Narcissism, a psychoanalytical concept, is broadly defined as the inability to empathize with anyone but oneself. Not all who undertake a search for self-knowledge are narcissistic, but that search can become sidetracked into excessive self-interest and self-congratulation. Youth have always been especially vulnerable, but the contemporary mania for personal fulfillment has brought with it an epidemic of narcissism-related problems among adults.
Narcissistic people have a grandiose sense of self-importance, a feeling of being "special" without appropriate achievements. They have frequent fantasies of unlimited success, power, beauty and brilliance that cannot be satisfied by pursuing realistic goals. They require constant attention, admiration and proof of being loved; consequently their lives are absorbed by the need to please others so as to win attention and approval. They take advantage of others to achieve their ends. They are preoccupied with feelings of envy and can seldom cope with take criticism. They often feel themselves to be above the rules of ordinary behaviour.
A great deal of contemporary spirituality is downright selfishness, part of the banal consumer philosophy of the times typified by the New Age emphasis on "feel good" approaches to life. Even the more cerebral types of spirituality, such as Jungian psychology, can produce devotees who seem to be insufferably self-absorbed. Attending to one's own soul can be taken to extremes and then becomes the means whereby one loses it. Criticism of material selfishness is frequently replaced by preaching spiritual self-importance.