A Deep Dive Into The Core of Narcissism:

More Than Just Vanity

We hear the term “narcissist” thrown around a lot these days, in fact, more than ever!  40 years ago you rarely, if ever, heard the term used to describe someone.  Now it’s become almost commonplace, but its true meaning can often get lost among misconceptions. Let’s shed some light on what being a narcissist truly signifies.

1. What exactly is a Narcissist?: 

Narcissism is extreme self-involvement to the degree that it makes a person ignore the needs of those around them. While everyone may show occasional narcissistic behavior, true narcissists frequently disregard others and their feelings. They also do not understand the effect that their behavior has on other people.

It’s important to note that narcissism is a trait, but it can also be a part of a larger personality disorder. Not every narcissist has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), as narcissism is a spectrum. People who are at the highest end of the spectrum are those that are classified as NPD, but others, still with narcissistic traits, may fall on the lower end of the narcissistic spectrum and inflict just as much harm.

People who show signs of narcissism can often be very charming and charismatic. They often don’t show negative behavior right away, especially in relationships.  In fact, they may seem to be everything you have every wanted in a partner, hiding their true self from the victim. People who are narcissistic often like to surround themselves with people who feed into their ego either positively or negatively. They build relationships to reinforce their ideas about themselves, even if these relationships are superficial.

2. Origins of Narcissism:

The roots of narcissistic behavior often trace back to childhood experiences. Factors can include excessive pampering or excessive criticism from parents or other primary caregivers. Trauma, abuse and/or neglect also contribute to the formation of narcissistic traits.

3. Insecurity at the Root:

Narcissists project a façade of confidence or arrogance, but beneath this veneer lies a very fragile ego. Behind this mask of extreme superiority, they are easily upset by the slightest criticism. Their self-worth is constantly in flux, requiring constant external validation—termed “narcissistic supply.”  Narcissists use a variety of tactics and defenses to keep you insecure and confused to ensure that their status and their needs are met. It’s easy to feel crazy, as they vacillate unexpectedly between their fake confidence and their real fragility.

4. The Two Main Faces of Narcissism:

  • Grandiose/Overt Narcissists: The ‘life of the party’ individuals, they thrive on attention and often possess magnetic charisma. Their actions shout, “World! Look how magnificent I am!”
  • Vulnerable/Covert Narcissists: More subtle in their approach, they lament, “Why can’t the world recognize my brilliance?” Often seen as downcast, they harbor a sense of unjust treatment and hold onto grand visions of what they could have been.

5. The Six Secondary Faces or Subtypes of Narcissism:

  • The Malignant Narcissist: This is a concerning blend of narcissism, aggression, and sadism. These individuals don’t just seek attention but often manipulate and exploit others for pleasure.

  • The Cerebral Narcissist: Pride in intelligence is their hallmark. They feel their intellect elevates them above others and love to showcase their cognitive abilities.

  • The Somatic Narcissist: Obsessed with their physical appearance and physique, they’re the type constantly checking themselves in the mirror or frequenting the gym not for health, but appearance.

  • The Communal Narcissist: Masquerading as community pillars, these individuals always highlight their altruistic and community-centered actions, seeking validation for their “selflessness.”

  • The Spiritual Narcissist: They’re on a “higher plane” than others, or so they think. Using spirituality to affirm their specialness, they may claim a unique, profound connection to the divine.

  • The Parental Narcissist: They weaponize their role as a parent, seeking constant validation for their “exceptional” parenting skills, often sidelining the actual needs and feelings of their children.

6. The Fluid Nature of Narcissism:

It’s crucial to note that narcissists can oscillate between grandiose and vulnerable states, the main types (faces), like a chameleon adapts to their environment in seconds.  A bountiful supply of attention boosts their grandiosity, while its absence pushes them into vulnerability—portraying them as moody, withdrawn, victim or even depressive.  Each narcissist has a main type, switching in and out of the main types and secondary types whenever it benefits them, adding to the confusion of figuring out if someone is a narcissist.

7. Manifestation In Relationships:

  • The Idealization Phase: At the onset, narcissists might shower their partners with affection, making them feel special.
  • The Devaluation Phase: Over time, the narcissist may start to belittle, criticize, or gaslight their partner, causing emotional turmoil.
  • The Discard Phase: Once the narcissist feels they have no more to gain from the relationship, they might distance themselves or seek a new “source” of attention.

8. Diving into Their Most Common Traits:

While the above “faces” provide a framework, it’s crucial to recognize common signs of narcissism:

  • Sense of Entitlement: A belief that they are inherently deserving of privileges, superior to others and worthy of special treatment.
  • Lack of Empathy: Unable or unwilling to understand and resonate with the needs, wants, and feelings of other people.
  • Inability to Self-Reflect: They believe they are not at fault, are always “right”, and therefore are unable to self-reflect about their behavior.
  • Manipulative Behavior: A narcissist will at first try to please you and impress you, but eventually, their own needs will always come first.
  • Lack of Responsibility: Blaming, deflecting, projecting, demeaning others, everything is someone or something else’s fault.
  • Arrogance: Must have the best of everything, monopolizes conversations, looks down on people they perceive as “inferior,” and only associate with those they think are equally special.
  • Need for Admiration: A constant need for praise or admiration. People with this behavior need to feel validation from others and often brag or exaggerate their accomplishments for recognition.

9. The Game of Control:

Narcissism is all about controlling others, especially partners, to get narcissistic supply and maintain their mask to keep up the façade of how amazing they are in their own mind so they can avoid feeling worthless.  The unifying factor between the 8 “faces” is their motive: control. Whether by charm, gaslighting, abuse or eliciting sympathy, they aim to dictate your thoughts, emotions, and views to get the supply they need. They use verbal, emotional, psychological, physical, financial and/or sexual abuse as their main forms of control along with love bombing and hoovering.

10. In Conclusion:

While the term “narcissist” might be thrown around casually now-a-days, understanding its depth aids in recognizing and navigating relationships tainted by narcissistic traits. Understanding narcissism isn’t about labeling or judging people. It’s about recognizing patterns and behaviors that are harmful to you and your kids well being.  As you continue this journey, hold onto this knowledge—it’s a beacon guiding you towards healthier interactions and personal growth.  Awareness is the first step towards better relationships and personal growth. If these behaviors are impacting your life or those around you, seeking professional support is always a recommended course of action.  If you are being physically abused, leave right now and reach out for help.

 Dive deep into spotting the red flags – because you deserve a relationship that uplifts, not undermines.

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