Me Me Me. It’s all about me, the life of a Narcissist is self centred at the least. Narcissism is somewhat prevalent nowadays; in consequence of popular pop culture and capitalism. Some may say we have a societal narcissism epidemic on our hands. Nevertheless, the dark and sinister ways of befitting narcissists alongside the disasters they leave in the wake of their victims is not to be undermined. Malignant Narcissists can be highly perilous, especially to close friends and family members with Maternal and Paternal Narcissism being significantly clandestine.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Behaviour is characterized by an established pattern of grandiosity (fantasy and/or real life), an overwhelming need for admiration, and a lack of empathy toward others. They may frequently display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes. For example, a Narcissistic female may claim to lack friends because other women are ‘envious’ of her, or a Narcissistic male may become enraged when denied gratification.
The pattern is seen in two or more of the following areas: Cognition, Affect, Interpersonal functioning or Impulse control. The enduring pattern is obstinate and pervasive across a broad range of personal and social situations. It typically leads to significant distress or impairment in social, work or other areas of functioning. The pattern is stable and of long duration, and its onset can be traced back to early adulthood or adolescence.
In order for a person to be diagnosed with Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) they must meet five or more of the following symptoms:
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance: This is someone who can talk only about themselves and will amplify their talents and achievements. It’s not unusual for a Narcissistic parent to interrupt their child and divert the topic to something occurring in their lives.
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love: This involves magical thinking as an attempt to fend off inner emptiness, feel special and in control, and avoid feelings or acknowledgement of defectiveness .
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions): The individual who scorns anyone below their perceived class and will treat staff or even colleagues like peasants in their kingdom.
- Requires excessive admiration: Narcissists demand praise, gratitude and compliments for their work and may show rage and fury if not delivered.
- Has a very strong sense of entitlement: They may have unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations. If they call you to help them out with something, you must be there; no ifs, buts or maybes.
- Is exploitative of others: They may take advantage of others to achieve his or her goals. Narcissists may only pursue ‘relationships’ with people that can help them out or they can use to get to where they want. It’s all about what people can do for them and what they have to offer, otherwise they are of no use.
- Lacks empathy: Many are unable to put themselves in someone elses shoes (even whilst demanding the other person does), and they will continuously repudiate the feelings and needs of others. Narcissists are blameless and will find any way possible to project the issue onto the other individual.
- Is often envious of others (or believes that others are envious of him or her): They may believe they are too pretty, clever or classy and exhibit threats to other individuals. Narcissistic parents may also become envious of their child’s achievements or growing independence; many like to compete with their children at every turn or use tactics like Infantilization to keep them in check.
- Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes: This could be anything from relentless boasting to friends or thinking their children are too good to be associated with those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Causes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Much like other personality disorders the etiology of NPD is still unknown. There are numerous theories, however, about the possible causes. Psychodynamic theories suggest the root cause is experiences in early life which cause the narcissist to create a flawless ‘false self’, which must then be ‘defended’ throughout the individual’s lifetime. Other researchers believe the causes are likely due to biological and genetic factors, social factors (such as how a person interacts in their early development with their family and friends and other children), and psychological factors (the individual’s personality and temperament, shaped by their environment and learned coping skills to deal with stress). Evidently, no single factor is responsible, it is complex and likely a mirage of factors that lead to NPD. Research suggests that there is a slightly increased risk for pathological narcissism to be passed down to their children, or ‘inverted’ or ‘covert’ narcissism may be developed.
The Narcissistic family: The shiny red apple with a worm inside
All families have family secrets, but in the family of a Narcissist the secrecy becomes a prison of silence. Image is of utmost priority; how you look always takes precedence over how you feel. Whether alcoholics, drug addicts, religious activists or social climbers etc, Narcissistic parenting is beguiling in it’s sheer cruelty and lack of empathy. They may be avoidant of a child’s emotional and/or physical needs or engulfing, where they endeavour to control every aspect of their child’s life. Either way, Narcissistic parents expect children to react to their needs and not the other way round. It’s not unusual for one or more child to be made the ‘Golden Child’ who may do no wrong, and another the ‘Scapegoat’ who can do nothing right. In some families the mother may be Narcissistic and the father is an enabler of her tyranny and abuse, though it may be the other way round. Both parents may be Narcissists rendering the children helpless pawns and collateral damage in their sick games and distortions of reality.
Young-Bruehl states, children who are emotionally abused by narcissists “are not supposed to have any identity or feelings of their own; they have been taken over, like an occupied or colonized country, by the feelings that their abuser (or abusers) project onto them. The child is made into a target of elimination.”
They demand with insistence, punish absent-mindedly, idealize and devalue capriciously. They have no loyalty. They do not love, they cling or may suck you dry of all your energy, hence the term ’emotional vampires’. Their praise is quiet or unheard, coated with jealousy or your achievements are claimed as theirs. Essentially, existence is a play, they are the actors, and everyone else is props. They raise and lower the curtain of their mock ’emotions’ at will. Engulfing parents tend to look active and engaged in their children’s life from the outside, thus many Adult children of Narcissists (ACoNs) will agree that people had difficulty believing some of their life experiences during and after the abuse, especially regarding a narcissistic mother. This isn’t surprising as not all narcissists engage in physical or sexual abuse, but may use more insidious psychological tactics such as Gaslighting and Triangulation which I will cover later on.
Some useful books, especially for those close or related to an NPD individual:
Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited: By Sam Vaknin and Lidija Rangelovska
The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement: By W. Keith Campbell, Jean M. Twenge and Randye Kaye
Toxic Parents; Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life: By Susan Ford and Craig Buck
Our culture’s materialism and advanced technology underpins the importance of image and presentation for everyone. Researchers and psychologists have long been trying to understand the changes that have occurred in our values, ethics and our attitudes toward others in recent years and across generations. Millennials Generation Y or ‘Generation Me’ were found to view ‘money, fame, and image’ as being among the more important life-goals in a study of generational differences. The focus now is on self appearance, achievement and recognition. Aspirations concerned with self-acceptance, affiliation, and community are less important. Evidently, the increase in general selfishness presents some issues for society, though the insurmountable barriers to love and empathy constructed by true narcissists is of more concern and we should continue to help and support the victims in particular who may require an explanation and validation for their traumatizing experiences.