No, Really — It’s All About Me: Egomaniacal Thinking

Disturbed characters often think they’re so smart, so clever, or so “special” that they can do what most others wouldn’t dream of trying and somehow get away with it. They see themselves as “legends in their own minds.”

My recent posts have addressed several of the erroneous or distorted ways that disordered characters tend to think, leading to problems in their relationships with others. Some recent examples:

Disordered characters also often think far too much of themselves. They might even think that they’re so smart, so clever, or so “special” that they can do what most others wouldn’t dream of trying and somehow get away with it. They tend to think of themselves as so important or superior that they deserve things others don’t deserve. This characteristic led Stanton Samenow to describe them as “legends in their own minds.” In prior posts, I’ve written about the inflated self-image of disordered characters and how it contrasts with the self-esteem problems usually experienced by neurotics (See “Neurosis vs. Character Disorder: Self-Image Issues” and “Neurosis vs. Character Disorder: Self-Image Issues, Part 2”.) Ego-inflation is one of the main reasons these characters engage in so much egomaniacal thinking.

Disturbed characters often regard it a testament to their greatness if they can use their wits or manipulative skill to take things as opposed to really earning them. In those cases, egomaniacal thinking combines with other erroneous thinking patterns and attitudes that predispose them toward behaviors that exploit and victimize others.

Their habitually erroneous ways of thinking about themselves and their pathologically grandiose sense of self-importance inevitably leads the disturbed character to develop attitudes of arrogance, superiority, and most especially, entitlement. In all my years working with character-disordered individuals, by far the most challenging issue needing focus in therapy involves their sense of entitlement. But this sense of entitlement cannot develop in the first place without a consistent, pervasive sense of superiority to “justify” such an attitude.

A big change in cultural norms has contributed in recent years to the reinforcement of egomaniacal thinking. It’s not uncommon for young persons to be bombarded with messages that they’re “special” simply because they have a heartbeat. That’s because well-meaning individuals, steeped in old-school psychology, thought it wasn’t possible for a person to have too much self-esteem and that everyone would be emotionally healthier if they got frequent messages of validation. But what these well-intentioned folks probably haven’t considered is that when we heap praises upon people for what they are as opposed to what they do, we do them a great disservice insofar as developing a healthy sense of self-worth is concerned.

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