Narcissism brought on in adulthood by celebrity, power, or status has been called “Acquired Situational Narcissism*.” The attention received as a result of celebrity or prestige intensifies any EXISTING tendency toward narcissism.
Adult narcissists with status or celebrity become more self-centered because of the favorable treatment and praise they receive. They thrive on attention, and conclude from the fact that people fawn over them that their own satisfaction is what’s best for everyone.
Praise and admiration boost the narcissist’s self-esteem, but only temporarily, because it merely reflects the false self. When faced with criticism or solitude, the shadow feelings of worthlessness grow in corresponding proportion. To fight off this inner doom, narcissists double their efforts in pursuit of self glorification.
Most people are glad to enjoy some status or admiration. However, true narcissists feel ENTITLED to attention, and shamelessly pursue their own desires at all cost. In extreme cases, they will exploit those in subservient positions or at least those assumed to be subservient. Maids, housekeepers, and interns are convenient targets as they are less likely to resist those with power and prestige.
In their drive for stardom, narcissists hone the ability to exhibit socially appropriate behavior if it serves them to do so. In public, they may act like the perfect husband or wife, charismatically expressing admirable family traits such as warmth and devotion. In private, however, they may show little regard for the family’s well-being and feelings. In fact, they can be sarcastic, arrogant, and insulting.
Deceptions and lack of concern may cause you and your children to feel rejected, humiliated, and angry. It’s important to realize that the negativity is not a reflection of you, but of the narcissist’s limited ability to empathize with other people. The betrayals and attacks are not personal, but result from a craving to be seen as superior even at the cost of degrading others around them.
Nevertheless, it’s vitally important to protect yourself from demeaning behavior. It’s usually a good first step to point out that the culprit’s actions are affecting you negatively. However, it’s probably impossible to persuade a full-fledged narcissist to change given his or her primary motivating force. It’s better to know whom you are dealing with and then decide how to enjoy and/or limit the relationship.
* A term coined by Robert B. Millman.
For an easy-to-remember acronym, try “Acquired Situational Super-narcissism.”
by Alison Poulsen, PhD
Read Narcissism Part 5 tomorrow.
References: “Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders.”