One of the most common and curious psychological conditions goes by a complex name. Its name precisely defines the complexity observed in the behavior and way of thinking of the affected people. The symptoms show how this condition develops, eventually they increase their intensity considerably. In addition, they condition the patient’s life so that they adapt their personality, showing considerable changes.

It is a psychopathology which can be classified into different categories, according to the identified symptoms. This means that each type of complex has particular characteristics, which makes it different from the others. One of them is named the Narcissus complex, because it is one of the most common, it has even coined its own adjective “Narcissism”. 

According to the description made by Sigmund Freud related to this mental condition, it is a set of symptoms that reflect the overestimation that one has of oneself . That is, it is suffered by individuals who choose themselves as an affective object, with which they will always prefer to associate with people who are similar to them. They also have selfish qualities and give greater importance to aspects that are directly related to them.

What is the Narcissus complex?

The Narcissus complex is also known by the name of narcissism. Both are widely used to refer to people who have an exaggerated perception of themselves. They are people who develop a behavior based on excessive complacency in their own faculties, so it is common for them to take extreme measures for their personal care. They are often described as physically very beautiful, very intelligent, skilled, or superior in other ways that make them unique.

Another relevant aspect of the personality of these individuals is the inexhaustible need to achieve the admiration of other people . Consequently, their mentality is centered in being able to gain the adulation, either by positive opinions or demonstrations of respect; that are generally obtained thanks to their insistence.

They also maintain a perception of themselves that is considerably more favorable, compared to other people. Their ego is very big and they believe they have the absolute truth. They lack qualities such as empathy and respect for other people, they always treat as inferior beings anyone who tries to contact them. Sometimes they have difficulties to relate within the sentimental field, friendship and also in the professional area.

What is the origin of its name?

The first time this type of complex was mentioned, it was due to the contribution made by the Austrian father of psychology named Sigmund Freud. According to the results of his research within the field of psychology, he managed to identify a condition that encompasses a series of symptoms that are linked to the ego and vanity . These personality characteristics notably affect the ability of these individuals to relate and adapt to society.

The name is associated with a mythological story of Greek origin . Specifically, it is about the son of Cefiso and Liriope, called Narcissus . What was remarkable about this young man was his singular beauty, which attracted attention and aroused passion; both gods and mortals. However, he had the inability to correspond to other people because he did not understand the limits between himself and the environment.

One of the most told anecdotes in which the protagonist is the main element is water. Seeing himself, both his face and his body, reflected in the water, he would be totally enthralled by his own beauty . Consequently, it was difficult for him to stop contemplating himself and later he will cease to live freely by being absorbed with his image.

Some versions of this same story maintain that the young man stopped attending to his basic needs, becoming a disheveled, smelly person and even completely dissociated from reality. This could be a symbology of how people can become obsessed with certain aspects of themselves , with which they will eventually stop paying attention to other aspects; that might even be of greater importance in their lives.

What are their characteristics?

This complex is part of the group of personality disorders, because it has particular characteristics that can easily be identified in the behavior of the affected people. Emphasizes the development of a perception of themselves that have magnificent qualities and virtues , which do not necessarily conform to reality. Therefore, it is common to hear them mention that they are very beautiful, intelligent or skilled for certain trades.

Another remarkable characteristic is the need to always occupy the attention and receive expressions of admiration. Because of this, they will face difficulties in relating to other people, the lack of empathy and respect also influences them.

Experts assure that the background of this condition is really in a fragile self-esteem, these are individuals who are very vulnerable to criticism from third parties. They may have problems in their family relationships, friends, or with their partners. The unhappiness that this generates makes them prone to develop a weapon of self-defense, which constitutes a strong and self-confident personality.

