There are high and lower level narcissists and layers in between. Every narcissistic personality has specific characteristics by which he or she can be identified: self absorbed, extreme self entitlement, lack of empathy,grandiosity,manipulative and exploitive of others. Lower level narcissists do not succeed in the world like their high achieving brothers and sisters. One attribute of the lower level narcissist that stands out is a persistent paranoia. Paranoia is “a pervasive fear that others will harm or even destroy us. The narcissist lives in …a dangerous inner world…he is tormented by anticipated attacks of delusional enemies These unconscious enemies are remnants of cold aggressive internal parental images perceived as persecutors.” The narcissist has no awareness of his internal process. When he is stressed, feels cornered or has not received the narcissistic supplies (adulation, praise, power, money) that he craves, he becomes more deeply paranoid. This paranoia is acted out upon those in his personal and work life. The narcissist trusts no one and is always looking over his shoulder for an imagined enemy who has come to destroy him.
A case vignette brings the paranoid narcissist into full light. Claude is part owner of a nursery that sells plants, tools and other garden accessories. His father started the business several decades ago. Claude is king of his domain and always right. He has no respect or personal concern for his employees. Besides his sense of superiority, manipulation and complete lack of empathy, Claude suffers from a pervasive paranoia that runs alongside his pathological narcissism.
For some irrational reason known only to Claude he insists that plants be constantly over fertilized with a toxic pesticide. One of his employees, Jake, developed a severe rash as result of handling the plants. When the employee was medically debilitated, Claude blamed him for his medical condition, tried to pay the employee a very small off the books fee to keep Jake quiet and insisted that he would fight any workmen’s compensation claim. Claude was adamant that Jake caused his own severe rash and it was all his fault. After the employee returned to work, Claude had several of his relatives watch the employee at regular intervals to see if he was doing his job. Claude sent them to snoop in Jake’s yard to make sure he had not stolen anything from the store. Jake has resigned. He can no longer work for an abusive narcissist whose paranoia invades his privacy.
Many employees continue to work for Claude. Employer and employee are participating in a pathological folie a deux. Despite the narcissism and paranoia, both parties remain psychologically intertwined with one another. Understanding the paranoia that is part of the narcissistic personality will further clarify your understanding and ability to deal with these complex and toxic individuals. Visit my website:www.thenarcissistinyourlife.com
Linda Martinez-Lewi, Ph.D.