Archive for April 29th, 2012
Narcissistic people are very fearful of not being well regarded by others, and they therefore attempt to control others’ behavior and viewpoints in order to protect their self-esteem. The underlying dynamic of narcissism is a deep, usually unconscious, sense of oneself as dangerously inadequate and vulnerable to blame and rejection. There are many behaviors that can stem from narcissistic concerns, such as immersion in one’s own affairs to the exclusion of others, an inability to empathize with other’s experience, interpersonal rigidity, an insistence that one’s opinions and values are “right,” and a tendency to be easily offended and take things personally.
To some extent we are a narcissistic society. Many Americans are controlling, blaming, self-absorbed, intolerant of others’ views. As a society we are unaware of other’s needs and of the effects of our collect behavior on the members of society. Our narcissistic culture requires that others see us as we wish to be seen. For example, many parents demand certain behavior from their children because they see the children as extensions of themselves, and need the children to represent them in the world in ways that meet the parents’ emotional needs. Let’s take a narcissistic father who is a lawyer demands that his son, who had always been treated as the “favorite” in the family, enters the legal profession as well. When the son chooses another career, the father rejects and ridicules him.
Narcissistic traits in society lead people to be very intrusive in some ways, and entirely neglectful in others. And people are punished if they do not respond adequately to society’s expectations. This punishment may take a variety of forms, including shame, angry outbursts, blame, guilt, emotional withdrawal, and criticism. Whatever form it takes, the purpose of the punishment is to enforce compliance with society’s narcissistic needs.
The image I often keep in mind regarding narcissism, is that the narcissist needs to be in spotlight, and every one else serves as audience. The narcissist is on stage, performing, and needing attention, appreciation, support, praise, reassurance, and encouragement, and the other person’s role is to provide these things. So people only get approval and rewarded when they perform well in their role, but, otherwise, they are corrected and punished.
There are three common types of responses to narcissism: identification, compliance, and rebellion. Identification is the imitation of society’s narcissistic standards, which may be required in order to maintain a sense of connection with the world around you. In regard to narcissistic parents, the child must exhibit the same qualities, values, feelings, and behavior which the parent employs to defend his or her self-esteem. For example, a parent who is a bully may not only bully his child, but may require that the child become a bully as well. A parent whose self-esteem depends on his or her child’s academic achievement may require that the child also be academically oriented. Thus the child is given value (or devalued) in relation to his or her accomplishments in this area.
Identification is a response of a person seeing society as a representative of himself or herself, and is the price of remaining connectedness with it. It results in people becoming narcissistic themselves. Compliance refers to a person becoming the approving audience sought by society. A person is complying with society’s needs by being the counterpart the culture seeks. Rebellion refers to the state of fighting to not accept the dictates of society by behaving in opposition to them. An example of this behavior is that of an intelligent child who does poorly in school in response to his parent’s need that he be a high achiever. The critical issue here is that the child is unconsciously attempting to not submit to the parent’s definition of him despite his inner compulsion to comply with the parent’s needs. He therefore acts in a self defeating manner in order to try to maintain a sense of independence. (If the pressure for compliance had not been internalized, the child would be free to be successful despite the parent’s tendency to co-opt his achievements.)
All of us are narcissistic to varying degrees. When our self-esteem varies in relation to how others think and feel about us, we are experiencing a narcissistic vulnerability. When we feel guilty or anxious because we fear that we are not meeting someone else’s needs or expectations, we are being narcissistic. These ordinary experiences are problematic the more they interfere with our ability to be successful and enjoy our lives. It is often helpful in overcoming narcissistic anxieties to realize that the other person’s behavior is a result of their own views and experience, is not a reflection on oneself, and one’s self esteem does not have to be affected by their behavior. For narcissistic people, who experience strong feelings of guilt and blame, recognizing that they are not responsible for another’s experience is a great relief. It is important for people with narcissistic problems to come to believe that they have intrinsic value, independent of their accomplishments or what others may think of them.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )