Narcissism (pathological) or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is quite different then a healthy self-esteem, self-image and self-interest. Narcissism is defined as an excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one’s physical appearance.
The Many Faces Of Narcissism
In psychology, the term narcissism is used widely and doesn’t have a precisely defined meaning.
The term ‘narcissist’ usually refers to someone who’s always in need of attention, praise, and validation from others.
Narcissism involves excessive vanity and a sense of entitlement. It has many faces and revolves around a person being extremely selfish, self-centered, lacking empathy, lacking a conscience, a constant need for admiration, and a marked incapability to handle any form of criticism.
The word ‘narcissism’ originates from Greek mythology. It is the story of Narcissus, a handsome young man who fell in love with his own reflection on a pool of water.
Ayurveda’s Take On Narcissism: Sattva, Rajas And Tamas
Ayurveda is a holistic system of medicine. It not only focuses on physical wellbeing but also mental, psychological and emotional wellbeing.
In Ayurveda, there is a concept called prakriti. Prakriti is basically one’s physical and mental constitution. It can also be understood as your baseline state of health.
Ayurveda categorizes every person’s body and mind under the three basic doshas – Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Ayurvedic texts also describe three basic mental traits, the mano gunas. Manas means mind and guna means traits or characteristics.
The three mano gunas are – sattva, rajas, and tamas. These three gunas have their own unique qualities.
Sattva guna is considered to be pure and flawless while Rajas and Tamas are not. Rajas and Tamas along with other mental traits or manasika gunas, are considered to be the mano doshas or morbid conditions of the mind.
Rajo guna represents action and passion. Tamo guna represents ignorance and inertia.
Sattva guna represents purity and knowledge in general. Rajo guna represents action and passion. Tamo guna represents ignorance and inertia. Rajo guna has a dominance of Vata dosha and Pitta dosha.
Rajo guna has six subtypes namely – aasura sattva, rakshasa sattva, paishcha sattva, sarpa sattva, preta sattva and shakuna sattva. The word ‘sattva‘ in this sentence, refers to the mind and not Sattva guna.
Aasura Sattva: The Qualities Of Narcissism
The qualities of aasura sattva are described here. These qualities can be compared with narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder to some extent.2
- Such people are very indulgent in maintaining his or her own reputation and self-image.
- These people only care about their own benefit.
- These people are very bold and courageous in general.
- They get angry very easily and are aggressive in nature.
- They are deceiving in nature and can harm others for their own benefit.
- They can be cruel and terrifying.
Ayurvedic Herbal Remedies + Bhuta Vidya: Ayurvedic Psychology
Ayurveda has a branch called bhuta vidya that is devoted to psychiatry and psychological problems. Besides bhuta vidya, Ayurvedic texts also mention a slew of herbs and remedies for mental and psychological problems.
Ayurvedic texts mention many herbs and spices that may benefit the psyche or mind. These are – Mandukaparni (Centella asiatica), yastimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra), guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), shankhapushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis), brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), jyotishmati (Celastrus paniculatus), kushmaand (Benincasa hispida) and vacha (Acorus calamus) and many more.
There are many Ayurvedic formulations as well that are beneficial for mental health including brahmi ghrita, kalyanaka ghrita, maha kalyanaka ghrita, siddharthaka ghrita, and others.
Narcissism And Ayurveda: Management Options For NPD
In general, the following therapies are possible Ayurvedic management options for someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
This term can be loosely translated to ‘divine therapy’. Historically it would involve chanting mantras, wearing sacred herbs, going on a pilgrimage, and other rituals. Today, this therapy can correlate to prayer, or encompassing a spiritual practice, belief system or faith.
This term can be correlated to the rational management of diseases which includes the use of aahara (diet) and aushadh (medicine). Under aahara, various foods are prescribed for various mental health issues.
Under aushadh, it is advised to do srotas shuddhi with the help of panchakarma or purification therapies. Srotas are channels and shuddhi means cleansing. Panchakarma helps in eliminating vitiated dosha(s) and cleansing channels.
After panchakarma or purification therapy, there are various Ayurvedic formulations available for various mental or psychiatric diseases. They are used in accordance with the symptoms being presented.
This term can be correlated to modern day psychotherapy. The aim of this therapy is to restrain the mind from the desire for unwholesome objects.
The best approach to achieving the goal of satwavajaya chikitsa is through knowledge, analytical thinking, courage, memory and concentration. Here, the mental disorders are countered by inducing the opposite reactions in order to neutralize the causative ones.
Besides these, yoga can also be helpful. Like Ayurveda, it is also helpful in managing psychiatric and mental problems.
Narcissism in Western Medicine
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has listed Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in it’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
NPD is considered to be a ‘rare’ condition that has a specific set of indications that are used for its diagnosis and management. NPD has no known causes.
This condition does not have any physical tests for diagnosis.
It is only diagnosed by qualified physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, or therapists who can monitor a person’s behavioral patterns.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-IV, NPD has been characterized as a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy, with interpersonal entitlement, exploitativeness, arrogance, and envy.
Other notable characteristics involve interpersonal distancing and avoidance, insecurity, vulnerability, hypersensitivity, aggressivity, and proneness to shame.1
Management of NPD in Western Medicine
The truth is, a narcissistic person or someone with a narcissistic personality disorder doesn’t usually seek counseling or treatment. Such people only look for help if forced by a loved one.
While there are no specific treatments available for this condition, its management generally revolves around psychotherapy and counseling. Transference-focused, metacognitive, and schema-focused therapies are among the contemporary management modalities.
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy and group therapy are also recommended for the management of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
If you or someone you know is dealing with a possible narcissist at your workplace or in your family, suggest they visit a psychiatrist or healthcare professional to seek proper advice. Do not try to diagnose or help in managing NPD by yourself. Seek the advice of a qualified mental healthcare professional. Always consult your Ayurvedic practitioner before recommending yoga or any of the aforementioned Ayurvedic therapies to someone with NPD.
- Ronningstam, Elsa and Arielle R Baskin-Sommers. “Fear and decision-making in narcissistic personality disorder-a link between psychoanalysis and neuroscience” Dialogues in clinical neuroscience vol. 15, 2 (2013): 191-201. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3811090/.
- Charak Samhita with Hindi commentary, Volume-1, Sharir Sathan, Chapter no.4, p.no. 737, by Aacharya Vidyadhar Shukla and Professor Ravidutt Tripathi, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan, 2017.