Narcissism is a personality disorder that most apparently manifests itself in an individual's ability to listen. Narcissism is defined as "excessive interest in oneself," and this trait can make it difficult for individuals to acknowledge or pay attention to others. Instead, the role of other people in the life of a person with narcissism is to provide praise, encouragement, support, and admiration. Extreme narcissism can cross over into a mental illness called narcissistic personality disorder, where a person is driven by a need for approval, and neither understands or cares about the feelings of others.
The term “narcissism” has been in use for thousands of years. The ancient Greek mythological figure Narcissus was famous for his preoccupation with himself. Upon seeing his reflection in a lake, he fell in love with himself and eventually wasted away because he would not stop admiring the mirage. The field of psychoanalysis delved into narcissism in the early 1900s, and in 1914, Freud published On Narcissism: An Introduction.
One way narcissism manifests is in the way a person responds to what another person says. Narcissistic listening dismisses, negates, ignores, minimizes, denigrates, or otherwise renders irrelevant other people’s concerns and comments. A tone of contempt is a particularly strong narcissistic indicator. The individual is only interested in what they have to say and expect agreement. Responses that go against this expected outcome may be regarded as selfish or, ironically, narcissistic.
A person with narcissism is interested exclusively in their own welfare. While this is often seen most vividly in speech patterns, it will also manifest itself in behavior. Something such an individual wants is something he or she will get. They will always be the main beneficiary of their actions. Often, people with narcissism behave in ways others find objectionable.
People with narcissism have a sense of self so inflated they tend to see other people as beneath them. This also applies to rules, both laws and social norms. While they may appear to abide by the laws, it will only be for as long as it suits them. This can include:
Praise and admiration is a major currency for people with narcissism disorders, and it only goes in one direction. They paradoxically manifest both an inflated idea of their own importance and a quickness to feel deflated by negative feedback. There are two things to keep in mind when it comes to praising a person with narcissism. First of all, it's a one-way street; they won't return the favor and rarely acknowledge other people's need for praise or positive feedback unless it will suit their purposes. Also, failing to or stopping praise can result in overreaction, as the individual perceives this as a slight to their ego.
An unwillingness to take responsibility for his or her mistakes often comes from a person with narcissism's all-or-nothing thinking. Conceding that he or she has made a single mistake can lead to assuming that every action is wrong. The same can be said of how they respond to other people -- one false step can lead a person with narcissism to dismiss an acquaintance for good.
This extreme sensitivity to criticism typically manifests as blaming other people when something has gone wrong. Finding fault in others is a more comfortable position for people with narcissism. When caught out misbehaving, a typical response is to shift the blame from themselves onto the critic. Rather than apologizing for it, they might claim "You made me do it."
This puffed-up self-image often masks insecurity. When someone punctures the ego of or insults a person with narcissism, he or she may lash out with demeaning or intimidating language and actions. Many studies link narcissism with higher levels of aggression and violence. Because people with narcissism think everything is about them, they hear others’ attempts to talk about personal feelings as veiled criticisms of themselves. If they feel piqued, they may react aggressively.
Narcissistic folks are often very generous. They may, for instance, give away large sums of money to charity. Even though they are ultimately doing this to make themselves feel good, they are nevertheless making a positive difference. A dose of narcissism can be a good thing. Confidence can build self-esteem and give joy. ”Normal narcissists” are often excellent speakers and visionaries and tend to earn larger salaries.
Narcissists often become entirely enthralled with their own physical appearance. They gaze at themselves in mirrors with a passion that extends well beyond ordinary vanity. Their self-obsession doesn't just manifest as a daily routine; it is a central focus of their existence.
They spend hours adjusting every detail of their image, ensuring that they appear flawless to the world. This obsession with their looks can leave little room for anything else, from meaningful relationships to personal growth.
Narcissists possess a cunning ability to portray themselves as victims when things don't go their way. They artfully manipulate situations to craft a narrative where the world conspires against them, conveniently shifting blame onto others.
By playing the victim, they skillfully evade responsibility and attract sympathy from those who may be deceived by their devious tactics. This slick behavior is just another means for them to maintain control and gain attention.
In the realm of personal relationships, narcissists employ a distinct pattern of behavior characterized by idealization followed by devaluation. During the initial stages, they shower their partners with an overwhelming amount of attention and affection, making them feel like the center of the universe. This "love-bombing" creates an enchanting illusion.
However, as time passes, they undergo a shift, beginning to devalue their partners, often seeking new sources of devotion outside the relationship. This emotional rollercoaster of love and rejection can leave their partners bewildered and emotionally drained, questioning their self-worth.
One of the most potent tools in a narcissist's psychological arsenal is gaslighting. This manipulation technique involves distorting the truth to an extent where their victims begin doubting their own perceptions, memories, and sanity.
By undermining their victims' sense of reality, narcissists can maintain control and erode their self-esteem. Gaslighting is a sinister method designed to keep victims in a perpetual state of confusion and submission, rendering them pliable and vulnerable to the narcissist's influence.
The defining feature of narcissistic personality disorder is the remarkable absence of empathy. Self-centered individuals struggle to genuinely understand or care about the feelings and needs of others. Their relationships tend to be shallow, focusing predominantly on their own desires.
The emotional connection that healthy relationships thrive on is lacking. This absence of empathy is why their interactions are often self-serving, and those in their lives may find themselves feeling unheard and unsupported. Narcissists are inherently focused on their own needs and rarely exhibit genuine concern for others.