Dylan Klebold and Narcissistic Personality Disorder theory (part 1)
Hello everyone. Here is my understanding of Dylan’s personality and his hypothetical personality disorder. I hope that you WON’T be biased, because you may have heard about stereotypical “manipulative-evil-selfish” narcissists.
So, going forward, (to avoid misunderstanding) I’ll say this: all narcissists fight a strong feeling of shame and low self-esteem. That’s the only constant here – you should keep it in mind for now.
First of all, we need to define what shame is and find inner psychological conflicts of people with NPD:
Excerpt from “The Origin of Shame and its Vicissitudes”:
“Shame is much more important clinically and much more common than has been understood earlier. It is often hidden, and one must know how to find it and make it conscious in order to deal with it. Shame is often difficult to recognize: it is often mislabelled guilt, which it resembles phenomenologically. The difference is that guilt refers to an act of the person, either psychic or concrete, whereas shame refers to the whole person. It is easier to perceive the secondary consequences of shame and the methods of avoiding it; some of these are bodily reactions: blushing, perspiration, tremors, depression, apathy, talkativeness, overacting, shamelessness, indifference, and cynicism. Shame generates anger, which is directed against both the self and others. The images of revenge and violence brought forth by shame-rage, on their part, give rise to guilt. Shame-anger and shame-dejection are often more primary causes of depression than guilt. (Lewis, 1987a)” – Pentti Ikonen, Phil-Mag and Eero Rechardt, M.D.
“Feelings of shame or fears of being shamed pervade the subjective experience of narcissistic people. […] Guilt is the conviction that one is sinful or has committed wrongdoings; it is easily conceptualized in terms of an internal critical parent or the superego. Shame is the sense of being seen as bad or wrong; the audience here is the self. Guilt carries with it a sense of an active potential for evil, whereas shame has connotations of helplessness, ugliness, and impotence.” – Nancy McWilliams, Psychoanalytic Diagnosis: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process.
“What narcissistic people of all appearances have in common is an inner sense of, and/or terror of, insufficiency, shame, weakness, and inferiority (Cooper, 1984)” – Nancy McWilliams, Psychoanalytic Diagnosis: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process.
Conclusion: Guilt is “I did bad thing, my actions were wrong”, shame is “I am intrinsically bad, I’m sorry for myself”. Shame and low self-esteem is the core of NPD. Narcissists are afraid of shame, weakness (= defeat and inferiority) and humiliation.
“Losing was humiliating for Dylan, and his humiliation sometimes turned to anger.” – Sue Klebold’s book.
Second, we need to separate and define OVERT and COVERT narcissism:
P. Wink (1991) published a paper entitled “Two faces of narcissism” and suggested that, since NPD is inherently based on self-esteem issues, it could manifest itself in different forms. First “face” was Grandiosity-Exhibitionism type (so called “overt”), second “face” - Vulnerability-Sensitivity (so called “covert”) type.
“Like covert narcissists, high scorers on Vulnerability-Sensitivity appeared to be defensive, hypersensitive, anxious, and socially reticent individuals whose personal relations, however, were marked by self-indulgence, conceit and arrogance, and an insistence on having their own way.” – P. Wink
“In summary, high scorers on the Vulnerability-Sensitivity and Grandiosity-Exhibitionism factors shared a variety of characteristics that express key narcissistic themes, such as conceit and arrogance, and the tendency to give in to one’s own needs and disregard others.” – P. Wink
Glen O. Gabbard (1989) also discovered two types of NPD: The Obvious Narcissist and The Hypervigilant Narcissist:
The Obvious Narcissist:
- Has no awareness of reactions of others.
- Is arrogant and aggressive.
- Is self-absorbed.
- Needs to be center of attention.
- Has a “sender but no receiver”.
- Is apparently impervious to hurt feelings of others.
The Hypervigilant Narcissist:
- Is highly sensitive to reactions of others.
