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

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 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)



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

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


  1. Okay...I hear you, but what is to be done about it all? I really appreciate your blog, and I am the person who originally asked you to write about the misuse of "No Contact." (I'm a guy, by the way.) And I see a lot of potential Elliot Rodgers in the making where I live. One family in particular comes to mind. Yet how do concerned outsiders reach such people? I tried, and the grocery stores around here don't sell enough Advil to handle the headache that results from trying. Also, how can healthy, intimate community be restored in this country? So many questions, but I won't have time to ask them all for another couple of weeks...

    1. Thank you for slogging through that long article with me. I had a difficult time organizing my thoughts about this situation. There's numerous "jumping off points" in my article which I hope to address in the near future. I hoped readers might pick up on any of those points and add personal experiences and thoughts.

      My main concern was warning parents about a misogynistic culture that will impact a child with Aspergers in unhealthy ways because they struggle "fitting in" to society. Most of the arguments online split into either-or. Either Elliot had Aspergers OR he had NPD. I'm suggesting its not either/or, that Aspergers may provide fertile ground for pathological narcissism if they are seduced into projecting hatred onto a specific group (in this case, women).

      People with Aspergers struggle with complex feelings they don't know how to manage or resolve. If they find common bond with people online, they may not be able to separate hyperbole from fact. I mean no offense to people with Aspergers but trust readers will appreciate my perspective as someone who loves her nephew enough to want the best things life has to offer: loving relationships.

      So to your question, anonymous (and thanks for prompting me to write about "No contact" which I hope has added to online conversations). I remember Gloria Steinham saying it would take 700 years to change our existing system and even though that makes a single individual feel powerless, it is empowering. It means we can do "something" to impact change but we don't have to Force Change. In other words, it's not up to us and it is up to us.

      I can't address your question in a comment section and will put my thoughts in another article because I do believe there are things we can do. Allowing women to speak for themselves is a great place to start. Comment sections of most of the articles I've read, devolve into pitting women against men as to who's the bigger victim. sheesh! I've almost quit reading comments on articles because I don't know if a thirteen-year-old is writing or an adult. It is very frustrating trying to talk about gender issues and being told "I" don't understand my own experience correctly. SheeshX2

      I am concerned (and it sounds like you are, too) that we'll be seeing more Elliot Rodgers, not fewer. Thus the title of my post: a canary in the coalmine. If women can't even discuss misogyny without receiving death threats (see the irony in that?), what hope have we of turning things around before something like this happens again?

  2. I am not sure that we can do anything about it, change society? Takes more than a few. While coming to terms with some family members who are N's , all I can do is handle the way I behave, not them. They can stir up too much behind your back, you can't " handle them, and until society as a whole goes back to more basics, I believe we are farming more N's

    1. Hi anonymous! It's people like yourself who have insight into pathology through personal experiences with narcissists. Educating yourself about narcissism Makes A Difference in ways you may not realize. For one thing, it allows people like you and me to see misogyny as a natural outcome of narcissism.

      Educating yourself about misogyny as a system will make a difference. It may mean refusing to buy products that use women as objects. It may mean boycotting a movie that presents women as prizes to the meanest, toughest character in the film. There are many organizations today that confront blatant commercialization of women's bodies, so joining an organization and contributing time and/or money is a way to participate in healthy change.

      I'm not sure going back to any point in time would be better than where we are today. I would NEVER want to go back to the 1950's or the 1940's when men believed they were entitled to women's bodies and patriarchal rulers of her soul. I'll never "get over" being told to bow my head and promise obedience to my husband during our marriage ceremony. It was humiliating, but it sparked an awareness that "I" was an acquisition, even in the eyes of God. I think every woman has a wake-up moment though she may silence herself (as she's been trained to do because her voice is unwelcome and a 'sin' against deity).

      One reason I've remained single is because I refuse to go back to the basics which means subordinating my authority to a man who sees himself as my authority and is supported by other men who sustain his authority as he sustains theirs. The system is too big for me to ignore and as my father said, "You've been free too long to ever get married again." I don't think he had any idea how validating that was, but true enough! Thanks, Dad! ha!

      What I hear in your comment though is not "More of The Dysfunctional Old", but an increased appreciation for traditional values such as kindness, social responsibility, compassion, empathy, charity, forgiveness---the "soft" values a narcissistic society denigrates in favor of dominance, superiority, status,being a bad-ass (bullying).

      My article, "Resources for people with a narcissistic personality" describes Agentic versus Communal traits:

      Communal traits are definitely devalued and discarded in a narcissistic society. You are right about that, anon.

