The Narcissism Spectrum
Many psychological conditions exist along a spectrum. We’ve come to appreciate this in recent years. And so it is with character disturbance. It exists along spectra of both quality and degree. That’s also the way it is with narcissism. And the narcissism spectrum is particularly broad and complex. That’s because both the type (quality) and severity (degree) of narcissism can vary considerably. But narcissism is the hallmark attribute of our age of egocentricity and entitlement. So, understanding the narcissism spectrum can help anyone navigate through our increasingly character-disturbed world more effectively.
We’re all narcissistic to some degree. In fact, we begin our lives as fairly self-absorbed, egocentric creatures. But most of us grow out of this stage. We grow in our awareness and appreciation of others. Hopefully, we also come to see ourselves as part of something much bigger than ourselves. This enables us to steadily overcome our inherent narcissism. But some of us seem to have difficulty moving out of this stage. And, depending on how our innate traits and experiences shape our ways of coping, the manifestations of our narcissism can be quite problematic. So, in the series debuting today, I’ll be delving deeply into the narcissism spectrum. And I’ll be integrating information posted in prior articles.
Healthy vs. Pathological Self-Love
There’s nothing wrong with loving oneself. In fact, an unfortunate number of folks bring all manner of pain into their lives because of their lack of self-love. They neither love themselves enough nor know how to love themselves properly. But self-love can be pathological, too. And how self-love becomes pathological is partly what the narcissism spectrum is all about.
Unless we love ourselves, we can’t possibly love another very well. But we first have to understand the nature of authentic love. Simply defined, loving is wishing someone well. Inauthentic love is not about well-wishing. Sometimes, it’s about affirmation. Other times, it’s about admiration or even adulation. These things are substitutes for real love, and poor substitutes at that. Unfortunately, they’re what we’ll sometimes settle for in the absence of the genuine article. And while that’s sad, it’s still not necessarily pathological. But pursuing adulation or affirmation, especially for its own sake, is indeed pathological. (By pathological, I mean toxic to sound character formation.) And how rabidly and intractably we pursue these substitutes for genuine love bespeaks our level of character pathology.
A Deeper Discussion about Narcissism
The blog already contains numerous articles on narcissism. See, for example:
- Narcissism and Character Development
- Personality and Character Disorders – The Narcissism Dimension
- Two Main Varieties of Narcissists
- Malignant Narcissism
But over the coming weeks, we’ll be delving deeper into the topic. And we’ll be looking at the narcissism spectrum in the light of both the recent research and years of clinical experience. Of course, you can find a plethora of helpful information on narcissism in all my books.
Character Matters will not air live Sunday May 27, 2018. Instead, you’ll be treated to a special rebroadcast. It will feature multiple uninterrupted performances of America, My Home! The song is as dear to my heart as the inspiration that gave it birth. It’s just another way to spread the message about the importance of character.
Freedom and character are inextricably intertwined. And that’s a foundational premise of our country. When folks with a solid internal moral compass (i.e. conscience) are free from oppression, they’ll do great things, not just for themselves but for all. Sadly, in the face of character decline, there is an inevitable invitation to impose morality externally. This necessarily impinges on liberty. That’s why character matters so much. Freedom hangs in the balance.
Want to make America great again? How about starting with ourselves. And how about holding one another accountable. When people of solid character dominate our populace again, the soundness of our national character will be restored.
Read more about the song and its inspiration on the America, My Home! page. I hope you enjoy it as well as its message. And I hope some of you will want to join the chorus of performers helping to carry its message across the land.
Character Matters will air live Sunday May 20, 2018. Call in with your questions or comments at (501) 258-8326.
9 thoughts on “Narcissism Spectrum”
Dear Dr. Simon,
I started reading your work 7? 8? years ago and it transformed the way I see so many things. My 15-year-old daughter just got out of a relationship with someone who was manipulating her, and I gave her my old, worn copy (lent out so many times!) of, “In Sheep’s Clothing”. Over the last few months, she has begun to understand the situation for what it really was. What a gift. So unbelievably empowering for people to make sense of these previously confusing situations/people! I have recommended your website/books to so many people over the years, and they have been so very grateful. Thank you so much for the work that you do!
