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.


Jehanne said...

Read the book review and will look for the book. Yes, those seven points discussed in the interview have been bothering me ever since I first started studying NPD. What stuck in my craw most was the idea that there is some explanation to be found in the narcissist's formative years. Both sets of grandparents were kind, generous people (not perfect, but not narcissists). NMom lost her father when she was eleven, but why should that not produce traits of sensitivity and compassion? I've come to the same conclusion about serial killers. They are because they are. Thanks for posting. It's always good to know one may not be a contrary curmudgeon.

lorem ipsum said...

Thanks, Anna! I immediately went to my local library's Web site to reserve a copy—and found that ALL copies are checked out, curiously with a due date of three weeks from now. So it seems your reach is pretty broad!

Mike Krueger said...

Good to hear from you again, Anna. I am a 73 yr. old man who was left stranded in Nebraska by a narcisist. I am getting ready to write a book about this episode in my life. I am grateful that I found your blog as you have given me much insight into this disorder.
Miss hearing from you regularly.
mr. shinola

warrior09 said...

Hi Anna,
Happy 2010! Hope your Holidays were filled with nothing but Happiness.
I was so surprised to see that you are here again. I'm so very happy!
I thought I would never be able to say thank you so much for your blog
and for the many others who have posted here. I have learned so much about
my NM through this blog. I felt at times too that I was writing about my mother.
From the moment I started reading your blog 9/09, I went NC. It was hard but
NOT as hard as I thought. One good thing is my NM lives 500 miles away.
After my last disappointment with her during her visit with me. I had enough.
I lost three weeks of sleep, tossing and turning each night and so hurt and confused
during my days. My sister, always mentioned that my mother was a MN. I thought
I knew what it meant. I decided to google shortly after her visit and I found your blog.
It was Liberating! THANK YOU SO MUCH For Everything!

Anna Valerious said...

Thank you, Warrior09, for your comment. I'm very happy you found this blog and have been able to find freedom and peace of mind. It always brings a smile to my face to hear from another person who has been able to extricate themselves from the narcissists.

Ember said...

There may be truth to saying that narcissism can be learned. My NM's sister told me that she was always treated like she was more special than her other three siblings. Her brother who was the other sibling her age always got into trouble and is now in jail for life. I think my NM wanted to recreate this family structure with me and my sister. At 3 years old she put me in therapy and told the therapists she was afraid I would end up just like her brother (although there was no evidence for this). She tortured me my whole life acting as if I was a "wild child" but never really was. Three years younger, my sister has always been treated as the angel.
This past Christmas I remarked that I didn't like my NM to some cousins, and my sister said, "well you were a bad kid." Even though if she used her ability to observe at all, she would have noticed we were treated completely differently. Now my sister is a perfectionist who doesn't seem to have any meaningful emotional connections, although she has many superficial friends. She is incredibly selfish and materialistically obsessed...she is basically my mother all over again.
I'm not sure, but I believe my mother created her narcissist clone.

Osaverde Quixote said...

So glad you're back, Ms. Anna. I've been wondering lately if NPD might be the maladaptive result of some sort of trauma or abuse- but like Jehanne, I don't think so. My NM had very loving, gentle parents. But my male cousin on that side is also NPD, and he had a traumatic childhood, so I have to wonder. Anyway, I'll be celebrating 9 years with no contact this February. My brother, the golden child, not so lucky- his marriage is now destroyed because he couldn't break the ties to NM. But that's his journey, not mine. Thank you.

Lori said...

Very interesting article and I will certainly read the book. My elderly but incredibly 'healthy' and energetic NF in-law continues to create havoc in the family at intervals, but I'm happy to say that my husband and I have been NC since August, 2009. One of the saddest aspects of this situation (besides a myriad of repercussions for their seven children) is my mother-in-law, who has remained the ever faithful and dutiful wife, has become a sad shell of her former self. Interestingly though, I know that my NF in-law did have a traumatic childhood with an abusive father and an alcoholic mother, and I've always wondered about the connection. I must say however, that there are many people who have suffered trauma and emotional privation in their formative years and yet, astound us in their triumph over it. This blog has given me the strength to finally stand up to my NF in-law and support my husband in the process. Thanks to Anna and all who have shared their experiences.

Anna Valerious said...


See comment policy.

This blog is my personal property. You do not have an unrestricted right to say anything you wish to here. The comment section is a privilege not a right...So...if you find your comments moderated out, sorry. Decisions are final. [June 24, 2008]

Donating to this blog is a voluntary act on your part. It does not buy you the right to have all your comments approved.

Unknown said...

