Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Narcissism: The Undiagnosed Plague of Western Cultures

June 17, 2015

I was recently in church and received a text that informed me that I’d sent a family member to the “wrong address”!  So I text the same address that I’d sent to him three times before.  My phone started ringing but I obviously couldn’t answer because I was in the middle of the service.  I got another text asking me to leave the service so I could talk.  The timing could not have been worse, if the devil had planned it.  It was offering time.  My pen refused to work properly but I managed to scratch out enough information on the check in the hopes that the bank would accept it.  I handed my offering off to a friend and went outside and made my call.

Whenever I fail at something, I try and become introspective to figure out how not to make the same mistake twice.  I need to know in an objective way if I did something that caused a given situation to obtain a less than favorable outcome.  I try to use those “failures” in a constructive way.  I knew in this particular case that I had provided enough information to get the family members to the correct destination.  I realized in retrospect that I have historically never been able to do anything right when this individual is involved.

I was fuming.  The incident reminded me of of a cacophony of business deals, interactions with former co-workers and personal relationships, where I had been blamed – by the person I was dealing with – for somehow failing he or she by not performing to their expectations.  And it seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I could never satisfy those individuals.  Was it something I’d done?  Nah!

Some people think that the world is designed solely for their gratification.  I know that we all know someone like that.  We are all self centered to a degree but some are way over the top.  As I stated in the title, narcissism is a big problem.  It affects people all around us and may have a deleterious impact on some who don’t realize that they’re being victimized by someone with narcissistic behaviors.  If you don’t know some of the traits of narcissism keep reading.

Years ago a former co-worker, that I had a great deal of problems working with, after I was given a promotion, accused me of being a “narcissist”.  That particular person happened to be a marginally attractive single female that was new to our office.  She would come into my cubicle each day for ‘advice’ on how to manage her backlog. While receiving my ‘advice’ she would press her bony right hip against my left shoulder, as she talked to me.  I found this to be rather disconcerting. At some point, her daily ventures into my cubicle became a distraction. When it became apparent to her that I was not to be swayed by her absence of feminine pulchritude, she became increasingly difficult to deal with!  She truly believed that youth, her degrees, her membership in a prominent national sorority and past competition in beauty pageants (sic) made her the most desirable woman in our office.  Sorry. I’m no Adonis, but an undernourished woman in her late 20’s with bad acne is not the girl of my dreams!  At the time, I was in a committed relationship with a self centered mature women with beautiful skin and superior skills in the boudoir (but I’ll get to her later).  At that point in my life, I had no desire to enter in a relationship with a chick that came to work each Monday and bragged about her “exploits” with men over the weekend, like some men do around the water cooler. To make a long story short, our professional relationship soured.  She began leaving notes in my mailbox accusing me of everything except being a competent professional.  One of the last notes I received accused me of being a narcissist. That caught my attention because she was kind enough to provide me with a definition of narcissism:

1) inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.
2) Psychoanalysis. erotic gratification derived from admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.

That same woman later married and divorced a man that physically resembles me.  But that’s probably just coincidence!  If I said it was more than that then I might be guilty of being a tad narcissistic!

I freely admit to being vain and a bit self centered.  I have no children and I love myself but I reject the notion that self confidence, self esteem and love of self equate to vanity, erotic fixation of my sexual proclivities and ego maniacal hubris.  I am not a selfish lover and I never brag about my capabilities (too much).  I’m a student, never a professor who is eternally grateful to those women who have been graceful enough to share.  I never blame my failings on others.  My alpha parents beat me into humility at an early age to ensure that I would be able to interact well with others.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I attract narcissist.  Many of the women I’ve been intimately involved with have had narcissistic traits or met the standard definition I noted above.  My co-worker – and no we were never intimate – was the first person that provided me with a name for the type of personality I was consistently attracting. That was about 20 years ago. Since that time, I’m better able to identify people that I’ve interacted with throughout the years that have been narcissist.  And I’ve come to recognize that narcissism is one of the biggest problems that western societies face.  There are a lot of you out there.  Even though psychiatrist don’t consider it to be a mental disorder does not mean that narcissism doesn’t negatively impact daily life.

Narcissus of classic Greek mythology was the son of a god and a nymph who was hung up on his own looks.  We know that it ended badly for him.  In the modern world, mere mortals that are hung up on themselves affect those around them in insurmountable ways. Children of narcissist suffer because they almost never grow up feeling they’re “good enough” in the eyes of that parent who was always the focal point of attention by their devoted spouse, other family members and a host of friends and relatives.  Children are too close to the situation to realize that the focal point of their affection – mom or dad – are kinda stuck on themselves.  Narcissist dearly love their children because the children are part of them and they often love their spouses or other targets of their affection because those persons have managed to divert their attention away from themselves.   The secret dichotomy of most narcissist is that they’re quite needy for the attention of others.  I think I attract them because I tend to ignore them when I meet them initially and never offer them my full devotion.  I’m as interested in them as anyone else they encounter but I’m not into idolatry!  I leave that to their fan clubs.

The first ‘textbook narcissist’ I dated had been hired at my place of work. Her first day, she was brought around to everyone’s office and introduced.  She was stunningly beautiful and looked like trouble. I’ve never been afraid of a little trouble and I’d learned in my youth that the best way to get a beautiful woman to notice you is to get her to notice you first..

Each time I walked past her office, several of my male co-workers were gathered in her doorway.  I’d wave or say ‘hello’ and keep it moving.  After a few weeks, she appeared at my office door. And the rest as they say was history.  But my experience with her also became a ‘teachable’ experience.  Because the next time I had a woman like her, I kinda knew what to expect from her.  Narcissist are pretty consistent in their conduct.  And there in lies the problem. When you’re the focal point of their attention life can be heavenly but when someone else or something else falls in their line of vision you are easily forgotten. That’s okay for me but that can be devastating for an emotionally immature adult or a child!

Children of narcissist may never live up to the expectations of a self involved parent and may never understand why they don’t. I know daughters of narcissist that have never felt “pretty enough” and male children that are not “smart enough” or “good enough” and spend their adult lives attempting to live up to unrealistic expectations established by a narcissistic parent.  That sometimes causes children to feel woefully inadequate.

In the recent past, I had a long term relationship with a narcissist.  I watched helplessly as her grown children tried in vain to be like her or be better than her. That preoccupation stunted them emotionally and kept them from achieving in many many ways.  One glaring deficit was their inability to raise their own children.  They had unfortunately never been taught very basic things that allowed them to be whole so they had a rough time of rearing children.  And it was generational. My woman had been raised by a narcissist and often articulated her perceived failings when it came to her relationship with her mother, her children and after a point with me.  No amount of assurance from me could heal a wound that had festered long before I came into the picture.

I always try to sum up these pieces with something optimistic.  I don’t think I can do it this time.  I meet a lot of people these days that are stuck on themselves.  I think I’ve become aware of them because of the enormity of social media and my own personal experiences.  The whole society seems to be moving away for “us and “we” to “ME, ME, ME”!  It’s a little frustrating to watch because there’s little that I can do about it.  But I get to vent on the world wide web.  And I’m not above doing it at some of those self involved people’s expense.  I’m a tad vindictive!

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