Do narcissists think that their behavior is normal

Psychology: narcissism - And always just me

A little scene from everyday relationships: a student tells his girlfriend that he wants to apply to a renowned university. She caresses his back and gives him a cold stab in a warm voice: “Honey, don't you think it's difficult to be taken there. They have very strict selection criteria. "

There are people who like to crush the hopes of their counterpart. They slow down their thirst for action, spread self-doubt, and poison interpersonal relationships. They firmly believe that they are better than anyone else. Perhaps such a feeling of superiority drove the girlfriend to destroy her partner's hopes.

Fragile self-esteem

We're talking about narcissists. According to the DSM-5, the diagnostic catalog of the American Psychiatric Association, the self-esteem of pathological narcissists is strongly based on the appreciation of others, and it is accordingly fragile. You set yourself unreasonably high goals in order to be considered exceptional. In interpersonal dealings they are hardly able to empathize with other people. Usually they do not listen, pay attention, understand or support their loved ones.

Yet they often manage to read other people surprisingly well. They prefer to surround themselves with people who satisfy their need for admiration. They attract attention first through charm and later through threats. If the longed-for attention is missing, do not be afraid to exert pressure, deliberately evoke feelings of guilt in the other person and manipulate them.

Healthy narcissists are optimistic about their lives

In times when everyone seems to be assuring themselves of their existence with selfies, the suspicion arises that our society produces more narcissists than ever before: Take a look and like. You can quickly see the sounds, extroverts and dominants: Silvio Berlusconi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Thomas Middelhoff. So does our self-realization mania go hand in hand with a good pinch of narcissism? Does our performance society promote our self-centeredness?

Even if there are no current longitudinal studies on the epidemiology of narcissistic personality disorder, the Berlin psychiatrist and borderline expert Stefan Röpke assumes that there are more narcissists today than in the past. He and his team had around 1000 people in East and West Germany fill out the so-called PNI questionnaire - the pathological narcissism inventory.

Does the Modern Western World Promote Narcissism?

The study has not yet been published, but his first impression is: “It has been shown that people with Eastern socialization had higher self-esteem and lower narcissism scores than people with Western socialization. For those who were between six and eight years old during the fall of the Berlin Wall, the narcissism values ​​are the same as those of West Germans. So one could conclude that our modern western world promotes narcissism. "

Numerous researchers are now campaigning for a more differentiated view of narcissism. Although it can become pathological, it can also remain in a healthy area that does not necessarily have to be harmful and unsocial. So the crucial question is: where is the boundary between these shapes? Does it even exist, a sharp line?

Healthy narcissists are optimistic about their lives

Probably not, says the American psychologist Craig Malkin. In his recently published book, The Narcissist Test, he advocates imagining narcissism on a scale of 0-10. He places the healthy narcissists at the middle values. They are optimistic about their lives, have a pronounced self-esteem and are good at giving and receiving emotional support. They pursue goals in their life and can still talk to people they know about their doubts and insecurities. They are ambitious, but not at the expense of their relationships. Healthy narcissists not only have a positive image of themselves, but also of their loved ones.

When dosed, a narcissist can inspire a team and inspire groups. Malkin also thinks that the urge to feel special is simply human. He succeeds the Austrian-American psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut, according to which narcissism arises from the need to protect oneself. Adolescents in particular should be convinced that they can achieve great things during puberty. That drives them.

Echoists as an alternative

At the left end of Craig Malkin's spectrum are the so-called echoists. This is what the psychologist calls people who suffer from a narcissism deficit and who put their own needs behind those of other people. You always have the feeling that you are not allowed to make your own claims and find it difficult to accept emotional support from other people.

Really problematic for their environment and themselves are those people who score between 9 and 10 points on the Malkin scale. It is those who actually suffer from narcissistic personality disorder according to the psychiatric diagnostic catalog. They have no empathy, sabotage others, and suffer from megalomania. About one percent of the population falls under this category, estimates the American psychologist Joseph Burgo in his book "The narcissist you know".

Therapy only when life is in pieces

These sufferers really urgently need psychotherapy, but usually only end up there when their lives are in tatters. When the partner breaks up or there are problems at work. Alcoholism, gambling addiction and substance abuse are also common among them. “They find it an offense that they need help. They let the therapist feel that too, ”says the Berlin psychiatrist Stefan Röpke from his own experience. Often they break off therapy, question the therapist's competence or insult him. "It is one of the most difficult personality disorders to treat," says Röpke.

The psychologist Michael Marwitz, together with the psychiatrist Claas-Hinrich Lammers, developed a therapy especially for narcissists. The first thing to do is to sensitize the narcissist to his flight into superiority. At the same time, the therapist tries to initiate a change of perspective together with the patient, which enables the narcissist to put himself in the other person's shoes. How successful a therapy is, depends on whether the narcissist is willing to put his feeling of superiority into perspective and let other people close.

The enthusiasm of others is destroyed

The so-called introverted narcissists are also a particular problem, if only because hardly anyone knows of their existence. As children, they were often kept small and have greatly fluctuating self-esteem. Even if they seem very confident, they often feel worthless. If someone hurts the latent narcissist, he does not say, "That makes me sad, you hurt me." He withdraws. Or he punishes indirectly with withdrawal of love and stylizes himself as a victim. Roaring and screaming are also part of his repertoire.

But there is also a more subtle way. Narcissists can casually and in a very friendly tone of their counterparts say: "Not bad, but don't get false hopes." should, he waves it away. And counters with: “Today you are thin-skinned.” Latent or covert narcissists know how to destroy the enthusiasm of other people in a subtle way.

It's always the other's fault

This can have bad consequences, especially in the workplace. While people with healthy self-esteem can admit they made a mistake, narcissists feel attacked as a whole person. If they encounter objections or resistance, blame other people, question their colleagues' abilities, insult their counterparts, reduce their performance, exclude them or sell other people's ideas as their own.