I just finished the book and it was quite disappointing. Reads more like pop psych than a scholarly work. By the way, they are two psychologists, not psychiatrists. Your site is far better than anything contained in The Narcissism Epidemic, which is an overstatement anyway, in my opinion. Will be interested in hearing your assessment of the book.

Anna Valerious said...

Thanks for your review and the correction about the authors being psychologists, Jenny. My copy just arrived yesterday. I'll have to screw up my resolve to read it since my head is pulled so far out of this realm right now.

...:::.::mE!!::.:::... said...

Hello All-
Recently my loving father passed away.My mother(the narcissists) was very upset to find out that our father left all the children a small inheritance. She has said insistently that it is her money and that the official documents were a mistake. She has demanded all of us to turn it over to her. One sister gave her entire portion over to our mother to keep the peace. I and two other sisters are hesitant because we know our father was a kind giving man. We want to accept his small gift to us. Meanwhile our mother has contacted her side of the family and grandmas and aunts are calling us trying to influence us to give every penny to our mother. She is using anger, tears and guilt trips to manipulate us. I found this site in the miss of this chaos.I don't know how to break away from this dysfunctional family situation. She has said she wants nothing to do with us unless we hand the money over and that a loving daughter will do that. Any advice. I know what I should do but I feel this obligation to her as well. She insist she needs it for bills and continues to say hurtful things to get me to turn the money over. Help! Any advice?

Grizelda said...

Oh mE!!, I think it would be a shame for you to pass up this golden opportunity for prying yourself loose from an N -- she could very well banish you and badmouth you for not giving her what your father wanted YOU to have. However, that's easy for me to say -- if all your siblings give her their money, well, I could see that you might feel bad because of their disapproval or something. But maybe you could look at refusing her as HONORING your father instead? Why should his explicit wishes be ignored because of an N? That probably happened to him many many times in his life - so how sad that it even happen yet again posthumously. :(

And I'm with those who don't believe that trauma/abuse is the typical cause of NPD. I've known a few and every one of them was coddled and spoiled by their weak or too-invested parent(s).

Intuitively, I think an abused child usually is beaten down, like a hauntd wounded deer, jumpy, anxiety-ridden, prone to avoidant personality disorder or the chronic stress disorder syndrome thingy, and I read that theory in a psychological essay somewhere (wished I'd kept the link.)

Oh well, as long as I don't lose Anna Valerious' link I'll be o.k. This site more than any other has helped me go NC and stay that way since early 2009. Whew. This site saved my life!

Juan Echo Mota said...

To ..::mE::..,

I agree with pgc6655 that this is your perfect opportunity to go NC. I agree with Anna that going NC is the ONLY way to save oneself from the repeated insanity of trying to keep an N in your life. Please keep YOUR money so as to honor and remember your loving father. If he wanted your NM to have it, he'd have willed it to her in the first place.

Anna, good to see you post. BUT, y'know what, I'm even happier to see this:

"...I'll have to screw up my resolve to read it since my head is pulled so far out of this realm right now."

I love the sound of this statement in the morning. It sounds like victory! (Okay, I'm not Robert Duvall) It gives me hope that the days where I DON'T think of my horrible Nparents will continue to grow fewer and farther between.

IMO this really is the best website concerning Malignant Narcissism. No b.s., just the straight story. I hope everyone who's suffered the insanity of Nrelationships in their lives can find the peace here that I have.

Unknown said...


Looking at it as objectively as possible,

Separate out what is good for you from what is good for your mother. This is difficult to do when you have been emotionally dependent on a narcissist all your life.

1. Your father gave you the money. Fact. It is your right to keep it and do with it as you will. Forget what your mother wants you to do with it, and start with yourself, what do you want to do with it.

2. As concerning your mother's threats to withdraw attention from you; this is not something you can control, and is her issue. Let her decide how she plans to react to your decision to take control over your money and your life, whilst it may affect you because you have been dependent on her love and attention, don't respond to it, and don't let yourself be controlled by it.

I acknowledge that these things are easy to advise on, but much more difficult to do.

From my experience, to break away from the threats of the narcissists in my life, I needed at least initially to live with loneliness and abandonment - and appreciate that as a short-term interim measure this was the healthier option than remaining with the narcissists. From there I have spent the rest of my life trying to build new healthy relationships. It has never been easy, especially when I haven't had good models to learn from, but I don't regret it for a second.

What do you think?

Osaverde Quixote said...

for :Me!:

Keep your money and go No Contact. It's not easy but you WILL survive. Giving a narcissist money is like throwing it into a black hole- it's never enough, it only makes them want/ try to get more. Obviously your father knew this. You'll find support here and with any good therapist. Good luck!

Kathleen said...

Not sure if this belongs with this topic or not, but just wanted to share what I think I'm finally learning.

