top of page

Narcisssim Defined

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

BY JEN MAKIN CMHC


What the heck is this overused word? It’s all over social media, with experts and novices sharing their knowledge and experiences. One may think: am I a narcissist? If you’re thinking that, I can assure that you are not.


Narcissists don’t introspect, ever.


They may pretend to as a means to an end, but for anything outside of themself, not ever.


But if you keep attracting the same kind of man with similar baggage, this article may be for you. One main key for healing is educating. Having a firm grasp on what narcissism is and is not is key.


NARCISSISM DEFINED


It seems like everyone today is using the word “narcissist” so freely that it’s lost its meaning, which is a shame. It’s a shame because the word does indeed have meaning and for those suffering within the grasps of a narcissistic grip, it’s important that we don’t discount the severity of not validating that this word truly does have meaning.


CRITERIA


According to the DSM V, which is the Diagnostic Criteria manual that I use, amongst my other fellow clinicians, the criteria is broken down as such (American Psychiatric Association, 2013):

  • A grandiose logic of self-importance

  • A fixation with fantasies of infinite success, control, brilliance, beauty, or idyllic love

  • A credence that he or she is extraordinary and exceptional and can only be understood by, or should connect with, other extraordinary or important people or institutions

  • A desire for unwarranted admiration

  • A sense of entitlement

  • Interpersonally oppressive behavior

  • No form of empathy

  • Resentment of others or a conviction that others are resentful of him or her

  • A display of egotistical and conceited behaviors or attitudes

A Grandiose Logic of Self-Importance

This means: my needs come first. In essence, the narcissist cannot see past their own nose. If their belly is full, why are the rest of us complaining? It’s hard for the narcissist to see beyond their own desires. Its easy to feel like an object around them, or used, in one way or another.

SOUNDS LIKE: “I’m starving. What is there to eat around here?”

DOES NOT SOUNDS LIKE: “Have you eaten today? I made some soup earlier and can bring you some.”

A Fixation With Fantasies of Infinite Success, Control, Brilliance, Beauty, or Idyllic Love

Fantasies can be intoxicating. Becoming famous or a person of status or worldly success streams through the narcissist’s mind like the static of an old radio, always in the background. Because the narcissist believes that they are smarter, better looking or just overall superior, it can be quite exhausting.

SOUNDS LIKE: “Whatever. I’ll show you! I’ll be famous one day, you'll be sorry you didn’t believe in me.”

DOES NOT SOUNDS LIKE: “I love to write and hope that my message helps even just one person.”

A Credence That He or She is Extraordinary and Exceptional and Can Only Be Understood By, or Should Connect With, Other Extraordinary or Important People or Institutions

This one cracks me up. I wear holy jeans, t-shirts and an occasional hoodie to work. As a therapist. My favorite is when a narcissistic parent grills me about my experience and degree. After all, how could a holy pants hippy know anything about much of anything? Well, have a seat.

SOUNDS LIKE: “Where did Jen even get her degree? Probably some online college.”

DOES NOT SOUNDS LIKE: “I love your passion and I believe that knowledge can come from anywhere.”

A Desire For Unwarranted Admiration

To be seen as an expert or authority is necessary in any community as we need specialists. But ajulation is poison and corrupts relationships. To continue to seek admiration from others, like a bottomless well, drains everyone in the narcissist’s sphere of influence. The narcissist will continue to demand attention.

SOUNDS LIKE: “Who do you love more? Me or Mommy? I’m the fun one!”

DOES NOT SOUND LIKE: “Your mom is the best! We are so blessed to have her.”

A Sense of Entitlement

Going back to the initial thought: my needs come first. Entitlement entails the narcissist adhering to the belief that they deserve the best of everything, without question. They believed they are entitled to cut lines and have their needs met first; always.

SOUNDS LIKE: “We’ve been in line for over an hour. Where is your manager?”

DOES NOT SOUND LIKE: “This line is long. But I’ve heard that this food is delicious!”

Interpersonally Oppressive Behavior

Using people but packaging it a shiny box by saying, “I see your talents. Join our team!” It’s a bait and switch. The narcissist exploits, uses and steps on whoever is necessary to get to the top, draining someone’s talents. Narcissists will use you up and leave you for dead.

SOUNDS LIKE: “We are all tired but we are in this together. Quit whining and work.”

DOES NOT SOUND LIKE: “Are you happy? We believe the table is round and we want to hear from you.”

