The dark triad consists of three negative personalities, which include Machiavellianism, subclinical psychopathy, and narcissism, as formulated by American psychologists. A narcissistic personality has for a long time been categorized as dark and portrayed as overly negative. It was mainly caused by a grandiose sense of computerization with excessive self-love, superiority and self-importance (Schalkwijk et al., 2021). Grandiose features seem to resemble psychopathy features. Vulnerable narcissism brings out different traits in a person, as it is characterized by high sensitivity to criticism, anxiety, and low self-esteem. A high sense of jealousy and self-love characterizes both grandiose and vulnerable narcists. However, the manifestation and motivation of the two types differ, as vulnerable narcists are motivated by their insecurities.
In contrast, grandiose narcists are motivated by their desire to gain power and control. Vulnerable narcissism is the primary type of narcissism, while grandiose narcissism has traditionally been considered a strong exhibition of psychopathy features (Freund et al., 2022, pp 2). Although traditionally, narcissism has been perceived as a dark trait; psychological theories point to a more complex phenomenon where both the positive and negative impacts of narcissism are considered. The paper will discuss the positive side of narcissism through the different theories, developmental mechanisms and research.
Narcissism cannot be categorized as a completely dark trait as it is characterized by a firm belief in oneself and relational superiority as described, which leads such people to success in different domains (Koepernik et al., 2021, pp 5). A person with grandiose narcissism ignores any negative image or criticism and embraces the positive images of themselves, which is a positive trait. They crave dominance and power. According to research, their sense of self-definition involves using people as an instrument of value. Once one is no longer helpful or fulfilling a function in the life of a narcist, they are devalued and discarded. This not only appears in grandiose but also vulnerable narcissism. Although grand narcists may tend to use violent and self-centred means to attain their desire for power and dominance, they manage to become dominant images in society through their focus on their success. Their high self-esteem and positive minds enhance their ability to easily climb up ladders of dominance in different fields such as politics and business. Research shows that people with grandiose narcissism possess exaggerated cognitive skills, making it easy to trust their decisions and make bold steps.
Narcissism is characterized by social interactions, which makes them charismatic and influential. Their persuasiveness, charm and excellent communication skills, boosted by their self-assurance and esteem, are positive traits. The results of research that was conducted to determine the similarity between the psychodynamic theories and the Alternative DSM-5 Model for Personality Disorders (AMPD) suggested that narcists are generally attention seekers (Schalkwijk et al., 2021). They make endless attempts to appear in the spotlight and become the focus. They desire to become role models ad figures of admiration. To attain these features, social interaction for them becomes an opportunity to shine above all others. They are eager to please and subconsciously appear in the spotlight. These qualities are positive as they can overlook the risks of attempting to start or do something. Their confidence, self-assurance and high esteem enable them to pursue ambitious goals and succeed in both professional professionally and socially attain opportunities in companies to occupy leadership positions or to become public speakers.
High self-esteem is a positive characteristic portrayed by narcists. The narcissistic, vulnerability and resilience model of narcist suggests that a grandiose self-image is developed to fight vulnerability to low self-esteem after being subjected to such feelings. According to research, both vulnerable narcists and grandiose narcists have high self-esteem. They are, however, affected differently by humiliation, shame, contempt and envy. The research found that grandiose narcissists were calmed by shame or humiliation, making them less aggressive (Schalkwijk et al., 2021). They, however, are not weakened or depressed by the feeling but become more ambitious. The same experience of shame and humiliation was different in the case of vulnerable narcists, where it triggers ambition. In both cases, shame and humiliation trigger the need to cope with the underlying feelings of low self-esteem. The feeling of entitlement in the two types of narcists helps them maintain their sense of self-worth and develop resilience to fight the underlying threat (Koepernik et al., 2021, pp 6). Another research conducted to determine the difference between the levels of self-esteem in grandiose and vulnerable narcists shows that both view their traits as more positive than the other. This means that their levels of self-esteem are equally high.
