Thursday, February 07, 2008

It is Easy to Be a Narcissist

Because I have long been a student of human nature I have recognized the reality that we are all born very bent toward selfishness. My Christian belief system also informs this view. The Bible is clear that we are all born bent inward, toward self. Understanding that we are all born selfish has motivated me to study how to not be like the malignant narcissists.

Why have I studied how not to be narcissistic? Because we all come standard equipped to be narcissistic, therefore, it is easy to be a narcissist. The basic equipment we are born with is bent toward narcissism, not toward sainthood. The path to being good is rocky, uphill, hard, and often lonely. Why do people admire saints? Because it was easy? Quite the opposite, we know it was hard.

Maybe you haven't come to my conclusions about the nature of human kind, so let's look at it from another angle.

Think about how people in general talk about good behaviors vs. vices. We don't talk about how we are "tempted" to do good. No, we talk about temptations to do vice, to do wrong. If our nature was naturally bent toward being good then we would be enticed and attracted and, dare I say, tempted to deeds of goodness and virtue. When virtue and vice are standing before us we would find ourselves drawn out after virtue if we were naturally bent toward being good. But, no, our language never goes in that direction. We talk about the pull, the attraction, the desire for vice. We talk about doing good as being "character building", which we all know immediately means it is at least a little painful to our natures to be consistently good.

Then there is the reality of young children. Anyone who is honest with what they see in their young ones is acutely aware that children are born barbarians. We have to teach them to be civilized. For example: we know that we don't have to teach little, bitty kids how to lie; we have to teach them not to lie. The ability and desire to lie comes standard equipment on all kids. I love the Mark Twain quote about the second lie he ever told:
I do not remember my first lie, it is too far back; but I remember my second one very well. I was nine days old at the time, and had noticed that if a pin was sticking in me and I advertised it in the usual fashion, I was lovingly petted and coddled and pitied in a most agreeable way and got a ration between meals besides. It was human nature to want to get these riches, and I fell. I lied about the pin–advertising one when there wasn’t any. You would have done it; George Washington did it, anybody would have done it. During the first half of my life I never knew a child that was able to rise above that temptation and keep from telling that lie.
In other words, Twain recognized a simple and easily observable truth. We are born liars. He also recognized another truth: We come out of the womb wanting what we want when we want it. Self control, self denial, truth-telling even when scared or caught, delay of self gratification, all are qualities that have to be instilled; they do not come standard equipment for the human race. The thread of civilization is as thin as the current generation's parenting ability. If today's parents are not doing the hard work of civilizing their little barbarians, the break down of civilization follows hard on the heels of this failure. We are not born naturally good. So the struggle and the achievement we have to work toward, to strive after, is that of not following the clamors of our baser selves and making the serious effort it takes to be consistently good. This higher calling is the calling the malignant narcissist rejects at a very early age. If we would be different than they, we have to do the hard work. One of the consistent hallmarks of narcissists is that they lie. They lie often and well. They are also energetic at getting their own way all the time and in their own time. How is this not like the uncivilized baby? Arrested development is the most apt descriptor of the narcissist. What is easier? Remaining a baby, or growing up? The answer is obvious.

I have made the observation on my blog that the evil course is the easy course. It is the path of least resistance to study the easiest course and to only do what comes easy. I have tried to make the point that what comes easy for humanity is vice. The reality is that most of the time the easy path is the path to evil outcomes. Regardless of our motivation when we set out...if we only study our own comfort we will likely end up hurting others and destroying our own happiness if not our own souls.

My corollary to the path to evil is found by taking the easy course is:

Becoming and being a narcissist is a slide on ice.

It is a cinch. It is the most gutless choice you can make. It is the easy, downhill course. It is simply doing what comes naturally. If our human nature is naturally ungood, then following our natural inclinations is going to end up on the road to hell. It requires no courage, no guts, to become a narcissist.

Therefore, I hold out no respect and very little compassion for those dedicated to getting their own way all the time, i.e. narcissists. They expend all their compassion on themselves, and themselves only, therefore I feel no need to waste mine on them. I will save compassion for those who are resisting evil, not caving into it. Respect? I have none for the narcissist. What have they accomplished? Why should we admire (the basis of respect) someone who consistently picks out the easiest course? Do we admire heroes because they did something easy? Hardly. We all instinctively know that the heroic requires rising above self-interest and making a monumental effort on someone else's behalf. There is nothing easy about being a hero because it goes against self-interest. We all know in our hearts that going against our own self-interests is what is hard. When does the narcissist go against their self-interests? We can safely assert the answer is never. They are the living anti-thesis of heroism.

