Narcissistic Personality Disorder English Composition Essays, Book Reports, Term Papers

This essay Narcissistic Personality Disorder English Composition Essays, Book Reports, Term Papers has a total of 3215 words and 15 pages.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder The so-called 'narcissistic personality disorder' is a complex and often misunderstood disorder. The cardinal feature of the narcissistic personality is the grandiose sense of self-importance, but paradoxically underneath this grandiosity the narcissist suffers from a chronically fragile low self-esteem. The grandiosity of the narcissist, however, is often so pervasive that we tend to dehumanize him or her. The narcissist conjures in us images of the mythological character Narcissus who could only love himself, rebuffing anyone who attempted to touch him. Nevertheless, it is the underlying sense of inferiority, which is the real problem of the narcissist; the grandiosity is just a facade used to cover the deep feelings of inadequacy. The Makeup of the Narcissistic Personality The narcissist's grandiose behavior is designed to reaffirm his or her sense of adequacy. Since the narcissist is incapable of asserting his or her own sense of adequacy, the narcissist seeks to be admired by others. However, the narcissist's extremely fragile sense of self worth does not allow him or her to risk any criticism. Therefore, meaningful emotional interactions with others are avoided. By simultaneously seeking the admiration of others and keeping them at a distance the narcissist is usually able to maintain the illusion of grandiosity no matter how people respond. Thus, when people praise the narcissist his or her grandiosity will increase, but when criticized the grandiosity will usually remain unaffected because the narcissist will devalue the criticizing person. Akhtar (1989) [as cited in Carson & Butcher, 1992; P. 271] discusses six areas of pathological functioning which characterize the narcissist. In particular, four of these narcissistic character traits best illustrate the pattern discussed above. " (1) A narcissistic individual has a basic sense of inferiority, which underlies a preoccupation with fantasies of outstanding achievement; (2) a narcissistic individual is unable to trust and rely on others and thus develops numerous, shallow relationships to extract tributes from others; (3) A narcissistic individual has a shifting morality-always ready to shift values to gain favor; and (4) a narcissistic person is unable to remain in love, showing an impaired capacity for a committed relationship". The Therapeutic Essence of Treating Narcissism The narcissist who enters therapy does not think that there is something wrong with him or her. Typically, the narcissist seeks therapy because he or she is unable to maintain the grandiosity, which protects him or her from the feelings of despair. The narcissist views his or her situation arising not as a result of a personal maladjustment; rather it is some factor in the environment which is beyond the narcissist's control which has caused his or her present situation. Therefore, the narcissist expects the therapist not to 'cure' him or her from a problem which he or she does not perceive to exist, rather the narcissist expects the therapist to restore the protective feeling of grandiosity. It is therefore essential for the therapist to be alert to the narcissists attempts to steer therapy towards healing the injured grandiose part, rather than exploring the underlying feelings of inferiority and despair. Differential Psychological Views of Narcissism Ellis first made the use of the term narcissism in relation to psychological phenomena in 1898. Ellis described a special state of autoeroticism as Narcissus like, in which the sexual feelings become absorbed in self-admiration (Goldberg, 1980). The term was later incorporated into Freud's psychoanalytic theory in 1914 in his essay 'On Narcissism'. Freud conceptualized narcissism as a sexual perversion involving a pathological sexual love to one's own body (Sandler & Person, 1991). Henceforth, several psychological theories have attempted to explain and treat the narcissistic phenomenon. Specifically, the most comprehensive psychological theories have been advanced by the psychodynamic perspective and to a lesser extent the Jungian (analytical) perspective. Essentially, both theories cite developmental problems in childhood as leading to the development of the narcissistic disorder. The existential school has also attempted to deal with the narcissistic problem, although the available literature is much smaller. Existentialists postulate that society, as a whole can be the crucial factor in the development of narcissism. The final perspective is the humanistic approach, which although lacking a specific theory on narcissism, can nevertheless be applied to the narcissistic disorder. In many ways the humanistic approach to narcissism echoes the sentiments of the psychodynamic approach. The Emergence of the Narcissistic Personality According to Kernberg and the object relations school the crisis of the rapprochement subphase is critical to the development of the narcissistic personality. The individual who is unable to successfully master the challenges of this stage will sustain a narcissistic injury. In essence the narcissistic injury will occur whenever the environment (in particular