Narcissism can also be associated with creativity. According to narcissist leader theory, narcists possess traits conducive to high creativity (Freund et al., 2022, pp 2). Narcists are known to be confident, arrogant, unique in their decisions, attention-seeking, charming and highly likely to take risks. These traits are known to contribute to the dark side of narcissism but also contribute to its bright side. The research used a moderate mediation model to determine the relationship between narcissism and creativity. The results suggested that narcissist traits contribute to creativity. This is mainly because narcists stand with their decisions and are less likely to be swayed. Strong self-esteem helps them trust their ideas. Their confidence, charisma and risk-taking traits help them pursue their ambition without fear or second thought. They make great innovators as they think outside the box and pursue their ambitions.
Narcist traits are adaptive mechanisms that they use to cope with stressful situations and to enhance personal growth. Clinical theories of narcissism suggested by Kernberg and Kohut suggest that negative early childhood experiences bring about narcissism. According to Kohut, when a child lacks empathetic treatment from a parent, they develop a sense of narcissism to enhance a sense of self-esteem that the parents are failing to facilitate through association. On the other hand, Kernberg suggests that childhood narcissism develops as a defence against the cold treatment of parents or people around g the child (Freund et al., 2022, pp 3). The emotional hunger triggers rage and disregards the admiration of others leading to an inflated sense of self. On the outside, narcists are grandiose but are aware of their vulnerabilities on the inside. Research using the Narcissistic Personal, Inventory (NPI) model suggested that narcists’ positive self-perception is based on biased perceptions of their physical attractiveness, intelligence and accomplishments (Schalkwijk et al., 2021). For instance, narcissistic individuals in the research took greater credit for good outcomes than non-narcissistic even when it was evident that the outcomes occurred by chance. It is, therefore, evident that their high self-esteem is fragile and insecure. His is, however, a positive trait the narcists use their insecurities to build themselves and achieve their goals.
Most narcissistic traits may be useful for mental health. Researchers have recently conducted studies that suggest up to sixty-two per cent of individuals within a group have a sense of narcissism. While the vulnerable sense of narcist is more likely to be a defensive measure and grandiose, overemphasized sense of self-worth, the two manifest a sense of safety regarding assurance of mental health (Koepernik et al., 2021, pp 9). The two are less likely to experience depression since they have excellent resilience to stress. Although their trait of feeling less guilt or shame and being less empathetic is a known dark side of narcists, it is also important to acknowledge that the traits are also positive as they promote their mental health and their ability to thrive through socially toxic environments.
There exist different models used to assess individual differences in narcissism. Since narcissism has no specific traits, it is sometimes challenging to come up with a conclusion that is not biased. The most used models used are self-report measures which involve perception measures (Freund et al., 2022, pp 8). For instance, the (NPI) Narcissistic personality inventory is the most widely used. The method involves the assessment of grandiosity and entitlement by measuring the level of agreement of a participant with a statement. Another example is the Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Questionnaire (NARQ), which measures the rivalry and admiration of narcists.
Studies have been conducted to shed light on the bright side of narcist, as discussed above. However, researchers and theorists believe that the dark traits of narcissism cannot be overlooked or overshadowed. With the increasing knowledge of the types and manifestations of narcissism, endorsement of theories becomes easier and less confusing as light is shed on the relationship between the observable behaviour and underlying motives of narcissists. In this manner, it is possible no not completely regard narcissism as a completely dark trait but to consider both the positive and negative traits. It is also crucial as it helps us understand the source or season behind the behaviours of narcists and hence may help determine the best treatment methods for the disorder. In conclusion, I agree that narcissism has both a positive and a negative side and should, therefore, no longtailed as dark.
The self-report summative scale measuring my perception of self-esteem
- I am confident
- I love my physical appearance
- I am satisfied with my abilities and skills
- I have excellent communication skills.
- I acknowledge my failures
- I am always proud of my accomplishments
- I am always optimistic
- I am aware of my shortcomings
Freund, V. L., Peeters, F., Meesters, C., Geschwind, N., Lemmens, L. H., Bernstein, D. P., & Lobbestael, J. (2022). Narcissistic traits and compassion: Embracing oneself while devoiding others. Frontiers in Psychology, 13. Pp 1-13
Koepernik, T., Jauk, E., & Kanske, P. (2021). Lay theories of grandiose and vulnerable narcissism. Current Psychology, 1-14.
Schalkwijk, F., Luyten, P., Ingenhoven, T., & Dekker, J. (2021). Narcissistic personality disorder: Are psychodynamic theories and the alternative DSM-5 model for personality disorders finally going to meet? Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 676733.