Personality disorders

We have suggested above that individuals' sense of happiness conflates across a number of domains of their life (self, others, and self plus others) and across higherorder and lower-order goals within those domains. We have also discussed, albeit briefly, Averill's suggestion that, for most of us, even in supposedly individualistic societies, there is an investment weighting towards the shared domain of self and others—at the end of the day, we are all essentially social beings. Within this framework, individuals whose sense of happiness is a result of overinvestment in the self domain might be thought of as struggling with "disordered happiness".

We all know individuals whom we consider to be arrogant, selfish, self-absorbed or insensitive to the needs of others. However, these patterns can also be found in the diagnostic profiles of a number of the so-called personality disorders (APA 1994; Livesley, 2001). For example, the criteria for antisocial personality disorder include something like the following: a failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviour; deceitfulness; reckless disregard for the safety of others; consistent irresponsibility; and lack of remorse as indicated by being indifferent to the concerns of others (see Blair, et al., 2005):

Jack was a builders' labourer and married with two children. As a child he had been fostered after he was repeatedly beaten by his natural father. Jack had a childhood history of conduct disorder and behavioural problems and he started small-scale criminal activities at the age of 14. He had served two prison sentences for robbery and violent assault. Jack reluctantly entered therapy after an incident in which he had assaulted his wife and felt like he was going to kill her. Jack regarded his irritability and anger control problems as the things he would most like to change. However, he showed little motivation as it was his wife who had insisted that he come for help and he was only doing it to "shut her up". Jack was a heavy drinker and had used illicit drugs in the past.

It seems that through his development Jack had not internalised the need to facilitate the fulfilment of others' goals and needs. All that was important to Jack was his own goals and wants. This led to a lifestyle in which his disregard for others led him into trouble and eventually into therapy.

The psychiatric criteria for so-called narcissistic personality disorder include symptoms such as an unwillingness to recognise or identify with the feelings or needs of others and the expression of arrogant, haughty behaviours or attitudes (e.g., Livesley, 2001):

Angela was a successful journalist. She wrote a regular weekly column for a major national newspaper and did a lot of lucrative freelance work. Angela believed that this was no less than she deserved as she was different—more talented, more special, more enthralling than anyone she knew. Angela was very engaging on first meeting; she came over as thoughtful and understanding and people used to seek her company again. After a while, however, the facade seemed to crack and people began to feel manipulated by Angela. At work she had a reputation for absorbing other people's ideas and making them her own. She had a talent for understanding how the world of journalism worked and this brought her considerable success; however, she was generally regarded as having little creative ability. Angela herself would never have tolerated such criticism. It was her view that she enhanced the lives of those around her and the slightest sign of criticism used to lead her to cruel and vicious acts of revenge. Yes, she would agree that she did take advantage of people but, if they were stupid enough to let her, then what was the problem? Angela knew that one day she would be famous and would leave such petty individuals behind.

Again, as with the case of Jack, Angela seems to show scant regard for the goals and needs of others. She is entirely invested in goals in the self domain. Unlike Jack, who seems unaware of others' needs, Angela seems all too aware, but she simply feels that her needs are far more important.

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