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The World Should Revolve Around Me

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is narcissism underrated? New York Times reporter Jan Hoffman talks about the benefits and detriments of the double edged sword of selfishness.

Guests:

Jan Hoffman

Comments [63]

hjs from 11211

so in the states, you're not poor if you have a credit card ;)

seriously, that's sick if true. (i don't understand woman spending on fashion anyway! or weddings!)

but also consumerism should be dealt with as an addiction not a crime!

totally self-defeating no doubt.

Jul. 22 2008 05:07 PM
eva

I think as the wealth gap increased (greater disparity of income) people on the lower end of the spectrum began to spend more to reassert that they were not so different from the wealthy.
So you had receptionists with $700 Prada bags.
This is called "trading up" - and it's pretty sad.
I don't think you saw so much of this in earlier decades. First, the easy credit wasn't available. Second, we had other priorities.
Yes, it's human to want to hoard, and it's human to be greedy. But it's reached a point that's just self-defeating.

Jul. 22 2008 04:50 PM
hjs from 11211

eva
please explain.
people like to show off wealth, very animal like, look at me i have more; i'm a good hunter, i'm healthy, good breeder.
are you saying people have less money cause they spend on junk they did not want before the saw the commercial, of course. but the need for stuff is animal like the squirrel with his nuts. some people would still be poor if they were just living on the basics. it's a living wage/full employment (and education ) issue in my opinion.

Jul. 22 2008 03:46 PM
eva

hjs,
I agree on the inclusion of urban sprawl.
on the other point, I'm convinced the rampant consumerism is a symptom of the income gap.

Jul. 22 2008 03:33 PM
hjs from 11211

eva 59
guest talked a bit about consumerism, but i heard nothing about income gap.

eva 58
to your thought i would add suburban sprawl aka urban flight

Jul. 22 2008 02:59 PM
eva

I don't know if the guest addressed this, but is it any surprise we have an upswing of "narcissism" at a time when the income gap is so huge?
Survival, baby. Sad.

Jul. 22 2008 02:11 PM
eva

my dead serious answer to that question, hjs, is that the further we got away from big communal efforts, like the wpa and wwii, the more fractured we became. The elimination of the draft has had huge effect. I would even argue that Vietnam represents the beginning of the end of the draft - because unlike WWII (not to glorify it) you saw a lot of people sneaking out.
But yeah, divorce took its toll. And technology. And Reaganomics, which was so, uh, truly narcissistic. Me, me, me. Ironic that the boomers protesting the war and fighting for civil rights were stuck with the me, me, me label.

Jul. 22 2008 02:10 PM
hjs from 11211

my parent were never divorced but I sure wish they had read dr spock.

i'd like to know what is the connection between the silent generation (who grew up in the depression and during ww2 but did not fight in the war) and their children of the 70's who are called slackers and have yet to make any mark, or the effect parents had on their children. of course the boomer lurkers in every shadow for X and silent alike.

Jul. 22 2008 02:06 PM
eva

hjs,
I think that's called what you said it was - national mental illness. But I also think it's called "we got robbed blind by the current administration." (Not that I thought the previous administration was "perfect", but holy you know what.
tru,
sorry, what was the original question? ;-) I actually didn't get to hear the show because the livestream wasn't working, so, yeah, you're probably right.
I do recommend reading the latest (july-august) issue of Harper's, with the article: "The Wrecking Crew: How a Gang of Right-Wing Con Men Destroyed Washington and Made a Killing" by Thomas Franks. I'm not claiming the article is fair and balanced, but neither am I.

Jul. 22 2008 02:00 PM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

I think you have strayed too far from the original question.

Jul. 22 2008 01:52 PM
hjs from 11211

eva
:D
maybe i'm just generally crazy.
no offense to other crazy people. (everybody is a bit crazy right?)

i'd like to hear a show about the national mental illness ie greed, warmongering, not planning long-term, self abuse, not acting in one's self interest. what's that called?

Jul. 22 2008 01:51 PM
eva

and by far the biggest narcissist is hjs, for continuing to selfishly and solipsistically believe that this country can and should stand by its ideals, and for loudly and consistently saying so on a website...
meanwhile, the suv drivers run free, the Bush administration runs free, impeachment can't be discussed, because only petty, unpatriotic people would insist on American recognition of a major failure.
it's a chrazzy world.

