The renowned psychologist, Sigmund Freud, wrote a paper in 1914 on how to define narcissists called “On Narcissism: An Introduction” in which he introduced the world to his theories of narcissism and its place in sexual development.
Where does the term narcissism originate from?
Narcissus was a figure in Greek Mythology who fell in love with his own reflection, but because Narcissus could never consummate his love, he pined away and eventually turned into a flower: the narcissus. And just like the character from which they derive their name, narcissists are very much in love with their self, and indeed, narcissism can be defined as a form of excessive selfishness.
Healthy narcissism is recognizing your own abilities and maintaining a healthy self interest. Destructive narcissism is having an unrealistic sense of self importance, difficulties empathizing with the feelings and needs of others, exploiting others for selfish gain, arrogance, and many other unpleasant traits, all of which lead to problems in interpersonal relationships.
Apart from Freud, many other experts in the field of psychology have conducted extensive research on how to define narcissists and a large number of different variations of narcissists have been identified as a result.
Sandy Hotchkiss, in her book: “Why is it Always About You? The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism” defines a set of traits including shamelessness, magical thinking, arrogance, envy, entitlement, exploitation, and bad boundaries.
Theodore Millon identified five different variations of the classic narcissist including the unprincipled narcissist, the amorous narcissist, the compensatory narcissist, the elitist narcissist, and the fanatic narcissist.
What other forms of narcissism are there?
First described by Robert Millman, Acquired Situational Narcissism is a type of narcissism that is triggered by the world of celebrity. Increasingly common in our modern celebrity obsessed society, acquired situational narcissism is a personality disorder characterized by the celebrity believing that they are much more important than everyone else. The condition is no different to narcissistic personality disorder other than the fact that symptoms do not manifest until a later stage and are usually exacerbated by the sycophantic adulation of other people in the immediate circle surrounding the celebrity.
Codependency is a type of inverted narcissism whereby the person behaves in a very passive or excessive care taking manner, and in fact research has shown that in many cases, narcissists and codependent personalities are often very attracted to each other: the narcissist craves the feeling of importance while the codependent has a strong desire to make him feel that way.
Corporate narcissism was defined by Alan Downs in 1997 following research into several high-profile corporate leaders in the world of business. Downs proposed the theory that corporate narcissistic personalities are blinded by their single minded drive to make profits at the expense of everything else.
Malignant narcissism was first described by Erich Fromm in 1964 and described a particularly unhealthy hybrid of narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial behavior disorder whereby the person is fundamentally without morals and quintessentially “evil”. Malignant narcissism is characterized by enormous cruelty and sadistic tendencies, the end result being a sadistic psychopath.