Prideful Pattern


Overly invested in a personal quality or in one’s performance or achievements

(Can be a true strength or a delusion)

Bragging, competitiveness

Obsession with object of pride


Feels superior to others, condescending, arrogant, demeaning

The pride is sometimes hidden and occurs internally

Typical areas of pride: intelligence, beauty, caring, success, money, status, power, parenting, self-sufficiency, spirituality, performance in a specific art



The pride is an attempt to compensate for a feeling of deficiency

The area of pride is often different from the area of deficiency


Core Issues/Origins

Deficiency issues or any situation that undermines the child’s sense of value

Parents overly invested in child’s being special in this particular way

This quality or performance was the only way the child was valued

The object of pride may indeed be a personal strength that is used defensively



I am special and better than others because of my quality (performance, achievements).


Unconscious Thought

If I impress people and feel superior, then I won’t feel deficient.



Self: Special, superior

Other: Admiring


Sees Others As

Potential admirers


Healthy Capacities Blocked

Self-understanding, self-curiosity, vulnerability 


Activating Conditions

Situations of performance or evaluation

Situations where the person wants to impress others

Situations that trigger the underlying deficiency feelings

People of higher status or who act superior



Charming pattern also involves compensating for deficiency, but this is done through personality rather than a specific quality or achievement.

Self-valuing is a healthy capacity where a person values herself and specific personal qualities, but the self-evaluation is accurate and the valuing is not done as a compensation. A self-valuing person recognizes that she is special and unique, but so is everyone else.




False Self

Investment is particular attribute or achievement.



Acts superior to others.


Combinations of Prideful Pattern with Other Patterns

Choice of object of pride often determined by other pattern, e.g. codependent person is prideful about caring.

The superior variation often combines with the judgmental pattern.



Idealizing and prideful patterns often attracted to each other.

Prideful and self-judging patterns are opposites. Insecure pattern is also opposite.

People with prideful and judgmental patterns tend to get into conflicts with each other.




Related Technical Concepts

Narcissistic grandiosity

False self

Ego ideal



Client wants to impress the therapist with her qualities or achievements and often expects therapist to be impressed.

Client acts superior and demeaning toward therapist.


Countertransference toward Prideful Client

For a client who indeed has the prided quality, being impressed with it and missing the over-investment and compensation.

Thinking client needs support, therapist admires client or gives appreciation.

Therapist becomes annoyed at client for grandiosity or condescension and challenges her in a nonsupportive way.

Anger or retaliation for being demeaned by client.


Countertransference of Prideful Therapist

Investment in admiration and idealization from clients.

Discouragement of client’s negative feelings toward you.


Group Roles/Positions

Norm setter




Forming the Alliance

At the beginning, you may have to have some appreciation of the client’s object of pride.


Circumventing the Pattern

Avoid any exploration that may undermine the pride and therefore trigger intense defenses


Understanding of Pattern Needed by Client

Client needs to realize that she is invested in pride, not just appreciating herself.

Don’t challenge the validity of the pride; this may be too threatening. Just encourage the client to see how much she needs to feel valuable in this way.

Idealized images are usually challenged through the normal interpersonal interaction of a group. Support the client through the shame that may come up.


Accessing Core Issue and Origins

Accessing the underlying feelings of deficiency or how the parents only cared about the pride area, not the rest of the client.

Once the client realizes her investment, encourage her to explore why she needs this. What would she feel if she couldn’t feel proud? Has this ever happened, perhaps after a failure? This is delicate, because shame often comes up.


Experimenting with Healthy Attitudes

Being self-curious and non-defensive when challenged about potential flaws (either by therapist or group member), especially in area of pride. Once the client understands her pattern, you can point out when she becomes defensive or haughty, and ask if she is willing to experiment with a different way of receiving a confrontation. Explain the value of vulnerability. She must desire to try this for her own growth, not to please you, because shame is often involved. 


Healing Response to Accessing or Experimenting

Appreciation for the client’s courage and vulnerability in accessing painful feelings or exploring potentially shameful issues. This gives the client a sense of being valued for her true self, not just her superficial attributes.

Make this appreciation explicit or encourage group members to do this. It should be in the form of feelings, not evaluation of the client.


Healing Relationship 

A relationship is which the client is vulnerable and open and is valued for her true self. This tends to happen naturally in the course of good therapy on this pattern.


Potential Problems 

Client has a brittle pattern and can’t tolerate challenges. She persists in prideful behavior and group members (or therapist) become angry at her.

  • Keep in mind her underlying shame and feelings of deficiency, and frame this so that the client and group members also understand this