Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Profile Of A Narcissist & Narcissism Symptoms

Let me introduce you to someone. He/she is probably similar to someone you have in your own life. So lets see if you can relate.

A young boy, whose mother is selfish and egotistical, watches as she manipulates others. She is constantly the consummate victim. From her perspective, people are always slighting her or hurting her in some way. From other people's perspectives, she is deemed a drama queen and 'emotionally needy'.

As he grows, he watches as she is emotionally distant from him, is overly critical of even the slightest mistake he makes, and holds such extreme expectations of him that he can never measure up. And because of this, he is often left with feelings of inadequacy and shame.

As he grows up, he begins to do poorly in school. He covers the inadequacy in his academics with being popular. Perhaps he plays a sport full of competition and aggression, such as football. And he blames his lack of academic excellence on his teachers, his parents, his sport, and/or his friends.

This tendency toward aggression shows itself in other ways, as well, as he bullies other students who are smaller than he is, smarter than he is, or possess a quality he does not like. And this can be from simple mocking of someone deemed 'undesireable' to outright bullying through the use of his fists.

In his intimate relationships, he chooses women who are emotionally needy and easily manipulated. He needs a partner who will fawn over him, adore him, mirror his emotions, and stroke his ego. Often times, he places any perceived errors in judgment he has at their door. And he always places himself above them, making his accomplishments of greater importance than his partners, even to the point of making theirs nonexistent.

While in high school he takes a part time job. He loves the feel of ready cash in his pocket. And on a whim decides to quit school and goto work full time. It is a minimum wage job which earns him the money he needs for his immediate interests.

As he turns 18, he decides to move out on his own. And he asks his current girlfriend, who has been finishing up her senior year of high school to move in with him. She is in alt at the prospect because he went from popular jock to bad boy. And so she agrees, believing they are soulmates and/or twin flames.

She graduates high school, before she moves in with him. He is strangely absent from her graduation ceremony on the excuse he has to work. And as she moves in with him, he spends alot of time talking about the good ol' days when he was a football star, while excluding any discussion about her recent graduation.

Time moves forward. They've been together for a year. She's slowly lost touch with all of her friends and has even become extremely distant with her family, speaking with them by phone only sporadically. She works a menial job, having only a high school education, and yet she brings more money in than her boyfriend.

He has continued working, and yet he has begun to job hop. This is because he believes, with each job he takes, he has been belittled or not used to his fullest potential. He feels like they don't appreciate what a good thing they have. So he moves on, with the knowledge that he is meant for bigger and better things than their limited use of his skills.

With each new job, comes bouts of anger and frustration. And this is usually taken out on his isolated girlfriend. He blames them for not seeing his full potential and he blames her for making more money than he does. So he laughs at her and demeans her by calling her job meaningless and her worthless.

Finally, he stops working all together, because he can not find a job. He uses the excuse that no one wants to hire him because he is to much for them to handle. So the sole income coming into the household is that of the girlfriend.

When she is done working a shift, returning home is like a living hell. This is because he is home all the time and now has the time to brood and obsess about what is happening to him. So he begins to take his frustrations out on her ~ physically.

At first its a bruise here and a scratch there. But then it begins to escalate into more violent behavior. And anything can set his temper off, even a perceived slight or a misunderstood comment.

Finally, she reaches the limit of what she can take when he threatens her life. And she leaves him and rushes to her family for support.

He is angry and feels belittled/abused by the one person he thought he could count on. So he begins stalking her. And one day, in a fit of anguish and rage, he ends her life.
Its a long story isn't it? Perhaps you can relate, perhaps not. Perhaps this is an image of your own life. Perhaps you know someone like this, whether its the man or the woman. And perhaps you had a parent like his.

The Definitions

Personality: Personal beliefs, expectations, desires, values, and behaviors that derive from the interaction between culture and the individual. Personality is the behaviors and techniques for solving problems that are used by an individual. Personality is to the individual as culture is to the group.

Personality: A set of qualities that make a person (or thing) distinct from another.

Trait a distinguishing feature of your personal nature or personality

Maturity: noun. 1. a being full-grown or ripe, 2. a being fully developed, complete, or ready, 3. a becoming due (Webster's New World Dictionary).

Narcissism, also called malignant self love, describes the trait of excessive self-love, based on self-image or ego. The terms narcissism, narcissistic, and narcissist are often used as pejoratives, denoting vanity, conceit, egotism or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others.