Jul. 22 2008 01:23 PM
eva

tru,
to rephrase my question:
are war protestors narcissistic?
The answer, obviously, is no. They are the opposite. But the media throw the word "narcissistic" out at anyone who doesn't show exemplary obedience to the corporate state. You can basically (mis)apply the term narcissistic to anybody who believes in individual rights.
The war protestor is narcissistic because he has a grandiose personality - he thinks his opinion is more important than the needs of the defense department during this vital war on terror.
Ditto the prison inmate fighting for reform. He is a narcissist because he fails to acknowledge the greater good - ostensibly the need for the corporations that run prisons to pay their managers ever increasing salaries.
Oh, that selfish prison inmate - drawing attention to himself by supposedly fighting for "reform". See what I mean?

Jul. 22 2008 01:14 PM
eva

#48,
My point was that "narcissism" can be turned against anyone who isn't in line with society's norms, in the same way there are a whole bunch of labels that get thrown around that try to squash diversity of thought. Look at how the war protestors were depicted back in 2003 to 2007.
I just think there's too much labeling, and not enough examination of how society has changed, and how that's affected our interaction. This country started as a largely agrarian community when you needed to rely on your neighbor (admittedly within segregated societies) and therefore we were more tightly bound to one another. We are still grossly dependent on one another for survival, but you'd never know it from the free market drivel expounded by the media... Look, I believe in the free market, but we haven't seen a free market in this country for a long time...

Jul. 22 2008 01:08 PM
eva

Rick,
good question - "whose attention is the media trying to capture and hold?"
the media is attempting to capture the attention of whoever is marketable - anyone they can vacuum up to sell to advertisers.
I have some friends who I don't see too much - they're part of a large Christian movement and we just don't have much in common. But they're pretty immune to the kind of celebrity news and "sex-and-the-city" type of marketing that the rest of us are subjected to every time we go to the New York Times website. They've been doing missionary work in Africa, Asia and Latin America. They're not outliers, it's a big movement. Nick Kristof occasionally writes about people like this. But they get no play on most major media outlets. And they don't care.
Along the lines of novels as social commentary - Updike had a great book out in the early 1990's titled "In the Beauty of the Lilies" which maps the introduction of cinema with a breakdown of more traditionally American values. It's a good read, despite a convoluted ending.
But I do think we should be questioning the media's role in shaping a narcissistic culture. They don't just reflect, they also mold, as we can see in the primaries, when they favored my candidate of choice. You can also see it in the 2004 election coverage. And 9.11 coverage.

Jul. 22 2008 01:02 PM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

#41 you could have used a homeless person for your analogy...is he narcissistic b/c he steals to feed himself..see how that makes no sense?

Jul. 22 2008 12:58 PM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

#43 & #45 those statements are too broad and not entirely true for those reasons ie 70' parenting probably not entirely...texting etc.also probably but not entirely.

#41? HUH, oranges and apples.

Jul. 22 2008 12:54 PM
rick from nyc

Eva,
"Morally errant" is your phrase, I never spoke about root causes and I wouldn't speak about moral judgment with respect to divorce. Any generalization about a generation is bound to ignore the exceptions, which you are right to point out, but whose attention is the media trying to capture and hold? The media are as reactive as they are causal, and they're pitching to a fairly narcissistic audience. Blaming the media for what we visually consume is too easy.

Jul. 22 2008 12:50 PM
hjs from 11211

eva
of course we shall not generalize, BUT the youth i've met i have little hope for.

firstly, they have little to look up to

Jul. 22 2008 12:41 PM
eva

rick,
that sounds like an interesting novel, and that was a genuine phenomenon - but I wonder if the absent parenting had as much to do with technology and wealth as with a seemingly morally errant generation of parents.
I think the advent of all this visual technology, starting early in the 20th century, helped to create a culture of narcissism.
And I think you might be wrong about the next generation.
What the media ignores is the large number of young kids who are involved in their communities - and those beyond. The media ignores it because it's not a "sexy" enough story.
The media only focuses on the "bad" kids - the Lindsay Lohans, et cetera. Or the vapid generation of women who really liked "Sex and the City" and apparently didn't see the issue with gross consumption in the series.

