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My Cluster B Philosophy

[NOTE: This topic may seem obsessive or repetitive or the posts may seem to have gone past being useful to being pedantic, but I am building toward two key points, and when I get to the posts that make those two key points, you will suddenly understand why I have been dwelling on and harping on this topic they way I have been. I ask that you be patient and wait for the payoff. When I finally make those two key points, all of the past few months of posts will suddenly become significantly more valuable to you and take on a whole new significance.]

I’m going to warn you, I’m a layperson and my viewpoint differs from how I think most of the official mental health experts view personality disorders, and if that bothers you stop reading now. This viewpoint is definitely a minority view, and I came to it from observing and deciphering my own family, which is filled to the brim with Cluster B disorders. I may not have the academic training in this, but I’ve sure as hell done decades of field research on the ground so to speak.

One thing people often get caught up on when learning about Cluster B emotional vampires is what specifically to classify them. I generally just call them Cluster Bs or lump them all under the term “narcissists,” but I don’t get too hung up on specifying whether or not they are specifically sociopathic, narcissistic, a borderline personality disorder suffer or a histrionic.

The reason why I don’t get caught up in the specific diagnosis is because I don’t believe they’re really separate disorders, but more like four different types of overcompensating behaviors done in response to the same underlying disorder, that disorder being addiction to narcissistic supply. I think of it like how two different people can have colds but the symptoms and the way they behave when they have the colds are totally different. One may primarily sneeze and have a runny nose, while someone else may be coughing and have a stuffed nose. We don’t treat each different expression of the cold as it’s own, special disorder.

The DSM-IV, when describing the Cluster B disorders, focuses more on the outwardly visible, overcompensating coping behaviors rather than the roots of the deeper, underlying themes and mindsets to the pathology, which I think are largely the same for all four Cluster B disorders: these include but aren’t limited to conditional acceptance by a parent growing up, a shaky, volatile, wildly fluctuating sense of self-worth, deep-rooted shame issues, inability to tolerate unpleasant feelings and moods, etc.

The fact that the underlying themes are largely the same for all Cluster B disorders is why there seems to be so much overlap between them in my opinion. It explains why when researching your emotional vampire, you can read a book on sociopaths and it feels relevant, then you can read a book on BPD and that seems relevant, then you read a book on narcissism and that seems to fit the bill too.

I recently wrote that the easiest, fastest way to understand a narcissist is to think of them as drug addicts, except their drug of choice is narcissistic supply. Just like a drug addict behaves for drugs, they will lie, steal, cheat, manipulate and coerce in order to get their narcissistic supply fix.

I think Cluster Bs go from borderline to narcissistic to histrionic to sociopathic based on which type of narcissistic supply, if any, they are craving at any given time, for whatever reason. The preferred forms of narcissistic supply for each type is as follows:

  • Histrionic Personality Disorder: Anything that makes them feel like the center of attention. Flattering attention (especially sexual), flirtation, conquests, sexual teasing and withholding, romance, bodybuilding, loud obnoxious vocal displays and bright sports attire while watching sports games, drooling and double takes from others when wearing sexy or slutty outfits, obsession with abs, plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures, demanding grooming (lots of “mani/pedis” and hair appointments) or physical regimen (like Gym, Tanning, Laundry), making lovers jealous, making scenes in public, bravado and machismo, being fought over
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Anything that makes them feel flawless and omnipotent. Admiration, being envied, being feared, being idolized, being asked for advice and treated like an expert, compliments, whether earned or unearned,
  • Borderline Personality Disorder: Anything that makes them feel like they have a committed partner dedicated to taking care of them. The presence of their mate, any indication that will reinforce the feeling that their lovers are devoted and won’t abandon them, making lovers jump through hoops, grand gestures from lovers, anything that indicates their lover is well-trained, like passing “shit tests,” getting lovers to forgive them and stay with them when the relationship is looking rocky
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder/Sociopathy: This is when someone is a Cluster B but does not particularly need narcissistic supply from another human being. They don’t particularly crave admiration and being idolized like the narcissist, they don’t fear abandonment the way the borderline does, they don’t care about flattering attention the way a histrionic does. They don’t appreciate and fear consequences like normal people, which allows them to thrill-seek and manipulate for kicks. The other types of Cluster Bs do fear consequences to a degree, but not out of empathy or morality but because they fear losing good narcissistic supply. Meanwhile the sociopath is the Cluster B who doesn’t fear losing narcissistic supply from another human being. They may derive narcissistic supply from things like money, power, control, thrills, but not really from people in the way the other Cluster Bs do.

