May 25, 2012

Healing Our Narcissistic Society: Ten Be's

It's easy to be overwhelmed by the journey. It's easy to feel hopeless, critical, jaded---just to name a few reactions after recognizing destructive narcissistic patterns in our society. You feel like a fear-monger warning folks about the dangers of narcissism. It's akin to being a religious fanatic standing on the riverbank shouting DSM scriptures to people paddling canoes towards Niagara Falls. You holler, "Danger, Danger! You're gonna fall!" and they give you the finger.

Hint: it's not a thumbs up.

In a society promoting narcissism as an emulative achievement: relationships are reduced to fair-weather friends; high self-esteem is disproportionate to reality; the suffering are perceived to have merited their misfortune; justice is denied victims and compassionate support withheld; neutrality masks callous indifference to suffering and injustice; preferred relationships are without demands, expectations, or commitment; and agentic values (dominance, power, uniqueness) are encouraged while debasing, even mocking communal values (caring, morality, mutuality).

We are primed to be shallow. To be fake. To be forgeries of the person we were meant to be. Self-promotion is accepted even laudable in a society thriving on individualism. If I see one more bumper sticker about "spending my  grandchildren's inheritance", I might lose it completely and flip the driver off with my finger.

Hint: it's in the middle.

Peering into the narcissistic web of which we are a part, many of us realize how subtly we've been lured towards disconnection from our true selves & from one another. We recognize the temptation to self-inflate/promote in a competitive society. Its a dog-eat-dog world, right? We've been groomed for individual consumption targeting our narcissism with advertising slogans like "You deserve a break today" and "Having it my way". Narcissism, the need to be superior, is an alienating social phenomenon, comparing ourselves to others and putting them down, to put ourselves up. With mass media promoting uber-narcissists, i.e.: celebrities (no offense to celebrities that aren't narcissists if there are any), children are discouraged from outgrowing their King Baby narcissism---Grandiose selves never meant to outlast toddlerhood.

When you understand the inevitable suffering narcissism causes individuals and society, it's easy to fall into despair. To feel as though whatever you do is futile and pointless. To even hope you can make a difference risks crushing the last smidgen of your faith in humanity. Despair, such a powerless state of being, is common when people are struggling with low self-esteem, a natural by-product of narcissistic relationships.

But we wouldn't feel good about ourselves if we didn't care about doing our part to benefit society. So to counter our despair, we can take action. We can break the spell of helplessness and create meaning in our lives by intentionally doing our part---however big or small that may be. The following ten Be's are commitments I've made to myself. Take what you need and leave the rest and if you can add to my list, don't be shy...share!

1) Volunteer. Be grateful. Be kind.

2) Be forgiving of parents who hopefully forgave theirs.

3)  Be a better parent. Let children live their own lives.

4) Be a better sibling. Honor your past. Stop fighting.

5) Be a committed friend. Listen carefully. Carry Kleenex.

6) Be true to your values and beliefs. Question your assumptions.

7) Be broad-minded; keep things in perspective. Visit a planetarium.

8) Be a gardener. Plant roses. Plant trees.

9) Be the best you can be. Do the best you can.

10) Be a hummingbird.

two minute video

"In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other." ~From  Wangari Maathai's Nobel Lecture, delivered in Oslo, 10 December 2004.



  1. This is so timely. I recently watched the documentary "I Am." (Available via Netflix.) It deals with our society's obsession on individual accomplishment/competition at the expense of working together and being connected to the natural world. It's by the director of "Ace Ventura Pet Detective" and a whole bunch of other Jim Carrey movies, so it's not all airy-fairy. I highly recommend it because it so validates what you've written. Thanks CZ!

    1. Hi Jan!

      Thanks for the tip! I tried finding the documentary on Netflix but it wasn't streaming, so it's probably on DVD. I will get this documentary and watch it and probably cry my eyes out. Which is good...lots of WoNderful things have happened after one of my serious crying tangents.

      I was hoping this 'Comments section' would fill up with suggestions since everybody's wringing their hands wondering what we're gonna do about our narcissistic society.

      Well, some people have told me they can't get blogger to accept their comments, so I'll pretend there are a hundred people out there with better ideas than mine and they've put those ideas into action so we can make our world a better-and-safer place to live. ha!

      You wrote: "Our society's obsession on individual accomplishment/competition aththe expense of working together..." which really lit my fingers on fire. I may need to blog about that because to me, it's the bedrock of pathological narcissism. It's one thing to compete with someone in order to improve your skills---it's another thing to compete in order to prove your dominance and superiority. THAT is narcissism.

      Thanks for commenting, Jan! I see you have a new post up so I'll pop in and reply!


      p.s. Jan's blog is:

  2. Replies
    1. Hi Jodi! I'm looking forward to a long lovely afternoon browsing your blog.

      "Be broad-minded; keep things in perspective."

      The last part is imperative. As my mother once told me, "CZ" she said, "Your mind is so open, your brains have fallen out."

      Being broadminded implies cracking a wedge in our disbelief, expanding our narrowness, our prejudices, our assumptions. This is good. This is healthy. This is a miracle. ha!

      "Keeping things in perspective" means accepting our human condition and honoring our limitations because: if the narcissist is doing his/her favorite trick-in-the-book (manipulating our trust), they'll convince us we should allow them to do whatever they please. Even if it hurts us; because after all, we should open our minds and GET OVER ourselves.

      I finished my suggestion to be broad minded and keep things in perspective with "Visit a Planetarium". This definitely puts our daily problems into perspective. I might (tongue-in-cheek) add to that: "Visit a planetarium; visit your local church."

      It's a dialectical thing perhaps---opening and closing your mind at the same time. ha!

      Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Thanks for the good read. Insightful stuff, definitely tasty food for thought. Just so happens that I stumbled across this webpage quite randomly. Makes me think of a Beatles song, the lyric I'm thinking of went something sort of like, "try to realize its all within your mind no one can make you change..." then something about all of us being small and life going on and something or other mr. lennon and his no doubt fine lsd likely thought up at the time. Also, humility is important. And humor, please, a sense of humor. Thanks

  4. CZ,
    This post, and then the video again, brought tears to my eyes. Gosh, you are one of the goodest of the good guys and I am so pleased and grateful you are in my life.

    How about "Be a steward of the planet"?




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