It’s Narcissist Friday!
I have often wondered how parents of autistic children handle the new media attempts to portray autism as something desirable. There are several television shows that feature autistic young people with some minor social struggles, but miraculous abilities. The boy on “Touch” is a good example. According to the story, he has an amazing ability to see connections between people and events. In our “speak first, think later” culture, I can imagine someone saying, “Oh you have an autistic son? How cool! What can he do?”
Now, please understand that I would never have brought that up, except that it is really happening. What I hesitated even to wonder about publicly, because of the disrespect toward parents and children who work so hard, is actually being said. I have heard twice now of parents who tried to have their child diagnosed as autistic so they could receive a different type of education and be seen as special. (Check out the articles below.)
When the media tries to fix our perception of a difficult situation, an emotional or social problem, for example, it often ends up hurting people. From Otis, the happy and gracious drunk on the Andy Griffith show to Dr. House, the narcissistic diagnostician, Hollywood takes something difficult and makes it light or cute or even something superior.
So get ready. Narcissism is becoming popular. I mentioned Dr. House. Now there’s Frank Underwood, Kevin Spacey’s character on House of Cards (and his wife and many of his friends). Narcissists are seen as positive characters, even with all their negatives exposed. Consider Dr. House. The show is done now, but still very popular in reruns. House is mean, angry, abusive, judgmental, and egotistical. He hurts everyone who tries to be kind to him. He uses other people for his own pleasure. He readily admits that he isn’t a nice guy, but he doesn’t care.
We are led to believe that he had father issues and that he is in constant physical pain. All of these negatives are explained away and set aside because he is an incredible doctor. There’s no doubt that House is good at what he does, but he uses his team like slaves and gives them little credit, often calling them “idiots” and trying to turn them against each other. Let’s face it: House is a jerk.
But if the narcissism causes him to be such a good doctor, we think it must be something inherently good. After all, look at all the people who have been helped. If that’s what narcissism does. . .
Narcissism was removed from the DSM V, presumably because it is no longer considered a mental or personality disorder. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to suspect that it is becoming acceptable, or even desirable if defined a certain way. We live in a ruthless culture that uses people and discards them. We live in a culture that values short-term success. We live in a culture that thrives on attraction and devalues relationship.
If you go to Psychology Today online and look at the articles and blog posts on narcissism, you will find an increasing number of them that tell of the wonders of narcissism. Narcissists are attractive. Narcissists are sexy. Narcissists get things done. Narcissists are exciting. Narcissists are better at picking up girls. Yes, they will tell about the negatives, but after the positive hype.
So get ready. I can imagine the day when someone says, “Oooo, you were in a relationship with a narcissist? I know they have problems with commitment, but was it good while it lasted?”
Try not to punch that person in the mouth.
Here are a couple of articles on the effects of exploiting autism, if you are interested in looking into this further. The second uses some strong language.
10 responses to “Narcissism – Public Relations”
I never could stand the show “House” for exactly the reasons you write. The character was not someone to emulate and hold in high esteem. I have worked some in the med profession, and could never understand people’s attraction to this character. Many doctors are brilliant and KIND and supportive. You don’t need to be a jerk to be a relevant, powerful person in the world. Thanks for posting!
Me either, Kimberly! I stopped watching it, because no matter the “good” he does, he is not a likable guy. Besides, his team can do what he does without him. The team just THINKS they need him because House has perfected his God-complex rendering them dependent on his word. 🙂
So true! and of course, this is why people were attracted to this show!
Hi, I have raised a son who was diagnosed with severe autism at age 2. He is now 18. I found a program that, at that time, was considered controversial and inhumane (applied behavioral analysis – ABA). For 5 years we did a in home therapy that was often criticized so therefore I had little support until the last year of his program. I was told the exact opposite of what seems to be a trend now. I was told by the doctor we were working with not to focus so much on the special things he could do otherwise we would have a really weird kid that was good at one thing. I’m so thankful I listened. I wouldn’t want to go through all of that again!
