Narcissistic Personality Disorder — A Cultural Perspective

Greed. One of the seven deadly sins. Are we as a culture down to only six?

With thanks to innocuous.com for the image.

 

The quote above (and the fuller one, below)  is from tRump’s The Art of the Deal. 

The only time in my life I didn’t follow that rule was with the USFL [the defunct United States Football League]. I bought a losing team in a losing league on a long shot. It almost worked, through our antitrust suit, but when it didn’t, I had no fallback. The point is that you can’t be too greedy.

[If you are interested in a fairly good summary of his book, here is one that I found in Business Insider. ]

 

But this is not a post about one man.

This is a post about the pervasive personality disorder that psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and others have been concerned with for a long time.

And — more importantly — this is a post about why these warnings fell on deaf ears.

This is a long post.  It may be that it’s a post for you to save and refer back to from time to time as needed.  Or you might just delete it with a cavalier “It’s too much!” Either one is OK.  But I felt I had to write this. I wanted to get into a single published post all that I’d collected on this disorder. Readers can do with it as they want. Really.

Ready?  Let’s go.

Let’s start with those articles that called — or tried to call — our attention to something “fishy in the state of Denmark.”  Peruse them or read each one; your call.  Here, in chronological order, are seven that I found prior to November 8, election day.

July 13, 2015Donald Trump may be a Narcissist, from DailyKos.com  By Madrigal Maniac 

August 27, 2015, Mark Salter, the former chief of staff to Sen. John McCain and a senior adviser to the McCain for President campaign, wrote in RealClearPolitics.comTrump’s a Narcissist. What’s His Supporters’ Excuse?

September, 17, 2015 the Science Section of The  Huffington Post ran with this article by Carolyn Gregoire, Senior Writer, Is Donald Trump A Narcissist — Or A Bully? Here’s What Psychologists Say. 

Vanity Fair followed on November 11, 2015, with IS DONALD TRUMP ACTUALLY A NARCISSIST? THERAPISTS WEIGH IN! the first print publication I found that raised the issue.

November 22, 2015  the online addictinginfo.org published,Top U.S. Psychiatrists Confirm Trump’s Narcissistic Personality Disorder, ‘Textbook Case’, by Randa Morris.

Time Magazine followed in December, 2015 when Donald Kluger, author of The Narcissist Next Door, wrote, Donald Trump’s Very Strange Brand of Narcissism.

After the election, Richard Greene, Communication Strategist and author of Words That Shook The World, published an article, “Is Donald Trump Mentally Ill? in The Huffington Post. It is an excellent summary of what the DSM states and I recommend you read  it in full at some point. It also includes two videos that I’ll link to  a bit further down.

[learn_more caption=”Open the pull down menu for my summary of this important article.”] First, he offers the letter sent to President Obama from Judith Herman, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Nanette Gartrell, M.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco (1988-2011), Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School (1983-87); and Dee Mosbacher, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Community Health Systems, University of California, San Francisco (2005-2013), which follows:

 

We are writing to express our grave concern regarding the mental stability of our President-Elect. Professional standards do not permit us to venture a diagnosis for a public figure whom we have not evaluated personally. Nevertheless, his widely reported symptoms of mental instability — including grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality — lead us to question his fitness for the immense responsibilities of the office.

 

We strongly recommend that, in preparation for assuming these responsibilities, he receive a full medical and neuropsychiatric evaluation by an impartial team of investigators. Green’s article ends with, “That so many have decided to ignore his profound character defect, or turn it into an asset in their eyes, is horrific, but, sadly, not surprising.”

[/learn_more]

 

Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist and professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, said, “For me, the compelling question is the psychological state of his supporters. They are unable or unwilling to make a connection between the challenges faced by any president and the knowledge and behavior of Donald Trump. In a democracy, that is disastrous.

 

Which is where I want to pick it up.

Why is it that no one, no one in power, no one in the media, seems to have taken up this accusation and run with it?

Do not enough people trust and understand psychology?

What’s going on in a society (a culture) that looks the other way, that appears to take in stride a comment like the one I opened with?

“You can never be too greedy,” he said.

And American voters agreed.

