Narcissism through a self-regulation lens : a critical review
Recent approaches to narcissism focus on the ability to regulate one’s own selfesteem. The DSM-5 links the typical features of narcissistic personality disorder to selfregulation by explaining how narcissism, due to a variable and vulnerable self-esteem, is characterised by self-regulation attempts through attention and approval seeking, and either overt or covert grandiosity. A self-regulation perspective can therefore lend itself as a valuable avenue to understanding the functioning of narcissistic individuals. While a great deal of work has been done to understand narcissism, it has not been extensively described from a self-regulation perspective. In addition, there seems to be a relative lack of recent advances in dedicated model development on narcissism from a selfregulation perspective. A large body of research exists; however, studies are often focused on specific mechanisms or components of self-regulation only, not including a comprehensive view of self-regulation as a process, and often not forming part of the studies’ main focus. The aim of this study is therefore to critically review and synthesize existing scientific literature on narcissism from a self-regulation perspective and based on the review propose a hypothetical model for the self-regulation mechanisms associated with narcissism. A critical review was done to synthesize the findings and subsequently propose a hypothetical model of narcissism from a self-regulation perspective. The search initially yielded 238 studies which were then independently scrutinized by both authors to remove duplications and to check for relevancy and scientific quality. Through a thematic analysis, eight themes were identified from the final 31 studies. Results showed that narcissists are strongly biased toward certain goals which they pursue in a rigid manner. Narcissistic selfregulation was found to be maladaptive due to poor mentalisation abilities, emotional dysregulation, automatic responding, and their tendency to make inappropriate adjustments following feedback. Self-control emerged as a possible moderating factor in narcissistic self- regulation as narcissists may well be capable of self-control, use low self-control because of diminished conflict over personal desires or, interestingly, a power strategy. The results also provided strong evidence for different self-regulation strategies: grandiose narcissists were found to be more promotion focused while vulnerable narcissists maintain their self-esteem through social approval. Grandiose narcissists were found to respond to threat by repression which affords them more positive outcomes. In contrast, vulnerable narcissists were found to employ suppression, thereby remaining painfully aware of their perceived shortcomings and leading to negative intrapersonal outcomes. Based on the review findings, a hypothetical model for the self-regulation mechanisms associated with narcissism was proposed. The model is based on two major premises about its structure as well as six minor premises based on narcissism within each phase of self-regulation. Limitations were indicated and finally, recommendations were made for future research.
- Health Sciences