We, in our lives , have all met what we would call “needy” people. We’ve encountered them in our personal lives, workplace or recreational time. Narcissism is perhaps the extreme of this position. Both tendencies usually stem from a low self-esteem. But the terminology “needy” generally describes a fairly non-malignant condition. Just to clarify, we all have narcissistic characteristics. These needs, most psychologists would argue, are a product of our times and our system of values as the accepted norm. However, the hard-core narcissist has deeper, underlying causes for the way he/she handles life and its challenges. Can we identify them? Sometimes, but it’s difficult unless you know what to look for. Following is a list of characteristics. A narcissistic person will have most or all of these attributes….
- An obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges
- Problems in sustaining satisfying relationships
- A lack of psychological awareness
- Difficulty with empathy
- Problems distinguishing the self from others
- Hypersensitivity to any slights or imagined insults
- Vulnerability to shame rather than guilt
- Haughty body language
- Flatters people who admire and affirm him
- Detests those who do not admire him
- Uses other people without considering the cost of that for them
- Pretends to be more important than he is
- Brags (subtly but persistently) and exaggerates his achievements
- Claims to be an ‘expert’ about most things
- Cannot view the world from the perspective of another person
- Denies remorse and gratitude
These ploys are designed to project a false image to those that this person might encounter. Inside they struggle with constant feelings of inferiority, inadequacy and worthlessness. It’s a battle within, to attempt to feel good and raise self-esteem. The subconscious wants to feel good and worthy but the end result of this inner struggle is feelings of envy and paranoia. That is the cause of all narcissistic behaviours.
The paranoia causes obsessive mistrust. As such, this means that he can never accept people for what they are, so there can never be a true and meaningful relationship, even with his family members. Because he feels inferior, the narcissist can become envious of a spouse, friend, neighbour; particularly one who may be better educated, more intellectual or appears to be very successful. It’s not jealous because you can’t be jealous of something you have never had, but pathological envy. He will degrade the individual to others in a subtle way so as not to damage his own personal image to others.
The causes of this condition, as psychological studies have shown, are faulty or inadequate parenting. For example a lack of limit setting, is believed to be a major cause, and both too permissive and too authoritarian styles of parenting have been found to promote narcissistic symptom. Excessive praise and idealization by the parents may require the child to suppress their own self-expression to meet the desires of the parent and to gain their love and approval. To develop a realistic image of the self the child must be provided with realistic information of discipline and reasonable limits must be set by the parents as to what the child can and cannot do.
Narcissists are more concerned with their image than with their self. As a result they will promote their image at the expense of self which falls by the wayside. Where does that leave the people that encounter them in their life? Knowing the symptoms will hopefully help you recognize the pathology of a narcissistic individual and guide you on the proper course when dealing with them.