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Toward the Development of a New Hypothesis and Measure for Narcissistic Victim Syndrome

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Abstract

Narcissistic Victim Syndrome is an area that remains unexplored and without established methods, procedures, or guidelines. Continued work in this area is a push toward understanding and assisting those who have been through traumatic entrapment circumstances in a more meaningful way. The current study forwards a hypothesis that victims of traumatic entrapment that exhibit symptoms of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome will also exhibit symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The participants would be recruited from identified scenarios of traumatic entrapment including, but not limited to, victims of hostage trauma, extreme domestic violence (emotional, physical, or both), and traumatic sex trafficking and current measures for Narcissistic Personality Disorder are used to establish a baseline for initial research. This study forwards a hypothesis that victims of traumatic entrapment that exhibit symptoms of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome will also exhibit symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and that in circumstances of traumatic entrapment, the victim identifies with, becomes emotionally bonded to, and ultimately becomes engaged in appeasement of the agonist due to the dynamic of paradoxical fulfilment of complementary narcissistic personalities. The proposed research design is put forward to study Narcissistic Victim Syndrome in order (a) to assess the mental health state of and determine correlation, if any, among the victims of narcissists after extreme circumstances of traumatic entrapment and (b) to further assess if there does, indeed, exist a narcissistic component to their personality that would benefit from the emotional appeasement of and emotional bonding with a narcissistic agonist in such circumstances. [Edited for minor grammatical corrections, 2016]
Running head: A NEW STUDY FOR NARCISSISTIC VICTIM SYNDROME
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Toward the Development of a New Hypothesis and Measure for Narcissistic Victim Syndrome
Bishop Harber
University of TexasPermian Basin
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Abstract
Narcissistic Victim Syndrome is an area that remains unexplored and without established methods,
procedures, or guidelines. Continued work in this area is a push toward understanding and assisting
those who have been through traumatic entrapment circumstances in a more meaningful way. The
current study forwards a hypothesis that victims of traumatic entrapment that exhibit symptoms of
Narcissistic Victim Syndrome will also exhibit symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
The participants would be recruited from identified scenarios of traumatic entrapment including,
but not limited to, victims of hostage trauma, extreme domestic violence (emotional, physical, or
both), and traumatic sex trafficking and current measures for Narcissistic Personality Disorder are
used to establish a baseline for initial research. This study forwards a hypothesis that in
circumstances of traumatic entrapment, the victim identifies with, becomes emotionally bonded
to, and ultimately becomes engaged in appeasement of the agonist due to the dynamic of
paradoxical fulfilment of complementary narcissistic personalities. The proposed research design
is put forward to study Narcissistic Victim Syndrome in order (a) to assess the mental health state
of and determine correlation, if any, among the victims of narcissists after extreme circumstances
of traumatic entrapment and (b) to further assess if there does, indeed, exist a narcissistic
component to their personality that would benefit from the emotional appeasement of and
emotional bonding with a narcissistic agonist in such circumstances.
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Toward the Development of a New Hypothesis and Measure for Narcissistic Victim Syndrome
The study of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (NVS) has virtually no peer reviewed
research into its validity and value as a diagnosis. Yet it exists in the observation of many who
work with narcissists and their victims. Under the more common moniker of Stockholm
Syndrome, NVS has been reviewed and critiqued in many extremes, ranging from the
perspective of a creation of media sensationalism (Namnyak, Tufton, Szekely, Toal, Worboys, &
Sampson, 2008) to that of an evolutionary defense mechanism for survival (Cantor & Price,
2007; Watson, Cantor, & Price, 2007) and even held to be co-opted by the feminist psychology
for their own means and ends as a label for the emotional bonding during and damaging results
from domestic abuse (Adorjan, Christensen, Kelly, & Pawluch, 2012). However, Narcissistic
Victim Syndrome has not been provided any final legitimacy as an established disorder or as a
diagnosis with conclusive measures of its own.
