Below is the English language transcript of the Q&A interview between Dr. Karyl McBride and Fotini Mastroianni, a Greek behavioral economist, journalist and blogger written May, 2017.
Q: Is narcissism a mental illness? What are the features of a narcissist?
A: Narcissistic Personality Disorder is listed in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). It is described as a personality disorder classified by nine traits. Narcissism is a spectrum disorder, which means it exists on a continuum ranging from a few narcissistic traits to the full-blown narcissistic personality disorder. The nine traits listed in the DSM for full-blown narcissistic personality disorder are:
- Has a grandiose sense of self-importance, e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, and expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements.
- Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love.
- Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
- Requires excessive admiration
- Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
- Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
- Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
- Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of them.
- Shows arrogance, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
Q: Can a society be narcissistic?
A: Individual personality disorder and societal narcissism are similar but different. Societal narcissistic traits have more to do with “all about me” behaviors, focus on image, beauty and power. American culture, for example, can be enamored with “what” instead of “who”. I call it “glitter” mentality. If life is only about what you do, rather than who you are, it can be empty and emotionally disconnected.
Q: How can somebody tell that a mother is a narcissist?
A: The cornerstone of maternal narcissism is lack of empathy and the inability to tune in to the emotional world of others, particularly the children. A narcissistic mother is more concerned with how you reflect on her rather than how you feel. You are in her good graces if you are doing what she thinks you should do, rather than develop your own sense of self.
Q: Why do narcissistic mothers focus mostly on their daughters rather than their sons?
A: They can certainly focus on both, but with daughters they seem to be more competitive and show jealousy behaviors around relationships, beauty and image. They give a mixed message of do well in the world so you reflect well on the mother, but don’t outshine her!
Q: How is a narcissistic mother developed? Can we suggest that there are some common features of narcissistic mother’s i.e. social class, origin etc.?
A: Social class or origin are not known common features. What we know in the research so far is that narcissism is usually caused from the mother’s own trauma and difficult childhood, and she has not worked recovery. Without recovery and awareness, the legacy of distorted love is passed down through the generations.
Q: What is the impact of a narcissistic mother on her daughter's and/or her son's life?
A: The answer to this question is long-winded and requires a book! I recommend reading Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers. Children of narcissistic parents grow up feeling unloved and empty. Their emotional needs are not met in childhood and their feelings are not acknowledged or validated. This causes crippling self-doubt, self-esteem issues, and feeling valued for what you do rather than who you are as a person. Often the adult child of a narcissist will feel emotionally stunted and unable to properly individuate from the family of origin. Far-reaching effects are seen in parenting, friendships, love relationships, and even career decisions.
Q: How can a daughter heal the wounds of a narcissistic mother?
A: I have developed a 5-step recovery program for adult children of narcissistic parents. It involves accepting the disorder, grieving the parent you didn’t have, working on your own sense of self, learning how to set boundaries and stop abuse, and working on not passing it on in your own life. The 5-step recovery program works the same for men. I teach it in a virtual workshop online that can be found at this link. https://www.willieverbegoodenough.com/workshop-overview-healing-the-daughters-of-narcissistic-mothers/
We also offer therapy, one on one intensives and small group intensives for adult children of narcissistic parents. It’s helpful to know you are not alone and there is much support in our therapeutic community. I always say that the anti-thesis to narcissism is empathy, so practicing empathy to others is a daily practice in our recovery work.
Q: In case that a society is narcissistic how can a non-narcissist "survive" in it?
A: Work recovery, focus on empathy for others, allow yourself self-love and compassion, work on re-parenting yourself, learn to set boundaries on any kind of abusive behaviors, choose your friends and relationships carefully. Choose in life what is right for you, not what others think you should do, think, or feel. The work is really internal. It takes time and can be difficult but very worth it!