August 07, 2014

One in Five Neighbors has a Personality Disorder??!!


Sunday Gardening by John Falter

Admit it. You have a neighbor like this, too. One house is manicured to perfection; the other a dreary mess. One walkway is scattered with hedge clippings; the other missing bricks. Zinnias bloom like colored popcorn balls on one side of the property; weeds choke hollyhocks on the other. The only thing a sane woman like myself can do in a circumstance like this, is lay a newspaper on her face and take a nap. 

Neighbors. One in five has a personality disorder and not one of them thinks they're as screwed up as their neighbors believe they are.  

If you're part of a Homeowner's Association, you know what I'm talking about. At least one person in the group measures everyone's grass within a 1/4" allowance, sticking rulers in front yards to terrorize the miscreant. Rebels have newspapers strewn across their driveways, rainstorms dissolving paper into pulp while Madame Ruler frantically pastes warning notices about declining property values. The same dynamics in every other group are rooted in the homeowner's meeting. You've got yer leader, legal enforcers, true believers, bystanders and when-will-this-flipping-meeting-end criminals. (You know you're in trouble when the Homeowner's President suggests building a gallows on the empty lot and everyone looks at you).

Neighbors. One in five has a personality disorder and not one of them thinks they're as screwed up as their neighbors believe they are.  

Did you know 6.2% of the general population has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, most of them men? That means one out of sixteen lawnmowers has a turbo-charged engine with helicopter blades, the best lawnmower a credit card can buy. If you want to avoid living next to one-upping-narcissists, consider an "established" community. Only 3% of people over 65 have a narcissistic personality (Stinson). Plus, senior citizens pay cash for a Sears push mower which means you won't be tempted to "key" it when they're on vacation. Your better instincts will instead be inspired to make a pitcher of icy lemonade and invite Mr. 65+ to take a break from his labors. The entire neighborhood will rise a notch in happiness levels because you made lemonade and because they know he has the crummiest lawn mower on the block. After accepting your generous libation, your grateful neighbor will cut your grass beyond his property line just 'cuz he's feeling generous and that makes you feel valued enough to give him a bunch of rutabagas from your garden. Pretty soon you have a mutual admiration society because neither of you has a personality disorder. People without personality disorders are able to give and take with ease. They are able to trust, to cooperate, to admire without envy, to care, to be concerned, to be affectionate. What they say is how they behave; who they say they are is what they do. There won't be a gap between image and actions. You will never be confused by their behavior because if you are, you won't be afraid to ask questions.
Personality is comprised of traits and habits. Traits are inherited (60% of who you are is inherited at birth). Habits are learned (40%), which means they can be unlearned. The more inherited the personality disorder, the less treatable it will be. (Shannon)
Birdhouses by John Philip Falter

Where's the Harmony?

Personality disorders mess up a neighborhood and the sooner you know what you're dealing with, the better off everyone will be---including the person with the personality disorder. Key to distinguishing someone with a personality disorder is disharmony. Drama. The inability to resolve relational conflicts which always come up no matter where you live or how.

True story. Once upon a time there was a crotchety old woman who lived in a rural neighborhood. Everyone said she was eccentric. Some said she was a recluse which doesn't necessarily equate to a personality disorder. What pegged her behavior as extreme enough to question a personality disorder was her contempt for the law. She would sit by her living room window all afternoon so she could shoot any cat daring walk across the top of her stone wall! Now it's not like she lived in the wilds of Africa where cats are natural predators. These cats were her neighbors pets. To be sure, neighbors were pretty upset and 'Shot Gun Annie' became the center of attention, the topic of every conversation. Most of the neighbors assumed (falsely) that even a woman shooting cats could be cajoled into giving up her bullets if only they presented the right argument. If only they used the right tone. If only they appealed to her better nature or her conscience. They could have saved a lot of time and frustration by relying on The Law to hold her in check, being fully aware that tone and logic hold no sway over people with personality disorders. They wouldn't have wasted time reasoning with her Inner Angel, thus saving a feline or two by calling police.

Had people understood the proliferation and duration of personality disorders, they would have accepted that number one:  Shot Gun Annie's reality was not the same as their reality. Number two: if all the people she had known in her lifetime hadn't livened her conscience, they wouldn't either. They'd give up their halos and admit personality disorders were more powerful than casseroles and kindness. And number three: they would have known it wasn't their fault or their cat's fault because victims are never to blame. These good neighbors had pondered over what they could have done, or must have done, to cause her to shoot their cats. Ummm...she hated cats? Her last name was Oakley? That her neighbors loved their pets mattered not in her reality. She didn't care. Her needs superseded everyone else's needs and after decades of reinforced patterns of thinking and behaving, she never questioned her perceptions. She could justify anything. Even killing pets for sport.
4% of the general population across cultures has an AntiSocial Personality Disorder (sociopathy/psychopathy) causing 80% of the crimes perpetrated in any culture. For every four men with AsPD, one woman has AsPD.  (Shannon)
Neighbors. One in five has a personality disorder and not one of them thinks they're as screwed up as their neighbors believe they are.

What's the point of talking about personality disorders and neighborhoods? 

Young Astronaut by John Philip Falter
Lay folk are criticized for using psychological terms, but think about it. OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) is referred to all the time all the time all the time in conversations. We joke about it, applying the diagnosis to ourselves, assuming anyone with a perfectly clipped topiary has a form of it. We talk about the hyper-active kid with ADD who leaps off garages in her underwear. We discuss the anal-retentive fella at the end of the block. Psyche terms are interjected into casual conversation and we don't regulate who can use them and who can't. "Hey! What gives you the right to say Mr. Shorts-in-a-bunch is anal retentive? Where'd you get your psyche degree, huh?"

I guess we could call Mr. Shorts-in-a-bunch a "tight ass", the non-Freud version of anal retentive and no one would question our authority.

