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Key Traits of a Narcissist

What are the 3 Key Traits of a Narcissist?

Dr. Hawkins takes a step back and explains the basics for those who are just starting to discover the world of narcissism. He lays out the 3 key traits of a narcissist and the effects it has on a relationship, whether it’s a spouse, significant other, parent, family member, boss, co-worker, etc.

Here at the Marriage Recovery Center, we work a lot with high conflict couples in complete and utter despair and facing imminent divorce. It turns out, a great majority of these couples are dealing with a narcissistic partner and subsequent emotional abuse. This is why so many of our videos are focused on narcissism and emotional abuse.

We have over a decade of experience dealing specifically with this issue and have developed a unique treatment program to help individuals heal and recover.

What are the 3 Key Traits of a Narcissist?

There is a wealth of information available on the topic of narcissism, but it’s essential to continue shedding light on this complex personality trait. Understanding narcissism is crucial, especially for those who may find themselves impacted by it. In this article, we’ll delve into three key traits that define narcissism, as explained by Dr. David Hawkins from the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute.

Trait 1: Profound Selfishness with the Subsequent Abuse of Power and Control

At the core of narcissism lies profound selfishness. Narcissists are driven by an overwhelming focus on themselves, their desires, and their needs. However, it’s not just about self-centeredness; it’s about the abuse of power and control that accompanies it.

Narcissists, whether they appear in the form of friends, colleagues, partners, spouses, parents, or others, are so consumed by their self-absorption that they seek to overpower and dominate those around them. In this dynamic, they become larger, and you inevitably become smaller. This relationship dynamic can have profound implications on your well-being, as you’re bound to get hurt in the process.

Trait 2: Profound Inability to Tolerate Distress Leading to Crazy Making

Another significant trait of narcissism is the profound inability to tolerate distress. Every relationship encounters its fair share of conflict and stress, but narcissists struggle immensely to manage their emotional responses to these challenges. Instead of facing distress head-on, they tend to become defensive, argumentative, and resort to various defensive maneuvers like rationalization, justification, minimizing, and shifting blame.

This inability to handle distress leads to what Dr. Hawkins aptly calls “crazy making.” It’s a frustrating experience where the narcissistic individual avoids taking responsibility for their actions. They might say things like, “It’s not me; it’s you,” or offer half-hearted apologies like, “I’m sorry if that hurt you.” There’s a lack of genuine repair and emotional accountability, which can leave you feeling confused and invalidated.

Trait 3: Profound Emotional Immaturity and Subsequent Emotional Disconnection

The third primary trait associated with narcissism is profound emotional immaturity. Narcissists often exhibit emotional behaviors reminiscent of a young child. They are quick to have their feelings hurt, erupt in anger, withdraw abruptly, and display a range of immature reactions and responses.

This emotional immaturity results in emotional disconnection within relationships. When you’re involved with a profoundly immature individual, you may feel as if you’re navigating the emotional landscape alone. Your needs, feelings, and concerns become invisible, and you may find yourself without a voice in the relationship.


In summary, understanding narcissism involves recognizing three key traits:

  1. Profound Selfishness with Subsequent Abuse of Power and Control.
  2. Profound Inability to Tolerate Distress Leading to Crazy Making.
  3. Profound Emotional Immaturity and Subsequent Emotional Disconnection.

Recognizing these traits can help individuals better comprehend the dynamics of narcissistic relationships. In a follow-up article, we will explore what treatment for these qualities looks like and assess the hope for change in individuals with narcissistic tendencies. Stay tuned for more insights into dealing with narcissism and its effects on relationships.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: Are Narcissists Intentionally Cruel?

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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