Narcissism – Counterdependency’s Big Brother
Written By: Mark Smith
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Men in our culture are generally both respected and greatly rewarded for such counterdependent traits as confidence that more than borders on arrogance, John Wayne like ultra independence, single minded focus on empire building, having extremely thick skins, as well as their ability to marshal their considerable and larger than life personalities to influence and impact others towards their own ends. While Counterdependency is by no means an exclusively male disease, in this article I am going to focus on the male Counterdependent/Narcissist. I am afraid that even I – an enthusiastic namer of Counterdependent patterns and issues have been enabling and under confronting this all too frequent pattern in men. Frequently in being confronted with Counterdependent traits men own them while being quite proud of them at the same time. While I have explained that recovery from Counterdependency (or any other issue) begins precisely at the point when the person in question has a piercing vision of just how ugly their dysfunctional issues are, they hate how those issues hurt those around them and they commit their hearts to doing all that they can to work, heal, learn and be accountable. Recently I received additional insight into the profound ugliness involved in certain aspects of Counterdependency. Grandiosity is the first trait of a Counterdependent. In my limited vision of this insidious attribute I described it as being overly confident or arrogant. For many Counterdependents it is much more than that – in reality it is the development of a false self – an impressive achievement machine that churns out financial and business successes that are meant to impress the world with the supposed health, worth and ‘Ok-ness’ of the Counterdependent. In reality many men in our culture are actually frauds without even knowing it. Buffeted by the witnesses of their many victories on the field of battle in business these men have not clue as to who they really are. There are some more true witnesses who know the truth about who these Counterdependent men are though - their wives, kids, co-workers and family members. In this article I am going to discuss Narcissism – an extremely disturbing aspect of the Counterdependent issues of many men (and women). As you read this article ask yourself if you know someone like this.
Ask yourself first if that person might even be you.
The diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder as described in the Diagnostic Manual For Mental Disorders include the following…
A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements). While these men appear to be confident and secure, the exact opposite is true. They desperately need the illusion of success and achievement in order to feel loved, important and worthy. They are addicted to work because it is usually in their work where they build their impressive false personas.
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love. As teens these guys daydream constantly of making the winning basket to win the state championship. As men they dream of being extremely rich and powerful. When they fall in love there perceptions of their new love are based in unrealistic neediness and obsession. They think that their beloved is perfect and that she is there for the sole purpose of meeting their every need. It does not take long for the women involved with men like this to feel suffocated and controlled.
3. Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions). Many times men like this feel a special calling that in reality comes not from God, but from their out of control egos. The medical field is highly represented with narcissists who exude arrogant and a sense of entitlement.
4. Requires excessive admiration. Men like this are constantly fishing for compliments. They are ‘Atta Boy’ junkies. They surround themselves at work with underlings whose job it is to constantly stroke their considerable egos. Almost everything thing that they do has the underlying motivation of getting them some attention – what they drive, where they live, how they dress, what they say, who they hang out with, etc.
5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations. These guys do not like to wait in lines. They become extremely agitated when they aren’t waited on immediately. As bosses they are of the school of thought that the employee should be in the air the very second that they are asked to jump. These men feel like Kings on the earth and they fully expect to be treated accordingly.
6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends. These men take advantage of everyone around them, but they rarely have any clue at all that they are doing so. While they are selling ‘here is what I can do for you’ it is really all about ‘what you can do for me’. They are the world’s best salesmen. They are greedy, many times they are sexually intrusive and they are almost always emotionally abusive when push comes to shove.
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. These fellows are way beyond abrasive – they are cruel, mean and appear to at times be completely heartless. I have been stunned countless times in a therapy session with fellows like this when they react stoically, rudely, critically and brutally when their wives have broken down and cried in a very vulnerable and child-like manner. These men are bullies. What matters is their own pain and nothing else. Their words can be devastating. If you hurt them then rest assured you will pay. They are resentful, small and revengeful. They are capable of ruthlessly cutting off emotionally from their wives, their parents and even from their children. Everything is filtered through their self- focused paradigms. On an emotional level these men are dangerous.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her. Since collecting shiny trophies is the main goal in life for these men, they are extremely jealous when another man has a more impressive trophy – whether that trophy is a woman, a house, a car, a boat, a job, a watch, a TV, a lawn mower, a bank account or even the achievements of a child.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes. Do not even try to instruct a man like this – he is always right. If a whole room of people point out how he is wrong he will make like a prophet standing alone in the wilderness railing against the injustice of being so unfairly misunderstood. Just once in life I would like to see a man caught up in a scandal stand up and admit – ‘yes I did it, I was wrong and I’m sorry’. If you stand up to a man like this he will make it his business to take you down. People in a relationship with a man like this invariably feel beaten down and dominated. In order to keep his illusion of power, admiration and superiority in tact any criticism must be immediately defended and shot down. It is his world – you are just being allowed to live in it.
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