Oh yes, and to your point in this article- we must continue to work on OURSELVES. How hard that is! But yet no greater gift we get when we do so. And to another message in your article- America, My Home! Is an inspiring and beautiful song. Love it.
It is confusing when you get into the spectrum of narcissim. At work I have seen people who consider themselves superior and treat others as expendable and beneath them, but I think there’s a lot of people in the business world like this and it seems to be pretty common. Is that narcissim or something else? I know this is a pretty open ended question but I have always worked in business and in general it seems to me the biggest rats seem to “win” the rat race. Maybe I am being too cynical but based on what I have seen, narcissism seems to thrive in the business world.
I don’t work in the business world, I’m in the legal world and see a wide range of personalities. I’d imagine in the business end it is cut-throat and the players have strategies they use to get what they want.
Regarding workplace full of people full of themselves… maybe it is just company culture. Some companies, some business domain simply acquire bullying kind of culture, and one must just learn to deal with it to survive in that kind of environment.
I will not be so sure that biggest rat “wins”.
You are assuming that everyone in business is rat. 😉 That may be generally true, but not always true. Some people will be reasonably fair.
I guess, it may help if you categorize people as follows:
– initially everyone is in “neutral zone”, so deal with them in factual contractual basis. Have a contract with clear terms, and get it followed. For example, deliver on time and get paid immediately, deliver late and get your payment even later.
– people who honour contract, move to bit more trustable zone.
– people who do not honour contract, move to untrustable zone.
This is somewhat similar to what I have followed in last 2-3 years: categorize a person as liar after catching him in few instances, once categorized as liar then anything he says should be assume a lie unless proven otherwise.
… and never underestimate the power of incentive. 😉
Business is a place where people try to make money for themselves. Even the most trusted person will rob you for a price. Consider trust as a foundation for repeatable reliable transactions. If one single transaction is of sufficiently high value, then the good old trustworthy partner may simply sell his trust (i.e. future transactions) for that single one time gain.
That is why one must be more wary of one time customer, one time supplier. Because they have zero incentive for repeat business, and every penny earned by hook or crook is forever his penny.
Andy D, good point. Money is a great temptation and can bring out the worst in people. A Narc is a Narc whether or not there is money involved or not. I worked in a bullying culture at one time, I choose to leave because I simply am not cut out for that, some people handle stress better than others and can let things roll off their back, I have a hard time with that.
I think management thought if they made it a very competitive atmosphere they would get more out of people, or their cream would rise to the top or something.
I am an Engineer. You have to be able WITH YOUR SKILLS to produce a product accurately. You MUST PRODUCE A PRODUCT WITHIN A STRICT TIME LIMIT.
“YOU ARE JUDGED ON WHO YOU ARE AN WHAT YOU CAN DO”
In an office you make nothing. Look at those that work in THAT OFFICE. Who does the most work. IS THAT PERSON LIKED MORE. NO
In an office it is all about PEOPLE and how you make THOSE PEOPLE LOOK and
In other words. NARCISSISM RAINS, WITH THOSE CO -DEPENDANTS
HOW WELL CAN THEY KISS ASS, LICK ASS AND THEN OF COURSE BACK STAB.
Read OFFICE POLITICS, By Oliver James
I got stabbed in the back many times there, but I couldn’t bring myself to do the same. I’m not much of a butt kisser either. Ergo, I had to get out. The controller told me that she liked me being there, I kept them honest – I am assuming because people knew I was a Christian, not because I preached it at work but because they observed that I didn’t swear and they asked me about it. Not swearing makes you stick out like a sore thumb. A friend told me once what was going on behind my back and she said I needed to get back at them or they would think I was stupid. I told her the most important thing to me was living what I believed – not saying I am in anyway perfect-that’s for sure! – but I knew revenge or retaliation was not for me – ergo I needed to move on. Not saying that one doesn’t confront someone in truth, but when you believe it will be met with anger, its not such a great strategy either.