Recently I found out that my former ILs (most of them) are suffering from health and financial issues. As soon as I learned this, the "christian" in me, the one who belongs to "the culture of nice" began to shout in my ear. I have to help them! If my DH were still alive, we would have helped financially and also gone to visit, to help in the home.

But I prayed about it first. And I read and reread many things on narcissism.

There is an evil that is so strong, so abhorrant, so unnatural it defies all logic and runs counter to every modern culture --- the evil of human sacrifice, especially the sacrificing of your own young, your own children, to your gods -- your money, your status, your personna, your finances, your .... YOUR YOUR YOUR.

There really are parents whose children would ask for a fish, but they would give them a stone.

This is an evil that is stronger than I. It's an evil of which I have NO CONCEPT of how to fight. It is an evil that disguises itself so well -- because it is so very UNNATURAL to even CONCEIVE that it exists.

But it does. And it's bigger than I am. I can pray for those ensnared, but I CANNOT offer any help lest I be burned by such an evil.

When you are tempted to help, remember that you fight not against flesh and blood, but against principaliies and darkness and evil.

- Kathleen A.

Ben Dover said...

Thank you for writing about narcissism. It is an extremely relevant topic these days and needs to discussed more often. I have a narcissistic ex-husband who no longer makes my life a living hell, but has wreaked havoc on our son's life. I wish more people knew about this disorder; it's causes and symptoms; might empower others to loosen the grip the narcissist has on them.
Anyway, please keep writing about this issue, it needs to be said and people need to be informed about it.

Cleopatrasparachute said...

I could use some help. There are support groups for ACONs, and plenty about how to heal from a N parent, but not much on how to help a teenager cope with an N parent in the present. My ex is a N and my daughter has to visit him. We live a fair distance away, so only once a month and summers, but still she has to go. How do I arm her with the right coping mechanisms to handle him?
Your blog has been so incredibly insightful. I live every day thankful for escaping my ex's grasp- now I MUST help my daughter.

Anna Valerious said...

My best advice for anyone is all on my blog. If the info on my site has been helpful to you why wouldn't it be helpful to your daughter? Teach her what you've learned...or point her to this blog and other places which are able to spell out the deal with narcissists.

Suzy Creamcheese said...

Just found your blog. Thank you, it is very well written and insightful. I am the daughter of a narcissist, she is 85 and going strong and I'm working on my part. I'm writing (somewhat humorously, if that's possible) about my experiences at http://suzycreamcheesegoesinpatient@blogspot.com.

Janet Karam said...

Hi Anna,

Your site is such a gift.

I've tried to go no contact with my narc father many times over the last twenty years.

After a recent relapse, I have recovered my senses and am resuming no contact hopefully for the last time. It does make a difference when you have a child to protect- awareness is heightened, infractions become unduly painful and intolerable.

You've included extremely helpful information with such clarity, and I am personally motivated by your impassioned and no-bull approach.

Here's to freedom for everone who seeks it.

Thank you with all my heart.


Unknown said...

You are a dynamo and I applaud you. I married a narcissist and have recently created my own blog: narcissismathome.blogspot.com/

I am just beginning and am seeking others who have experienced the abuse.

It's amazing to be finding so many people who have lived the life and have reached the same conclusions--people who have made their own diagnosis (I presume) of the people in their lives who have caused such trouble and pain.

I'm looking to create a dialogue with people who have been impacted by this disorder firsthand. You are one of the people I found.

ellyb said...

I'm pretty shocked, wondering how narcissistic I've behaved myself. I spend most of my teenage and adult life trying to "prove" that my mom was wrong, that I am not a selfish, disgusting loser. I somehow used others for that, always looking for people who gave me positive feedback, who were amazed by my skills... I think I didn't really try to "manipulate" others, and I ran away from my relationships most of the time instead of trying to abuse my partners, as narcissists apparently do (I was always fearing that the other one would discover me as being "toxic", and maybe that fear was justified?) Anyway, I somehow neglected others' needs by always searching for what I believed I needed myself.

Despite all self-criticism, I still think my mom is a narcissist, showing a lot of the personality traits described here. I went "no contact" about 4 years ago, because I couldn't stand it anymore.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is great. I have been with a few narcissists and I have a blog her on blogger too. I just found yours yesterday and I think it's very informative for people who have no idea what they are involved with. thanks for having this. You have a lot of great information here.

Teresa said...

I can't use your email, as I use yahoo. I have a question. I want to know when children of a Narcissits finally figure their father out? My ex is a classic one right down to having the "Golden Child"

Anna Valerious said...


There is no one who can predict when your children will figure out what their father is. It depends on too many factors as to how and when a person is able to figure out if their parent is a narcissist.