An Intense Pain Related to Social Failure
Narcissistic shame is an intense pain related to social failure, failure to be a true human being. It is a sense of being an inferior human being, exposed to social judgment in the midst of severe disintegration of the self. When experienced fully, the affect is very painful. The affect itself has a disintegrating effect on the self. The defenses against the shame and the other painful reactions to emptiness make these painful affects difficult to experience fully, and hence to understand completely. All of these painful affects must be dealt with for the student to have a chance of transforming her narcissism. She needs to separate the state of emptiness itself from the reactions to it. To do this, she needs to become aware of her judgments of the emptiness and of her reactions. She needs to learn how to deal successfully with these judgments, until they fall away. Dealing with these judgments is primarily a matter of understanding and disengaging from a particular object relation. This is the object relation between the empty and unreal self and a rejecting, critical, and hateful object. The self feels empty, lost, and meaningless, and projects on others the image of being critical, harsh, and rejecting of her because she is fake and has failed to be an adequate self. She feels helpless and impoverished, lost and worthless, and believes that others hate and despise her for feeling this way. This is the narcissistic form of a more general object relation, an object relation between a small and scared self and a rejecting, hateful, and powerful object.
Pearl Beyond Price, pg. 335
Inadequacy in Being Oneself
We always find the student struggling with painful reactions to the emptiness as it is exposed. She feels deficient and inadequate, worthless and unimportant, weak and inferior, a failure, a loser, a nothing. She feels fake and unreal, lacking substance or value. She feels that she is a liar and a deceiver, an imposter. She feels her life has been a hoax, a waste. These feelings and reactions bring up the most painful aspect of them all, shame. The student feels ashamed of herself, embarrassed about herself; she wants to hide. The shame is a specific painful feeling of deficiency, exposure and judgment, all related to a sense of inadequacy in being oneself.