Those high in vulnerable narcissism are more likely to feel shame in their everyday life

A new study provides eye-opening information on the role of shame in narcissistic personalities.

The experts found that people high in vulnerable narcissism feel more shame on a daily basis.

Other studies have suggested that shame can lead to damaging behaviors in narcissists. But findings on this topic have been mixed.

Research authors Marco Di Sarno and his team – consisting of Johannes Zimmermann, Fabio Madeddu, Erica Casini, and Rossella Di Pierro – say that for clinicians hoping to come up with solutions for patients with narcissistic tendencies it is crucial to clarify the relationship between narcissism and shame.

“The present study investigated whether feelings of shame are typical of pathological narcissism, and examined if narcissistic traits modulate the impact of situations on such emotional experiences,” Di Sarno and the team say.

By using a longitudinal method and a number of measures for narcissism, the experts wanted to go further than previous studies.

196 youngsters aged 22 on average, took part in a diary study. They completed self-report measures of narcissism by using the Brief Pathological Narcissism Inventory (B-PNI) and the Five-Factor Narcissism Inventory – Short Form (FFNI-SF). In addition, they completed measures of self-esteem and shame-proneness.

Later on, the subjects used an app where they had to answer questions once a day for 28 days. The survey assessed how they were feeling that day in terms of shame, self-esteem, vulnerable narcissism, and grandiose narcissism.

The first results showed that vulnerable narcissism was positively correlated with shame on average during the 28-day period. According to FFNI-SF and B-PNI, this was true for measures for the vulnerable narcissism category. In other words,

“The higher vulnerable narcissism, the more participants experienced shame,” Di Sarno’s team said.

Furthermore, some components included in the vulnerable narcissism assessments were also linked with everyday shame.

“Participants with fragile self-esteem (i.e., B-PNI contingent self-esteem), a tendency to devalue intimacy for fear of disappointment (i.e., B-PNI devaluing), and pronounced needs for admiration (i.e., FFNI-SF) were more likely to experience shame.”

The only assessment from the B-PNI that was negatively correlated with shame was entitlement rage.

“In other words, the present study leaves little doubt that conscious experiences of shame are typical of those who score higher on measures of vulnerable narcissism, with the probable exception of those who tend to react with hostility to unmet entitled expectations,” the researchers said.

According to the authors, on days when subjects reported feeling vulnerable, they also felt more shame. When they were feeling more grandiose, on the other hand, they reported feeling less shame.

“Conscious experiences of shame may be to some extent incompatible with simultaneous conscious experiences of grandiosity (Broucek, 1982). In a sense, if dispositional grandiose narcissism does not necessarily protect against shame, feeling grandiose in the moment usually does,” Di Sarno’s team says.

While the study was able to shed some light on the topic, it relied mainly on self-report measures and a nonclinical sample of youngsters who were mainly women. According to the team, future studies should aim to include a stronger variety of participants.

The study is called “Shame behind the corner? A daily diary investigation of pathological narcissism” and was published in the Journal of Research in Personality.

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