What is Narcissisistic Personality Disorder (NPD)?
Narcissists outer persona is often one of confidence, being in control, and even smooth, charismatic charm. Underneath unhealthy narcissism, however, typically lurk unbearable feelings of worthlessness and emptiness. Consequently a narcissist needs to constantly defend against these underlying painful feelings and vigilantly guard against threats to their fragile self-esteem. Narcissists often feel pressure to attain or maintain positions of power, status, wealth, beauty and/or fame in order to control for others admiration to shore them up on the outside countering the concealed insecurities of the real self. It is an attempt to cover over the emptiness inside.
What causes NPD?
The causes of unhealthy narcissism are complex, but it is often linked to a dysfunctional childhood. For example, a parent to regulate their own self-esteem, may need their child to be exceptional or they may need to unconsciously project the unwanted, negative parts of themselves into their child. Therefore the parent(s) may have an inability or unwillingness to see their child for who they are. When one’s true self is not accepted by the parent, one must either feel unloved or create a false self accepted by the parent to ward off feelings of being unlovable. All one’s energy goes into creating and sustaining a false self at the expense of one’s real self.
How are a narcissists in a relationship?
The best predictor of happiness are close, trusting relationships. Narcissists don’t have these and aren’t able to provide this. On one hand, they are dependent on others to shore up their fragile self-esteem. Yet given that in intimate relationships, narcissists need to control, dominate and have no genuine empathy and capacity to love, it is not surprising that over time, those closest to them feel resentful and alienated. Any perceived criticisms or complaints are often met by a narcissist with rage (they must destroy or neutralize sources of criticism) which causes further alienation of others. So they further neglect their families and focus more energy into attaining or maintaining positions of power and wealth to control for others not abandoning them and being available to shore them up.
Can narcissism be treated?
As far as treating narcissism, it is challenging. First of all, narcissists rarely go to therapy. Therapy is about helping someone to own responsibility for their problems in a safe, nonjudgmental environment so that they can change them. Narcissists, however, need to see themselves as perfect and need to see the problems in their lives as being caused by others or circumstances of life. It takes tremendous skill to ease under such defenses. If they can be open to therapy, however, it has the potential to vastly improve their relationships and well-being.
Who gets involved with narcissists?
It could be anyone. Typically, however, narcissists draw caretakers. Those who tend to take care of others at their expense. Narcissists, who are self-absorbed and have little empathy for other’s needs, tend to be exploitative and use those close to them. It is easier to get away with this with someone who easily gives up their needs.
Is Narcissism Increasing?
Narcissism does appear to be on the rise. This could be in part because of our culture which currently focuses on “me first” versus the welfare of the group. This goes back to the “me decade” of the 70s to our current celebrity obsession. The increase may also be in part because with the internet there are more opportunities for a narcissist to be seen. They can become an instant “viral celebrity.”
by Eve Kilmer