Applying information about personality disorders to the people who are driving us crazy, is a good thing. Using terms that capture the truth of a thing is healthy. Language is how people integrate knowledge in order to make sense of their lives. When people are unable to resolve conflicts no matter what they do, try or say, understanding personality disorders will preserve their sanity. Besides, isn't it kinder to say Fred is kinda histrionic, rather than calling him a weirdo? The thing is, people are going to label behaviors they don't understand, regardless.

You might argue there's a stigma associated with personality disorders and yes, that concerns me too. I'm also concerned about the stigma of labels offering no insight, no compassion, no solutions. Call someone a "weirdo" and people stop thinking. Stop trying to understand. Their judgement is set in concrete; understanding is bypassed. Psyche information changes stereotypes and pejoratives, shedding light on difficult personalities and the relational problems associated with difficult personalities. We'll know our limits; we'll know theirs. We won't expect what they can't give. We can adjust our behavior to facilitate a reasonable relationship. Probably not the kind of relationship we'd like to have with a neighbor, but at least we aren't escalating the problems. I don't know what to do with a weirdo. I have reasonable skills for coping with a neighbor's narcissistic personality. 

Blessed be our non-territorial psychologists who are dedicated to educating the public. Here's to the inroads psychologists have made in defining and describing personality disorders in a manner that makes sense to everyday people. In a manner that improves the harmony in everyday neighborhoods. When people shame me for using psyche terms, I give them the little speech you just read in the last paragraph and ask them to please stop being Cluster B with me. ;-P

My rule of thumb: extreme reactions and hostile behaviors beyond expectations and allowances considered normal in a specific culture, point to  a personality disorder. Blaming, entitlement, social disruption and antagonism are signs to watch for along with malicious gossiping.

Grass clippings dumped in my trash aren't a serious issue the first time it happens. Giving people the benefit of our doubt is not a pathological trait but that doesn't mean letting things slide. For all we know, their thirteen year old did it. Or their gardener. We can learn to confront problems like this without being confrontational. If my boundaries still aren't respected after a friendly conversation, I rely on the Homeowner's Association to enforce the rules and regulations governing our neighborhood. What I do not do anymore is cajole, plead, please, ignore, give gifts to, educate, explain, argue with, cook for, beg, or otherwise pretend "the problem" isn't happening. My life is much better and I believe everyone else's can be, too.


As proposed by Dr. Joseph Shannon in the video linked below: 

Six Signs Your Neighbor Has a Personality Disorder

1-Rigid. They may realize they don't adapt but can't translate their insight into meaningful change.

2-Repetition. They have a tendency to make the same mistakes repeatedly such as: successive relationships; repeatedly abusing credit; the inability to learn from their mistakes.

3-Unstable. They may experience periods of stability but suffer emotional instability.

4-Clueless. They don't understand they are sick. They don't understand how their 'sickness' affects other people. Some people with personality disorders are aware of the impact they have on others but they don't care.

5-High Conflict. When confronted with a problem, people with personality disorders create drama, not problem-solving. They cast themselves in one of three roles: victim, rescuer, villain-maverick-rebel.

6-Lacks self-awareness. Everyone in the family is on psychotropic medication except for the personality disordered person. In effect, people are held hostage.




"Dr. Joseph W. Shannon has over 30 years of successful clinical experience as a psychologist, consultant and trainer. An expert in understanding and treating a broad range of mental disorders, Dr. Shannon has appeared on several television programs including the CBS "Morning Show" and "PBS: Viewpoint." Link

Have an Extreme Neighbor story to tell? Please do! 

Hugs,
CZ


Resources

DSM-IV personality disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication "The estimated point prevalence of any PD in these studies was in the range 9.0-15.7%."


Wikipedia Page on Personality Disorders a great overview and history of personality disorders 

Huff, Charlotte. Where Personality Goes Awry. 2004. American Psychological Association.

Note: Measurements vary on the prevalence of Personality Disorders in the US population. The exact statistic is unknown, though statistics as high as 20% have been reported by practicing clinicians. A quick search brings up contradictory numbers due to the complexity of diagnosis and the fact that personality disorders are often considered to be untreatable. (not true anymore) Instead of diagnosing someone with a personality disorder, clinicians treat accompanying mental problems; i.e.: substance abuse, anxiety and mood disorders; impulse control; ptsd.  





June 29, 2014

Please Stop Calling People Narcissists! Especially ME please...

"Examination of a Blogger" (jest kiddin')


Please stop calling people narcissists because you're insulted or because you don't like them or they don't like you. Please stop calling people narcissists because their criticism makes you crazy like a pepper mill. Please stop setting up tribunals to condemn the minutest flaw in someone's character. "See that spot on her back? It's the toxic mark of Satan! Run Run! She's unsafe for human company!" A little reminder: when a witch hunt is being organized, your silence is an act of complicity; and, your enthusiastic participation may get your name dropped from my Christmas list. Just in case readers wonder how deep my niceness really goes, I don't exchange gifts with people who send emails like these:
"I know I am not the first to point out these things, so I pray you are not a narcissist CZ (although I believe you are and God agrees with me)."  
Please stop calling people narcissists because you trust your gut feelings beyond every attempt to reason with you; beyond facts; beyond rationality. 
"It walked like a duck. It talked like a duck. I called it a duck and you're a duck! I sensed the truth in my gut and sure enough, you quacked!" 
Please stop calling people narcissists because you had gawd-awful parents.
"You remind me of my mother! This is no projection, it is a matter of fact! My mother made herself the center of all communication. Woweee, what a powerful position you are in!"
Please stop calling people narcissists because they read your story-without-paragraph-breaks-and-in-all-caps, offering a story to comfort and end your isolation.
"I counted the "I's" in your reply and it proves you are a wolf in sheep's clothing! Even if you fool other people. You. Don't. Fool. ME!"
Please stop calling group leaders narcissists because you didn't get your way.
"Have you ever allowed the thought that you are using people? You make the final decisions. You decide who's right and wrong. Do whatever you want from here-on-out without MY contributions. You are the ruler after all."
Just please stop calling people narcissists when you haven't cared enough to get to know them. Your disinterest in their life undermines the validity of your diagnosis. And:

Please stop calling people narcissists to hurt them. Or because you disagree with them. Or because calling people names makes you feel better. Please stop calling people narcissists when the only hostile person is yourself.