The Narcissist is described as turning inward for gratification rather than depending on others, and as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, and prestige. Narcissistic personality disorder is closely linked to self-centeredness. It is also colloquially referred to as "the god complex".

Emotional Dissociation is a perceived detachment of the mind from the emotional state or even from the body. Dissociation is characterized by a sense of the world as a dreamlike or unreal place and may be accompanied by poor memory of the specific events, which in severe form is known as dissociative amnesia. The term dissociation refers to the act of separating or the state of being separated.

Another way of looking at in traditional psychology, Emotional Dissociation is the unconscious process of separating certain thoughts or behaviors from a person's identity or belief system.

In other schools of thought, such as NLP, dissociation describes the separation of various components of our experience from one another, for example separating the unpleasant feelings from a memory from the visual stimulus that triggered those feelings.

Dissociation may be contrasted with association; a person is associated into their feelings when on recalling an event they still get some of the feelings associated with the event, as if they were reliving the episode. When a person is dissociated they do relive the feelings that they had at the time, they are as it were at one remove from the emotions.

Narcissism Criteria

The DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder are:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, lack of empathy, as indicated by at least five of the following:

1. a grandiose sense of self-importance

2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

3. believes that he or she is "special" and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

4. requires excessive admiration

5. has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

6. is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

7. lacks empathy and is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

8. is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

The Progression

Now that we've seen some definitions and the criteria for narcissism, lets look at the slow progression of this man's life. Because within it are two personality disorder types which tend to feed off one another.

In the formative years of this young man's life, he was subjected to a parent who was both selfish and egotistical, to the point of neglect and out right emotional and psychological abuse. She had to be the center of attention. And this was the working model of an adult he had to model himself after.

As he grew older, and could not live up to his mother's grandiose expectations, he fell into a pattern of aggressive behavior which only got progressively worse with age. When he started to rebel against those expectations, he stopped attempting to deal with the reality of his life and instead turned to his own ego, to act as a salve to his wounded heart. And in the progression of his life, when one thing after another failed his expectations, he would shield his own wounded pride and ego by placing the blame on others.

In terms of emotional maturity, I'll first refer you to the signs and symptoms of emotional maturity and immaturity.

Signs Of Emotional Immaturity

1. Taking no responsibility for what happens. If a person consistently plays "victim" about events and is unable to reflect on what he or she did to contribute to the result, it's a red light. Accountability is the sign of the opposite: mature people consider what they did - and might have otherwise done - for the result at hand. They also take responsibility for the actions.

2. Making conversations "all about me".
An emotionally immature person steers conversations to ensure he or she is the center of the topic. Immature people also interpret discussions about issues through a "personal filter" that makes the issue about them. They have difficulty separating issues from their ego or personal reactions to the topic.

3. Talk more than listen. Authentic listening requires one to learn about the views and thoughts of others. As a result of it, people deepen their understanding, compassion and empathy. An immature person does not take the time to do this. As a result, they cannot deepen their emotional awareness.

4. Quick to anger or blow a fuse. Emotionally immature people react impatiently, throw a tantrum, swear, act out or get belligerent when things don't go the way they want or expect. They do not mange frustration with the realities of life well, nor manage easily unexpected transitions in processes or routines. Rather than draw on inner tolerance or belief in oneself to manage change, the emotionally immature have a melt-down. An emotionally mature person takes an inner look, reflects, considers the best outcome desired and decides what action will most likely bring that about.

5. Makes thinking errors. Many of the behaviors of the emotionally immature come from flaws in their logic. They often misinterpret social cues, jump to conclusions that are not well thought through or get stuck by beliefs about themselves or others that make it difficult for them to see their own error in thought. It's a form of mental stubbornness. An emotionally mature person opens up to others suggestions or reasoning and considers how it might alter how to consider a topic differently.

It's common to see these behaviors in children, to which we can say "time is on their side". It becomes less easy to be patient with these behaviors when an adult does them. It is easy to disparage such a person by saying "he's juvenile" or "she's high maintenance" behind his or her back. Consider this: it takes emotional maturity to sit down with such a person and candidly suggest, instead, personal counseling or coaching. It could change a life to show someone cares.
Characteristics Of Emotional Maturity

1. The ability to experience and understand our own deepest feelings and needs, and to be able to act on and express these feelings and needs in appropriate and constructive ways. This is opposite from "acting-out" our needs in unconscious, destructive patterns of behavior. This aspect of maturity includes the ability to experience and tolerate especially intense feelings - which inevitably occur in life - and to be able to appropriately express these feelings, or contain them until an appropriate and responsible means for expressing them is available.

