by Jo Ann Brown-Scott
Let’s talk about NARCISSISM.
The “I don’t give a sh** about anyone but me” syndrome.
In my previous two blogs during this world pandemic my attempts to describe our current situation were somewhat lighthearted. Today, however I am going to take a look at one particular affliction that might further, and more deeply, explain certain behaviors we are noticing on the daily news and with friends and acquaintances we are in touch with on a more personal level during these difficult times.
I am talking about the personality disorder called Narcissism…….the “it is all about me” disorder, when self-love becomes perverted into an emotional beast. A weapon of destruction.
Self-love is a good thing; we all need it in healthy proportions in order to seek the things in life that we are entitled to have……self-respect, ambition, hope, confidence, love and a shot at having “the good life well-lived”.
Chances are that you all know someone who is so self-involved that you can barely tolerate being around that person for more than just a brief interlude. Their consistent red-flag clue is their never-ending focus on themselves – the focus can be big-as-life-obvious or quite subtle. Their entitlement, their lack of empathy, their inability to offer help or charitable kindness or unconditional love to anyone without expecting something in return is pervasive and impervious to any attempts to change them. Therapists throw up their hands in frustration. The narcissist is highly manipulative; sneaky and subtle, or controlling and bold and every stage in between depending on the situation – always conniving and planning to get their desired results from relationships with people and situations and even countries. Always maneuvering. Everything a narcissist does has an agenda. Remind you of anyone?
You know who they are – these people are often in powerful positions. Think Bobby Axelrod on the tv show Billions. Think about politicians, and presidents and kings. Think about tele-evangelists who live as if they were kings. But then bring it down to a personal level. Think about that person you know who never asks you how you are doing and always steers the conversation back to him or her more-important self. The narcissists are the whiney ones, the “poor me” ones. The ones who always think they are suffering the most egregious of injustices. They often see themselves as the victims when actually others are suffering far more. They seem blind to the problems of other people. Think about those narcissistic people, during this world pandemic, who congregate in large packed groups and party for hours, think about people who have their grocery cart taken away from them at Costco and are asked to leave the store because they refuse to wear a mask, while yelling about their ego-maniacal rights. Think about the person who walks into a grocery wearing a mask but does not put masks on her three kids.
Narcissists believe the rules do not apply to them. They are usually charismatic people, often good-looking and smart as a whip and always on the lookout for opportunity. They adore being adored. They love parties because they can work the room and grab everyone’s attention. They love compliments – in fact, compliments get their attention fast and if you continue to compliment them over a period of months or years they will probably keep you in their life because they need those compliments like they need air. If you are in the life of a narcissist for very long it is because they need you for something. And possibly you enjoy being there – because on the surface they can be generous and kind and funny and so you enjoy their company. But the selfishness is deeper and more malignant than that. If you wake up one morning and they decide that you can no longer provide a need for them they will find a way to drop you overnight. They will accuse you of being over-sensitive if you speak up. They will look for your weak spots and use them. You are never really their friend because they will eventually turn on you. They do not understand loyalty or unconditional love. They can become controlling and cold and stingy and withholding in a flash because the need is gone. Or perhaps because they suddenly realized that you saw right through them.
Do these few samples of some criteria for being a narcissist remind you of people you know, or people in high governmental positions? Of course they do. But some people are not narcissists to the extreme….they would fall somewhere below the “champion narcissists” on the scale of selfishness and they sort of fly under the radar for a period of time. Maybe they are almost consistently tolerable for most of the time. Maybe you can even live with a narcissist, or marry one or be a best friend with one, for a while, maybe for years. That is only if you are willing to live on the edge of destruction and remain agreeable, because eventually they will tire of you if you begin to even hint about their selfishness and they will begin the process of tearing you down and kicking you out of their life. Do not kid yourself. You cannot win with a narcissist. In any number of possible attempts you will lose in the long run. If this particular narcissist is someone in the public eye, he will take pleasure in destroying you through blackmail or character assassination. He will put the blame on you.
There are many books about narcissism, some with simple lists of the top ten ways you can spot one in the wild. Sometimes they live and work in clusters. They are nowhere near being an endangered species. You see them everywhere, but especially so now, in a pandemic, as we are all trying to just keep our heads above water, and they do not like what is going on, perhaps because they are not being given the attention they need. There are no rules in their playbook, only agendas. They provide ridiculous distractions and they throw temper tantrums. They hurl insults and threats at innocent bystanders and they actually enjoy leaving a path of destruction wherever they go. They thrive on revenge. Welcome to the age of selfishness and greed where narcissists live in emotional luxury. Watch out for them because they will eat you alive.
Please let’s all vote, and vote for positive change in November.
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