The word narcissism crops up a lot in our selfie-obsessed, celebrity-driven culture, often to describe someone who seems excessively vain or in awe of themselves. Whilst this is certainly at one end of the spectrum and relatively harmless, at the other end lies disorder.
In psychological terms, narcissism isn’t about self-love—at least not in the true sense of the meaning. People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are in love with an idealized, grandiose image of themselves. At some point, probably in teenage years, they replaced their true-self with an ego state and gave way to any ability to love others. Instead they’re in love with this inflated self-image precisely because it allows them to avoid deep feelings of insecurity. But propping up their delusions of grandeur takes effort and that’s where the dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors come in.
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) involves a pattern of self-centered, arrogant thinking and behavior, a complete lack of empathy (it’s said a Narc is incapable of such an emotion) and a disproportionate need for admiration.
People with narcissistic personality disorder are extremely resistant to changing their behavior, even when it’s causing them problems. They genuinely struggle to see their patterns as irregular. What’s more, they are extremely sensitive and react badly to even the slightest criticisms, disagreements, or perceived slights, which they view as personal attacks.
For the people in the narcissist’s life, it’s often easier just to go along with their demands to avoid the narcissistic cycle of idealisation, devaluing and discarding.
I work with many clients who have experienced this type of relationship either from a parent, partner or boss. Like most things, once you have the knowledge, it becomes easier to manage. Do contact me if you need help with this.