Narcissistic Traits vs. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
Many are confused between narcissistic "traits" vs. narcissistic personality disorder... as well as exactly what this disorder is about. Can love, patience, and understanding conquer all? Is this curable? So here's a clarification...
People with narcissistic traits don't suffer from mental illness or personality disorder. They feel entitled to the best of everything and most interested in gaining power, money and prestige, but unlike those with NPD, they have an over-abundance of self-esteem.
Note: It's actually good to have a healthy amount of narcissism. Healthy narcissism is having realistic self-esteem without being cut off from a shared emotional life.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
A disorder in which a person has an excessive need for admiration, disregard for others' feelings, an inability to handle any criticism, and a sense of entitlement. (mayoclinic.org)
These individuals lack emotional empathy, resulting in a dimmed conscience and inability to feel guilt or remorse. The emotional part of their brain is damaged... there is NO CURE.
A CLINICAL DIAGNOSIS of personality disorders can be made only by qualified professionals. However, identifying potentially dangerous people is not only for the experts. We all can be negatively affected when we allow these people into our lives, making Awareness & Prevention most effective form of self-protection.
Narcissists LACK “Emotional Empathy” - But They Can LEARN “Cognitive Empathy”
The stuff that gives a person the ability to connect and feel what another person's feeling. You understand and acknowledge that other people are their own independent, thinking and feeling human beings. This decreases the likelihood that you'll want to intentionally hurt others because you can emotionally relate. If you cause pain to your partner, you will likely feel guilt and remorse.
Example: Your friend lost a loved one due to illness... she's devastated. You can feel her sadness and grief. Even if you cannot personally relate, you are emotionally moved by the magnitude of her suffering. (Analogy: water on sponge)
Is the ability to logically (not emotionally) understand what another person is feeling. This means if you hurt another person, you know the person is hurt based only on information you have in your head. If you cause pain to your partner, you don't think much of it because you are not personally affected.
Example: Your friend confides in you that she had been physically abused when she was a child. You hear the information given, offer a hollow, "I'm sorry you went through that"... then your mind wanders off to what you're having for lunch. (Analogy: water on waterproofed block of cement)
Making it difficult to identify this person as lacking empathy at first. It "seems" like this person can feel & relate... but they're merely observing and learning how to respond appropriately.
Narcissist See Others as an "Extension" of Themselves...
When YOU were a young child... it was normal to behave as though the world revolved around you with little concern for the needs and desires of others. You also depended on your primary caregivers (parents, grandparents, etc.) for feedback to let you know if you were being "good" or "bad" because you were learning to be your own human. Eventually, you developed independence and grew into your own amazing person. You have your own thoughts and emotions about yourself and everything around you... and you understand that other people are their own, separate person with their own thoughts and feelings as well.
People with NPD could not properly individuate
With NARCISSISTS... the "becoming an individual" part didn't happen. The emotional part of their brain was numbed-out, most likely due to genetics or childhood trauma (lack of or too much attention), so they grew up with an identity BASED ON approval from people & things that exist only to revolve around them. (Referred to as "sources of supply").
Studies show narcissists have an emotional age of about six or seven years old. (~ I loved that he was a kid at heart... didn't realize he literally was one.)
Narcissists Have Super Fragile Self-Esteem...
... that even the smallest criticism can shatter. To protect this, they've abandoned their "true self" and instead, created this perfectly amazingly fantasy identity they believe NO ONE should be able to find fault with. (Referred to as "false self").
This is due to the extreme shame they feel about their "true self"... and because narcissists are unable to define themselves and rely on external validation, they NEED you to constantly reassure them that they have convinced you to believe their "false self" is their authentic personality.
However, if you DO point out a fault (even if it's as small as disagreeing with the person with NPD), they will go into narcissistic rage.
So... when we add them all together:
NO empathy +
Identity based on external approval +
Fragile self esteem/False self =
An empty shell of a human being that depends on outside feedback to validate his self worth.
A person with NPD lack emotional empathy, so they're unable to see other people as separate, thinking and feeling individuals - but a mere extension of themselves that serves a purpose. Their brains are not wired to genuinely care about anyone outside themselves, thus, the ONLY purpose of these extensions (other people, things, events, etc.) is to supply the narc with approval and applause to gage/validate his self worth.
If you feel like you're reaching the end of your rope with nowhere to turn, call the 24-hr National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255 or the 24-hr Crisis Text Line by texting “HELP” to 741-741. In an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
Originally posted on my personal blog: Ninja Mom Diaries.