The following describes which are the most outstanding characteristics of the personality of narcissists . The severity of the symptoms is variable in each case. They are as follows:

  • They show an overbearing personality.
  • They believe they have privileges , so they will try to win favors and opportunities based on their superiority compared to others.
  • They have a dire need for displays of admiration. They will try by any means that is recognized for their superiority, even when they do not have their own merits that justify it.
  • They tend to have a magnified self-perception , where their talents and triumphs do not always correspond to reality. It is difficult for them to carry out an objective analysis of their current situation.
  • It is common that they create fantasies which they believe are true , they project their need to achieve success, power, beauty and a practically perfect life.
  • They only interact with people who in their opinion are on a par with them. These individuals are equally superior and special .
  • They are unable to recognize the achievements and needs of others . Consequently, it is common for the feelings of others to be hurt.
  • Envy is a constant in their lives , it can be applied to them or to others.
  • They are often described with adjectives such as pretentious, cocky, unfriendly , rude, rude, and boastful.
  • They tend to display impulsive and impatient behaviors , such as getting angry about not receiving special treatment. They can even be easily offended.

Practical examples. How is it identified? 

To identify people with Narcissus complex, it is important to pay attention to their behavior. Some situations are more common becoming fixed references, as in those social situations where they strive to be the center of attention .

Another example of this type is found in the need to monopolize conversations , in this way they ensure that their ideas will have greater relevance. They also prefer to participate in conversations where the main topic is themselves.

As for their interaction with other people, they tend to despise and look with disdain , this is because they externalize their unfavorable perception of others by feeling superior. Instead, they will always try to stay close to those individuals who occupy a similar social scale, possess economic power, physical beauty, popularity or by another quality that pleases them.

The insistence on obtaining the best of any good or service is also outstanding. This is the case of obtaining cars, houses, clothing and any other object that has considerable economic value. This aspect of the personality in these individuals is a clear demonstration of how they try to improve their personal image . Consequently, they will strive to be seen with material goods that they themselves have described as beautiful, luxurious, aesthetic, or simply fashionable.

Another characteristic of the personality is the waiting for favors and special treatment. These same are unquestionable and maintain a high expectation, they are people who prioritize their needs ; even when they could violate that of others. They also deliberately interact with other people, groups, institutions and situations; of which they previously concluded that they could take advantage.

What are your causes? 

Understanding the causes that lead to the development of this condition varies in each case. In evolutionary psychology zero knows that narcissism is present at every stage of a person’s development. For example, newborn babies experience a type of primary narcissism , characterized by the need to satisfy their needs; compared to his inability to recognize the outside world.

In the following stages of a person’s life, in which adolescence and early adulthood will be taken into account, self-esteem is considerably more vulnerable to criticism from third parties. Different negative experiences lived during these stages can significantly influence the development of the Narcissus complex. It is important to note that Narcissistic Personality Disorder shares characteristics because it belongs to the same group of emotional disorders

Also as one of the possible causes is the lack of a stable self-esteem . These individuals begin to identify with fantasies that they have created, reflecting their need for success and power. The need to feel admired becomes an obsession, it limits them when trying to adapt socially. They take on airs of superiority in their personality and really believe that they are above the rest.

How is it overcome and what are the most recommended treatments? 

People with a personality that fits this complex do not usually seek treatment on their own . Therefore, the intervention and support of close people who have detected the development of this personality disorder is necessary.

As for the most recommended treatments to treat these cases, family therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy is usually applied . In any of these modalities, its selection depends on the criteria of the therapist and those aspects that have been defined as priorities. It is generally proposed to help the patient to develop healthy behaviors so that he can communicate effectively with other people.

These therapies also provide the necessary tools to face conflicts , this is an aspect in which patients have significant vulnerability. This is also the case of emotional anguish , these people are not able to manage effectively by reconciling their emotions, feelings and rationality.

Most specialists assure that the development of narcissism is directly related to the lack of strong self-esteem. For this reason, narcissists constantly need attention and validation from other people to know who they are . An exaggerated self-evaluation is a defense methodology against a reality that they cannot accept, it is used as a way to compensate for those negative aspects in their person.

Psychoanalytic treatments based on classical psychoanalysis focus their attention on modifying mental defenses, to later help the patient to reconcile himself with the negative elements that are stored in his unconscious. Eventually the patient may have a more positive or balanced vision, where there is a more realistic assessment of themselves.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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