Traits of narcissism in the birth chart – some red flags
Narcissism seems to be an epidemic these days, from partners to parents, colleagues, managers and CEOs. They come in all shapes and sizes, presenting as ‘wolves in sheep clothes,’ and sadly we often find out too late that we have been targeted by these robots masquerading as people.
Having had personal experience with such disordered characters, I only discovered about 8 years ago the concept of personality disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and the alphabetical clusters of disorders contained within. Cluster B is known as the ‘dramatic, emotional, and erratic’ cluster. This includes Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder. Disorders in this cluster share issues concerning impulse control and the regulation of emotions.
It was like a light bulb went on and my life finally made sense. Better still, I knew it wasn’t me and could finally start healing from all the puzzling, bewildering, crazy-making stuff that I’d been through. Reading all I could about Narcissistic Personalty Disorder (NPD) aided my understanding and I became a Holisitic Counsellor in part to assist in enlightening others dealing with the debilitating effects of narcissistic abuse.
Criteria for NPD:
According to the DSM-5, in order to diagnose NPD, the following criteria must be met:
A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:
1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):
a. Identity: Excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal may be inflated or deflated, or vacillate between extremes; emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem.
b. Self-direction: Goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on a sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations.
2. Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):
a. Empathy: Impaired ability to recognise or identify with the feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self; over- or underestimate of own effect on others.
b. Intimacy: Relationships largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little genuine interest in others’ experiences and predominance of a need for personal gain.
B. Pathological personality traits in the following domain:
1. Antagonism, characterised by:
a. Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert; self-centeredness; firmly holding to the belief that one is better than others; condescending toward others.
b. Attention seeking: Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of the attention of others; admiration seeking.
C. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations.
D. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.
E. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma).
Source: American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.
As I learned about NPD, I wondered what traits could be found in a person’s natal chart which might point to their having NPD.
Firstly, we can all exhibit some of these personality traits occasionally. However, to meet the diagnostic requirement of NPD as listed above, these traits need to be regularly observed, and cause impairment; interfering with the ability to be a functional member of society, including being functional in interpersonal relationships. Therefore, when self-absorbed behaviour harms others, then there is a level of impairment (from little to extreme).
Lack of Water element:
Water is the element associated with feelings and emotions; the way we understand and respond to life through these. This is the element where we are sensitive, where we create emotional bonds with others, and need emotional security (think of the sign of Cancer). It also suggests having a deep attachment to another (Scorpio), or connecting with the divine, experiencing compassion and empathy, tuning in psychically and sensing vibrations underneath the surface (Pisces).
Since narcissists lack empathy, sensitivity and the ability to feel deeply and intuitively, being unable to relate to others on a true emotional level, it is fitting that planets in the Water element could be missing in the horoscope. On the flip side, those of us with a lot of planets in Water in our charts make prime targets for narcissists, as our empathy and the dissolution and merging of emotional boundaries can allow them to manipulate and exploit us, fostering codependency, enabling and enmeshment.
Many planets in the first quadrant – Houses (areas of life) 1-3:
Author Bil Tierney in his book, Dynamics of Aspect Analysis (1983). CRS Publications, US., gives a good run-down of understanding quadrants:
The first quadrant encompasses houses from the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres; from the Ascendant or first house cusp to the 4th house cusp. Self-identity, self-motivation and individual freedom are associated with the Eastern Hemisphere (houses 10-12 and 1-3). The Northern Hemisphere contains houses 1-6 and concerns subjective, personal interests and involvement, and self-concern.
Many planets found in this quadrant increases the potential for self-centredness and being self-absorbed, especially if those planets fall in the element of Fire, which drives independent self-expression.
A Sun-Moon conjunction is a New Moon, where the energies of the Sun and Moon are fused. People with this aspect are very subjective, identifying with themselves rather than others. They are self-contained, insular, unaware of others’ needs and perspectives, and act instinctively in directing their lives. The sign and house will modify the aspect, for example, if it falls in Aries (Fire) and the first house (self), the person’s focus will be on that narrow area of life.
The opposition aspect teaches us awareness of others and therefore to become aware of our needs. When there are no oppositions in the chart, the need to relate to others is innately missing, and often learned the hard way, if at all. For example, Fiery self-oriented Aries needs Airy relationship-oriented Libra to teach it to learn to accommodate others through compromise and negotiation.
Sun in high focus
Since the Sun rules the ego, pride, self-expression and where we like to ‘shine’, having this planet (or luminary) in high focus in the chart can point to narcissism. For example, an unaspected Sun in the sign of Leo (sign of it’s Dignity), or being the only planet in an element, especially the Fire element, as a singleton in a quadrant (especially the first), or hemisphere (especially the subjective Northern or self-identified Eastern) are all potential traits of narcissism.
The Sun in aspect with Mars suggests having pride in being courageous. These types love a challenge, love to fight and win, having no qualms about going after what they want; being competitive and impulsive.
The Sun in contact with Jupiter can inflate the ego, giving rise to grandiosity and arrogance, and a perception that the person is God.
The Sun, Moon (emotions and feelings), Sun/Mars and/or Sun/Jupiter in a difficult combination with outer planets such as Uranus (separation, detachment), Neptune (deception, fantasies) and Pluto (power, manipulation, including emotional manipulation) too can indicate narcissism.
An astrologer’s role is to find a theme in the chart. The more times the above symbolism is included and presents itself in a chart, the more likely it is that the person is a narcissist, or at least have narcissistic traits to some extent of impairment.
Above all, when dealing with narcissists, remember, it is always, always about them.