Monday 25 July 2011

NPD: Diagnosing that @#$%^* bastard

Narcissistic personality disorder is quite a mouthful and while it has a certain air of scientific authority, it does not at the end of the day detract from the problematic reality of dealing with a self-centered egomaniac who doesn't give a s**t about anybody other than himself.

In a recent blog posting by a divorced female blogger, the author discussed the application of this mental disorder to her ex-husband, a disorder officially recognised by the American Psychiatric Association in their publication The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The Mayo Clinic succinctly defines the disorder as:

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they're superior to others and have little regard for other people's feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

The Wikipedia article on NDP states:

NPD is considered to result from a person's belief that they are flawed in a way that makes them fundamentally unacceptable to others. This belief is held below the person's conscious awareness; such a person would, if questioned, typically deny thinking such a thing. In order to protect themselves against the intolerably painful rejection and isolation that (they imagine) would follow if others recognised their (perceived) defective nature, such people make strong attempts to control others’ views of them and behavior towards them.

It is interesting in the above articles to compare the outward appearance of the behaviour and the inner workings of the person in question. At the heart of it, the individual seems to have a deep seated inferiority complex. Now doesn't that strike you as contradictory? There's a guy running around like he's God's gift to humanity - Lord, am I good or what? - and he really has low self-esteem. He is so preoccupied with validation of his own worth; he is oblivious to the needs of anybody else.

At one time or another, it dawned on me how people who were good, that is people who knew they were good, seemed to be less likely to brag. Why? They already knew they were good, probably better than everybody else in the room, so what was there to prove? Note what I said: they knew they were good. They didn't think they were good; they didn't hope they were good or hope that others would think they were good; they just knew they were good. Imagine Tiger Woods in a room with ordinary people. He is the best golfer in the world or pretty close. Why would he brag about this in a room full of people who probably couldn't best his score on 18 holes if they only played 9 holes?

Truly, truly great people who "know" they are great ofttimes turn out to be very generous with their talents. They don't brag; they share. The braggarts are those who doubt themselves. They are constantly seeking feedback, verification of their talents.

This idea of "knowing you're good" seems to spill over into all areas of a personality. A person who is confident, who knows they are good, seems to be more generous, fairer with other people. As I said, what else there to prove?

In everyday life, there have to be many "shades" of this type of behaviour. I can think of a few times in my life when in a fit of egotistical bravado, I have bragged about something I had done or how good I am in general. It's like I just shot a hundred and one and I'm going around my group saying, "Nah, nah, nah, nah, naaah. I beat you. I have the best score!!!" then somebody leans in close and whispers in my ear, "Pssst. That man sitting at the next table is Tiger Woods. He just shot 68."

Okay that personal story is more of a funny story than a serious one. But I do recognise in myself various "shades" of needing validation. Yes, I do have a bit of an inferiority complex at times - not all the time - and in certain areas of my life I guess I do look for some positive feedback. After all, is it only my voice I hear saying that I'm a great guy? It does feel kind of good to hear another voice, even a chorus of voices chiming in once in a while to list off those of my many and imagined characteristics which could be construed as indicative of a person hopefully a notch up from the qualities of a slug.

I have a family story dating back to the 1970s. My aunt Jane married Henry and they had three children. "Uncle" Henry was a printer by trade and started his own printing business. I remember as a young boy visiting this shop with these huge printing presses; it was quite impressive. One day, Uncle Henry walked out. He walked out on his business, his wife, his children, his home and his entire life. Why? As a young boy I wasn't necessarily privy to all the details but later I did ask my father what happened.

It seems that Henry wanted to be big. He wanted to be big and successful. However Henry made a fundamental business mistake in that everybody has to start at the bottom and work their way up. Everybody has to start small. Henry apparently was refusing to do small jobs, waiting for the big scores. They never came. He eventually drove himself out of business. He just couldn't swallow having to go work for somebody else so he left town.

My aunt was left holding the bag on a house with a mortgage and a family of three children. My aunt and uncle did divorce but she had to raise the children by herself. My aunt did not have a very good life. Henry was pretty much never heard from again but through the grapevine, I did hear he married a younger woman and did die prematurely from cancer in his early fifties.

In my posting "Why did that @#$%^* bastard divorce me?", I ask why a man would one day decide to leave his wife and children, ruin his reputation, besmirch his good name, alienate his kids and turn himself into a "bad man". Yes, he's a sex addict; yes, he's a two-timing sonofabitch, etc. but why? Nobody starts out with a goal to be bad. Yes, today I'm going to berate my wife, be cruel to the kids and kick the cat down the stairs. What? Really? Do you have this written up in your day planner? Tuesday: tell the wife she's a bitch.