 

In case you are interested in the official version of the DSM’s criteria for diagnosing NPD, here’s the text:

[learn_more caption=”Open the pull down menu for specific DSM criteria.”] The essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in personality (self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of pathological personality traits. To diagnose narcissistic personality disorder, the following criteria must be met:

A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:

1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):

a. Identity: Excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal may be inflated or deflated, or vacillate between extremes; emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem.

b. Self-direction: Goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on a sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations.

AND

2. Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):

a. Empathy: Impaired ability to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self; over- or underestimate of own effect on others.

b. Intimacy: Relationships largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little genuine interest in others’ experiences and predominance of a need for personal gain

B. Pathological personality traits in the following domain:

1. Antagonism, characterized by:

a. Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert; self-centeredness; firmly holding to the belief that one is better than others; condescending toward others.

b. Attention seeking: Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of the attention of others; admiration seeking.

C. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual’s personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations.

D. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.

E. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma).[/learn_more]

 

For those who learn best through audio visual aids, here are the two videos I mentioned above.  First, a 25 minute video from Dr. Lynn Meyer and next,  a 4-minute recap from the same psychologist outlining the features and symptoms of NPD.

 

Back in an early draft of my memoir, At Home on the Kazakh Steppe: A Peace Corps Memoir, I wrote about what we noticed when we first returned. Besides being surprised by  Netflix, Crocs, humidity, and insects, I wrote:

Food portions were too large, and plates too big. And we found new addictions to credit and debt that we hadn’t noticed before. Greed had become a virtue while we were away; the seeds planted long ago, we came home to the summer flowers and the harsh economic winter that followed Wall Street’s implosion a few years later.

 

Was that “harsh economic winter” a direct result of the narcissistic behaviors that have become so familiar, we consider them “normal?

 

This is not normal!

Our world, our news, our pop culture seems filled with examples of narcissists who have made good, where self-interest prevails. Still, the classic NPD film, Wall St. ends with the protagonist getting his just dessert. This is how we like it.  Justice is served, once again. Hallelujah.  But is this only in fiction?

 

Over the past forty years, I’ve watch my country fall deeper and deeper into a culture in which cowboy individualism (self-interest) reigns supreme. We claim the Gordon Geckos of the world (the Michael Douglas character in the film Wall St.) pay the price. But do they really?

 

In fiction, the final resting place of someone with NPD is always determined by the victims once they discover a strength they didn’t know they had and rise up and say, “No more.” 
 

Perhaps that is why the outcome of this election hit me so hard. Narcissists are supposed to get found out; they are supposed to get their comeuppance; perhaps they even go to jail. But they certainly don’t get elected President of The United States.

[learn_more caption=”I’m not the first to look closely into the culture of narcissism.”]
Christopher Lasch wrote The Culture of Narcissism: American Life In an Age of Diminishing Expectations in 1979, telling his readers (which did not include me) how psychology had replaced religion as our organizing principle.

 

Thirty years later, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (Jean Twenge and Keith Campell) speaks of the “real costs of narcissism,” which include relationships with family, in the workplace, in schools, and in the economy at large. “Even the world economy has been damaged by risky, unrealistic overconfidence.”   Yup, they are referring to the recession that hit us just as Obama was taking his first oath of office.
[/learn_more]

 

Finally, from Psychology Today, a 2011 Op-Ed piece, Narcissism in Alive and Well in America,  by Jim Taylor, Ph.D. connects the measurable increase in narcissism to three things.  The first he calls “The self-esteem movement, where parents ‘do everything they can to make their children feel good about themselves. The result has been a decline in real self-esteem and an increase in self-love and unjustifiable personal ‘exceptionalism.'”

 

I’m not crazy about this argument, frankly. I happen to believe the push to help individuals understand themselves better and become empowered to take care of themselves has been of enormous value.  But his other two bear some attention.
  1. Technology and social media have done their part to promote narcissism. All of the time spent absorbed in screens has reduced the amount of actual human (i.e., face-to-face) interaction that children have, thus depriving them of the experiences needed to develop essential social skills such as empathy, compassion, and consideration for others.
  2. The shift in societal values away from collectivism and toward individualism (“You’re on your own”), away from civic responsibility and toward self-gratification, and away from meaningful contributions to society and toward personal success (as defined by wealth, power, and status), have also contributed to the cultural messages of narcissism in which young people are presently immersed.