Please stop calling people narcissists to prove you aren't. But most of all, please stop calling people narcissists to trash them.


Stigmatizing Narcissism

I've encouraged people to learn about narcissistic traits. I have argued that narcissism is not an accusation; it's a description allowing us to understand the human personality, to better manage our reactions to narcissistic personalities. I have pushed people to open their minds to psychological explanations rather than using pejoratives like lazy, stupid, crazy, evil and worthless. In my view, NPD is less stigmatizing than calling someone evil because we don't understand ego defenses and clamor for exorcisms, even in 2014. I have lobbied for access to psychological information, reducing the inevitable harm of human ignorance in the belief education would lead to healthier lives. I think all these things are happening to the majority of people affected by someone with a narcissistic personality. However, as is always the case when discussing mental health, people stigmatize "narcissist" as if it were ammunition for their verbal abuse arsenal. They use "narcissist" like a bullet aimed at the hearts of their perceived critics, never recognizing their outrageous hostility is the reddest flag in the room.

When there's a disagreement online, instead of discussing and resolving issues, all someone has to do is point their finger and say, "She's a narcissist!" Surely, I'm not the only person to have received emails from concerned readers who have been told via private emails and chat rooms, that I am a narcissist. Surely some of you have dealt with this allegation by people who want to destroy your reputation. You tick them off for some GodOnlyKnowsWhy reason, and instead of giving you the benefit of the doubt or even trying to work things out, they decide you're a narcissist.

This story took place about a decade ago.  I had been corresponding with a woman who was suffering ptsd, spending a great deal of time writing to her. One of our mutual online acquaintances told her she should not trust me because people-in-the-know had determined me to be a psychopath. She cut off contact immediately. She considered moving because she'd given me her address. All the accuser  had to do was send an email creating doubt in people's minds. Defending myself by stating, "I am NOT a narcissist" seemed ridiculous because that's the first thing a narcissist would do only more convincingly. I considered uploading a certificate of mental health to my website but realized people would accuse me of ordering it from a diploma mill. ha! My only option, or so it seemed, was learning to live with the rumors, responding kindly when people inquired about my mental health. "How come you were so mean to so-and-so?" they'd ask. And I'd write back, "Why do you believe everything you read?" And they'd say, "Are you calling me gullible?" And I'd reply, "Kinda." And they'd say, "I will never read your blog or join your forum because I go NO CONTACT with NARCISSISTS!" And then I'd consider posting the entire chain of emails so people could see how inane and ridiculous people can be and then the next day, I'd come to my senses and do nothing. Doing nothing seems to be the only way to stop accusations from getting worse. So far, at least to my knowledge, no one has ever accused me of being a serial killer. But hey, there's always tomorrow!

Cyberbullying?

Getting revenge for perceived insults and/or criticism by calling someone "a narcissist" could be considered a form of cyberbullying, I think. If the intent is to harm, intimidate and threaten an individual's reputation, it is cyberbulling even if the receiver isn't personally offended by the accusation. Being told I'm a narcissist is not upsetting to me because first of all, I don't meet five of nine criteria in the DSM and my Narcissistic Personality Inventory score is below the national average for Americans. But even if it IS grandiose for me to blog about narcissism, there are two key factors preventing me from being dangerous: my EE quotient. Exploitative and Entitled I am not. So you are safe, dear readers...you may find my long essays tedious but I won't charge you to read them. And I don't expect you to read them, either. Entitlement is something I need more of, not less.

And the other thing I realized when ruminating on being called "a narcissist" is that not everyone has tolerance for name-calling. Some good-hearted folks leave the Internet completely. This kind of poop happens all the time online. For example: if we're the type of person who listens and supports people, our good deeds will be undermined with accusations of covert narcissism. If we're smart, we're called cerebral narcissists. If we're good-lookin', surely we're somatic. If we sell products on our blogs, we're grandiose narcissists and if we don't, we're closet narcissists. Here is the thing, though. People have always used labels to diminish the sting, value and caliber of other people whose lives and opinions differed from their own. In more religious times, people accused one another of being evil. In the workplace, co-worker's achievements are reduced to that of brown nosers. People with academic accomplishments are alleged to be cheaters. There's always a way to make ourselves feel better about someone else's success. In our therapeutic society, "You're a Narcissist!" is how we maintain our status by diminishing others.

Why It's soooo DUMB To Call Me A Narcissist

I live a complex life requiring social and emotional intelligence, equanimity and empathy 24/7. It's ludicrous to call me "a narcissist." If I can be called "a narcissist" by people familiar with NPD, then we have not done a very good job educating people about the definition of narcissism. I figure if anyone can talk about this subject, it's a woman who is all about community, all about serving others, all about laying claim to her personal flaws and weaknesses of which there are many but not enough to satisfy DSM criteria. And I also trust that anyone who knows me will not be persuaded by allegations that I'm a wolf in sheep's clothing, so I'm not afraid to talk about this topic. Other people might not be as immune to name-calling and I hope to speak for all the people writing about narcissistic relationships and being subjected to anonymous accusations. Since I'm obviously not a narcissist, what does it mean when someone accuses me of being "a narcissist?" 
1-they have a superficial understanding of narcissism
2-they want to level the relationship by reducing my authority
3-they're projecting; seeing their narcissism in me
4-they WANT to hurt me, to bully and intimidate me
5-they are highly defensive--protecting their ego
6-they are verbally abusive, using narcissism as a N-word
7-they're splitting (ego defense): "I'm not a narcissist, you are!"
8-they want to strip my dignity and integrity
9-they want to justify hostility without questioning or examining themselves
10-they want the last word, a parting shot before leaving. Bang. You're Out. 



