If you have ever had a relationship with a destructive narcissist, you may have encountered the following. At first the relationship runs smoothly. They are complimentary, seek your company, hang on to your every word as if they are the greatest and make you feel special.. Gradually, or even suddenly, they begin to make disparaging remarks, become bored with you, tune out what you are saying and try and make you feel inadequate. You may try harder to recapture the original specialness of the relationship, but all efforts are in vain. The harder you try the more they pull away..

What has happened is that the destructive narcissist has projected his or her grandiose self onto you and was relating to you as if you were that ideal, grandiose and omnipotent self. These people relate to you as they see themselves to be. When you disappoint them- and you cannot help doing so as you are not the projection – they devalue you. The destructive narcissist never saw you as a person, but only an extension or projection of his or her self. NO RELATIONSHIP CAN BE MAINTAINED UNDER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES.

Projective identification is also a very important concept to consider when discussing the destructive narcissistic pattern because it helps explain some of the feelings, frustrations and confusion you experience after interacting with someone who has a DNP. Many people walk away from an interaction with a destructive narcissist feeling churned up, angry, anxious, inadequate, incompetent, attacked, disconnected and devalued, and wondering what happened to produce such intense and uncomfortable emotions. They are generally frustrated and confused, in addition. For those of us who do a lot of introspection, we generally start asking ourselves what unresolved issues we have that are producing these feelings. Even this self examination does not produce satisfactory answers, although we do recognise how our unresolved issues have been triggered.

All the above feelings that you walk away with may exist in you in small doses, but you feel them intensely because the Destructive Narcissist has projected his or her own unconscious feelings and unconscious perceptions of themselves on to you.

For people that have experienced this Projective Identification can explain much of what happened. The destructive narcissist got rid of his or her unacceptable feelings, such as: anger, frustration, confusion, doubt, anxiety and feeling discounted and or inadequate, by projecting them on to you. You incorporated and identified with them and acted accordingly. Whereas you did not have these feelings before the interaction, you took them in as projected, and now you are experiencing them, causing you to wonder, “What happened?”. Interestingly, the destructive narcissist usually feels great after these interactions, and the recepient feels lousy.

Fear, dread and terror are terms used to describe reactions to an expectation of anticipation of destruction or abandonment. The anticipated destruction or abandonment can either be physical or psychological, or both. Fear is a basic emotion that gets transformed and altered in many ways throughout life.

Fear of psychological destruction is the sole motivation for attacking others.

Children have these basic fears of being destroyed and of being abandoned, and the themes in many fairy tales address these fears by showing that it is possible to overcome them (Bettelheim, 1989).

Kohut (1977) and others propose that these fears are basic and remain mostly unmodified in adults who have not fully developed healthy narcissism. They remain in their archaic form as experienced in childhood and provide some of the basis for the exhibited behaviour. Further, there may also be competing fears. The adult may fear psychological destruction will result from intimacy and exhibit behaviours designed to prevent intimate relations from developing. On the other hand, the same person may also fear abandonment, so he or she is jealous. The target of these fears receive conflicting messages and are constantly kept off balance, not knowing what to expect, and left confused by the messages. On some days they are expected to get close and reassure that they will not leave, and at other times they are pushed away or frozen out. Little wonder, then, that these are not usually lasting relationships.

It may be helpful to remember that the destructive narcissist has ready access to their fears of being destroyed and abandoned, which continue to exist in the archaic form experienced in childhood. These fears underlie much of their behaviour, attitudes and feelings and, more important, destructive narcissists usually are not conscious of their fears. For example, these fears can be applied and illustrated to the four categories of narcissists proposed by Burnstein (1986): craving, paranoid, manipulative and phallic.

Narcissists who fall in to the craving category can be described as fearing psychological destruction in their incessant demands. They consider themselves incapable of fulfilling their needs, that is, they are helpless, and they face destruction if their needs aren’t met. The fear of abandonment is seen in their clinging behaviour; they fear they will not be able to continue to exist if the other person abandons them.

Narcissists who fall in to the paranoid category not only are very fearful of their own destructive capabilities but fear that others have the intent of destroying them. Thus, they perceive attacks where none was intended and seek to prevent attacks from others by attacking first or being suspicious and by criticising or blaming others. Fear of abandonment is displayed by jealousy, insistence on knowing everything about the other person, and hypersensitivity to perceived rejection.Narcissists who fall into the manipulative category fear that if their mask were ever breached or seen through the other person would be so enraged at the impostor that they would then be destroyed, rejected and abandoned. Their lies and deceit are calculated to keep others off guard and at a distance so that they cannot discern the emptiness within.

It may be helpful to remember that the destructive narcissist not only has fears of rejection and abandonment, but also assumes you also have them, that is. You are not perceived as a separate and distinct individual. Others are also considered to be a potential source of destruction and abandonment and this assumption underlies much of the destructive narcissists behaviour, attitudes and feelings towards you. For example, the destructive narcissists fear abandonment, so they devalue what you have to give them so that they don’t feel the pain around the loss of something of value, because they are so confident that abandonment will occur.

Another term that needs definition is “narcissistic rage”. Kohut (1977) considers it to be a reaction to feelings of helplessness because of the inability to control others. Narcissistic rage is expressed through devaluing of others, verbal attacks, contempt, argumentativeness, jealousy, sulking, etc. The self is felt to be under attack and must be defended against being destroyed or abandoned.