Narcissism: Trendy ... but True

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

One day a few months ago, a girl at work called someone a narcissist. To me, it seemed like a pretty bold accusation for someone she knew five minutes. Like calling someone heartless, selfish, or idiotic. The term is trendy in pop culture. Most people throw around the term like a fidget spinner--not really knowing its origin.

People who have encountered pathological narcissists use the term much more slowly--and with the grit of glass in our teeth.

 Ovid's myth of Narcissus was one of a gorgeous hunter who got distracted one day when he knelt down to get a drink of water from a pond. Seeing his reflection, he was transfixed and forgot everything except his fascination with his own image. Narcissus starved to death and died because he forgot to eat and forgot even that drink he knelt down initially to take.

 Echo is a nymph who was punished by the gods and was robbed of her beautiful voice--only able to repeat the last of what she heard someone else say. When she ran into Narcissus in the woods, Echo fell in love with his beauty and the clever way he lured deer into his nets immediately, yet she couldn't tell him. Narcissus called, "Come here!" Echo repeated, "Come here!" When they finally reached one another, Narcissus was disgusted, rejecting her and returning to his own reflection, saying, "Oh marvelous boy, I loved you in vain, farewell." He died destitute and emaciated.

 Some narcissism is natural. Babies are narcissists. They love looking at themselves in the mirror. A pathological narcissist, however, can ruin his own life and the lives of all those attempting to find their voices around him.

 1. A narcissist is fixated on an idealized version of himself. In the narcissist's mind, he is winning financially while the paperwork might show he is hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. One of the trademarks of a pathological narcissist is to overspend on nice things. This projects an image of "status."

 2. A pathological narcissist enjoys breaking the rules. Whether it's chronically speeding, lying in court, or utilizing "grey hat" financial strategies, the narcissist gets a thrill from tactics that make him feel like a winner while the rest of the world loses.

 3. A pathological narcissist shows little or no remorse. He constantly breaks promises and fails in meeting obligations, including repaying debts. In his mind, the fault for these failures is someone else's. He cannot reconcile his idealized vision of himself with the reality of his failures. At all costs, he must win.

 4. The pathological narcissist must be the hero and loves to be in charge. He is charismatic, charming when he wants something, and very dangerous to women or men who are in need of being rescued. A narcissist will sometimes work to make others feel inferior to remain in the hero position. Those with a high degree of narcissism are often in leadership positions because they pursue leadership positions, though they don't always make great leaders. Similar to a psychopath, a pathological narcissist often "gaslights"--saying something extreme and then blaming the other person for misinterpreting it.

 5. For some narcissists, everything is personal. Passed over for a promotion? It must be personal. Cut me off in traffic? It must be personal. Quiet narcissists often twist situations so that they are the victim. Not happy? Must be someone else's fault.

 6. Above all, a narcissist is unable to put himself into someone else's shoes. This is such an extreme deficit that the narcissist himself often has no clue he is a narcissist because he is unable to see himself from someone else's perspective. He can only see his reflection--the idealized version of himself he projects to the water.

 Narcissists have a hard time giving and receiving love because they cannot see other people, and they have no empathy. They often confuse loving with winning and will lose interest as soon as they lose saviour status. They may give the illusion of emotional connection but are often much more interested in just that--illusions.

 Narcissists can heal, but they can only heal if they're willing to unravel the illusion and face the authentic self. It takes guts after a lifetime of hiding.

 People left in the lifetimes of wreckage that a narcissist leaves behind can heal--only if they're willing to embrace their strong voices and avoid the alluring call of a false saviour.

Stay safe and brave out there,

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