- Is inhibited, shy, or even self-effacing.
- Directs attention more toward others than toward self.
- Shuns being the center of attention.
- Listens to others carefully for evidence of slights or criticisms.
- Has easily hurt feelings; is prone to feeling ashamed or humiliated.
Herbert Rosenfeld (1987) also described two types of NPD: Thin-skinned and Thick-skinned narcissists.
From O. Kernberg’s lecture: “Thin-skinned” narcissistic personalities are those who function on a borderline level. They are hypersensitive to criticism, tend to develop chronic anxiety and depression, have significant paranoid attitudes and may oscillate sharply between sense of grandiosity and terrible sense of inferiority and insecurity”.
Conclusion: There are two types of NPD. I suggest that Dylan had “covert” type, which is characterized by introversion, hypersensitivity, anxiety and vulnerability, conflict between grandiosity and inferiority, arrogance and conceit.
Dylan’s grandiosity and inferiority conflict:
“I think, too much, I understand, I am GOD compared to some of those un-existable brainless zombies.”
“…the most miserable existence in the history of time…”
“People eventually find happiness I never will. Does that make me a non-human? YES. The god of sadness….”
“[…] the real people (gods) are slaves to the majority of zombies, but we know & love being superior.”
“My existence is shit to me — how I feel that I am in eternal suffering […]”
“I am GOD”; “I am a true god.”
“…such a sad desolate lonely unsalvageable I feel I am…”
“[…] the one thing that made me a god.”
“I understand whatever of everything. I am the god of the everything.”
“We, the gods, will have so much fun with NBK!! […] They will know when gods get pissed off…”
“Klebold: […] I know we’re gonna have followers because we’re so fucking God-like. We’re not exactly human — we have human bodies but we’ve evolved into one step above you, fucking human shit. We actually have fucking self-awareness.”
“[censored] can get me that gun I hope, I wanna use it on a poor SOB.”
He also shows anger and envy: narcissists usually have this emotion and tend to devalue everything they want or idolize, but can’t have. What’s the reason of such “idolize-devalue” defense? To protect oneself from suffering: you don’t need to cry over something if this “something” is bad or worthless.
Example: Jocks have everything Dylan wants -> He feels envy -> Devalues it -> “Shallow existences compared to mine”.
“I see jocks having fun, friends, women, LIVEZ. Or rather shallow existences compared to mine”
“[censored] is soo fuckin lucky he has no idea how I suffer.”
“…not fair, NOT FAIR!!! I wanted happiness!! I never got it…”
“Why is it that the zombies achieve something me wants (overdeveloped me).”
“Now, [censored] lucky bastard gets a perfect soulmate, who he can admit FUCKIN SUICIDE to & I get rejected for being honest about fuckin hate for jocks.”
“They can love, why can’t I?” and so on.
Let’s look at Dylan’s thoughts about his best friend (and his girfriend). We can clearly point out his feelings of envy, rage, loneliness:
“Ever since [censored] (who I wouldn’t mind killing) has loved him… that’s the only place he’s been with her… if anyone had any idea how sad I am…”
“my best friend has ditched me forever, lost in bettering himself & having/enjoying/taking for granted his love…”
“Now, [censored] lucky bastard gets a perfect soulmate, who he can admit FUCKIN SUICIDE to & I get rejected for being honest about fuckin hate for jocks.”
“I hate those who choose to destroy a love, who take it for granted.”
Dylan’s aggressive and arrogant behavior:
Michelle Hartsough [10,150] DK was rude/difficult; hit her once because she counseled him on infraction at work;
(Redacted) [10,286] DK called girl a bitch during flag football; other boy intervened, told DK to back off;
Keith Parkison [1,069] DK picked on people, including Keith; almost had physical fights;
Adam Kyler [247/8,677] DK (and three others) harassed and threatened to kill him; parents went to administration;
Amanda Paukune [1,074] DK was “mean and sarcastic” to her;
“…trying not to ridicule/make fun of people (censored) at school), yet it does nothing to help my life morally.” (Note that he wants to stop it just to help himself, not because bullying others is wrong)
“Man… let’s sum up junior year — the kool shit at least: sitting in the commons dubbing & laughing at fags (wood-ja!) HAHAHA frisbee fags… orange mortars for them.” – Dylan’s inscription in Eric’s yearbook.