We've all done it. Sort of. 

At first, I assumed "You're a Narcissist!" was reserved for message boards because anxiety and uncertainty are naturally elevated when reading people's stories. And it's easy to impute criticism in someone's reply when you've been hurt, when you're suffering. In healing communities, there has to be allowance for our "temporary insanity" and every group relies on good will to keep people communicating freely. What I'm saying is that no one escapes being batshitcrazy AT LEAST once or twice under pressure, even more so during crises. After lashing out at someone who in retrospect didn't deserve the brunt of our anger, most people admit to being wrong and apologize. Profusely. This Is Growth. This Is Healing. Remorse is humbling if our egos are strong enough to bear the shame of our imperfection and admit we can be jerks. We can also be angels, don't forget. A full-and-rich life means committing ourselves to growing more feathers than defenses by the time St. Peter takes full measure of our lives.

Why People "Lash Out"

Sudden online aggression out of context to the situation may suggest our inner six-year-old's been typing on the keyboard without any adult supervision. Her rude comments are undeniable when the insults are attached to our screen name. YIKES. Usually after a good night's rest, our adult senses are restored and we can take responsibility for lashing out. We Step Up. (denial isn't completely out of the realm of possibilities though because truth can always be perverted to protect a fragile ego). Recovery entails plenty of "I'm sorry's!" and even more "I understand's!" and a healthy enough self to bear the brunt of our thoughtless crimes. If you are guilty of calling people narcissists because they didn't agree with your point of view, now would be a good time to stop that nonsense and get on with some serious healing.

I think people idealize healing for the most part, not comprehending the fears that must be faced, the losses that must be accepted, the devastating grief of the unloved child, the rejected lover, the discarded spouse. Healing our narcissistic injuries may overwhelm the faint of heart, the idealistic, the fragile; and I want people to know that even after being told off many times, I sympathize with my critics. Please don't hear me saying I LURVE my critics, or forgive their ongoing efforts to discredit me, but I understand why they do what they do. The ghost of the unloved child hovers close to the adult like a greedy specter, too jaded to trust, too tough to be a sucker; always looking for a motive, always looking for the betrayal that's sure to come. Ever-poised to lash out if people get too close. It appears the worst thing people can think of to keep their defenses in tact and others at bay is, "You're a Narcissist."

Some accusers defend themselves from shame by projecting their painful feelings. Recipients unwittingly react to their allegations as if there's validity to their claims. There isn't. The truth is that some people have an extremely vulnerable self and any perceived criticism--no matter how slight or unintended--will trigger their hostility, what psychologists describe as narcissistic rage. Once their wrath has been externalized, their deepest suspicions about themselves are secreted from self-awareness through primitive ego defenses. Now this view might lead readers to believe I'm tit for tatting. In other words, someone calls me a narcissist and I outmaneuver them with psychological explanations about their narcissism. However, people don't always call someone a narcissist because they're unconsciously protecting a fragile ego. Sometimes they do it on purpose.  


Stigmatizing Mental Illness & Mental Disorders

Calling someone "a narcissist" is intended to demean that person's relevance but only if "You're a narcissist!" is considered to be an insult. My goal is and has always been understanding, not demonizing people with labels. People who stigmatize mental illness may have higher degrees of narcissistic traits than the people they accuse of being narcissists. (Arikan) That seems a reasonable explanation to me, having put my best efforts into negotiating a truce after people called me "a narcissist". Having narcissistic traits doesn't imply mutual good will, nor do narcissistic traits suggest self-awareness and accountability which is why people like myself refrain from confronting people who call us narcissists. We ignore their hostility because we're cautious about escalating the drama, the ante being upped to unfathomable proportions and I'm sure most bloggers have horrifying examples they'd rather not remember. As a result of our experiences with people who were unwilling to examine themselves or check their aggression, hostile people get away with bullying.

Name-calling proliferates on the web because we can't defend ourselves from anonymous critics. There aren't any brakes on aggression if someone believes we disrespected them. If we write anything even remotely offensive or critical, they attack no holds barred. (For as callous as these folks are to someone else's pain, they are exquisitely sensitive to the mere tone of criticism towards themselves.)

When disagreements occur as they always will in every relationship, our attempts to reconcile will be twisted into distortions of truth, re-written history, blatant lies. It's like digging your own grave, trying to explain what you meant when someone was looking for insult, reading between the lines of your apology to find what they needed to fuel their anger. We eventually stop justifying, arguing, defending and explaining ourselves because it is a waste of time that only amplifies their hostility. What's the point? We realize that person cannot hear us because s/he is consumed with an archaic rage that has nothing to do with us or present time. We know someone is battling old demons when their reactions are out of proportion to the situation at hand. And that is why the most frequent advice is doing nothing. But it gets old, doing nothing.

A recent email calling me a narcissist was simply the last straw and I thought this subject could use a good discussion, a good airing. Has anyone called you a narcissist because you blog about  narcissism? And if so, what did you do? Successes and failures welcomed!

Hugs all,
CZ


Resources

*The first painting is actually titled, Examination of a Witch by Thompkins H. Matteson, 1833

Arikan, Kemal. 2005  "A Stigmatizing Attitude Towards Psychiatric Illnesses is Associated with Narcissistic Personality Traits". Israel Journal of Psychiatry & Related Sciences Vol 42 No. 4 (248-250)

Davey, Graham. 2013  "Mental Health and Stigma." PsychologyToday

Seltzer, Leon. 2011  "The Narcissist's Dilemma. They can Dish It Out But..." PsychologyToday





May 31, 2014

Elliot Rodger's Narcissism: a caNary in the coalmiNe?


The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosche

A few readers have requested my opinion and even though it's useful examining Elliot's narcissism, I still feel ambivalent writing about a young man who suffered emotional pain, inflicting even more pain on other people and that includes his family. That Elliot Rodger's narcissism spiraled outwards is quintessential.

