Q: Do you suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

Does this describe you?

Does this describe you?

Client’s visiting Psychiatrists, Counselors, Psychotherapists and Executive Coaches present with a wide range of issues. Some of this is simple (“My new boss is a jerk” or “I’m not happy going bald at this age”) and straightforward to deal with. Other mental health issues are relatively easy to diagnose e.g. depression caused by a recent bereavement or loss. But, sometimes, the diagnosis is more complex  and the fix is neither straightforward nor guaranteed (e.g. addiction or obsessive/compulsive disorder are both difficult conditions to work through). The professional sitting in the consulting room, waiting on that knock at the door, has no advance knowledge of the issues that will drive the conversation.

Anxiety Provoking: The wide range of presenting issues, the difficulty of untangling these (while maintaining ‘unconditional positive regard’) and the pressure to discover a way forward all provoke anxiety within the professional.   While there are many different approaches deployed, there are some commonalities. Generally speaking, the professional comes to a view about what’s happening for the client and what needs to be done to move the needle forward. It follows that the typical journey, is a movement from an initial fogginess to a period of greater clarity (for both parties).

Speed Consulting: For the purpose of our discussion, let’s assume that you are a public patient – seeing a Psychiatrist after an 18-month wait to get in the door (not untypical). After such a long queue, there’s pressure on the doctor to get to the root of the problem quickly and pressure emanating from the client to get relief from the symptoms. Both parties want to drill down to the core – fast. Now, on the basis that you can’t fix a problem you don’t understand, getting the diagnosis correct is hugely important. As a slight aside, some branches of mental healthcare, express a disdain for the term diagnosis arguing that this implies a  top-down [non-egalitarian] relationship; they see themselves involved in a joint problem-solving activity with the client. Leaving aside the niceties around how the process is labeled, how is a diagnosis actually completed? To help the professional feel secure that they have made a correct diagnosis – help is at hand.

DSM-5: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5 for short – it’s the 5th version) is the product of years of effort by hundreds of international experts in all aspects of mental health. This authoritative volume defines and classifies mental disorders. It has 3 Goals: (1) better diagnosis (2) improved treatment and (3) eliciting areas for further research. So, in trying to make (sometimes speedy) assessments – professionals don’t have to rely solely on their own experience. They have access to this publication which details the typical ‘symptoms’ and the suggested treatment regime for a wide range of mental health conditions. It’s invaluable. The DSM-5,  packages this complex information into an easily digestible format and it makes interesting reading.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder: One of the conditions, labeled Narcissistic Personality Disorder, may be of particular interest to ‘Donald Trump Watchers’. Here’s how the condition is described: Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

Put down that phone immediately! You don’t have to book a flight to the USA to experience this first hand. Over the past 20 years, I’ve come across Irish people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder on 3 or 4 occasions (both men and women). It’s a particularly difficult condition to work with – not least because the person with the condition is (normally) in complete De-nial that anything is wrong! (that’s not the longest river in Africa).  If a client presents with this condition and they don’t like me/my message, I’m toast. If I don’t like them (realistically, if I don’t feel I can add any value) I walk. So, no big deal. But, if your boss has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder and you have 2.2 kids, 3 budgies and a fire-breathing bank manager who monitors your mortgage repayments – that’s one horrible space to inhabit.

Newt Gingrich: Hopefully I’ve lulled you into reading this far – because I’m really bursting to make one rather simple, but elegant point. In a recent interview, Newt Gingrich (American politician from Georgia: 50th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives) commented on the impact of Donald Trump on the USA political stage. The interviewer played all of the usual cards e.g. misogyny, bullying, ‘alternative facts’ (AKA lies), instructing the ‘free press’ to publish particular arguments and so on. Gingrich listened attentively while all of the charges were leveled against President Trump. His answer: The USA president needs to deliver 2 things (1) ensure that no acts of terrorism are committed on American soil (2) create jobs. He then said: “Everything else is noise.”

Now, whether you love or hate this particular analysis (and, I’m no apologist for Donald) there’s some wonderful managerialism at play here. As executives, we each have key deliverables – a small number of things we need to ‘get over the line.’ Everything else is noise. In doing your own job (which may not include leadership of the free world) don’t get distracted by ‘noise’. Staying focused is the central executive challenge. Regardless of your personality (extrovert, introvert or even Narcissistic), you are paid to make a small number of changes happen. That’s it.

Now that all those extraneous burdens have been removed – have a great week.


Saving Goodbye:  Dr. Sean Brophy recently passed away. Sean was a graduate of the National College of Ireland (then known as the College of Industrial Relations) in Renelagh and went on to specialise in Personal Construct Psychology – where he developed an incredible depth of expertise. According to his friend, Tony Brady, Sean was a perfect example of squeezing the last drop out of life by living in the now. He had a great phrase: “In life pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.” Sean never suffered. Intelligent. Authentic.  Empathic.  Ireland has lost a brilliant executive coach.

Competitor Offering: Dr. Corina Grace is running a Focused Leadership programme – on Lambay Island, off the coast of Dublin.  The retreat, co-facilitated with Chris Blakeley, will be held in May and October this year. The design for the sessions looks great.  Corina can be contacted on 353-86-8049789 (www.graceconsulting.ie)

PS Lighter Notes:

Q: How many narcissists does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: Just one – to hold the bulb, while the world revolves around him!

On a bumper sticker: “Only You Can Prevent Narcissism” (think about that one!)

There are two letter ‘I’s in the word ‘Narcissist’, and they both freaking hate each other!

Check our website http://www.tandemconsulting.ie or call 087 2439019 for an informal discussion about executive or organization development.


About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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