In Greek mythology, there is the myth of Narcissus. To mention this myth shortly, Thebes’ blind prophet Teiresia told Narcissus that it is possible for him to live for a long time. The requirement for Narcissus to live long was to never know himself. However, one day, Narcissus went to a puddle of water to relieve his thirst. When he saw his reflection on the water, he fell in love with himself. Yet, this love sounded the death knell for him. Every time he knelt down to kiss his reflection, it vanished. Narcissus became increasingly thirsty yet did not drink any water. The reason is that he did not want to ruin the amazing reflection of himself. Eventually, he died of thirst. The Narcissus flower emerged at the same place that he died. Not surprisingly, this flower has a radiant face and bowed neck.
Fig.1: Caravaggio. (1599). Narcissus [Painting]. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissism
Loving yourself does not have to be this painful. There is an optimal level of loving yourself. Yet, it is possible for us to occasionally pass through this optimal level. What happens then? Do we have to have the same destiny? Let’s dig deep into the term narcissism.
What is Narcissism?
Narcissism which is not considered a mental illness is referred to as “normal narcissism”. Narcissist individuals are mostly unpleasant due to believing that they feel superior to others. The feeling of superiority is very common and normal for narcissist individuals. Narcissist individuals tend to have a very little or even no empathy for others. This is a result of narcissists believing that they have the right to do the best of everything that they are involved in. Also, while doing the best, they mostly look down on others who are not able to do “the best”.
Some of the “best” leaders in history are considered narcissists. Gaining power and abusing this power are some of the characteristics of narcissism. For instance, Adolf Hitler was a narcissistic individual. In contrary to the negative side of narcissism, there is a positive side too. For instance, successful business leaders as Bill Gates can be narcissists too. Yet, they have the social circle to help them guide their narcissism.
Fig.2: Dealing with a narcissistic manager. (n.d.). [Illustration]. Dribbble. https://dribbble.com/Nozzman
Narcissist individuals also have the tendency to manipulate others to achieve or get what they want. Yet, the act of manipulating is not something that they always do consciously. Thus, narcissist people mostly do not have a sense of shame or remorse. As a result, the act of manipulating can occur. However, these characteristics come and go for individuals who are “normal narcissists”. Recognizing their inappropriate acts of their own and not finding it useless to seek help are the key points for this.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
This disorder is one form of personality disorder. Individuals who have narcissistic personality disorder tend to exaggerate their feelings about their own significance. They mostly have a strong desire for extreme attention and praise.
This issue also affects these individuals’ relationships. This disorder is one form of personality disorder. Individuals who have narcissistic personality disorder are inclined to experience difficulty in their relationships. Yet, one of the most important distinctions between individuals who are narcissists and have narcissistic personality disorder is the level of self-esteem that they have. Having low self-esteem leads to being vulnerable to criticism.
Fig.3: Narcissist. (n.d.). [Illustration]. Istockphoto. https://www.istockphoto.com/tr/ill%C3%BCstrasyon/narcissist
How to be a friend/lover with a narcissist?
Being friends or lovers with a narcissistic individual is considered to be difficult. The biggest problem would be the issue of manipulation. Being manipulated constantly can be tiring and make you feel that your opinions do not matter. Also, there are issues about narcissist individuals' needs for being in control and appreciation.
Setting limits and emotionally distancing yourself from your narcissist friend/partner is a more effective technique. It is important to recognize that you may not always be able to control your sentiments toward someone. However, you can control how you respond to them. Also, refusing to lose your own sense of purpose when your narcissist friend/partner takes center stage is one of the most important strategies for dealing with narcissist individuals.
Fig.4: 10 signs you’re dating a narcissist. (n.d.). [Illustration]. Today. https://www.today.com/health/dating-narcissist-how-deal-t115421
Do narcissists really fall in love? The answer to this question is somehow complicated. In the early phases of dating, narcissists actually exhibit passion and charm towards their partners. Yet, as time passes in their relationships, narcissists’ ideas about relationships mostly stymie the relationships. According to many narcissists, the relationship provides attention and sexual fulfillment. Narcissists consider these two features as a booster for their ego and self-esteem.
Being “equal” in a relationship is what is considered “difficult” by narcissists. Trusting and perceiving someone as being at the same level are contradicting with what a narcissist person believes. Yet, setting boundaries and being honest in a relationship and friendship will be the best option for being friends/partners with a narcissistic individual. If the case is more serious, as the individual having a narcissistic personality disorder, seeking professional help and helping her/him to realize what the real issue is can be helpful. So, just be open!
Hartwell-Walker, M. E. (2016, May 17). Narcissistic Personality Disorder vs. Normal Narcissism. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/lib/narcissistic-personality-disorder-vs-normal-narcissism#5
Narcissistic personality disorder - Symptoms and causes. (2017, November 18). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20366662
Narcissism. (n.d.). Psychology Today. Retrieved June 27, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/narcissism#how-to-handle-a-narcissist
Schwartz, A. L. (n.d.). The Narcissist Versus the Narcissistic Personality Disorder - Personality Disorders. Mental Help. Retrieved June 27, 2021, from https://www.mentalhelp.net/blogs/the-narcissist-versus-the-narcissistic-personality-disorder/