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Narcissism is the culprit for so much pain and suffering in our world. While at this website on narcissism, addictions, and abuse I focus primarily on how the narcissistic man creates misery for his partner, a narcissist can certainly claim other victims as well. Some people, for example, will experience negative consequences as the result of actions of the narcissistic in the workplace or in our society at large. Indeed, narcissists can behave in ways that create damage at national and international levels.

In fact, I personally believe that the financial collapse of 2008, which had significant national and international impact, was essentially created by a bunch of narcissists. However, they're not about to admit to that. After all, narcissists don’t accept blame for anything unless doing so will help the narcissist achieve or sustain some other goal. Still, he's not going to be truly remorseful or sorry. It might be about nothing more than damage control or saving his own hide.

Seriously, all that matters is that the narcissist land on his feet--that he comes out just find. In other words, most of us are just objects to be used to achieve his personal goals. He does not care about our personal well-being. If it seems he does, we're probably just being manipulated for his gain--or that of others of his ilk. The only people that exist for the narcissist are those he considers his own kind--the other players like him.

The Narcissist Wants Success--Measured by botih Power and Money

See, narcissistic people are often very competitive. They also tend to favor positions of power. So, some of them will end up running major corporations or organizations. Plus, a number of them will seek out influential and powerful government positions. Of course, this isn’t to say that all Chief Executive Officers of major corporations, or all people in key government positions, exhibit an unhealthy level of narcissism. However, you can assume that a number of them will because, again, narcissistic people are especially drawn to these types of positions.

Yes indeed, the narcissistic are into success. Furthermore, they typically measure their success through power and money. That said, more power affords the opportunity to make more money, which affords the opportunity to gain more power, which affords the opportunity to make more money, which affords the opportunity to gain more power, et cetera, et cetera.

Are you getting the picture?

Since I suspect you are, let me shift gears slightly. Let’s look at narcissism and the narcissistic from a mental health perspective since this  might also help you become better able to spot them.

How Mental Health Professionals Spot Narcissists

My old Random House Concise Edition Dictionary defines narcissism as “inordinate absorption in oneself.” But if we were merely to reply upon that dictionary definition, we'd probably overlook many people fitting the mental health disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Well, and for that matter, some people won't be diagnosable as having this personality disorder, but they'll nonetheless exhibit unhealthy narcissism and hence, be unable to function in what most people would see as normal ways. And indeed, an unhealthy level of narcissism results in interpersonal relationship problems.

While the dictionary presents a simple definition of narcissism, it isn’t that simple to define Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). See, for the mental health professional to diagnose someone as having this personality disorder, that individual must meet a certain number of diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that the American Psychiatric Association publishes. (The current edition used by mental health professionals is the DSM-V). These diagnostic criteria have been designated based upon the thinking that each personality disorder represents a distinct clinical syndrome.

The mental health professional must ascertain that the behaviors or traits the person is exhibiting at the time of diagnosis are not due to something else. For example, the individual might exhibit grandiosity, one of the indicators of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. However, if the individual abuses alcohol or drugs, the grandiosity could be due to this. However, if the mental health professional discovers that this grandiosity existed prior to the development of the abuse of substances, he or she will probably be comfortable stating that the individual's grandiosity could well be due to an unhealthy level of narcissism--if not Narcissistic Personality Disorder itself.

Again, there must be a match for multiple criteria, not just one, for the person to be diagnosed with any specific personality disorder. And, in fact, diagnosis is not simple in part because some personality disorders share common features. For example, the person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as well as the individual with Antisocial Personality Disorder, might share a tendency to be tough-minded, glib, superficial, and exploitative. Both also lack empathy. However, the person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder will not display impulsivity, aggression, and deceit to the same degree that the individual with Antisocial Personality Disorder will. Also, the person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder has the need for admiration and envy. The person with Antisocial Personality Disorder, on the other hand, does not. Oh, and unlike the individual with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, the person with Antisocial Personality Disorder will probably have a childhood history of conduct disorder as well as an adult criminal history. The narcissist, however, may well have always been a stellar performer. That said, though, there are narcissists out there who've always been legends in their own minds, but others would not describe them as exceptional or deserving of the kind of deference they've likely always believed they deserved.

