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We therapists have frequent experiences with the words “narcissist” and “narcissistic”. Many of my clients come to therapy because they are struggling with a partner, parent, friend, co-worker, child, sibling, etc, who they describe using that term.  What does it mean?  And how will that affect your relationship with that person?

Most often, these people are not the grandiose, manipulative,entitled and self-involved characters that professionals think of when they hear the term “narcissistic personality disorder”. But we live in Silicon Valley-San Francisco Bay Area, a region which places achievement over enjoyment, status over connection, money above health and self-care, image over reality, and materialism over community. Does this area attract people who are narcissistic? Or do our lifestyle goals, choices and popular culture encourage value of self over all others?

All healthy people see themselves as special, unique beings who are deserving of love and attention.  It is appropriate that they do so, since if they were fortunate, they were regarded this way by their parents when they were very young.  Most, if not all, people have some narcissistic traits, but they don’t constantly ignore the wants and needs of others in order to meet their own wants and needs.  While they think well of themselves, and expect to be treated with care by people who profess to love them, they are capable of recognizing when they are wrong, of taking responsibility for their actions, and having relationships that are mutual, where both people’s needs are met.

Self centeredness is a characteristic of a narcissist, but it’s not the only defining characteristic. A narcissist, in my experience, is a deeply wounded and very fragile person.  If your important person seems to be unsympathetic to your wants and needs, there may be many other reasons for what you are experiencing.  Seeking professional help can give you new and helpful insights!

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