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What is Narcissism?


Often I get disturbingly perplexed and in a bizarre way also amazed at certain personalities who exhibit behaviors that tend to differ or deviate from the traits of normal persons. Of uncommon interest to me is the personality that manifests a pattern of behaviors associated with the legendary character in the Greek Mythology named Narcissus who was a hunter from the territory of Thespiae in Boeatia. Narcissus was renowned for his beauty which made him exceptionally proud and disliked those who loved him. As the legend tells us, Nemesis attracted Narcissus to a pool where he saw his own reflection in the waters and fell in love with it, not knowing that it was merely his own image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus died.

At present this type of personality can be observed in various forms and shades. They can be spotted and identified by the variety of ways they manifest this strange personality trait. Shannon E. Cook, who wrote an article about Narcissism, enumerated the following signs:

1.    Lack of empathy. (May not be able to put himself in the place of others)

2.    A sense of entitlement. (Preferential treatment)

3.    An elevated sense of self-worth. (Not simply a “big ego,” the Narcissist exaggerates accomplishments and may adopt a haughty, superior attitude toward others.

4.    A pre-occupation with ideals with regard to love, beauty, and power. One moment you maybe on a pedestal, and then be considered worthless and discarded the next.

5.    An extreme need for admiration. The craving is likened to an addict for a certain kind of drug.

6.    Takes advantage of others without concern as to the consequences.

7.    Is often jealous of the accomplishments of others and believes others are jealous of his/her accomplishments as well. The Narcissist may actually become enraged at other’s success.

Kathi’s Mental Health Review, (Mental Health, Riverside California) copyright, Kathi Stringer and Respective Authors, gives us the following symptoms of Narcissism:

1.    Feels grandiose and self-important (e.g. exaggerates achievements and talents to the point of lying, demands to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements.

2.    Obsessed with fantasies of unlimited success, fame, fearsome of power and omnipotence, unequalled brilliance, all-conquering love or passion.
3.    Firmly convinced that he/she is unique and being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by or associate with other special or unique or high status people and institutions.

4.    Requires excessive admiration, adulation, attention, and affirmation.

5.    Feels entitled. Expects unreasonable or special and favorable priority treatment. Demands automatic and full compliance with his/her expectations.

6.    Is interpersonally exploitative. Uses others to achieve his/he own ends.

7.    Devoid of empathy. Is unable or unwilling to identify with or acknowledges the feelings and needs of others.

8.    Constantly envious of others or believes that they feel the same about him or her.

9.    Arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes coupled with rage when frustrated, contradicted or confronted.

If we look around, there are so many manifestations of this kind of personality. In our public and private offices, at this very moment someone may still be looking at his/her image in a mini mirror he/she always carries with him/her. Another may still be combing his/her hair in one corner. Somebody in a conference room right now is proudly enumerating his/her accomplishments or shouting at his/her subordinates for not following his/her orders. Probably at this very instance someone is sitting haughtily in a swivel chair with all kinds of plaques, trophies, medals, and certificates of awards, honors, and accolades displayed around his/her air-conditioned and extravagantly furnished office.

Then when you walk down the streets and look around, your eyes are mesmerized by the giant billboards, tarpaulins, posters, streamers of all sizes and prices containing the names and pictures of overly or ultra familiar people advertizing themselves like Hollywood superstars! Wait a minute. Am I beginning to exhibit this kind of behavior? Is this kind of personality disorder communicable?

Excuse me I have to see my doctor right now for I don’t want to experience the same tragic fate suffered by Narcissus who died looking at his own reflection in the waters. Some say that this kind of deviation from the normal personality curve could happen to anyone even if he/she does not possess angelic looks. My Nemesis might just be lurking behind one of those ancient pillars waiting for the most opportune time to set that fatal liquid booby trap.


By Clem M. Bascar

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