Delusional Grandiosity and Narcissism

Delusional Grandiosity

What is a delusion? It’s a belief not based in reality. Now, all of us sometimes believe some things that are unrealistic. But that doesn’t make us delusional. And grandiose narcissists often believe things about themselves that seem a real stretch. (See, also: When Narcissistic Grandiosity Crosses the Line.) But that doesn’t make them truly delusional either. You see, at some level, most of us know when we’re fooling ourselves. But holding a belief that clashes with reality with conviction is quite another matter. Firmly believing something to be real and true that is objectively and verifiably false is delusional. And because of the way they see themselves generally, some narcissists can easily succumb to bouts of delusional grandiosity.

A Tale of Delusional Grandiosity

What follows is a fictional tale. But it’s one based in reality. In fact, it’s based in multiple factual stories. In our character disordered times, some tales are all too familiar. So what I’m about to present is really a composite of sorts, with many details altered. So, there’s no way you could identify a particular person. I’ve told the story before, in various versions. And it might describe any number of folks you’ve encountered. It’s a tale of delusional grandiosity.

James, A “Special” Guy

James” was always a “special” guy. Just ask him. He knew he was smarter than average. And he would be the first to tell you he had a “knack” for inventiveness. James always disliked the idea working for anyone. He hated being bound by constrictions of any kind. The entrepreneurial life suited him best.

James had many failed ventures in his history. But he also had one remarkable success. That success made him a small fortune. Unfortunately, it also reinforced many troubling beliefs he had about himself. James ascribed little credit for the success to his then venture partner’s acumen. And he simply didn’t believe in anything like “luck” (e.g., good timing, serendipity, etc.) He and his brilliance did it all. Besides, he had the proof in his bank account. The world had spoken. He was clearly special.

The Slippery Slope

James just knew he was “on a roll” after his venture did so well. So, he wasted little time investing all the profits in a new and bigger one. When his partner balked, he simply parted company. And when things didn’t go like they had before, he just knew they were only temporary setbacks. So, he had no compunctions about taking out a second mortgage, cleaning out the family savings (without his spouse’s knowledge) and borrowing to the hilt. He had no compunctions about all the cocaine he was using either. After all, he was at his best when he was “up.”  Some people can’t use. But he, of course, was special.

James’s wife got scared really scared when he started talking about starting his own church. It would be a way for him to channel to others the special connection to the ultimate power in the universe that he recently discovered he had. He’d come to believe he was the very incarnation of a divine master. He would reveal this to the world. And he would teach all his adoring followers how to be special, too.

James’s fall was inevitable and predictable. Sadly, it was also predictable that he would take many down with him. Some blamed James’s fall on the drugs. Others blamed his latent Bipolar Disorder. But even on medication and off cocaine, James had trouble reckoning with the bigger culprit – the grandiosity in his character. It was that flaw in his character that predisposed his problems in the first place. And because it had gone unchecked and unchallenged for so long, truly delusional grandiosity was always a possible end result.

Problem Times

These days we have all kinds of ways to explain people’s dysfunction. And while I know I’m in the minority asserting this, in my experience rare is the case where character is not a principal culprit. True, there are some times when a perfectly healthy person’s biochemistry suddenly and for no apparent reason goes kaflooey. And there are cases where unpredictable tragedy traumatizes and temporarily impairs even the most well-adjusted person. More often, however, a person’s character not only predisposes the problems they experience in life but also exacerbates those problems when they occur.

James’s grandiosity was a problem long before he became delusional. He was always treading on a very slippery slope, heading for disaster. But you couldn’t tell him that. Well, you could tell him, but he simply couldn’t or wouldn’t hear it. And the grandiosity in his character was still a matter to reckon with even after medication had brought him some measure of rationality. You see, you can’t treat character with a pill. And providing only biochemical solutions for folks only further “enables” whatever character dysfunction plagues them. In our times, the need to address character-related influences on peoples’ problems could not be greater. But sadly, too many professionals neglect this, and/or lack the training and skills to properly address it. (For more on this, read Character Disturbance.)

Character Matters and other Updates

We’re still looking for a new venue for Character Matters. Podcasts of all the shows are still readily available. And it’s possible we’ll not necessarily go with a new broadcast network. We’ll find a forum for giving folks access to timely material and an opportunity to call in to share or ask questions. More updates will follow.

I’ll be presenting a workshop in the Dallas, Texas area next week. The workshop will again also be live-streamed. And I’ll be talking to attendees about the relationship between character and various clinical syndromes.