Nobody suffers the hell of pathological narcissism more than other people.


As a writer about narcissism, my views are filtered through a narcissism lens. Let me be clear on my focus: pathological narcissism is the root of Elliot's self-hatred and externalized aggression, normalized by a misogynistic culture. If readers are offended by that statement, now would be a good time to open your mind to a woman's point of view in a blog room of her own, or visit other sites if you can't. Elliot's story also points to broader issues such as: mental illness and violence, autism, divorce culture, parenting, feminism, masculinity, materialism, the manosphere, a therapeutic mentality, and sexual entitlement. Most people are triggered by one or all of these topics so please consider my comments to be interpretive, not specific to Elliot Rodger or his family per se.

As a second-wave feminist, no mansplaining please. The patriarchal view of life is no news to me having grown up in the 1950's. I don't like this new version of the Men's Rights Movement claiming to be victimized by feminists who won the war of the sexes. Ten minutes of television suggests the prize feminist mothers "won", was her daughter's right to volunteer for exploitation. "Look honey! Now you can CHOOSE to be a sex worker!" People call it agency. I call it manipulation, appropriation, and hopefully: learning-from-our-mistakes. Our sons didn't learn to value women as their equals, either. They became even more entitled to get sex as his right and her liberated obligation. The resultant porn culture in which our children have been raised, has impacted their beliefs about sexuality and if we consider the influence of a narcissistic media, it's little wonder Elliot Rodger felt denied. Media pummels kids with a barrage of images based on narcissistic fantasy, not reality and who needs grounding more than teenagers? Contrived sexual imagery (with an agenda to make $$) magnifies their uncertainty into perceived rejection if kids aren't "doing it" like their idealized role models porn stars.

That Elliot was humiliated by his virginity is a sign of our times: losing self-esteem rather than gaining self-respect. That Elliot was humiliated by other men because he didn't have a "hot blonde" in his possession, speaks to the destructive way young men are being socialized. De-evolution, ugh! 

And just so everyone knows: I do not have credentials as a psychologist or as a feminist even though defining myself as psychologically savvy and feminist. Feminist theory gave language to my life as a female; real-time experience reinforced lessons about male privilege-and-entitlement when my relatively stable and prosperous marriage ended in divorce. People never asked, "What's wrong with your husband that he'd leave you for another woman?" The inference being that he was only leaving his wife, not his family (how nutz is that rationalization?). And an older woman is, well...understandably replaceable and therefore at fault for getting old. ugh! 

As a relentless nurturer, I have co-parented my nephew for eighteen years. He has been officially diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines Aspergers as high-functioning autism. We have been involved in the autism community, meeting families who also rally around their child providing the extensive stability and support these children need in order to function in society. Aspergers is a mental disorder requiring collaboration between psychologists, psychiatrists, educators, therapists and family members. People with Aspergers learn to manage feelings, thinking, and behavior that if left unchecked, can result in clinical depression and suicide. I believe (until convinced otherwise) that narcissistic disorders can co-exist (even flourish) if parents don't know what to look for, or how to direct a child from self-preoccupation to healthy engagement with, and consideration for, others. I think it's reasonable to say that a child may start his life with Aspergers and develop pathological narcissism because of the difficulties they face fitting in to society. It takes a tribe to raise a child with Aspergers and we are failing as a society.

If parents are not their children's mirrors, someone else will be. God help us if a young man "finds himself" in the manosphere.

Hieronymous Bosche
Was Elliot Rodger A Narcissist? 

I won't dwell on Aspergers as it differentiates from narcissism because: 1) I'm not qualified to do that and; 2) I believe autism and narcissism can co-exist. Since it's obvious Elliot was narcissistic, I'll add to that discussion by focusing on descriptions of pathological narcissism countering popular notions of narcissism as braggadocio.

The concept of narcissism most generally understood describes a person who is obnoxious and arrogant, stubborn, prideful, snootily superior, manipulative, materialistic, self-centered, shallow, lacks empathy, and a leader. Narcissists can be dauntless leaders pushing agendas and maximizing investments, inspiring people to rally behind them. Their narcissism is considered to be normal or perhaps: extraordinary narcissism. People within normal ranges of narcissism have high self-esteem. That means the esteem they have for themselves is not subject to extreme fluctuations. They are not excessively reliant on other people's validation and praise. They have a stable sense of self that's resilient to rejection and failure. This is a fair assessment of normal narcissism and it is not difficult spotting narcissism in Elliot's videos and written man-ifesto. However, concluding Elliot was a narcissist camouflages the destructiveness of his pathological narcissism. This is the mistake parents make (therapists, too) dismissing a young man's braggadocio as temporary, nothing to worry about, a phase he'll grow out of (and if not, his partner will be expected to accommodate his narcissism. ugh!)

destructive narcissism----pathological narcissism----malignant narcissism

Pathological narcissists replicate a normal narcissist's confidence, but their self-esteem degrades to self-derogation in the face of failure and rejection. They're up, they're down, their moods becoming even more extreme as they age. Their envy is crippling; their revenge talionic. Their grandiose hyper-valued self cannot be sustained---life being an uncompromising grind against hubris. If narcissistic defenses break down, they become clinically depressed and suicidal. This runs opposite to what most people believe about narcissists who love themselves too much to check out early. That may be true for a narcissist but it's untrue for pathological narcissists. If they are suicidal, they aren't contemplating suicide as an escape from unbearable pain. Oh NO! In their minds, suicide is a glorious triumph because they are in complete control. As Kenneth Levy writes: "Malignant narcissists are at high risk for suicide because such behavior represents sadistic control over others, a dismissal of a denigrated world, or a display of mastery over death."



Why didn't Elliot's parents know he was t-h-a-t  SICK?

