A Study of Narcissism

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A Study of Narcissism

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Spanning back to the era of ancient Greek mythology, narcissism is currently recognized as an “infatuation and obsession with one’s self to the exclusion of all others”, and as the egocentric pursuit of one’s gratification, dominance and ambition” (Vaknin 1). This egocentric disorder is named after the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus- a man so enchanted by his own reflection that he pined away before it. The origin of narcissism as an acknowledged psychosis is deeply rooted in the mythological source of its very namesake. Narcissus’ obsession with image shows his self-idolization, but also hints toward an insecurity regarding identity and self worth (Alford 3). According to Ovid’s classic account, Narcissus is quoted saying:

“Am I the lover or beloved? Then why make love?

Since I am what I long for, then my riches are

So great they make me poor.” (Ovid 464)

Parallel in character to Narcissus, those diagnosed with his disorder are consumed by an exaggerated drive for supremacy and control. Characteristic also is a predilection toward entitlement. Narcissists tend to the notion that one is worthy of great admiration and esteem, regardless of his or her accomplishments (Vaknin 5).

Present psychology diagnoses this sort of self-fascination as a distinctive mental health illness - Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD as documented in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistics Manuel (1994). Common characteristics of an individual afflicted by the disorder include: feelings of grandiosity, desiring a state of unequalled brilliance, the need for constant affirmation, and the “interpersonal exploitation”(DSM 1994) of others for self- achievement. Narcissism is usually seen as an infatuation with self so acute that the welfare of others is ignored. This is due to the narcissistic opinion that people exterior to the ‘self’ simply serve to mirror one’s own importance.

As analyzed by Freud, the story of Narcissus and its resulting condition can be divided into two categories: “regressive” versus “progressive” (Alford 35). Freud interprets narcissistic behavior as neither sick nor healthy, but indicative of the normal human condition.

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