Are you confused about Narcissism? I know that I am. Much less than I used to be, but when I dig into material, so many definitions emerge. Are they adjectives, verbs or both? Are they the ranting’s of those who have been victimized by these disordered individuals? Why do there appear to be contradictions? I am trying to separate out ‘fact from fiction’ and seeking answers by combing empirical theories to shared experiences found in popular media.
It appears that there is a huge wave of websites and articles attempting to explain personality disorders. They are written by academics, professionals that work in the field and those who have the experience of being victimized voicing their pain and expressing a desire to warn future targets. It runs the gamut of those who are sincerely trying to make a difference to the other dark extreme. There are self-proclaimed narcissists and sociopaths that have now built their own following by ‘outing’ their tribe yet leaving the reader to wonder, ‘are they just playing their own narcissistic game?’
The overlap clouds the importance of finding a uniform way of communicating about pathological narcissists and the destructive outcome their behaviors have on individuals and the greater community. I am also hoping to improve my translation of heady research making it more accessible both to myself, and for you my readers.
The accepted clinical hypothesis speaks of pathological narcissism and categorizes it into two subtypes, grandiosity and vulnerable types. As I understand it, these define groupings of behaviors attached to a set of individuals (narcissists) disordered by pathological narcissism. Labels such as covert, bullying, seductive etc. seem to be more repackaging of these behaviors into sub-groupings under the initial two groupings.
As I returned back to my academic sources research reveals that there is a push to seek out more reliable and alternative assessment tools when it comes to understanding how pathological narcissism operates in the disordered. The reason is that current scales are largely self-report driven and narcissistic individuals do not provide accurate self-descriptions, lack insight and whose self-perception is distorted.
Without creating too much of a glazed look, another study combined SWAP-II profiles and Q-Factor analysis in an attempt to avoid the need for disordered individuals to self-report. The outcome uncovered three subtypes with distinct patterns: Grandiose/Malignant Narcissism, Fragile Narcissism and High Functioning/Exhibitionistic Narcissism.
I’d like to share that I sincerely appreciate academic literature. It works hard to speak of behaviors rather than labeling people. When it comes to personality disorders, it is that…a disorder. These are behaviors that are deeply ingrained and maladaptive, functionally damaging both the individual and those that comes into contact with them.
While I want to communicate the ongoing harm and devastation relationships with them create, I also hope to avoid reducing these individuals to a caricature or a villain in a play. I want to hold a standard that validates the pain of those who have been caught in the web of these behaviors, and communicate the need for people to keep significant relational distance. Boundaries must be built with those whose maladaptive behavior cause so much agony…emotionally, sometimes physically and on the extreme death.
I am going to place a comma here and pick up my exploration with my next blog…