Last year, Taylor went on to ask just what I’m asking today:

It’s one thing to see that there are a growing number of narcissists in America today. But the real concern is not the individual narcissists among us, but [what happens] when our society embraces and, OMG!, accepts narcissism as the norm.

 

That time has arrived.

 

How about you?  Have we as a society begun to view the attributes of the narcissistic personality as acceptable, even admirable?  Have you known anyone personally who displayed these traits?  How do you deal with narcissistic people who cross your path today?

 

I promise to keep these posts shorter in the future.  Well, I promise to try.

 

38 Responses

  1. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    Narcissism and Bullying – I have been contemplating both. Is one a symptom of the other? Is there a cause-effect relationship? Are those affected (perpetrator and victims) see such behavior as a virtue? a question you pose at the end.

    I have met/recognized only a few narcissists in my lifetime. They are among the hardest personality type to deal with, I imagine, because they have a blind spot to their effect on others. In one woman I know, I sense what I call a “Princess Effect,” a sense of entitlement with the justification, “I deserve this; it is my due, bend your will be mine.” Ugh!

    I will be interested in reading other comments here. Provocative post, Janet.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks, Marian. In my experience narcissists are difficult to be around because WE want them to change more than they do. They don’t see any value (for them) in changing. I cling to the faith that a “bottom line” approach, like that which has worked with some addicts, might prove useful. But again, that would also depend upon those “victims” (the American citizen in this case) rising up to create that bottom line. But again, it’s FAITH that I cling to. Nothing firm to hang the hope on. Yet. 🙂 Thanks for swinging by. I hope you come back further into the conversation and add more.

  2. Ian Mathie
    | Reply

    This is a good exposure, Janet. Well put and nicely balanced. Of course it really only covers the effect that one man is having on the masses and conundrums that causes. But it’s worth considering how frequent this condition is in the general population and the effect it has, often ruining the lives of friends and family. To this end I would strongly recommend reading Lucinda E Clarke’s memoir, WALKING OVER EGGSHELLS, which tells a horrific tale with sensitivity and great clarity. After reading this, anyone will recognise the symptoms and effects of NPD.

    T is using the same mechanisms as a certain German leader did back in the 1930s. Let’s hope sanity breaks out among the general population before things go down the drain in a similar manner.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I believe sanity will persevere IF (and only if) the general population, people of good will from both parties, collectively shout “no more.” Unfortunately, there are still too many politicians who are getting what they’ve long wanted — free and unregulated access to wealth.

      As I was researching the effects of NPD, I was heartened at the importance placed on the reactions of the victims. I think I gave it short shift at the end, but for me it’s the only encouraging spot in all this. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Ian Mathie
        | Reply

        I shall continue to watch with interest. I hope this discussion runs and runs. The more people who understand this awful condition, the more hope there is that electors will eventually see sense and stop electing these controlling despots.

        • Janet Givens
          | Reply

          Well, the more you can share it, the more eyes it’ll fall before. 🙂 I so appreciate your support.

  3. Sharon Lippincott
    | Reply

    Thank you for this thorough analysis, Janet. I did read although way through (without following links).

    Bottom line: I’m not surprised. This is not news, but what do we do with this knowledge?

    Thinking with my fingers here, perhaps it’s time to quit focusing on Hair and a specific person. Perhaps it’s time to start focusing on the prevalence of GREED and its pernicious effects.

    Suddenly I wonder … The Gates Foundation and others of lesser scope. The obscenely wealthy may counter that they are using their tax shelters for the betterment of mankind. Money they are not paying as taxes is channeled into humanitarian projects. That’s cool. HOWEVER, by withdrawing their funds from the public domain, they are becoming dictators of a sort. They have decided they and their think tanks know better. Maybe they do. BUT, oceans of that money is going across oceans of water and one could question whether that’s any more in the national interest than sending troops abroad.

    GREED. Is it new? What does the future hold?

    • Ian Mathie
      | Reply

      I’m interested in your comment about folks like the Gates Foundation thinking they know better. Better than whom? Governments? They haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory by getting it right, have they? So who else?
      At least the Fundation are willing to part with their money and spend it on something of value, even if some of us feel their perspective on value is misguided. Then again, they made their money in the first place, so it’s theirs to dispose of how they like. It is open to any organisation or body to apply to them for help and support, and I expect those who make a good case will get some help. Otherwise, why shouldn’t the rich folk choose what interests them and support that?

