The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Narcissism vs. Objectivity

Posted on | February 15, 2014 | 16 Comments

Everything you need to know about the entitled mentality typical of Millennials can be explained by Christopher Lasch’s 1979 book The Culture of Narcissism. Lasch was a man of the Left and enthralled by Freudian categories, so conservative readers must be prepared to endure occasional jabs at “modern industrial capitalism” and references to obsolete psychoanalytic nonsense. With those caveats, however, Lasch’s critique of what became known as the “Me Generation” of the 1980s is an invaluable primer in the causes and effects of a syndrome that has plagued American society for decades.

What the narcissistic personality lacks more than anything else is an objectivity about the relationship between the Self and others. The narcissist is unrealistic about himself because he cannot step outside himself and view his own flaws and failures as they actually are. The gap between who he thinks he is and who he really is, and perhaps more importantly, the gap between how others see him and how he sees himself, creates an existential crisis which he attempts to evade through various rationalizations and psychological defense mechanisms.

The narcissist becomes so obsessed with “image” — that is, the superficial facade he presents to others, in an attempt to elicit their admiration — that his life becomes a sort of performance, reducing others to the role of spectators whose applause is expected.

If the narcissist has sufficient abilities and personal attributes (beauty, charm, wealth, etc.) to “succeed” in this performance, that is often problematic in several ways that we could discuss. However, inevitably, even the most highly capable and personally attractive narcissist must sometimes fail, and it is the inability to cope with failure that leads narcissists into destructive patterns of behavior.

The narcissist’s devotion to self-image — what he thinks of himself, and what he wishes others to think of him — blinds him to his own faults and errors, so that he must always find scapegoats to blame for his failures. The narcissist can never take responsibility for failure, because his damaged ego is so fragile that it is impossible for him to accept that he is the cause of his own problems.

Of course, I use the generic “he” in discussing this, although female narcissists are at least as common as their male counterparts, and what is important to understand is that, as the Culture of Narcissism has become embedded in our society, many people are incapable of seeing how unhealthy and harmful this worldview is. A phenomenon that psychologists recognize as a personality disorder has become so common that it is almost The New Normal. If you’re  not a narcissistic image manipulator, constantly striving to impress others and elicit their admiration, you must be some kind of weirdo.

All of this is preamble to an excellent item published last fall, “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy.” A brief excerpt:

Paul Harvey, a University of New Hampshire professor . . . has researched this, finding that Gen Y has “unrealistic expectations and a strong resistance toward accepting negative feedback,” and “an inflated view of oneself.” He says that “a great source of frustration for people with a strong sense of entitlement is unmet expectations. They often feel entitled to a level of respect and rewards that aren’t in line with their actual ability and effort levels, and so they might not get the level of respect and rewards they are expecting.”
For those hiring members of Gen Y, Harvey suggests asking the interview question, “Do you feel you are generally superior to your coworkers/classmates/etc., and if so, why?” He says that “if the candidate answers yes to the first part but struggles with the ‘why,’ there may be an entitlement issue. This is because entitlement perceptions are often based on an unfounded sense of superiority and deservingness. They’ve been led to believe, perhaps through overzealous self-esteem building exercises in their youth, that they are somehow special but often lack any real justification for this belief.”

Read the whole thing. Feelings of entitlement and unrealistic expectations based on an inflated sense of superiority — this is classic narcissism. And when narcissists fail, their reaction is always predicably to engage in evasive blame-shifting and scapegoating.

But really, I’m bored with discussing President Obama . . .

 

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Comments

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    Back in the late ’90s, it was noted that while USA 3rd graders (age 8) were near our peak level of proficiency in math and science compared to other industrial nations, by the time they reached 8th grade (age 13), they had fallen behind in every area measured EXCEPT their self-esteem led the world.

    We teach self-esteem and that “your truth is true for you and as valid as anyone else’s truth,” but not long division or the Constitution.

    Our long experiment with federal subsidy and control over education at all levels has failed. It is time to end it. If the need for public education requires taxpayer money, it should be distributed entirely directly to parents and students as vouchers, and let the marketplace do the rest.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    If there is any hope of resuscitating the Public Schools [and I'm not sure if they should be] control must be returned to the city/town/county level.

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Beyond working on their science and math proficiency, those eight graders should be reading Crime and Punishment, which still remains one of the best novels ever on narcissism.

  • DaveO

    “One in four Americans ‘do not know the Earth circles the Sun'” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10640518/One-in-four-Americans-do-not-know-the-Earth-circles-the-Sun.html
    I’d’ve said 2 out of 5, based on voting results and belief in Obama and AGW. This is a victory for Prognazis everywhere.

  • Daniel O’Brien

    Special Snowflake Syndrome ™

  • Matt_SE

    I have a brother that is borderline narcissistic. From that experience, I’ve learned that there’s no interaction with them that will work out well in the long run. Better to avoid/marginalize them.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/ Adjoran

    I don’t know about that. After years of typical educrat crap and tiring of the typical sycophants who ran for school board, our rural county elected a reform majority to the school board several years ago. They’ve been able to eliminate some of the corrupt practices and sketchy accounting, but they have not been able to effect meaningful changes in curricula or results.

    I say, give the control to the consumer (or parent) and let the market do the heavy lifting.

  • cmdr358

    “If the need for public education requires taxpayer money, it should be distributed entirely directly to parents and students as vouchers, and let the marketplace do the rest.”

    While I find that I agree with you without reservation, we will have to acknowledge and accept the fact that there are millions of parents who, whether due to lack of common sense or moral values or even simply lack of mental capacity , are not up to the task of ensuring their children’s basic education.

    That was the first thought that I had upon reading your last paragraph. The first thought I had after reading my own was that we have exactly that same situation now except that government interference has done absolutely nothing to make it better.

    Survival of the fittest I suppose. I just hate to see children not have a chance because of their parentsparents shortcomings and their parent’s dependence on government to raise their children responsibly.

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady
  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    How about both in combination? Along with tax breaks for Homeschoolers?

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    But, as the Jews rightly say, ‘Such is life’. There are certain problems we just cannot solve.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    It depends on the person and his talents.

    Some can be steered into The Arts where their Narcissism can be an inducement to Creativity.

  • Zohydro

    Charter schools…

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