Earlier this year, reality star Kim Kardashian released a book full of selfies prompting people to label her as a “narcissist.” But, is it fair for her to be called one? Driven to “rescue narcissism from trivialization,” clinical psychologist Joseph Burgo published the book, “The Narcissist You Know: Defending Yourself Against Extreme Narcissists in an All-About-Me Age.”
Kardashian is what Burgo calls an "everyday narcissist, a product for this culture of narcissism, but not dangerous."
“Narcissism occurs along a continuum of possibilities. One end is a healthy self-esteem and on the other is a narcissism personality disorder,” Burgo told FoxNews.com. Kardashian, he believes, doesn’t fall into the latter category.
So proud to share the cover of my book Selfish, out in May! pic.twitter.com/6gyWQHRjLh— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) January 20, 2015
There are many types of narcissists that Burgo describes in his book, but “extreme narcissists” are the ones he believes society needs to understand and empathize with. Extreme narcissists can cause harm to themselves and to the people around them.
Burgo describes extreme narcissists as those who have a grandiose sense of self or someone who doesn’t have the ability to empathize with others. Typically, they have a strong sense of entitlement, feel the need to be the center of attention and don’t believe rules should be applied to them. They are often "driven to show their superiority" and don’t take their own physical limitations into consideration, leading them to make unhealthy life choices such as drinking heavily or overeating, Burgo said.
Psychologically, narcissists lead lonely lives because they are often "in flight from themselves," Burgo said. He argues that extreme narcissists have an “unconscious shame, a sense of inner defect or ugliness.” They create “an idealized false self to disguise that shame.” This detachment from themselves usually translates to a detachment from others as well. According to Burgo, while extreme narcissits may be at times charming and able to attract people, they are often “abusive and dismissive.”
Extreme narcissists can be found in everyday life, whether at home or at work. Burgo’s simple advice for dealing with a narcissist is simply, “get as far away as possible.”
These people typically see people as "winners and losers and if you challenge them, you're going to lose," Burgo said. Not turning into a “loser” may be easier said than done, especially if the person is unavoidable, like a family member or boss.
Burgo said extreme narcissists “are emotionally underdeveloped and are more like a toddler, so don’t expect them to behave the way a peer would.” Don’t challenge them, insight shame, make them feel criticized or personally attacked because they will retaliate, he warned. Burgo recommended setting limits for how they can talk to you in the least confrontational way possible.
Burgo likened extreme narcissists to alcoholics in the way that they both don’t realize they have an problem until they hit rock bottom. Because of their confidence and inflated ego, narcissists tend to be successful. Their presumed infallibility pushed them to make bigger risks which, as the saying goes, yields bigger rewards. However, according to Burgo, their ego can also be their own downfall and cause them to lose their job, harm their relationships beyond repair and, as mentioned earlier, cause serious health problems.
Burgo believes that narcissistic tendencies stem from some sort of childhood trauma. Therefore, he feels the best way to break out of this toxic behavior is from long-term therapy. The problem is, Burgo said, that getting to that point requires something that many narcissists lack – self-awareness.
For more information click here to visit Dr. Burgo’s website.