2. The ability to act on and react to life circumstances with intelligence, sound judgment and wisdom. This aspect of maturity is opposite the tendency to act impulsively, without taking the opportunity to think through our actions or consider their consequences. (Wisdom: having the quality of good judgment, learning and erudition, soundness.)

3. The ability to recognize, empathize with, and respect the feelings and needs of others. This is opposite from a selfish and chronic preoccupation with our own needs, with no awareness of, or sensitivity to, the needs of others.

4. The ability to delay the immediate satisfaction of our own needs, so that we may attend to other more pressing needs or actions. This is opposite from a condition in which our immediate needs always take precedence over all other needs.

5. The ability to love - to allow another's needs, feelings, security, and survival to be absolutely paramount - just as if these were our own.

6. The ability to adapt flexibly and creatively to life's changing circumstances and conditions. This is distinct from the tendency to respond to life's challenges in rigid, outmoded behavior patterns that are no longer particularly effective or appropriate.

7. The ability to channel our energy, both positive and negative, into constructive contributions to ourselves, to others, and to our communities.

8. The willingness and ability to be responsible and accountable for our own circumstances and actions in life, and the ability to differentiate our responsibilities from those of others. This is distinct from blaming others and seeing ourselves primarily as the victim of other's behavior, or from maintaining a sense that we are somehow responsible for the happiness and well-being of all those around us. Responsibility arises from a stance of strength and competence; it does not include pronouncements of blame, shame, guilt, or moral inferiority/superiority, as all these are judgments added to the basic condition of responsibility.

9. The ability to relate comfortably and freely with others, to like and be liked by others, and to maintain healthy and mutually satisfying relationships. The ability to choose and develop relationships that are healthy and nurturing, and to end or limit relationships that are destructive or unhealthy.
In terms of emotional maturity, which goes from dependence to independence to interdependence, this man is stuck in the dependence phase while wearing a mask of independence as a shroud to shield the fact that he has low self esteem and carries a deep abiding sense of inadequacy.

Low Self Esteem

Low self esteem can be, but is not always, an underlying cause of narcissistic behavior. Beneath the cover of superiority, which is in fact a fragile ego state built to support and sustain a person who feels as though they are lacking in some way, lays insecurity, inadequacy, shame and fear. And the overriding need not to be 'discovered' in some way.

In terms of the case study above, this was derived from the man's formative years where his working adult model, his mother, displayed the same types of tendencies. And because of her grandiose expectations which in turn rain constant derision upon his head for his failure to 'measure up'.

The constant pressure to measure up and the the continual assault upon his psyche when failure occurred, which was more often than not, helped to push him into the mental state of associating success with his mother's personality type. And this was later expressed within his life through aggressive and prepubescent behaviors centered on the 'self', with no thoughts to others save in how they interacted directly with him.

The internal associating with his mother's personality that was done, with the belief that this would garner him success in life, also veiled the reality of this man. He had extremely low self esteem.

Emotional Dissociation

To recap, Emotional dissociation is a perceived detachment of the mind from the emotional state or even from the body. Dissociation is characterized by a sense of the world as a dreamlike or unreal place and may be accompanied by poor memory of the specific events, which in severe form is known as dissociative amnesia. The term dissociation refers to the act of separating or the state of being separated.

In connection with narcissism, and our case study more specifically, what we discover about Emotional dissociation is that the man in the profile has detached himself from his own true emotional state, which he seems to have a difficult time dealing with, and has replaced it with a personality which he associates with success. This personality is completely reliant upon others for validation, in particular, the Narcissist's chosen partner. And when this personality is not 'fed' regularly by others frustration and anger can erupt into violence.

Thus when the girlfriend left him, she took with her the last shreds of support of an already fragile and fragmented personality. And this could potentially explain his erratic and violent behavior at the end of the profile, though it by no means justifies it.

The Point Of This Discussion

The point of this blog was not to offend anyone. My most humble apologies if it has. This has been offered to help you, the reader, get a better grasp on what a Narcissist is. There are many types that were not covered here, though, from those who are simply egocentric to those who have messiah/god complexes. This is but one example of an extreme case.

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