More Narcissists?

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

 

 

“When all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail.”

 

The old saying means that we tend to explain life by the tools we have learned, even if we have to make things fit from time to time. Once we learned about narcissism, we started seeing it everywhere. It explained so much about the various relationships of our lives. In fact, the culture seems overrun with narcissists.

So what do you think? Do we really have a narcissistic culture? Several books have been written suggesting that our nation and our culture has become narcissistic. Is this thing large and growing, or are we just seeing it more because we are more alert?

Well, I think both are true. We are beginning to see it, to experience it in our relationships, but not just because we know what to call it. Narcissism has been around for a long time, and there are more narcissists now than ever before.

Before I explain why I think that narcissism in our culture is growing, let me give a very brief overview of my perspective. Narcissism is a learned response to stress, a way of coping with fear and anxiety. In the midst of such struggles as abandonment, conflicting expectations, and severe family dysfunction children must find ways to cope. Some of them learn to hide what causes them pain, their hearts. They push others away to the point of depersonalizing them. Nothing can hurt, no one can cause pain, if no one is real. These children learn that they are on their own in life, that they should entrust themselves to no one, and that they either win or die. Not all children choose this way to cope, but those who do see no other options. Thus the narcissist is born.

I have always believed that narcissistic behavior is a choice. But it may not be a current choice. It may be the natural behavior of someone who chose to cope with life that way many years ago. It can be unlearned, but there must be serious desire and willingness to really look at both causes and alternatives. Few will do what it takes. Every failure, every disappointment becomes support for the narcissist to choose his old behavior.

 

I believe narcissism is more prevalent today because the things that create and support it are more prevalent. Consider some of these:

 

  1. Pressure produces narcissists. Financial and environmental stresses are hard on families and today’s families experience more separation, more divorce, more abandonment. Teachers report that fewer children come out of traditional families every year. Many children are under almost constant stress. Many parents came out of dysfunction and have few skills and little interest in promoting the emotional well-being of their own children. If narcissism is a learned way of coping with childhood stress, we will almost certainly continue to see more narcissists.

 

  1. More people=more relationships=more stress. While I have never been an advocate of population control, I do believe that we are only beginning to adjust psychologically to the greatly increasing numbers of people around us. We complain regularly about the traffic, the job situation, the crowded airports, and the violent crime rates. All of these are part of the growing number of people in our culture.

For the narcissist, survival in a growing population can be accomplished only by more hiding and more victimization. Only when the people around are viewed as tools, toys, or obstacles does the narcissist find ways to cope. We may think that the narcissist is encouraged and blessed by the growing supply, the people to use, but he is also afraid and his need to use others is increased. For the child who wants to hide to protect himself, adding more people does not help.

 

  1. Empathy doesn’t pay. Let’s face it. We do live in a culture that rewards narcissistic behavior. Those who are ruthless are seen as committed and energetic. Those who use others are progressive and able to get the job done. The company CEO who can fire thousands of workers and find a way to cheat them out of their pensions is rewarded with a multi-million dollar severance package even when the company struggles. It doesn’t pay to think of others as people, to worry about their needs. It only pays to give the appearance of success. This is the narcissist’s world.

 

  1. Computers and computerized thinking have reduced all of us to numbers. For a computer, a name is just the same as a number in the code. A story is just a formula, a set of parameters. A life is just a file. And computers run our world. Health care, work, stores, law enforcement, mass transit—all of them see us as numbers. We are depersonalized and narcissists know how to live in a depersonalized culture.

Even more, depersonalized people tend to depersonalize others. Notice the check-out clerks at the stores. Many of them are gruff, tired, mechanical; and, as you walk away from them, you feel the same way. I have often chuckled at the bumper sticker, “Caution: Baby on board!” Can you imagine any driver today who would see that and say, “Oh, I will have to be more careful with my driving”? What would the narcissist say?

