Why Is It Always About You?: The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism

Why Is It Always About You?: The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism


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Why Is It Always About You?: The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism by Sandy Hotchkiss

In this groundbreaking book — the first popular book on narcissism in more than a decade — clinical social worker and psychotherapist Sandy Hotchkiss shows you how to cope with controlling, egotistical people who are incapable of the fundamental give-and-take that sustains healthy relationships. Exploring how individuals come to have this shortcoming, why you get drawn into their perilous orbit, and what you can do to break free, Hotchkiss describes the "Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism" and their origins. You will learn to recognize these hallmarks of unhealthy narcissism — Shamelessness, Magical Thinking, Arrogance, Envy, Entitlement, Exploitation, Bad Boundaries — and to understand the roles that parenting and culture play in their creation.
Whether the narcissist in question is a coworker, spouse, parent, or child, Why Is It Always About You? provides abundant practical advice for anyone struggling to break narcissism's insidious spread to the next generation, and for anyone who encounters narcissists in everyday life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743214285
Publisher: Free Press
Publication date: 08/07/2003
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 114,543
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.43(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

A prominent psychiatrist, James F. Masterson was born in Pennsylvania and educated at the University of Notre Dame and Jefferson Medical College. As a psychiatrist, Masterson became an authority on the treatment of personality disorders. He founded the Masterson Institute for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in 1977 and he wrote seven influential texts during his career. He died in 2010.

Read an Excerpt

Why Is It Always About You?

The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism
By Sandy Hotchkiss

Free Press

Copyright © 2002 Sandy Hotchkiss
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7432-1428-5

Chapter One


Stephanie felt the ball leave her racquet cleanly and watched it sail deep into the back court, just inside the baseline. The focus of her attention was split between the path of the ball and her own body mechanics. "Watch the ball," she told herself, "get sideways, hit through, finish up." Forehand after forehand, she repeated her silent mantra until the rhythm of the drill overtook her conscious efforts at control. For a few precious moments, she was in that "zone" that athletes cherish when everything comes together and there are no mistakes.

She was smiling secretly, enjoying a licit high, wondering if her husband, Doug, had also noticed how well she was hitting today, when a heavily underspun return angled into her backhand. She lunged, stabbed, and caught the ball on her racquet rim, sending it flying out of the court. "You never read that spin," Doug scolded from the far court. "Never," Stephanie echoed, suddenly feeling as though she had just blown an internal tire. Pain washed over her and settled in the middle of her chest. She felt too heavy to move her feet, too awkward to connect the racquet at the end of her arm with the small neon projectile hurtling toward her."I'll never be any good at this game," she thought miserably, smashing the next three balls into the net. The elation of only moments before had evaporated, replaced by a hopeless feeling of ineptitude. Stephanie swallowed the tears rising in her throat and gave herself a mental kick in the backside. "You're such a baby," she muttered to herself as she prepared to pack up and go home. "You wimping out on me again?" Doug called out. He was only teasing, trying to goad her back into the drill, but his words were like salt on a fresh abrasion. There would be no more tennis this day.

Boy, is she touchy, you may be thinking, and you would be right. In my business, we call this a "narcissistic injury," and as trivial as the things that provoke it may seem to an observer, to the injured party, the pain is devastating, as it was for Stephanie in this instance. What seems like a rather mundane occurrence is actually the reopening of a very old wound: a relationship of trust is disrupted by a "misattuned" communication (his criticism colliding with her joy) and, adding insult to injury, Stephanie's trusted husband failed to help make the pain go away. Stephanie's sensitivity, her sudden collapse from a state of pleasure, and her difficulty recovering her emotional balance all point to a very primitive sequence of experiences encoded deep within her psyche, most likely beyond the reach of her conscious memory. It is her hard drive for the emotion of shame.

Shame is among the most unbearable of human feelings, regardless of our age or station in life. Unlike guilt, it speaks not to the misdeed but to the misery of a pervasive personal flaw. We first experience shame in the eyes of our mother or primary attachment figure, when, starting around the age of one, we bring her (usually) our excitement and, instead of sharing our pleasure, she scowls and says, "No!" Her unexpected disapproval shatters the illusion of power and importance that is how we see ourselves at that early age, derived from our union with her. Without warning, we have been ejected from this paradise, and it can only be because we are bad. We feel bad, therefore we are bad.

For some children, this experience, repeated over and over in the course of socialization, is so crushing that they never quite get over it, and they spend their lives avoiding anything that makes them feel ashamed. Recent research in neurobiology has shown that the developing brain is not yet ready to process the intense experience of shame at the age when socialization begins and that the lack of an emotionally attuned parent at this crucial time can actually stunt - for life - the growth of the pathways for regulating such profoundly unpleasant emotions. What helps the infant's brain develop properly is for parents to provide what the young brain is not yet able to, the soothing of the very shame they have inflicted.