No Form of Empathy

Stepping into someone else’s shoes takes effort and sacrifice. Narcissists only walk in their own shoes and are incapable of perspective taking. Unless their shoes have walked through it themselves, they are incapable of identifying anyone’s experience outside of their own. They ooze selfishness.

SOUNDS LIKE: “You think that’s bad? I walked uphill to and from school.. barefoot.”

DOES NOT SOUND LIKE: “I can’t imagine your pain. The fact that you’re still standing is a miracle.”

Resentment of Others or a Conviction That Others Are Resentful of Him or Her

Narcissists adhere to false beliefs. They believe that others are envious, jealous or want to be them. Or, they seeth with envy when someone buys a bigger boat. They may play it off that they don’t care, but in their crooked soul, it’s all they care about. The smile on the outside and rage on the inside.

SOUNDS LIKE: “They’re just jealous. They know I’ll dance on their grave with all my money.”

DOES NOT SOUND LIKE: “Oh wow! The neighbors painted their house like ours. Looks good.”

A Display of Egotistical and Conceited Behaviors or Attitudes

Narcissistic dialogue screams, “It’s all about me.” He’s on his high horse, but when you try to knock him off, he denies that there’s a horse. Then, the cherry on the top is that he shames you for confronting his attitude as you’ve quickly forgotten that you’re the one with the attitude!

SOUNDS LIKE: “Didn’t we just have Chinese? Seriously. All we do is eat Chinese. No imagination.”

DOES NOT SOUND LIKE: “You want burgers? Fries? Whatever you want. You worked hard today.”

NARCISSISM BROKEN DOWN


I like to use scenarios to help people understand more clearly as the definition can more fully come to life. Let’s say husband and wife with the wife being the narcissist. Let’s give the scenario that the wife just went to therapy for the first time and came home to her husband, waiting with baited breath.


HUSBAND: You’re back.

WIFE: Yes.

HUSBAND: How did it go? Just as quacky as your last one?

WIFE: I liked this new therapist. A lot.

HUSBAND: You’re an easy sell.

WIFE: She really understood me.

HUSBAND: I’m sure she felt bad for you. But really she needs to feel bad for me. I’m sure you went in there and griped all about me. But she only hears your side, just like the last one.

WIFE: I didn’t spend my session talking about you.

HUSBAND: I never said you did. Drama as usual.

This is a lose-lose situation. It may feel like narcissists fuel contention. Based on their continual combativeness, it seems they prefer it and stir up any peace whenever your efforts attempt to steady the ship. You hold on, believing that calm waters are ahead. Sadly, over and over and over, you keep hitting storms and usually without warning. Torrential downpours, thundering, lightning.

If there’s one thing that’s consistent about a relationship with a narcissist it’s this:

STORMY WATERS DESPITE FALSE PROMISES OF PEACEFUL SEAS.

The only time there is false peace is when the narcissist is indulging their addictions while being fanned by the flames of adulation. If you take your eye off the mark (their needs), a full on rage fest ensues. An adult temper tantrum that can last hours. Or days.

You try your hardest to throw water on the fire but it only makes it grow. Pure mental submission is the only way to maintain a relationship with a narcissist.


NON-NARCISSISM BROKEN DOWN


Same scenario, but non-narcissistic husband.


I like to use scenarios to help people understand more clearly as the definition can more fully come to life. Let’s say husband and wife with the wife being the narcissist. Let’s give the scenario that the wife just went to therapy for the first time and came home to her husband, waiting with baited breath.


HUSBAND: You’re back.

WIFE: Yes.

HUSBAND: How did it go?

WIFE: I liked this new therapist. A lot.

HUSBAND: Oh good. I am glad you have a safe space to work through things.

WIFE: Yeah, it was nice. She really understood me.

HUSBAND: Oh good.

WIFE: Yeah, I look forward to going again.

HUSBAND: Good. Let me know if you need anything from me. Love you.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a very serious mental health disorder that needs to be taken seriously. It’s not best practice for a therapist or for anyone to diagnose another person without conducting a full mental health assessment.

That being said, what is appropriate is recognizing patterns of behaviors that may be narcissistic. Educating yourself about what narcissism is and what it is not is the foundation of decision making.

In order to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, one would have to have 5 of the 9 symptoms. Study it out in your mind and gain awareness of what it is so when you dare, engage in the world or even how you interact with others, your awareness grows and allows you the ability to determine boundaries that are safe for you.

Find your voice and never lose it.

REFERENCES:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Personality disorders. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing Inc.



0 comments

Comments


bottom of page