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  • Writer's pictureRyan Silver

Episode 3 - To Be A Narcissist

Updated: May 20, 2022

Episode 3 Transcript

Welcome to episode 3. If you can't sit and relax with this read, jump over to the posdcast for on the go.

"Nobody can be kinder than the narcissist, while you react to life in their own terms."

Elizabeth Bowen

Become immune to a narcissist by becoming an educated empath.

To Be A Narcissist

Good morning, Good evening and Good day to everyone out there listening to me on this fine fine day, I say day loosely, it is 1am my time. MY body clock has started making its own rules. My name is Ryan Silver and I’m coming to you with my Podcast CANNING SHAME.

Shame is an emotion that no one wants to feel at anytime. In fact we go out of our way to avoid situations that we perceive as shame inducing. However, shame is something that we carry with us, yes all of us, no one is exempt here, shame is an insecurity we hold about ourselves and in most cases within ourselves.

My last episode was focused on imposter syndrome, I did however touch on narcissism, so I thought we would delve further into narcissism for this episode.

I know that shame and narcissism sounds like an oxymoron. How can someone with narcissism suffer shame?

Well, let’s start with what narcissism is. First and foremost narcissism is a personality disorder. A disorder that makes one inflate their own self importance. They present with so much confidence that their outwardly projection does not relay what they are feeling internally. Narcissists need excessive attention and admiration. It is a mental health condition.

Narcissism has become a tag line that is easy to label on most these days due the abundance of social media platforms. A simple selfie is a welcome mat for label throwers. But that doesn’t make them narcissists.

The term Narcissism comes from the Greek Myth of Narcissus, a handsome young man who fell in love with his own reflection. I remember studying this at uni, The famous painting “Narcissus” that has been recognised as being Caravaggio’s work after some debate by the experts, as the story goes Narcissus was a young man, who denied the many advances made on him as he found that no one matched or came close to his level of beauty, this deemed no one worthy of him (did some one say vain). However, one day passing the pool of a river he spotted his own reflection, he instantly found love, a match to his beauty, he was so entranced by his reflection he failed to eat or drink, resulting in his death right there on the banks, from thirst. The story goes on that he turned into a beautiful yellow flower, that was aptly named after him, Narcissus. Caravaggio’s painting of Narcissus is a beautiful example of the time, being 1599, right at the end of the renaissance and the beginning off Baroque, this is my personal favourite period of art. Even though my absolute favourite painting is a remarkable tableau vivant at the National in London, “the execution of lady Jane Grey” 1833. A beautiful example of the renaissance cross over to baroque, even though 1833 being the period of the Romanticism movement prior to realism. I feel Delaroche was ahead his time with this one, as the lack of romance and the intensity of realism draws you in, you are almost there, you might save her. Anyway I digress. Narcissus, a handsome young man forever immortalised in a painting by Caravaggio. The painting was minimalist with the subject in high contrast against the background of blacks, what we instagramer editors call vignette with deeper shadows, stronger highlights on the main subject only. Think back to the TIME front cover of OJ Simpson in 1994, the famous portrait of him that was given more contrast (a lot more, I cannot emphasise that enough) with deeper shadows against a blown out background in this case, and a vignette, representing darkness, bad, sinister and deviant. The original version of this image was a basic looking mug shot with what you’d expect from your driving license image in the matter of lighting. So nowhere near TIME Magazines image, someone got really curve happy on that one, for those that know Photoshop. Well this was the same intention of Caravaggio with Narcissus. The blown out background on OJ Simpsons image draws you in to OJ alone, his darkness that he holds within, where on narcissus this is with the composition of his arms they lock you in to the faces staring at one another with the intensity and darkness that he held within.

The other part of the story was that narcissus was so taken by his reflection he tried to kiss it, but the water ripples deformed the reflection, he didn’t make the same mistake again, instead trapping it in with the composition of his arms, making sure nothing can come and change the status quo. The 17th century selfie. This leads me in to Salvador Dali and Freud but that would be a whole episode, as there is a lot more about Caravaggio’s painting I could delve into, but we get the meaning as is.

If you are interested in knowing more let me know and I’ll look into doing an episode on it.

Back to narcissus, A story similar to Oscar Wilde 1890 novel “The picture of Dorian Gray.” Dorian Gray a wealthy orphan sells his soul to a painting in return to never grow old. He has psychological anxiety around maturation. As the years go on the definition of narcissism gets stronger with each portrayal of the Greek Myth. In this case Grey is blinded to his behaviour through vanity, sound familiar?. The painting in turn represents his internal ugliness by becoming outwardly ugly. He covers the painting, and you see the paranoia and anxiety in him, he is vulnerable. His vanity and inner insecurities lead him to seek out powerful people to support his feelings of superiority over others on the basis of his looks. Touching back on Dali who believed that the painting of Narcissus was representing Freud’s theories on homosexuality, Wilde’s Grey portrayal is representing the homosociality, same sex male friendships that move beyond public view to the private sphere without the sex. They don’t tend to have female friends, females are only for sex, they rely on men to uphold social dominance, through male solidarity, it’s the whole masculinity, toxic masculinity and hegemonic masculinity we are dealing with in the case of Gray. As I said it is a whole other episode that I could go wild in.

