As someone who has experienced narcissistic parental abuse and now supports women recovering from emotional trauma, I have spent years trying to unravel the complex psychology behind narcissistic relationships. I’ve studied all the subtypes and dynamics – constantly seeking to understand the roots of narcissistic wounds and how we can heal.
So when I recently came across the term “somatic narcissist,” I was admittedly surprised I hadn’t heard it before. As a proponent of somatic therapy – approaches using the wisdom of the body – this variant clearly warranted deeper exploration.
While I’ve read extensively on narcissism, this was my first dive into the somatic subtype. In this article, I want to share what I uncovered about the unique traits and impacts of somatic narcissists.
My motivation is that knowledge empowers and heals. By shining a light on destructive relational patterns, we can better protect ourselves and regain self-trust.
- Somatic narcissists manipulate and exploit others through an excessive focus on physical appearance and sexual appeal rather than emotional connectedness. Recognizing this core deficit can empower targets.
- The impacts of being in a relationship with a somatic narcissist can include emotional neglect, infidelity, and controlling behaviors. Setting boundaries and seeking support is essential.
- While challenging to treat, options do exist to help somatic narcissists shift their behaviors, if they are truly dedicated to the often painful personal growth required. Discernment about staying in the dynamic is warranted.
Defining Somatic Narcissism
In the broad field of psychology, somatic narcissism is a notable topic. It’s a subtype of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) where an individual uses their physical appearance as a tool to seek attention, admiration, and validation from others. The term ‘somatic’ in this context denotes the body, implying a focus on physical beauty and bodily attributes.
Somatic narcissists, including female somatic narcissists, frequently demonstrate a significant preoccupation with their looks, seeking approval for their physical attractiveness. Somatic narcissists tend to be a subtype known as sexual narcissists, who emphasize their sexual prowess and conquests to gain admiration.
The emergence of somatic narcissism can originate from various factors, including:
- Emotional, physical, or sexual mistreatment
- Inadequate parenting
- Low self-esteem
- Significant life events like losing a loved one or undergoing a divorce.
Common Traits of Somatic Narcissists
Somatic covert narcissists possess a unique constellation of narcissistic traits that set them apart. Among many somatic narcissists, these traits include an emphasis on physical appearance, the utilization of sex for manipulation and control, and a deficiency of emotional depth in relationships.
Understanding the traits of a somatic further, we’ll see how these characteristics appear in the daily behaviors and interactions of somatic narcissists.
Focus on Physical Appearance
From my work supporting those recovering from narcissistic relationships, I’ve witnessed the extremes somatic narcissists will go to fortify their bodily image. They meticulously monitor their appearance – adhering to rigid diets and intense workout regimes, even resorting to cosmetic procedures. For them, the body becomes a fortress to be endlessly perfected and displayed to fill their inner voids.
This intense self-focus on physical “perfection” often displaces real emotional connections. Somatic narcissists frequently prioritize pampering and perfecting their outer image over showing up fully present and available for intimate relationships. Their inner world and relationships suffer as a result.
Importantly, this extreme focus on physical attractiveness distinguishes somatic from cerebral narcissists. While somatic narcissists use their bodies to seek validation, cerebral narcissists gain admiration through displays of intellectual achievements instead. Both reveal inner deficits, just through different means.
Sex is not merely an act of intimacy for somatic narcissists; it’s a tool for manipulation, control, and self-esteem enhancement. They frequently regard their partners as objects rather than individuals with whom they share a mutual act of intimacy. This sexual exploitation is not confined to their personal relationships; in social settings, somatic narcissists often exploit their physical attractiveness and sexuality to obtain a narcissistic supply from others.
Their approaches to sexual exploitation involve glorifying their sexual capabilities and using their physical attractiveness to their advantage. This approach to sex reveals much about the somatic narcissist’s world view, where relationships are seen as arenas for control and dominance, rather than mutual respect and intimacy.