Defining the Common Ground and Context of Study
Traumatic entrapment is a complex interaction defined here as any combination of
“exploited power imbalances, physical and sexual abuse, humiliation, dehumanization, as well as
vague and unpredictable threats, which are clearly specified within coercive controlling
behaviors” (Raghavan, R. & Doychak, K., 2015, p. 584).
There are many different diagnostic criteria from which researchers have labelled
survivors of traumatic entrapment. Each of these different complexes, syndromes, and disorders
have their own unique descriptors. However, what Stockholm Syndrome, Narcissistic Victim
Syndrome, Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), and all other similarly labelled
issues hold in common is an “identification with the aggressor” (Jameson, 2010, p. 338) and “a
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seemingly paradoxical idealization of the abuser” (Cantor & Price, 2007, p. 379). For the
purposes here, there is no delineation made between separate labels unless necessary for a
specific measure or proposal.
In the study of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, there is quite a bit of peripheral
information that exists, but very little that directly examines a diagnosis with any depth outside
connecting the symptoms in its various forms to the symptoms of existing conditions, e.g.
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Much of the study in traumatic entrapment situations
is done from the context of the perpetrator or abuser, the narcissist directly. Examining this
literature does provide a connection, context, and conduit toward studying the victim through the
lens of a particular working hypothesis.
Organization of the Review
This review is organized in such a way as to lead through a brief history of the subject
matter, comment on the hypothesis extended, examine some of the current literature involved,
and provide a look at the missing elements of research that could be undertaken from here. As
with many subjects, the amount of material for review could be daunting. In this case, choices
had to be made as to what studies and reviews would be admissible. The literature search was
conducted through three databasesPsychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection,
PsycARTICLES, and PsycINFOwith the search parameters limited to papers that were peer-
reviewed, published between 2006 and 2016 (with three notable exceptions), and contained
direct discussion of or research into Stockholm Syndrome, Narcissistic Victim Syndrome,
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), or C-PTSD in relation to traumatic entrapment.
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Methodological Differences and Need for Further Research
In nearly every case, the subject of the narcissist is foremost in the paper or research.
There is some mention of victims in the reviews, but they are nearly all conclusive that such
victims are passive agents and helpless to participate in the trauma any further than an unwilling
target. In many cases, such an approach to the victims would be sufficient. However, in the cases
where there are symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome and other related conditions, such behavioral
changes cannot be merely handed off as passive complicity of the victim. Yet in each case where
even these conditions are identified, the majority of references in studies continue to either
suggest passive complicity or are merely silent on any additional behavioral factors on the part of
the victim that could be a contributing factor to their acquiescence and appeasement of the
abuser.
To this end, merely fitting the victim into a convenient definition of passive and
unwilling participant, there is a lack of further need to understand the dynamic that occurs
between the abuser and victim as well as no conclusive evidence as to why some victims of
abusers in traumatic entrapment scenarios will develop these conditions and others will not.
The current research into Narcissistic Victim Syndrome appears to lack anything more
than case study reports based on witness testimony of previous hostage and abusive events.
Certainly this is a difficult subject to approach from the standpoint of the victim who has already
been traumatized through the event itself. Subjecting the victim to even more measures that
could bring up potentially negative affects is to be approached carefully and compassionately.
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Review
Stockholm Syndrome was first a media sensation after the 1973 bank hostage situation in
Stockholm but was not really defined in any conclusive manner until the 1980s and early 1990s
(Adorjan, Christensen, Kelly, & Pawluch, 2012; Namnyak, Tufton, Szekely, Toal, Worboys, &
Sampson, 2008). Early attempts at categorizing this response to traumatic entrapment fell into
simple post-traumatic stress disorder (Wesselius & DeSarno, 1983, p.45).
The late 1980s saw the usurpation of Stockholm Syndrome by the feminist psychologist,
Dee Graham, and the insistence that society itself perpetuated the syndrome on all women
(Adorjan, Christensen, Kelly, & Pawluch, 2012).
