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How can we understand the Narcissistic Phenomenon? The so-called “narcissistic personality disorder” is a complex and often misunderstood disorder. The cardinal feature of the narcissistic personality is the grandiose sense of self-importance, but ironically underneath this grandiosity, the narcissist suffers from a chronically fragile low self-esteem. The grandiosity of the narcissist, however, is often so persistent that we tend to dehumanize him or her. The narcissist conjures in us images of the mythological character, Narcissus, who could only love himself, and refused anyone who attempted to touch him. Nevertheless, it is the underlying sense of weakness, which is the real problem of the narcissist. The grandiosity is just a facade used to cover the deep feelings of inadequacy.

The makeup of the narcissistic personality is very unique in itself. The narcissist’s grandiose behavior is designed to copy his or her sense of adequacy. Since the narcissist is incapable of asserting his or her own sense of adequacy, the narcissist seeks to be admired by others.

However, the narcissist’s extremely fragile sense of self worth does not allow him or her to risk any criticism. Therefore, meaningful emotional interactions with others are avoided. While simultaneously seeking the admiration of others and keeping them at a distance the narcissist is usually able to maintain the illusion of grandiosity no matter how people respond. Thus, when people praise the narcissist his or her grandiosity will increase, but when criticized the grandiosity will usually remain unaffected because the narcissist will put down the criticizing person.

        There is not only one specific type of narcissism. Pending the perceived needs of the environment a narcissist can develop in one of two directions. The individual whose environment supports his or her grandiosity will develop to be an exhibitionistic narcissist. Such an individual is told, “you are superior...