My World Is The Only One That Matters.
We are all susceptible to pride, and once in a while this rather obnoxious trait will consciously, or by and large unconsciously, rear its ugly head. Most of us, however, learn to cope with it, understandably forgiving the recalcitrant, including ourselves, and are invariably tolerant when it sporadically appears. However, when self-centeredness becomes a pervasive pattern, it is always more noticeably recognized in others than in ourselves, it becomes repulsive and we tend to keep our distance from the individual. Tom was in his 50s, married, and the CEO of a very large multinational company. A cursory glance at him would have elicited some envy at his abilities and his wide and noteworthy network in the commercial world, but Tom was a very lonely person, with few that he could actually call his friends. Even his long-suffering wife was beginning to be turned off by his obsession with himself, his work and achievements, and his penchant for belittling others and putting them down, and his continuing list of broken relationships. Despite his success in the business world, he was estranged from his own family and colleagues. Admittedly, Tom was one of the few experts in this industry, who knew its workings thoroughly, and together with his legal background, he was a consistent and significant contributor in all the major international negotiations engaged in by his company.
In the church that Tom attended, it was excruciating to track his negativity towards those in authority whom he used to work with, in the various committees that he once eagerly participated years ago. Due to his narcissistic and arrogant tendencies, he was either asked to step down or volunteered to step aside from these commitments. The crunch came when he was told by his pastor to step down from his church’s governing board; it devastated him and he was on the cusp of leaving the church he grew up in. It was at this point that Tom, accompanied by his wife, Martha, presented for therapy.
Tom was a very reluctant client, he did not think that he had any problems to warrant counselling. Martha did all the talking while Tom instinctively contradicted her ever so often as he defended himself when she related his litany of self-absorption. Tom’s grandiose sense of self-importance and his deep need for admiration and apparent inability to empathize with those around him, including his wife, were not so pronounced until he was in his late 20s. Initially, the changes in Tom disconcerted Martha, who brushed them aside, until she received feedback from her good friends in the church, on Tom’s behaviour and attitudes in committee sessions. His unwillingness to consider others’ plans and ideas as better than his own pitted him against almost every committee member. Often, these tensions were exacerbated by Tom’s sense of entitlement, where he considered his ideas as superior and to be adopted without question, isolated him further. Tom defensively said that everyone was simply jealous of his accomplishments and intelligence on several occasions throughout the initial interview. Any slight disagreement or misunderstanding with him elicited a barrage of insults and talking down, often in full public view. At one point, Tom said that the idea of counselling was a mistake and waste of his precious time. Martha shot back immediately, “This is your last chance. If you refuse to collaborate with the counsellor and drop out of therapy, be prepared for my divorce papers from my lawyer!” Although I could not agree with Martha’s tactic, I was prepared to work with Tom with his willing consent. Nevertheless, Tom’s pompous attitude remained a challenging hurdle throughout our sessions as we grappled with his narcissistic personality issues.