      • Janet Givens
        | Reply

        I’ll only add here that the U.S. has been the world’s leader in recognizing the power of philanthropy. But it is an exchange of wealth. What governments once were responsible for (supporting the arts, providing health care, maintaining the infrastructure, etc.) has more and more fallen to powerful (i.e., wealthy) individuals. They provide wings of hospitals because the government cut back. They sponsor sections of your roadways, because governments cut back …. They build libraries …. You get my drift.

        And, as a result, they get to make the decisions about what causes are worthwhile, base on their particular interest. It’s a topic worth pursuing for sure. Who do we want to make these decisions? Theoretically, though Ian is a bit soured on government, (and given our experience with who’s been voted into office of late, it’s not misdirected) “the people” get to make these choices. This works well when “the people” are fairly represented. Unfortunately, “the people” have gotten a bit too cozy with corporate special interests of late, with very limited interests.

        • Ian Mathie
          | Reply

          When have the people ever been really fairly represented in any western democracy? Not in my lifetime, for sure. The system is always biased towards he who can should loudest and buy the most votes.

          • Janet Givens
            |

            Ah, but Ian, no one has ever held that democracy is a perfect system. There have always been those on the outside, struggling to get in. But, as Winston Churchill quoted in his Parliament once upon a time, “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…” (Yes, these were not original to him, but I understand no one yet has discovered who he was quoting, so folks just attribute it to Churchill).

            I think the beauty in this way of life is that it prods us to keep trying, to keep making it better. And somewhere along the way (Reagan era, IMHO, but the GOP might say FDR) we got off track. Democracy takes work, hard work, and lots of time. And slowly we’ve lost sight of that.

            The one upside I can see in this recent election is that we are quickly becoming once again a nation of activists. A democracy is only as good as the people who live in it. THAT is why I never argue that it is a one-size-fits-all system. It can never be imposed from without, but must come from within, from the people themselves because THEY want it and accept the work it will involve.

            Make sense?

          • Ian Mathie
            |

            I think Churchill was quoting Cicero, and it was fair comment. The problem today comes from the fact that some supposedly democratic systems have been carved almost in stone, with no leeway for adjustment. This applies to the American constitution which people cite so frequently and follow so slavishly. Yet there is need for flexibility which is more or less precluded by the way the thing is phrased. It’s not freedom at all, it’s just disguised autocracy.
            At least in Britain we had the sense not to write it all down. That give us tremendous leeway for making adjustments, but, as you say, the system is still far from perfect.
            It strikes me that getting the failure well publicised and offering the electors REAL alternatives might help, although inevitably it will take time and those who might lose power and influence will hang on as tightly as they can.

            I sometimes wonder if having a proper revolution every decade or so might be a good thing. It would certainly loosen the cobwebs!

          • Janet Givens
            |

            Well, two things come to mind here, Ian.

            First, I scrolled through the top 100 quotes of Cicero on ranker.com (http://www.ranker.com/list/a-list-of-famous-cicero-quotes/reference) and couldn’t find any mention of any part of the Churchill quote. So, I believe the mystery remains.

            Second, and much more important, I must take issue with your characterization of my constitution as “carved in stone.” We have actually 27 changes (commonly referred to as Amendments) which have helped to mold the constitution as times have changed. The only one that never should have been is that infernal Second Amendment. One which, story has it, the men who introduced the idea of having a standing army totally forgot about, mostly (story goes) because no one paid any attention to it. But that’s another story for another time. You have the advantage, some would say, over us of having quite a bit more history under your belt. We are still the new kid on the block and we are living this grand “experiment” that no one thought would last a generation. We’re pretty happy with our Constitution over here, young fella, so you best take back those fightin’ words or I’ll have to … hmmm, what are my options?

          • Ian Mathie
            |

            Only 27 amendments over all those years? Either the men who drafted it, who despite striving for independence were still very much men of the British mould, were cleverer than the men of today, or you Americans have been a bit lax in making necessary and beneficial changes. Either way, your constituio might just as well be carved in stone as witnessed by your national slavish adherence to it’s terms.
            Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing if it leads to order and co-operation, but as history shows it has enabled a lot of injustice and inequality to be maintained by relatively small groups of powerful people protecting their own interests. Not that it’s much easier to correct similar faults over here, but at least we have a few more options and the inequalities haven’t become so bad or so entrenched.

