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How to Understand and Distinguish Between
a HOT Narcissist and a COLD Narcissist

Selfishness occurs when someone assesses his own emotions as being always and everywhere more valid than the emotions of others — like a kid who wants the other kid’s toy — and takes it. Think of the charismatic yet often self-absorbed Neil Patrick Harris’ character in "How I Met Your Mother." In its extreme, this false sense of self-importance is narcissism. They feel superior to those around them, unique and special. Think of Sherlock Holmes or Miranda in "The Devil Wears Prada." As I describe the characteristics I would like you to think of fictional characters that exhibit the traits.

There are differences in narcissism. "HOT" narcissist’s brains function differently than other people. They have trouble regulating emotions so that their emotions may seem stronger and overwhelming to them, whether the emotion is anger, sadness, or happiness. For example, they may get mad or happy very quickly at seemingly insignificant incidents and be overly dramatic. They may be unable to understand the emotions or pain of others. In some cases, they have a need to make their emotions bigger and more important than another’s. They may feel they have the right to hurt anyone that insults or slights them. Think of Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" who after her lover leaves stalks him and when she is confronted says the famous line, "I’m not going to be ignored, Dan." True Narcissists crave attention. When they are NOT the center of attention, or don’t get the full attention of the person they want they may act out. Why?, because in fact, simply not being the one talking in a normal conversation can be terrifying to them, they may feel as if they are invisible or don’t exist. Research shows that without attention to make them real they may feel as if they have dropped into a void. Think of it this way. Other people are their mirrors that make them feel special and without them they are invisible.

"COLD" narcissists are just that. Their emotions are not that strong. They actually experience different brain chemistry. They may seem cold to us and feel and show very little emotion. Think of Sheldon in the "Big Bang Theory," Spock in ‘Star Trek" or "House." They may feel the need to search for a rush or high to feel something to feel anything. They lack self-control and in fact, their ability to inhibit actions is insufficient. They can say or do things that seem rude, insensitive or even cruel. Even when you point out their behavior they may be puzzled or discount your feeling. While a hot narcissist who craves attention may act extremely nice in order to gain adoration cold narcissists may not have the ability to act nice. Cold narcissists may seek other things to feel. To be alive. Since they do not feel emotions as strongly as most everyday people do, they may go after other things, such as money, power, drugs, or sex, in order to "feel" something. Think of the character in "American Psycho" or many bad guys in any recent super hero movie. In the hunt for the rush, they are unaware of their old self impression they don’t know how they Reallylook to others nor are they able to see how their actions or attitudes can affect the lives of others.

In the book, "Malignant Self-love" Dr. Sam Vaknin describes the body language of a narcissist that seems the very description of our favorite fictional characters. Such as Sherlock Holmes. The narcissist in nonverbal behavior is described as "Haughty" body language – The narcissist adopts a physical posture which implies and exudes an air of superiority, seniority, hidden powers, mysteriousness, amused indifference, etc. Though the narcissist usually maintains sustained and piercing eye contact, he often refrains from physical proximity and he is "territorial."

He wants his space and your space is his as well. He will walk into any room without knocking and will take up verbal space, talking louder and dominating changing the conversation to own it and make it his.

I would hazard to guess that you thought of several movie and TV characters and reality stars that fit the characteristics of HOT and COLD Narcissists. Can you make a list of five Narcissistic characters? I can think of five I watched in the last week; Sherlock from the modern day BBC TV series, in American version Elementary, Masters in the new series Masters and Johnson, and Darth Vader. There are others that I found difficult to watch, Tony Soprano, Captain Jack Sparrow, Squidward in Sponge Bob Square Pants, Ron Burgundy in Anchorman and almost all the girls in the HBO series Girls.

Have fun recognizing narcissism as you watch TV and go to the movies. And recognize the kind, good listening, and empathetic characters as well as they are the people we should be emulating. Let’s hope that there are no real Narcissists in your life, but if you suspect there are, you may wish to read the following two short articles. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201106/how-spot-narcissist