  3. CZ, this post connects all the important dots. One can try to rope Rodger off as a "pathological individual," but you'd have to turn a blind eye to all the social discourses and values that propped him up. The "manosphere," the "voices for men" are really resentment driven. it's never easy stepping down from the mountain of privilege. And Rodger had so much self-loathing of the Asian maternal part of himself, he could only wish to hyper identify with paternal whiteness. That meant trading Mom in for new "hot" stepmother (I wonder if she was a blond?). In this case his parents knew there was something seriously wrong with him and did try to get the police to stop him. But he'd absorbed a set of cultural values that say "hot women" are your reward for being a "successful" "alpha male" (male chauvinist pig to second-wave feminists); women are still as commodified today as they were when we were growing up; it's just now we also get to have jobs, professions, public lives apart from that. We co-exist uneasily with those other messages that say we are "things" to be controlled by men, with violence if necessary. Rodger also killed his Asian roommates, clearly exterminating aspects of himself that he loathed. This crime had so many threads of contemporary cultural pathology tied together that one has to be in serious denial not to see the complicity of society in turning out young men like this. No matter how loud the cries of "not all men" are, it is still true that "too many men" are like this. And global oppression and violence against women is at epidemic proportions. The role of narcissism in this is a complex question, but whenever we're talking about feelings of "entitlement," narcissism is in there. Wonderful post, not a wrong note anywhere.

    1. Hi CS! A few more thoughts after reading your comment, thank you for speaking up. Many writers have felt a need to write about misogyny after reading Elliot’s man-ifesto. While it's a relief talking openly about a system that leads to violence, it's hard to contain this truth without feeling desperate and hopeless. I felt better after reading articles by people who not only have brains, but hearts. Even so, it was frustrating scrolling through comment after comment dismissing women's experiences as "there, there honey. Not ALL men hate you. WE love you."

      Most of the comment sections are like watching the movie "Gaslight" and being told there's no cause for alarm even though we smell noxious odors. Cognitive dissonance reigns supreme when people are told how much men respect them while at the same time, dismissing her opinion as "too sensitive", irrelevant, invalid. I skim through the comment sections of excellent articles, if I read comments at all. And I love me some thoughtful commentary.

      I think beliefs about female inferiority are deeply embedded in the way we think about ourselves as individuals. Maybe not until we are 'marginalized' in some way, can we bear the scrutiny of our complicity in a system that perpetuates violence. As long as people idealize agentic traits (masculine) as superior to communal traits, they are feeding into the narcissistic mentality. Well, we can't go around issuing warrants for people who disdain community and prefer self-reliance ("I am the living man!"); but we can listen to people who have been marginalized by the masculinist ideology. Instead of telling them they are wrong or offering excuses, or silencing their "voice", we can validate them. We can say, "I'm taking responsibility for my ignorant self today." ha! Yea right.

      I don't think comment sections are indicative of the general population but even when I try to talk face-to-face, older men get huffy and flustered and defensive. They feel challenged by my "truth" while expecting me to accommodate theirs. They excuse themselves from being complicit in a system that privileges them enough to believe they can "dismiss" my complaints as trivial. Or "mansplain" my experience TO ME. I love that word! Older men, the guys in my dating pool, would have to question the privileges they were entitled to receive at the benefit of women like myself; and yea, not all men can do that. They may CLAIM to be feminists (cuz they read Gloria Steinhem don't ya know) but when another woman shimmies up to their smokestack, actions betray words. Actions, not words, tell the truth of one's beliefs. Boomers are such pretenders.

    2. I agree. Male Boomers are great pretenders. Some of the worst "unconscious" sexists I know are mid-Boomers. It's just bred into them early in a thousand ways, and culture reinforced it ON EVERY LEVEL until only recently. I remember thinking, only a few years ago, that finally tv commercials about "what to make for dinner" are not just showing "Moms" or "wives" fretting over making interesting meals. Things are only now really shifting.

  4. I wanted to add something else to this discussion and it might sound odd to people who don't think of narcissism as Healthy. That our youth have higher scores on the NPI may be a good thing. NOT if their narcissism is pathological like Elliot Rodger of course. That young women score higher in narcissism today could be an indication of her healthy investment in autonomy. I know that what I've seen with the youth in their twenties, is acceptance of individuality. There appears to be a healthier relationship between "normal" couples in their twenties and early thirties (no stats on that, just my personal experience) than boomers ever EVER achieved. How this younger generation is managing to do that in a porn culture baffles me. Maybe once we've experienced the madness of an extreme porn culture, we can rein the pendulum back to sanity.

    I hope "Elliot" discussions will create awareness about male entitlement and female obligation to comply, which may not be misogyny per se; but the belief sets a precedent for violence when a man is denied. As long as we have a traditional system sustaining male entitlement and female obligation, we won't see a developing pathology in someone we ASSUME has limits on his/her aggression. We may laugh while reading websites so extreme in their hatred that we think they're vying for attention from peers. As long as a sacrosanct belief in male entitlement to sex remains unquestioned, Elliot Rodgers will hide within the ranks of the "normal."