Lack of Emotional Depth
Despite their focus on physical attractiveness and sexual conquests, somatic narcissists often lack emotional depth. They have difficulty forming profound emotional bonds, primarily due to their lack of empathy and their prioritization of physical aspects over emotional attachment. This inability to form deep emotional connections often results in shallow, superficial relationships.
The absence of emotional depth in somatic narcissists can significantly negatively affect their partners. Their incapacity to offer genuine love or empathy frequently results in their partners experiencing emotional neglect, leading to feelings of frustration and loneliness. This emotional neglect is a stark contrast to the emotional intensity that somatic narcissists often display in their pursuit of physical attractiveness and sexual conquests.
Impact of Somatic Narcissism on Relationships
Somatic narcissism significantly affects relationships, with consequences including emotional neglect, infidelity, and manipulation.
As we explore these impacts, we’ll discover how the traits of somatic narcissism translate into damaging behaviors and patterns within relationships.
One of the most significant impacts of a relationship with a somatic narcissist is the experience of emotional neglect. Somatic narcissists frequently fail to attend to their partner’s emotional needs, resulting in feelings of loneliness and dissatisfaction. This neglect manifests as emotional abandonment, as the narcissist does not effectively connect with their partner on an emotional level.
This emotional neglect can cause considerable damage, potentially resulting in:
- emotional distress
- trust and self-esteem issues The partner may feel:
- overlooked leading to subsequent feelings of:
- diminished self-esteem.
This emotional neglect, coupled with the narcissist’s sensitivity to criticism and subsequent defensive behaviors, can lead to a toxic cycle of narcissistic abuse.
Unfaithfulness and Betrayal
Unfaithfulness and betrayal are frequent in relationships with somatic narcissists. They are inclined towards unfaithfulness due to their challenges with impulse control and difficulty in establishing profound emotional bonds. The somatic narcissist’s infidelity is not just a breach of trust but also a tool for asserting power, instilling insecurity, and fostering dependency in their partners.
The unfaithfulness of a somatic narcissist can have a significant impact on their partner’s mental health, potentially leading to emotional distress and triggering issues related to trust and self-esteem. This betrayal, coupled with the emotional neglect discussed earlier, can make relationships with somatic narcissists incredibly damaging.
Control and Manipulation
Control and manipulation characterize a relationship with a somatic narcissist. They often seek continual admiration and validation, frequently at the expense of genuine intimacy. They may impose unrealistic expectations on their partners, such as expecting constant availability and compliance with all demands.
Common manipulation tactics employed by somatic narcissists include gaslighting and triangulation. Gaslighting involves casting doubt on the victim’s credibility and highlighting their previous errors. On the other hand, triangulation involves fabricating a network of falsehoods to undermine and alienate an individual. These tactics result in emotional and psychological harm, creating a toxic dynamic within the relationship.
Coping Strategies for Dealing with Somatic Narcissists
Managing a relationship with a somatic narcissist can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. However, there are strategies to cope with these relationships, including establishing boundaries, seeking support, and focusing on self-care and personal growth.
Setting and upholding healthy boundaries is a vital protective step against the manipulative and intimidating behavior of somatic narcissists. These boundaries serve to define limits and expectations, mitigating the risk of emotional abuse and preserving one’s sense of self-worth.
Boundaries may include developing an exit strategy, setting limits to prevent physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or establishing expectations around communication and behavior. However, establishing these boundaries can be challenging, as somatic narcissists can react unfavorably to perceived criticism or judgment, potentially leading to increased manipulation and harm to one’s emotional welfare.
Reaching out to friends, family, or professionals for support can be a lifeline when dealing with a somatic narcissist. A support system offers crucial:
These can provide a much-needed support system in a healthy relationship.
There are various ways to seek support, including one-to-one online therapy, in-person sessions with a therapist, holistic coaching, and participation in support groups. These groups create a community where individuals can exchange experiences, gain validation, and find support from individuals who have encountered similar experiences.
Self-Care and Personal Growth
Emphasizing self-care and personal growth is vital for those dealing with a somatic narcissist. It involves prioritizing personal well-being and establishing boundaries, which are fundamental for addressing the emotional and psychological effects of the relationship.
