The Young Narcissist

The Young Narcissist.

Jimmy was 20 years old and was on the Dean’s list in his university cohort. His opening remarks to me in our initial session were, “I don’t know why I am here, but my dean suggested that I find a psychologist to help me with my EQ. I see nothing wrong with my EQ. I have lots of friends and they all look up to me. I topped my class again in the last semester. I am a leader in my church, and my pastor always assigned me important projects to handle for him.” That was just a smattering of his accomplishments he rattled off for my benefit. With Jimmy’s consent, a call to his dean was in order, for me to gauge an objective independent opinion on Jimmy’s condition outside the counselling environment. Dr Soh was more than cooperative as we spoke about his experience with one of his star pupils.

Jimmy’s arrogance and complete lack of empathy with members of his tutorial group and lecturers were causing tensions in their interactions. Furthermore, his reluctance to take academic advice given to him by his seniors and lecturers, often vehemently arguing with them, as though he knew better, was breaching the limits of tolerance to many in the faculty. This demand to entitlement and desire to be in control and have everything his way, together with his lack of concern for other’s feelings, often escalated into temper tantrums, inconsiderate and abusive behaviour. Somehow, Jimmy was indifferent to the normal social expectations and conventions, considering himself above the rules in academia, even though he expected others should be punished when they violated those same social norms. This sense of inherently deserving privileges and special treatment enabled him to take what he wanted without feeling any guilt, often using his fellow students belongings without seeking their permission, and at times not returning them. When confronted with adverse circumstances, he would attempt to manipulate the situation so that he need not have to pay for the consequences. People around Jimmy were made to feel that they owed it to him as he thought himself to be exceptional or unique. However, whenever he accommodated someone, it would be his sense of superiority that made the other feel that he was being patronising. The reason Jimmy eventually decided to seek counselling was the result of some straight talking by his dean.

Jimmy’s family background as he had described them in subsequent sessions lacked appropriate household limits; that is, reasonable rules and consequences. He had an older sibling, but being the youngest, was left very much on his own, with next to no parental supervision or consistent caregiving. His closest friend was an ex-pat house help, and they had new helpers every two years, which meant sustaining an ongoing relationship with them in his younger days was impossible. With weak parenting, there was a high level of indulgence over Jimmy – he was given anything he wanted, whenever he wanted them, to keep him pacified. There were no house rules with him. In effect, being a smart kid, he learnt how to manipulate and control his parents from a young age. Frustration tolerance, impulse control and reciprocity were never taught, and although his older brother did some housework, he got away with it without any negative consequences. With such disciplinary deprivation in his upbringing, it is no wonder that his sense of entitlement and how he interacted with his peers and others tended to be narcissistic. He proved to be a difficult client, imprisoned by his own self-imposed worldview.