Reason returned to the study of traumatic entrapment and the abusers in the mid-1990s
with some minimal guidelines provided for identifying the victims (Adorjan, Christensen, Kelly,
& Pawluch, 2012). Again, the majority of studies continued to classify these victims under the
labels of PTSD, Hostage Response Syndrome, even common depression (Adorjan, Christensen,
Kelly, & Pawluch, 2012; Jameson, 2010; Namnyak et al, 2008; Wesselius & DeSarno, 1983).
Common Assumptions of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome
All studies, however, do hold that these disorders and syndromes, when viewed under the
conditions of traumatic entrapment, share in common an “identification with the aggressor”
(Jameson, 2010, p. 338) and “a seemingly paradoxical idealization of the abuser” (Cantor &
Price, 2007, p. 379). Without minimizing the grotesqueness of the victimization involved, the
victim identifying with the abuser due to a sense of their own narcissism acting out could have
an effect of fulfilling a dimension of the victim’s own narcissism thereby creating the opening
for the agonist to exploit toward their own means, and subsequently, for the subordination of and
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appeasement by the victim in order to survive the abuse that is created in a dynamic of
paradoxical fulfilment of twin narcissistic personalities.
Retrospective Review of Measures
In order to accomplish this study, a review of the current measures and processes is
necessary.
Since the 1980s, case studies as well as “unstructured interviews of kidnap and siege
victims, and retrospective analysis of these events, rather than on any standardized psychological
testing of apparent victims” (Jameson, 2010, p. 343) have been used as the primary means of
determining Stockholm Syndrome, PTSD, and similar disorders (Namnyak et al, 2008;
Wesselius & DeSarno, 1983; Wink, 1991).
In 2007, Cantor and Price did make some connections between Stockholm Syndrome and
both evolutionary survival mechanisms and C-PTSD. They concluded that more research into the
measures of C-PTSD needed to be explored (Cantor & Price, 2007, p. 383). They also provided
some of the first clues about the relationship of abuser and victim when they found the nature of
the appeasement of the abuser is “highly specific” in circumstances in which Stockholm
Syndrome (i.e., NVS, C-PTSD, etc) is finally diagnosed (Cantor & Price, 2007, p. 383).
In the 1990s, both the PTSD Checklist and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for
Civilians (PCL-C) assisted endeavors to explore symptoms of those “exposed to a traumatic
event that was life threatening or had risk to physical integrity of self or others” (Mount, 2006, p.
130). This was a good start but still not enough to explore deeper into the motivations underneath
the emotional trauma bonding of the victim with the agonist.
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Need for Further Research and Measures for Narcissistic Victim Syndrome
When looking into the field of narcissistic personality studies, there appear to be virtually
no studies on the victims from any other perspective than the trauma inflicted upon them. There
seems to be a prevalent attitude through all the major studies that victims acted out of self-
preservation (Cantor & Price, 2007) or some kind of emotional bonding that transcended reason
and afflicted the victim with a lack of identity outside that of the abuser (Jameson, 2010). These
two polarities appear to be the choices when it comes to NVS, yet they all agree the victim was
emotionally available and willing to appease the agonist and a type of hypnosis settled over them
(Adorjan, Christensen, Kelly, & Pawluch, 2012; Jameson, 2010; Namnyak et al, 2008).
Toward a New Hypothesis and Measure for Narcissistic Victim Syndrome
The current study forwards a hypothesis that victims of traumatic entrapment that exhibit
symptoms of Narcissistic Victims Syndromeby whichever symptom designator of choice is
being usedwill also exhibit symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Using Wink’s two
operational definitions of narcissismVulnerability-Sensitivity [i.e., covert narcissism] and
Grandiosity-Exhibitionism [i.e., overt narcissism] (Wink, 1991)it is hypothesized that in
circumstances of traumatic entrapment, the victim identifies with, becomes emotionally bonded
to, and ultimately becomes engaged in appeasement of the agonist due to the dynamic of
paradoxical fulfilment of complementary narcissistic personalities. It is further hypothesized that
the victim will score heavily in the hypersensitivity dimension of narcissism (Edelstein, Newton,
& Stewart, 2012; Wink, 1992). The connection with covert narcissism, vulnerability, and sexual
aggression are positive correlated (Widman & McNulty, 2010; Zeigler-Hill, Enjaian, & Essa,
2013) in a way that could be yet another marker.
