Narcissists feel inner happiness


Narcissism is characterized by massive overestimation of oneself and vulnerable insides

03/18/2021 by Angelika Völkel

This article describes the concept, characteristics, causes, characteristics, degrees of severity, treatment options and the emergence of the term narcissism.
In the section on personality disorders you will find a clear summary of all important information about narcissistic personality disorder.

Ines S. lived for many years with a successful manager who repeatedly treated her like dirt after years of marriage. She herself grew up neglected. She had called him once to meet and reconcile with him after an argument, when he replied, "What piece of shit am I talking to?"

Nevertheless, she was fascinated by his charm and his social skills in dealing with others and he could also be very devoted to her at times. Despite repeated humiliations and even physical attacks, she stayed with this man and repeatedly announced their separation without actually completing them. Only her stay in a psychosomatic clinic enabled her to find distance and separate. *

Ines S. suffers from a narcissistic disorder. A large proportion of those affected suffer from so-called vulnerable narcissism. Vulnerable means vulnerable and so are these people. They quickly feel insecure and if they feel negatively assessed, they cope with it very poorly and withdraw injured. However, they themselves often judge their surroundings very negatively and tend to put their achievements above those of others, even if you do not notice it.

They often satisfy their excessive need for recognition through a relationship with a grandiose narcissist, i.e. people who stand out primarily because of their excessive self-esteem, need for recognition or striving for power.

Ines S. added value to her own self-worth through the success and financial possibilities of her partner.

The causes of narcissism

One might think that the modern way of life, supported by social media, encourages narcissistic disorders. But there are no empirical studies that would show that narcissistic disorders are now more common.

Various factors play a role, for example environmental influences and upbringing. According to the latest twin studies, genes have a greater influence in narcissistic personality disorder than in other personality disorders.

Above all, unfavorable interactions with caregivers in childhood are of great importance. The psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg, for example, assumes that emotionally cold or latently aggressive parents encourage excessive self-expression. Children who receive little recognition manage this self-esteem violation by focusing on accomplishments for which they are commended. Other researchers suggest that children who are given no limits by their parents can develop an unrealistic and perfectionist self-image.

In adolescents, fantasies of greatness, a great need for admiration and, not infrequently, a not yet sufficiently developed capacity for empathy can often be observed. However, this is part of healthy development.

Narcissism can, however, express itself destructively in childhood and adolescence, in that those affected isolate themselves because of their inadequate ability to relate and are easily ill and develop self-destructive tendencies because they cannot correspond to their self-image.

How the concept of narcissism came about

Alfred Binet was the first to resort to the myth of Narcissus in 1887 to describe a case of sexual fetishism. Apart from this topic, the French psychologist went down in history primarily for the development of intelligence tests. A few years later, the English sexologist Henry Havelock Ellis used the term "narcissus-like" in a paper on autoerotism. It was about women looking naked in the mirror, which Ellis and his contemporaries interpreted as sexual perversion.

The German psychiatrist Paul Näcke introduced the term narcism to science and used it to describe different types of self-infatuation, with real narcism describing the most severe form of autoerotism.

Otto Rank was the first to associate the term narcissism with vanity and self-centeredness.

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, first described narcissism in 1909 at a lecture evening of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Association as a necessary stage of development in the transition from autoerotism to object love. Until then, narcissism was understood as an erotic pleasure in one's own body, a serious gender confusion.

John C. Nemiah ended up describing narcissism as a mental illness. In his Foundations of Psychopathology (1961) he spoke of a "narcissistic character disorder".

Otto Kernberg suggested the term “narcissistic personality structure” based on Nemiah. Heinz Kohut introduced the term narcissistic personality disorder in 1968. The two psychoanalysts Kernberg and Kohut developed further definitions of the term.

According to the myth, Narkissus was conceived as the son of the nymph Liriope by raping the river god Kephisso. Due to his violent emergence, Narkissos was at the mercy of his mother's ambivalent feelings from the start. On the one hand he was everything to her, on the other hand she had to recognize her rapist in his face again and again.

As a 16-year-old, Narkissos was embraced by both women and men. But filled with pride in his own beauty, he refused any advances. Amenois, a particularly intrusive admirer, even sent Narkissus a sword. This killed himself with it and called on the gods to avenge his death. Artemis granted his request. Artemis, one of the most important deities in Greek mythology, punished Narkissus with unattainable self-love. Narkissos' unfulfilled self-love finally came to an end when he found a source in which he saw his own reflection and fell in love with it.

But it was unbearable for him to have his love only as a reflection. In desperation, he stabbed a dagger in his heart. A daffodil sprang from its blood.

* Case study

Case study: According to Hartmann H (2018). Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorders. P. 38. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.