Too often, people to look for complicated reasons for why the malignant narcissist has turned predatory and heartless. They seem to do this exercise out of some need to feel compassion for the narcissist's excuse less behaviors. For some reason we seem willing to take on, as a society, the blame for those who have done nothing more than refuse to buck their bent nature. For the most part, it is the pointy-headed "intellectuals" who have come up with this self-flagellating reasoning in order to avoid recognizing that some among us actually choose to become evil. Why is it so repugnant to the modern mind that some people are evil...and they choose to be that way? I think it is because to admit to human evil is to land us right back into the bailiwick of religion. Discussions on the nature of man and the remedies for maladies of the soul are the areas that religion is meant to deal with. Science is ill equipped for dealing with dis-eases of the souls of humanity. A hundred years of psychotherapy have not alleviated the mental and emotional ills of the masses. If anything, the argument can be made that mankind is worse, not better, for the intervention of the priests of psychology.

Hardships do not a narcissist make. Hardships that are overcome and endured make us into better people if we consistently make choices against our naturally selfish inclinations. Nothing like hardship to test our resolve to do good when shit is going down all around us. Too often we assume that the hardship of a bad early childhood explains the creation of the narcissist. This is not true. Far too many people have come out of very difficult childhoods to become decent, loving and largely other-centered rather than self-centered for these circumstances to excuse or explain the narcissist. Hardships test us. They bring out the truth of who we really are. It is not days of ease and prosperity which prove our mettle. How you act and react under pressure is the true measure of your character. Any hardships the narcissist has experienced have revealed their character, not determined it.

Let us be honest with reality. The reality is that the narcissist has consistently and persistently chosen the easiest route. The route that did not go against their nature. They simply followed the stream of human selfishness. If we want to insure that we are different than the narcissist, we must choose to swim upstream against our naturally selfish inclinations. It is never easy to swim against the tide especially if there are rip tides and undercurrents (genetics, for example). But this is why we admire truly good people; we recognize that it is not by accident or ease that a good person became good.

Narcissism -- the course of the coward, the gutless, the morally lazy, the supremely selfish.

18 comments:

CZBZ said...

"Then there is the reality of young children. Anyone who is honest with what they see in their young ones is acutely aware that children are born barbarians. We have to teach them to be civilized. "

LOL!!! Yea, I've noticed the same thing but didn't have the guts to say it. Whenever someone tells me their two-year old is an angel, I wonder if they've noticed the child more than their illusions.

CZ

Anonymous said...

"Being a parent is easy," said the N. And therein lies the problem. The N equated parenting with the act of giving birth. The N did not care much one way or the other what happened to her children after that. Her job was done. She "cared" only when her children became wage earners, and thereby useful to her. At that point, she morphed into uber-control freak mommy, treating her adult offspring like mindless toddlers, who had to obey the she-%itch. That's a red flag.

Being a good parent is very hard work, indeed, from day one. Life lessons from your own child sting.

I fear that you are right, Anna. We are only one generation's parenting skills away from a society of Ns. It's already happening. Do we care enough to take the rocky road?

jordie said...

My biggest problem is worrying that I might actually BE a narcissist after having worked out the dynamics of all the other women in my family. My mom and sisters all live on another planet, and they think I am the one who needs therapy.

I have my own daughter, and I am finally realising that most of my problems are that I am hearing the tapes of my own family going on in the background all the time. Most of the stress comes from trying TOO hard to get it right. Since my husband and I have narcissism and abuse on both sides of our families (his brother committed suicide at 27 as proof of the rottenness), we are both at a crossroads of decision. We HAVE to change our parenting and lifestyle or WE will be responsible for promulgating the family culture.

As far as we are concerned its not negotiable. We are determined to start again. What that does then is create the stress of flagellating ourselves every time we get it wrong, instead of just trying to relax and trust that God will enable us to change.

This blog and others like it have been a God-send to help us make that change. Information and more importantly, truth, are the greatest tools to combating deception and the abuse that comes from it.

krl said...

Lordy....the more I read....the more wide open my eyes are to so much about my Nmom. I can hardly believe I swallowed so many lies and excuses all these years....and so dutifully enabled her outright laziness and inexcusable behaviour.

I see now (I REMEMBER now) the neglect, the shaming, the bullying, the stonewalling, the twisted truths during my childhood. I only got a clue when it has become so blatant as she has aged. She isn't as 'careful' to cover her tracks and it is outrageous. I don't know....I'm thinking that I also realized how much I worked and sacrificed and prayed over my own children....how much I loved them and cared about them....and couldn't seem to find something of the same in my own upbringing from her. It dawned on me that it simply was not there!...Well....duh.