I realize these thoughts may be depressing, but there are things we can do. We may not be able to change a culture, but we can understand the need in the hearts of others, particularly children. Don’t be afraid to reach out and help. Encourage people. Smile more and laugh more. Be a little extra kind to the waitress or the clerk. Wave at the policeman. Express your appreciation and gratitude. Help in children’s ministry and show that you care. Visit those who are lonely. Treat others as people, the way you would want to be treated. (Sound familiar?) A narcissistic culture needs love.

Most of those who read here have been hurt by narcissism. Perhaps, as you heal, you can find ways to combat the monster just by trusting in the Lord and living out of your health. Most people are not narcissists and don’t want to be narcissistic. They just don’t want to be afraid and hurting. Your little acts of love and kindness might be far more profound and effective than you can imagine.

A culture is simply the general thinking of the people, the values and lifestyles and beliefs they live with. But that doesn’t have to include every person. And one can make a difference, if only to one more.

17 Comments

Filed under Narcissism

17 responses to “More Narcissists?

  1. Carol

    Your article explains narcissism as a very uncomplicated trait that can be helped, can be eliminated, etc. This is perhaps true for the person who shifts in and out of functioning with the narcissistic tools developed to survive in life.

    There is also another group of Narcissists who are hard core. They may be a third generation narcissist who seem to come out of the womb with the word “entitled” on their forehead.

    • Carol, thanks for this comment. I do not believe that some people are born to be narcissists, nor do most professionals. Most psychologists do teach that a type of narcissistic response is exhibited in babies, a self-focused and demanding perspective where others are seen as objects, but children grow out of this as they interact with family and others. In the course of developing relationships, some children learn to cope by hiding and by using others. That is a different phenomenon than what is seen in babies, I believe. It may be possible that narcissistic coping strategies come more naturally to some than to others, but even that is most likely due to early environment.

      As far as presenting narcissism as “a very uncomplicated trait that can be helped,” I only mean to hold narcissists accountable for their choices and behavior. If you read the rest of my blog, you will see that I certainly do not see narcissism as uncomplicated. It is every bit as complicated as any addiction, perhaps made more so by the fact that narcissists see those who want to help as opponents. I do believe that narcissists can be helped, but I have never met one who has exhibited that success. The things we learn, the decisions we make about ourselves and those around us, as little children are very difficult to unlearn.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

      • Carol

        I keep your posts on file and greatly appreciate your dedication to bringing the world of narcissism into the light. I continue to learn and bring resolution to the confusion that was so intricately woven through a long marriage to a tall, charismatic, blue eyed, narcissist.

        My ex mother-in-law who is one of my dearest friends lived through a 50+ yr marriage made is hell with my ex’s narcisstic father. Out of the blue, the other day, she repeated phrases that he used on her before her children were born. My ex said the same kind of things; very narcissistic manipulation. My ex’s grandmother was the same.

        I did read your entire article, and wondered why you categorized the complicated nature along side other addictions. Are you inferring it is an addiction of sorts, because addictions can be retrained behaviors.
        I don’t think that is what you were inferring, but ……

        Perhaps, some of this conversation falls into the ongoing tension of ‘nature vs nurture’.

        I have a lot to learn, so keep writing. Thank you

  2. Kitkat

    Bravo! I have to say this is one of the best Narcissistic Friday posts I have read! While it seems depressive at first, it leaves on a positive note and reminds us of the high calling we have in Christ. And again I say, Bravo!