  5. Hi CZ,
    This is a very well rounded post that looks at complex issues and a singular event that is so sad with a lot more going on behind it. Your post tackles that layer that many of us don't want to uncover. So much more and made me aware of the subtly of misogyny that happens in divorce as many of mine and my husband's friends are divorced. It was something I hadn't been aware of and don't want to condone when topics of divorce are addressed in our friendships.

    I will touch on one specific layer that spoke out to me.
    "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!"

    The thinking that horrendous childhoods are tied to poverty and extreme abuse (broken bones or child murders) is something I often find unnerving. There are places everywhere where children do not have food, clothing or shelter - that is a human right. To think that basic human rights are fulfilled and that everything should be peachy and in Rodgers case - having plenty of it - that children are therefore not abused is correlating two things falsely. I do not mean that Rodgers parents are to blame, my point is that often some search for a correlation when it hits home a little too well. It is a scramble for a sense of security in knowing if you provide well everything will be okay. It is that feeling of uncertainty and that challenge that maybe how we (as in society, as in parenting, as in relationships) do things is not quite admirable as we thought. This can hit deep into the core of self-worth and trigger more shame (and sometimes with that - more blaming).

    I hear this often or least beginning to hear the subtle remarks in how a person behaves as to do with his family of origin. This has crossed many cultures, where it becomes more important to know who your parents are, what they do. I find it less so in the US however, it still plays out with some of my friends today. That who your parents are have to do with how the child will turn out. And that isn't the case. It is so much more complex and intertwined and interconnected. This is what is challenging in this post, is that it is interconnected, more complex and deserves close attention and dare I say consideration.

    Hugs, TR

    1. Yes! It is far more complex and interconnected. Family has tremendous influence over a child's future; but "family" is not the sole determinant. Judith Rich Harris argues that peers are more influential than parents. She says, "Children learn at home how to behave at home (that’s where parents do have power!), and they learn outside the home how to behave outside the home." So do parents matter? Yes and no. Harris's theory is not popular for many reasons, some of which you touched on in your comment. Parents like to attribute success to themselves when children "turn out well."

      Parents also like to believe they have control over their child's "success" (whatever the measure of success might be). If parents think there's a possibility their child could turn out like Elliot Rodger, they may be afraid to invest their lives in raising a child. We want some kind of certainty that our time and effort will be meaningful...and when a child does something as horrific as Elliot, all those years caretaking and nurturing a child feel meaningless.

      And to your point, some parents fool themselves into believing that as long as their child has food, clothing and shelter, they've done their job---parents are not to blame if the child has problems. It reminds me of Roseanne Barr's famous joke: "If the kids are still alive when my husband gets home from work, I've done my job."

      The "adult recovery movement" and "psychoanalysis" seem to have expanded the parenting role into provide for a child's emotional and psychological well-being. We swing from one extreme to the other---blaming autism on "refrigerator mothers" to blaming our children as natural-born demons requiring a firm hand. There are other determinants in a child's life that are harder to define and maybe that's why we reduce complexity to The Family.

      But we can't just focus on The Family to understand Elliot Rodger. Society bears responsibility and we need to think about our self-deifying society. Or our therapeutic society. We used to say, "But I took my child to Sunday School!" and everyone thought the parents had done their job. Now parents say, "But I took my child to a therapist!"

      NOTE to all parents whose children end up in the news: be sure to tell reporters you took your child to therapy.

      I guess therapy is supposed to alleviate the woes of a narcissistic society gone haywire with self-gratification at our children's expense. We want to "have our way" and "do our thing" without considering the rest of society (our kids). Maybe that's another reason why people are quick to blame parents or lack of therapy.

      As far as poverty goes: In a JUST world, children would have basic rights to food, clothing and shelter. We know from studies that poverty increases the chances children (and adults) will be abused. It does not mean they WILL be abused. That any child should go to bed hungry is social abuse--easily dismissed by societies as parental fault. There's no reason children should be hungry in societies as rich as we are today. (Note that the finger of blame goes towards parents rather than social responsibility to protect and care for our children.)

      Thanks for commenting, TR! Always a pleasure to hear from you.


    2. Hi CZ,

      You mention a lot of great points. The point on a parent's influence vs responsibility and understanding is relatively new to me. I sat a lot with my finger pointing at my mother for a while. And the more and more I begin to integrate parts of me - the positive aspects I find that my mother is not responsible for it - much of it influenced by my school activities. So in that regard she isn't responsible for me with my own destructive behaviours. She has indeed influenced the positive and negative, a lesson I am learning painfully.