I think Cluster Bs tend to have a preferred form of supply, just like a drug addict may have a go-to drug of choice. Under the right circumstances though most of them will cycle through disorders and switch to a form of supply that isn’t their usual preference, just like an addict may occasionally go for a different drug than usual. For example, a Cluster B who is normally narcissistic and craves admiration, when feeling insecure about a relationship or getting signs a lover is moving on, may temporarily behave like a borderline and start craving the forms of narcissistic supply that indicate the lover isn’t going anywhere, and may even let down his normally grandiose persona in order to beg and cajole a lover to stay. Another example: a Cluster B who normally behaves like a borderline may begin feeling very sure of the stability of a relationship and confident that their mate won’t leave. As a result they no longer need the constant proof that their partner is devoted and has no plans of leaving, so they start feel secure enough in their primary relationship to now act histrionic and start courting flattering attention from others and making their primary partner jealous.

Some Cluster Bs are full-time sociopaths, meaning they rarely ever need narcissistic supply from others like approval, admiration, or presence. All Cluster Bs however do behave sociopathic at least some of the time. I call this situational sociopathy. This is when a Cluster B who is normally narcissistic, histrionic, or borderline is in a situation where they don’t need narcissistic supply from someone. Maybe the person they’re dealing with in this situation isn’t important or impressive enough for the Cluster B to desire narcissistic supply from them. Maybe the person in this situation is one of the Cluster B’s former sources of narcissistic supply but is no longer ideal, either because the Cluster B has replaced them with a superior, consistent source of supply or because the person has gotten so fed up or sucked dry of self-esteem that there is no more supply to squeeze out of them. When the Cluster B reaches the point where they no longer need any supply from you specifically or feel you can’t or won’t provide the supply they need, they will go into sociopath mode and ruthlessly drop you cold turkey with no remorse.

This situational sociopathy, which occurs at the point where a Cluster B feels you either can’t or won’t supply good narcissistic supply and are therefore worthless, is why devaluing and discarding is a hallmark of all Cluster Bs. So while not all sociopaths behave like narcissists, histrionics, or borderlines to any appreciable degree, all narcissistics, histrionics, and borderlines do often behave in a sociopathic way when they don’t need narcissistic supply from a specific source at a specific moment.

Some Cluster Bs are drug addicts in the vein of Keith Richards or Jim Morrison. They seem to like all forms of supply equally and indiscriminately. They are constantly pinballing from narcissistic behavior to histrionic to sociopathic to borderline and then back again.

Richard Skerrit in the great book Meaning from Madness goes into this dynamic, describing these disorders as being all based on fear (narcissism and borderline) and fearlessness (sociopathy):

It turns out that the abusive disorders fall at either end of a spectrum of sensitivity. On the extreme of being hypersensitive to interactions, those with both borderline and narcissistic personality disorders are subject to being triggered – responding with tremendous energy to a very small event or observation. On the opposite extreme of being insensitive to interactions, sociopaths (those with antisocial personality disorder) have little or no empathy, remorse or conscience. They care so little about what others think or feel that they are nearly completely free of any fear of the outcome or results of their actions. As a result, they may choose to do things that normal people find stunning in their callousness and insensitivity…

I have come to believe that both narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and borderline personality disorder (BPD) are actually the same basic disorder [I'd personally throw HPD in there too. - T.] The differences between the two, as I see them, are different coping strategies and different levels of success in coping.

Both those with NPD…and those with BPD…are driven by a constant and deeply motivated drive to find safety in their lives by avoiding things that trigger their terrifying fears. Bother narcissists and BPs perceive a threat in the judgments of the people around them, one so great that it is terrifying to them…

[S]ociopaths have a huge fear missing from their psychological dynamic. Sociopaths have what can perhaps be described as a brain function deficit: they lack all sense of value and concern for other people. Where normal people have a natural fear of causing harm to other people, a sociopath has no such fear or concern…It simply does not matter to sociopaths what happens to other people, including their family members and intimate partners, nor does it matter who or what causes the harm. Their brains simply lack the connections that would lead to these thoughts and feelings. A sociopath might appear to care about others, or fear hurting others, but the fear is entirely self-centered. A sociopath is not at all bothered by the hurt felt by someone else. Any effort they make to avoid such hurt is simply to make their own lives easier.