Catherine is the mother of a vivacious two-year-old who is the apple of her family's eye. When Janey had to share her mother's attention with a visiting infant one day, she expressed her indignance by hitting the baby. Catherine was horrified and scolded her daughter, then sent her to her room in tears of shame. Catherine felt compassion for her daughter, however, and did not let her sit with the humiliation too long. After a few moments, she went to her and said, "It was bad to hit the baby, and you must never do that again. But you are a good girl, and Mommy loves you. Now, let's go say 'I'm sorry' to Betsy," and then she gave her a hug. Together, they returned to the living room and Catherine helped Janey apologize.

When parents do not respond as Catherine did to soothe the shame they inflict, children develop their own means of compensating - they wall off the intolerable feeling, and they use fantasy to distance themselves from the monster behind the wall. They cling to notions of themselves as special, powerful, or important.

In the Narcissist, shame is so intolerable that the means have been developed not to experience it at all. What psychologists call "bypassed shame" looks like shamelessness or the absence of a conscience, hiding behind a protective barrier of denial, coldness, blame, or rage. Since there are no healthy internal mechanisms available to process this painful feeling, the shame is directed outward, away from the Self. It can never be "my fault."

I recall one young woman I worked with from her late teens until her mid-twenties. A child of divorce who had been alternately pampered and ignored by her self-centered father, she struggled mightily with chronic feelings of low self-worth. She saw herself as stupid and repeatedly acted out her sense of incompetence. These feelings, however, and the shame that accompanied them, were close to the surface compared with the humiliation she felt at having been rejected and abandoned by her father. The depth of that pain was to be dramatically expressed one day shortly after she learned that he had been diagnosed with cancer. "Just in time for my wedding," she said, her mouth contorting in an ugly sneer. "He's never paid for anything in my life." The specter of his possible death - the ultimate abandonment - had pushed her past the shame of inadequacy to a state of congealed rage. She showed not even a hint of embarrassment at the coldness of her outburst, only raw, wounded contempt.

More typically, the shamelessness of the Narcissist comes across as cool indifference or even amorality. We sense that these people are emotionally shallow, and we may think of them as thick-skinned, sure of themselves, and aloof. Then, all of a sudden, they may surprise us by reacting to some minor incident or social slight. When shaming sneaks past the barriers, these "shameless" ones are unmasked for what they really are - supremely shame-sensitive. That is when you will see a flash of hurt, usually followed by rage and blame. When the stink of shame has penetrated their walls, they fumigate with a vengeance.

Shame is the feeling that lurks beneath all unhealthy narcissism, and the inability to process shame in healthy ways - to face it, neutralize it, and move on as healthier individuals do - leads to the characteristic postures, attitudes, and behavior of the Narcissist.


Excerpted from Why Is It Always About You? by Sandy Hotchkiss Copyright © 2002 by Sandy Hotchkiss. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents




Introduction: They're Everywhere

Part I: The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism

  1. Shamelessness

  2. Magical Thinking

  3. Arrogance

  4. Envy

  5. Entitlement

  6. Exploitation

  7. Bad Boundaries

Part II: Where Does Narcissism Come From?

