A modern day Narcissus

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Caravaggio– painted circa 1597–1599
In this painting he is gazing at his own distorted image in the water, a metaphor for what a true narcissist is doing with his own self-image.

While working on the Book of Dreams I came to an image where a dreamer once shared a dream about a bully in a schoolyard. This got me to thinking about bullies and narcissists. Both seem to think only of themselves and when they look as though they are thinking of others they are only play acting for, you guessed it, themselves.

A true narcissist is someone who gets gratification through vanity and ego admiration. In the DSM V it is considered a personality disorder. It was originally designated as megalomania.

If ones focus is predominately a self-focus with a strong lack of empathy, psychological awareness, a haughty, or arrogant, body language and hypersensitivity to insults real or imagined this might be designated as narcissistic.

People with this type of personality tend to exaggerate their achievements and importance and detest and demean those who do not admire them. They also seem to exhibit a kind of magical thinking that isn’t connected to any rational understanding of reality.

The bully part of their behavior comes from a lack of or incomplete boundaries with a sense of entitlement and willingness to exploit others regardless of their feelings or interests. They will say anything if they think that it will secure the admiration of others. Often when not recognized for being better than others they will fly into an abusive rage i.e. tantrum. Many are exhibitionistic.

We all have a little of this in us especially if we are feeling down on ourselves and many politicians seem to have a little more of this than the rest of us. But the self-interest of narcissism can also be healthy in a balanced individual. However, there are those who express this kind of behavior on a regular and often grandiose scale.

Normally people with this kind of personality are only a danger to themselves and maybe to those closest to them but once in a while they get themselves into a position of power that can negatively affect vast numbers of people. These people are all too often raised to the level of leadership and can cause much damage and havoc.

The true narcissist will do anything to achieve their distorted image of themselves. ANYTHING! Can you imagine desperately trying to have the world around and within you be the way it is not and can never be? How trapped, frightened, and out of control would you feel? What a nightmare! And if this were a dream we are all living in we would be caught up in this nightmare as well.

Though it wouldn’t be appropriate to make a formal diagnosis, you may have noticed that the current president of the United States presents many if not most of the diagnostic indicators of this kind of personality disorder. I shudder to think the damage such a personality will ultimately wreak upon not only the U.S. but also the world if they are not held in check. But isn’t that what the U.S. system does well and pride itself in i.e. it’s ability to keep its negative aspects checked and in balance? Let us pray that this is so.

Other famous narcissists include Saddam Hussein, Napoleon, Henry the VIII, Adolph Hitler, Heinrich Himmler of Gestapo fame, Rasputin, Joseph Stalin, Vlad the Impaler and so on. Not a very empowering or enlightened group.

The fact that such a personality has gained such traction in American politics is worrisome for it suggests that fear has become the all-consuming emotion of the electorate and where there is great fear there is little rationality. In fact, rational thinking is the first victim of a fear-based individual or society. There are those in this country who seem ready to throw away everything good for which they stood for the illusions and fantasies perpetrated by a psychologically dysfunctional individual.

Interestingly in the Greek Myth of Narcissus his followers would also do what was contrary to their best interests in order to support him or to curry his favor. And there are those who know better but who are giving up their right to vote or resist out of disgust, disappointment, and disillusionment and laying bare the field for this being’s success.

Some of the side effects of being around a true Narcissist who can cleverly distort the reality around them is a feeling of having been abused, brutalized, and asking if it is they who are crazy. Has the current political environment become so distorted that we have become a nation of fearful, self-indulgent and self-serving narcissists? We’ll see. But bringing back a balancing agent to our politics and our rhetoric is a first step in the national therapy our country needs for we have seen what happens to a society that is unable to heal itself and deal with its fears it becomes insular, delusional, domineering, dictatorial, and aggressive toward others and towards itself.

2 thoughts on “A modern day Narcissus

  1. Is this narcissism a treatable personality defect ? And how does it usually play out in the lives of those who have it ?

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    1. Yes, it is treatable but getting the person to want treatment is as always the hardest first step. Here’s a link that will be able to answer many of your questions: https://www.medicinenet.com/narcissistic_personality_disorder/article.htm#narcissistic_personality_disorder_facts Though I cannot vouch for the material that’s on this site, it’s material seems reasonable and will get you started. As with most Personality Disorders the prognosis isn’t fully favorable (though symptoms can be lessened). It’s the co-symptoms that can be ameliorated and/or managed e.g. depression and anxiety. If you want to know more Google “treatment of narcissism” but as always consulting with a physician is the best policy. –Bob

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