I think this supports my view. When a Cluster B is desperately craving a fix of narcissistic supply and needs you to provide it, they are in the grip of fear: a fear of losing a fix of narcissistic supply, especially if they still value your form of supply and they don’t have another potential source of supply lined up. When a Cluster B who is normally narcissistic, borderline, or histrionic is in a situation where they don’t need a fix of narcissistic supply from you, they lose that huge fear (of losing valuable narcissistic supply or receiving narcissistic injury) and attain the fearlessness and coldness of the sociopath. This is why you can be the center of a Cluster Bs world one minute and they will act clingy and fearful and swear they can’t live without you, then they will suddenly and inexplicably dump you out of the blue later on, and not seem the least bothered or remorseful about it.

The reason this post is important is because I notice a lot of people contact me to talk about this stuff, and they end up understandably confused about why the person they have dealt with or are dealing with seems to fit multiple categories of personality disorder and they waste time a lot of time obsessing over the categorization. Don’t bother. For the most part, the only thing you really need to understand is that the person is a Cluster B, period. At some point, every category will seem to apply, and I hope this post explains why.

So I’ve made clear that I believe that Cluster Bs can best be described as people who self-medicate their emptiness and self-esteem issues with different forms of narcissistic supply. Next post, I’m going to into further details about my addiction model of Cluster B personality disorders.

Recommended Reading:

Meaning from Madness: Understanding the Hidden Patterns That Motivate Abusers: Narcissists, Borderlines, and Sociopaths by Richard Skerritt

17 Responses to “My Cluster B Philosophy”

  1. I really think you have this. I see the eb and flow from one to the other in the my STBEW. My parents and others have said that some of her behaviors seem more those of a sociopath than those of a BDP. From your observations being explained here, and mine own. I would say her favorite source of narcissistic supply comes from the realm of BPs and that she slides into sociopathy when she feeds herself. This is how she deals with our oldest. It also explains why she didn’t panic when I started standing up to her, but turned into a demon at first, and then became cold. The last part didn’t make sense to me until I read this. She started down the sociopath track with me to end our marriage. Strangely this was a blessing in disguise. I would never have left her, because I believed that marriage was forever.

  2. I like the unification theory approach. While discrete categorizations work well in textbooks and lab environments, the field is always fluid and basically a huge grey area. This allows one to zoom out and better see the change in the color gradient.

    The recent series of Cluster B posts haven’t been repetitive. I’ve found them all relevant and every one brings me closer to understanding what I was dealing with for 2 years and will need to deal with to break the final tie. As a long time reader of 3+ years, I know the preamble to be just poignant as the main course.

    Rock on. Definitely digging the evolution of your work and the direction its heading.

  3. I’ve read your blog since it was linked to your 5 part series and totally agree with your writing. I am a cluster b, and was in a 5 year relationship with a cluster b. Its confusing because to be in a relationship with a cluster b you must be one yourself. Then I question that assumption because you can’t trust yourself, maybe I was the lone cluster b all along projecting my own faults onto someone else. I cheated frequently, doesn’t that automatically make someone a cluster b?

    Finding someone who isn’t a cluster b is a rarity, it is the disease of our society. Basically you speak of the realm of good and evil, the ego, and acting for the ego as sin. These are universal issues and struggles, people with bad childhoods struggling with these issues the worst. Its a universal system in which operating closest to ego is being the farthest from “god”? Religious writings work to identify and defeat the same thing you work to so far only identify, but with different terminology.

    Your writings are very interesting to read, but also saddening because unless you yourself were once a cluster b that found freedom, what hope is there of fixing this problem by reading this blog. If anything reading this blog promotes the idea of I or “ego”, as in I do this and this was done to me…

    This problem is so deeply rooted within “me”, so much that only destruction of “me/ ego” would remove it. Furthermore, what you are working to defeat is the same thing religion has worked to defeat for centuries. For me the path is buddism style meditation, and further search for spiritual enlightenment and maybe ego death through mushrooms… What better path can you suggest?

  4. A borderline needs you; a narcissist needs you to need them. But a borderline might employ the narcissistic strategy as it is forceful, and a narcissist might sometimes act like a borderline because at bottom their needing you to need them is still them needing you.

    I think that might be right. And then at that point it doesn’t seem there is much need to distinguish between them, as you say.

  5. is it better to start to recognize -ClusterB- behaviours…

    …into others


    …into ourselves???

