The narcissus flower, as well as the personality type, received its name sake from a character found in Greek mythology. Varying stories offer different tales of how he found the fountain where he met his ultimate death. However, the Narcissus of the original tale felt the blow of fatality by giving up his senses as he obsessed over the grandeur of himself in the fountain’s reflection. Consumed by his vain obsession, he was taken by death. All that remained was the narcissus flower in his place.The narcissists of today will not likely be found with the level of consuming vanity of Narcissus, yet they are hardly exempt from a charge of egotism.
In reality, the narcissist lurks in us all. A healthy dose manifests itself as independence and courage, which are traits to be praised. The distasteful side of the pendulum, however, involving obsession with self and a demeanor of superiority over others, is classified as a disorder.
True narcissists, in sync with their flower, require unique environmental conditions if they are expected to flourish. “Narcissists thrive in big, anonymous cities, entertainment-related fields (reality TV may come to mind), and leadership situations where they can dazzle and dominate others without having to cooperate or suffer the consequences of a bad reputation.” Narcissists in the entertainment industry may come out looking something like a flower urn drowned in Miracle-Gro.
Low-level narcissists will be satisfied to act as a strong figure in small scale communities or social circles. The Machiavellian or even psychopathic type narcissists devise and manipulate their strength and dominance over others. Any perceived or actual excommunication from members of a social group will likely trigger anger and potentially physical rage. Pushing others toward pressured decisions or agreements brings this narcissist type satisfaction (whether non-sexual or sexual).
Why Is “Self” Such an Obsession?
Lorna Otway and Vivian Vignoles offer their modern research to give merit to Freud’s theory, which claims that the combination of strong parental disinterest and appreciation breeds narcissism in children. As children in this environment, they gave in to believing the whispers of insecurity and rejected the true accolades of others. With age, this treatment from others stimulated their thinking into adulthood. This manifests as a charming individual who easily gains friends but can’t keep them when their true self surfaces.
Perhaps unexpectedly, most narcissists are fully aware of their title. “Graduate student Eric Carlson and her colleagues found that college students scoring high in narcissism rated themselves more intelligent, physically attractive, likable, and funny than others, as well as more power-oriented, impulsive, arrogant, and prone to exaggerate their abilities!” The negative way others perceived them was even a completely understandable notion to them!
So a question might be, if these folks are fully aware of their state, why have they no reason to run in the opposite direction? Well, they operate with a scale of good and bad, so as long as they focus attention and behavior toward their positive attributes, to them, their negative ones are as good as outweighed or gone. Any stragglers who still dislike them are chalked up as those plagued with envy.
The idea of “thinking of others” hardly phases the narcissist. Yet, they do look to others for praise. They most value those who gratify the narcissist’s appetite for affirmation and accolades. Once a social group is bled dry of said affirmation and accolades, the narcissist will migrate to another group fresh with the new potential of singing the narcissist’s praises.
How Narcissism Affects Relationships
They may not be amiable, but at the least, narcissists are intriguing and charming. Take celebrities, for example. A dinner date with Justin Bieber hardly sounds like an opportunity to be missed. On the other hand, it may end up as a self-entitled, 22-year-old millionaire talking about himself for the better half of two hours while you sit in disgust.
“Narcissists get away with these unsavory antics because, at least initially, they are so charming. Psychologist Mitja D. Back of Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz, Germany, and his colleagues deconstructed the ‘charismatic air’ that many narcissists exude: attractiveness, competence, interpersonal warmth, and humor. Among a pool of college students, those reporting higher levels of entitlement tended to be the most popular students in the class. In a separate study, Back and his colleagues found that while students expected charming individuals to like others more, people with ‘self-centered values’ actually dislike others more.”
Furthermore, bearing in mind that the foundation of this conduct is found in mating rituals of humans, research implies that women may prefer a narcissist during their moments of heightened fertility. “In a study conducted by Steven Gangestad at the University of New Mexico, 237 women watched videotapes of men compete for a lunch date. On days when women were at high fertility, they were much more attracted to displays of social presence (e.g., composure, eye contact) and competitiveness (e.g., derogation of competitors), both of which signal the confidence that is the narcissist’s hallmark.”
More specifically, the drama-hungry women often find themselves taken by the charm of the narcissistic man who brings her the passion of affection followed by the cold of indifference. Likewise, this narcissistic man hopes for the “damsel-in-distress” that they can save.
Maybe in the early stages, dating a narcissist brings a rush or sensation of wonder. Conversely, the next step in the cycle is growing disinterested in the bipolar tango between affection and rejection. “Campbell and his colleagues found that people who date narcissists are highly satisfied for about four months, at which point they report a rapid decline in relations. Ironically, the four-month mark is when people start to reach peak satisfaction when dating non-narcissists.”
Narcissists Can Find Help In Christian Couples Counseling
Unfortunately for the narcissist, God is not pleased with this behavior. The way we act should simply exemplify humility and love for others. If you feel you’ve unearthed a hidden flaw, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a professional Christian counselor. Strength, independence, and courage are all honorable traits when they are in healthy moderation, but if you sense others are repulsed by your inability to restrain those traits, further action may be wise. Professional Christian counselors in Spokane have experience working with people in similar situations and may help lead you to further self-awareness.
Charming and deceiving others into befriending you is not the route to true happiness. Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14) Narcissists put themselves through an ugly cycle in order to satisfy their lust for praise. Do not be afraid to take the next step and meet with a Christian counselor who can point you to Jesus Christ and ultimate fulfillment.
“There Is No Room for Others When Your Ego Takes All the Space” by Scott Barry Kaufman, PsychologyToday.com
“Bloom Where You’re Planted,” courtesy of Katherine McCormack, unsplash.com, Public Domain License; “Miami,” courtesy of William Stitt, unsplash.com, Public Domain License; “Narcissus Flower Blossom,” courtesy of Pezibear, pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License