So back to narcissus. Poor guy, created a whole thing, a whole culture. What a thing to be remembered for, even if it is just a myth. But it had to come from somewhere, Caravaggio couldn’t be so right in 1599 with his prediction of instagram.

So as you can imagine instagram is a dream come true for narcissists, a lot of the time a nightmare for anyone that crosses their paths. But, none the less a world just for them. A never ending supply of needed admiration with endless attention.

We see the influencers, the everyday instagramers getting on with life but wanting us to know every step of it. Personally I post food I’ve cooked, art I’ve done and my pet …These instagramers aren’t always narcissists, even if the pics are always of them. If the pics aren’t perfect in every aspect to shine the light brighter on them than it actually is in their real life, making them look flawless visually and environmentally, then no, they are just part of todays over share society, possibly with a little FOMO mixed in.

Who’s got themselves worked up enough to do theses online quizzes are you a narcissist after being taunted as a narcissist or labelled as one.

Narcissism can only be diagnosed by a professional through the DSM. Not through online tests. These tests just trigger unwarranted stress, anxiety and depression, you are being told by a random 30 second non visual algorithm who you are. And 99.9% wrongly.

Now I will put in my disclaimer here, I’m not here diagnosing you or anyone you know. This is informational only. If you feel this triggers you about you or someone close to you please seek professional support through your Dr or therapist.

Anyway back to it…

An understanding of the characteristics & behaviours of a narcissist is a start, you can identify patterns of behaviour that will allow you to make a personal decision on the relationship, what ever level it is on, or maybe get them assessed.

So what are you looking for, like any other personality disorder, NPD has a spectrum. It can be mild to extreme, meaning dangerous.

To get diagnosed with NPD at least 5 of theses behaviours have to be present.

1. An inflated view of who they are and what they are capable of, you will never catch a narcissist downplaying their success. Boasting is noticeable but gloating isn’t, the narcissistic is really good at gloating due to their charm, they will have you believing it. And they want you to acknowledge it, groom it and be in awe of them, you are expected to bow to their superiority, even though there is no evidence or very little evidence of the perception they have of themselves or their achievements.

2. They focus heavily on success, be it in career, looks, wealth or talent, it's their primary driving force. This creates huge risk taking. No matter what the success they are seeking, they all in, every chip. They wont stand down, they will not take heade of advise, they are focused on their goal and goal alone, and don’t get in their way. Why? Because they need attention and attention comes in scores with success, if you threaten that chance of success you will suffer at their hands.

3. They have a strong belief in their superiority that they will not waste their time with what they regard as low level company, they assess who has the higher status with the most influence and will make it their mission to be in their company. At work, they will not talk to their colleagues unless they hold something they want to take advantage off, they know who to flatter.

4. They don’t worry or care about who they hurt on their aim for success, they have little to no empathy depending on where they are on the spectrum. They have no acknowledgment to others needs or the pain and hurt they cause.

5. They expect special treatment due to their inflated perception of themselves. Who’s seen catch me if you can with Leonard Dicaprio, when he was pretending to be a pilot, he got all this admiration, superstar treatment, best tables, front of the line, bill tabs, well, that is what a narcissist expects due to their idea of their superiority, to never wait in a queue, to get the best table at a restaurant, to be given undivided attention by those around them, waited on and free stuff with the language of awe.

6. Rejection does not deter them, they project the issue onto the rejecter. They ascertain that the rejecter just isn’t at their level to truly comprehend their superior talents. They will continue and try again with a harder line, causing in cases to publicly discredit the rejecter.

7. They do not take or accept responsibility for their own actions when called up on it. They will point fingers and throw blame, ruthlessly.

8. They will never acknowledge the contributions of others, they will go as far as to devalue the contributions of others and take the overall success as theirs alone.

9. They will project arrogance, ego, vanity, self importance and snobbery to achieve their goal. That’s because they truly believe in themselves. Self doubt holds a lot of people back from reaching their true potential, as we covered in episode 2 imposter syndrome. This true solid believe goes a long way to succeeding in gaining their goal.

10. They feel envy but truly believe that others are just competing with them and actually envy them more.

Now, most people have done or demonstrated theses behaviours, but….BUT do they do it across a range of contexts, and do they have minimum 5 of the behaviours above.

As I said earlier there is a spectrum of narcissism. They can be mild to extreme. The spectrum tends to be cut into four, each quarter a character or subtype if talking technical, but I prefer character.

We have

The social climber – they don’t want to be like others, they have a fear of being like others, they strive to find ways to be better than others. They will boast and gloat to get admiration and manipulate to get the information they need to compare and when they find something that exceeds the other they will use this detail to boost their superiority over the other. With this superiority they will not listen or accept feedback from anyone on this behaviour.

The seducer – With the constant need for admiration they have a need for sexual conquest. Their superiority makes them feel entitled to what they want, and when they want constant admiration they will play games seducing and con-questing. Leaving a trail of discarded hearts in their wake. They will promise exclusivity if need be, to get what they want, but narcissists have little capability for true intimacy and relationships due to their lack of ability to relate to others feelings.