Personal development techniques can assist individuals in recovering from a relationship with a somatic narcissist. These techniques include cultivating self-love, seeking professional guidance, and focusing on recovery and empowerment. Focusing on personal growth contributes to the development of self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-confidence, helping to establish healthy boundaries, effective communication, and decisions that promote one’s well-being.
Somatic Narcissism and Treatment Options
While techniques like CBT, group therapy, and family therapy are often recommended for narcissism, I must be transparent – truly transforming narcissistic relational patterns is notoriously difficult. Many somatic narcissists, accustomed to externalizing blame and refusing accountability, will exit therapy prematurely. Change requires earnest motivation from within.
In cases where somatic narcissists vigorously commit themselves to the often painful personal growth process, skilled therapists can facilitate immense healing using modalities like CBT to shift unhealthy cognitive patterns. Group settings may help build self-awareness through peer feedback. Family sessions allow loved ones to set collaborative boundaries.
Yet the statistics reveal a hard truth – many narcissistically-wounded relationships only perpetuate harm. And no amount of external effort can force someone to change until they earnestly want to. My work has taught me discernment and self-care must come first. The options below serve those already oriented towards change.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been proven to be a highly successful treatment for somatic narcissism. CBT facilitates individuals in:
- Altering their adverse thought patterns and behaviors
- Managing their emotions
- Establishing boundaries
- Engaging with others in a more constructive manner
CBT involves collaboration between individuals and a therapist to:
- Recognize negative thought patterns
- Engage in exercises to transform them
- Question negative thoughts
- Substitute them with more rational and optimistic thoughts
- Establish mechanisms to manage adverse emotions
This process may entail questioning negative thoughts, substituting them with more rational and optimistic thoughts, and establishing mechanisms to manage adverse emotions.
By promoting self-awareness and empathy, CBT can assist somatic narcissists in enhancing their relationships.
Group and Family Therapy
Group and family therapy are also productive treatment options for somatic narcissism. They provide a supportive environment where individuals can discuss their experiences, gain insights, and learn healthier ways of interacting with others.
Group therapy can assist individuals with narcissistic personality disorder in modifying their approach to dealing with narcissism. Family therapy, on the other hand, can help address underlying issues related to narcissistic tendencies within a family setting, facilitating improved communication and relationships within the family.
Navigating the Labyrinth of Somatic Narcissism
Having journeyed into the intricate workings of somatic narcissists, we’ve mapped out the labyrinth so many find themselves lost in. Now armed with hard-won knowledge, recognizing the false charms and self-centered motivations becomes possible.
No longer do we need to question ourselves when devaluation follows idealization. Their core inner issues are apparent. We discern when bodies become commodities serving only their soothed ego. Equipped to spot narcissism’s manipulations, better boundaries blossom.
Yet in parallel to protecting ourselves, an open heart remains. Somatic narcissism often disguises deeply rooted wounds demanding our empathy. With clearer seeing, space emerges – space to act from wisdom not retaliation, allowing narcissists their own timing to shift.
May this illumination grant you enhanced discernment so real nourishment can flow where you stand. You deserve connections that mutually support growth. May you have the courage to water those seeds.
Frequently Asked Questions
What words can destroy a narcissist?
Telling a narcissist “I see through you” and “You’re not as special/great/intelligent as you think you are” can be highly damaging to their ego.
Can a somatic narcissist be faithful?
Somatic narcissists, in general, may struggle with being faithful in a relationship due to their focus on physical appearance and validation from others.
How does a narcissist react when they can’t control you?
When a narcissist feels they can’t control you, they may react with outrage and attempt to reestablish their control through aggression and force. This can lead to furious outbursts and manipulative behavior.
Can someone have narcissistic tendencies but not be a narcissist?
Yes, it is possible to have narcissistic tendencies without having a full narcissistic personality disorder, as narcissism exists on a spectrum and individuals may have some traits without meeting the criteria for the disorder.
What is somatic narcissism?
Somatic narcissism is a subtype of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) characterized by the use of physical appearance to seek attention and validation from others.