Will the Real Narcissist Please Stand Up?
Firstly, the Narcissist will most likely not recognize himself from this blog’s description (or any other) and be the last to admit he or she is flawed with this label. Few persons will find it comfortable to wear a diagnostic label and admit it publicly, but according to Robin S. Rosenberg in the Medical Examiner (2013/ 04/12) “Abnormal is the New Normal” as half the U.S. population “have a diagnosable disorder” in their lifetime.
In the last 5 years since my wife passed away I have navigated through single life listening to everyone’s story I meet. I was quickly mentored by a few single men who saw that I could use some help learning how to date again in this high-tech, social-media driven age where more people meet on-line than in person and deception appears to be the norm. These men and some women have told me to listen more and entertain less. Everybody has a story and once you listen to them and show interest by asking questions, you will have the rapport with them necessary for moving to the next stage. Why would I, a Licensed Therapist of over 30 years need help? After all, I was trained in rapport-gaining techniques. But I am human. I just faced the loss of my life partner and soul-mate. Grief and neediness consumed me and clouded my judgement. Grief over a wife who appeared almost flawless (compared to me) and overcoming self-consciousness as a single again was not easy despite my history of extroversion and leadership history.
Listening to most everyone’s story made me realize that my happy, stable marriage was not as common as I assumed and that according to the FaceBook posts of many female friends, most men were Narcissists! They are everywhere! Now it is true that the Bible states that in the last days there will be a disproportionate number of persons who will be “lovers of themselves” and fitting the profile of what many would call a Narcissist today. Our less disciplined society with more leisure and more opportunity for mega success and a larger entertainment related industry provides a platform for more persons to fit this profile.
Our schools and parents for the past 40 years have been telling most children that they can be anything they want to be. The opportunity for all to get whatever education they need is out there and to “pursue your dream”. We are all born naturally selfish (A Primer of Freudian Psychology by Calvin S, Hall and the Bible in Psalms 51:5, Ephesians 2:3) in seeking out our place in society and to tend to our needs first, but a narcissist will emphasize the utmost sense of vanity, entitlement and exploitation without guilt that takes them to an extreme end of the spectrum to be called a disorder.
Psychologists generally agree that Narcissism tends to peak in adolescence. Men and women with this label have very high self-esteem, high self-focus, self-importance, possess a grandiosity for their future, think of themselves as more attractive and more intelligent, and are overly concerned about their looks. Both men and women narcissists share a marked need for attention, a need to manipulate and/or control and an acute sense of charming the opposite sex. These behaviors are thought to be instrumental in securing sexual partners of short duration and/or for success in getting their immediate needs met.
Women narcissists tend to dress more provocatively while the men generally depend on wit and exaggerated worth. Men may tend to be more active and women passive in how they manipulate and control others. Once they gain what they get from others, they diminish the value of that person’s gift or sacrifice due to their relative superiority. Control is important to both woman and men narcissists, so each can become upset, angry and lose their charm if rejected, threatened or destabilized. A narcissist will often recognize his/her superiority and arrogance but justify their behaviors to get what they need based on the other’s willingness to assist them and their sense of entitlement (www.psychologytoday.comarticles/201106/how-spot-narcissist).
The interpersonal relations of the narcissist are generally superficial and impaired as they do not develop deep friendships due to their “relative disregard for the sensitivities of others”. Other’s needs are seen as vulnerabilities or signs of weakness so that they typically have an emotional coldness about them with a lack of reciprocal interest. They may show an indicator of sympathy, but not true empathy. They are self-focused. If Christians in name or ministry, they may justify their rewards and their stinginess with a view that they were blessed for their efforts and deserve to enjoy all the spoils they can. It is a sense of entitlement that fits in to their grandiose thoughts of themselves.
The narcissist is thought to lack object constancy. This “lack of constancy in the narcissist’s mind means they cannot cope with the idea that the person they are dating doesn’t exactly fit into how their ideal mate should look, think, and behave. When they realize the person, they are with is human, with faults and imperfections, that’s it. The relationship is over. It explains why they are so cruel to people they date (www.Business Insider.com August 27, 2017).”
The whole book of Romans in the Bible talks about the war between the nature of the flesh and the spirit for all of us. The new regenerated man in Christ is spiritually willing to be unselfish in serving God and others, yet the fleshly desire in the old sinful nature of man is to serve himself. We all struggle to be unselfish in serving God and others as we are called to do so as Christians. The person who developed a pattern of narcissism from childhood has even a larger battle to fight with his/her ego. His/her weaknesses are more directly related to pride and self-worth. His/her value in Christ is not diminished, but transformed to a higher calling in serving others before himself/herself. His/her potential humility standing against the greatness of his/her skills and vision can make him/her a stronger leader and gain him/her even more admiration and respect if he/she but knows how to surrender the will and resources to our Savior.
All personality disorders are hard to treat in therapy with true long-lasting change. The DSM V states that this personality disorder of narcissism is rare-200,000 estimated in U.S. I think that number is on the low side. To talk to divorcees today, however, you would swear they are under every rock! Perhaps the truth is somewhere in between. The call of Christians is, however, to serve god and others unselfishly with empathy and compassion through action.
So now you have a glimpse into the personality of the narcissist. If you spot the narcissist, serve he or she in love in the Biblical sense, but do not fall in love with that person.
Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can (Anonymous but quoted by John Wesley, 1854; www.quoteinvestigator.com).
By Wayne R. Faust, MA, SPE, HSP