I also realize now that my Nmom's sad tune about being raised in the dustbowl and depression era was her EXCUSE for 'not being able to do anything'. (She was always 'helpless', 'tired', "I can't..." "I don't know how..." "No one ever taught me.." on and on. Good God! I think now...and did the math....Her family LEFT the dustbowl and relocated when she was 7. Her family settled in a non-depressed area and her mother was a school teacher who ALWAYS kept her job. Money was tight because there were several siblings...(who all became efficient, hardworking, successful adults...) and then there is Nmom...who 'just CAN'T'. Well...how come she thought I COULD? This just pisses me off to no end. 'CAN'T'...my ass! She simply WOULDN'T!

You have no idea how much this burns me right now...Why, that lazy, shiftless, irresponsible, self-spoiling, neglectful...blahblahblah! And to think that when I started 'having emotional problems'...she 'helped' (Dad's money) pay for some of my therapy. Arrggghhhhh. I could go on and on and on.

Will the mad part of this move along? Will I ever just let it go? Geez! I'm so sick and tired of the hold this stuff has on me!

krl

So, what IS in a heart? said...

The way I see it is that hardship and/or abuse might EXPLAIN evil, but it doesn't justify it.

And just as one can choose to be evil, they can also choose to remain victims or people that willfully support evil if it suits them. :/

I'm not sure if even having Personality Disorders justify evil, but you got to admit, it sure makes them more vulnerable to giving in to the "lure of evil".

Anna Valerious said...

I'm not sure if even having Personality Disorders justify evil, but you got to admit, it sure makes them more vulnerable to giving in to the "lure of evil".

Actually, no, I don't have to admit that. This is the classic chicken and egg dilemma. What came first? The evil mindset and behaviors? Or the personality disorder? There is significant evidence to support that the personality disorder did not come first. The work with psychopathy has revealed some interesting info along this line.

Anonymous said...

krl's mother sounds alot like mine. However, my N mom can when she wants to. This will sound frivolous, maybe, but something was so exemplified for me when my N mom --- who can NOT do so much (whimper, whimper) --- who never goes to movies ---- hauled her solitary scrawny ass out to see, guess what --- The Princess Diaries. That's her fantasy -- to be a princess --- she doesn't generally "get" fantasy, but that one called to her like the siren's song.

krl said...

I don't mean to hog the blog....but, something about 'choice' comes to mind when I was dealing with Nmom years ago....(I was in my 20s and struggling with these issues myself..) I remember DISTINCTLY telling her...."Mom, you have to decide..before God...what kind of wife, mother, woman, person...YOU want to be. It doesn't matter what wasn't given to you....it takes WORK to work that out. I HAVE TO. It didn't come handed to ME. It's a process and you have to START...even if it means failing sometimes." I recall that her eyes got 'flat' and 'vacant' before she started in on the "But you don't understand....blahblahblah..." Now, after 30 more years, her 'story' is the same but more exaggerated and full of lies....blatantly excusing herself of any and all responsibility for being a parasite for the past 79 years. I can see now that she had no intention of working at being a better human being....EVER. It was easier to sit on her butt, write us an occasional check out of Dad's money....(which would give her the 'right' to whine our ears off about BadOl'Dad....and about 'no one ever gives me a chance'. Shit. And I was 'party' to all that. No. More.

Maybe I would have just imploded on my own....but, by God...having children took me out of myself...off my ass...and about the business of raising them, loving them, caring for them...NO MATTER WHAT. It was a choice...for sure. Did I know what I was doing? Hell, NO. But, I started on my knees...and learned right along with my children...to stand up. It just took me a long time and lots of scrapes and bruises and humbling. Hard? YOU BET! Worth it? YOU BET!

krl

Naive No Longer said...

With respect to the whole personality disorder/evil line of discussion:

My thinking is that perhaps psychology has contributed by giving definition and thus a "name" to a constellation of behaviors and characteristics that the evil person exhibits.

So quoting . . .

"I'm not sure if even having Personality Disorders justify evil, but you got to admit, it sure makes them more vulnerable to giving in to the "lure of evil"."

What is it that makes us want to excuse evil behavior IN ANY WAY at all??? Vulnerable???? This is not a word that I can even begin to couple with the narcissist.

Their personality disorder making them vulnerable to the "lure of evil"?? How about THEM, by THEIR own choosing, doing evil deeds we can then point to and place a lable onto: ie. narcissistic personality disorder.

The "label" is a way of characterizing these people. Not offering them an excuse for their bad behavior.