  1. Childhood Narcissism and the Birth of "Me"

  2. The Narcissistic Parent

Part III: Defending Your Self: Survival Strategies for a Narcissistic World

  1. Strategy One: Know Yourself

  2. Strategy Two: Embrace Reality

  3. Strategy Three: Set Boundaries

  4. Strategy Four: Cultivate Reciprocal Relationships

Part IV: "Special People": The Narcissists in Your Life

  1. Adolescent Narcissism: What's Normal, What Isn't

  2. Narcissists in Love: The Fusion Delusion

  3. Narcissists at Work: The Abuse of Power

  4. Narcissism and Aging: The Mirror Cracks

Part V: Only You Can Prevent Narcissism

  1. The Narcissistic Society

  2. Becoming Better Parents


Suggested Readings


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Why Is It Always About You?: The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This may not be the most in depth writing on the subject but, for those of you like me who know in your heart that there is something wrong with someone in your life, this book can be a real eye opener, give voice to what you know is there, and set you on a road to recovery. Highly recommend. Ms. Hotchkiss doesn't necessarily offer any new information about the origins of narcissism but she does a fascinating job of portraying the disorder and the types of behaviors associated with this 'malady.' According to Ms. Hotchkiss, narcissists morph their personalities to suppress their internal negativity and by so doing, lose all perspective of reality. This plus the constant need for adoration and affirmation requires the personality morphing to achieve the adulation they seek. Narcissism derives its origin from a youth in classical Greek Mythology, Narcissus. The story goes that one day Narcissus saw his reflection in a pool of water and immediately fell in love with his image. From that very moment, he began to see everything as it related to his own image. The world was his looking glass and his insatiable appetite for himself took him all over the globe, and he was invariably pleased with what he saw. He left in his path a troubling wake which slipped like a fever through the people who saw him.     
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book. Hotchkiss has done a humanitarian service for our society. They're all here: Wife batterers, shallow people, liars, self-absorbed, cheating spouses...and narcissistic parents. I love her final section, 'Only You Can Stop Narcissism.' N's get under your skin. They use you--you get their anger projected onto you and, since they are too ashamed to blow up, you end up blowing up. That's what happened to me, twice, with two individual N's. I had to read this book to work through what happened to me. Do you know people who never ask about your life but talk on and on about themselves? Get this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you have a narcissist in your life, you need this book!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Balanced and thoughtful read
Gin-e_ More than 1 year ago
This book is exceedingly helpful in sorting out what is actually happening when one is in a relationship with a narcissistic personality. Included are practical, concrete ways to set limits with such a person in a way that is reasonable and leaves both parties unscathed. Absolutely essential for anyone; as these difficult personalities abound.
Tissimo More than 1 year ago
This book helped me understand several members of my primary and extended family, and people in general. The author nails the behaviors of the narcissist, explaining in clear terms how they operate and what you can do to deal with this difficult personality type. She also describes the narcissist under different conditions or stages, such as adolescence, aging, at work, etc. Very helpful book - I have shared it with or given it to many people who are grateful to learn that the problem is with the narcissist not with them!
Jtcater More than 1 year ago
I was dropped on a dime by a narcissist in 2001. It really messed with my mind until I found this book. She showed me everything that happened to me and why I was rejected without reason. I've bought this book so many times and friends never seem to give it back! But that's okay. I'm just glad to have found it. She truly saved my sanity from a spiral that made no sense. I'm just glad I could help so many of my friends and acquaintances over the years with her words. Even if you do not think you know one, everyone should read this insightful book. It will serve as a guide for forming all types of relationships for decades to come. As a framework, what I learned is that the narcissist never evolved emotionally from the age of a three year old child. This happened basically because as a child they were never given discipline to shape boundaries. As an adult, they only understand their own pain and know nothing of yours. They come into your life in a fairytale way, but once you fail to stroke their fragile ego, they drop you on a dime. They need desperately to be liked by all. Also, they are masters of projecting all of the blame onto everyone but themselves. And finally, you cannot win with the narcissist. Don't even try. The best you can do is to treat them as ghost. They don't know how to defend their behavior under your neutral position. Sandy Hotchkiss saved my sanity. I hope she can save yours!
SunLoverAZ More than 1 year ago
This book not only clearly explains narcissistic personalities. It also explains WHY those of us who are prey to the narcissist's traps get caught, sometimes time and again. I've read one book on narcissism prior to this author's book and still didn't "get" why they seemed to crop up in my life often. Now I finally get it. Now I am able to spot them and move out of their paths.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once your realize the ugly pattern, you will find it repeating in your life. Once you are free of it, your life and realtionships will change for the better. Thank you!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is very accessible for the lay reader. I've been reading a lot of books on verbal abuse and narcissism over the past few years, and this one is a great addition to my book shelf. I highly recommend it if you are in a situation where, when the person walks away, you think to yourself: Who the **** does he (she) think he is! This book gave me new insight into WHY my husband is the way he is, and how to respond in ways that are healthier for me.
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BruceWayne90016 More than 1 year ago
Wow! Not even mid-way through the book, I felt my nostrils open and gray clouds before my eyes begin to clear away! The crap we're faced with in American society alone seems to be more than reason enough for every household to purchase this book! Looking at the dating scene and family crap I've been faced with since childhood, this was one of the most important and most cherished books I've purchased. Thank You Sandy Hotchkiss! 5 Star Rating from Me!!!
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This book covered many things that I hadn't realized were negative traits in people from my past. It helped me understand why they were able to hurt me so much, and why I had just accepted it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Sandy first helped me to understand 'I married a Narcissist.' Sandy's book should be read by every person who believes they may have or are still enduring the crazy-making world of a narcissist. Although I personally believe all Narcissists morph from a set list of definable traits from which it would otherwise be easy to diagnosis the disorder - Sandy had the courage to write a book that spoke to the unlearned victim's in a way that can have you see the narcissist's actions with such simple clarity. Sandy's book lead me to recovery from a very mentally difficult marriage and love affair that left me questioning basic beliefs about myself. However, after reading Ms. Hotchkiss's book 'the first of many writings I have now read' she made this world of the unempathic so clear. I had so many revelations from her descriptions of a narcissist's actions that I was able to see that it was not me that was crazy but just the pawn in a crazy-making world of a narcissist.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The literature about narcissism is rich in scholarly, obstruse, discussions of psychodynamics, etiology, differential diagnoses and other unhelpful issues.It is poor in down-to-earth, practical, 'how to cope' manuals. This book contains a rudimentary overview of pathological narcissism and then proceeds to identify the traits and dysfunctional behaviors of the narcissist - replete with hundreds of examples from the author's mental health practice. It then proceeds to provide check lists,tips, and advice on how to cope with this destructive and perniciousphenomenon. Along needed and long missing work. Sam Vaknin, author of 'Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thorougly enjoyed reading about this book. It helped me understand my husband, his family, as well as about myself and my own. It seemed oddly accurate and I hope it will be as helpful in dealing with these relationships as I feel it will. I have recommended it to several friends and family.