    I realized that NO ONE is blame less

  6. I have a question. Why wont my girlfriend stop talking. It’s amazing how much she can go on and on about herself. We can have a 20 minute conversation without me saying much more than an occasional “uh huh” or “really”. She just keeps talking and laughing her ass off like shes having a ball. It would be different if she talked about more interesting stuff but she has a way of making everything about her. No matter what I bring up it always leads back to her. Over the past year its gotten worse. I care about her but damn…

  7. That’s actually going to be the topic of a post of mine soon, but the short answer is “conversational narcissism.” google the term for a better description. It’s a concept from a book called “The pursuit of attention” by Charles derber. But honestly, it’s just a normal part of Western women, especially the hotter they are, the less hobbies they grew up with, and how much of their lives they’ve identified with being cute. I find when a girl grew up spoiled or grew up with her major attribute being pretty and girly, the worse it is. When a girl grew up with hobbies and activities that went beyond just shopping and cheerleading, or was a late bloomer, I find them totally different. For example I knew a girl who was hot but very engaging and down to earth. Turned out she grew up a tomboy and was a debate team nerd. I’m not saying she was a nerd because she was on a debate team, I mean she was a nerd FOR the topic of debate. She couldn’t get enough of it, she loved the activity. She didn’t grow up fixated on being girly or shopping or gossiping and she had more to her identity growing up than being pretty. Plus she was a tomboy and physical late bloomer so she was lanky and not super attractive until later.

    I find that girls who behave like how you describe your girlfriend in conversations grew up pretty even if my so pretty now and grew up with self-centered girly hobbies. This is because they’ve never had a situation or girl friends or boyfriends that forced the to face how inane and uninteresting their chatter is. Their friends are just as uninteresting, their male friends just put up with it because they’re cute and they want to bang them, and their situations are never intellectually demanding. They literally never get forced to realize they’re boring.

  8. I see it. Yes.

    How do you fit the codependent here? you said before that the drug of the codependent is the cluster B. I have been to other forums etc where exes of narcissists call themselves “nons”, but, when you go into what they talk about, they are all cluster Bs themselves.

    I was codependent. But before that I was borderline. And after codependent I became a narcissist. I’ts like having a ball and bouncing it from one side to the other.

    My family is full of crazy people too. Actually, the world is.

    This btw:

    “driven by a constant and deeply motivated drive to find safety in their lives by avoiding things that trigger their terrifying fears.”

    It’s true, but that fits absolutely everyone. The whole society is constructed around that impulse.

  9. How about this:

    Codependency is addiction to narcissist supply in the form of feeling needed.

    In a way its so similar to BPD.

  10. From Aaron,

    “A borderline needs you; a narcissist needs you to need them. But a borderline might employ the narcissistic strategy as it is forceful, and a narcissist might sometimes act like a borderline because at bottom their needing you to need them is still them needing you.”

    The lines are so blurry.

    Codependency is like all of that, without the sociopath angle.

  11. I know this is off topic, but I thought this NaS song exactly encapsulates manosphere stuff that is relevant to all of folks that come on this blog:

    Enjoying the links to your posts and the Obama series which I just caught up on. Been lurking for a few weeks now, digesting my redpill.


  12. T-

    Been really enjoying the series thus far, you are in no danger of being pedantic.

    Didn’t really realize how narcissistic I was until the series, but it all clicked. Just knowing that and admitting it was a big step, and I’ve been making changes and questioning certain behaviors I do, especially when they are coming from insecurities.

    Keep up the good work, hombre.

  13. My abnormal psych class taught this material in pretty much the same way. The professor, who was around 85, had been a psychiatrist for maybe 50 years and had kind of drifted away from the DSM criteria.

    I don’t remember the exact details, but basically the diagnosis procedure evaluated the patient’s ability to function and relate to others on a scale of 1-5 (not the cluster or Axis system though). Borderlines were generally 2-3 with 1 being healthy and 5 being schizo or a violent sociopath. I remember, self-awareness, stability of ego and identity, affect relations, social relationships and a few more being the gauges for mental health.

    The more specific personality disorders within this 1-5 came down to the specific behaviors (like the type of attention seeking) and the existence of common childhood traumas that would generally make someone turn narcissist vs. codependent, for example. All disorders that fell in the 2-3 range were basically borderlines, but the numerical rating would generally determine their ability to function in society and the ability to be helped in some way. I do remember narcissism being considered worse than codependent.

    I remember histrionic behavior very well because I knew someone who fit the description 100%. A big diagnostic criteria I don’t hear you talk about much was perceiving relationships or friendships to be much more serious than they actually were, like always having a new best friend you just met or thinking the teacher is in love with you. Then splitting (I love you or I hate you), which you have talked about.

    Anyways it was my favorite class in college, so write as much as you want. Like a commenter above, I was introduced by reader letters and its been enjoyable reading ever since. Cheers.

  14. Another interesting thing was the tendency for people in the 2 or 3 range to float back and forth depending on what was happening in their lives at any given time.