I don't care what kind of background or horrible childhood trauma they endured. There are countless others who have endured similar things and don't come out with such a disregard for humanity other than themselves. Those who are sincerely trying to climb their way out and overcome the abuse of their past without running roughshod over or being cruel to others. Contrast that with the way a narcissist tries to "overcome" their past. BIG DIFFFERENCE.

I used to excuse and empathize with my mother because of her terrible childhood. When my thinking started to change and I started confronting her with things . . . that is when the true evil showed its vileness. Her absolute refusal to hear or consider anything I had to say was coupled with turning the tables on me, making me the villain and making sure everyone else knew it. "There must be something wrong with our daughter. Listen to her. I'm so worried about her. How can she be saying such things. I have overcome my childhood and was determined to give my children the best. ALL I EVER DID WAS LOVE HER. And now look at what she's doing. She's daring to say that I did ANYTHING wrong." blah, blah, blah.

You are NOT ALLOWED to draw healthy boundaries with these types of people. Ever. It will always be turned upon you that you are doing something CRUEL to THEM and thus they are entitled to run roughshod over you.

I now know that the love I grew up with was actually poison and that the only path to complete freedom was to go no contact.

toni said...

"When does the narcissist go against their self-interests? We can safely assert the answer is never. They are the living anti-thesis of heroism."

Yet all too often they project themselves as some type of hero, seeking all the adulation that comes with it. In a recent conversation my nsib referred to herself as a saint - yes she used that word.

She actually serves as a good example of proof that narcissism is a choice. When she sabotaged herself and the n behavior backfired in a big way, she actually sought counseling. She could not believe she didn't get what she wanted and went into crisis mode. She actually said she didn't know why she did some of the things she did and wanted to understand. I thought it was a breakthrough - recognition. But she informed the therapist first of what things she would not change. The therapist had little to work with, but tried. Then she stopped going, saying she can't do what she was told and didn't like to hear "bad" things about herself. She then said she wouldn't even make an effort because she is "spoiled", while smiling in a self-satisfied way. Of course being selfish is easier. Then she became an even worse N. The therapist had told her she needed to develop herself more and disengage from nmom - her #1 enabler. That would never happen so n-sis decided that she would accept her inner (and outer) n. Yes, it most definitely was a choice.

Holy Water Salt said...

It is interesting- narcissism (NPD)
is a personality disorder, NOT mental illness. They are sane and choosing these behaviors.

They choose to be evil.

So, what IS in a heart? said...

"The evil mindset and behaviors? Or the personality disorder? There is significant evidence to support that the personality disorder did not come first."

So, you're saying that their choices are what led to the personality disorder? Hmm...I remember years ago saying, "THEY CHOOSE TO BE THE WAY THEY ARE!" when people over at Portal of Evil.com were talking about some of the personalities in the "odd" fandoms.

Some will claim that they didn't choose their PD, but so what? Don't they still choose their conduct?

When I said, "more vulnerable to the lure of evil", I meant that the temptation to do evil is generally always there(especially when money or whatever desire is there as a reward), and some end up choosing it much easier than others, is all. Why is it easier for them to choose evil, but for others, it's hard?

Like, if someone is a schizoid, it's very easy to choose to be isolated, but the Cluster B disorders generally can't stand being alone, so for them, isolation is generally out of the question.

I agree that one chooses to be evil though. No argument there. Even the mentally ill have some degree of self-control.

Anonymous said...

My biggest problem is worrying that I might actually BE a narcissist after having worked out the dynamics of all the other women in my family. My mom and sisters all live on another planet, and they think I am the one who needs therapy.

Jordie, that pretty much tells me you aren't a Narcissist. lol Narcs don't worry that they are the problem. It's always somebody else. And yes, I've done this song and dance. You made need therapy, but not because 'they' say so. Only if you think you need to.

I know just from the way that I was raised, I have some Narc tendencies. I'm facing them and working on them. Everyone has Narcissist traits. It's when they are off the scale that it becomes the real issue. I'm taking the problem by the balls and changing the only person I can...ME. My kids have never suffered the verbal and emotional hell that I did. I've lost my extended family. I've had to redefine what family is to me. Family is peace, it's happiness, give and take. Not eggshells, not withholding, not verbal insults.

I'm typing with tears in my eyes when I say this blog is a Godsend. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

"Let us be honest with reality. The reality is that the narcissist has consistently and persistently chosen the easiest route. The route that did not go against their nature. They simply followed the stream of human selfishness."

How absolutely true. It's that very real reality that can be hard to emotionally accept. The most difficult point of realization, at least from my experience, is when your N lets you down when you most need them. That's been my wake-up call. From what I've seen, most former substance abusers/alcoholics are able to recount exactly when they knew they needed help. They can tell you the precise moment, which is almost like a religious experience for them.