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The current study begins to approach these questions through the systematic study of the
victim of traumatic entrapment. In this manner, the study proposes to add further information and
depth to current information regarding Narcissistic Victim Syndrome and add to the dialogue
over extreme circumstances to best understand the psychology of the abuser and the victim
together.
To that end, it is proposed the study of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome may include the use
of current measures and procedures already used for Narcissistic Personality Disorder [see
Methods] in order to assess the mental health state of and determine correlation, if any, among
the victims of narcissists after extreme circumstances of traumatic entrapment and further assess
if there does, indeed, exist a narcissistic component to their personality that would benefit from
the emotional appeasement of and emotional bonding with a narcissistic agonist in such
circumstances. Using the same foundation as examining the agonist, the victim can also be
examined for complementary narcissistic traits.
Narcissistic Victim Syndrome is an area that remains unexplored and without established
methods, procedures, or guidelines. Continued work in this area is a push toward understanding
and assisting those who have been through traumatic entrapment circumstances in a more
meaningful way.
Methods
Participants
The participants would be recruited from identified scenarios of traumatic entrapment
including, but not limited to, victims of hostage trauma, extreme domestic violence (emotional,
physical, or both), and traumatic sex trafficking in which the victims have been identified as
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having made a positive emotional bond with the agonist, e.g., Stockholm Syndrome (Jameson,
2010; Cantor & Price, 2007), Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, Complex Posttraumatic Stress
Disorder (C-PTSD; Cantor & Price, 2007), etc. Individual diagnoses using the Structured
Clinical Interview for DSM5 (SCID-5-CV; First, Williams, Benjamin, & Spitzer, 2015)
followed by the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM5 Personality Disorders (SCID-5-PD;
First, Williams, Benjamin, & Spitzer, 2015) will be conducted to establish a baseline for
inclusion in the study when presented with a corresponding diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality
Disorder (NPD) on the latter measure.
Any scenario of traumatic entrapment with additional victims not presenting the trauma
bond symptoms, e.g., hostage rescues, will be screened for diagnoses of any disorder with the
Structured Clinical Interview for DSM5 (SCID-5-CV; First, Williams, Benjamin, & Spitzer,
2015) to collect data for future studies.
Materials
This study will use several measures to ensure a complete profile of the victim is
presented. Given the lack of available empirical studies and measures specific for Narcissistic
Victim Syndrome, the use of current measures for Narcissistic Personality Disorder are used to
establish two basic assumptions: first, that the victim does present with a diagnosis of NPD and,
second, that the victim has a set of well-being markers that put them in congruence with the
narcissistic agonist.
Baseline measures. The baseline measures for inclusion in the NVS study, as mentioned
previously, are the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM5 followed by the Structured Clinical
Interview for DSM5 Personality Disorders.
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In addition to the above measures, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for Civilians
(PTSD-C) is used to determine the status of PTSD in the victim (Mount, 2006). Given the DSM-
IV did provide for disorders of extreme stress not otherwise specified (DESNOS), and the DSM-
5 has merely lumped everything into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder with no additional
qualifiers for Complex PTSD, this checklist at least provides a baseline on which to work given
the lack of diagnostic criteria that is legitimatized for empirical psychological research on
Narcissistic Victim Syndrome.
Narcissism measures. The second set of measures will follow Wink (1992) along 3-
dimensions of narcissism(a) willfulness, (b) hypersensitivity, and (c) autonomythrough the
observer-based California Adult Q-Sort (CAQ; Park & Colvin, 2014; Edelstein, Newton, &
Stewart, 2012; Wink, 1991) and a self-report CPI Narcissism scale (Wink, 1992).
