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Daily Connect: Narcissism Much?

Recently I was sent this NPR story from All Things Considered about how the American Psychiatric Association may drop narcissism from its list of recognized disorders, mainly due, to the fact that...well...narcissism is so widespread and mainstream that it can't be considered abnormal anymore. The ability to self-obsess might even be a survival trait in today's materialistic culture. Amazing, right?

Take four minutes to listen to the above story. It's both shocking and entertaining, and it isn't just Jersey Shore characters (I never know whether to call people on reality tv 'people' or 'characters') who suffer from narcissism. It's so endemic it's normalized.

It's interesting how the middle path invariably seems to work, how in order to find the middle, you have to find the extremes and dwell in them first. Despite what the APA might say, obsessive narcissism and self-obsession is definitely an extreme worldview. At least from the point of view of awakened mind. But it's no wonder that when we get interested in mindfulness, interdependence, and the Bodhisattva ideal, we usually first swing to the other extreme too quickly and become martyrs as a coping mechanism for narcissism, forgetting to take care of ourselves and stressing out immeasurably over how we can never do enough for others.

Sanity, it seems, lies neither in martyrdom nor in narcissism, but in a middle path which is neither of these.Welcome to the 21st century, where narcissists and martyrs abound, and where true bodhisattvas are truly rare.

Looking forward to coteaching the Buddhism and Psychology series that starts next Monday. Hope to see you there, or hope you tune in to follow along at home.

(many thanks to IDP member Seth Freedman for forwarding the story)

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I heard this report differently

I listened to the report, and I don't agree with this statement: "drop narcissism  from its list of recognized disorders, mainly due, to the fact that...well...narcissism is so widespread and mainstream that it can't be considered abnormal anymore. The ability to self-obsess might even be a survival trait in today's materialistic culture. Amazing, right?"

what I heard the expert say is that we all have these personality traits -- to some extent. having any of them (there are five they're considering dropping but narcissism is sexier than dependent personality disorder because who wants to admit they have that?) in the extreme is a problem.

but I also heard him say there is a healthy place to be on the narcissism spectrum. it's not healthy to be completely uninterested in yourself. if you look at it as self-interest rather than self-obsession, that changes things. and I don't think it's a problem only in today's materialistic society. if the gunter-gatherers weren't a bit obsessed with themselves, would we be here?

serious meditation is narcissistic -- you have to be fascinated by your own mind  to spend hours sitting on a cushion looking at it. even if the eventual result is that you recognize interdependence and change the way you act in the world (to change the world), you have to find your mind pretty fascinating to get there.

"there's a difference between a clinical narcissist and one you see on TV, psychologist Keith Campbell tells NPR's Audie Cornish.

"The thing that makes it clinical is when you go to the extreme where it's pervasive, where it affects all aspects of your life," says Campbell, who heads the psychology department at the University of Georgia and co-authored a book, The Narcissism Epidemic.

If you're a clinical narcissist, he says, there's real pathology associated with it.

"You can't help yourself but try to get attention or seek admiration," Campbell says. "It interferes with your life. ... [I]t distorts your decision-making. It destroys your relationships."

scarcity mentality

link is to a fabulous talk by brene brown about how our society is designed around denying vulnerability, resulting in frantic efforts to reassure ourselves. that we're OK and safe. it's about 16 minutes and it's worth it -- she's funny and blends research and personal experience and is very insightful. not a buddhis but definitely sane.


great talk


heh - too funny... the reason i am on the web is because i'm nervously passing time while my 15 year old is out at his first "show" without grown-ups (HR from Bad Brains playing the 9:30 Club - wish i was there), and i'm anxiously waiting for a call to say he's on his way home. And your link is to a brilliant talk about vulnerability, in which Brene is telling about all the things in life that make you anxious and put you in a mindset of scarcity  (in her anecdote, it is anxiety about your kids' safety) and steal your capacity for joy.
The internet, where i am wandering in my anxious state,  is definitely a form of numbing, like alcohol and drugs, which we use to keep that feeling of vulnerability at bay. But at the same time, i'm very grateful to have stumbled on THAT link at just this moment. :)
Wonderful talk, thanks for sharing it! 
Also appreciate your thoughts on narcissism.


Who chooses your graphics? Aren't they rather sensationalized--or should I say 'sex-sationalized'? I object to having them appear on my facebook page.

Sensationalised graphics?

Sensationalised graphics? That's clearly a picture of Narcissus. What could be more appropriate for this post? You're the one making it sexual - you can't possibly expect everyone else to predict what your mind will make it out to be.

Narcissism vs. Martyrdom

It would be helpful to see more talk about the complexity of these obsessions as they're actually acted out. I mean, people don't just (in their head) stress out "over how we can never do enough for others." They will actually try to be everything to all people, including themselves, and in the process obsess about balance---what constitutes it and whether they are cultivating it.

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