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What is a narcissist? - Jodi Spencer, LPC

What is a narcissist?

What is a narcissist?

Narcissistic abuse seems to be on the rise, and anyone who’s suffered through it can tell you it’s pretty miserable.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, is the resource psychology professionals use for diagnosing and defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder as significant impairments in personality functioning.

Individuals struggling with personality disorders often feel empty or void inside, but are completely unaware of it.  A personality disorder is almost like having a black hole where a personality should be, and you kind of absorb, reflect, or project the traits of people around you.

Personality is the essence of who we are, what we enjoy, what pisses us off, and how we function in the world.  When your personality tree gets shaken and all the apple fall off, you probably will need some support from a counselor, doctor, and/or family to help get the apples picked up off the ground.  Personality is those apples, labeled: introvert, cat lover, book reader, athletic, musical, intelligent, compassionate, strong-willed.  You get the idea.

Impairments in self functioning 

The DSM explains the specific personality functioning impairments of a narcissist in the following ways:
Excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation;
exaggerated self-appraisal may be inflated or deflated, or vacillate between extremes;
emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem. 
Remember the black hole I just mentioned?  This is where it comes in.  Individuals with a personality disorder usually absorb and reflect the personalities of those around them.  Have you ever had a friend who was a cowboy one day, gangster the next, and hippie the next?  They could have been absorbing and reflecting the personalities of those around them.

Also, the narcissistic personality tends to exaggerate their perceived personality to build themselves up:

I was the most athletic person in my high school! 

I could have dated (enter name of super hot chick) if I wanted to, but she wasn’t cute enough for me.

That bit about “emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem” simply means they’re going to be their nastiest when they’re feeling most insecure, and their most pleasant when they’re feeling good about themselves.  Their emotion is mirroring what’s going on in their self-esteem.

Self-direction: Goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on a sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations. 
Notice their “goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others,” not for their own feeling of accomplishment.  Everything the narcissist does is motivated by their deep need for admiration and worship.

Impairments in interpersonal functioning


Impaired ability to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others;
excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self;
over- or underestimate of own effect on others.

Much like the antisocial personality (formerly known as psychopathic or sociopathic), the narcissist does not have the capacity to experience emotion and empathy as a healthy, compassionate person does.  Their brains literally struggle to produce an empathetic response.  This is why they may seem so aloof to the needs and pains of others; they simply don’t understand them.
Also, they really feed on the reactions and attention of others.  A narcissist is aware of your emotional response, although they can’t experience it in an empathetic way.  When you respond to them in a way they were looking for, you’ll notice the narcissist will “love bomb” you with praise and generosity.  If you respond in a way that does not serve them, you will likely be dismissed as unimportant or retaliated against as an enemy.
Additionally, they “over- or underestimate [their] own effect on others.”  In overestimating, they’re assuming everyone wants to hear what they have to say.  Think: Facebook posts fishing for validation or posted for the shock value.  In underestimating, they may downplay that time they posted a horrible picture of you on Facebook, saying “no one even looks at pictures of you on my page.”

Relationships largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation;
mutuality constrained by little genuine interest in others‟ experiences and predominance of a need for personal gain

This is where you see so much of the abuse poured out by the narcissist.  “Relationships largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation.” 

This includes in a mother-daughter relationship, friend to friend, brother to sister, child to parent, boss to employee, husband to wife. 

There are no rules or restrictions here; you can be sure the narcissist in your life is treating their pastor just as irrationally as they are you. 

If it serves their purpose.

Anything inside the world of the narcissist should live to serve them or get out.  This is why so many counselors will recommend going “no contact” with the narcissistic abuser in your life.

Pathological personality traits in the following domain:

Antagonism, characterized by:
Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert;
firmly holding to the belief that one is better than others;
condescending toward others.
The narcissist deserves it all.  All the money, fame, admiration, worship, friends, advancement, material items. And not only that, but they deserve it simply because they’re amazing, not because they earned it.  
Also, they’re better than everyone at everything. 
When the narcissist bounces a check it’s because they were stressed/busy/it was someone else’s fault.  If you bounce a check, they’ll be quick to lecture you about how irresponsible you are with money.

Attention seeking:
Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of the attention of others;
admiration seeking.

Kind of self explanatory, but I’ll give an illustration:

It’s also important to note that only a trained professional can truly diagnose someone with a mental disorder, and individuals need not meet every, single criterion to qualify as narcissistic.

Additionally, narcissism sort of works on a spectrum.

Not every braggart you meet is a narcissist, but they could be.  And not every narcissist you meet has the full blown “narcissistic personality disorder.”

Now that you know what a narcissist is, here are some of my favorites you may have seen on TV or movies:

Eric Cartman, South Park

He’s rude, abrasive, self-centered, manipulative, and everyone hates him but are afraid to cut him off.  Remember when he made that kid eat his parents?  Or when he drove the nanny insane and she ate her own poop?  Yup.

Maybe he’s more sociopathic than narcissistic! Ha!

Ryan Howard, The Office

He’s insincere and egocentric.  He only pursues Kelly when she’s unavailable, then drops her when she dumps Darryl to date Ryan. 

He cheats his way to the top, gets caught, and blames everyone else.

Karen Walker, Will & Grace

Karen is blatantly brash and everyone still loves her.  Although, you sure wouldn’t want to be in her line of fire. 

Narcissists are often described as charming or outgoing by those who haven’t seen their Mr. Hyde side, or have seen it and are just plain scared.

Emily Gilmore, Gilmore Girls

It’s Emily’s way or the highway. 

You can be in her life and play by her rules, or nothing at all.  Narcissists like Emily don’t care if they’re losing a relationships with a daughter, husband, granddaughter, or friend; you’re not important enough to waste their worry on you.

Mother Gothel, Tangled

Mother Gothel is the PERFECT example of a narcissistic mother. 

She transfers all of her own faults onto her daughter, tries desperately to keep her daughter prisoner to her own benefit, and has ruined the lives of so many, simply for her own vanity.

Olivia Soprano, The Sopranos

Olivia Soprano can never get enough admiration, attention, or respect.  She’s highly entitled, expecting her children to jump at her every whim. 

And what other mother would put a hit on their own child?  Only a narcissist!

Kanye West

I don’t think I have to explain this one. 

Interrupting Taylor Swift’s VMA Award speech to say Beyonce deserved it more?

Evil Queen, Snow White

So there are actually 2 mothers on my list who put hits on their kids . . . truly a narcissistic mom.

3 counting Mother Gothel paying those big guys to kidnap her . . . .

Mean Girls

They’re popular, pretty, mean, and vindictive.  Everyone loves them. 

Mostly because they’re scared of them.

If you’re in the East Texas area and looking for a counselor who deals with narcissistic abuse, I’d love to work with you!  You can call or text 903  646   2404, or email me at jodi.a.spencer@gmail.com

You can also find out a little more about me on the About page

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