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Characteristics of Narcissism
Freeing Yourself from the Narcissist in Your Life at Home, at Work, with Friends by Linda Martinez-Lewi (New York: Penguin, 2008).
The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family by Eleanor D. Payson, 2002).
"Narcissism Unmasked," Chapter 2 of the book I Promise to Hate, Despise, and Abuse You until Death Do Us Part: Marriage in a Narcissistic Age by Andrea V. Oelger and Troy W. Martin (Bourbonnais, IL: Bookend Publishers, 2010).
While the characteristics of narcissism are many, five are most prevalent in the narcissistic personality.
First, a narcissist has an over-inflated sense of self and is preoccupied with his or her own self. Narcissists behave as though they're the only ones that matter because they really feel that way. Everyone else must adopt their agenda and learn the script that they give them. Preoccupation with self is one of the primary characteristics of narcissism and the narcissistic personality.
Second, a narcissist is deceptive and can lie quite convincingly. Indeed, a narcissist's entire life is a deception. The image the narcissist projects is not who he or she really is. One way to know what a narcissist is really about is to listen to his or her accusations against others. If a narcissist accuses you of being insensitive, you can be sure that he or she is being insensitive. Dissimulation is one of the essential characteristics of narcissism and the narcissistic personality.
Third, a narcissist feels entitled to everything and everyone. He feels that he is special and unique and therefore entitled to whatever he wants from whomever he wants it.
Fourth, a narcissist refuses to take responsibility. Whatever the problem, it is someone else's fault. He sees himself as the sane, rational person forced to deal with problems created by others who are incompetent and defective. Narcissists are very good at playing the victim while being the real problem. Of all the characteristics of narcissism and the narcissistic personality, refusal to take responsibility is the primary reason counseling rarely has any positive benefit for a narcissist.
Finally, a narcissist lacks empathy, and this is one of the deciding characteristics of narcissism and the narcissistic personality. Empathy is what enables us as human beings to treat one another decently. When we say or do something that hurts another, we stop and reconsider what we are saying or doing. We modify our behavior. The narcissist does not. The narcissist either doesn't perceive another's hurt and continues the hurtful behavior or observes the hurt but intensifies his or her harmful behavior. The narcissist lacks empathy and is therefore capable of doing or saying the most cruel and hurtful things. These are the most prevalent characteristics of narcissism.