Today, I want to talk about what is narcissism? And I think that there’s a lot of confusion, that folks think that a component of narcissism means that you have a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
It actually doesn’t. I think that got me to think is that I get a lot of questions, emails, and stuff from folks that ask questions about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). What is narcissism, and its different components? I thought, “Well, let’s write an article on what is narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD)” So what I did is I identified 10 components. What we’ll do is we’ll go through the 10 components and we’ll talk about how they factor in, or what components and how they’re related to narcissism.
In this article, we’ll discuss the components of narcissism and what makes it a disorder, as opposed to a trait. It’s a combination of traits that make the whole disorder. So let’s talk about these 10 components that I identified. Let’s get started.
The 10 Things to Identify Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
I think that sort of is a hallmark central classic component of what folks think is narcissism. Grandiosity is enhanced, or it’s an unrealistic sense of superiority, uniqueness, value, or capability. It’s expressed either overtly, in unreasonable expectations, exceptional or unrealistic high aspirations, and self-centeredness. Or, it can be covertly. This is in persistence, convictions, and fantasies of unfulfilled ambitions or unlimited power and success, brilliance, beauty, or ideal relationships.
Now it’s important to realize that there is overt and covert grandiosity of narcissism. Overt, I think is what a lot of us expect, right? These people like, walk around and they’re all grandiose, and they think they deserve all these wonderful things and all this other stuff. Then there’s covert narcissism. It is much more certainly tricky, much more confusing for a lot of folks because on the surface initially, these folks seem very humble, they can seem very contrite and things like that. But what happens is over time, you realize that this is a very covert type of grandiosity.
The way that I like to define it and explain it to either clients or mental health providers when I’m doing training is that they suffer more than anyone else will ever suffer. That their negative experiences are so extreme and so unique that no one else could understand. That’s a component of grandiosity. Their grandiose suffering that other people can’t understand.
A lot of times, the components that they’re talking about tend to be very mild. They may not always be, but typically they are. Okay, so that’s the first component which is grandiosity.
2. Variable self-esteem.
Now this variable self-esteem, it’s alternating between states of sort of overconfidence, superiority, and assertiveness with this sense of inferiority and insecurity. What can happen here is because it’s variable self-esteem, when they encounter a situation they can’t control, it hurts them, and they incur what’s called a narcissistic wound. They explode, and they just go off, and they have rage episodes and things like that. That’s ’cause they’re so hurt.
A lot of people on the outside are usually very surprised. They’re like, “Where’s that coming from?” Because the insult is usually not a very overt or direct insult, maybe, that it is something that they’ve interpreted as hurting them, as being hurtful to them, but the average person may not.
So it’s not like a direct attack, it may be something that’s very subtle, which could be not texting back when they expect, not giving them the hello in the morning, or the hug in the morning, or the kisses, or whatever it is that they expect because if you don’t, that incurs a narcissistic wound and they then have to react in order to re-stabilize their self-esteem, their ego state, in rage, in order to re-stabilize that. So that’s variable self-esteem.
3. Reactions to perceived threats to self-esteem.
This could be like humiliation, defeat, criticism, failures. This could include feelings of overt or covert narcissism anger, hostility, envy, or shame. Mood variations are very common, irritability, anxiety, depression, elation. Or, it can even be components of deceit and retaliating behavior.
It’s not uncommon for a lot of folks who have this particular trait, or those who are narcissistic to do a lot of passive-aggressive behaviors. To engage in a lot of passive-aggressive tactics, in order to make others pay. Some folks, it depends upon where they are on the spectrum. So I think the further you are, you’re more severe and extreme narcissistic individuals, they tend to feel very entitled to outwardly express their hate. So they don’t have a lot of good self-control, they just let folks have it because they have a right to do that.
But I think the moderate ones, which of course moderate are actually more common. Moderate levels of narcissism are much more common. I think that these folks, what happens is that some of them are able to sit back kind of in their head and like, “Mm-hmm, okay.” That could be, let’s say you’re playing table tennis, right, ping pong. Right? And, then you beat them and they may sit there and say, “Okay, mm-hmm fine. You win, fine. I’m gonna beat you by doing A, B, and C.”