            I think there’s a lot to be said for haig a good revolution every twenty five years or so. It gets rid of the weeds in your garden! Given your present situation that looks like an attractive option.

      • Sharon Lippincott
        | Reply

        Yes, better than governments, and I’ll be the first to say that the US government has not done a stellar job of looking out for the interests of the general citizenry as well as they might. However, citizenship does incur a certain obligation to support the government and its apparatus, and investing maybe 95% of massive funds in tax shelters seems ethically wrong. They used our infrastructure to make that money. Somehow it doesn’t seem right that those who can afford it can float their own economy above governmental ones. Since I’m not an economist, I can only vaguely argue this and could easily be nailed down, but maybe arrogance is an attitude closely associated with greed. I’d be happy to let them do their thing with perhaps 50% of what they are currently spending.

        I know many will argue that people like Gates, and maybe his cohort Buffet, make much of their money overseas, so perhaps investing there is okay. Maybe in this age of global economies, things are less clear. But still, when the wealthiest (1%) controls about (50%) of total (national) wealth, (I’m pulling numbers out thin air), and they retain personal control of their societal support, something is terribly wrong. I do not see the Gates Foundation or any other, building bridges, for example.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Sharon. Always glad to have you join us. You’re right; this is not new. But one factor in getting me to write it all down was that I kept hearing folks exclaim in surprise some new idiosyncratic thing he had done. I want people to stop being surprised. He is simply doing what he is good at doing, looking out for himself.

      My angst has more to do with the fact that so very many people looked the other way. Excused this inexcusable behavior for their own self-interest. And here again, that self-interest. I need to parse out self-interest from survival mode. Something they may feel the same. Hmmm. Off to write a future post. Thank you. (I’ll leave your comments about Bill Gates et al to Ian for now.)

      • Sharon Lippincott
        | Reply

        Amen, Janet. I’m glad you did spell things out so expertly.

        I was appalled last summer when we spent four weeks on a riverboat in Europe in the company of several wealthy individuals who supported Trump. One, a fellow Texan, blatantly stated that “My daddy left me his money. Now it’s mine and I want to keep it all!” I was speechless then and still am. She seemed proud of that attitude. The few people who did hear my occasional rejoinder, “Paying taxes is a privilege. It means you’ve made money!” responded with, “I just want to keep them to a minimum and enjoy my blessings myself.”

        That’s why those in Tribe Trump who can afford to join Mar-a-lago will cling to him to promote their collective financial empires. GREED! GREED! with a generous serving of ARROGANCE!

  4. Frank V. Moore
    | Reply

    Janet, that quote from Jim Taylor’s article reminded me of something my 55 yr. old son said to me recently, regarding the difference between “unique” and “special” and the penchant for telling everyone “you’re special”. Vince said to me, “My bowel movements are unique, but they’re not ‘special’!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you for sharing, Frank, as they say. My grandmother had a similar response once when I shared the content of Catcher In the Rye (in high school). She thought it too descriptive and when I responded that “it was real,” she just said, “diarrhea is real; doesn’t mean I want to read about it.”

  5. Lucinda E Clarke
    | Reply

    If anyone wants to know anything about narcissism then pm me. I lived with it for 20+ years and even when I moved away it followed me and my nother ruled and split the family from beyond the grave. It wasn’t until after she died that I learned what she suffered from. Narcissists have no compassion, no empathy and no conscience. The world revolves around them and the are also right and yes, bullying is part of their behaviour. They can’t love in the manner which we all expect either. I’t thought that this is 72% hereditory, so we have a right to be fearful. Thank you Ian Mathie for drawing my attention to this great article.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Lucinda, I’m so glad you joined us. Your memoir, Living on Eggshells, joined a number of books about living with a narcissist; all long overdue, imo. Here’s the Amazon link, and I see the Kindle version is just $2.99 and your reviews are excellent.

      https://www.amazon.com/Walking-Over-Eggshells-Surviving-Mental-ebook/dp/B00E8HSNDW/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1487177192&sr=1-4&keywords=lucinda+clarke

      Given my call at the end that the only way to deal with a narcissist (other than moving away) is to stand up to him/her, what comes to mind that you might you have done differently if, at the time, you had known about this disorder? I realize this step is a lot easier to write about than to actually do. But getting your perspective would be helpful.