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosche
I've read criticism of Elliot's parents and it breaks my heart because honestly folks, parents see what their children want them to see. Pathological narcissists are secretive, hiding their self-loathing, contempt, obsession with injustice and revenge. They may leak out little bits-and-pieces and when people are shocked by their vitriol, that's it. No more leaks. Besides, parents won't see pathological narcissism if they don't know what to look for, just like Elliot fooled the police. The police visited, they talked with him, they reported no cause for alarm. Elliot was "polite and courteous," police said. I cannot condemn anyone in Elliot's life for being fooled by his courteous demeanor. Narcissists are masters of disguise. It isn't so much our denial or unwillingness to see the truth, as their brilliance at image management. If you've never met Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, watch the movie. Horror film meet reality show.
Dr. Allen Schwartz writes, "[pathological narcissism] causes people to misunderstand what is really going on with the individual. For example, some one like this will seem to be arrogant and filled with self-confidence. However, just beneath this shallow surface lies a person who feels a deep sense of shame and humiliation and low self-esteem. That is why they are so easily hurt in the face of criticism."
Pathological narcissists believe they are entitled to whatever they want, exploiting people with Machiavellian ease. Eventually people catch on and sure enough, nobody wants to spend time with them! Narcissist's callousness coupled with arrogance tends to tip people off eventually, a rejection pathological narcissists are sure to avenge. You'd think losing one relationship after another would be enough for them to see that they're the problem, not other people. But an important aspect of pathological narcissism is the impaired ability to self-reflect, to introspect. Most of us reflect on our behavior and self-correct when we hurt someone's feelings, even inadvertently. So I ask myself how someone could plot his little brother's murder without realizing his thinking was aberrant, was crazy? How could he be aware of his destructive envy, yet be okay with destroying the objects of his envy? Where's the moment of clarity inspiring him to ask for help lest he do something he'll regret? The answer is: he had nothing to regret.

Pathological narcissism fuels hostility and revenge without recognizing such hatred as cause for alarm. The assumption that all people have the gift of conscience and all people self-reflect and self-correct is false. While you and I might feel like a heel videoing our best friend 'cuz she eats with her mouth open, pathological narcissists are perfectly comfortable uploading the video on YouTube. The psychological explanation for their sadism is that they are ego-syntonic, meaning: comfortable with their thoughts, actions and feelings. Murdering a sibling? No cause for alarm! He deserves it! Any punishment can be justified when a marginally developed conscience is unable to hold aggression in check. The injustice (real or not!) grows and grows until they believe they're defending themselves from further insult and then they can open the hate floodgates. Hate is there. Scapegoats are discovered. Or in light of misogyny: learned.

Pathological narcissists cannot process emotions like shame and humiliation so imagine what happens when men "shame" other men. They cannot work through their emotions as normal people do. The solution to feeling good about themselves again is evacuation. They evacuate their shame and humiliation onto others and women become the scapegoat because society is groomed to blame her for whatever he must do to to be accepted as a man. It's the system, folks. ugh!
"In response to severe humiliation, criticism and defeat, people with NPD may react self-destructively with a controlled and calculated intention to kill themselves…narcissists feel they deserve admiring attention because they consider themselves superior or exceptional." Dr. Elsa Ronningstam
Maditation

A pathological narcissist can sit in isolation for hours on end, nursing resentments until he's fully justified in taking revenge without remorse. Pathological narcissists may say they are introspecting (as Elliot wrote) but they are more likely ruminating on issues of social rank and antagonism. (Dimaggio) I've pondered their love of loathing, wondering why someone would feed their anger until it billowed into noxious fumes. Is rumination a way to feel powerful, turning anger into hate? Meditating for days, as Elliot claimed in his man-ifesto, might be grandiose seclusion within the confines of a disturbed mind, unperturbed by interruption or contradiction. Yet they lie about what's really going on inside their heads, purporting meditation to be introspection. Or spiritual transcendence. Note to all: spiritual meditation does not involve harming people, places and things. When someone is pondering destruction, it's not meditation, it's maditation and should come with warnings for people who aren't fully grounded in reality.

These behaviors indicate pathological narcissism:
Disdain for communal values with high value placed on agency (independence)
Rejects dependency (eliminates relationships)
Views others as inept, incompetent, and hostile: inferior
Severe exploitation and possible criminality
Reacts aggressively to limits (devalue and resents social agreements)
Lacks normal inhibitions in the pursuit of power
Devalues and exploits without remorse
Excessive rage and hostility
Lacks values; lacks conscience; unable to forgive
Lack of engagement in life (withdraws; depression; alienation)
Feelings of emptiness; Lack of vitality
Unrealistic sense of grandeur (incommensurate to capabilities)
Shame, guilt and envy (dehumanizing "the other")
Sexual pathology (total inhibition or chaotic sex life)
Fantasies, magical thinking, unrealistic expectations ("The Secret"; the lottery)
Undeveloped sense of self; identity diffusion; impaired sense of self
Splits reality into polar opposites (evil/good; right/wrong; winner/loser; ideal/worthless)
Elliot Rodger's deep dive into madness has ignited public attention and I don't believe people are writing about him to push their favorite agendas. We want to know "why" someone who appeared to have the lifestyle most people only dream about, could even on a minuscule level believe he was unduly done by. Could believe that life for poor Elliot Rodger, was unfair. Hollywood, movies, red carpet events, fancy cars, champagne, naked stepmothers---how much more could a kid hope for?  I've read numerous comments looking for reasons why Elliot was bizarrely envious. Why this kid was so damn crazy.  I think the average person understands that horrendous childhoods, poverty, and abuse can overwhelm any one of us, but there's nothing NOTHING about Elliot's life that suggests an extreme environment or deprivation.

