1) Since you probably dont think you are Narcissistic or have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), even tho multiple significant others have told you so (including those who have known you at your very best and worst) you might want to set aside the grandiosity and ego for at least ten minutes to consider the remote possibility. It could be worse, like metastatic cancer. True, others have compared you to cancer in the past but dont get hung up on that either for the moment.
2) Go through the following checklist below (plagiarized liberally from Psych Central) only this time with my help since the last time someone dropped the NPD symptom checklist in your lap or stuck a page from the DSM Manual under your door and ran like hell you probably dismissed it as “complete nonsense”, psychiatric mumbo jumbo, or pure jealousy on the part of the “offending” party, chicken shit courier, etc.
3) Narcissistic Personality Disorder is primarily characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others. Ok, so you KNOW all that (and a million other things) and you absolutely deny that is YOU because you are confident that you feel alot of empathy, well, not for your ex-wife, any girlfriends/partners who EVER broke up with you, or anyone who disagrees with you and has the nerve to stand up to you, but for all your pets, disabled children, stray dogs, and anyone who kisses your tush on a regular basis. It doesnt count as empathy unless its in the difficult situations and/or moments that suggest you may have been wrong, overly judgmental, reflexively defensive, felt personally insulted or were “called on the carpet” publicly. Kind of changes things that way, doesn’t it?
Bonus point: You still might have NPD if you manage to keep your overflowing ego and desire to verbally humiliate/abuse those who cross you in check most of the time. If you catch yourself replaying situations in your head with real and/or imagined dialogue evicerating your perceived foes (often a former “loved one” or person you feel has “betrayed” you ) that’s still possibly NPD. Just a more “closet” case.
4) People with narcissistic personality disorder often display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes. For example, an individual with this disorder may complain about a clumsy waiter’s “rudeness” or “stupidity” or conclude a medical evaluation with a condescending evaluation of the physician, dentist, psychiatrist or licensed marriage therapist. Sure the marriage therapist whose been in private practice for 25 years you deemed “merely a social worker” after he/she tried to get you to own a simple mistake, and yes, the psychiatrist who suggested you might be narcissistic only went to a “non-Ivy two bit med school”, according to you, but I am suggesting here that you dismiss your tendency to dismiss others and their “professional credentials” long enough to see yourself more clearly. Again, it wont kill you. Like a shot or two at the doctors office, it might just sting abit. But if you “take it” like a man, or even a grown up woman, you might even develop a future immunity and resistence to your unhealthy tendencies.
5) Ok, here comes the hard part but if you are still reading, that ITSELF is a small but positive sign for your prognosis and eventual recovery (see follow-up blog for my suggested NMRP, Narcissist Maintenence and Recovery Plan). Also, let me say in advance I realize how very valuable your time is and that you could be doing a million more productive and beneficial things right now like strategizing with your attorney about your long contested divorce and custody battle (bleed then dry, etc.) or as mentioned laying back and fantasizing obtaining revenge on all the people who you feel have “wronged” you over your lifetime. As a consequence you feel entitled to make them miserable using every “fiber of your being”. No, you are not a serial killer or someone who suddenly bursts into a movie theater and starts shooting. You are WAY more clever than that and you know how to get alot of people to agree with your ultimately self-serving views and egotistically unbalanced perspectives. Of course money and power helps.
NOW do this: This time read the list of symptoms listed below but DONT let the wording or specifics to immediately disallow your from having NPD or some significant degree of narcissism based disorder. Dont worry, I’m not trying to FORCE you to check the box YES or MAYBE, even tho MAYBE, once you look closer at it, is possibly probable (especially if your two ex-wives started a NPD survivors group together and your kids act at times intimidated by you and you have NO REAL CLUE WHY).
Bonus: Be careful If you catch yourself thinking, “No way, everybody loves my ass. They all agree with me and love my jokes, my charm, and my confident airs. I go fishing with my son regularly and I coach my kids soccer team”!! Unfortunately that doesnt prove anything except that you have a tremendously self-confident and extroverted front. Kind of like a dark knight with snazzy looking armor. This is one of those cases when you have to ask the fish, the bait store clerk (who has nothing to lose and is from Maine), the little girl who recognized that the Emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes, and any others who arent afraid of you, your money, your wealthy family or your work/community/church/legal connections. If the fish or the bait store clerk think you are a “sort of a douche” and your kids seem to shy away from being with you on their court mandated custody visits, dont ASSUME its ALWAYS the ex-wife’s fault for engaging in Parental Alienation Syndrome. In fact if you blame the ex for NOT catching any fish while “bonding” with your son, you definitely might have a narcissism problem.
Ok, Here we go. First take a deep breath and repeat outloud this unique MANTRA which I have created just for you (and me): “I can own some shit. Everything bad that has happened in my life was NOT necessarily someone elses fault. I will not fall apart and melt by honestly admitting to having all or some of the following traits. If Dr. Cliff can do it at his age, and given the immense size of his ego (and number of artfully framed diplomas and certificates on his wall) I can do it too.
Now, for the first time read this symptom list but make room for INCLUSION rather then EXCLUSION of self. Dont immediately say, “Bullshit, that’s not me, no way, no how!!” Instead, without stretching the description too far (like really being a demented Paranoid Schizophrenic but preferring to see yourself as NPD) see if some significant PART of the diagnositc criteria applies to you and ESPECIALLY under certain conditions and circumstances.
Dirty Secret of Psychiatry/Psychology: Increasingly therapists and researchers of Personality Disorders are aware that even tho personality disorders are considered life-long and fairly intractable, they can lessen or worsen with age, with levels of stress and in the presence of other coinciding problems like depression, untreated bipolar illness, and anxiety disorders. I guess we should have guessed that one all along as it’s perfectly logical. The more important point is to realize that you might have met the criteria below to a greater or lesser degree at certain times in the past, and partially as a function of maladaptive coping. HOWEVER, before you conveniently misuse that information, it’s unlikely that you are CURED today and never resort to NPD tactics and defenses, with or without major life stressors. By the way, forget the stupid “you must have five or more of the following” instructions. They (the shrinks writing and evaluating the DSM codes) just made that shit up. Dont give yourself a Get Out of Jail Free card just because you have three or four symptoms below. It’s not like bronchitis, which I happen to have right now.
Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Taken from Psych Central (http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx36.htm)
In order for a person to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) they must meet five or more of the following symptoms:
Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
Requires excessive admiration
Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
Good Job. See that wasn’t that terrible. It is however, very important that you SEE and own up to the aforementioned Narcissistic qualities. Why? Because they color your world. They make you see not through rose colored glasses but through myopic spectacles and distorted lenses that blind you from the pain you inflict. If you still have no empathy reading THAT then I probably cant help you. You are the smarmy, well-connected, falsely self-assured, over-entitled version of the crazy mass murderer, only you usually do it emotionally and verbally, and typically with bluster not bullets. You do it with your money, your attorneys, and with your wealthy family and their “deep roots” in the community you came from. In fact, they probably taught you how to be this way, which is another reason its hard for you to see it or perceive yourself or your narcissistic coping patterns as shortsighted and WRONG. Sometimes it takes many years, alot of regret, and a good hard look at oneself (in the honestly mirror) to admit it. I did.
Cliff Mazer, Ph.D. is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and self-perceived humorist in Sandy Springs, Georgia. He loves Pirates, blogs under the nom de plume of CaptCliff on WordPress, and is a recovering Narcissist with bronchitis. Contact: 404-932-7193