Saturday, December 8, 2018

World-Class Weird

This is just a quick response to a request on twitter to list my "Top 10 World Class Weirdo exemplars."  Start of thread.

Organized by category, not treated as a countdown. 

1 Captain Beefheart.   Music

2 Buckminster Fuller  Futurism.

Jacob Lund Fisk  Frugality/Life-Style Design

4 Marshall McLuhan  Media Studies

5 Neil Posterman Pedagogy

6 Nietzsche  Classicism/Philosophy

Lou Kemp  Modern Thinker/Thinker on Modernity

8 Dali  Visual Art

9  Fernando Abellanas Design

10 John Michael Greer  Collapse Studies

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Annotated Guide to Narcissism, Part 2

The first post in the series was the shortest because I just wanted to get the series going.

There are seven html pages that come out for the label “narcissism,” so we have quite a bit of ground to cover.

An Army of Narcissists? No Way  Dec 26, 2006

This piece takes off on the U.S. Army's short lived recruitment slogan "An Army" of one.
 If there was any one organization that I would have thought was in direct opposition to narcissism it would be the military, yet here it is, being specifically promoted.
Again TLP establishes himself as someone who believes our society was (and certainly continues to be) in a state of collapse
 A question for the historians would be whether or not a civilization in decline was aware that it was declining; and if not, what did they think was going on?
 Comedians Tosh, Gaffigan and Hedberg for Narcissism Dec 27, 2006

The thesis of this piece is stand up comedians now often use meta-comedy as a way to placate their narcissistic audiences.
The comedians themselves aren't narcissists; they are tapping into the narcissism of the audience.  The audience is attracted to  these comedians because they get brought in, they get to feel like they are part of the comedy, part of the process, part of the act-- they are behind the curtain, behind the scenes. They're not the performers, but they could be; and at least  their close confidants, and that's a start.
[ . . . ] 
To follow the evolution of this process, go back to the previous leader of comedy: Jerry Seinfeld.  Certainly, his show "about nothing" was about himself, his (feigned) narcissism.  It was the unimportant minutiae of his life blown out of proportion: he was the main character in his own show.  But today's comics play on our desire to be main characters, first in their shows, but of course ultimately in our own. 

If This Is One of The Sexiest Things You've Ever Seen, You May Be a Narcissist Dec 29, 2006

TLP makes it clear that he is talking about a "new narcissism," stating "In the modern times, I think narcissism has evolved."  Thus we need some work on a new definition:
A narcissist isn't necessarily an egotist, someone who thinks they are the best.  A quick screen is an inability to appreciate that other people exist, and have thoughts, feelings, and actions unrelated to the narcissist.  These thoughts don't have to be good ones, but they have to be linked to the narcissist. 
[ . . . ] 
The narcissist believes he is the main character in his own movie.  Everyone else has a supporting role-- everyone around him becomes a "type."  You know how in every romantic comedy, there's always the funny friend who helpes [sic] the main character figure out her relationship?  In the movie, her whole existence is to be there fore [sic]  the main character.  But in real life, that funny friend has her own life; she might even be the main character in her own movie, right?  Well the narcissist wouldn't be able to grasp that. 
As far as I can tell the new narcissism has to do with our modern saturation with images and how that thus compresses our identity into constant image management. (Can it thus be said that narcissism evolved because technology, in particular the media environment, evolved?)
A narcissist looks the same every day; he has a "look" with a defining characteristic: a certain haircut; a mustache; a type of clothing, a tatoo. [sic]  He used these to create an identity in his mind that he will spend a lot of energy keeping up.
[ . . . ]
 Narcissists typically focus on specific things as proxies for their identity. . .  These proxies are also easy to describe but loaded with implication: "I'm married to a blonde."  Saying "blonde" implies something-- e.g.  she's hot-- that might not be true.  But the narcissist has so fetishized "blondeness" that it is disconnected from reality.  The connotations, not the reality, are what matters (especially if other people can't check.)
TLP now develops a bit on the antecedents of becoming a narcissist, which he comments on more in the later piece "What Goes Wrong In A Psychiatrist's Family?" (below).
As a paradigm, the narcissist is the first born (or only) child, aged 2-3.  Everything is about him, and everything is binary.  His, or not his.  Satisfied, or not satisfied.  Hungry, or not hungry.  Mom and Dad are talking to each other and not me?  "Hello!  Focus on me!"  Youngest children don't typicaly [sic] become narcissists because from the moment of their birth, they know there are other characters in the movie.  (Youngest more easily becomes borderline.) Control, of course, is important to a narcissist. If you can imagine a 40 year old man with the ego of a 2 year old, you've got a narcissist.
Ahem.  Also, link to a related piece by Atrios who deserves the hat tip.  I would also like to pull this quote from the "ahem" article to further the discussion of narcissism.  A definition that interacts with what TLP has been developing:
. . . a ceaseless obsession with zero-sum status competition, a desperate Sisyphean pursuit of admiration that is never satisfied, and an unrelenting series of vendettas against those who have questioned his greatness

This Is Not A Narcissistic Injury Dec 31, 2006

. . . the narcissist is the main character in his own movie.  Not necessarily the best, or strongest, but the main character.  A narcissistic injury occurs when the narcissist is confronted with the reality that he is not the main character in his movie; the movie isn't his, and he's just one of 6 billion characters.