    • Ian Mathie
      | Reply

      My pleasure, Lucinda. Thank you for a memoir that so clearly illustrates this difficult and life damaging condition. And thank you Janet for opening up this subject. I bet there are many, many people out there who will be interested in this article.

    • DGKaye
      | Reply

      Excellent description Lucinda. It seems you and I both lived under the same reign of a narcissist. And so we write. 🙂

  6. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    Hi Janet, I’ve read some of the links previously as I’ve come across many of the same articles. I think dt’s dangerous, and I still do not understand his appeal. I think some certainly admire him, but I’m not positive that narcissism is considered normal. (And of course, “diagnosing” him in an article is not the same as a clinical diagnosis.) Perhaps what people think they are admiring is the idea of a macho man or the idea of a man who gets things done, and they’re ignoring other aspects of his personality? Then again, I hate to make a blanket statement about “society.” Perhaps the narcissist is one figure that is now being admired by some.

  7. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Janet – great post. So much to ponder and respond to, that I’ll have to pare it down, which, as you know, I’m not good at. Regarding narcissism, I have some very deep personal experience with it. I want to thank Ian for recommending Lucinda Clarke’s book, which I immediately made note of, and for Lucinda, herself, for weighing in. I’ve considered blogging about this myself many times — particularly, the effect of Donald Trump on victims of narcissism — although I have no data to go on other than my own experiences. I can’t help but believe there is a victim of narcissism out there who doesn’t shudder whenever they see the man speak, or one who didn’t immediately recognize his symptoms from the get-go. When you know what it looks like, it isn’t difficult to spot. With Trump, it’s even easier, as his is such an extreme case.

    As to why so many people are seemingly attracted to such monstrosity, I tend to agree with the path Merrill suggests. I.e., that they were drawn more to the (false) promise of Trump being a “man of action,” a “tell-it-like-it-is” outsider, a bull in the proverbial china shop of DC politics, wrecking havoc on a broken system. They liked his authoritarian certitude, even his anger, perhaps as some manifestation of their own.

    Of course, the seeds for this were planted a long time ago, cultivated by the right wing media and their billionaire issue framers — instilling a sense of anger, frustration, righteous indignation, and the like, for the past nearly three decades — which have now grown into a dense forest. In this sense, our nation, and particularly the segment that voted for Trump, has indeed taken on more of a narcissistic personality in recent times. “America: love it or leave it,” the “anti-PC” movement, the belief in Christian persecution, the fear of outsiders, the war on science, truth, and liberalism. Anyone remember “freedom fries?” If you want to see narcissists in action, watch Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and their ilk. They’ve been slowly fashioning a nation in their own reflection, manifested in the debacle that is Trump.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Tim, you have a spectacular talent for summing up AND provoking new ideas, all in the same reply, and I thank you for that skill and for sharing it here. As a child in early elementary school, back when we’d read about Betsy Ross and other heroes of our founding days, I used to wish i had grown up during those times. I thought they’d be dramatic, exciting, and that it’d be easy to find my calling in such times. Never did I think that toward the end of my “book,” I’d find myself in a battle to save that very same country. For that is exactly how I feel. And, slowly, it is becoming apparent just what I can do. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Joan Z. Rough
    | Reply

    Janet,

    Kudos for the time you put into this post. My mother was a narcissist and I came away from living with her during her last years of life feeling everything that happened to her was my fault. It’s taken me number of years to get the story straight and I’m grateful for your clear writing and understanding of this problem in our current societal catastrophe. I’m very worried about what will happen to our world during the next couple of years.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you, Joan, for your very welcome good wishes. I’m glad my post touched a nerve in you, in a good way.