I think that's why people are picking their favorite reason and trying too hard to place blame on someone, on something. Just please someone find a reason so parents can sleep at night! If Elliot Rodger could be madder than a hatter when his life was better than most people's, doesn't that make us nervous about our own children? Our kids are exposed to the same influences pushing Elliot over the edge. Our kids come from divorced homes, struggle fitting into blended families, play video games more than they should, watch Game of Thrones when they shouldn't, see porn at least once before parents wise-up and clamp down on Family Controls. Our kids are marketed to by soulless advertisers promoting immediate gratification, grooming our children to be empty shells for perpetual consumerism. If our kids are exposed to the same influences as Elliot Rodger in a corporate market branding kids from the age of two, what hope have we that their lives will be meaningfully enriched by loving relationships? I think that's why Elliot's story is so compelling---there but for the grace of God go we. And frankly, I haven't been on God's shortlist of BFFs lately.

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosche

The Manosphere 

"The so-called “manosphere” is peopled with hundreds of websites, blogs and forums dedicated to savaging feminists in particular and women, very typically American women, in general. Although some of the sites make an attempt at civility and try to back their arguments with facts, they are almost all thick with misogynistic attacks that can be astounding for the guttural hatred they express." ~Southern Poverty Law Center

If someone is not crippled by narcissism (which can be nursed into violence and revenge), they may be able to navigate alpha beta hierarchies without losing their grounding in reality and validating their hate. If pathological narcissism is part of their psychic soup, well...let's let Elliot speak for himself:

"The Spring of 2013 was also the time when I came across the website PUAHate.com. It is a forum full of men who are starved of sex, just like me. Many of them have their own theories of what women are attracted to, and many of them share my hatred of women, though unlike me they would be too cowardly to act on it." ~Elliot's Manifesto, page 117

A narcissistic culture teaches men to exploit people without shame, guilt or remorse. It teaches people to silence their conscience, curb their empathy, dumb down their humanity. I had read about Pick Up Artist (PUA) sites several years ago when people were setting up cottage industries on the web. They called their tips and tactics: The Game. Some men have told me what they learned actually helped because they didn't know how to talk to a woman much less forge a relationship. Most of the PUA sites are not about relationship, though. They've all about getting sex, the sociopathic ends justifying the exploitative means. It's Game. Make no mistake, game may sound normal but it describes the narcissist's ludic love style (Campbell). Game is the narcissist's playground and a young man can't immerse himself in this kind of objectification without denying both her humanity and his own.

Our social world is complex and as a very general rule, women are more adept at managing the nuances and subtleties of relationship. It is not hard for me to understand why young men would be drawn into a dichotomous group pitting women against men as dominant or submissive. Simplifying relationships as either/or is comforting when someone lacks the ability to navigate complexity. It's just too sad that older men have not matured and are still involved in Social Skills 101, advising young men who might be unduly influenced by the troublesome misogyny in the manosphere.

Before ending my rambling thoughts, I wanted to say something about the manosphere because I think it has bearing on Elliot's descent to madness. If my nephew were frequenting such sites, I'd cancel the Internet. That's how ruinous masculinists narcissists can be to younger men seeking male validation, male role models, how to be a man. The Internet magnifies everything, fools us into believing there's more approval for a point of view than there actually is and young people lack skills of discernment which hopefully comes with age. I am watchful of my dear nephew's environment for I know autism makes him less wary of manipulation than other kids his age. I believe autism and/or vulnerable narcissism makes a young man MORE vulnerable to social groups because he lacks an appropriate meter for bullshit.

Elliot Rodger participated in a misogynistic culture reacting to a perceived loss of male status and privilege. In the case of a young man searching for his identity in an environment promoting power-over-women, the manosphere is destructively influential. It validates the worst that is secreted inside a pathological self. Narcissists are needy, even if they pretend to be self-reliant. They have a weak sense of self, their identity is uncertain. People have extraordinary power to influence their behavior when  narcissists need their validation.
“A third type of failure to achieve a mature identity is called identity diffusion, and it is a problem that can plague an individual well into adulthood. These are the young people who have few commitments to any goals or values and who often seem apathetic about taking on any role...The narcissism of these teens is perhaps the most primitive of all---the false Self that masks their lack of development is a deflated one, lacking in the omnipotence and grandiosity that could propel them toward some experience of mastery and definition of Self." ~Sandy Hotchkiss
 

Nobody needs validation and praise more than narcissists and if recent studies are correct, our youth are more narcissistic than boomers were when we came of age. (is that possible? ha!) Nobody wants to find their "True self" more than narcissists. It's frightening to think about young men coming of age in the narcissistic manosphere, identifying with self-glorified alpha males my generation referred to as chauvinist pigs. And just like the chauvinist pigs of the sixties and seventies, millennial alphas view women as service providers, too. The only difference is these guys know what they're doing and they do it anyway. We're not talking about ignorance and cultural blindness. We talking about a lack of conscience. Not exactly the kind of community a young man should hang out with if he doesn't know his shit from shinola, which many Asperger folks don't.

People with Aspergers and even narcissistic kids are prone to interpreting language literally, mistaking hyperbole as fact. Well, the manosphere is so full of gross exaggeration and what I can only pray is expressive hyperbole, that their feverish sweat verily leaks through my monitor. If you're gonna spend more than five minutes in the manosphere, bake an aromatic and heavenly dessert. Cinnamon apple cobbler works well and you don't even have to make it for him, or put on your apron.

We absolutely must look at the way men are socialized in order to understand Elliot's humiliation not being able to find his place in society. Did the notorious hate groups Elliot Rodger participated in cause him to kill six people and himself? No, of course not. But I believe they had an important role in fanning the flames of his resentment, scapegoating women for his hostility, and promoting narcissistic, even glorious revenge. If Elliot couldn't be a stud, at least he could be a bad-ass. That is the masculinist approach to being "a man." (Nerdlove)
Elliot wrote in his man-ifesto: "I wasn't the son I wanted to present to my father. I should be the one with the hot blonde girl, making my father proud. Instead, my father had to watch me suffer in a pathetic position. Life is so cruel to me. When I said my farewell to father before he drove home, I felt absolutely miserable." 
In an environment such as the manosphere, rank, entitlement, superiority, aggression, dominance, and anti-intellectualism and exploitation are normalized. With a list of values like that, how do you tell "A Narcissist" from a masculinist ? Damned if I know.

