It’s Narcissist Friday!
A recent comment exposed the almost unbelievable fact that many narcissists work in caring professions. That means they are doctors, nurses, pastors, counselors, social workers, police, teachers, attorneys, etc. These are the people we turn to when we need help. These are the professions we have been taught to trust. When we discover that someone who is supposed to “care” for us instead wants to use us for his/her own purposes, we feel both confused and betrayed.
Of course, there is an element of control in most helping professions. People in need come for help. In doing so, they are already submissive. They want to turn their lives and troubles over to someone else. They look to the pastor to get them right with God. They look to the doctor for a way to health. They look to a counselor to find the way to sanity or peace. Submissive or weakened people easily become supply for the narcissist. Those who love to control others, who need to control others, would find helping professions to be fertile fields.
Under the category of control, we also have to remember that most helping professions are hierarchical. That means there are authorities and there are workers. Narcissists will move quickly into positions of leadership so they can use others to do aspects of the job they don’t like.
Although we might not hear of them often, there are opportunities for carers to be recognized as heroes. The doctor who provides the cure or the life-saving surgery becomes a hero to the sufferer and his/her family. Police officers can become heroes. Nurses, counselors, and pastors provide timely encouragement and support in situations of great need. Narcissists love to be heroes. Some will work hard for that recognition. Others, of course, will claim it even if it isn’t true.
There’s something else, something we rarely talk about. Some would suggest that it is almost necessary for care-givers to depersonalize those with whom they work. The one who cares must go home without the problems of their clients or patients. The doctor and the nurse cannot take the pain and suffering home. They must learn to separate the person from the problem. Setting a child’s broken arm means the doctor has to cause significant pain to the child. Empathy must be pushed aside for a while, and the problem must be addressed. Counselors, pastors, and others must sometimes say things that hurt, in order to deal truthfully with a problem. Caring about the person can get in the way of solving the problem.
And narcissists do this naturally. This is why narcissists are often so good at their jobs in caring professions. They are able to think without regard to the suffering of the person. They can prioritize services and time and money in ways that make others struggle. Emergency care workers may be required to do triage among several patients, to determine which should or should not receive treatment, without worrying about the identities and situations of the dying. Doctors and counselors must often decide when to stop trying to help. This aspect of caring jobs would be easy for narcissists.
For the most part, people in need won’t care whether their “caring” person is a narcissist. They just want help. The caring professions offer a sort of symbiotic relationship. The narcissist only wants to be seen as superior and successful, while the sufferer only wants successful relief. Today many people don’t expect the doctor’s “bedside manner” to be kind. They just want him to perform well.
But the narcissists are still narcissists at home or with co-workers. The miracle-working “Dr. House” is still a jerk to the people around him. The great preacher abuses his staff and ignores his family. The honored policeman is on his third marriage. The wise counselor’s kids are addicts and delinquents. The “caring” is a performance, a job expectation, a way to recognition and appreciation. It does not come from the heart.