Narcissism is very close to psychopathology…
Development in childhood
Narcissistic behavior usually begins in childhood although a diagnosis is not made until adulthood. Psychiatrists are reluctant to label children and prefer to wait until the picture is very clear in adulthood.
In some ways this is unfortunate because parents can go through hell with antisocial narcissistic children trying various treatments which typically fail until it dawns on them years later what’s actually going on.
(Acquired situational narcissism differs in that it starts later in life)
Narcissistic behavior is designed to influence and modify the decision making of their victims so that the victims become dependent on the narcissist and give the narcissist whatever he or she wants: usually everything!
Two important factors
Narcissistic behavior can be more easily understood if you think of it as a combination of two things: selfishness and lack of empathy.
Narcissism, or narcissistic personality disorder is used to indicate a situation of self love or self infatuation. The ‘it’s all about me’ syndrome.
The personality disorder means that there is a lack of empathy. The narcissist is unable to appreciate the feelings of others, because they are unable to have those emotions themselves. They do not feel guilt, remorse, pity, compassion, sorrow, embarrassment.
These two things become a lethal combination. The narcissist wants everything for himself and there is no limit to what he will do to others to get it.
This is important to understand if you are dealing with a narcissist. And it’s also the most difficult to understand if you yourself have a conscience!
They want money, praise, admiration, sex, power, they want to dominate and control others, they want to be the centre of attention, and there are no barriers to how low they will stoop to get them.
So let’s examine how these 2 things, selfishness and lack of empathy, give rise to narcissistic behavior and the symptoms of narcissism.
Center of attention
Narcissists want to be the center of attention. They will boast, brag and tell exaggerated stories about themselves to make out that they are brilliant. They will often mix lies with truths or half truths which may make it difficult to catch them out.
They often crave praise and admiration from others (called narcissistic supply) and many of their actions and words are designed to elicit this from those around them. Appearances are important to the narcissist and they like to create great first impressions, (because they know first impressions are important!)
The flip side of this is that they will not tolerate criticism and can be scathing of anyone who criticizes them. They will often attack and belittle the person who is being critical, instead of dealing with the points the person is making. They do this usually because they cannot defend themselves, they have been caught out. So it’s easier to destroy the reputation of the critical person instead.
These perceived attacks are called narcissistic injury and they often respond with narcissistic rage.
Sense of entitlement
Almost as grand as their ego is their sense of entitlement. Because they consider themselves superior to those around them, they feel entitled to have whatever they want.
And they often want it all. They may want everything you have and everything you are. And if they can’t have it, they will often make sure you can’t have it either.
This leads them to destroy people, to wreck their relationships, to ruin lives to the point that someone cannot continue to do good work. They will deliberately isolate people from their friends and family. The person ends up completely dependent on the narcissist.
Narcissist behavior can be incredibly cruel because of the amount they take from others. They will drain a person emotionally, they will drain their bank account, they will drain their energy, leaving behind them a trail of chaos, broken hearts and empty wallets. And, remember, they do all this without the least concern for their victims.
Narcissistic behavior is chameleon-like
If a person knew that their new friend was a snake who was going to steal their heart and then their money and then the rest of their life, they would run a mile. So the narcissist disguises themselves. How? By adapting to the people around them. They present a mask, a persona, depending on the victim they are hunting. This is sometimes called covert narcissism.
They will quickly elicit personal information from their victim and lie about themselves to make friends with their victim. They will be charming and witty and seem to the victim to be exactly like them, and we humans generally like people who are like us.
So we share personal information with the narcissist, who uses it against us. To manipulate, control and dominate. And then to take and take…
If you find yourself making friends very quickly with a new person in your life, be very wary!
Narcissistic behavior, therefore, can be different in different contexts. He or she will present one personality to one person and another to other people. The classic example is where a narcissist seems like such a nice person to friends and family of the spouse, but is abusing the spouse at home. When the spouse listens to family members paying him compliments, they are thinking to themselves “If only you knew!”
A large component of narcissistic behavior is the lie. They will lie about anything, in any situation, often for no reason at all.
This catches people out because normal people don’t expect others to lie. At least not very much! Nobody is ready for the extent and the frequency with which narcissists tell lies.
And they will often mix in half truths to the stories they tell so they seem believable. And if a person knows part of the story is true, they are more willing to accept that the rest is true too.
But the narcissists are not fazed if they are caught out in a lie, either! They simply change their story to try and fit the new facts, all the time adding to the chaos…
Narcissistic behavior definitely does not include taking responsibility. This shows up in various ways. Firstly, if anything goes wrong, it is never their fault. There is always someone else to blame. Typically you, the victim!
Secondly, in abusive relationships, the narcissist will put the responsibility for the maltreatment squarely on the shoulders of the victim. “I have to punish you for what you did, and the punishments will continue until you change your ways.” (Even when the victim changes, the punishments continue. More about this later.) “I only act this way in response to what you are doing.”
And thirdly, when they make an agreement, they have no sense of obligation to keep their side of the bargain. This not only applies to normal everyday relationship agreements but also to business contracts, marriage contracts and even court orders. And when you bring this to their attention, they can promise so convincingly that they will do better the next time, that people believe them. Until they break the agreement again…
You cannot afford to give the narcissist more chances and you should never give them the benefit of the doubt!
Lack of emotions
Malignant narcissists do not feel many of the emotions that allow society to function smoothly, empathy, love, compassion, guilt, remorse…