I’ll be taking some time off for a hands-on reconstruction effort in Puerto Rico the last week of July and first week of August. So, it’s possible no new articles will be posted during that time. I’ll update the readers on this as we get closer to the end of July.



28 thoughts on “Delusional Grandiosity and Narcissism

  1. Jame’s fall was inevitable and predictable. Sadly, it was also predictable that he would take many down with him.

    They always do !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Dr Simon – thank you for this timely excellent and very helpful post. I am so sorry to hear that your broadcasts won’t be airing for now – I’ve found the resources you have made available life changing if not saving an am so very grateful – with true apprecitation .

  3. Dr Simon – thank you for this timely excellent and very helpful post. I am so sorry to hear that your broadcasts won’t be airing for now – I’ve found the resources you have made available life changing if not saving and am so very grateful – with true apprecitation .


    This pretty much sums it up, only the word “inferior” should be substituted by “narcissist”. And “taste” should be substituted with “a conscience”.

    1. Agree. Because it knocks, doesn’t mean that it should be opened. Bless all who resist oppression. Love all who defend liberty and the pursuit of truth. Selah.

  5. The fac that insults & name calling are used says plenty about maturity level. Steve Jobs & others like him are special. But what makes the world go round are the people who get up every day & go to work. People who pay taxes & take care of their kids. They are becoming more & more special these days since so many are avoiding responsibilities at every turn. It takes both types to function so one shouldn’t look at the other in disdain. Humility is underrated, as is gratitude. Being gifted doesn’t automatically give anyone the right to violate or look down on another. Potential is useless without the work ethic to put it to use.

  6. This article explains a lot of what I witnessed with the X. The explanation of how the defected character plays a large part in one’s “fall” when difficult life circumstances are experienced gives me clarity on the X’s big fallout. I watched the man go down so low in life, but still continue with lies and pattern of self destruction.
    Especially when one is married to a person such as this, believe me, the spouse will suffer a great loss, emotionally and financially. My financial loss was shocking, as I didn’t have a handle on what was happening in time to stop the losses.
    If I were to give any advice it would be to get out of the relationship BEFORE the person totally destructs. Long Before.
    I was unaware of what would happen. Had I come to this site long before I did I may have had a better outcome when leaving the X.
    Anyone coming here reading these articles and comments can learn a lot, but you have to take action to save yourself.

    1. Joey,
      That’s an interesting one about sharing. I sure hope my grandchild grows up to be kind. I try hard to teach him that kindness matters, and character. He’s been lying lately, and I really try to teach him to do the right thing. I’ve learned that character matters, and can start at a young age. He’s four. I hope he grows up to be a fine gentleman. His father is out of the picture, his grandfather is the CD I divorced. Luckily my BF is a good man and helping to teach character and the other grandfather is a good man, but neither one of them are around him enough. It’s mostly myself and my daughter. It’s a challenge to raise a child amongst so many CDs. Good thing we’ve got him 80 percent of the time.

      1. Lucy,
        Its good you are there for your grandchild. Lying is something I take seriously as well. My daughter started lying pretty early on because the CD taught her it pays off. He taught her to lie to me and he rewarded her with ice cream – of course I didn’t find this out until years later after I left with the kids. What a dog. You can teach your grandson different and that’s great.

        1. kat,
          Yes a dog, an idiot, an evil man. He taught her the opposite of what good character is, and started working on her early. She thought lying was just fine, a way to meet an end – ice cream. It becomes more clear, once you put the pieces together, starting at that young age, why she has become the person she is. I can understand why you still have a relationship, even though it’s unhealthy – to you, because she was victimized, her character was victimized by him. Maybe with firm boundaries and calling her out on it – every time – maybe she’ll become more cordial and respectful to you.
          Yes, I’ve reached the conclusion, through reading stories likes yours, that I need to work on and pay attention to character issues, with his CD grandfather spending so much time with him, I don’t want him to learn and think it’s ok to be a crappy person. I’m so aware of this now. I wish things had been different raising my own. Oh well . . . the jerk really got to my daughter as well. Not in the way yours did with the lying and rewarding, but just her watching his behaviors, she’s picked up some of it. Why couldn’t she pick up on mine? Choose the good over evil?

          1. Lucy,
            I would be concerned about the CD grandfather too. Just keep your eyes and ears open. Kids don’t tell, they can’t tell the difference between a lie and a truth and they just absorb it. I spent a lot of time feeling guilty about the whole situation, but my upbringing basically set me up for it. I like your suggestion about my daughter, I need to embarrass her at times to do it when she acts out in front of others – its hard to think of a way to confront sometimes in those situations. I think its fair when she is with other people and says something that I need to confront at that time as well since she is being bold enough to make me look negative in front of others – even her husband – I just don’t care anymore and I am not going to take it. Not that I don’t care about her, I love her, but I also care about me.
            I think your daughter may have had worse behavior or character without you – at least she had one good example, and it sounds like she has a chance to come out of it.