The California Adult Q-Sort (with Wink’s narcissism prototype in use) is an observer
inventory of 100 items, ranging from 1 (extremely uncharacteristic) to 9 (extremely
characteristic). It judges narcissism across three scales(a) willfulness, (b) hypersensitivity, and
(c) autonomyand shows an aggregate α = .91 (Wink, 1992). This study will use five observers
per participant.
The CPI Narcissism scale uses the California Psychological Inventory that includes 434
true-false questions. Adding Wink’s narcissism prototype into the measure requires only 100 of
these items to be scored for the determination of the dimension of narcissism. This has a mean
alpha (α) of .75 when these narcissism scales are applied. Using this scale provides the study
with the means to determine the base factor of narcissism the participant exhibits, i.e.,
Vulnerability-Sensitivity or Grandiosity-Exhibitionism (Wink, 1991).
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The Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI; Park & Colvin, 2014; Vater et al, 2013) is
added to the measures next to provide depth to the SCID-5-PD and CAQ. The NPI is a forced
choice format of 40 items with items such as “I really like to be the center of attention” and “I
am an extraordinary person on a 4-point scale (Park & Colvin, 2014, p. 280). It has an internal
consistency of .83 (Vater et al, 2013, p. 303). While there are subsets of scales that can be
calculated independently, we will only calculate the the overall score of the NPI for use in this
study.
Additional measures. Using Wink’s two operational definitions of narcissism—
Vulnerability-Sensitivity [i.e., covert narcissism] and Grandiosity-Exhibitionism [i.e., overt
narcissism] (Wink, 1991)further measures are used to establish markers for psychological
well-being and satisfaction, vulnerability, and self-esteem. These measures will produce a more
complete profile of the victim and used to further correlate both the self-reported perspective of
well-being, from multiple measures, and the dimension of narcissism present in the victims that
exhibit Narcissistic Victim Syndrome.
Dimensional Assessment of Personality PathologyBasic Questionnaire (DAPP-BQ) is a
measure used to assess personality disorders along 18 scales in five categories: Emotional
Dysregulation, Dissocial Behavior, Social Avoidance, Compulsiveness, and Other. Each
category has various questions that range from “I have tried to commit suicide” to "If people
make me angry I quickly smother my feelings” to “I feel as if there is a large void inside me.” It
has internal consistency reliabilities for the 18 scales range from .85 to .94 (Vater et al, 2013).
Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) is a five-item measure in which statements such as
“The conditions of my life are excellent” and “If I could live my life over, I would change almost
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nothing” are rated on a 7-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). It
reports a mean α = .87 (Edelstein, Newton, & Stewart, 2012). This scale is used to assess the
state of mind about the victim’s view of their life in the immediate moment.
Sexual Narcissism Scale (SNS) is a 40-item measure given to determine the components
of narcissism in the sexual domain. The responses were given on a 5-point scale ranging from 1
(strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) including “One way to get a person in bed with me is to
tell them what they want to hear” and “The feelings of my sexual partners don’t usually concern
me.” Four reverse-scored items were provided as a control response. Overall, all subsections
included, α = .91 (Widman & McNulty, 2010).
Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES) is a ten-item Likert scale questionnaire with
statements as “I feel that I am a person of worth, at least on an equal plane with others” and “At
times I think I am no good at all.” It uses a four-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly agree) to 4
(strongly disagree). Internal consistency for the RSES ranges from 0.77 to 0.88. (Vater et al,
2013).
Ryff Scales of Psychological Well-Being (SPWB) is a self-reporting measure of 84
questions that examines six areasself-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy,
environmental mastery, purpose in life, and personal growthon a scale of 1 to 6, with 1
indicating strong disagreement and 6 indicating strong agreement; and it includes statements
such as I have confidence in my opinions, even if they are contrary to the general consensus,”
In general, I feel I am in charge of the situation in which I live,” and “Some people wander
aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them. Internal consistency on the SPWB is
determined by subsection and ranges from .86 to .91 (Edelstein, Newton, & Stewart, 2012).