Jul. 22 2008 12:33 PM
rick from nyc

My wife published Narcissus Ascending, a novel, a couple of years ago, after reading the sociologist Christopher Lasch's great book, The Culture of Narcissism. The novel picked up the trail at the turn of the millenium of kids raised during the 70s by divorced or divorcing parents, kids who didn't get the attention and nurturing they needed. The novel basically showed both healthy and unhealthy narcissim and how art provided an escape--or not--from the pathological kind. Now, a few years on, the reality is that the 70s kids are the people raising kids of their own without knowing how to give healthy attention--what will the next generation be like, will they know how to have a face-to-face conversation? Where are the possibilities for developing empathy in celebrity ogling, Facebook, texting? The Times article simply alerts us that the next narcissistic generation is ascending.

Jul. 22 2008 12:21 PM
hjs from 11211

Helene 39
are you talking about ME!

Jul. 22 2008 12:09 PM
eva

Is a welfare mother "narcissistic" because she only thinks of her needs and her baby's? Or is she just part of a broken system? Maybe narcissism should be more clearly defined.
I agree with mc to a degree - a big part of Madonna's early act was all about narcissism, and it was truly shocking- very untraditional for a woman. It was as provocative as the other things she was doing in a kind of upside-down but still defiantly feminist manner. Then it became a thoughtless model for celebrities who thought things through even less than Madonna did. I think the reason she held everyone's attention back in the early 1990's was her interest in taking apart images and examining their power. Now she can't compete- not because of her age, but because there are so many images in the marketplace. She did some photos for W (the mag, not the pres) a few years ago that were incredibly striking and thought-provoking. For everyone else, it's the red carpet.

Jul. 22 2008 12:08 PM
perri

I think a relative suffers from narcisstic personality disorder. Everything is all about appearances with her. She just KNOWS that all anyone needs to do is just look at her and any doubts one might have about her honesty, credibility, intelligence...will be absolved; she's THAT narcisstic.

She'll wear hair extensions, contacts, push-up bras, etc. and yet, make snarky remarks about random women who are naturally gifted.

And she's only attracted to men who look like models. A handsome man on her arm is like a designer handbag, an accessory that completes her overall appearance.

It's so bizarre. :-(

Jul. 22 2008 12:07 PM
Helene Papageorge from Queens

I just want to make clear that I accidently hit the "reset" button that posted me twice [#35 &#36] and not some latent pathological narcissistic need to reaffirm my existance and thus calling attention to myself thinking I have something important to say when in fact I don't but thinking I do and also thinking my blather will dramatically change someone's life somewhere and that person will forever and a day and eternally thank me on blogo-universe how much better I have made that person's life. LOL

Jul. 22 2008 12:04 PM
eva

#35/36,
Helene, I think that's not pathological narcissism. I think that guy you're describing is a toxic jerk. Run for your life and take your baby with you.

Jul. 22 2008 12:00 PM
hjs from 11211

em
oh is that where the line is.
BL likes me, he really likes me, but he's the only one, but i'm kewl with that....

Jul. 22 2008 11:58 AM
Helene Papageorge from Queens

Does pathological narcissism have a vampire aspect?
Those are individuals, who, need to make all of your friends their own or always need to have recognition of something they perceive to have "owned first and if it weren't for them we would still be living in caves"? What If someone had gotten another pregnant and left that woman with a baby but only wants them in his life on his terms. This is irrespective of telling of the pregnant woman that "you and that baby were the best that ever happened to me [ But I don't want you]. I'll return to the US in Jan. because that's when I have business in NYC but I can't stay for 6 mos. because I'm in a relationship and I have too many things to do and..." is that considered latent pathological narcissism?

