Hollywood has given us numerous scenarios, wherein zombies try to take over the world. A zombie apocalypse makes for great fiction and comedy. However, not funny, nor fictional, is the increasing number of people with a narcissistic personality, or who have narcissistic characteristics.
As well as growing in numbers, our culture favours narcissistic qualities, so narcissists are, increasingly, in positions of power. With an abundance of self-confidence, narcissists make a great first impression and present themselves as capable, obedient workers and natural leaders, ready, willing, and able to run the show. Donald Trump demonstrates how effectively a self-serving narcissist, even a vile, dumb, unqualified one, slithers up ladders.
Although the Internet is awash with information on the condition, narcissism is not well understood. There is a lot of misinformation. I lack professional qualifications, but am a recreational researcher, armchair psychiatrist, amatuer profiler, weekend psychoanalyst, Monday morning quack, and barstool philosopher. As well, most critically, I’ve had lifelong relationship with a narcissist.
Spotting a zombie is easy: a stumbling gait, stunned, open-mouthed countenance, poor complexion, failing wardrobe, and questionable hygiene make one obvious. Narcissists are a different entity. A narcissist looks “normal,” walks, talks, and, to the touch, feels normal.
A narcissist, however, doesn’t feel, like others. A defining characteristic of a narcissist is a lack of empathy. Although they have grandiose opinions of themselves, and a need to be recognized, narcissists don’t care about others.
Relationships with a narcissist are, therefore, one-sided and toxic. Even children are valued, only, for what they can provide the narcissist: respectability, status, cover, bait, income, accessories, props… Children of narcissists grow up with the challenge of being unloved.
A narcissist can’t be cured or changed, so don’t try. A relationship with a narcissist doesn’t end well. There are signs.
If you meet one, run. You are better off alone.
Contrary to popular belief, narcissists are not putting up fronts to mask insecurities. Narcissists, truly, believe they’re superior. An inflated sense of self contributes to a narcissist’s arrogance, dismissiveness, and / or cruelty, as well as their charisma and self-assuredness. There is never a lack of self-confidence, even in a failing narcissist.
In fact, narcissists are most dangerous when reality doesn’t mesh with their opinion of themselves. This is termed Narcissistic Injury. Rather than reflect on their behaviour, a narcissist will blame others and lash out, often, cruelly. A friend is divorcing a narcissist and his behaviour is dreadfully sadistic. Despite declaring himself a Christian, he is a cruel (injured) narcissist.
Competitiveness and a drive for recognition push some high achieving narcissists to great work and accomplishments. However, most narcissists prefer soft targets and gravitate to middle management and public service.
There are different ways to create a narcissist and our society is establishing perfect conditions for their proliferation. A neglected child can become a cold, reptilian survival-machine, indifferent to anything and anyone, but themselves. On the other end, children who’re overly-indulged and told, from conception, they are better than everyone, believe it.
Celebrity can trigger, latent, narcissism.
We are all born narcissistic. As infants, the moment we are uncomfortable, we squawk. Fortunate babies have their needs catered to, immediately. Ideally, as time goes by, and we grow up and realize there are others, who have needs and feelings, we become less self-centered and more community minded.
One of the most critical factors in the development of a compassionate, caring citizen is unstructured, unsupervised play. By playing with others; siblings and friends, children learn to share and care. A selfish child loses playmates and the joy they bring, quickly. Throughout history, people have learned to give and take and see things from another’s perspective, by playing.
As family sizes shrink, children have fewer siblings to play with. Unstructured play, with a group of similarly aged children, is, also, a thing of the past. Parks, fields, trails, all over Canada, sit empty, while youth stay home and play video games by themselves, for hours. Even in a group, children play alone.
Media and social media contribute to the narcissism epidemic. While sitting with friends and family, people stare at their phones. An obsession with celebrity, likes, and views undermines and overrides a drive to behave well or do good work.
Single occupancy vehicles breed narcissism. A hyper-competitive culture contributes to unhealthy, self-centered behaviour. The disintegration of family and community creates individualistic behaviour. Decades of giving everyone a trophy and declaring losers winners hasn’t helped. Self-esteem, once earned, is now conferred upon every Tom, Dick, and Narcissist.
Narcissists deserve sympathy. With insatiable appetites for material goods, recognition, admiration, fame, and prestige, a narcissist can never be content; never be happy. Their self-centeredness means they will always be alone, even within a relationship.
I worked with a cruel narcissist, who went out of her way to make people miserable. It seemed her only joy. When she died, prematurely, I wrote a 50-word poem-obituary.
Karma And The Narcissist
Breaking spirits, cutting throats Spreading lies, taking notes Entirely without remorse Every day, she stayed the course She got her castle and her throne But sat up there all alone And when they threw her in the ground No one came and stood around To mourn, or cry, or say, Good-bye
From climate change and terrorism, to mass migration and poverty, humanity is facing a litany of challenges, many self-made. The proliferation of narcissists is, to me, another indication our species is driving down a dangerous road, lost.
Eventually, people will have to go back to compact, compassionate communities, or we’ll perish. As with a zombie apocalypse, flourishing narcissism is inimical to humanity.