Lethal Narcissism

My mail has been unreliable, apparently I missed the degrees in psychology everyone received. They’re being used irresponsibly, and the value of something that was freely dispensed to all humans can actually drop to a level beneath worthless. Nonetheless, I hear diagnoses and prognoses bandied about by folks who have had no contact with their target patient. Throw a few psychological terms about and people will think you know what you’re talking about; if they’re gullible, or you’re saying what they want to hear. In reality there are a large portion who will see through you, but there is still that seven percent who think chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

A little research reveals this to be a symptom of the narcissism which is running rampant in American society. Narcissists tend to be the first to judge, and the last to judge themselves.  Of course, recognizing there is a multi million dollar market for selfie sticks might lead you to the same conclusion. The problem with the uneducated psychologists is they do not realize you may display a symptom without having the full blown syndrome. Yes, we have taken a turn towards narcissism as a society, but everyone with a cubicle plastered with photos of themselves is not a clinically diagnosed narcissist. One diagnostic test that has worked for me is to present someone with a list of the symptoms of narcissism. If they do not recognize any of the traits within themselves, they are most likely a narcissist. A balanced individual will recognize their own faults.

We are not over run by people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), but the number of people openly displaying aspects are unusually prevalent. They are:

  1. Grandiosity with expectations of superior treatment from others
  2. Fixated on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.
  3. Self-perception of being unique, superior and associated with high-status people and institutions
  4. Needing constant admiration from others
  5. Sense of entitlement to special treatment and to obedience from others
  6. Exploitative of others to achieve personal gain
  7. Unwilling to empathize with others’ feelings, wishes, or needs
  8. Intensely envious of others and the belief that others are equally envious of them
  9. Pompous and arrogant demeanor

You see this all around you, just not at pathological levels. You can certainly taste it in my writing. Unfortunately, as with any psychological disorder, behavior that is not addressed self validates and increases. I am troubled for society, the expressions are becoming lethal. When national personalities call for violence, someone will be listening. If that person is less than well balanced, violence of some sort will follow. It starts with rhetoric, and when that rhetoric is challenged the response is ad hominem. I was in a discussion last week about politics, and one person went non-linear, eventually saying “I can have my opinions without factually reporting why I have them…” As I recall, the purpose of exchanging opinions was to convince people of your opinion. This person was under the impression that all that was required for me to accept her opinion as fact was her saying it. If there is truly a New World Order, this is it, “It’s true because I want it to be true.”

My ex-wife was similar. We would be discussing a subject and she would say something which had no basis in reality. When I corrected her she would argue. When I presented evidence she would say “Well, you’ve obviously done more research than I, but I still have the right to my opinion.” One time she actually placed her fingers in her ears because she did not want to hear anything which disproved her point. We’re divorced now. I don’t mind people who disagree with me, I’ve often learned new views, but when someone chooses ignorance over information there is nothing left to talk about.

The issue is not limited to a single group, discussions are becoming more difficult in general, and it’s not just my brain injury. I used to belong to several pro second amendment groups, but a few of them became unstable, with the “gun-nuts” often feared by the anti-gun crowd taking over. They disturbed me as well, so I left those groups. I’ve stayed with a few groups who promote responsibility, finding that conversations with responsible people are more satisfying regardless of topic, there is less a sense of being in an echo chamber when people speak freely and back up their opinions.

This is where narcissism can become lethal. The narcissist, in his arrogance, has isolated himself from other ideas, living in an echo chamber. He believes he is smarter than everyone else, and empowered to apply his concept of justice. The echo chamber is appealing to the narcissist. There are no voices of dissent. In many cases I find they have no intention of making sense, they just want to make noise. Louder is truer.

This week a breaking point snapped, and a man who believed his opinion reflected reality opened fire on a baseball team. He was the typical slacktivist, after firing fifty rounds the only casualty was the shooter. He did manage to wound six people, one seriously, another with a round to the foot. The story has revealed few details as the FBI has taken over the investigation, the rifle has been described as an “AK style weapon” by people who have most likely never held a firearm, and it appears he had been living on the street for several weeks. How he managed to conceal a rifle while witnesses who knew of him said all his belongings were in a bag is a bit odd, as well as how someone could live on the streets when they were carrying a $500 asset.

