The Roots of Narcissism | Psychology Today

It’s a constructive exercise to encourage discussion on this, and to allay misconceptions due to NPD apparently being social media’s darling disorder, but I somewhat disagree with this interpretation from author and clinical psychologist, Dr. Seth Meyers. As he establishes early on, the narcissistic personality certainly doesn’t stem from a sense of superiority; that’s just how this maladaptive behaviour presents itself.

To me, it’s not quite vulnerability that is at the core of NPD, but maybe more of an “inadequacy hypercompensation disorder”. Overcompensating for vulnerability implies to me a desire to project an image of oneself of virtual imperviousness to potentially overwhelming events or interactions, which could just as well present as someone “above it all”, and not particularly engaged with other people.

People with NPD, on the other hand, necessarily engage with others (whom they see as “narcissistic supply”), manipulating and denigrating left, right, and centre, all the better to make people look bad so as to attract either adulation or pity (grandiose narcissism and fragile narcissism, respectively), and are likely to become envious, passive-aggressive, or throw tantrums when they don’t get them. In addition to the two sub-types of narcissistic personality disorder mentioned just before, a study in 2008 by Shedler, Westen, et al, of Emory University, identifies a third sub-type – the high-functioning/exhibitionistic – which, on the face of it, would appear at least as people-dependent as the other two, if not more so.

I would qualify my comment by specifying that I don’t think people with NPD necessarily literally see others as “narcissistic supply”, in the same way that you or I might see a box

Sheer narcissism

of Oreos as a tasty treat. Perhaps especially within the subset of “fragile narcissism”, manipulative behaviour may be intuitive and almost automatic, as the instinct to avoid the pain or discomfort of a crippling and pathological sense of inadequacy simply overrides any consideration of the effects on others of their maladaptive behaviours.

It’s sad, in the sense that avoidance of pain and fear underlie so much of human behaviour. What makes it dysfunctional in the case of NPD-ers is the effect their pain/fear avoidance mechanisms have on people around them.


5 comments on “The Roots of Narcissism | Psychology Today

  1. I love this topic. I grew up in what I think can be described as a narcissistic family. Fascinatingly complex as it included a whole range of levels and motivations. From the first male son in (deeply) patriarchal society variety, all the way to a purely compensatory survivalist variety.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kaian says:

      Absolutely – I grew up in one, too, and my interest in the subject has evolved through therapy, to study, to lengthy nocturnal ruminations 😉

      We tend to get caught up in discussions and speculation on the dysfunctionality of it, and how to protect oneself from someone with NPD, while forgetting that narcissism may be seen as a survival mechanism, precisely to allow some semblance of normal functioning to those who might otherwise be unable. It seems that the “disordered” aspect really only comes into play when these tendencies create tensions in interpersonal relationships.

      There are many layers to it, and many motivations, as you say, such that it sometimes feels as if we’ve only scratched the surface. The more people know about it, the more manageable it can only become!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jiniyas Awode says:

    “inadequacy hypercompensation disorder” that’s an interesting way to put it. Makes me look at it in a new light.

    Liked by 1 person

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