Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Narcissism Epidemic

I read this book because of the subtitle, Living in the Age of Entitlement. It seems a lot more folks feel entitled to a lot more things than they used to.

The authors go into detail about helicopter parents who raise their children to believe they are not just queens and kings for a day, but for a lifetime. They book doesn’t deeply examine why this phenomenon came about or how to reverse it. The book's solution: Don't tell your children they are special. I think it could have been said better. 

How about telling them they are special to you, but are still children and must know and understand obedience and effort is necessary for achievement. Or how about, never reward bad behavior. Neither kids nor adults are entitled to everything they want.

The authors deplore the pervasive and silly attitude that everybody gets a trophy whether they achieved anything or not. Awards, money and privileges must be earned. Otherwise, they have no value.

Not all narcissists are psychopaths, but most serial killers are narcissists. Dr. Harold Shipman is known to have killed at least a dozen and is strongly suspected of killing as many as 260. Yet, he remained arrogant even when imprisoned. How dare anyone question him? Did you see the smug smile of the butcher Dr. Kermit Gosnell while he was being led away in cuffs for multiple murders? 
Narcissists seldom apologize or express shame or humiliation for anything. Even when they admit mistakes, they wear their past misdeeds as a badge of honor. 

Take these incidents:  Dennis Rodman stated that he should be on the short list for the Nobel Peace Prize because of his befriending and hugging of a North Korean despot. Is that narcissism or just stupidity?
Anthony Weiner continued to publicly display his perversion even after resigning from Congress in disgrace and launching a campaign for Mayor of New York. Then there is Elliot Spitzer. 

At 70, Geraldo Rivera tweeted a photo of himself (a selfie) in his bathroom nude from the waist up. 

How about the legions of sports athletes who think they can commit crimes and get away with it?  664 arrests from 2000 to 2012 in the NFL. Why do we idolize narcissistic criminals? 

The book delves into the "look at me" involved with Facebook and other social media avenues, but it offers little in the way of explanation or solution.

Is social media just narcissism on a grand scale? Am I a narcissist because I use it to try to get more people to read what I write by using social media? My writing colleague Christina Carson recently blogged, “A fine question at this point in human history is, why are we so needful of diversion, of places to hide out? We shouldn’t kid ourselves that just because we see the world and its happenings many times a day and interface with people all over the globe, we are engaged with life. I think we are more afraid, emptier, and unhappier than ever. I love this earth. Its order, its harmony, its beauty astound me. I love human nature and all the amazing stories it can engender through its sometimes hapless, sometimes crazy, sometimes endearing, and always compelling choices it makes. But I’m troubled that we don’t stop enough to examine where, lemming-like, we seem to be headed.”

The authors drift when they get into social security and a few aspects of the economy where they are clearly out of their element and seriously misinformed. They also seem to posit that driving an SUV may be narcissistic, in a stumbling attempt to state one author’s alarmist and inaccurate views on global warming. Even if she were right (which she isn’t), what has that got to do with narcissism? 

They expose what they call myths about narcissists. Myth 1: Narcissists have really high self esteem. In the second sentence debunking this myth, they say and I quote, “Narcissists do have really high self-esteem.” That’s on page 24, so I my antenna went up early. Is it a myth or not? (They say it is; I say it’s not.) They try to explain their own contradiction, but fail.

Myth 2: Narcissists are insecure and have low self-esteem i.e. . . . they use bluster to cover up for deep self-hate and inadequacy. There are a lot of other studies out there that say this is not a myth and this book failed to convince me that it is. If narcissists aren’t just covering up for insecurities, why would they resent and demean other’s accomplishments?   

What is missing from this book is research that has shown that type 1’s seem to all share the same problem—problems with a parent when they were small children (usually abandonment or rejection of another type). The narcissists I worked with all had deeply rooted problems with one parent.

Another myth about narcissists is that they almost never succeed. Unfortunately, sometimes they do, but usually at dire cost to the people (and businesses, cities, counties, states and countries) they leave in their destructive wake. 
I really wanted this book to explore how the epidemic is affecting our nation and how most politicians suffer from some level of narcissism. When two people run for political office, I usually vote for the one who wants it (or needs it) the least, because he/she is always the best qualified. Wanting it or needing the office and the power that goes with it badly always makes for a terrible politician who abuses power because of concern for a personal legacy, not the future of the country (and yes, those two can be in direct conflict).

Why? Many reasons, but one example is that narcissists can take directly opposite (and mutually exclusive) positions on the same issue and feel that both of their opinions are correct and anyone who challenges them is stupid. I suppose anyone who runs for political office has to have a healthy ego, but many, if not most of the bozos who run our country think they’re brilliant. That’s dangerous.

The authors, to their credit, do make several references to the appalling lack of personal responsibility in this country (the heart of free enterprise), but then suggest more regulations and solutions involving collectivism and larger bureaucracies as the answer.  The obvious battle between the authors and the compromise turns the book into illogical conclusions in an attempt to satisfy their opposite political persuasions. 

The psychologist authors of this book said that it would offer solutions to the epidemic. Maybe. Readers will have to judge.

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