Then they engage in these tactics, to just sort of tear you up, right? They do that, in all these different ways and you’re like, “What is that about?” You find it hard to believe that how could instance for losing a ping pong game because someone to rage against you in that way? But that’s how these folks function. That’s how they operate. It’s reactions to these perceived threats to self-esteem. They see you as a threat to their way of being. So they have to take that person out.
Now that doesn’t mean murder or death, or anything like that. What that means is, to hurt you in some way, to get one up on you in some way. There’s a lot of instances that you’ll see in the news and in others’ lives, and if you know these people or you see these people on TV, you’ll see that if they may say something, that’s completely false, right? That makes no sense at all. Then, when they’re called on it because there’s no evidence to support that, you see that they even become more entrenched in this idea, and then they become passive-aggressive to make those people pay.
Whether it’s if they’re able to fire them, or if they’re able to manipulate them, or if they’re able to destroy their life in some way, they will engage in that behavior to do that. It is so extreme, and that’s all because of a perceived threat to their self-esteem, to that ego, that narcissistic ego state.
4. Self-enhancing interpersonal behavior.
This is excessive attention, admiration seeking, or self-promoting. They can often be very boastful, very, very competitive. So that could even be like with their kids, Like, if they have a young kid that maybe they’re out throwing the baseball around, or whatever. That becomes a competition. This narcissistic individual has to beat them, they have to get over on them, they have to win and maybe they’re just playing ball with their seven-year-old. This person’s an adult, so they have to win, they have to have those self-enhancing interpersonal behaviors.
They engage in it all the time, they need constant attention, they need that constant admiration seeking because that helps validate that low self-esteem.
5. Self-serving interpersonal behavior.
Now, this is expecting a sort of unreasonable or unwarranted rights and services. They fail to reciprocate favors from others, they feel entitled. We’ll talk about entitlement specifically in a second as it falls under this. So they feel very entitled or taking the emotional, intellectual, or social advantage of others. So they’re very exploitive.
Now in this self-serving interpersonal behavior, entitlement falls under that. There’s a lot of confusion between the trait of entitlement and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Notice this is one component that we’re talking about, just because folks are entitled does not mean that they’re narcissistic. Now depends upon the degree, but that’s one component.
So when I do training and I talk to clients and things, entitlement doesn’t equal narcissism or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). It is one component. So entitlement is that, “I don’t have to do anything, that I am just deserving of it, So don’t expect me to work because I don’t have to, Because I am that special and unique.” So that’s a self-serving interpersonal behavior.
Internally, self-sufficient or interpersonally controlling, distant, or they can even have an uncommitted attitude or behavior that serves to avoid threats to self-esteem or intolerable effects. So they avoid anything that may upset them, anything that will be an emotional circumstance beyond what they can control and what they can manage.
So what they do is they try to control these situations. I wrote an article about this and we talk specifically about enlisting. Now enlisting is that you pull people in your environment and in your interpersonal circle that justifies your narcissism. People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are very, very good at that. This is that component. They do it to avoid the reality of relationships. Relationships are variable, no matter how great they are, or how terrible they are. They are variable, emotionally variable.
That’s because our moods change every day, that’s for everybody. For anyone to expect your mood to be the same, from Monday to Friday, to Saturday, to Sunday, and that to include every Monday, Saturday, Sunday, or whatever, is unrealistic. All of our moods change and they fluctuate based upon where we are in life, a lot of different circumstances and different reasons and so on and so on and so forth.
But, what your narcissist does because they don’t have a lot of emotions to pull from, they don’t have a lot of understanding of different variabilities, they try to limit their interpersonal circle, they enlist people that don’t challenge them, or push back on those narcissistic views and values. And they avoid anything that might be harmful to them emotionally, difficult for them emotionally, or cognitively as well because they hate to appear stupid. Because if you make a mistake, doesn’t that equal that you’re stupid? Of course, it doesn’t because we all make mistakes. Mistakes are great because we learn from those mistakes. That’s not how narcissists see it.
Now, this is overtly expressed, or internally concealed interpersonal argumentative and critical, resentful, hostile, passive-aggressive, cruel or sadistic attitude or behavior. These folks can be very, very aggressive, especially if they incur a narcissistic wound. So aggressive, the tendency towards aggression is a component of narcissism. But where does it come from? Remember, in all my articles, I talk about core content and surface content. So what is that core content?
