April 10, 2008

Narcissism: NPR audio program

"The narcissist is constantly defending against shame." ~Wynn Schwartz

"Narcissists do not have the internal mechanisms within the brain to tolerate the intensely unpleasant aspects of shame." ~Sandy Hotchkiss

"Self-esteem is essential, self-regard is healthy. But like anything, taken to an extreme, it can be ugly. We expect politicians and rock stars to get self-absorbed, but narcissism, clinical narcissism, debilitates even schoolteachers and steelworkers, and psychologists say these days in America, it's on the upswing.

Freud looked to mythology and coined the term, calling the condition all but incurable. Now, some observers say that the enhancement of self-esteem in schools and elsewhere encourages this tendency towards self-obsession. And as more and more people make the move from self-love to self-loathing, therapists are trying to figure out what's to be done. Mending the egomaniac." Link: NPR Audio program (50 minutes)

A few quick notes I jotted down after listening to this presentation:

As the family structure changed (less availability of parental influence and value-based relationships), the child experiences a heightened sense of emotional neglect, abandonment and loneliness. Cultural narcissism blossomed with the advent of the TV age and forever altered parental influence. Because of competing influences, the family has trouble setting boundaries in order to give their own values to their children.

The cultural suggestion that We Can Have It All filters down to a dream people take on as reality. The person who is narcissistically disturbed will come to the realization of their limitations with great pain. People who are not narcissistic eventually learn to tolerate disappointment. They aren’t happy about their disappointments, but they are comfortable with them. There is a huge distinction between disappointment and failure.

Schwartz spoke about pathological narcissism as being driven to attain goals. Aging is difficult because the narcissistically impaired cannot sustain culturally approved values of wealth and vigor. The narcissist is overwhelmed with a neediness to fill out an empty, frightened core. Thus, loneliness, depression and panic are three symptoms presented by narcissists in the therapeutic setting.

About Self-Esteem and children:

A real sense of competence is built when the parent or society recognizes true successes/competence by the child. Just saying a child is good does not build self-esteem, rather, it builds a false sense of entitlement. Self-esteem is based on actual accomplishments that are smiled upon by others. In this way, a child is adequately understood and appreciated. (accurate feedback about actual competencies; or criticisms offered in a way the child can tolerate). Children need time to develop real competencies.

Sandy Hotchkiss: "Healthy narcissism is a realistic sense of self that is based in one’s real assets; and the confidence to risk failure and to sustain effort towards some goal."

This broadcast originally aired 10/22/2002, so it was a real delight to find it was still accessible on the web. I hope everyone enjoys this presentation as much as I did the first time I listened to Hotchkiss and Schwartz discuss pathological versus healthy narcissism.


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