Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder 
 

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Narcissistic Personality Disorder: A Profile

 

Paul J. Hannig, Ph.D., MFCC

 

This is an excerpt from the full length article, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NP): A Profile. It is written to include only the pathological aspects of the disorder with full recognition that healthy aspects of behavior do exist.

 

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) "the essential feature of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy that begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts".

 

Narcissists possess an exaggerated sense of importance concerning themselves and their work. Work and self come first while other people, especially close, intimate relationships, become less important. A narcissist would say, "I'm more important than you and so is my work." Concerned with self-promotion, narcissists show disdain and a lack of consideration for other people, while upgrading themselves. For example, a narcissistic female may feel disdain and negativity towards her husband, and be devoid of normal heterosexual, nurturing feelings for him. Narcissistic husbands may also feel negativity and disdain towards their wives, yet feel entitled to nurturance from their spouses, without any obligation to provide the same in return. The self, logic, strength, power, a mission or a job is over-idealized, while any signs of weakness or feelings of pain are devalued.

 

Many narcissists frame people and situations in a negative light and, as such, are seen as proponents of doom and gloom. Of course, their egotism and faulty super-ego insist that their pessimistic, diminishing, and denigrating views are absolutely realistic. In-depth therapy usually reveals how the narcissist strongly internalizes the narcissistic negative views of a deeply disturbed, dissatisfied parent. This negative view did pervade the emotional home environment of the child and s/he does project and superimpose this sterile home environment onto current love and work relationships.

 

The narcissist lacks empathy and feeling for self and others and can be brutal, insensitive and distrustful of other's motives. At the bottom line, the NP suffers from an early infantile breakdown of basic trust (Erikson, 1968).

 

Narcissists can become enraged and defensive at the slightest hint of criticism, disapproval or dissatisfaction with their performance. There is a strong need for approval, possibly stemming from very high parental (super-ego) performance demands coupled with critical rejection. Such early narcissistic injuries predispose an individual to becoming hypersensitive to criticism and disapproval. Thus, one reacts to past events as if they are happening in the present. As with other disorders, there is a fusion of thought and feeling between the buried past and the unresolved present.

 

Individuals with NPD believe that they are superior, special or unique and expect others to recognize them as such. "I'm an unrecognized genius. You just don't see it how special I am". This is the type of message a narcissist tries to convey to a spouse, boss, and other people. Yet, others may not be sufficiently impressed by the person's marital and work performance. The NP is overly attached to and invested in successful outcomes. This may be the result of an intense need for union with mother in infancy and her subsequent rejection of the child.

 

Narcissists have a distorted sense of entitlement. They feel that they require and deserve admiration and adulation (DSM III-R, 1987). This overblown sense of entitlement requires constant replenishment of libidinal supplies. In a relationship, a male narcissist wants to be the center of a woman's life and feels that she should be subordinate to him in all ways. He may devalue the partner because she does not live up to his wishes. When frustrated, he withdraws his love and resorts to rage and projection. He provides very little emotional satisfaction for his partner, yet he demands her perfect responsiveness.

 

Narcissists deny the real self and love their image, persona, perfect false self. They need to cover up the pain of having been bent and molded into certain images in order to make parents happy. This denial creates an insensitivity to one's own needs and the needs of others. Narcissists deny depression, social and environmental traumas. Yet, they are very vulnerable, like a turtle who fears injury to its soft spots, but denies it. Narcissists identify less with feelings and more with logic and success. At the same time, there may be an unacknowledged envy of those people who possess emotional accessibility and a capacity for empathy.

 

The male narcissist may suffer from emotional immaturity while being over-responsible in performance task areas. He is immune and numb to his own pain and the pain of others. Feeling only gets in the way of his pursuit of power, status and achievement. He is invested in image and ambition and not in the real self. Nothing seems to bother him except when he senses potential verbal injury to his weakened inner self. Schedules are unrealistic and an exhaustive work regimen becomes a drug-like, addictive high for him.

 

For the male narcissist, the ego is bigger than the self. He may erroneously believe he is the apple of his mother's eye; i.e., "She looks to me to fulfill her lost dreams and ambitions. I'm more important to my mother than my father is". Father is seen as being a failure - inadequate, unavailable, inaccessible and critical. On top of this, the father may actually alienate the child with his demands and lack of affectional bonding. Narcissistic disorder suggests the lack of emotional parental availability for adequate bonding.

 

Narcissists have difficulty activating the real feeling self. Unable to sustain and maintain emotion and intimacy, they project their inadequacies onto others through rage and demands for perfect performance. Due to a lack of parental connectedness from early childhood, the narcissist is left to struggle and seek perfect connectedness with others. Close, intimate relationships are limited and few in number, while certain relationships are antagonistic due to negative parental introjects. Hence, the narcissist feels alone and unaffiliated.

 

Narcissists ultimately blame their partners for problems in a relationship. At the beginning, these couples bask in their mutual glow but it does not last. Eventually, disappointment sets in. Narcissists rarely take action for change while continuing to tolerate that about which they complain. The narcissist, as well as the borderline, engages in betrayal behaviors which serve to destabilize and destroy relationships while threatening the critical emotion of trust that is so vital for maintaining healthy relation-ship bonds. Thus, narcissist and borderline people share a trust killing propensity.

 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a debilitating and destructive disorder. However, if a person is willing, changes can be made through therapy. If you or someone you know displays more than half of these behavioral characteristics, please seek qualified professional help.

 

Psychotherapy with Dr. Paul is available through Telephone or Online Therapy for those who cannot find a trained therapist in their area. Dr. Paul is a licensed psychotherapist in California and can be reached at 818-882-7404 or phannigphd@socal.rr.com . To purchase the full text version of this article, go to the Best Sellers section on the web site.






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