Narcissism exists on a scale. A person may be described as narcissistic for always dominating conversation, or a woman may refer to her ex as a ‘total fucking narcissist’ for driving her to google behavioural symptoms in the early hours of the morning. But what does it all mean?
The only people who really understand narcissism are those who have been personally victimised by the disorder. Narcissists aren’t often motivated to dwell in self-reflection and even if they do, their lack of emotional literacy means they can’t disown the disorder even if they want to (they don’t).
We live in a society where those presenting with narcissism excel by exploiting the ‘dog eat dog’ motto we’re indoctrinated with as children. A true narcissist will tell you this is deliberate but the sad truth is they have no other choice: it’s a defense mechanism they have limited control over. But as narcissism is a shame-based disorder, they live in denial so they can choose to see themselves as all powerful.
Interestingly, Scandinavian countries tend to have less of a ‘narcissism problem’ than the cut-throat capitalist cultures thriving in the UK and USA. That’s because narcissism relies on maintaining illusions: living through the ego by seeing others as competition; enemies; prey.
Make no mistake, men tend to be more susceptible to narcissism than women, although it’s got zilch to do with some intrinsic evil residing in the smaller percent of the population, and everything to do with socialisation. A deliberate butchering of a child’s emotional self cleverly masked as natural due to biological differences. It’s a way of upholding the patriarchal structure of prejudice amidst the culture of codependency that bates you into proving your worth to those who can’t see their own.
So you see, it’s more than just admiring your own reflection a little too much. In fact, those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder loathe looking in the mirror or having their picture taken full stop. The reality of a fragile, imperfect, ‘true’ self lurking behind the facade is too much to handle. Narcissists are shame-based beings who cannot love themselves and as such are riddled with self-loathing. But use your pity sparingly, it won’t register and you will therefore be exploited for the natural empathetic response they perceive as weakness.
Understanding narcissism can’t be achieved fully unless you’re the lost soul ruminating about why another person hurt you so badly you lost your sense of self. And that’s not a position you want to be in. You do want to be empowered with knowledge – not so you can change another person (you can’t) but so you can accept them, show intellectual understanding, and move on.