Last year, I wrote a post in response to a rash of articles online about raising a narcissist, or I should say, how NOT to raise a narcissist. My beef with some of these articles is that they were shallow fluff, and didn't really understand what narcissism as a personality disorder is, or how abusive narcissists really are. I was thinking about how many articles with lists there are on the internet, and how they direct you to do something...to change something...to look at something more closely. This is not going to be another list. DOING something is good. But I want to look deeper, into how we are BEING with each other.
Narcissism is operating from the one-up position of grandiosity with a heaping dose of exploitation. It is possessing a sixth sense that allows all forms of manipulation and emotional blackmail to flourish. Underlying these, the bedrock of narcissism, is entitlement. It is a fierce conviction that one is entitled not just to use others to gain advantage, but to never have to account for how that affects those who are used. It's a deliberate blindness, a moral emptiness. For morality, happiness, and integrity all rest on an ability to consider others. Altruism is the way to happiness. A rightful morality would never allow you to feel guiltless for causing suffering. And basing your integrity on using others is crushing your ever having integrity.
Karen Horney describes narcissists as "moving against others”, “being unpleasant to others in pursuit
of one’s own goals” and having a “tendency to pursue their own goals regardless of
others’ needs.” This is inclusive of all a narcissist's trademarks: contempt, judgment, projection, blame, and an unyielding inability to apologize or be responsible for their own behavior.
I believe interpersonal narcissism thrives in a culture where the larger power, the System, Neoliberalism, has informed how we relate to each other. Rarely do we stop to consider that there are other possibilities than the pursuit of material goods, made possible by companies we are dependent on for paychecks and products. In “The Dream of God”, Borg describes this as And systemic evil is basically any structure that allows one or more people to be exploited for another's gain. It's interpersonal abuse, and does not just involve physical abuse. We have to broaden our notions of what abuse is. We, as a culture, tend to only give credence to certain well-worn narratives of abuse, and do not look at how financial, emotional, and mental abuse creates persistent, low-level suffering. In other words, narcissists create trauma victims. Narcissistic abuse can even cause PTSD because of the gaslighting, lies, constant drip-drips of crazymaking, and verbal attacks.
Narcissism is, therefore, in my opinion, a social justice issue. Social justice is about unfair distribution of advantages, and narcissism is all about unfairly securing the upper hand with regard to advantages, personally and professionally. Not only are therapists, workplaces, and courtrooms ill equipped and under educated about this disordered way of being, but our whole culture is sadly mistaken about narcissism. Sure, everyone knows a narcissist at work, or in their family. But no one REALLY cares how this affects anyone. And no one really knows what to look for.
I know a man who was so abusive, his wife was given a gun permit and told by a judge to move far, far away. She moved, but I could not help but thinking how fucked up that was. Had there been social consequences in place, that man may not have gotten off scot free while his wife had to completely move house out of fear for her life. Legally.
This kind of allowing creates huge cracks for people to fall into. It's legal to be an asshole, or an abuser. Abusers have rights to their children, rights to harass, rights to abuse. They often gain the right to shut you up if you tell the truth about them. They reserve the right to hurt you, take from you, lie about you, and look like a saint while doing it. Your rights to being, to being a human, are summarily dismissed.
Altruism is more possible in a culture that
embraces nonviolence as a way to address its problems. Nonviolence naturally calls for
having empathy and thinking about the good of the group, and then acting on
their behalf. Altruism, expressed as nonviolence, is anti-narcissism. It does not create scapegoats, it is not afraid of using conflict for social renewal, and it is not afraid to deal with the truth. In fact, it does not tolerate lies.
There is much to be said about how our culture structurally supports narcissism, but I think the crux of my message today is simply to think for yourself. Narcissists don't think FOR themselves, they think ABOUT themselves. They unquestioningly hold to their entitlement track, their judgments impaired by a compulsion to control rather than to truly think, and in this culture, they get plenty of reinforcement for their incongruent, inconsistent, and dishonest behavior. If you are moving against others, you are moving against yourself, for our social life is paramount to our happiness and good feelings about ourselves. Treating our fellow man with compassion, altruism as a way of life, and questioning structures in order to become more community minded and relationally oriented are all anti-narcissism.