  3. unofficialnarcissist

    I think narcissists arise out of the gestures of culture. Cultural narcissism, as understood as a supreme lack of empathy, has existed for ages. But I think our narcissism has become more intelligent and subtle in this age with the conquering gestures of colonialism being replaced with the sublimating-the-masses gesture of capitalism. Add to that the trauma of wars. Many people learned their coping mechanisms from people who were deeply affected by war, holocaust, and other genocides. Those are entrenched today for we have seen a movement away from spirit and towards the ever-prized intellectualism. Being in your head (overly intellectual) does little to develop empathy. I think our culture DOES lack empathy overall, but is certainly not void of it. I think responding with empathy is a decision to overcome these traumas of past and present, and to be Christ in the world.
    Here are a couple of interesting articles (for being in your head-ha!): http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121030161416.htm
    http://www.angriesout.com/grown16.htm
    I absolutely love your writing….thank you because it helps me grow and have a positive focus. Now I will ponder empathy all day long and hopefully be a more loving person 🙂

    • UnForsaken

      unofficialnarcissist, empathy is one of my favorite positives to ponder too! !

      Your concept about Ns ‘being in their heads’ is facinating. In my very small experience, they seem sort of in limbo. They have deep hidden emotion and a little ‘head’ to make it Look intellectual and logical. The head can be used as just another tool to pull the wool over their hearts and our eyes.

      . The really logical person who lives in the head may have to learn empathy, or maybe just how to show it, but I believe they are often looking out for others even when they look detached. The Heart and the head work together. However, the media almost always makes Ns look like the ‘cold’ intellectual……I just can’t see narcissism as being actually intellegent! 🙂 But there are so many types of Ns, as many as their are types of people!

      I enjoyed your view, and thanks for the articles for the Head, ha ha ! 🙂

  4. Sunflower

    Actually, I think the “Baby on Board” bumper sticker is the beginnings of narcissism. Why is it more important that a baby is on board than an adult? Because families are so child-centered. Everything revolves around the child. He/she gets what they want, if it takes whining and manipulating and guilting everyone around them. Schools have so much supplies that it’s expendable (break all your pencils or forget them, there are more), ever trying to cater to each child, entertaining them, shoving the knowledge down their throats without requiring them to put effort into it (memorize your math tables? oh, no! memorize anything!). At home they get electronics to keep them quiet. No chores. They are praised for things that are poorly done, teaching them that adults are liars. They have few siblings so they never learn communication and relational skills. It’s considered ‘normal’ for them to fight and be selfish, we just referee instead of train. Parents do their own thing and hope someone else does the training. And if you think I don’t know what I’m talking about, I came from a family of 7 children and I have 10 grown up ones.
    On the other hand, the former generation didn’t bond well either. Doctors put the moms out at birth and didn’t bring the baby in for 3 days, then told them to bottle feed so they didn’t lose their figure. All those things take away God’s design of oxytocin, the bonding hormone that is supposed to come in a big rush at birth and nursing. Satan is always trying to convince us to think we are smarter than God and he does a darn good job of it when we give in to his appeal to pride.

  5. Leslie

    2 Timothy 3:2 another verification that we are living in the end times!!

  6. jj

    I just love the last line. What a good reminder.

  7. Gabrielle

    Considering how cruel and destructive narcissists really are its hard to simply blame society as if we’re talking about commercialism or fast food. Where does personal responsibility come in?

    • Gabrielle, you are so right. This is why I maintain that narcissism is a choice. Many grow up in dysfunctional homes and face abandonment and all the struggles narcissists faced – without choosing to use and abuse others. The suggestion that the environment is more conducive to the kind of stresses that produce narcissists does not absolve narcissists of their choice. The fact that it is a choice means it can be unlearned and changed. The fact that so few narcissists make that change is even more indicting.

  8. Fellow Survivor

    Hi everyone. I read CS Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters” and his writing really puts a lot of this N stuff in perspective, at least it did for me anyway.

    Most if not all of us on this board are Believers so it is little wonder that we and our faith are being attacked like this, again that is the way I feel because my faith has been very seriously challenged by this whole ordeal

    The best way that I can describe these events for me is like a boil that needs to be lanced. It hurts like heck until it is finally lanced, then the lancing hurts real bad. Then it is gone and the wound just needs to heal. Unfortunately there is a very large scar where the boil used to be..The longer you wait to get it lanced, the bigger the scar

    I am 2 years out of the marriage after 15 years of what I now know was some seriously bad abusive behavior. I don’t think about her so much anymore except how it relates to our daughter. I am finally turning my attention ever so slightly to putting myself back together again.