  9. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    Janet, although I have read numerous articles about NPD and DT, you have , once again,presented a thorough and well-balanced analysis which has sparked a thoughtful conversation. I read your post in its entirety along with some of the links right before I watched the presidential news conference. With controversaries suggestive of treason swirling around him, he managed to not only not answer any questions directly but brought focus on how many electoral votes he received. If it wasn’t so terrifying given his position, it would be laughable. I have dealt with people with NPD, thankfully not in my family, and find not engaging and walking away the best strategy. I will also add to the praise for Lucinda Clarke’s memoir, Walking on Eggshells which is an intimate account of dealing with NPD. Unfortunately, we are all called upon to pay attention, for the sake of our democracy. I am hopeful that public awareness and posts such as yours will call enough attention to the issue. My gut feeling tells me that our checks and balances will right the course and hopefully sooner rather than later. Thanks for a great post.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks Kathy, I so hope you are right. We’ve already seen some of this in action. We have a front row seat in how our government works, that’s for sure.

      Hang on tight. I don’t think the ride will be over soon.

  10. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    I want to call our attention to a Letter to the Editor in Tuesday’s NYTimes from Allen Frances, chairman of the task force that wrote the DSM IV (we are now on VI, from which my excerpt above is taken). Here’s the link

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/opinion/an-eminent-psychiatrist-demurs-on-trumps-mental-state.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

    Dr. Frances raises an issue I struggled with. By referring to NPD as a mental illness, he is concerned (and I concur) that we will be denigrating the mentally ill. He puts it much better. “It is a stigmatizing insult to the mentally ill (who are mostly well behaved and well meaning) to be lumped with Mr. Trump (who is neither).”

    There is honest disagreement within the psychology field as to whether or not a personality disorder is a mental illness. Some say yes, that’s why it’s listed in the DSM in the first place; others say no, that’s why it’s in its own special “personality disorder” place. This is neither the time nor place to debate that one. I just thought it pertinent to call you attention to the letter. Here’s how he ends:

    “The antidote to a dystopic Trumpean dark age is political, not psychological.”

  11. Ian Mathie
    | Reply

    If I recall the mythology correctly Narcissus spent most of his time admiring his own image in the reflection from a still, clear pond. Well DT’s pond is getting stirred up a lot by current events and revelations about his choice of supporters. That is likely to produce some unpredictable responses. As anyone who’s had to face NPD in their lives knows, opposition can cause some dramatic and dangerous consequences.
    Beware the Trump temper! He’s almost a unreliable as Kim Jong Un.

  12. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Hey Ian. We’ve gotten a tad off topic here, and with all those “reply” sections falling below the others, it’s a bit hard to even read on a mobile. So, I’ll just add my thoughts here at the end. I’m fascinated at my reaction to your call for revolution every 25 years or so. There was a time in my life when I might have thought that a good idea. And, I don’t know where I let that one go along my path, but I certainly have. Hmmm. Just seems so very chaotic. And, given our current state of hate working its way through our system, not just the white supremacists but the anarchists too, I’m concerned that with an actual revolution, they would be given carte blanche. a la the French Revolution. That one certainly took away any romantic notion of revolution one might have originally felt.

    No. I’m used to this lumbering system — it was set up intentionally you know to keep BAD laws from happening, and as a result it is quite cumbersome to make GOOD laws. But I still trust the system. I trust the “process” and I’m certainly willing to admit that I am naive, but I do. I choose to trust. And I also know I must stay vigilant, sign those petitions, march in those demonstrations, write those letters, make those calls, and contribute to those organizations that fight for what I believe in. That is, quite simply, how this system works. And I continue to wear black for I am still in mourning.

    Btw, our founding fathers were all for the most part the elites of their day and wanted the ability to make money more freely. They revolted because they were being “unfairly” (in their opinion) taxed. Truly was a tea party back then. Charles Beard did a pretty good book on The Economic History of the US (I think that’s the title; it’s been awhile).

    I love having these conversations with you. This one is a good segue into next week’s topic: civil discourse and how we can better engage in it.

    But now I’m off to go skiing with my g’kids. Ta Ta.

  13. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — Excellent post, thank you. I appreciate the clear, unabashed way you talk about the ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you Laurie. Acknowledging those elephants is my new goal in life. 🙂

  14. […] NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY DISORDER — A CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE shared by Janet […]

  15. DGKaye
    | Reply

    Thank you Janet for putting things in perspective here. As one who also grew up under the narcissistic reign of a narcissist it’s not difficult to see what this clown is doing not just to America, but the world.

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