Extremely self-centered with an exaggerated sense of self-importance : marked by or characteristic of excessive admiration of or infatuation with oneself.Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary
With everyone self-isolating these days, the levels of narcissistic behavior has gone up. It’s on the news every day. There are groups spreading rumors that the vaccines for Covid-19 are a hoax and some even denying the world-wide pandemic is real. It’s a big world full of all kinds of diversity. Narcissism is everywhere. There are different levels of narcissism in everyone.
Absolute narcissism is when a person has broken all connection with reality outside and made their own person the substitute for reality. The absolute narcissist cannot see another person as having their own life, their own schedule, their own feelings, etc. The narcissists life, their schedule, their feelings are the only thing that matters to them. They cannot see another person’s life as distinctly separate from their own.
Narcissism is a natural part of self-preservation and basic survival. Consider infants. The only reality an infant has is itself. The infant doesn’t know or hasn’t experienced the outer world yet. They think they are the world. This is narcissism at a primary level.
An adult too, appearing to be very conscientious and moral is also a narcissist to some degree. This narcissism occurs when a person is only concerned with themselves and totally preoccupied with their appearance and what others might say about them. Utterly dedicated to preserving their self-image of perfection, they are unceasingly engaged in the effort to maintain the appearance of moral purity. They even sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection.
In individual narcissism, the object of attachment is the self. The object or self is thought to be valuable (good, beautiful, wise, etc.) not on the basis of an objective value-judgement, but because it is me or mine. Narcissistic value-judgment is prejudiced and biased. Every judgment becomes distorted. For example, that which is not mine is inferior, dangerous, immoral. Mine is over-evaluated. Everything not mine is under-evaluated.
In narcissistic love, personal narcissism is attached to a loved one. The loved one becomes good, wonderful, etc. only because they are a part of the narcissist. On the other hand, non-pathological love is not based on narcissism. It is a relationship between two people who experience themselves as separate entities, yet who can open themselves to and become one with each other.
But narcissism goes beyond the individual. Individual narcissism can also be transferred to a group. That is–the clan, nation, religion, race, etc., become the objects of narcissistic passion instead of the individual. This way, narcissistic energy is maintained but used in the interests of the survival of the group rather than for the survival of the individual. From the standpoint of any organized group which wants to survive, it is important that the group be invested by its members with narcissistic energy. The survival of a group depends to some extent on the fact that its members consider its importance as great as or greater than that of their own lives, and furthermore that they believe in the righteousness, or even superiority, of their group as compared with others.
For example, looking back through history, the irrationalities of religious hatred are clear. The groups differed only in points which, if compared with the general principles, were of secondary importance. Yet they hated each other, and each was passionately convinced that humanity ended at the frontiers of their own religious faith. The essence of this over estimation of ones’ own position and hate for all who differ from it is narcissism. “We” are admirable; “they” are despicable, “We” are good; “they” are evil. Any criticism of one’s own doctrine is a vicious and unbearable attack; criticism of the others’ position is a well-meant attempt to help them to return to the truth.
The need for critical thought, experimentation, proof: the attitude of doubting–these are characteristic of a scientific endeavor, and they are precisely the methods of thought which tend to counteract the narcissistic orientation.
- Dr. M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil
- Dr. Erich Fromm, The Heart of Man