Jul. 22 2008 11:56 AM
Helene Papageorge from Queens

Does pathological narcissism have a vampire aspect?
Those are individuals, who, need to make all of your friends their own or always need to have recognition of something they perceive to have "owned first and if it weren't for them we would still be living in caves"? What If someone had gotten another pregnant and left that woman with a baby but only wants them in his life on his terms. This is irrespective of telling of the pregnant woman that "you and that baby were the best that ever happened to me [ But I don't want you]. I'll return to the US in Jan. because that's when I have business in NYC but I can't stay for 6 mos. because I'm in a relationship and I have too many things to do and..." is that considered latent pathological narcissism?

Jul. 22 2008 11:56 AM
SuzanneNYC from Upper West Side

Self-respect is healthy. A person needs some degree of self-respect in order to function. Hubris is excessive pride, arrogance and over reaching. Comes from the Greek (again) when a mortal (human) compared themselves to or placed themselves above the gods. The consequences were usually unpleasant for the mortal. Myth: Arachne was renowned for her weaving. She compared her abilities to the goddess Athena, who was not amused and turned her into a spider. So overreaching was coupled with a smackdown. A concept lost on us today.

Jul. 22 2008 11:56 AM
hjs from 11211

mc
why pick on her.
someone more current? [are we showing our age :)]

Jul. 22 2008 11:54 AM
EM from nj

To HJS: Not if you hadn't posted a second time to call everyone's attention to it.

Jul. 22 2008 11:53 AM
eva

[4]
Posted by: hjs
look at ME in my hummer so I can drive from city to sprawl, while some fight an oil war for ME. look at ME, I want cheap oil for waste, for plastic, for china, for kayda. I like the warming for my tan. look at ME my inland mcmansion is now beach front. look at ME I don't like living in the 3rd world. who can help ME now?

hjs, right on. Narcissism should be clearly defined as using up more than others in an ostentatious (and insecure) display of how important you are.
Erin, I see you your point, but I think dialogue is essential, and reading comments from other people - people who are similarly shocked and outraged by what's happened to this country as the REAL narcissists have taken over... well, I think that's necessary, as messy as it gets.
The ultimate narcissism is the consumer culture, which goes hand in hand with global warming. To paraphrase, tongue in cheek, Madonna paraphrasing Sinead O'Connor on SNL: "fight the real enemy."
mc, nice to see you.

Jul. 22 2008 11:50 AM
Alice from Westchester

This condition ONLY matters when and if it INTERFERES with your life and relationships. We are all like this to a degree, but when it is under control we are safe.

Jul. 22 2008 11:45 AM
hjs from 11211

so i love it when BL reads my posts. does that make me a narcissist?

Jul. 22 2008 11:44 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

Good one Anthony!

Jul. 22 2008 11:44 AM
Carrie from Brooklyn

Don't forget, gender is often at play in these constructions of self. Traditionally, women are allowed much less latitude in focusing on themselves versus other people.

Jul. 22 2008 11:44 AM
April Soffel-Scheffler from Brooklyn

The increasing use of facebook for the purpose of talking to one another, has in fact decreased actual talking. Young people today have lost the ability to return phone calls, R.S.V.P., or even show the simplist levels of awareness and respect for others. I don't know if this is narcissism, but it is certainly gross self-absorbtion.

Jul. 22 2008 11:44 AM
sps from Prospect Heights

I want to disagree with the last caller regarding the wholesale categorizing of people taking pictures of themselves. For one, I know people who have created very interesting comparative archives of how they have changed from day to day, week to week, etc., something that I think in the future would be really great to look back over.

Also, having not seen my mother in a long time because she lives so far away, I have no idea what she currently looks like.

Pictures over the internet allow us to have a visual idea of what's going on with others.

Jul. 22 2008 11:43 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

What's the flipside? Insecurity?

Jul. 22 2008 11:42 AM
anthony clune from Brooklyn

Brian,

Good enough segment, but how does all this talk effect ME?

Jul. 22 2008 11:41 AM
SuzanneNYC from Upper West Side

Narcissism comes from the Greek myth where the handsome Narcissus couldn't stop looking at his own reflection in a pool of water until he finally died. So yes, there is a dark side to this. Although these days, it seems to be a stand in for selfishness and self importance.

Jul. 22 2008 11:41 AM
Erin from Manhattan

isn't it narcissistic to believe that my uninformed, uneducated opinion matters on this issue? I happen to think comments pages are narcissistic.

