COLUMN: Narcissistic personalities can strain relationships

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By John Lapp

You may have occasionally heard the word, and you probably know one or two people who could qualify as being “narcissists,” but I also sincerely hope that you are not that type of personality, and if you are I hope that you realize that is not beneficial, and probably very detrimental as you relate to others both within and outside your family.
Those classified as having a narcissistic personality are seen with an essential feature, namely that it is a continuous pattern of a need for admiration, a sense of grandiosity, and a lack of empathy.
It usually begins by early adulthood, although some of the roots may have begun when a child. There is a sense of self-importance, regularly overestimating their abilities.
Some even inflate certain accomplishments, even a sense of boastfulness, a strong sense of ego, from which we get the words egotistic/egotistical.
Some, not all, of these people expect to receive praise and recognition from others, and when this does not happen, they are surprised and often disappointed.
Not all, but probably a large portion, of those who become politically known can get puffed up with the regular routine of praise heaped on them, and while they may not always have been seen as egotistical, that term now seems to fit many of them. You can probably name some, just as I have, who seem to be “in love with themselves,” even believing they are now superior, unique or special when compared to others.
Now, I pause to say that I always enjoy taking time to praise/admire someone, but when it appears that the person is fishing for admiration and/or accomplishments, I am not so willing to oblige their need. Some even expect to be catered to, and are more than disappointed, but can even become angry when this does not happen.
Several other features of narcissism are some who actually believe that they should not have to wait in line, at least as long as it sometimes takes, because of an unusual sense of self-importance. They also often falsely believe that they should be entitled to what they want or need, even if it means that others will perhaps have to sacrifice for that need to be met.
An illustration of this goes back when my wife and I invited a family from our neighborhood to enjoy a meal with us. After a short prayer before the meal, we were both shocked to observe the wife, abruptly stand and take her husband’s plate and fill it with what he wanted, although their four children were also at the table, ages 2 to 8 years of age. They sat quietly while she made sure he was taken care of, and not once did he help any of the children to also get the food they needed, but proceeded to eat his meal, as if it were alone, while everybody else was served. Whether or not that man falls into the category of narcissist, I cannot say, but he sure had many of the ingredients.
Finally, although this type of personality needs more detailed explanation than this column can adequately present at this time, one more thing is important to state: many of these people tend to present and discuss their own concerns in inappropriate and often lengthy detail, while seemingly unable to recognize that others also have feelings and needs, perhaps similar to theirs.
There is hope, however, especially when this person begins to recognize that the pattern is wearing out the relationships with others, and others don’t seem to want to be in their presence as they once were. It, of course, can irritate others to the point where they even prefer not to remain married to the narcissist whose whole life has placed too many demands on the relationship. If the narcissist desires to be changed, that is still possible, but the process will normally take longer than expected because the pattern has been ingrained, and change may be a struggle to institute and maintain.
If you or someone you know, even if it is one of your children who seems to have this kind of disorder, it is just that: a disorder. It is not a disease, and can still be addressed and resolved.
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