I think people involved in one-sided relationships with N's have this sort of moment of clarity as well. At some point, the N lets you down in a way that is beyond even their normal selfish behavior, making it clear that one needs to leave. At least, that's how I came to the brutal realization that I had to stop, even if it's still hard at this point.

Stormchild said...

A thought for Jordie and for anonymous 2-9 5:16 ---

first, for sure I don't see you as narcissistic at all, Jordie. I've been reading your blogs and also your comments here and elsewhere, and the picture that emerges is 3-D and consistent.

I completely understand your fear, though, because being raised by and with Ns, or subjected to them for extensive periods without validation or defense, often results in our picking up some of their behaviors or responses, simply as a result of constant modeling, and no alternative responses being seen.

The best thing we can do for ourselves and those we love is to know this and guard against it - not through constant hypervigilance, but consistent honesty in our approach to [and appraisal of] our own selves.

Anon 2-9 5:18 pretty much says all of this... much more concisely ;-)...

But.

One response I've seen exploited by narcissists over and over again... is the immediate tendency we have to assume that anyone who asks the question, "Am I N? Could I be?" can't be N

... merely because they're asking that question.

WHOA NELLY!

Ns, as both Anna and Kathy K have demonstrated often, are predators.

Predators use strategies to find and trap their prey.

One of the strategies human predators use with a very high degree of success when stalking human prey is the pretense that they are something other than they really are.

Abusive men are hyperattentive during courtship.

Abusive women are often hypersexual during courtship.

Both are almost always extremely 'nice' to the mark during the 'entrapment' phase. Extremely lofty ideals may be expressed. Huge amounts of empathy are simulated. A completely false persona is displayed as bait, until the mark is hooked... at which point, whether slowly or all at once, the mask comes off.

And Ns seeking supply, especially in cyberspace, are more than capable of showing up somewhere new with their hat in their hand and their feet shuffling modestly, saying, "Oh dear dear me, I'm so worried that I might be an N..."

Then they sit back and wait to see who jumps to reassure them,

who runs to comfort them,

knowing absolutely NOTHING about them.

And dinner, as they say, is served.

When you see this happening, or think it's happening, try this simple test.

Tell the stranger that you have no earthly idea if they're an N or not, and that you can't possibly know until you've had the chance to see how they respond in a variety of situations.

And that as soon as you think you know if they are an N or not, you'll be happy to tell them; meanwhile, they're more than welcome to hang around and get to know and be known, wherever you happen to be.

Then watch their response.

Unless they are an extremely self-controlled N, or they have a specific prey object in their sights that they REALLY want to get to... their immediate reaction to this degree of awareness and candor should tell you pretty much all you need to know.

Anonymous said...

Anna,

I disagree with you on this one. I think that NPD is unnatural, a perversion. I think that humans are naturally social animals and it is the N who attempts to exploit this. The N thinks that s/he is getting something at the expense of someone else, but in the long run, s/he is also cheating him/herself. Like someone who assumes that they will never have to pay off a credit card and all the stuff they get is free.

Unfortunately, there isn't an english word for the concept of being positively selfish in the sense of taking care of oneself and respecting this in others. I take actions that are beneficial to me and try to cultivate win-win scenarios. If my wants conflict with someone else's, then I attempt to trade/negotiate to find a solution.

I have no trouble with people who are merely self centered and I think that it is their loss that they miss out on a lot. My problem is only with people who attempt to have a free ride at someone else's expense.

-Cassandra

So, what IS in a heart? said...

"I think that humans are naturally social animals and it is the N who attempts to exploit this."

Ns' are actually VERY social. In fact, one of the telling signs of those in cluster B disorders is the hatred of being alone. There's exceptions, but the norm is that Cluster B people are generally as social as other humans, they're just a lot less pleasant to deal with. So, in that sense they are "natural", it's natural in the same way cow dung is natural.

vicariousrising said...

I love this post. It reminds me of what I read in "The People of the Lie" and it is the first thing that has rung any truth to me in understanding how my mother ended up the way she did. I never could trace back her history and find a reason for her to turn bad -- moral laziness really suits her better than any other explanation. More recently, it came to my attention that she willfully avoids information or pursuits that might run counter to the way she wishes to see things. It boggled my mind since she always presented herself as openminded, a scholar and interested in logic. All false, it turns out.

I really do think that as she went through life and made one bad choice after another, it became easier to slide that slippery slope rather than either admit she had made bad choices and/or make reparations for those choices and take a different path.