Control Issues and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Before discussing narcissistic personality disorder and control issues, it helps to briefly summarize personality disorders. When a person requires such control and orderly conditions that it impairs their ability to behave appropriately with others, then a personality disorder is probably the cause. Such individuals are so rigid and inflexible in their perceptions, reactions and relationships with people and events that they are socially impaired.

Personality disorders manifest in behavior that can be either “eccentric”, erratic, inhibited or over dramatic. The thinking behavior of individuals with personality disorders is wrong, and even repeated bad consequences are not enough to cause the person to change their way of thinking.

A person with a personality disorder is either rigid, inappropriate or inflexible, and will repeatedly make the wrong choices, even when the consequences escalate to dire proportions.

In relating to control issues, the simple explanation of why a narcissist or other person would be in such a state is that they simply cannot comprehend or “get” that their actions and behavior are inappropriate or are not working. A person who does not “get it” still seeks to control others in ways that force people to accommodate their needs.

There are Cluster A, B, and C personality disorders, and those that are classified as “other”. Cluster B covers the dramatic and erratic personality disorders, which include histrionic, borderline, antisocial and narcissistic disorder.

Narcissistic personality disorder has three main components: a sense of superiority, a need for admiration and a lack of empathy. They have grandiosity, or an inflated sense of their worth, importance or value. Their needs come first and there is expectation that others will meet their needs without requiring them to wait. The complaints about their behavior include the terms self-centered, arrogant and selfish.

The narcissist seeks to meet their needs by the exploitation of others. Exploitation is made possible by using controlling behaviors and mechanisms. Spouses and children can be controlled by isolating them from others who might step in to correct the narcissist. All of the control mechanisms that are used by abusive personalities are available to the narcissist.

Some circles of family, friends and society may see a charming and great person, while others may know the difficult nature of the individual. The compartmentalizing method of control is insidious as the narcissist will exploit people’s resistance to “badmouthing” a “good” person outside of the social circle or at public events. As a result of emotional intimidation that prevents people from speaking up, new or unknowing individuals are on their own when dealing with a narcissist.

Narcissists who control spouses, close friends, or children can fake just enough of being “good” that affection is held. In cases of essential others, such as colleagues, superiors, the public, or those who do not know them well, the narcissist may hide or control their worst behaviors, playing the role of a great person.

 In other compartments, narcissists can maintain a “rolling” set of short term and long term individuals, some of whom eventually reject the narcissist, while new people do not know the person well enough to come to a conclusion. In this “rolling” way, there are always plenty of people who are being worked on until the controlling and self serving behavior becomes intolerable.

Other controlling mechanisms include verbal control by either dominating conversations so that nothing negative can be said; adamantly refusing to acknowledge what others are saying; aggressively attacking anything that they do not agree with; or by “redefining reality” by aggressively and stubbornly insisting that their version is the only real truth of a matter.

Controlling through manipulation, easily experienced temper episodes, or by working for sympathy for the depression that they easily feel is also a tool for the narcissist in controlling others. While they have no empathy for the suffering of others, narcissists can be overwhelming in their demands for support and attention to their own suffering.

While some narcissists are not highly accomplished, most are high achievers, making their status, positions, accomplishments, and achievements very powerful tools for controlling others who have no choice but to tolerate their behavior.

Another tool of the high achiever is “controlling by snobbishness”, with the best behavior reserved for those who the narcissist believes are worthy and the worst behavior reserved by the “unworthy”. Pushing and reinforcing feelings of unworthiness onto others in order to justify bad behavior is a very effective control mechanism.

In summary, just about any controlling mechanism is available to the narcissist, who may also have other personality, impulse control and psychiatric disorders.