By on October 29, 2015


THE TRUTH ABOUT NARCISSISM :: NARCISSISM 101 – A text was recently circulated around GGN‘s office, showing a very hot, middle-age man, shirt off, captaining a sailboat. His sexy face and tanned bod at sea made jaws drop. He looked nothing if not stupidly hot. Everyone at GGN suddenly wanted to go boating.

“A tad narcissistic though,” said the person who had received the text.

Probably not so much a narcissistic dude as a guy trying to get laid, putting his best torso forward.

The word “narcissist” is often a distorted and misinterpreted word that is bandied about to label (those admittedly often annoying) people who simply possess healthy self-love and healthy egos. I believe a certain amount of narcissism, when exhibited through self-esteem, self-love, self-awareness and even a respectable level of self-importance are not unhealthy attributes for us to possess. I believe all people possess traits that are narcissistic, ie: we often obsess about personal appearance, fitness, fashion and desire to own nice things.

However the true narcissist is an entirely different creature, as they can wreak chaos and destruction in your life. I have recently had the misfortune of encountering a great number of gay men that I believe psychiatrists would define as individuals with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Having spent many years working in social services and with a number of mental health organizations such as the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) I have acquired a certain level of understanding and knowledge regarding a variety of mental health disorders.

After my experiences I decided that further examination and study of the subject was required. For me, the “Cluster B” group of psychiatric disorders have been by far the most extraordinarily fascinating. This group includes what society refers to as “the psychopaths”,  but that psychiatry terms as individuals that suffer from a single form or combination of antisocial, borderline, narcissistic, and or histrionic personality disorders, all of which are similar but to varying degrees and often with differing characteristics.  From my perspective, the “Cluster B” group contains the most “out there” and detached group of individuals in our society” and they are also the ones viewed as the overly dramatic, outrageously erratic and most emotionally unstable of all the “cluster groups” contained within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or (DSM).

To be able to spot and discern the differences between a “healthy yet somewhat narcissistic” personality vs. the authentic narcissist could save you a great deal of pain, heartache, and anguish, and, in extreme cases even physical harm.

The American Psychiatric Association’s manual (DSM-5) lists the following characteristics (*), when occurring together, as possibly diagnostic of individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorders:

* has a grandiose sense of self-importance (exaggerates achievements, talents, pretentious sense of self- importance)

* is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love (narcissists are quick to advance the importance of relationships – “I love you” commonly stated early in relationships, often are promiscuous)

* believes he or she is “special” and unique

*  requires excessive admiration

* has a sense of entitlement

* takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends (repetitive lying, empty flattery, manipulative, cannot or will not empathize with others – insincere comments and behaviour)

* shows arrogant or haughty behaviours and attitudes. (requires constant and unreasonable attention and admiration , treats others who do not please them with scorn or anger – reacts to criticism with anger or rage)

* lacks empathy toward the feelings and needs of others (interferes with relationships between others; never owns his or her mistakes, blames others, steals ideas, opinions, are never able to admit to being wrongare susceptible to all sorts of obsessions, compulsions, and addictionsbelieve themselves to be superior, smarter ,more intelligent, will demean, humiliate and shame others, they like to  write to others pointing out their mistakes and flawsare often “victims” of society and others as their contributions are not recognized and/or rewarded as they believe they should be)

Dr. Brene Brown, vulnerability researcher and author of Daring Greatly, recently wrote of narcissism for “Our first inclination is to cure “the narcissists” by cutting them down to size. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to teachers, parents, CEOs or my neighbours, the response is the same: These egomaniacs need to know that they’re not special, they’re not that great, they’re not entitled to jack and they need to get over themselves.”

Argues Brown,What almost no one understands is how every level of severity in this diagnosis is underpinned by shame. Which means we don’t “fix it” by cutting people down to size and reminding folks of their inadequacies and smallness. Shame is more likely to be the cause of these behaviours, not the cure.” Brown argues that the powerful cultural message that being ordinary isn’t enough is deeply at play. And that broader view is nice if you are a research professor such as Brown, but what if you have found yourself entwined with a true narcissist?

Unlike most of us, who developed a sense of self in our early years, the narcissist did not develop a self and are quite literally a compilation of stolen personalities, mimicked emotions, and imagined qualities,  false merits and misleading virtues.  For the narcissist, a true “self” never existed, so to me they are the quintessential definition of the “living and walking dead”, in a world that they truly despise.

In other words, if you spot the above traits occurring together, do yourself a favour and simply head in the opposite direction and never look back.  Otherwise you could live to regret it.

– After spending years as an adult educator and college principal, David Holman left teaching in 1998 to pursue a career within the social services sector specializing in the development of unique programs and services in collaboration with  the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) for individuals with a variety of “barriers” to “self-reliance”. Creating unique partnerships with organizations such as ACT, Jewish Vocational Services, March of Dimes, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Canadian Mental Health Association to name just a few.

One Comment

  1. Miss Raquel Richards

    November 1, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    I first experienced a true narcissist from a boss of mine while I was his marketing manager for an online music distribution service. Although my boss was successful with his partner in the online music distribution service he couldn’t get over why he wasn’t a superstar DJ. Even his partner (my other boss) had difficulty dealing with his narcissism.

    Out of frustration I bluntly told him how he didn’t know how to properly run his business and that he should not “try” to use it as a stepping stone for his career. He didn’t like this of course and I eventually got let go.

    Narcissism is deadly and very hard to deal with on a professional level. And to think I used to book him. Now that I know he was a true narco it’s no wonder he was never happy with his kids, life, wife, accommodations for his gigs out of town, set times, whatever. He has become without him known of course to be his own worst enemy because I can honestly tell you no venue within the GTA area will book him due to his “it’s all about me” attitude.

    But he feels it’s not his fault. It’s theirs.

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