You Might Spot a Narcissist through his Well-crafted Image

It may be true that it's men with Antisocial Personality Disorder who more frequently end up in prison (and with regard to the women, it's more likely to be those with Borderline Personality Disorder). Sure, I suspect that some of the white-collar criminals who end up there might prove to suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder. But some people's behavior can be very problematic to others without it being criminal and resulting in prison sentences. And indeed, this tends to be the case with the narcissist.

I think one of the things that can prove so painful is the way they'll essentially accept blame for nothing. Yes indeed, they invariably point their fingers at others while remaining oblivious to their own behavior and its impact on how events unfolded (for example, the financial crisis of 2008) or its impact on others. Because of this lack of self-awareness,  the narcissist can easily believe he's a nice guy while, at the same time, there are bodies lying all around him. See, he may present a wonderful image, but it's merely that, a well-crafted image. Yes, the narcissist may believe that image represents who he really is, but it hides what he's truly about or that which drives him. That said, he wants to believe in his image, but that doesn't mean you should fall for it.

In fact, an obsessive concern with the image one presents--a desire to appear to be the best and have the best, you might say--could be a hint that you're in the presence of a narcissist. Of course, he could be someone who grew up living a certain type of lifestyle and hence, he finds this style of dress and lifestyle familiar and comfortable. Or, he may may have a great art collection because he has a true appreciation for art or knows it currently to be a great investment. However, you might want to look more closely at the person standing in the midst of such a lifestyle. Does it fit him like a comfortable old shoe, or does it speak more of an attitude of grandiosity or superiority? In fact, was it likely designed to instill envy, or even perhaps to make others feel uncomfortable and unworthy? If these latter things seem to be true, then this might be part of the well-crafted image of the narcissist. 

The person with an unhealthy level of narcissism often feels worthless at an unconscious level even though he is saying things and acting in a grandiose manner (or he may vacillate from feeling worthless to superior). As a result of his lack of awareness, he's inclined to project his disavowed feelings onto others. Hence, he may come to profess that you're worthless, for example. And sadly, since the narcissist truly believes this, he's also inclined to believe you're deserving of his contempt and bad treatment even as you strive to do his bidding.

I said earlier that the narcissist wants to be adored and envied. Healthy people in relationships are inclined to want to be treated as equals. We try and acknowledge each other's successes as well as any pain. The narcissist will ignore your successes and expect you to fawn over his--real or imagined. Meanwhile, he may attack the very things in which you take pride and excel because of his need to be superior, admired, and envied. Of course, he'll be oblivious to how this hurts you. But remember, he is not capable of feeling and showing true empathy. If you believe he has shown it before, it was probably merely part of an act to manipulate you or another. 

The narcissist might be so demanding of adulation that he'll fly into a rage when he doesn't get it. He may fly into rages, too, because of his grandiosity and sense of entitlement. How dare you not do whatever it was he wanted (or expected you to anticipate he'd want) when he is special and worthy, but you're merely a fool he must tolerate for one reason or another.

When You Realize a Narcissist is an Integral Part of Your Life

I could go on. But I suspect you get the idea that it can be challenging to live or work with the narcissist. Of course, I realize that sometimes they can't be avoided. Then again, sometimes we convince ourselves we can't give up a job with a narcissistic boss, let's say, even though we despise going to work each day because of him. 

If this rings true for you, you might want to reconsider your stance. Narcissists rarely change because they don't see themselves as the problem. Remember, to their way of thinking, we are the ones making their lives miserable. So, you have a choice. You can decide to grin and bare it (while you become a better contortionist yet), or you can remove yourself from the toxic situation or environment. Frankly, though, I  think it's best to face up to the fact it's likely a no-win situation and elect to move on.

Does the thought of doing this scare you? Well then, you might want to remind yourself that sometimes when we make such changes, our lives move in new positive directions we'd never have once imagined for ourselves. However, even if that doesn't seem to be happening for you as you might have wished, you can still hold out hope that in the future, it still will. When you must deal with the unhealthy narcissism of another on a daily basis, however, you can only hope that you don't end up having mental health and physical issues because of the stress hormones you're likely experiencing daily.

I wish more for you than that. I hope that you can do the same!