A Nation of Narcissists?

By | June 2, 2014 | 0 Comments


Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by excessive preoccupation with personal importance, power, prestige, and appearance, combined with the inability to see the damage caused to oneself and others. But what is excessive? “How to find yourself” (in quotes) gives 126,000,000 hits on Google. How does one diagnose an excess when many people are narcissistic?
Governmental narcissists.
When Boko Haram, an Islamist gang, kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls – mainly Christian – in Nigeria, the world didn’t notice. The name means “Western learning is forbidden,” and the gang forbids girls to be educated. But then the leader went on YouTube and promised to sell the girls as wives or slaves – apparently the group sees no difference between the two roles. Now the world could no longer ignore the girls’ plight. Now it was on YouTube – it must be really important.
The U.N. and the U.S. State Department issued denunciations. Not to be outdone in the meaningless-gesture department, First Lady Michelle Obama held up a poster reading, “#Bring Back Our Girls.”

 

What the president will do about the kidnapped girls remains to be seen. But thus far, the Twitter photo is the only action the Obamas have taken – if one can call it “action.” It depicts not what they will do, but how they feel. Mistaking feeling good with doing good is typical of narcissists. What could be more important than their own feelings?
Journalistic narcissists.
The Los Angeles Times, like most papers a bastion of leftism, graced its readers with a single Memorial Day editorial. But the writer did not deal with the day itself, or what it represents, or the men and women who died to assure freedom of the press. No, the writer dealt with his own feelings about the day. He declared that what America needs is a day to honor peace.
What else are Memorial Day and Veterans Day, but days to honor those who fought to end wars and bring us whatever peace we enjoy today? The editorialist couldn’t see this. Instead, he went on to describe how uncomfortable he feels at sporting events when the crowd rises to sing the National Anthem.
The editorialist, like the First Lady, would do well to recall Murphy’s Law of Feelings:

How you feel about something is of great interest to your therapist, of some interest to your family and friends, but of no interest whatever to anyone else.

Childish narcissists.
One morning I listened to the Dennis Prager Show. The subject was rude, obnoxious children and teens who didn’t say “please” or “thank you,” who didn’t flush toilets or clean up after themselves, and who cursed and talked loudly. But they were not corrected by their parents, who seemed to fear them, or by bystanders, who avoided a confrontation. So no one corrected them.
That afternoon I watched Dr. Phil, who interviewed a man addicted to plastic surgery. He had numerous procedures and wanted to have more. But the man looked good in the “before” photo. He spent much of his income and time on his appearance.
Self-absorbed children grow into self-absorbed adults. In extreme cases, they may become addicts of plastic surgery. But in less severe cases, what kind of spouses, parents, friends, or citizens will narcissists make?
We live on a beautiful planet filled with fascinating people, in an unimaginably vast and complex universe. If the most interesting thing I can think of is myself, I have the imagination of a potato.
Driving narcissists.
Frequently I encounter vehicles barreling down the center of the street, forcing me to pull to the right until I almost scrape the curb. I’ve given up flashing the lights or tooting the horn − people pay no attention. They may be on the phone, texting, or merely living in their own “space.”
These drivers believe that they should be the only ones on the road, and if they aren’t it is an unforgivable insult. They drive down the center of the street, even when rounding blind curves. They speed through intersections as if to say, “Look at me! I’m so important that I can afford to wreck my new BMW while I’m wrecking your piece of junk.”
Walking narcissists.
These people stroll down the center of the sidewalk, forcing others to step onto the grass. They rush down the center of the hallway, forcing others to brush against the wall. They walk two or three abreast, forcing others into single file. And if others don’t move aside, they bump them − but never say, “Excuse me.”
My wife and I were walking in an upscale neighborhood. A young couple came toward us. The sidewalk was narrow, so I stepped onto the grass, expecting the other couple to make room for my wife to pass on the sidewalk. But they came on as though she weren’t there, and the woman bumped my wife’s shoulder. Naturally, the woman said nothing. As a yuppie, she may have been accustomed to pushing others out of her way.
Jogging narcissists.
I was driving though an expensive residential area and stopped to let a middle-aged man cross the street. He stopped directly in front of my car, turned his back, and began stretching exercises. I yelled, “It’s safer to exercise on the sidewalk, not with your back to traffic.” He replied, “F**k you!” and continued his routine. I had to back up before pulling around him, though the thought of driving forward crossed my mind.
Joggers and bicyclists suddenly emerge from behind parked cars and rush in front of vehicles. The safety of others, or even of themselves, seems far from their thoughts. They are doing something “healthful” to “save the planet,” and therefore believe they are exempt from traffic laws − and even from the laws of physics.
Lunching narcissists.
How many times have we had the experience of standing in a long line at a fast-food restaurant, a yogurt shop, or a movie snack bar? How many times have we been delayed while thoughtless people dithered about what item to select, then selected the one that would take the most trouble and time to prepare? Too many times to count.
Violent narcissists.
If you can stand it, watch even a small part of the YouTube rant by the Isla Vista mass murderer. Narcissism drips from every word: I am a victim. I sit in my BMW, wearing my $300 dark glasses, thinking how unfair life is to me. Others have more than I do. The world should revolve around me, and if it doesn’t, I will punish it. I am entitled to do whatever I feel like doing. My feelings are supreme.
Are most narcissists potential murderers? Obviously not. But when we raise a child to be narcissistic, do we consider what kind of adult he will become? The extreme of narcissism is sociopathy. Fortunately, only a very few reach this extreme. But the risk remains that narcissism will progress to a malignant stage.

A nation of narcissists
How many narcissists, concerned with their own comfort to the exclusion of others, can exist in one place before a “critical mass” causes things to disintegrate?
● If too many people drive narcissistically, will it become too stressful and unsafe to drive at all?
● If too many people walk narcissistically, will even a walk in a residential neighborhood become too unpleasant to be worth the trouble?
● If too many people act narcissistically at fast-food shops, will people have to bring their own lunch or go hungry?
● If too many people worship narcissistically, will they worship the Judeo-Christian God, who makes moral demands? Or will they worship themselves, and be guided only by their own feelings?
● If too many people view citizenship narcissistically, will they believe they have unlimited entitlements but no obligations?
● If too many people vote narcissistically, will society fragment into bickering factions based on race, ethnicity, gender, and class − with each one asking, “What will you do for me?”

It is no surprise that many people are narcissists. They grew up watching TV alone, using computers alone, and playing video games alone.
They saw countless magazines and TV ads praising “rock-hard abs” and a “tight butt.” They watched TV “news” reports on wrinkle removers and liposuction. They were taught to worship youth, beauty, and health, so they turn away from the old, the unbeautiful, and the disabled − or even want to get rid of them.
Their role models were self-obsessed stars, arrogant athletes, and philandering politicians. In films, John Wayne characters were replaced by adults acting like teens. Heroes were replaced by superheroes. But kids can’t emulate Spider-Man.
They were sent to the “best” schools, so they could get into the “best” universities, so they could get the “best” jobs − and make enough money to turn their own children into narcissists.
They were taught to have “self-esteem” not for what they accomplished, but merely for existing. Both winning and losing teams received trophies. But unearned self-esteem is – you guessed it – narcissism.
How many narcissists can a nation, or a civilization, tolerate before it disintegrates? I don’t know. But before long, we may find out.
Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.
www.stolinsky.com

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