He now is slightly quirky, has a little trouble with organization but he has a job at Mc Donalds, is a junior in high school with minimal modifications -which he is in charge of. He is on the football team, has his drivers license and most miraculously of all, he knows how to be a true friend.
I see parents following this trend: my child is special – “will you start to look at things from my child’s point of view”?.Their children are very gifted, usually at one thing and have very few other life skills. I have not noticed this in the media until I read your article. At the same time I can understand why parents would take this route…to get these kiddos help requires everything and autism has increased so greatly that there often aren’t the resources for them, some of the resources are really not that helpful or have enough staff to meet the child and families needs…my humble opinion anyway.
I am thankful for what I went through. I probably grew in faith and character as much as my son did,but I wouldn’t want to do it again. Autism will never be a glamorous word to me! I am proud of my son and thankful to God
Actually, I hesitated before using autism as an example of this because I see how much love and work goes into helping these young people. I hope nothing I said was inappropriate or discouraging.
To make it clear, the parents to whom I referred as trying to get their children diagnosed as autistic did not have autistic children. They wanted the diagnosis for the charm or fascination the media has presented. They wanted their kids to be seen as having “special abilities.” My fear is that the media will continue to produce this kind of response.
Obviously, this blog is not about autism and I know little about it from any personal or ministry experience or research. I only know how the media can distort the thinking of the people into accepting as desirable something that causes others much struggle. Glamourizing the cause of the pain minimizes the suffering of those who are in it.
Pam, please know that I am praying for you and your son.
No offense taken at all. I agree with what you have to say! Thank you for your prayers. I also relate to the NPD issues that is why I stop by here and I thank you for your posts. I just had nothing to say about whether NPD remains in the diagnostic manuals or not. 2 Tim 3:2 pretty much is my diagnostic manual— ‘In the last days men will become lovers of themselves”. :). The concern I have on that is that I live my life well and honor God in the midst of it.
God’s richest blessings to you.
So, if the mental health industry no longer considers NPD a disorder what are we to assume? That victims have a problem, not the narcissist? That those with NPD are hopeless so why even give their condition a name? Or is it that narcissists so seldom seek help they’re not potential clients anyway? I’m confused.
There was talk of removing NPD from the DSM-5. However, it was deemed that more research and study was necessary. Personality Disorders remain in the newly released DSM-5 just as they were in the DSM-IV. Many are confused and make this assumption: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130510124554.htm
Thanks, Paula! Your help in this is appreciated. My information was dated and I am grateful for the update. I quickly researched this again before posting and found nothing but reactions and lamentations about the removal. However, there are some more recent articles that attempt to clear up the misunderstanding. The DSM-V is not out quite yet (two weeks?) so the info isn’t available to everyone.
Two things interest me here, though. First, it appears that the reason NPD was included after all, albeit in a lesser way, was primarily because of protest. Including it may have been the plan all along, but it smells a little like the political practice of floating a rumor to see what the public response will be. I suspect that the class of “disorders” that includes NPD (and borderline, obsessive-compulsive, and more), is increasingly difficult to diagnose as destructive in a culture where these characteristics seem both desirable and increasing in frequency.
The second thing that comes to mind here is the caution I have given many times: don’t be quick to pronounce a diagnosis of narcissism. Narcissists don’t really mind the label; professionals won’t accept your diagnosis; and the only one who benefits from the label is you. What I mean is that it is a benefit to know what you are fighting against, but you will still have to communicate behaviors before others will understand what you are going through. In fact, in keeping with the theme of this post, when you tell some people that your “ex” was a narcissist, they might just think of it as something positive. Instead, tell what he did or does and leave the word to your own mind and heart.
Here’s another article that will support what Paula has written and give a little more explanation:
I agree – Frank Underwood is definitely a narcissist, but I hadn’t considered his wife to also be one until you said it. I’m not familiar with how House’s character is portrayed, as the show didn’t appeal to me, but what I found so insightful about House of Cards was being able to see things from the narcissist’s view. As the viewer you are privy to interactions Frank has with many other characters – the manipulation, lying, backstabbing, using – and the insecurity he at times experiences. If we had access to this much information in real life, identifying the Ns in our lives would be a bit easier.:)