  7. kat,

    Let me know how the confrontation goes. It will certainly shock her, as you hadn’t done it before in the presence of others. I’d bet the others surrounding her when she does this will applaud that you confront. They can see she’s bullying and embarrassing you. It’s got to be uncomfortable for them as well. Maybe calling her out, at the time she does it, will bring about a change. Probably not, but hopefully she’ll quit doing it, at least in front of others.
    I’ve called out my daughter’s ugly behavior even on her birthday once, cancelling dinner plans with her. She told me that was the first ever birthday we’d not spend together. I said fine with me because I will not be treated like that. She says “Well I’m over it already!” I said well I’m not and do not want to be around you.
    That shocked her. That was a few years ago. STill it’s a work in progress.
    Really the only lesson we can give to a CD is to withdraw ourselves from them, showing them that treating us badly equals limited time with them. It’s not really a punishment. It’s a choice we make to have a pleasant day versus drama-filled with nonsense BS and hatefulness.

    1. Lucy,
      I will let you know how it goes. I am not good at confrontation and shy away from it too much of the time. Its hard for me to do, this comes from my upbringing. This is an important issue for me. I would love to be able to confront as you do but for me it is going to be a learning process and it is going to take courage. That sounds so wimpy, but its just an area where I need to grow. I do think she will think twice before she does this in front of others. It won’t change who she is but I will feel better, and that’s actually the reason I need to do it. I wish it would change her but that would be wishful thinking.
      Sounds like you are making an impact, that’s great.

      1. kat,
        Thinking about it is the first step. You don’t have to be loud and angry in a confrontation, just be factual, if you can, to get your point across. If she gets ugly you can walk away. There is never any sense in arguing with these characters.
        You’ll get there. You’re sick of it. It will happen in due time, in your time.

        1. Lucy,
          That’s true, its easier to think about it in that way, just being factual. I think that is always the right approach. I also have a problem at work confronting certain behaviors, so its not just her, its me that’s afraid of confrontation. But people who are afraid of confrontation are many times passive aggressive, and I work with someone whose whole MO is passive aggression and I can see how off putting it is and how it ruins relationships so I don’t want to go there. Its an example of what not to do. Learning to confront when it is appropriate is a good skill to have.

      2. Kat,

        I have my kids doing the same thing. For whatever reason they think I owe them and I don’t. I have always been good to my children. With my youngest I can tell he is looking for an opportunity to rip me down with every word I say. Then he accuses me of things he didn’t agree with from when he was young. Yes, it goes back to when he was young and felt things should be his way. Its sad to say that at 40 he still is thinking like he is a 6 year old.

        I know my son tries to use fear, obligation and guilt tripping to manipulate me. He makes up things as he goes along, his memory of events are fabricated and half truths. Its always a battle with him and I already know the end results so I don’t even try anymore. Its so much more peaceful without conflict in my life.

        I hope things work out for you and you can feel at peace with yourself.

        1. BTOV,
          That’s sad, a 40 year old who thinks like a child. My daughter is 39 and the world revolves around her. I don’t know when it will finally click for me that I can’t expect anything to change. When we are having a good conversation and it seems like we are getting along well, she hits me like a sniper. I think its those times when the camaraderie starts to occur that she seems to do it. And it always takes me back because I am not expecting it. That’s just part of the CD catching you off guard I guess. The problem here is me, I need to always keep in mind the reality of it. I think I just want a relationship with her so bad that I get sucked in – just like with the EX. I see that is my problem that I need to deal with. And I can see it comes from my family of origin – I always felt rejected, they pretty much neglected me and its like me setting myself up with people who are not capable of relationship, like my parents. Well I believe an old dog can learn new tricks, as long as I keep working at it.
          By the way, how is your friend in the hospital doing, I have been wondering how he is getting on.

  8. Character seems to matter less and less. I only hear you talk about it yet time and time again I run across people who just don’t care what their decisions do to others or how they harm them. Money trumps all. I hope to see this change some day

  9. Sarah,
    I agree. With the political climate today unearthing these bad characters, it’s appalling.
    Kindness matters. Character matters. You’re right, money trumps all.
    I do my best teaching character to my four year old grandson. Thinking back, I didn’t do enough with my own children teaching character.

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