The connection between narcissism and control represents one of the diagnostic tools used by psychologists to define the personality disorder. People suffering from narcissism might attempt to control others to enhance their own sense of power and entitlement. Narcissism and control relate to an image of feeling special and the tendency to devalue others to feed the narcissist’s sense of self-worth. Controlling others might also stem from a lack of empathy, a trait commonly seen in people with narcissism characteristics.
Narcissism is one of 10 recognized personality disorders, formally identified by psychologists in 1980. They defined nine traits exhibited by narcissists and determined patients meeting five of those characteristics might suffer from the personality disorder. A grandiose sense of self unsupported by actual achievement is generally considered a main factor in identifying narcissism and tendencies to control. Narcissists typically believe they deserve special recognition for their superior talent or intelligence, giving them the right to exploit, demean, and use others.
In intimate relationships, narcissism and control might be exhibited in the narcissist’s attempt to determine a partner’s choice of friends or how a loved one dresses. The narcissist might become jealous or possessive and resort to aggressive behavior to exert control. He or she might resent a partner who does not focus constant attention on the narcissist or defer to his or her desires.
Narcissists commonly boast about perceived abilities and attempt to explain away any failures. For example, a narcissist who cannot hold a job might blame coworkers for failing to recognize his or her special talents. A person with the disorder usually envisions power and success, despite an inability to get along with colleagues in the workplace. The narcissist might seek out people with status who can appreciate his or her unique capabilities.
The relationship between narcissism and control might make it difficult to treat the disorder. The narcissist often believes a therapist does not measure up in intelligence or fails to recognize his or her specialness. He or she might try to manipulate a therapist to elicit praise and attention. This could inhibit the bond between patient and therapist, considered important to successful therapy.
Mental health experts generally agree narcissism personality disorder stems from unresolved anger in childhood. Children who receive mixed messages regarding aggressive and assertive behavior might become fixated on a sense of self, some experts believe. This preoccupation with ego might carry on into adulthood, creating an unnatural need for praise and recognition. Some people showing narcissism and control tendencies might also show signs of other mental illnesses, including antisocial, borderline, and histrionic personality disorders.