If you answered, “Me” you could be a narcissist. We’ve all worked with, worked for or watched narcissism in action – in the workplace, on the sports field or elsewhere in life. In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, writer Alex Morris examines the individual many are calling pathologically narcissistic: our president, Donald Trump. It is an interesting analysis in that it provides traits typically found with individuals possessing this personality trait (disorder, actually) along with its origins.
Leading psychiatric professionals and organizations term narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) as: “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration and lack of empathy.” A diagnosis requires five or more of the following traits, which RS lists followed, in some cases, by a “Trump” example: (1) Has a grandiose sense of self importance (“Nobody builds better walls than me”); (2) Is preoccupied with fantasies of power and success; (3) Believes he/she can only be understood by others of special or high-status such as themselves; (4) Requires excessive admiration (“They say it was the biggest standing ovation since. Peyton Manning won the Super Bowl”); (5) Has a sense of entitlement (“When you’re a star…you can grab them by the…”); (6) Is interpersonally exploitative (see 5); (7) Lacks empathy; unwilling to recognize others’ feelings (“He’s not a war hero…he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured”); (8) Is envious of others and believes others are envious him/her; (9) Shows arrogant haughty behaviors or attitudes.
Morris reports that NPD was first introduced in 1980, and affects up to six percent of the U.S. population. In 2008, a comprehensive study of NPD found that almost one out of 10 Americans in their twenties had displayed behaviors consistent with NPD. As with most personality traits, the roots go back to childhood where a parent either puts their offspring on a pedestal, or, withholds approval so that the child has to build up his/her own ego to survive. In the case of Donal Trump, his father Joe often referred to his son as “a king”, teaching him that it was important to be “a killer.” The article describes Trump’s childhood as problematic where other kids were forbidden from playing with him and detention was a way of life before being banished to military school.
Finally, Rolling Stone examines Trump’s communications platform of choice, Twitter, which, it says, ‘does not actually foster narcissism” but, like other social media, “(has) turned much of the Internet int a narcissist’s playground, providing immediate gratification for someone who needs a public and instantaneous way to build up their false self.”
We all have to deal with narcissists but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. One can best cope by understanding that that behavior comes from a place of weakness that is being overcompensated for by that individual. They just don’t know any better – and don’t want to. And though often maddening and frustrating most of us can also see that the narcissist’s behavior is actually very, very sad. Just don’t dwell on that realization for too long; more attention is just what they want.