Jul. 22 2008 11:40 AM
anthony clune from Brooklyn

"I like the YOU, that DOES NOT constantly talk/think about yourself."

Jul. 22 2008 11:40 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

America is suffering from the Culture of Me. Modern rap music (which has EXTREMELY narcissistic lyrics in many cases), myspace and blogs (where people give us far more information about themselves that we've ever wanted to know), and these newly-reinvented, over the top social events like birthday parties, proms, etc. have all added to this.

We have an over-inflated sense of our importance and it causes us to have a sense of entitlement that is absolutely astounding.

Jul. 22 2008 11:40 AM
Susan Sayles from Brooklyn, New York

Yes, SUVs, hummers, designer clothes, obnoxious displays of wealth are are all displays of narcissism.

New York City's a parade of narcissists!

Jul. 22 2008 11:40 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

You might be a narcissist if your desktop picture is of yourself.

Jul. 22 2008 11:39 AM
T.C. from Manhattan

It's the banality of narcissism that is insidious. It's such an integral part of so many people's daily routine—yes, even friends and relatives. It's a real bone of contention for me. And of course, these people are impossible to reason with—if you try and discuss anything, they spring into full assault mode—anything to defend their position.

Jul. 22 2008 11:39 AM
mc from manhattan

unhealthy narcism = Madonna

Jul. 22 2008 11:39 AM
Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

What do you call it when a whole species thinks too much of itself? Human beings think they are the only animal that matters, in fact, that the whole universe was created on its behalf and that's what entitles them to screw it up for all other life-forms on the planet.

Jul. 22 2008 11:38 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

I am not "selfish" but I will "NOT" be taken advantage of by anyone.

Jul. 22 2008 11:38 AM
Jon P. from Hewitt, NJ

What about serial killers? Especially people who do mass killings in public places like McDonalds, schools, post office, etc….. Are they narcissist?

Jul. 22 2008 11:38 AM
judy from NY

I always thought that part of the psychological definition of narcissism had to do with a lack of boundaries. Not seeing the distinction between yours and other's. Is that not correct?maybe it was already mentioned. I just tuned in.

Jul. 22 2008 11:38 AM
the truth from Atlanta/New York

Guilty!

Narcissist and proud of it!

Jul. 22 2008 11:37 AM
SuzanneNYC from Upper West Side

The most over used word is *hero* -- a word that should be retired. Narcissism has a long way to go before it reaches that level. It's just a fad at this point.

Jul. 22 2008 11:37 AM
Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

There's self-respect and then there is hubris. Where does one end and the other begins?

Jul. 22 2008 11:36 AM
dawson from brooklyn

Your guest's official definition of narcissism sounds a lot like President Bush.

Jul. 22 2008 11:34 AM
Benjamin from Manhattan

You might be a narcisist if you throw yourself more than one birthday party.

Jul. 22 2008 11:34 AM
JOR from Union Square

Why don't you ask any of these yunnies (Young Urban narcissists) if narcissism is underrated? These yunnies are all over NYC.

Jul. 22 2008 11:31 AM
hjs from 11211


look at ME in my hummer so I can drive from city to sprawl, while some fight an oil war for ME. look at ME, I want cheap oil for waste, for plastic, for china, for kayda. I like the warming for my tan. look at ME my inland mcmansion is now beach front. look at ME I don't like living in the 3rd world. who can help ME now?

Jul. 22 2008 11:30 AM
O from Forest Hills

You have to be a little bit selfish to not let people take advantage of you and suck you dry. Boundaries and taking time for yourself are priorities everyone needs to set to not be used by freeloaders or users.

Jul. 22 2008 11:30 AM
Albert from Greenwich, CT

Clarification to my previous post, since someone in my office is bothered by my lack thereof.
"The World Should Revolve Around Me.....The world revolves around WNYC."
Now I feel silly.

Jul. 22 2008 11:12 AM
Albert from Greenwich, CT

Ask any narcissist that is listening now. The world revolves around WNYC. (I could not resist. It is such an easy rhyme).

Jul. 22 2008 10:14 AM

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