What is Narcissism? Thanks to actual card-carrying Narcissists and other people with Cluster B personality disorder affectations actively and aggressively misusing the word (most likely in an attempt to keep their covert behavior a secret to the world), very few “Narcissistic Abuse” victims even know.
Narcissism, as a noun describing a personality trait one can have, is a word used to describe a set of toxic or unhealthy behaviors that people of a certain character type all seem to have. The DSM version circa the turn of the century actually shifted significantly when folks in the Mental Health field started to recognize a vector of people whose life trajectories revealed not only were their personality types aggressive and maniacally egocentric but they were — above all else — predictable.
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorders are very different from your run of the mill narcissists (with a lower-case “n”). Those with NPD (or “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”) are very self-centered by both nature and [most often times] nurture.]
The DSM version 5 discusses NPD and points out that no two people with Cluster B personality disorders like Narcissism are the same. Narcissists (as in the “capital N” variety) truly have some unique characteristics that people who are narcissistic because of religious upbringing or environmental influences simply don’t have in any way.
True “capital N” Narcissists (or Ns) typically have a biological component to their personality that makes it physically impossible for the brain to feel a normal, healthy range of emotions. Socialized Narcissists — whether “Overt” or “Covert” — are able to mock (meaning impersonate) the habits, routines, and emotional rituals of things like romantic love, familial attachment, or going through the motions of acting as if they are expressing empathy [in the maternal sense] or having sympathy for others [in the paternal sense]… but here’s the rub.
While a healthy or mentally sound individual will do nice things for other people because it makes them feel good as “People Pleasers”, “Healers”, “Empaths”, or Spiritualists, a narcissistic person will do nice things based on the promise of avoidance of penalty or worse… because they are seeking power and control tied with the expectation of an emotional, physical, or financial reward.
True emotions like empathy are not something familiar to a Narcissist. One of the key diagnostic criteria for establishing the difference between someone with NPD and say… a person with ASPD (Anti-Social Personality Disorder) does… is they truly are unable to feel the same way other humans do. People with NPD are absolutely selfish, defiantly self-centered, and they truly seem to pervasively act however they choose with a sense of disturbing Entitlement — not the “little e” version that applies to section outline headings of promises to grant a citizen a legal right to a benefit. We’re talking about full-on verbally, psychologically, emotionally, and socially toxic to others (including but not limited to the members of the N’s own peer group as well as family).
A narcissistic person (on the other hand) may fall victim to stronger personalities or mobbing mentality. They may be bullied into submission or enthusiastically embrace a dominant status-seeking position of Entitlement Right power, but such gyrations are based on false logic and unethical motivations. People who are narcissistic because of peer influences are easy to spot. They are the folks who are out doing wonderful, compassionate things for friends and family who agree with their moral code or philosophical religious beliefs while turning a blind eye to victims of domestic violence, gross injustice, targeting, scapegoating, smear campaigning, gaslighting, bullying in person, cyberbullying, slander, libel, gossip, and more.
True Narcissists — people with full-blown NPD — range on what is known as the “spectrum” from mild to wild. Extreme Narcissists who are aggressively caustic in private and sew seeds of discord for those they feel entitled to target for harm, scapegoating, and abuse are also known as “Malignant Narcissists”. Narcissistic Sociopaths (people with a comorbid condition — meaning dual diagnosis) have come to be known in psychology pop culture circles as “Narcopaths” while Malignant Narcissistic Psychopaths have been affectionately given the social media moniker of being a “Dark Triad” [noting extreme narcissism (as a verb) coupled with psychopathic Machiavellianism produces a very powerful personality capable of absolutely destroying the lives of targets, family members, romantic partners, and children who are unfortunate enough to come into contact with them.