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On Narcissism Psychological Theories and Therapeutic Interventions in the Narcissistic DisordersIntroductionUnderstanding the Narcissistic Phenomenon The so called narcissistic personality disorder is a complex and often misunderstooddisorder The cardinal feature of the narcissistic personality is the grandiose sense of selfimportance but paradoxically underneath this grandiosity the narcissist suffers from achronically fragile low self esteem The grandiosity of the narcissist however is often sopervasive that we tend to dehumanize him or her The narcissist conjures in us images ofthe mythological character Narcissus who could only love himself rebuffing anyone whoattempted to touch him Nevertheless it is the underlying sense of inferiority which isthe real problem of the narcissist the grandiosity is just a facade used to cover the deepfeelings of inadequacy The Makeup of the Narcissistic Personality The narcissist s grandiose behavior is designed to reaffirm his or her sense ofadequacy Since the narcissist is incapable of asserting his or her own sense of adequacythe narcissist seeks to be admired by others However the narcissist s extremely fragilesense of self worth does not allow him or her to risk any criticism Thereforemeaningful emotional interactions with others are avoided By simultaneously seekingthe admiration of others and keeping them at a distance the narcissist is usually able tomaintain the illusion of grandiosity no matter how people respond Thus when peoplepraise the narcissist his or her grandiosity will increase but when criticized thegrandiosity will usually remain unaffected because the narcissist will devalue thecriticizing person Akhtar 1989 as cited in Carson Butcher 1992 P 271 discusses six areas ofpathological functioning which characterize the narcissist In particular four of thesenarcissistic character traits best illustrate the pattern discussed above 1 a narcissisticindividual has a basic sense of inferiority which underlies a preoccupation with fantasiesof outstanding achievement 2 a narcissistic individual is unable to trust and rely onothers and thus develops numerous shallow relationships to extract tributes from others3 a narcissistic individual has a shifting morality-always
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