Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a phrase Americans have been hearing recently. Well, except for phrases like “the media is the enemy of the American people” and “alternative facts.”
So, what is NPD? How would I know if someone else or, let alone, I have it?
Mayo Clinic defines NPD as “a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
This is important to know: Narcissism exists, to varying degrees, in everyone. In order to survive, everyone needs some form of positive self-esteem, confidence and sense of significance.
The notion a person can attain or possess some state of perfectly balanced mental health is a myth. No one was raised in a perfect environment. No one is perfect. As Sigmund Freud, neurologist and founder of psychopathology noted, we all are neurotic to some extent, an inescapable aspect of being human.
Sociologist Christopher Lasch believes we live in a culture of narcissism as witnessed by Americans’ reverence for powerful business people, successful entertainers, ethical employees, strong school board and city council members, respected community leaders and confident politicians. A growing narcissistic tendency in parenting also has helped narcissism to become normalized in American culture.
However, when you are witness to verbal abuse, deception, manipulation, hypersensitivity to events or behavior like that of a spoiled child who insists upon having everything their way, you are in the midst of pathological narcissism.
Many “normal people,” let’s assume that is you and me, have known narcissists including power-hungry politicians like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Osama bin Laden, cult leaders including Jim Jones and David Koresh and such criminals as Charles Manson, Ted Bundy and Lee Harvey Oswald.
Of the 10 bosses I worked for, I’m convinced one was narcissistic. After his forced resignation, it took my colleagues about a decade to mend fences and bring back business-as-usual.