able to do, or say, or have whatever they want immediately. They disregard what others consider reasonable, what is actually feasible, the time or patience usually required and the cost to others. They have difficulty with self-discipline. Most of these people were spoiled as children. They were not required to show self-control or accept restrictions. They get very angry when they don't get what they want.

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