Knowing the Narcissist : The Expectation of Recognition
“Do you know who I am?”
A sentence often issued by the floundering Z-list celebrity who is trying to cross the velvet rope and be admitted to a special event or the VIP area of a club or restaurant. The demand to be recognised so that special treatment is afforded and it is expected as of right. This is a sentence which may as well be playing on a loop through our minds, each day and every day, because no matter what situation we are in, who we are with and where we find ourselves we expect to be recognised. It is not the recognition of our name, putting the name to the face and understanding who we are in that sense. It is the appreciation of our standing as special and important individual. A person who is better than you, better than him or her or them. This desire to always be recognised for how remarkable we are, that our treatment should always be preferential to that of anyone else is something that is always with us.
When we rise in the morning and we open our eyes, our gaze falling on your besides us, do you know who we are? Why are you not doing something which accords with my status? You ought to be awake. You should be attending to me, providing me with fuel as soon as my eyes open. Why are you not doing this? Do you not understand how important I am? Make me feel important? A slight push on your shoulder and you mumble. Another gentle push and your eyes open and as your vision comes into focus you see us looking at you and generous soul that you are you smile, your eyes brighten and you place a hand on our arm. The first fuelled flames of the day begin to rise as you have recognised how important we are.
Over breakfast we demand that you know who we are? Our favourite food ought to be ready. Oh good, you have done so. It is clear how much you think of us to ensure that our desired cereal or fried breakfast is ready and waiting for us. You have recognised our need and through this gesture you have reinforced our importance. Of course there will be no thanks given to you automatically. Why should we do so? After all, this is what is expected of you.
Through word, gesture and deed you are expected to recognise our brilliance throughout the day. This is crucial to our existence. In our minds a fanfare plays as we walk down the stairs. The children line up to pay homage to the kind as he sweeps into the kitchen. Even the dog should sit obediently and recognise that a prince amongst men has entered the room.
We feel magnanimous, already fuelled by your first gesture and the receipt of several praising messages on our secreted phone which we checked as we busied ourselves in the bathroom. We pat the children on the head and give you a kiss on the cheek. See how generous we are? How fortunate are you to be the recipients of such spending golden glory. Do you know how many people want to look upon us, to reach out and touch us, their trembling fingers brushing against our clothing and skin. Do you know who we are?
As we exit the house and see a neighbour we expect recognition but there is none forthcoming. Rather than regard this as an oversight, the neighbour was looking at his roses rather than at us, we are irritated by this failure to recognise us and there is the slightest of wounds caused by this criticism. The first knot of fury unloosens and we are about to call out across the street to gain his attention and ensure that due homage is paid to us when our mobile ‘phone rings and we see it is a friend, a member of the inner circle who is calling. Our expectation of further recognition rises with this telephone call and it does not disappoint.
In our world we are the monarch striding through his kingdom, making his Grand Progress. We process and expect all around to bow, to curtsey, to doff caps and tug forelocks in a demonstration of fealty and worship. The lesser of our kind are not aware of this need like we greaters. The lesser cannot bear to suffer being ignored, not made to feel special or noticed. They do not know this is what they cannot bear, they just know the restlessness, the irritation and then the fury as the criticism mounts.
They see nothing wrong in banging their cutlery on the table to gain attention. Should you ever challenge that behaviour and point out that they are attention-seeking, they lose sight of the issue being pointed our because your challenge in itself is a failure to recognise the lesser’s elevated status and all talk of attention-seeking will be lost as he or she lashes out at you in order to achieve fuel from you.
The mid-range of our kind and especially the greater know that we want to be recognised, we know that the irritation and then the fury comes from the failure to pay heed to how special we are. It need not be anybody telling us as such, it need only be an appreciate nod of recognition or a warm-natured “hello” but to us that equates to recognition of our elevated status. Of course, should our achievements and accomplishments be lauded as they ought to, then this is even better.
In our world homage must be paid by all those we come into contact with and repeatedly by those who are closest to us. A failure to do so, however slight, will result in the issuing of a criticism against us. The outcome is the ignition of our fury with us lashing out, doling out a silent treatment or withdrawing.
This is why you can be sat in a beautiful field on a sunny day, having enjoyed a walk by the river and now a picnic and all of a sudden a barbed comment comes out of nowhere. You do not understand where it has come from but it is likely to have been the fact that you offered the butter to somebody before us and in turn failed to recognise us. I know you regard such behaviour as petty, but that is all it takes for the irritation to manifest. It can easily be assuaged by the prompt application of fuel rather than annoying us further by asking where on earth did that come from and challenging us further.
I know you will regard such a state of affairs as ridiculous, I have heard it many times, but that is the way we have been created and of course, even though we never tell you what it is, we expect you to recognise it.