February 18, 2010

The Other Ego Epidemic

voyager 1 looks back at earth from the edge.JPG
so what's behind the photographer?

Some articles sent by readers:

The Ego Epidemic: How more and more of us women have an inflated sense of our own fabulousness

Author: Narcissism is an epidemic in our society.

Newsweek: Generation Me



"Looks like you were right, even the popular press is catching on to the increase in narcissism--"

Belay that.  These magazines are your enemy.  Do you think they exist to improve you?

These articles aren't saying narcissism is on the rise, they are saying grandiosity is on the rise.  They are conflating the two.  Even psychiatrists get this wrong, they are not the same.

Leave aside for now what is the distinction.  Look instead at the result: by focusing on the grandiosity, it leaves you, the reader, with an out.  "Look at these grandiose idiots.  That's not me."   By virtue of the fact that you aren't famous, important, grandiose, you must therefore not be a narcissist.  It creates a self-satisfied sense of importance because you're not like them.  That's narcissism.  These articles actually reinforce your narcissism.  They are the wrong kind of friend you've picked to assure you: "that stuck up bitch, what does she know, you're too good for her anyway."

If you're reading it, it's for you.


How can a man who thinks "my wife is way smarter than me!"

or the guy who thinks, "I'm no  ladies' man, but I would never use a woman, even if I could!"

or the woman who thinks, "I know I'm not a model, but I'm an attractive,  intelligent, independent woman"

-- how can they all be narcissists? 

I. I. I. Me. I. Me. I. I. I. I. Me. Me. Me.   Enough, we get it, we all know who you are.

It's why happiness always seems out of reach, why love seems elusive or complicated.  And sometimes why other people get hurt.


Grandiosity is only one possible manifestation of a psychic process that went awry.  The essence, the defining characteristic of narcissism is the isolated worldview, the one in which everyone else is not fully real, only part a person, and only the part the impacts you. 

Narcissism is self-protective.  It simultaneously allows for the reduction of the other to prop status, while reassuring you that this perspective is not wrong or dangerous because it's not about superiority. 

You went to Haiti to help the refugees; great.  You may have done it because you want to help; or you may have done it because it identifies you to yourself and others as a kind person, selfless, a helper.  Which was it?  The former comes from an external ethical structure that informs behavior.  The latter is an internal identity that demands validation. 

NB:  the Haitians don't care either way, just show up.

Narcissism is morally neutral.  Only the results can be judged.  But it usually predicts: if the boat starts sinking, identity first.


"I agree.  Just do what's right. Don't worry if it makes you suffer now, God will reward you later."

Really?  He can't see through that?  Which god did you pick out, that he can't see you from the outside, the sum totality of your existence past, present and future? 

Of course: you picked the god that thinks like you.


A little egomania isn't a bad thing, especially if it spurs you to be better at whatever you're supposed to be better at.  Thinking your the best kid on the playground is not nearly as destructive as thinking you're the only kid the playground.  If you don't believe me, try it.

But you think you're the best?  Good.  Get to work.


"Help me, please, I think I'm a narcissist.  What do I do?"

There are a hundred correct answers, yet all of them useless, all of them will fail precisely because you want to hear them.

There's only one that's universally effective, I've said it before and no one liked it. This is step 1: fake it.

You'll say: but this isn't a treatment, this doesn't make a real change in me, this isn't going to make me less of a narcissist if I'm faking!

All of those answers are the narcissism talking.  All of those answers miss the point: your treatment isn't for you, it's for everyone else.

If you do not understand this, repeat step 1.