Hieronymous Bosche
Did Elliot's parents cause his narcissism?  
For all those folks who think Elliot needed a firmer hand and stricter discipline by his parents, Dimaggio writes, "Recent findings in which parenting styles, such as mixtures of overt praise and coldness, lack of supervision, corporal punishment, and authoritarian parenting, predicted future narcissism."   
Dimaggio also wrote about the cause of pathological narcissism, "There is no consensus on the causes of [pathological narcissism], although lack of parental empathy toward a child’s developmental needs may bear some responsibility. Another trigger may be that the child is raised in a family where status and success are of utmost importance and only qualities that lead to sustaining a grandiose self-image are valued, while other behaviors are disregarded or punished. Another possibility is that overt grandiosity is a reaction to slights and humiliation, a sort of armor used to avoid subjugation. Other factors, such as an externalizing personality and the role of culture (the narcissistic society) in paving the way to narcissism, should also be explored." 
Attachment theory aficionados suggest his bond with his mother was weak and that's why he hated women. Others suggest the Hollywood atmosphere led to shallow values and a materialistic focus. One YouTube philosopher zeroed in on the mother and grandmother who must have secretly abused and neglected Eliot, don't ya know. The stepmother has been singled out as a probable culprit since it rarely works well for step-parents to discipline a stepchild too soon. In all these scenarios potentially robbing Elliot of so much self-esteem that he wrapped himself in narcissistic defenses, the one thing that was not brought up was the loss of his family at age seven. From  personal experience, I don't know what hurts a child's self-esteem more than being "left behind" for another family. I don't know what messes with a boy's head more than loving the woman his father rejects. Of course, this is purely conjecture because I do not know the particulars of the Rodger divorce. Elliot only mentioned briefly in his man-ifesto that his father had a girlfriend a little too quickly after separating from his mother.

You can check in with your misogyny level right now, because I know what some of you are thinking: "Something must be wrong with Elliot's mother if his father was so unhappy." ugh!


My last word. Promise. Now I get personal. 

Loss of family = Loss of self-esteem

Divorce divides children between the parent they deem as powerful (his father's ability to attract other partners) and the parent they see as powerless (his mother's inability to protect the family and preserve their status). How does a boy feel when the parent providing comfort, safety and security as Elliot mentioned in his man-ifesto, is rejected by his father? Does he hate himself for identifying with her? For loving her? To the outside world, leaving one spouse for another is considered normal and acceptable and aren't we glad we can exercise our authenticity (sarcasm alert) but what effect does this have on psychologically vulnerable children who need even more stability and additional reassurance?

In a narcissistic culture, parents serve themselves first; children are expected to adapt. Those who can't adapt fast enough become regrettable casualties in the parental pursuit of happiness. It'll take a lot of research to convince me that society has been improved by an unprecedented destruction of family the past decade. That narcissistic parents are shortchanging their children's right to safety, security and stability so they can maximize parental potential, is regrettable of course but it's not a shit-show-stopper for them.

Elliot Rodger had a mental disorder, maybe even a personality disorder. He was also a misogynist. Read his manifesto. Take a look at the groups he affiliated with. Where Elliot's troubled psyche meets the narcissistic society is the dubious outlet provided for Elliot's internalized hatred and rage. He was trapped inside an emotional maelstrom he could not control or resolve. He was looking for a scapegoat to evacuate his rage and our misogynistic culture provided an easy target.
The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosche
Elliot wrote: "Women are like a plague that must be quarantined. When I came to this brilliant, perfect revelation, I felt like everything was now clear to me, in a bitter, twisted way. I am one of the few people on this world who has the intelligence to see this. I am like a god, and my purpose is to exact ultimate Retribution on all of the impurities I see in the world. 
"It was only when I first moved to Santa Barbara that I started considering the possibility of having to carry out a violent act of revenge, as the final solution to dealing with all of the injustices I've had to face at the hands of women and society. I came up with a name for this after I saw all of the good looking young couples walking around my college and in the town of Isla Vista. I named it the Day of Retribution. It would be a day in which I exact my ultimate retribution and revenge on all of the hedonistic scum who enjoyed lives of pleasure that they don’t deserve. If I can’t have it, I will destroy it. I will destroy all women because I can never have them. I will make them all suffer for rejecting me. I will arm myself with deadly weapons and wage a war against all women and the men they are attracted to. And I will slaughter them like the animals they are. If they won’t accept me among them, then they are my enemies. They showed me no mercy, and in turn I will show them no mercy. The prospect will be so sweet, and justice will ultimately be served. And of course, I would have to die in the act to avoid going to prison." ~Elliot Rodger (pg. 101, 117)

CZBZ


Resources

Achenreiner, Gwen Bachmann. (2003) "The Meaning of Brand Names to Children: A Developmental Investigation." Journal of Consumer Psychology.

Baker, Jamie. (2012) The Angry Underground World of Failed Pickup Artists  on Jezebel.com


Dr. NerdLove Elliot Rodger and the Price of Toxic Masculinity

Elliot Rodger's Manifesto PDF

Hotchkiss, Sandy. (2003) Why is it Always About You? The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism. Pg. 98

Laura Essig. Elliot Rodger and the Problem with Manhood

Levy, Kenneth. (2012) "Subtypes, Dimensions, Levels, and Mental States in Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder". Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session

Malcolm, Lynn. (2014) Research says young people today are more narcissistic than ever

Ronningstam, Elsa. (2005) Diagnosing and Understanding the Narcissistic Personality

Solnit, Rebecca. #YesAllWomen Changes the Story of the Isla Vista Massacre

Southern Poverty Law Center

The Narcissism Key: From Healthy to Pathological





Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...