The compensator – Due to underlying insecurities they strive to compensate feelings of self doubt with status. They outwardly demonstrate self confidence and self esteem by compensating any self doubt with wealth and titles plus a hefty dash of exaggeration on them. They need the admiration of their status to quiet down their self doubt. This badly dealt with self doubt, leaves them open to overreactions when critiqued or questioned. Their believe of entitlement and superiority means they find it offensive to be questioned or critiqued. They can have a real rage issue.

The immoral – Probably the worst of the narcissist, they demonstrate anti social behaviour, they are arrogant to a heightened level and very egotistical. They are shameless in how they treat others, they will harm and have no consideration of the well being of others, they are destructive to society. These ones will physically hurt you and twist the narrative to being your fault. They will confuse you even though they clearly were wrong in their actions.

The problem with narcissists is you don’t see them coming, from the start they are charming and charismatic. They love the initial meet and greet, they love your awe in them, your excitement of hearing all their gloating and bathe in your admiration. But when the initial pleasure and excitement wears off they will do what they can, using any tactic without shame, with no concern for you to maintain their superiority over you.

The big thing about narcissists is that they are shameless in how they treat others but they themselves can’t handle shame from embarrassment at all. They will go out of their way to avoid this situation. They will avoid long term relationships unless maintained by manipulation, emotional & physical abuse, will drop those of influence when they become of no further use, avoid team work unless it is of benefit to them, they have no capacity to feel love so choose partners that improve their public image until it doesn’t, they can’t be seen to be having issues. They will not accept public critique or feedback, they will have to remedy this by deflecting it back. Their retaliation will range from emotional abuse to physical harm depending on where on the spectrum they are. And these retaliations can range from minor to severe, their only focus is fixing their public image by destroying yours. This is their resolve to shame.

So why? Why are some people like this? What is the cause?

It is believed that it is a combination of factors to why some develop NPD, which becomes evident in early adulthood, it is due to this timing that it's thought to be a combination of genetic, environmental and psychological factors.

Narcissism has always existed as we have discussed in myths and art, but in todays society it has become more prevalent due to the creation of social media. Social media has changed how we do many things, one being parenting, the push for reinforcement parenting has created a generation of over focused parents on their child’s development. The move that has parents reinforcing into their child how special they are and are pushing their child’s self esteem to greater levels than ever seen before. This has been found to be having a negative impact on their development. As we discussed in episode 2 it can go 1 of 2 ways, narcissism or imposter syndrome. Now, I’m talking extreme reinforcement not the ‘oh that picture is fantastic, its going on the fridge’ thing, you know the pic that looks like a cat but is granny… And there is also the celebrity element on social media to take into account, that topples on-top of the parents over enthusiasm. The look at me, I’m perfect with my perfect life posts. For example, leaving the kardashians a side, I follow Reece Witherspoon, and her live through her instagram is like a 21st century version of the good housekeeping magazine with stepford wife flung into the mix. I could be wrong but her live is right out of a hallmark movie or vogue magazine. Does she ever have bad days? Bad hair, skin, colds, or bad cooking moments, anything that is a little messy and not in control? Even Monica in friends had a messy cupboard, does Reece? This for me gets tiresome, I like to see the real in people, and that can’t be real. Show me a zit, grey roots or a day in bed with cramps, I can relate to that. But this element of flawlessness and problem free living is another reason it is believed NPD is on the rise, people want that shiny stress free easy living with the admiration these celebrity get for it. The genetic part isn’t so defined, it is believed that genetics play a role on the level of serotonin you have, your happy and well being chemical. Research has speculated that those with low serotonin are more likely to have children with the same issue, causing mood stability issues, leading to depression and aggression, NPD cases have been identified as having a deficit in serotonin, so that is where they are going with it. Or they have been born with another genetically inherited condition that has reduced their capacity to empathy, emotional reasoning, or altered it so they can control it, allowing for NPD behaviour, as I said it can be mild. But, they are saying its mostly the parents, yet again, that have over compensated their child that they have unrealistic expectations and no understanding of boundaries, limitations and acceptable behaviour. The child wasn’t given the tools to manage their moral emotions, such as shame, embarrassment, compassion and guilt. They weren’t given resilience.

So damage is done, how do we fix it? Or at least manage it?

Is it fixable? Can a leopard change its spots? Short answer no! Sorry, to rip the band aid off. As we have learnt narcissists do not acknowledge their own behaviour, so are they going to admit they are doing something wrong and seek help to change their behaviour, hell no….The only way you are getting a narcissist to therapy is if they have a level of depression that gets them there. Once their hopefully cognitive behavioural therapy is put into motion, this will help ease the levels of NPD. All you can do is see the signs the best as you can and keep out of their path.

I hope you have enjoyed this weeks episode on Narcissism, if there is any topics that you would like me to cover, please reach out and I’ll see what I can do. I love hearing from you all. Clearly there is a lot more I could cover in each episode but time is a limit. I try to get the main points in there and hope it helps in some way.

In the meantime hit that subscribe button to keep up to date on news and episodes.

Thank you for listening, be safe, be happy and remember to self hug 💗

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