The term ‘Narcissist’ has become one of the most overused phrases of our time.
Let’s take a look at Narcissistic Personality Disorder in more detail.
What is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
The glamorization of mental health disorders has been sensationalized in recent years, particularly in the media.
Take Bipolar Disorder as an example. Celebrities like Britney Spears, Macy Gray and Mel Gibson have all spoken out about their struggles with Bipolar Disorder.
These revelations saw a decline surrounding the stigma of mental health. Having a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder sucks and always will, the point is, people are talking about it, and that’s a good thing.
In more recent years, Narcissistic Personality Disorder has become the new kid on the block – especially among the general population.
With all this information about Narcissism at our disposal, how helpful is it to those who genuinely have the condition?
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is one of many personality disorders and is a mental health condition in which individuals have an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
People suffering from NPD often exhibit the following behaviour patterns :
● An exaggerated sense of self-importance
● Difficult or troubled relationships
● Severe lack of empathy towards others
● A deep need for excessive admiration and attention from others
Concealed behind a smokescreen of grandiosity and sheer arrogance, lies brittle self-esteem that is easily breakable with the slightest comment or remark.
Narcissistic Personality Symptoms
The symptoms (and the severity of the symptoms) of Narcissistic Personality Disorder varies from person to person.
The signs and symptoms often feature:
● Exaggerated achievements and talents
● The person has a strong sense of entitlement and needs constant admiration and attention.
● The belief that they are superior to others and that they can only associate themselves with people of a similar select status
● The person is incapable of meeting and recognizing other people’s feelings and needs.
● Being envious of others and having the belief that others are envious of them
● Belittling or looking down on other people, particularly those the narcissist perceives as being inferior
● Behaving in an arrogant, conceited and boastful manner
● Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
● Demanding the best of everything, the best seat on the train, the best office views, etc.
Other symptoms associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder include:
● Becoming angered or enraged when things don’t go their way, or when they don’t receive the special treatment that they feel they are entitled to
● Being incapable of regulating emotions
● Experiencing feelings of shame, humiliation and vulnerability
● Debasing others to feel more superior
● Having personal relationship problems and becoming easily offended
● Experiencing mood swings and depression
Origins of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in Greek Mythology
Anyone with even a smattering of interest in the science of psychology will tell you that the subject is alive with theories related to Greek mythology.
Sigmund Freud’s controversial theory on the Oedipal Complex, for instance, was named after the Greek myth of Oedipus, a young boy who killed his father to marry his mother.
Freud based his Oedipus Complex theory on Oedipus, the Greek Theban King, and hypothesized that children (during the developmental phase) become attracted to the opposite -sex parent and experience hatred and envy towards the same-sex parent.
The story of Narcissus centres on Greek mythology about the son of a River god named Cephissus – his son was called Narcissus.
Narcissus, a young hunter, believed himself so beautiful that he would reject anyone that fell in love with him. Plenty of men and women took their own lives in the name of Narcissus, something that he eventually did himself.
Narcissus broke many a maiden’s hearts (and a few men’s hearts for good measure!).
It wasn’t until Narcissus saw his reflection in the water one day, that this arrogant boy, full of boasting found in his image someone to fall in love with – himself.
The legend goes that Narcissus became so preoccupied with his beauty, that he refused to eat and drink, and eventually wasted away from the pain of unrequited love.
All this eventually led to his death.
Narcissus has since been the origin term for Narcissism, referencing a fixation with oneself, public perception and physical appearance.
Narcissism In Literature
Narcissistic Personality Disorder has roots within the literature, particularly in the novel Le Rouge Et Le Noir (also known as Red and Black), where the character Mathilde is a textbook narcissist.
Prince Korasoff speaks of his beloved girl to character Julien Sorel in a way that can only be synonymous with Narcissism:
She looks at herself instead of looking at you, and so doesn’t know you.
During the two or three outbursts of passion she has allowed herself in your favour, she has, by a great effort of imagination, seen in you the hero of her dreams, and not yourself as you are (1953, Penguin Edition, trans. Margaret R.B. Shaw).
