Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Book Review: The Narcissism Epidemic

I came across an older article by U.S. News & World Report that contains excerpts from the reporter's interview with one of the authors of the book, "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement" and thought I'd highlight both the article and the book in a post. No, I haven't read the book as I only just found out about it, but I'm going to be buying it because it looks like a stellar treatment of the subject of narcissism from both the excerpts of this article and the reviews I've read.

It appears to me that we have a couple of Ph.Ds actually applying some science to the subject and, therefore, they break away from the usual cliches about narcissism that comes from pop psychology. I agree with all seven points in this article (for the most part) and I adore the answer to #4 (a little narcissism is healthy). I have not explicitly come out against this pat phrase that continually comes out in discussions about narcissism, but I've definitely in no way supported this belief on my blog. I don't and never have believed that "a little narcissism is healthy." Quoting from the article:

You have to ask, "Healthy for whom?" Narcissism is basically never healthy for other people. It tends to work out OK for the narcissist in the short term, but in the long term, they end up messing up their relationships at work and at home, and they end up depressed later in life.

Another way to phrase this is to substitute the word "narcissism" for "selfish". As in, "Selfishness is basically never healthy for other people..." You can decide to deny this but your denial won't ever change my mind. Selfishness always ends up subtracting from the lives of those around you. Now, don't go defining selfishness as the necessary care we must take of our persons. If we don't make sound decisions about how we take care of our health then we're useless to ourselves and everyone else. Stick to the true meaning of words. See here if you don't know the definition of selfishness.

I also want to hug these people for coming out against this blather: "You have to love yourself to love someone else". I have profoundly disagreed with this statement myself for many years now as I've come to see the truth of the matter. That these psychiatrists have actually grasped and unapologetically oppose this idea is surprising to me but thrilling. This idea of needing to love yourself first before you can love someone else is tirelessly chanted in Christian circles because of poor exegesis of Christ's statement to "love one another as you love yourself." What a good student of Scripture realizes is that God's perspective on how we love ourselves is that we do it unconditionally. So this statement is a command to love others as unconditionally as you already love yourself.

The U.S. News article can be found here.