The term, narcissism, refers to the degree to which an individual invests in the real self verses the false self. If the investment is in the real self, we call it healthy narcissism. The real self sees itself accurately in accordance to reality. It is not inflated or deflated. The real self experiences all of the emotions of life: exuberance, sadness, joy, despair, anger, relief, anxiety, calm, irritation and peacefulness to name a few. The real self can reflect on one’s accomplishment with a sense of satisfaction and competence. The real self can acknowledge one’s shortcoming and address the related issues.
When the person invests in the false self we refer to it as pathological narcissism. The false self of the narcissist is inflated, grandiose, selfish, and prone to rage. The false self demands perfection of others and at times, of the self. A person with pathological narcissism may find it hard to be intimate with another person because that would expose imperfection and vulnerability. Coworkers may find it hard to work with the narcissist because of unrealistic demands or an unrealistic sense of entitlement.
An individual may have a basically healthy personality with narcissistic traits that make an appearance in particular situations in the person’s life. This person may function relatively well in life including at work or in relationships.
On the other hand the narcissism may have seeped into the whole of the personality and result in what we refer to as a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This person may appear to function well in public. They may be CEO’s or famous personalities but their work and personal relations are usually severely impaired. The individual with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder: (DSM IV)
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
- Requires excessive admiration
- Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
- Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
- Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
- Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
If a person has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder there is help available. James Masterson, MD pioneered a successful approach to working with persons with Narcissistic Personality Disorders. Joseph Farley was personally trained by Dr. Masterson and utilizes this approach when necessary in his private practice.