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Idealization & Devaluation: The Pied Piper
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Illustration by: Kate Greenaway
From "The Pied Piper" by Robert Browning
"He advanced to the council-table:
And, "Please your honours," said he, "I'm able,
By means of a secret charm, to draw
All creatures living beneath the sun,
That creep or swim or fly or run,
After me so as you never saw!
And I chiefly use my charm
On creatures that do people harm,
The mole and toad and newt and viper;
And people call me the Pied Piper."
On Idealization: By Payson, Elenor D. The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists Julian Day Publ., Royal Oak, Michigan, 2002.
Excerpted from Narcissism in the Pulpit
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The power of the NPD person to bring you into unconscious agreement with her belief that she is someone truly extraordinary is possibly the most remarkable feature of the narcissist. Before you know what is happening, you may be following her lead, enjoying the charisma, or perhaps intimidated by her persuasiveness, power, and authority.
"You may not realize that you are losing track of your agenda and, at the same time, deferring to hers. The narcissist's belief that you, too, are special because he has selected you to associate with him is the other compelling force at work. In fact, who isn't vulnerable to the warming glow admiration, especially from someone with such apparent personal power?" (Payson, [sign in to see URL])
Thoughts on Idealization and Devaluation
The narcissist mirrors a target in the initial stages of a relationship, reflecting back to her the good qualities he idealizes. This is an intoxicating feeling for a target, to have someone see and appreciate her. She feels 'special'.
The narcissist likely wants to believe that she is that special initially, too. He seeks the 'good mother' who will finally accept him completely and totally as perfect. This idealization turns to devaluation at some point in a relationship with a narcissist due to his own tendency to split the world into 'all good' and 'all bad'. This black and white thinking is a recipe for inevitable rejection of intimate others since the narcissist cannot abide both good and bad coexisting in one person. This applies to himself and others. He will assign roles of 'good mother' and 'bad mother' and everyone will eventually be cast in the latter role if they hold the narcissist accountable or simply fail to provide him adequate supply. Of course there is no supply that will ever be quite adequate.
People split the world into black and white sometimes, but most people do not do it pathologically as a Narcissist or a Borderline might. There is, however, a temporary phenomenon related to splitting which I believe affects targets that I have addressed in an essay called The Black Hat in the Princess & The Pea/Target's Obstacles section.
If you have been idealized by the Narcissist and later Devalued and Discarded, you may be shocked at the turnaround in his perception of you. Please know, this was inevitable. You did nothing wrong to cause that change. If you're not 100% on his page, if you are not completely accepting, if you are not a perfect mirror to the narcissist, you are bad. It's simply his way of viewing the world.
Beauties and Beasts: The Idealization/Devaluation Formula
by Mark Sichel, LCSW
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"Everyone knows the famous line, attributed sometimes to Woody Allen but originated by Groucho Marx, "I wouldn't want to belong to a club that would have me as a member."
The above statement embodies the essence of narcissistic personality disorder. People with narcissistic problems tend to think in extremes, alternating between idealizing or aggrandizing themselves and others, and devaluing or deflating themselves and others. Psychologists refer to these wild fluctuations in extreme thinking as the narcissistic idealization devaluation formulation. It's a mouthful, but it basically indicates that a person is in the throes of intense black and white thinking."
Idealization and Devaluation from Wikipedia
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When an individual is unable to integrate difficult feelings, specific defences are mobilised to regulate these unbearable feelings. The defence that helps in this process is called splitting. Splitting is the tendency to view events or people as either all bad or all good. When viewing people as ‘all good’, you are said to be using the defence mechanism idealization: a mental mechanism in which the person attributes exaggeratedly positive qualities to the self or others. The counterpart of idealization is devaluation: attributing exaggerated negative qualities to the self or others.
In child development idealization and devaluation are quite normal. Being raised in a healthy environment the child learns how to deal with reality. Being an adult and using idealization and devaluation as the only way to protect the feeling of the self is pathologic.
Splitting from Wikipedia
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People who are diagnosed with a narcissistic personality disorder also use splitting as a central defence mechanism. They do this to preserve their self-esteem. They do this by seeing the self as purely good and the others as purely bad. The use of splitting also implies the use of other defence mechanisms, namely devaluation, idealization and denial.
Splitting creates instability in relationships, because one person can be viewed as either all good or all bad at different times, depending on whether he or she gratifies needs or frustrates them.
"The best way out is always through."--Robert Frost
Oct/26/2008, 4:24 pm
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