James T. Hodgkinson had a variety of reasons for believing Republicans should die. In his pocket was found a list of other pro-life politicians he planned to assassinate, because people who wish to preserve life should die. The logic reveals a streak of narcissism. His lack of concern for human life can easily be blamed on the severity of his mental illness, it can also be blamed on media figures who have encouraged violence through their rhetoric. Oddly (?), the media doubled down, suggesting the shooting was not enough. One Democratic member of congress responded to the calls for unity following the attack by saying she thought the shooting was funny. Why we might expect a more solemn response from a party with a history of violent acts indicates we are far more gracious than they are, even as we are portrayed as the bullies in life. This is narcissism showing, the belief they are superior, they have been wronged, no other opinion matters.

Where did this come from? One theory is that narcissists are born out of trauma, another that they are the result of “over-parenting.” I would like to think we can curb the progression from personality trait to personality disorder, but the nature of the process shields the narcissist from introspection. Contrary to popular opinion we are not all psychiatrists, and are ill equipped to counsel the mentally ill. Narcissists deny their own issues and accuse others of being narcissistic. In a defense of the shooting, Democratic Strategist James Devine said “We are in a war with selfish, foolish & narcissistic rich people. Why is it a shock when things turn violent?” Such a transparent statement, revealing his own narcissism.

Facing narcissists in my life for over fifty years, I eventually learned how to deal with them. Don’t. They either become more narcissistic or violent. They unwittingly isolate themselves, help give them what they want, complete isolation. As much as we may say “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” words do hurt. They can be an incitement to violence against a crowd, or against a single person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 comments on “Lethal Narcissism

  1. Mari Collier says:

    Ah, how I wish I could write as well as you do. What baffled me after the shooting outlined above was that the media immediately started yammering about gun control. Not one word about the unending day, after day, relentless telling of their like believers and any who will listen that all Republicans are deplorable and must be eliminated–by vote, of course, well they continue to say it is an evil that must be ended.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mike R says:

    We are reaping the rewards of post-modernism. Nietzsche was correct. As he predicted, with the death of belief in God, the 20th century was a time of unparalleled warfare. When all is relative there are no absolutes. We live in an age of autonomous moral systems, with no basis for good or evil. The narcissist is the perfect result, a man without humility. A similar result is what Israel turned into during the time of the Judges–“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

    I once considered narcissism a “disorder” but I’ve settled on it being one of various end points when a person becomes a law unto themselves. The D.C. shooter was a good example. While he had a history of anger issues before, this was not an incident of rage. It was a cooly-calculated decision to kill people to force his view of reality on others.

    Having a distant relative though marriage that has such a personality, I agree with you, Blake. There is nothing to be gained by dealing with them. As you said, “Don’t”. They will do whatever is necessary to gain their desires. The most clever of them, such as sociopaths, are quite adept at pretending to be compassionate and well-meaning. Narcissists learn at an early age how to manipulate people. And when manipulation does not work, they resort to unpleasantries, from explosive anger and fits on the low end, to devious backstabbing, or all the way to serious law breaking.

    Interesting times, indeed. And the sort of culture that generally results in totalitarianism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kblakecash says:

      You said the words I was searching for, “end points when a person becomes a law unto themselves.”

      Like

      • Mike R says:

        Your post was timely for me, because I’ve been contemplating epistemology lately. You laid out the practical, real-life implications of a distorted view of the world (as your writing often does). You are the rare modern man who somehow escaped being pressed into the mold of our times of ethics by consensus. It seems that a society can only have one of three forms of choosing an cultural ethical standard–that given by God and written on our hearts (natural law),dictation from the top human powers, or autonomous ethics (which really means each individual dictating their ethics and forcing it upon his neighbors.) We are sadly flirting with the latter, which ends in ethical chaos and results in totalitarianism, enthusiastically supported by the deluded masses (e.g., the French Revolution, Marxism).

        These are times when I find renewed joy in being part of the Kingdom of God, and not the Kingdom of Man. I want no part of today’s “politics”. The best I can do is reach out in love to my neighbor, and hope that I can help him see the truth through all the smoke…to present him with the Gospel. Of course, most of them are doing what your ex-wife did–putting her fingers in her ears.

        Liked by 1 person

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