  15. Hi T. I wrote about my girlfriend that wont shut up. The strange thing is that she used to be very attentive. I used to enjoy talking to her. She was never a very deep person, but we used to at least laugh together. Her friends would comment about how nice she acted around me. You were right about the hobbies. She has no interest other than singing. She pissed me off the other day because I wanted her to ride with me to Arby’s drive thru and she had to get fully dressed with earrings and her watch. We weren’t even going to get out of the car. After I told her that she was either vain or insecure she got quiet on me. She is very attractive but has always been very giving. At least to me anyway. I’ve been unemployed for quite a while and shes been handling most of the financial responsibilities. Do you think I could be acting differently because of that and not realizing it. Being unemployed isn’t exactly a confidence booster. Don’t see why that would make her so self centered though. I think some guy is in her ear giving her a confidence boost.

  16. I think you’re absolutely onto something by grouping all of these disorders. All of them are simply an expression of a key neuroticism, caused by a number of injuries while growing up.

    I have to slightly differ when you say they’re caused by an addiction to narcissistic supply. What does the narcissistic supply achieve?

    The way I see it, all of these symptoms — they’re a tactic in response to loss, usually of external opinion. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, then acceptance. These are a reaction to loss, and learning that you’re not loved by everyone is a loss all the same.

    The thing that all the people with these behaviours share is that they experienced some loss to the external opinion of them (ego), and they haven’t yet accepted it — whether they were pampered as a kid and then found out that they’re not so great, or their parents simply abused them outright. Of course, a baby believes it’s omnipotent at first, so every single human will go through the stages for some reason.

    Upon losing this positive ego, we can react in a whole bunch of ways. All of these are attempts to gain it back. The narcissistic just denies and denies, puts on an air of superiority. The histrionic, borderline and codependent bargain and try to win affection in various way. The avoidant bargains by avoiding any future damage. The antisocial bargains faultily believes that no one will accept him, so he manipulates them instead (which is why that usually shows in people who were abused as children). And of course one will get depressed and angry at various times.

    These are all part of the five stages of grief — trying to get back that positive ego. And for some people, it totally and utterly works, they genuinely gain their highly positive ego back. The grief ends because the loss is gone. But for others, it’s a futility, they’ll never have that ego. And they need to reach the final stage: acceptance. And the only way to truly do that is to shed the tactics yet be just fine.

    Of course, these are just some ideas.

  17. @ sdf3sdf

    WOAH. You just hit that square on the head with the 5 stages of grief.

    I think that (myself being having cluster B narc/borderline traits) it does boil down to the defense mechanism survival mode.

    To manipulate, cluster B’s put themselves at center and are thinking “How can I get”. Of course no one modeled or taught them the proper way, because love in general is not available and if it is, it’s intense and labile. No, the higher ideal of love, the agape universal, is the decision to act in ways that reinforce positive self esteem –> you’re worth it, I’m worth it.

    The problem is with entitlement, quickly once we get what we crave/want/need we end up devaluing and not wanting it anymore, because we don’t recognize the projection that’s going on. No, the negative self image is there, the defenses are there, and they aren’t going away.

    In the end, we do have to consider others in any society of relationships. This is difficult to do from my personal perspective – not due to lack of intelligence (*ego defense*) but to the actual low self esteem of the narcissist.
    In order to be effective and treat others with esteem, it’s completely necessary to be operative from a safe place. This means containment! Internal boundaries.

    So, acceptance. For me it means stop looking to game/pickup to achieve short term sexual goals that aren’t what I really want anyway (that would be masturbatory, aka easy, and not quite geared toward reproduction of the species in a proper enlightened way.)

    Ack, I’m getting all over the place, sorry. It’s just that I harp and ruminate on these issues all the time. Even in standard social situations like going out to the store, my narc defenses rise and I feel like… rather defending myself! Against the expectation that others are to do me harm, or aggress, show dominance in some way, or it’s a pretty girl (or not pretty) and it bugs me out for similar reasons so I put my eyes down, or wear a scowl.

    I like what you said about it being the 5 stages. That tells me something very valuable – that it’s not just black and white, it’s graduations and fixations at certain points on a process.

    Blah, so that’s what this comment is about. Moderator you can pare or delete it if irrelevant.

    I love the insight, rawness, on and about the clusterbism. Especially the 4 part letter series I was linked toward from the manosphere blogs. I feel liberated to see that game is just another way to feed the narc. I don’t have to be like these mystery men who have so many issues of their own and documented by yourself. So thanks for the work.