Primary narcissism is a normal phenomenon, conforming with the normal physiological and mental development of the child. But narcissism exists also in later stages of life (“secondary narcissism,” according to Freud), if the growing child fails to develop the capacity for love, or loses it again. Narcissism is the essence of all severe psychic pathology. For the narcissistically involved person, there is only one reality, that of his own thought processes, feelings and needs. The world outside is not experienced or perceived objectively, i.e., as existing in its own terms, conditions and needs. The most extreme form of narcissism is to be seen in all forms of insanity. The insane person has lost contact with the world; he has withdrawn into himself; he cannot experience reality, either physical or human reality as it is, but only as formed and determined by his own inner processes. He either does not react to the world outside, or if he does, reacts not in terms of its reality, but only in terms of his own processes of thought and feeling. Narcissism is the opposite pole to objectivity, reason and love.
==The Sane Society (Erich Fromm)
The United States is currently suffering from an epidemic of narcissism. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines an epidemic as an affliction “affecting…a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population,” and narcissism more than fits the bill. In data from 37,000 college students, narcissistic personality traits rose just as fast as obesity from the 1980s to the present,
The rise in narcissism is accelerating, with scores rising faster in the 2000s than in previous decades. By 2006, 1 out of 4 college students agreed with the majority of the items on a standard measure of narcissistic traits. Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), the more severe, clinically diagnosed version of the trait, is also far more common than once thought. Nearly 1 out of 10 of Americans in their twenties, and 1 out of 16 of those of all ages, has experienced the symptoms of NPD.
- Narcissists are overconfident, not just confident, and—unlike most people high in self-esteem—place little value on emotionally close relationships.
- American culture’s focus on self-admiration has caused a flight from reality to the land of grandiose fantasy.
Many cultural changes were eminently quantifiable: the five-fold increase in plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures in just ten years, the growth of celebrity gossip magazines, Americans spending more than they earn and racking up huge amounts of debt, the growing size of houses, the increasing popularity of giving children unique names, polling data on the importance of being rich and famous, and the growing number of people who cheat.
- Being highly narcissistic or a narcissist is not the same as having a diagnosed psychiatric disorder or a pathological level of narcissism. To be diagnosed with NPD, someone has to meet at least five of nine specific criteria describing a long-term pattern of behavior involving grandiosity, a lack of empathy, and a need to be admired. The person must also be suffering some form of impairment, such as depression, failures at work, or very troubled close relationships.
Two studies found that narcissists didn’t score any higher on objective IQ tests, and another found no correlation between narcissism and performance on a test of general knowledge. Studies on creativity are mixed, with one finding a positive correlation and another finding no relationship. Narcissists also aren’t any better looking: across two studies, strangers who rated head shots found narcissists no more attractive than others, even though they thought they were more attractive (one of these studies was cleverly titled “Narcissistic men and women think they are so hot—But they are not”)
- Narcissists are also materialistic, entitled, aggressive when insulted, and uninterested in emotional closeness.
Over the last few decades, narcissism has risen as much as obesity. In other words, the narcissism epidemic is just as widespread as the obesity epidemic.
“I am an important person.” Only 12% of teens agreed with this statement in the 1950s, but by the late ’80s more than 80% of girls and 77% of boys said they were important. A study called Monitoring the Future found that the number of high school students who said that “having lots of money” was “extremely important” increased 66% between 1976 and 2006. A 2008 Harris Interactive poll found that 21-to 31-year-olds were voted the most greedy and self-indulgent—even by the twenty-somethings themselves, who were actually more likely than older generations to agree that the young generation had these narcissistic tendencies.
We are often asked if it’s just the rich white kids who are narcissistic, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Author Jake Halpern found that twice as many black as white teens said they’d rather be famous than be smarter, stronger, or more beautiful. One social worker remarked to us that the inner-city youth he works with have “this overconfident attitude that isn’t based on anything substantial. They believe they are great mainly because their teachers continue to tell them how great they are.
Narcissists are lousy at taking criticism and learning from mistakes.
- They also like to blame everyone and everything except themselves for their shortcomings. Second, they lack motivation to improve because they believe they have already made it: when you were born on home plate, why run around the bases? Third, overconfidence itself can lead to poor performance. If you think you know all of the answers, there’s no need to study. Then you take the test and fail. Oops.
The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell)
- Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by dramatic, emotional behavior, which is in the same category as antisocial and borderline personality disorders.
- Narcissistic personality disorder symptoms may include:
- Believing that you’re better than others
- Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
- Exaggerating your achievements or talents
- Expecting constant praise and admiration
- Believing that you’re special and acting accordingly
- Failing to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings
- Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans
- Taking advantage of others
- Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior
- Being jealous of others
- Believing that others are jealous of you
- Trouble keeping healthy relationships
- Setting unrealistic goals
- Being easily hurt and rejected
- Having a fragile self-esteem
- Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional
Narcissism, strong ego and in many cases (most) uncontainable libido all seem to be essential character traits beneath the polished veneer, power hunger and manipulative drive of the successful politician that has, like a salmon seeking its spawning ground, ferociously fought the currents to arrive at the head of the river, in this case the Presidency of the United States of America. In some cases, and pardon the excessive Fruadianisms, we have experienced Presidents who have, for a variety of reasons, sublimated their libidinous drive into more Machiavellian aggression’s by turning there sexual energies towards undermining deviousness and acts of paranoid aggression such as implementing enemies lists, IRS targeting or “kill lists”
It is, of course, very possible that the refocused libido still holds a sexual undertow where the “joy” of manipulation, legal subversion or “kill” lists can provide an almost orgasmic experience, when the object of such endeavors is fulfilled. A President suffering from NPD, one could imagine, would be especially prone to such psycho-physical manifestations? President Nixon and the current President come to mind. Regardless of the various possible intriguing psychological, potentially sociopathic undercurrents, the risks of some form of malfeasance and breach of trust in such an individual can not be underestimated.
Extreme Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a relatively new psychological category and the risks of a person affected by such to themselves and others is not well defined. However, it is certain, I believe, that the risks to the United States from a President suffering from this condition can not, absolutely should not, be underestimated. I have held for a number of years that President Obama is a classic example not just of a narcissistic personality, but of a man suffering from NPD–and that this represents a serious potential danger to himself, but more importantly to the nation and the world.
WASHINGTON, November 16, 2013 — Often undiagnosed and misunderstood, narcissistic personality disorder is a pathology that needs to be taken seriously.
Most of us understand what it means to behave narcissistically. We have a picture in our mind of a young, pretty girl who enjoys looking at herself in the mirror, wearing designer clothes, and having her nails done. The male equivalent also wears nice clothes, works out religiously at the local gym, and spends more time in front of the mirror getting ready to go out than his girlfriend does.
These individuals are often young adults or teenagers with no responsibilities beyond school and a part-time job that pays for all of their clothes and make-up. Over time, their responsibilities change, and they begin experiencing life and work. They quickly outgrow their egotistical, narcissistic behavior. Their cognitive skills mature and they realize what is most important in life: friends and family. Their preoccupation with their looks dwindles and building and creating healthy interpersonal relationships become their focus and goal.