What, you might wonder, is a metanarcissistic character? In short, it’s a person whose character pathology goes well beyond mere narcissism. I haven’t heard the term used before, at least not widely. But I think it an appropriate one for a particular group of characters. And if you’re familiar with my work, you know I’m a stickler for accuracy in defining psychological conditions and issues. So, I chose the prefix “meta”after carefully contemplating all the other possible, appropriate prefixes. It derives from the Greek and means “beyond.” And some character disturbed individuals have a manner of relating that is much more serious than merely narcissistic.
There’s a lot of misinformation these days about narcissism and its various manifestations. So, it’s worth reiterating some points I’ve made before. Mild to moderate narccissitic features are common in several personality and character types. And some of these characteristics can be relatively benign – even attractive in some ways. (See: Charming Narcissists Manipulate Well.) Significantly character-impaired folks have strong narcissistic features in their personality makeup, however. And just what traits run strongest in them makes a difference, too.
Narcissism itself, like all character disturbances, is a spectrum phenomenon. It varies as to type and degree of severity. That’s why I felt compelled to come up with an accurate term for folks who are no doubt narcissistic, but who are ever so much more than that. Metanarcissistic seemed the most accurate label. And the most problematic metanarcissistic characters are the folks I call the aggressive personalities.
I began researching the aggressive personalities many years ago. And I first wrote about them in Character Disturbance and In Sheep’s Clothing. These folks are especially narcissistic but their pathology goes well beyond narcissism. Like many narcissists, they may feel entitled, fairly grandiose, and uncaring when it comes to your welfare. But as aggressors, they also actively try to overpower, control, and dominate you. Some are open and unapologetic about their way of relating. But others are stealthy and underhanded. And in In Sheep’s Clothing, I exposed these covert, manipulative types and their tactics in depth for the first time.
All the aggressive personalities, including the aforementioned covert types, are truly metanarcissistic. And I’ll have more to say about these types and what makes them tick in future posts. Egocentrism and attitudes of entitlement are some of their core narcissistic features. And I discuss how these attitudes prevent character growth on the most recent Character Matters podcast.