Friday, February 24, 2017

Our Narcissistic Culture

Children raised in a harsh and abusive
environment will be shaped by it.
Many Americans are asses, apparently.  In an interesting series of studies, we come off like a sick, narcissistic culture.  That's according to folks from around the world as well as our own opinion of ourselves.

As Miller et al point out,  the narcissism ratings associated with the “typical” American -- by both fellow Americans and study participants living outside the U.S. alike -- reached clinical standards for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Here’s their take, with PNC (short for “perceptions of national character”) referring to the average American:
In fact, in all three studies (Studies 1, 2, and 5) that used American samples, the mean PNC ratings for NPD were above the diagnostic threshold for this disorder, meaning that Americans in general were rated by their compatriots as meeting criteria for pathological narcissism as articulated in the DSM–5. … The same was true for perceptions of Americans provided by non-American participants.
 (Narcissism and United States’ culture: The view from home and around the world)

DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these traits:
  • Exaggerated self-importance
  • Expects to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerates achievements and talents
  • Only understood by equally superior people
  • Requires constant admiration
  • Expects favor and unquestioning compliance
  • Unable or unwilling to recognize the worth of others
Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence into thinking so highly of self that you put yourself on a pedestal and value yourself more than you value others. Narcissists tend to be egocentric and can be cruel, manipulative, and falsely affirming. They use guile, artifice, and pseudo-intimacy in order to convince someone they deserve preferential treatment.  Study it to understand what you're facing.

There are no medications for treating narcissistic personality disorder.  Some recommend a conversation 'out behind the barn'.

We do have narcissists among us, of course, at home, at school, at work.  Children raised in such an environment will be shaped by it. 

Narcissists may rise in workplace hierarchies because of their ability to elicit approval and admiration.  The traits are embedded in our culture, at least to some degree, via discrimination, class distinctions, and worldview formation via MTV, reality TV, cliques, and the like.

Narcissistic behavior may be countered depending on the degree of the individual's malformation.
Such behavior is perhaps not genetic but is rather an adaptation to life, a coping mechanism.
While having the psychological categorization is perhaps useful, those who qualify
span the spectrum of arrogance and manipulative selfishness.  They
might more usefully be understood as socially maladapted.
Seeing it with clarity allows you to put up appropriate,
effective, and necessary boundaries.

Shutting down a narcissist: 

Review your own behavior in detail; ensure you're not contributing to the problem (anger, name calling, criticising, kitchen sinking, etc.).  Prepare in detail with a practiced response.

Look them in the eyes.

When a narcissist's ego intrudes, look them directly in the eyes. Respond with a slow nod and then slowly shake your head from side to side.  It tells them that you see them for who they are.

Say no.

Narcissists use your shared relationship against you. Don't give them control. Don't be afraid to calmly and reasonably say no;
 it tells them you're not intimidated.  Do so with little or no explanation; any explanation you offer opens opportunity for an escalated rebuttal.

Offer feedback rather than criticism.

Narcissists can't take criticism, accurate or otherwise. If you criticize them, you'll become the target of their anger.  Instead, tell them you just don't understand their point of view, and perhaps ask them to explain.  Done thoughtfully and in a calm manner, it disables their primary weaponry.

Use the narcissist's name deliberately.  

When you address a person by name, you focus the situation, you connect them to their behavior. For example, you might say, "Mike, I don't understand your thinking on that one," perhaps adding something like, "Mike, can you explain how you came to that conclusion?"  

Attempt understanding, perhaps.

In a quiet moment, imagine how you might feel if you were never at peace, crippled by a chronic need for approval and admiration.  Thinking it through might help you to not take their actions personally.

At the same time, stay objective and focused.  A gracious but firm stance is actually a caring gesture.  And remember, you're not likely to be the only victim.  Interfering with such behavior may be a help to others.  If there are children involved ....

If over time your actions are successful and the relationship tones down to reasonableness, consider continuing the pursuit of issues calmly and with honest negotiation.  If not, leave the walls up.  If it escalates to abusive behavior, disconnect.

👴  A non-standard solution: from Foreign Afflictions: Mental Disorders across Country Borders, we see, "... when Murphy asked one of the Inuit how the group typically dealt with such an individual, he replied that, “somebody would have pushed him off the ice when no one was looking.”"  An understandable response, but not recommended, of course.

You can perhaps imagine how one might from years of experience and inquiry have arrived at this perspective.  Discernment rarely emerges without broad-based experience.  True for us all, and for wisdom as well.

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