02 November 2013

The Age of Narcissism

"Narcissism falls along the axis of what psychologists call personality disorders, one of a group that includes antisocial, dependent, histrionic, avoidant and borderline personalities.

But by most measures, narcissism is one of the worst, if only because the narcissists themselves are so clueless."

Jeffrey Kluger
If you wish to see the narcissist in their natural habitat, the chat boards and comment sections of some blogs are where the marginally successful dwell, often dominating the conversation with their self-obsessed arrogance.  Sometimes in periods of unusual circumstances they can even rise to positions of power.  They are attracted to corporate structures, and financial and political positions.

They have no humility, no doubts, and no empathy. Whatever life or luck or others may have helped them to achieve, they feel that they deserve it all, and more. They have worked for everything they have, whereas others who have suffered setbacks and misfortune simply have made bad choices or been lazy. And if others have been cheated and abused, then they deserve it for being stupid.

They are often judgmental and racist, and brimming over with hateful scorn for others, unless they can be co-opted into their sphere of influence and behave according to the narcissist's world and rules.

As Thomas Aquinas said, 'well-ordered self-love is right and natural.' It is when this natural behaviour becomes excessive and twisted that it becomes a pathology, a disorder of the personality.

Often narcissists have exaggerated ideas about their own talents and worth and work. Sometimes they are compensating for the neglect and disregard, or even abuse, of one or both parents who failed to see and appreciate how special they are. At other times they are the product of an environment in which they have been raised to believe that they are special, and deserve special treatment and consideration.   Since obviously not all children of privilege or abuse become narcissists, it might have its genesis in an untreated form of depression or genetic predisposition.
"The classic narcissist is overly self-confident and sees themselves as superior than other people. Think of a child who has always been told by mom and dad that they would be great, and then that child takes and internally distorts that message into superiority.

The compensatory narcissist covers up with their grandiose behavior, a deep-seated deficit in self-esteem. Think of a child who felt devalued but instead of giving up on life, resorts to fantasies of grandeur and greatness. This person will either live in that fantasy world or decide to create that fantasy world in real life."
If this affliction is accompanied by other problems such as sadism or malignant mania, they may become a destructive element for all who encounter them.  Their illness affects others more than themselves, so they may often not seek treatment, and excuse the damage they inflict with the 'weakness' of others.

They seek to fill the great empty holes of self-loathing with the lives and possessions of others, all the while proudly wreathing their actions with self serving rationalization. 

They are more to be pitied than scorned, as they are living in a small part the hell which they are making for themselves.  But we must guard ourselves against their powerful certainty in an age of uncertainty.  Their certainty is a madness which serves none but itself.

"Narcissism is a psychological condition defined as an obsession with the self. While not all forms of self-love or self-interest are destructive, extreme cases can be very damaging and may be diagnosed as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

In these instances, the disorder is characterized by a lack of empathy for others, sadistic or destructive tendencies, and a compulsion to satisfy personal needs above all other goals.

People suffering from NPD tend to have difficulty establishing or maintaining friendships, close family relationships, and even careers. About 1% of people have this condition, and up to 3/4 of those diagnosed with it are men.

The signs of narcissism often revolve around a person's perception of himself in comparison to other people.

Those with severe cases often believe they are naturally superior to others or that they possess extraordinary capabilities. They may have extreme difficulty acknowledging personal weaknesses, yet also have fragile self-esteem.

Narcissistic people also frequently believe that they are not truly appreciated, and can be prone to outbursts of anger, jealousy, and self-loathing when they do not get what they feel they deserve."

Hallmarks of Narcissism

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
•Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
•Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
•Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
•Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
•Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
•Requires excessive admiration
•Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
•Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
•Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love