A lot of folks, for a narcissistic personality (NPD), or those who have narcissism, or narcissistic traits, underneath is a lot of shame, doubt, fear, inferiority, and all of those issues. And when they get called out, or they have an experience that triggers that core content, a lot of times, the surface structure behavior is aggressive behavior.
So a lot of times it is just impactful, massive, rage episodes that I talked about just a second ago. They engage in this behavior and a lot of times, they have poor emotional control, self-regulation. So they can really get lost in their aggression. Especially, if the other person really kind of backs up, shows a lot of fear that encourages that individual to continue to be aggressive, to behave in an aggressive way.
That doesn’t mean that it’s that person’s fault who’s afraid of someone who’s being aggressive, that’s a pretty normal response. But it’s important to recognize that when you show that fear, that individual with narcissism, or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), that feeds them and they like it. So they’re like, “Oh yeah.” They engage more and more. So that’s aggressive.
This is exceptionally high or inflexible, even though it is inconsistent, ideals, and standards of self and others. Now, this is strong reactions, including the aggression that we talked about, self-harsh criticism that would be during your more covert narcissism phase, Shame or deceitfulness, when self or others fail to measure up, typically, they have this unrealistic expectation of self and others. So this sense of perfectionism is so unrealistic, no one could ever, ever meet it. You just couldn’t.
Because you’d have to be in someone’s head, and know what they expect before they knew to expect it. They’re gonna be like, “Huh?” Right, how could you ever do that? “I can’t get in your head and know what to expect before you expect it.” But that is their sense of perfectionism. Is that you should know that. How could you not know that? And if you don’t know it, then they call you stupid, or incompetent, or anything like that. Then they can engage in these other behaviors, like we talked about, rage, passive-aggressive behaviors, so on and so forth. So that’s that component of perfectionism.
9. Impaired empathic ability.
Now, this is inconsistent and compromised by self-centeredness, self-serving interests, or emotional dysregulation. So it’s like an effective tolerant, low emotional tolerance, or intense reactions, shame, envy, inferiority, powerlessness, or anger.
So what happens is that what you experience, your emotional experiences are pretty relevant to theirs. Theirs is so special. It could just be a component of sadness that they experience, whereas you perhaps have had a catastrophic loss or something very serious that has happened in your life, could be a divorce, a death of a loved one, whatever it may be. But, they don’t empathize with that because they’re sad. You should know about their sadness, is much more important than your experience, right?
So that impaired empathic ability. You see this sort of callousness built up over time, where they’re just don’t care, they just don’t seem to care about anyone or anything because they’ve enlisted people in their interpersonal circle who accept this and tolerate this over a period of time, that no one challenges them.
So then, that sense of impaired empathic ability actually becomes very adaptive in their situation. So, they’re actually reinforced for that impaired empathic ability because the people around them don’t challenge them on it. Hey, we’re not blaming anybody, we’re just describing that situation.
10. Attention seeking.
This is an excessive attempt to attract and be the focus of the attention of others. They are attention-seeking, admiration seeking. They have to have the spotlight. This is where you get a little bit of a histrionic personality kind of feel to them, but they’re attention-seeking, admiration seeking, they need that all the time.
Maybe you know, when folks who don’t have this component. Sometimes, you know you’re in the spotlight, and you did something really well and people are like, “Hey, man. Good job, nice job.” You’re like, “Yeah, that’s cool.” But they need it all the time, over and over. So they need, “Atta boys, atta girls”, all the time. So they’re like little kitties and you have to pet them, all the time. They need that attention all the time. It’s very trying and very difficult for others.
Which is why a lot of times, I don’t like the word co-dependency, but they’re able to find folks that do have this sense of co-dependency, that want to feel good about themselves, by trying to make others feel good about themselves, which your narcissistic individuals never feel good about themselves because they blame others for why they don’t feel good about themselves.
So they’re trying to make other people suffer so that then they can feel good and powerful, so the co-dependent individual in the relationship tries to make them okay, so they’re okay, but they’re never okay because they have narcissism, which is a core content issue that never gets addressed because it’s covered by the surface content of narcissism.
Those were the top 10 Things to Identify Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Please, do not forget to share this article with your friends and family.
Sharing is caring!