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What is Narcissism?

Posted: 23/04/2014

Dictionary definitions of narcissism usually refer to ‘self-love obtained by contemplating oneself’. However, modern psychological theories of narcissism have a different view. Narcissism is characterised by a preoccupation with your own worth or status, maintaining control and ensuring your needs are met at all costs. Unfortunately, when these characteristics are strong, it is easy to alienate and hurt other people as their needs can get overlooked. Many people who are described as ‘narcissistic’ are in fact compensating for an underlying sense that they will be ignored, mistreated, or undervalued unless they are ‘the best’ and in control at all times. When this is unachievable (for example following a rejection or failure) people with narcissism feel vulnerable and alone, and try and avoid these feelings by either distracting themselves or working even harder to regain their status/control; sometimes dismissing other people’s point of view or treating them with contempt. Therapy involves understanding your particular pattern of behaviour and the underlying need for status, approval and control. Over time therapy can be extremely effective in developing healthier relationships and a more balanced sense of identity.

Gill Heath, Clinical Psychologist, Become Psychology

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