5 Signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Although plenty of personality traits gear towards Narcissism, there are consistencies in those suffering from NPD. These include:
#1. The person believes they are special or unique
In the company of a narcissist, you might notice that they have a deep sense of entitlement.
They want the best of everything; this could be the most expensive food at a restaurant, or the most expensive car in the showroom.
Narcissists are so self-absorbed that to them being seen by a junior doctor for a minor ailment isn’t good enough – they want to see a top specialist, end of story!
#2. They ruin special occasions
Ever had a birthday or anniversary ruined by someone you love? If so, they are likely narcissistic, according to studies.
Special occasions and vacations are a narcissists playground of horrors.
The objective is to sabotage anything that might be important to you; this also shifts the attention back to them, which is what they want.
In essence, a narcissist tends to become very uncomfortable when they see other people around them having fun, especially if they feel excluded in any way.
Experts call this seasonal problem; to devalue and discard, where during special occasions, the narcissist focuses their abuse on close family members and spouses.
The reason behind this sabotage is that a narcissist doesn’t know how to love and will do anything to destroy their relationships.
#3. They are masters of manipulation
Narcissistic manipulation involves devaluing another person’s achievements and successes by one-upmanship and debasing.
All this can involve degrading you and using any weaknesses you might have to add weight to their superiority. The narcissist is the best at everything and won’t let others shine for too long.
#4. They are envious of other people
This envy can get projected onto other people, and the narcissist winds up believing that they are the ones who people envy.
All this comes down to the narcissist’s sense of superiority and self-importance over others. Didn’t you know that narcissists are undoubtedly the fairest of them all?
#5. Lack of empathy
A real sign of a narcissist is the lack of empathy they display towards others and the amount of heart they expect from those around them.
In the world of a selfish person, all is not fair in love and war. What they demand from others, they rarely give back, and if they do, there are usually consequences.
Crying in front of a narcissist, or indeed reacting to their antagonizing ways often creates a cycle of narcissistic supply – something a narcissist needs by the bucket loads to survive!
Indeed, gray rocking or being unresponsive to their damaging whims seems to be one of the ways a victim can survive the narcissist’s abuse.
Why Therapy Doesn’t Always Work For Narcissistic Abuse Recovery
Traditional Therapy doesn’t always work when it comes to treating someone with Narcissism or those who have suffered at the hands of narcissistic abuse.
The reason being is that most therapists are under-educated when it comes to recognizing the signs of narcissistic abuse and the toxic relationships with people who have Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
NPD often presents many challenges in clinical Therapy, particularly in couples therapy, where the narc and the victim are often at odds with each other.
In Therapy, the narcissist often plays the role of victim, and since narcissists are such great pretenders, they tend to pull their role off very well, Oscar material worthy even!
Going to couples therapy with a narcissist often sets the other person up for victim-blaming. Since therapists are often unaware of the depths of emotional abuse coming from the narcissist, they likely take what they see at face value.
What tends to happen is that the other half of the couple (the victim) gets blamed for most of the struggles in the relationship since they often come across as subdued and quiet in therapy sessions.
Victims of Narcissistic abuse tend to find coping mechanisms to survive the abuse, and this often manifests as them staying silent or gray rocking the narcissist in an attempt to avoid conflict.
Over time, the victim has learned that arguing or sticking up for themselves makes the narcissist more angry, enraged, vengeful and agitated.
They learn the only way to avoid any more conflict is to push down their feelings by being non-reactive to the narcissists antagonizing.
When narcissistic abuse continues in the long-term, it often results in the victim losing their identity and becoming a lesser version of themselves in the act of self-preservation.
To a therapist who isn’t aware of the narcissist’s tricks of the trade, victims often come across as unempathetic, non-compliant and emotionless, when in truth, they are trying to protect themselves from more abuse and blame.
Therefore, recovery from Narcissistic abuse requires a therapist with experience in the field of NPD and, preferably a therapist who can recognize the signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and how the abuse manifests.
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