Problem

Narcissism

Other Names:
Narcissistic personality disorders
Narcissistic behaviour disorders
Self-absorption
Self-importance
Nature:
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 fulfilment 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.

Background:
Narcissus was a mythological Greek youth who fell in love with his own reflection.

The DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria for narcissistic personality disorder are: A pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, lack of empathy, as indicated by at least five of: (i) a grandiose sense of self-importance; (ii) is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love; (iii) believes that he or she is "special" and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions); (iv) requires excessive admiration; (v) has a sense of entitlement, ie unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations; (vi) is interpersonally exploitative, ie takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends; (vii) lacks empathy and is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others; (viii) is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her (ix) shows arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes.

Claim:
1. 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.

2. The characteristics of narcissists: hyper-dependence on the views of others, sense of entitlement, a manipulative and exploitative nature, sadism, emotional absence, grandiosity - incommensurate with real achievements, hyper-reactivity to criticism, delusions of reference -- are the very things that have made a lot of people a lot of money.

Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
22.04.2000 – 00:00 CEST