Loving yourself is the key to a healthy inner life. He protects us from the adversities of fate which, sooner or later, will compete; and builds self-esteem in the face of inclement weather, setbacks and missteps.
And it is that self-esteem is the emotional component of self-perception, and the ideal scenario in which the interactions we have with ourselves and with others take place.
Like many other things in life, however, excess can cause something precious to become harmful. In this line, narcissism can be placed, as an extreme position of self-overestimation and devaluation of others.
The question we are trying to answer with this article is: Can narcissism be pathological? We will describe the lines that draw common spaces and the differences between healthy self-love and the attitude of a narcissist.
Can narcissism be pathological?
Narcissism can be understood in a popular sense and in a clinical sense. In the first case, it is a term that describes an attitude of awkwardness towards one’s own identity, an exaggeration of available virtues (or not) and a tendency to overestimate. The second is a stable personality model, included in group B of the DSM-5 manual (next to the borderline, histrionic and antisocial), and which can affect the development of life.
The first of these meanings encompasses people who are in the normality of the attribute (it does not hurt themselves or others), although they are at the highest point of this range. The second, however, alludes to a set of traits that generate substantial difficulties in life and in the relationships they have with others. In the latter case, they may observe attitudes that differ not only from the former on a matter of degree, but also qualitatively.
We then describe the limits of this phenomenon, indicating the way in which its clinical aspect is expressed: narcissistic personality disorder. There will also be a reflection on its consequences for the person and his environment, which are the main axis on which the distinction is made between the “normal” and the pathological.
1. Feelings of greatness or omnipotence
Feelings of greatness they are among the most characteristic symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. In these cases, the person sees themselves as capable of accomplishing great feats, although they have no objective reason for it, to the point that it is common for notorious failures to attempt to achieve what they aspire to. disproportionately and incongruously.
This feeling of omnipotence often leads to the investment of a small effort to achieve the objectives, because the process of appraising the situations of the complainants is conditioned by the illusory perception of their own capacity (which acts to the detriment of constancy or stubbornness). However, these ideas never reach the intensity or quality of delirium, which is limited to the severe manic episodes of type I bipolar disorder.
2. Fantasies of disproportionate success
People with narcissistic personality disorder they project the future by considering that they will be the creditors of great successes and fortunes, And custodians of enormous power or social importance. Such fantasies can also be associated with the expectation of great amorous passions with idealized people, although not seen in this case of delusions of the erotomaniac type (irreducible conviction which is the object of the love of a third party without quitting. ‘there is evidence that can support-).
This fantasy often ends up in contrast to ordinary reality, which is a cause for frustration and intimate affront. This is why they have a certain tendency to blame others for their failures, considering that alien mediocrity would explain the incongruity between their ideal selves and their real selves. This dissonance has been described as motivating a laceration in self-esteem, which would remain hidden after the imposture of an attitude of greatness.
3. Belief that you are special or unique
Narcissists use the belief that they are special or unique, possessing a number of attributes that differentiate them from other individuals, who are seen as particularly regular in their way of being and acting. This contempt can become vehement all this when the social environment is brought to act in a concrete way in front of it, Demanding the most extreme of courtesies.
To a certain extent, this is a self-centered attitude that usually appears in adolescence, in which there is an inflammation of one’s own individuality and the importance we place on ourselves as agents of the stage. social (imaginary audience and personal fable). This phase, which is the result of a vital period in which one struggles with hectic development (at all levels), would be maintained in those living with this personality disorder.
4. Excessive need for admiration
The narcissist is someone who believes they need constant admiration, which is why to live any confrontation as inadmissible. His overwhelming need leads him to inquire about the opinions of others, not because they like him, but because they want to receive flattering words. In addition, they expect an attentive disposition to any requests they may make, hurting the negatives of their will.
5. Feeling of privilege
People with narcissistic personality disorder they are seen as deserving of all kinds of privileges, Adopt ideas about the future that do not match reality. Thus, they conceive that their expectations will be satisfied spontaneously without having invested an effort proportional to the expected achievement. The desired prosperity for life would not be reasonable given the present circumstances or the actions taken to improve them.
This fact is the result of a particular way of processing information which is based on a state of expansion of value itself, which even exceeds the limits of the immediate. The same phenomenon, but in an opposite direction, can be observed in people who suffer from a major depressive disorder (gloomy future and pessimistic attitude in the face of uncertain situations).
6. Exploitation of personal relationships
People with narcissistic personality disorder have great difficulty maintaining horizontal relationships, always looking for a positioning that brings advantages (Although this seriously harms third parties). In all cases, they give priority in all contexts, even in cases where the incentive is diminished in relation to the harm it causes to others involved.
Narcissists take advantage of others to achieve their goals, adopting a utilitarian stance in their social relationships. In this sense, it is a trait similar to that seen in Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is said to result in disruptive behavior that can ultimately motivate isolation or rejection from the environment. In this sense, from narcissism, it is very difficult to forge lasting bonds inspired by mutual trust.
7. Empathy deficit
People with narcissistic personality disorder they usually don’t put themselves in other people’s shoes, leading to serious emotional connection issues with those around them. They are very insensitive to the pain and discomfort of others, so they rarely make an effort to relieve it, even if they have the possibility at hand. This way of acting is at the origin of other symptoms described in the article (such as exploitative relationships for example).
Due to its low capacity for empathy, narcissism has been aligned since the beginning of its clinical conceptualization with psychopathy, as related phenomena. While it is true that most psychopaths have characteristics of narcissism (such as overestimating one’s own self-worth, to name but one example), not all narcissists are psychopaths in their own right. gasoline.
8. Feelings of envy
People with narcissistic disorder experience the urge in a particularly intense way, and also in two possible directions. On the one hand, they tend to have this feeling when a loved one is successful in all areas of life, Especially when they perceive that he has surpassed his successes or his merits. This conflict tends to be resolved through direct disregard and devaluation of what is accomplished by the other, and never as an incentive to increase individual effort.
On another side, narcissists often believe that they are the object of the envy of others; which implies the belief that they imitate them in the way they act, dress or live. Likewise, they often use envy as an argument to explain any criticism made of their attitude, in order to initialize any responsibility for the way they treat their social circle.
9. arrogant behavior
Arrogance is the inevitable result of the confluence of symptoms described in this article. The feeling of superiority and weak empathy, two dimensions rooted in the subjective, are expressed behaviorally through arrogance and unbridled pride. Arrogance translates to arrogance and arrogance, as well as the inability to recognize one’s own mistakes and the habit of pointing out the faults of others.
Therefore, interactions with these people can seriously damage self-esteem and become an aversive stimulus that the environment will try to avoid.
- American Psychiatric Association (2013). DSM-5 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
- Serra, JK (2016). The diagnosis of narcissism: a relational reading. Spanish Journal of Neuropsychiatry, 36 (129), 171-187.