significant others) needs the individual to be something which he or she is not. The narcissistically injured individual is thus told "Don't be who you are, be who I need you to be. Who you are disappoints me, threatens me angers me, overstimulates me. Be what I want and I will love you" (Johnson, 1987; P. 39). The narcissistic injury devastates the individual's emerging self. Unable to be what he or she truly is the narcissistically injured person adapts by splitting his personality into what Kohut terms the nuclear (real) self and the false self. The real self becomes fragmented and repressed, whereas the false self takes over the individual. The narcissist thus learns to reject him or herself by hiding what others have rejected. Subsequently, the narcissist will attempt to compensate for his or her 'deficiencies' by trying to impress others through his or her grandiosity. The narcissist essentially decides that "There is something wrong with me as I am. Therefore, I must be special" (Johnson, 1987; P. 53). The Narcissist's View of Others Just as the individual becomes narcissistic because that is what the environment 'needed' him or her to be, so does the narcissist view others not as they are, but as what he or she needs them to be. Others are thus perceived to exist only in relation to the narcissist's needs. The term object relations thus takes on a special meaning with the narcissist. "We are objects to him, and to the extent that we are narcissistic, others are objects to us. He doesn't really see and hear and feel who we are and, to the extent that we are narcissistic, we do not really see and hear and feel the true presence of others. They, we, are objects... I am not real. You are not real. You are an object to me. I am an object to you" (Johnson, 1987; P. 48). It is apparent than that the narcissist maintains the infantile illusion of being merged to the object. At a psychological level he or she experiences difficulties in differentiating the self from others. It is the extent of this inability to distinguish personal boundaries which determines the severity of the narcissistic disorder (Johnson, 1987). Levels of Narcissism The most extreme form of narcissism involves the perception that no separation exists between the self and the object. The object is viewed as an extension of the self, in the sense that the narcissist considers others to be a merged part of him or her. Usually, the objects that the narcissist chooses to merge with represent that aspect of the narcissist's personality about which feelings of inferiority are perceived. For instance if a narcissist feels unattractive he or she will seek to merge with someone who is perceived by the narcissist to be attractive. At a slightly higher level exists the narcissist who acknowledges the separateness of the object, however, the narcissist views the object as similar to him or herself in the sense that they share a similar psychological makeup. In effect the narcissist perceives the object as 'just like me'. The most evolved narcissistic personality perceives the object to be both separate and psychologically different, but is unable to appreciate the object as a unique and separate person. The object is thus perceived as useful only to the extent of its ability to aggrandize the false self (Manfield, 1992). Types of narcissism Pending the perceived needs of the environment a narcissist can develop in one of two directions. The individual whose environment supports his or her grandiosity, and demands that he or she be more than possible will develop to be an exhibitionistic narcissist. Such an individual is told 'you are superior to others', but at the same time his or her personal feelings are ignored. Thus, to restore his or her feelings of adequacy the growing individual will attempt to coerce the environment into supporting his or her grandiose claims of superiority and perfection. On the other hand, if the environment feels threatened by the individual's grandiosity it will attempt to suppress the individual from expressing this grandiosity. Such an individual learns to keep the grandiosity hidden from others, and will develop to be a closet narcissist. The closet narcissist will thus only reveal his or her feelings of grandiosity when he or she is convinced that such revelations will be safe (Manfield, 1992) Narcissistic Defense Mechanisms Narcissistic defenses are present to some degree in all people, but are especially pervasive in narcissists. These defenses are used to protect the narcissist from experiencing the feelings of the narcissistic injury. The most pervasive defense mechanism is the grandiose defense. Its function is to restore the narcissist's inflated perception of him or herself. Typically the defense is utilized when someone punctures the narcissist's grandiosity by saying something which interferes with the narcissist's inflated view of himself or herself. The narcissist will then experience a narcissistic injury similar to that experienced in childhood and will respond by expanding his or her grandiosity, thus restoring his or her wounded self-concept. Devaluation is another common defense, which is used, in similar situations. When injured or disappointed the narcissist can respond by devaluing the 'offending' person. Devaluation thus restores the wounded ego by providing the narci

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