This leads to what seems like a large leap in logic, but I would ask anyone to reflect deeply on the narcissists they know to test its veracity.
The violence serves two necessary psychological functions: first, it's the natural byproduct of rage.  Second, the violence perpetuates the link, the relationship, keeps him in the lead role.   "That slut may have had a whole life outside me, but I will make her forever afraid of me."  Or he kills himself-- not because he can't live without her, but because from now on she won't be able to live without thinking about him.  See? Now it's a drama, but the movie goes on.
I've already defended one leap in logic, but let's file the next bit under "interesting claim I am not sure I agree with" or #foodForThought.  Talking about Saddam Hussein and being put to death:
But remaining the main character, he has accomplished the inevitable outcome of such a movie: he has become a martyr.  Even in death, he is still the main character.  That's why the narcissist doesn't fear death.  He continues to live in the minds of others.  That's narcissism.
Not sure how far to take "narcissists don't fear death," It's not like I want to give the nod to some super-power of bravery.  However, it does make sense to say narcissism can short-circuit the instinct for self-preservation.

It is interesting that all of these pieces so far came into being in a "golden month," December 2006.  The insights would continue on heavily for the first few months of the next year.

Borderline Jan 5 2007.

Narcissism- what I believe to be the primary disease of our times-- is one side of a coin.  The other side-- the narcissist's enabler-- is the borderline.
This is important terminology in that it provides explanatory power and moves the discussion to the level of society-wide critique.

Another surprising, but I believe correct, conclusion:
Here's the ironic part: if a borderline was shipwrecked on a desert island with no one around, she'd develop a real identity, of her own, not a reaction to other people.  Sorry, that's not the ironic part, this is: she'd become a narcissist.
An important bonus thought from the comments (which I almost never read, so it's serendipitous that I even saw it).
The DSM is entirely useless for describing character constructs. That's why it seems like narcissism and borderline are two completely separate things (in the DSM) yet I make them out to be parts of one whole. And therein is the problem with psychiatry: reductionism using arbitrary categories.
Neither Is This Is A Narcissistic Injury. Jan 9, 2007.
The narcissist says, "I exist."  A narcissistic injury is you showing him that he does not exist in your life.  Kicking him in the teeth and telling him he is a jerk is not a narcisstic [sic] injury-- because he must therefore exist. 
[. . .] 
But in the latter case where you ignore him, humiliate him-- an actual narcissisitic [sic] injury-- he will want to kill you.
It is here that our author feels a disclaimer is in order (emphasis mine):
And before everyone flames me, I am not trying to give a scientific explanation of the pathogenesis of narcissism.  This is simply one man's opinion of how we can specify what it is, and what it may predict, past or future.  Nor am I suggesting this isn't "treatable"-- anyone can change.  It may not be easy, but it is always possible.
Nearly any American reading this should see things that apply to themselves, not just a mental bludgeon to judge everyone else.  Narcissism has been the gravitational pull of our culture at least since World War II (people who grew up in rural areas were culturally excluded from the roaring 20s).

What Goes Wrong In A Psychiatrist's Family? Feb 2, 2007.
In my experience (see, there's my disclaimer) psychiatrist-parents go wrong in a very specific way. They judge behavior, not the person.  It sounds like a good thing, I know.  For kids, it's a disaster. 
[. . . ] 
If you tell a kid that a behavior is unacceptable, the kid has learned nothing about himself; he's only learned that this one thing is something he can't do. But if you make the kid own it-- make the behavior part of his identity, then he has a chance to change his identity. 
[. . . ] 
I understand the trickiness of this; you don't want to make the kid feel like he is a bad person.  But you do have to find a way to teach him that if he does that thing again and again, then he is a bad person.  Is that what he wants?  Who are you, kid?  Who do you want to be?  This also allows his to take personal credit for doing something good.
The counter-intuitive (at least to a narcissist) subject of motivation is covered in Alfie Kohn's book Punished by Rewards.  It shows that neither punishment nor rewards are the deepest sources of motivation, but that identity is a much better candidate for raising children. 

There's a second lurking trouble: parents' control of their affect.  
The psychiatrist isn't supposed to get mad at his patient; but then he comes home, and tries very hard not to get mad at his kid-- just tells him the behavior is unacceptable, gives him a time out, whatever.  But guess what?  The psychiatrist is exhausted, eventually his patience runs out, and BAM! a tsunami of anger.
This makes what is right and wrong seem arbitrary, up to the person who has the power.  TLP also points out this contributes to the borderline personality type established above.

Lost TV Series: Desmond's Fear and Trembling. Feb 15, 2007.

Talks about an episode of television show Lost and the arc of one of the characters. then at the end gets into Kierkegaard and choosing to believe in something.
It's narcissism done the right way.  And, I suspect, it's the secret to a meaningful life: picking an existence that is of value to more than just yourself, even if that existence defies the logic of reality-- your biology, your environment, and, of course, everyone else.  And once you have chosen who you want to be, once you have defined the parameters of this life, you force it to be true, as real as any gene or social factor.
So we get to conclude here on a possibly positive note.