Popular Narcissism

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Psychology Today has an article on narcissism in the most recent issue (July-August 2011) that is worth reading.  There is an increased tendency to take narcissism out of the therapist’s office and put it in the mainstream.  I think this is mostly due to a popular misconception that anyone who is self-focused is narcissistic and, thus, almost all young celebrities are narcissistic.  The word has become popular, I guess.

But the article has some good things to say on a basic level.  It points out some of the things about narcissists that seem inconsistent, such as the fact that narcissists are often cruel and insulting toward those from whom they desire admiration.  This isn’t really inconsistent, of course, but it seems that way. 

You see, we think that you get what you give.  Most of us expect to receive from others what we give to them.  If I praise you, you are supposed to praise me in return.  If I am kind to you, you should be kind to me.  Some narcissists make this work . . . for a while.  The problem for the narcissist is that he really has no desire to praise you or to be kind to you.  It is just a way of getting what he wants.  If another way works better (or is less boring) he will use that.  Because of the insecurities many people feel, an insult or a demeaning word can actually lead to increased kindness or admiration. 

Another fascinating point made in the article is that studies show how the charm of the narcissist begins to wear off after about four months (while a relationship with a non-narcissist actually becomes stronger after four months).  If this is true, it may be a significant help to parents who are concerned about their daughters’ boyfriends.  Maybe if you can delay the wedding for a few more months, she will see the truth.  Maybe an employer should have a four month probation period to see if the charming new hire can actually come through with the results he boasted about.  I am not really sure how these things could work, but it gives a little hope at least. 

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