      Your point on how therapy enters the evolution of parental responsibility is very insightful. I laughed at the reporter comment, it is so true! Therapy has, now, become accepted. When I interact with my friends (even on my last visits) psychology and therapy come up in conversation so easily. "Oh, I went to Deepak Chopra's seminar and it changed me!" "I'm writing a life plan and getting it together" It is not to say that Chopra's words can't influence change in some. What I find interesting about the entry of this is a sort of recycling. Therapy seems to be an easy solution, quick fix but the same complex problem still exists. In some ways, therapy is now getting the responsibility of the child's well-being. Man, my science brain now is questioning the root cause analysis.

      Same here, a pleasure to chat with you.

      Hugs, TR

  6. Brilliant assessment, you have a knack for this most cannot light a candle to...I am always fascinated by your ability to take such a complex subject matter and break it down so methodically yet simultaneously make it look effortless. Thank you for this work...

    1. Hello Betty LaLuna!

      This topic gave me pause and I hesitated writing about it after reading hateful comments about Elliot's parents. I really did not want to add to their misery, or the national hate-fest on parents like the Rodgers. I can't imagine being in their shoes right now and my heart goes out to them. <3

      Your comment makes me feel comfortable about tackling this topic. Thank you so much for leaving a comment and letting me know you appreciated my approach!


  7. Kind of a sidebar, but it is a more 'benign' example of male entitlement. I have a FB "friend" who I only know through FB. The other day he insulted one of my other FB friends, because he disagreed with his political opinion. He wrote "you're a phony," in response to my other friend. I deleted his comment and wrote him a private note asking him not to insult MY friends on MY FB page, please. I told him, politely, that "it's not your place to do that, and I'd say the same to him if he insulted you."
    So this guy "unfriended" me, writing that he "does not appreciated being censored anymore, and this just isn't working out. No hard feelings." I wrote back, "gee, that's a pity. I would not let any of my friends call my other friends names on my FB page; but if that's what you need to do, so be it. best, CS"

    I think he was actually expecting me to ask him to re-friend me! The sense of entitlement he exhibited, at other times too, about shit-bombing my other friends' comments when he didn't agree with them. I'd quietly delete entire posts just to get rid of the bad vibes. And I finally write him directly, and his response is "don't censor me." He thinks he's a feminist; yet he wouldn't see this a male entitlement. The problem goes deep and wide.

    1. Dear CS,

      I'm slow to reply but grateful you wrote about "male entitlement" as a problem that's deep and wide enough to be "benign." The first time someone raised my consciousness was when a professor told us to look at our bodies, how we were sitting. The females in the class were neatly tucked into invisible boxes so as not to impinge on a neighbor's space. The males were sprawled out in the alpha-monkey-genitalia pose (blame that description on my daughter, LOL)---taking their space and some of their neighbor's space, too. Some of the men were visibly alarmed to realize what they'd been doing their entire lives, never understanding why their sisters drew themselves in, to take as least amount of space possible. We do not even "see" the many ways we've been socialized according to gender.

      The "new" men's movement has pushed me into my feminist studies again which also includes pro-feminist male scholars like Allan Johnson. I tired of the wackadoos writing extremist articles to get attention they need to bring in the "money and fame." I remind myself that these folks are a minority. They do not represent the majority of human beings. On the Internet though, it's easy to miscalculate and assume their ridiculous writings are worthy of our time and energy.

      I watched the video below a few days ago and realized the "manosphere" was getting more attention than it merited...the anti-intellectualism is startling. I guess if you value your opinion that much, you don't have to spend your time studying.

      Still, I found it hard to believe that this man felt "entitled" to debate an academic scholar like Dillaway. For some reason, I felt much calmer watching this reactive man who was so incompetent and angry that it grounded me in reality again. It's easy to be misled by professional websites presenting a 'movement" as more valid than it actually is. In this video clip, I saw a guy who mocked education yet believed his opinion had merit while also taking up more room than the academic "feminist" with her hands and knees scrunched together.

      Fox News: Dean Esmay and Gender Studies and Sociology professor Heather Dillaway of Wayne State University.

      Any thoughts after watching him destroy the MRA's credibility in a single interview?

      p.s. My view of his incompetence is not universal. Proving only once again that we might as well stop debating. We'll hear what we want to hear and see what we want to see in order to justify pre-existing beliefs.

  8. We just had another attempted mass shooting. Jared Michael Padgett, a Mormon teenager from a gun-packing pro-military right wing family in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, came to his high school armed to the teeth. He was stopped quickly, but not before murdering a fellow student and wounding a teacher. I guess 'tis the season for Anglo-American narcissistic rage.

    1. Oh dear...Jared was deeply involved in religious activities as a deacon, passing the sacrament on Sunday mornings. He used an AR-15 rifle owned by his parents. This must be shocking to the entire community.

      This is a link to the story:

    2. There isn't much information to go on yet; however, Jared's parents divorced a few years ago. :-(

      The guns and ammunition were owned by his father. Just clarifying "Parents" since Dad had full custody of his sons. Go Dad. :-(


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