“I can’t wait to dub the new freshmen, & the holy April morning of NBK…” – Dylan’s inscription in Eric’s yearbook.
From Diversion files: Dylan’s parents checked off “anger, authority figures, jobs, loneliness” in “Child’s mental health” list, and explained these items: “Dylan is introverted and has grown up isolated from those who are different in age, culture, or other factors. He is often angry or sullen and his behaviors seem disrespectful and intolerant of others.”
Question: Was there any evidence of “shame trauma” in Dylan’s childhood?
Answer: Yes. Being humiliated by family – is the most painful experience.
“[…] the most clearly visible difficulties associated with Vulnerability-Sensitivity include anxiety and pessimism, lack of fulfillment, and vulnerability to life’s traumas.” – P. Wink
“When he was about ten and a cousin was visiting from out of state, she and the boys and I went horseback riding together. Midway through our ride, Dylan’s horse stopped in the middle of the trail to pee. Childishly, the rest of us laughed. Dylan’s face grew red and hot with embarrassment, his humiliation growing with every passing second. Still, while Dylan might have been more self-conscious than Byron had been, his insecurities still fell well within normal parameters for a preteen.” – Sue Klebold’s book.
“One summer afternoon, when Dylan was about eight, we went on a picnic with Judy Brown and her two boys. The kids were catching crayfish in the creek, and Dylan lost his balance on the slippery rocks and fell into the shallow water with a splash. He emerged unhurt but furious: livid about the pratfall, and even angrier that everyone else had laughed. We tried to help him to see the humor in it — Byron would likely have hammed it up further by taking an elaborate bow — but Dylan went to the car and refused to speak to anyone until he felt able to face the world again. The reaction seemed outsized, but it only cemented what we already knew: Dylan felt embarrassment more acutely than other kids did.” – Sue Klebold’s book.
Dylan’s shame and “help is humiliation” and “being weak = shame”:
“One of the traits that marked Dylan throughout his life was an exaggerated reluctance to risk embarrassment, something that intensified as he entered adolescence. Both Tom and I are self-deprecating by nature, the first ones to poke fun at ourselves. But Dylan did not laugh easily at his own foibles. He could be unforgiving of himself when he failed at anything, and he hated to look foolish.” – Sue Klebold’s book.
“I remember taking him and Byron to the roller rink. […] and I offered to help Dylan, who was struggling to stay on his. He insisted he could do it alone, and so I dutifully planted myself against the railing as he stumbled away from me. He took a few halting steps on his skates without gliding, and then fell, hard, to the floor. I rushed to help, but he waved me off impatiently .
“I can skate. You wait here and watch. Don’t move! I don’t need help.”
And so I watched as he crawled on his hands and knees to the railing and pulled himself up. Then he took another few awkward steps before falling again. I held myself back and watched as the tiny figure inched around the huge rink: a few hesitant steps, the inevitable fall, and then the laborious crawl back to the railing. I have absolutely no idea how long it took him to go all the way around. It felt like an hour.
Finally, he lurched up to where I stood. Sweat poured from his face, and tendrils of blond hair stuck to his forehead. I winced to think about the bruises covering his legs under his dusty jeans. Holding the wall to steady himself, his legs shaking with the effort to keep himself upright after all that work, he stood tall and proud in front of me.
“See? I told you I could skate!”” – Sue Klebold’s book.
