Understanding What Is Narcissism – The Meaning, The Traits & The Definition
Often victims will ask me, what is narcissism?
To best explain, narcissism is a term with a wide range of meanings, depending on whether it is used to describe a central concept of psychoanalytic theory, a mental illness, a social or cultural problem, or simply a personality trait. Except in the sense of primary narcissism or healthy self-love, “narcissism” usually is used to describe some kind of problem in a person or group’s relationships with self and others.
In everyday speech, “narcissism” often means egoism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others. In psychology, the term is used to describe both normal self-love and unhealthy self-absorption due to a disturbance in the sense of self.
Narcissism is a character trait that involves self-admiration, self-centeredness, and self-regard. Everyone has some degree of narcissism. It is what motivates us to get dressed and wash our hair in the morning. However, like many things, narcissism falls on a spectrum. To the far right end of this spectrum lies the extreme or pathological narcissist.
This person’s narcissism is so severe or abnormal that when diagnosed, is classified as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Very few people realize that NPD is a real disorder that has been recognized by the American Psychological Association since 1980. In the past, it was often referred to as megalomania. It is an extreme form of narcissism.
This type of pathological narcissism is maladaptive, rigid, and relentless. It is a lifelong pattern of traits and behavior, which signifies obsession with oneself to the exclusion of all others. A narcissist lacks empathy and engages in a ruthless pursuit of gratification and dominance.
This describes the men I have loved—selfish and consumed by their own needs to the point that eventually, they could no longer see me. It was as if I ceased to exist in their eyes. My story is about these men, or narcissists, in my life and I tell it so that others who find themselves in a similar situation can recognize it for what it is. Although much of what he does is unconscious, a narcissist is only out for himself. You must understand this. He enters into relationships with women in an effort to fulfill his unmet needs.
There are many psychological theories on how one develops narcissistic personality disorder. There is now recent research, which even suggests that personality disorders may have a genetic component.
Traits Of Narcissism
At the core of extreme narcissism is egotistical preoccupation with self, personal preferences, aspirations, needs, success, and how he/she is perceived by others. Some amount of basic narcissism is healthy, of course, but this type of narcissism is better termed as responsibly taking care of oneself. It is what I would call “normal” or “healthy” narcissism.
Extreme narcissists tend to be persons who move towards eventually cutting others off and becoming emotionally isolated. There are all types of levels on that road to isolation. Narcissists come in all shapes, sizes, and degrees. I would like to address how a person becomes an extreme narcissist.
Narcissism, in lay terms, basically means that a person is totally absorbed in self. The extreme narcissist is the center of his own universe. To an extreme narcissist, people are things to be used. It usually starts with a significant emotional wound or a series of them culminating in a major trauma of separation/attachment. No matter how socially skilled an extreme narcissist is, he has a major attachment dysfunction. The extreme narcissist is frozen in childhood. He became emotionally stuck at the time of his major trauma of separation/attachment.