    As we all can most probably say, ” I just want to be me again”

  9. Once while praying and journaling for my ex husband-narcissist, I asked God ” Why is he like this? Wasn’t he once an insecure little boy…can you help me see him as that little fellow he once was before he became this bully.
    And since I find it so hard to pray for the current man who treats me so unkind maybe I can picture that little boy and pray for him. And how did he change from that little boy into this abuser anyway?”
    And God said to my heart, “He is not that ” little boy” anymore… that little boy is long gone. He went away one choice at a time… and there more darkness in his life than you will ever know.”

    • unofficialnarcissist

      wow, that is profound. “He went away one choice at a time” So very wise.

    • joy

      “He went away one choice at a time.”
      Oh that was definitely God speaking to you. I wish I’d been listening to Him as closely as you were, because my problem was that I could ALWAYS see the little boy….and I loved my ex-husband so much I wanted to love him unconditionally…and I did for almost 30 years.It almost ruined me, and God spoke to me through my failing health and spirit. I knew I had to get out if only to heal for a while. Once I was out, and had some distance I knew I could not go back to that mistreatment.

      It’s hurt my relationship with my adult children, but that his slowly getting better as they realize who he really is. They are still swayed by the charming days, but without me as a buffer, they are starting to see.

      Right now I’m reaping what I and my ex sowed as far as he taught all of us to think mostly of his feelings. I even helped….because we all tiptoed around him. Now they are still trapped in that pattern, they see him a lot, and me not much. Why? Because they can’t risk hurting him, but I was the one who was more relaxed…and he pretty much taught by example that my feelings were not important. Intellectually, they know better, but old patterns are hard to change.

  10. Jean

    Dave, I agree with you about this being some kind of addiction. The people I have known with narcissist behavior are addicted to getting what they want, no matter what it takes, and becoming the center of attention. There are other parallels with addicts: they can never get enough and the codependency that becomes a part of what defines those who are in relationships with these people. They can suck the oxygen out of a room and all of our attention becomes focused on getting them to stop behaving the way they do. We also lose ourselves as a result. I have found help by looking to some of the literature from Al-Anon and Codependents Anonymous. In the end we can only be responsible for our own behavior, and we need to leave others to be responsible for theirs. Letting the natural consequences catch up with them is a good place to start. Easier said than done, but it depends on where we spend our energy. First step: Admit we are powerless over people, places and things. We can then start to focus on the things in life we can change, like having compassion and empathy for others and ourselves.

  11. HDG

    Hello,my name is_____and I am a narciholic. 1 yr. ago today I set myself free from the frightening rollercoaster ride of loving a narcissist.I loved him,in spite of who he really is and because of who he pretended to be.Ahh the public “highs”…attention,courtesy,charm,”you’re my gift from God,beautiful butterfly,I’ll never love another woman.” So addicting! The private “lows”…anger,”,God demands you respect me”,isolation,put downs about almost everything including my,appearance,extreme jealousy,physical abuse.Ohhh….the heartache.Yet he talked of marriage,a future.Several breakups,always a reason for contact,a chance meeting and it was”on again.”Each time the highs were less frequent,not as “high” the lows more frequent and more hurtful.I kept thinking; it’s ok I can fix this if I love “enough”. I can take it-maybe it IS ALL MY FAULT. Oct 27,2013 he grabbed my wrists (bruised)gave me the choice about the direction of our relationship and I made it. NO CONTACT. Praise Jesus for showing me It wasn’t for me to fix,for His protection and the blessing of this site.It hasn’t been easy-I find it very hard to trust-lonely sometimes.At other times I feel a great sense of peace and relief.Ultimately, I learned to turn to the Lord and know His will can heal and guide me.HUGS & PEACE TO ALL!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s