“In time, his pitching style took its toll on his arm. The summer before Dylan went into eighth grade, Tom hired a coach to help both boys with their form. During one of their sessions, Dylan seemed to be struggling. Suddenly, he stopped throwing altogether , his eyes downcast. Tom hurried over, worried he or the coach had pushed Dylan too hard. He saw Dylan’ s eyes were filled with tears.
“My arm hurts too much to pitch,” Dylan told his dad.
Tom was shocked. Dylan had never mentioned any pain before, though we later learned it had been going on for months, worsening with each throw. It was typical of Dylan not to mention it: he’d been determined to overcome the problem by force of will.” – Sue Klebold’s book.
In Diversion program, in Mental health sheet, Dylan marks “finances” and “job” as his only problems.
“Despite this, when we finally met Dylan’ s Diversion counselor in March of 1998, it was the first thing I asked: Did she think Dylan needed therapy? When Dylan joined us, she asked him if he thought he needed a therapist, and he said no. I was a little disappointed she didn’t give us more guidance — I already knew what Dylan thought. But Dylan kept assuring us he’d simply made a stupid mistake. “I’ll prove to you I do not need to see anyone.”” – Sue Klebold’s book.
Sounds similar? So, did he prove?
Dylan wrote “Nobody will help me” and continued acting controversial: silent and untroubled, so no one could know about his inner suffering (= see his weak side), but when time has come, and Sue asked him about therapist (i.e = help) he refused her suggestion. Dylan’s narcissism could block his desire to be saved with unintentional “You’ll seem weak, you must do it by yourself, you must prove them” and etc.
Why not depression?
Dylan’s journal is full of contempt/disdain for zombies (other people). This can’t be explained by “Oh, he dislikes other people”, because he dislikes them and feels that he’s “god compared to some of those un-existable brainless zombies”. Feeling of contempt comes from grandiosity or pride (”I’m above all this worthless trash”) and is often seen in narcissistic patients. Therefore, it means that he had strong self-confidence (as a defense). Depressive patients usually use other defense mechanisms, such as denial, identification with aggressor, passive aggression, projection or reaction formation, not omnipotence. Depression and grandiosity?
“The two dispositions most commonly confused with depressive psychology are narcissism (the depleted version) and masochism. It is my impression that misdiagnoses are more often made in the direction of construing as depressive someone who is more basically either narcissistic or masochistic than in the direction of misunderstanding an essentially depressive person as either of others. The tendency of therapists to misread a narcissistic or masochistic patient as depressive seems to me attributable to two factors. First, depressively inclined therapists may project their own dynamics onto people whose core internal story is different. Second, people with either narcissistic or masochistic personality structure frequently have symptoms of clinical depression, especially dysthymic mood. Either misreading can unfortunate clinical consequences.” – Nancy McWilliams, Psychoanalytic Diagnosis: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process.
“Sometimes narcissistic structure is present underneath these other diagnosis, which might seem more apparent. […] Sometimes on the surface you see depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, hypochondria or bipolar disorder.” – F. Yeomans lecture.
“The guilt of the introjectively depressive person is at times unfatomable. Some guilt is simply part of the human condition, and is appropriate to our complex and not entirely benign natures, but depressive guilt has a certain magnificent conceit.” – Nancy McWilliams, Psychoanalytic Diagnosis: Understanding Personality Structure in the Clinical Process.
What happened to his hypothetical feeling of guilt after van incident?
> “When Tom went for a walk the next day with Dylan, he was startled by his son’s fury about the arrest. “He felt so above it all, totally justified in what he’d done,” Tom said. “The morality of the whole thing escaped him.”
> I asked my question again. “You committed a crime against a person. How could you do something so morally wrong?” His answer shocked me. He said, “It was not against a person. It was against a company. That’s why people have insurance.”
Moreover, he wanted revenge for being arrested: “My wrath for January’s incident will be godlike.”
[redact this part later]
Thanks for reading. I’ll be glad if you reblog this.
Part 2: x