Thursday, July 9, 2015

What is Narcissism?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

We all know that person who is self-absorbed and hogs attention all the time. Usually, we roll our eyes and ignore those people, or gently poke fun at them. However, between a little everyday narcissism and egocentrism, and true narcissistic disorder, there is a deadly difference.

Narcissism is a genuine disorder of the Cluster B personality disorders class as defined in the DSM-IV and DSM-5. Generally, it is a disease in which the person has delusions of grandeur, an inflated self-esteem and a hunger for maintaining an illusion of perfectness despite the harm it causes to the ones they love. Narcissists have only one person in mind when it comes to respect and admiration: themselves. Some psychologists have tried defining narcissism in different subtypes. Psychologist Theodore Millon classified narcissism as unprincipaled, amorous, compensatory, and elitist. An unprincipaled narcissist is a cheat, with antisocial tendencies. An amorous narcissist is seductive and histrionic. A compensatory narcissist creates illusions of grandeur in order to avoid his/her own feelings of worthlessness and shame. The elitist narcissist builds a mental empire based on perceived grandeur and feeds off of other people's praise.

Narcissism can be treated with psychotherapy, but those with this disease very rarely seek help. After all, to them, the fault lies with everybody else. The narcissist will be defensive to a fault, no matter who tries to help them out.

There is no discrimination when it comes to narcissism. It can affect anybody. Parents, children, spouses...... It can be a disease from birth, it can be a disease that sprang from poor overindulgent upbringing, or it is a result of a traumatizing childhood. Sometimes, children of narcissistic parents become narcissists themselves, but most often than not, they become the victims of other narcissists over the course of their life. The results of narcissistic relationships are disastrous and all the more deadly because it is an invisible disease. I will touch more on those results in future posts.

Narcissists use roughly the same tactics on their victims across the board. The worse the narcissism, the worse and more cruel are the tactics. I will touch on specific tactics used by significant others and parents in particular in future posts. The one thing to know is this: no matter the form of the narcissism, the ones who suffered through it are victims and deserve a compassionate shoulder to lean on. Narcissists rely on the unseen effects of their actions to deny to the world anything is wrong. Those of us who know what happened, are not believed as a result, because narcissists have created a web of lies, an illusion of perfectness that is hard to shatter to anyone not part of the family. Narcissists love to create dissent, it fuels their ability to lie and pretend they are normal, social people.

I will touch on specific tactics, and the repercussions of narcissism in my next post.

A Beginning

My name is Sophie, and I am where I am today thanks to my complicated family dynamics. My mother was a narcissist and my father was an enabler. Although I have escaped from my situation and I'm in a better place, I still struggle with feelings of guilt, of anxiety and of depression. The guilt of escaping a toxic situation haunts me every day, no matter the reasoning, no matter the facts that point out that I would have been emotionally destroyed if I'd stayed. The feelings of anxiety, of waiting for an invisible hand to crush me wavers over my psyche all the time, although the sensation lessens the more and more, as no one is yelling at me, pulling my hair, or degrading every part of my personality anymore. The lingering depression stems from knowing that my whole life was a lie; my parents, who were supposed to be the pillars of the family, turned out to be my worst nightmare. I've been called a bitch, a manipulator, a crazy liar,  a weak person,  an unscrupulous mentally ill person by my own parents. I've been confined forcibly in the house even after I was over 18 years of age many times, by my parents. I've had my own therapist making me feel bad for "disrespecting" my parents after one too many group sessions with my mother. All this hell hole was an abomination behind closed doors, a grotesque pantomime occurring in the shadows of emotional intimacy. To the outside world, I had every physical comfort a kid could ask for: I had a house, I had toys, I had an education, we went on fancy trips every so often. My mom loved to tell people how awesome I was, how proud she was of me. And there lies the poison of the invisible torture that is narcissism. It is hard to believe a victim of narcissism when there is nothing seemingly wrong on the surface. Often, victims don't think they're victims, they are led to believe, as my mom enjoyed telling me, that all the pain and sorrow we receive is purely our fault. So a life-long feeling of guilt starts and so when people ask "Are you ok"? You lie and preserve the family image. "Everything is fine.".....

I am still healing, but I have come a long way. But there are many children and adult children out there, who are stuck with narcissistic parents, or have had to cut them out of their lives completely. Narcissism is all too widespread, and yet, it is an issue that has only recently started to receive attention. The purpose of this blog is to spread awareness about narcissistic parents in particular, and to help those of us who need to heal. Know this..... You are never alone.  Narcissism only has power when it is working silently. Be aware, denounce it, and move on! This blog will help with defining this complicated personality disorder and how to defend oneself against it. It is also a place to talk about your experiences and creating a community of communication and safety.