Narcissism is a term that has been loosely used to describe celebrities, people who are over-confident, individuals who are proud or full of themselves, and even a whole generation of young people called Millennials. While many teenagers and youngsters can go through a ‘narcissistic’ phase, it doesn’t make them narcissists. And some people can be a little too confident in whom they are, but it doesn’t make them narcissists, either.
Every person has some narcissistic qualities, and it is healthy to have confidence and a SOBER minded view of yourself that is in balance with the world around you. People who accomplish amazing things do have a right to claim greatness among people, and others with a crap load of talent should weigh themselves accordingly, though it is more palatable for the rest of us if they are a little more humble than boastful. Realistic acknowledgement of accomplishments and who one is and isn’t doesn’t make them a narcissist.
What makes a person a narcissist is GRANDIOSITY. It’s when a person thinks TOO highly of who they are, what they have done, what they deserve, and what they can do. More importantly, their image comes at the expense of those around them. They do not have the ability to look at themselves with clear eyes and see where they fall on the scale of life compared to other people. It is a heavy and dangerous psychological disorder. It effects more men than women and it is estimated that probably about 1% of people have NDP (Narcissistic Personality Disorder).
The wonderful thing about narcissists is that most of them are fun-loving people and they blend in with the American culture effortlessly. The stereotype that society has formed features a good-looking, selfish, business man who rambles on about himself and shoves backhanded compliments in people’s faces. But, most real narcissists are not the people who you would expect. Not all of them are attractive, most of them aren’t rich, many of them aren’t famous, and not all of them dabble in business. They are charming and witty, and start out as good friends who seem to care. Their charm is what makes them dangerous, and you can hang out with one for decades and never know who they really are because of the ever-changing beautiful and intricate masks that they switch out for you.
A narcissist is a master manipulator and an expert at discarding or shuffling people around in his life in order to suit his needs. His innermost circle of pawns will be the only ones who really see him with his mask off and these people usually only include spouses or long-term lovers, and children or his most immediate family (family that he currently lives with). Friends (including roommates) and non-immediate family, though seemingly close from an outside perspective, will usually be placed at a far enough distance so that they don’t experience the genuine intimacy, and eventually the abuse, that stems from the carelessness of a narcissist at close quarters. It is because of this distance that a victim’s outreach for council from friends or family is corroded with statements that echo the words “are you sure he is a narcissist? He doesn’t seem like one. I think he’s a really nice guy. I’ve never seen it. It doesn’t sound like him.” Well, he is a nice guy, until you get to know the real person. It can take months or even years for the mask to finally slip. No one can wear a mask forever; there is a breaking point with every narcissist. And once that breaking point is reached, the mask that was made specifically for you starts to crumble quickly, and abuse runs rampant behind closed doors.
Diagnosing narcissism is difficult because of the character of the narcissist himself. He doesn’t like to be told that there is anything wrong with him (God forbid) and it isn’t unlike him to start gaslighting the psychologist herself. The result is that she feels that SHE is the crazy one who has been wrong about him all along. Narcissists make excellent crooked lawyers and politicians, and are amazing at making you think that everything that comes from their lips is gold and that everything that comes from your lips is pure crap and lies. Even if a narcissist were to cooperate in a therapy session, he wouldn’t have enough genuine insight into his own mind, or the proper emotional analysis of his friends or family, in order to heal. He is a living and breathing catch-22, which means that his narcissism cannot be cured. But those around him can learn how to create healthy boundaries so that the narcissist doesn’t rule over their lives, and they may find a semblance of sanity and balance. If this seems depressing, believe me, it is. A narcissist will forever be stuck in his patterns and ways, but will be somewhat content. Those surrounding him are the ones who suffer for lack of genuine intimacy, and the need to stay distant or even disconnected from him.
It is not certain how Narcissism is formed, but one pattern that has been present in every Narcissist in my life has been their upbringing. I don’t believe that anyone is born a narcissist, but a person is groomed to become one. The narcissist child is usually raised with a sense of entitlement whose every need is catered to and who is taught to believe that they deserve and can have whatever they want, without regard to anyone else. On the other hand the child might be given special treatment, or might have been allowed to do things, break rules/skip punishment, or have things that didn’t fit the status quo. This was allowed to happen because of the lack of something else in his life (usually the presence of loving adults is lacking). This in turn creates a sense of entitlement in the child that follows him into adulthood, and he ends up using coercion and charm to get what he wants from the people around him. He is never taught how to properly love people, but only exchange with or take from people.
Our childhood patterns ALWAYS follow us into adulthood until they are broken. At the root of every Narcissist’s heart is probably one of the most damaged and insecure individuals, though initial reactions with them would seem to prove otherwise. As much as they have been a thorn in my side, I feel bad for them, because I know that they are damaged, but, on the other hand, they will never know it. They can’t take criticism very well, but they also think much too highly of themselves to even think twice about the criticism. (And they will never let you forget about that critique for as long as you live, either, so choose your words wisely). Narcissists feel pretty good about themselves, because they think too highly of themselves to even know that anything is wrong, even if every scrap of evidence is thrown at them. If you do decide to fight or fix him, you will be gaslighted, and it will be thrown back in your face, and you will feel like you are insane, and he will confirm that theory, and you will briefly question what just happened as he turns around and gives you the silent treatment for however long he thinks you deserve it. He needs you to be obedient to him and he will punish you if you fall out of line.
Diagnosis for Narcissism is rarely official because they “know more about psychology than psychologists”. But, those around him who have been through therapy, who see common patterns of abuse, can piece together his unofficial diagnosis. Most narcissists are verbally and mentally abusive as opposed to physically abusive (but some can be physical, too, especially with significant others). A person needs to embody five of the following traits in order to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. These are not to be taken lightly:
– An exaggerated or grandiose sense of self-importance (exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized without achieving said achievements)
– Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
– Believes that they are “special” and unique and that they can only be understood by, and should only associate with, other special people or high-status people or institutions.
– Requires excessive admiration (doesn’t need to be genuine)
– Has a sense of entitlement. Has unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
– Is exploitive of others. Takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
– Lacks empathy. Unwilling or unable to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
– Is often envious of others or believes that they are envious of him.
– Regularly shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes.
A narcissist is a beautiful creature, at first glance. His mask is intricate and distracting, his words are silky and charming, and he is exactly what you think you need. He has made this mask especially for you, because you are special, too, and he wants to add you to his collection of desirable people. You don’t realize it, but he has turned himself into your perfect person, and all he wants in return is for you to do whatever he desires, no questions asked. But, he is a black hole, a broken creature, and a parasite. A narcissist will never know his real, insecure, and abused childhood self, but he knows what he wants right now. He will manipulate everyone around him in order to play out his perfect façade to the rest of the world, and he will crush anyone who tarnishes his image or anyone who gets in the way of achieving his desires, especially his family…