The premise I was skirting while trying to surreptitiously lead the reader to my conclusion was that perceived obstacles to being open and honest can lead us to hide stuff and not be truthful. Bam! Something out of character comes bursting onto the scene and you stand there stunned asking "Where the H did that come from?" while not realising it had been percolating below the surface for some time. In the article I was talking specifically about sex but it could be applicable to other things. In the above story, Uncle Henry couldn't talk about his business and his desire to succeed. He couldn't talk about his failure and his (perceived) humiliation. Yes, he ran away but he ran away because he felt there was no way to escape what was for him an intolerable situation. Being a "bad man" was less painful than living in a community where he imagined that day after day after day everyone would point at him saying, "There's the printer who went bankrupt."

Final Word
For whatever reason, our left arm gets caught in a wood chipper and is ripped off. As in the Kübler-Ross model of coping with dying, the five stages of grief, we will all go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally and hopefully acceptance. Is part of acceptance trying to make sense of it? If we can somehow explain it, give a reason, even come up with an underlying scientific cause, will we be better able to accept it?

I like to use the analogy of the sun coming up in the morning. No matter how much I may hate it; there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. The sooner I accept this fact, the sooner I can move on to those things in my life I can actually change. And likewise, if I don't accept it, I am going to remain "stuck" in life, complaining about the sun coming up in the morning, something which is completely outside of my control. Using the expression Zen-like to qualify one's traits such as a Zen-like peace or a Zen-like acceptance of the situation seems humorous but it is also an accurate description of what we must do to truly find our own inner peace.

I can beat the wood chipper with a sledgehammer. I can have the wood chipper crushed and sold for scrap metal. I can do any one of a number of things to vent my anger and maybe it will make me feel better. Sort of. Partially. Temporarily. But at the end of the day, my left arm is still gone.

If there is any consolation, it may be in this. Uncle Henry wanted to be big, so much so, he couldn't face failure and left. Narcissistic personality disorder? Probably in spades but I am certain my aunt would have used the more vernacular @#$%^* bastard.

I recognised a long time ago that those who have wronged me are probably living in their own hell because of it. Nobody starts out wanting to be the "bad man". I am positive everybody would prefer being loved and admired. Uncle Henry knew deep down that he was a bad man and found it a terrible guilt to live with. The best way of dealing with it was to never again in his lifetime see those people who would remind him of his greatest failure: his life. I'm sure it ate him alive. He lost his life: his wife, his children, his family, his home, family vacations, his children's birthdays, Christmas, New Year's Eve, summer vacations, visits from my family so we kids could play together. He knew he was wrong but could never admit it to himself. He never made the healing step of making amends and he was never at peace with himself. I bet he fell to knees more than once over the years and sobbed his eyes out at his loss.

Living well is the best revenge.
- George Herbert, English clergyman & metaphysical poet (1593 - 1633)

If George was alive today, you might punch him in the nose. Don't you just hate it when somebody is right? Of course, something being right like living well doesn't necessarily mean that it is easy to do. Accepting the past, truly accepting the past and moving on is not always straightforward.


Wikipedia: Narcissistic personality disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder. The narcissist is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity. Narcissistic personality disorder is closely linked to self-centeredness.

Wikipedia: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association and provides a common language and standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. It is used in the United States of America and in varying degrees around the world, by clinicians, researchers, psychiatric drug regulation agencies, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and policy makers. The DSM has attracted controversy and criticism as well as praise. There have been five revisions since it was first published in 1952, gradually including more mental disorders, although some have been removed and are no longer considered to be mental disorders, most notably homosexuality.

Chronicles of a Sick Rose by Laura Regis - Feb 8/2011
Personality Disorders
Last year I remember taking a personality test which said that I had a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, having read about the signs and symptoms characterized by this disorder I concluded that I did not. Yesterday, I found my self taking another Personality disorder test, a completely different one this time, with different sets of questions, and ended up with the same result: Narcissistic Personality Disorder.


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Anonymous said...

Obviously the writer hasn't really done in depth research on NPD or he wouldn't be making such light of it . These people leave a trail of victims in their wake. Unless you have been the victim or target of one of these people you couldn't possibly understand the pain they inflict.

BigLittleWolf said...

I enjoyed this post. But as to the notion that if someone wrongs you they will eventually get theirs (karma, though you put it differently), I think that's a rationalization that some of us make in order to reach that "acceptance" stage when there is no more comprehensive understanding of the behavior.

Moreover, we all rationalize ("righteous recreation of self image") and, we each have our own experience of the truth; there is rarely a single "truth" of a couple (I say rarely only because never say never...) - so - one (wo)man's @*!## bitch/bastard is another's treasure.

For a little while, anyway.

She grins.