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Beauties and Beasts:
The Idealization/Devaluation Formula

by Mark Sichel, LCSW

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.

Some psychologists believe that the narcissistic personality disorder is at the core of most addictive problems. We certainly know that people in recovery struggle with self-esteem issues, the hallmark of which are the subconscious beliefs that if we're not able to idealize ourselves, then we're vulnerable to a devalued perception of ourselves.

Do you ever hear yourself talking about others in extremes only, or find yourself thinking about yourself in extremes?

I look gorgeous.
I look disgusting.

He's the smartest person I know.
He's dumber than a stump.

She's ravishing.
She's hideous.

I'm amazing.
I'm a big nothing.

I'm the most generous person I know.
I'm the most selfish person I know.

To learn more about narcissistic thinking, and how to think in a more reasonable manner, take a look at Saints and Sinners.

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Honoring the Self: The Psychology of Confidence and Respect
by Nathaniel Branden
Our Price: $6.29

"'Tell me how a person judges his or her self-esteem,' says pioneering psychologist Nathaniel Branden, 'and I will tell you how that person operates at work, in love, in sex, in parenting, in every important aspect of existence--and how high he or she is likely to rise. The reputation you have with yourself--your self-esteem--is the single most important factor for a fulfilling life.'" -- Book Description

For a selection of books on this topic, visit the Psystore.

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