Birds of a feather…
They say that like attracts like. That’s why cliques form at school, at university, at work, and at parties. Psychologists from the University of Georgia have found this unwritten rule also applies to people with personality disorders, and that includes psychopaths and narcissists.
Dysfunctional people are more likely to make friends with, or even get married to, people who are also dysfunctional. Psychopathic and narcissistic people seem to be much more tolerant of others who share their personality traits. Not only that, but they get on better with them than they do with ‘normal’ people.
The reason is that people with dysfunctional personalities are better at dealing with people who are similarly dysfunctional. Thus neurotics get on well with other neurotics, eccentrics get on better with other eccentrics, and so on.
In reality, antagonistic people don’t really like antagonism, neurotic people don’t really like neuroticism, and introverted people don’t really like introversion – they’re just more tolerant of it.
The researchers surveyed 218 college students to determine what personality disorder traits they had. This involved testing for narcissism, antagonism (a dislike of others) psychoticism (hostility and aggressiveness) and dis-inhibition (lack of impulse control.)
Next, they got 198 of the students to complete a survey on all their personality traits, including what they considered their negative ones.
The participants came back after a ten-day break – designed to limit the chance of people comparing themselves to others. They then completed another survey and rated how they felt about other people who had the same traits.
Other recent research has found that narcissists are often initially likeable but tend to have increasingly negative interactions over time – narcissists don’t like competition! And one would expect that when two antagonistic people get together, there’d be fireworks, but in fact the opposite is true. So people who are dysfunctional in similar ways actually get on much better with their dysfunctional peers.
Having met a few in my time, especially in the whacky world of show business, I always suspected this would be the case. It certainly makes sense.
Dysfunctional people’s tolerance of similar traits in their peers might point to one reason why negative personality traits are so difficult to treat. It also goes some way to explain why people with negative personality traits don’t want to change.
Because of this tolerance, there are very few therapeutic approaches available with which to deal with severe personality disorders.