Narcissism unveiled

October 6, 2016 (Kampala):

Wow, so I’ve been reading up on narcissism after my friend J.W. mentioned that Donald Trump shows signs of classic narcissistic personality disorder. It has now become clear that X.Y. [a colleague of mine] is also classically narcissistic. The list of symptoms describes him to a ‘t’ (in his negative traits):

  • grandiosity with expectations of superior treatment from others
  • fixation on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.
  • self-perception of being unique or superior
  • need of constant admiration and approval from others
  • sense of entitlement to special treatment and obedience
  • exploitation of others for personal gain
  • inability to empathize with others’ feelings, wishes, or needs
  • intense envy of others and belief that others are envious of them
  • pompousness and arrogance

I was shocked to realize that I too exhibit narcissistic tendencies…and of the listed causes of narcissism, these five undoubtedly played a role for me:

  • a hypersensitive temperment
  • early experiences of shame
  • failure to form strong boundaries of self
  • unrealistic and inconsistent positive/negative feedback
  • excessive praise for some things, excessive criticism for others

Narcissism is a spectrum with benign and malignant poles. In the middle is the truth, namely that we are all totally unique, infinitely valuable, beautiful in our own way, and perfectly qualified to fulfill a unique purpose for which we were made. Malignant narcissists are unable to feel and believe these truths and so must constantly manufacture a grotesque caricature of their value and manipulate others to provide confirmation. Benign narcissists do feel and believe these truths but have difficulty constructing an accurate view of their individual truth, not an exaggerated one based on others’ insecure overvaluations. They need to continually compare their self-valuation with reality, with the spectrum of humanity that really exists.

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