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Zung’s Self-Rating Depression Scale (ZSDS) is used to determine perspective of
emotional state of mind and mental health that lead to trauma bonding and appeasement of the
agonist by the victim. Participants are provided a 4-point scale to respond to positive or negative
statements such as “My mind is as clear as it used to be” and “I feel that I am useful and needed”
ranging from 1 (a little of the time) to 4 (most of the time). The ZSDS has a reported α = .82
(Edelstein, Newton, & Stewart, 2012).
Procedures
The study will include an informed consent form, which all participants will fill out prior
to the administration of the questionnaires and interviews, in which they acknowledge their
understanding of the process, basic details of the study, and assured of the anonymity of their
responses and participation. Each participant will be interviewed privately.
The interview process takes place over several weeks. Various measures require different
components from the CAQ which requires the use of five observers to the ability to do multiple
questionnaires in an afternoon without fatigue, e.g., RSES, SWLS, to the need for a single day to
work through the CPI in a reasonable amount of time and without adding stress to the
participant.
Once the questionnaires and interviews are completed, all participants will be debriefed
as to the nature and purpose of the study and once again assured of the anonymity of their
responses and participation in any resultant case studies and publication of the study.
Limitations of the study. It is important to note several limitations to this study as well as
opportunities that could be addressed in future approaches to this subject matter.
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First, there appears to be a preponderance of women that are afflicted with NVS as
opposed to men. Correlating victims of traumatic entrapment situations in which men are
involved and examining the well-being scales along with the personality measures could provide
insight into this phenomenon. It could be that men are less willing to admit to their emotional
bonding with an agonist during interviews and skew the samples during the interview process.
Second, while there is some research suggesting otherwise (Sansone & Sansone, 2011),
women are historically more likely to be diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
than Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It is possible that given the similarities in disorders
separated only on a dimension of gender, BPD could be as likely a diagnosis for the female
victims as the traits of covert narcissism found in NPD. This is another opening for further
research into Narcissistic Victim Syndrome.
Finally, given the use of the specific operational definitions, a side hypothesis would be
extended that narcissistic abusers rate high on the willfulness or autonomy (or both) dimensions
of narcissism. While not specific to this study itself, it is possible that collection of data on both
victims and abusers might happen during the course of handling any particular traumatic
situation. Such a side hypothesis would also go toward providing evidence of the complementary
narcissistic personalities.
Data Analysis
The results of the study would be analyzed through the use of Pearson's correlation
coefficient. Due to the longitudinal nature of this study in order to gather quantitative data, it
would be impossible to conjecture at the immediate results of such measures and whether the
hypotheses provided would be supported or unsupported by the evidence gathered.
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Expected Results
The current study forwards a hypothesis that victims of traumatic entrapment that exhibit
symptoms of Narcissistic Victims Syndromeby whichever symptom designator of choice is
being usedwill also exhibit symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Using Wink’s two
operational definitions of narcissismVulnerability-Sensitivity and Grandiosity-Exhibitionism
(Wink, 1991)it is hypothesized that in circumstances of traumatic entrapment, the victim
identifies with, becomes emotionally bonded to, and ultimately becomes engaged in
appeasement of the agonist due to the dynamic of paradoxical fulfilment of complementary
narcissistic personalities. The study anticipates to find the majority, if not all, victims leaning
heavily toward the Vulnerability-Sensitivity scale.
It is further hypothesized that the majority, if not all, victims will score heavily in the
hypersensitivity dimension of narcissism (Edelstein, Newton, & Stewart, 2012; Wink, 1992). The
connection with covert narcissism, vulnerability, and sexual aggression are positive correlated
(Widman & McNulty, 2010; Zeigler-Hill, Enjaian, & Essa, 2013) in a way that could be yet
another marker.
This research design is proposed to study Narcissistic Victim Syndrome in order (a) to
assess the mental health state of and determine correlation, if any, among the victims of
narcissists after extreme circumstances of traumatic entrapment and (b) to further assess if there
does, indeed, exist a narcissistic component to their personality that would benefit from the
emotional appeasement of and emotional bonding with a narcissistic agonist in such
circumstances.
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