Friday, April 16, 2010

PJM Column: On Being a Narcissist

I have a new column up at PJM on the psychology behind modern liberalism. You can read it here.



Blogger work, love said...

Really thought-provoking post, Helen. I don't think that it's only therapists whose desire to do good -- or to be seen to be doing good -- is rooted in narcissism. How about all of us who have been in love? Romantic love's promise that "I'll do anything for you" demands that the love object reciprocates with equal devotion. And if the love goes sour, the ugliness of the narcissism comes out when the jilted lover angrily demands that his affection be recognized and valued, or else...
Maybe we're never truly altruistic, and every seemingly benevolent act hides a selfish motive.
By the way, my editor at Pop Mech, Dave Dunbar, suggested you might be interested in my book, Extreme Fear. If so please drop me a line at jeff (at) jeffwise (dot) net.
Jeff Wise

10:27 AM, April 16, 2010  
Blogger Helen said...

Hi Jeff,

Loved your book. Thanks for stopping by.

11:04 AM, April 16, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Helen, et al.
RE: Once Again....

....I'm unable to comment on PJM regarding your article, so I comment on it here....

TO: All
RE: In Due Time....

....given the chance....

....this mentality will declare any other philosophical approach a form of 'mental illness'.


P.S. Don't worked well in the Soviet Union.....

12:03 PM, April 16, 2010  
Blogger TMink said...

There is a pull toward narcissism in our profession, and part of it can be fueled by over positive transference reactions from our patients.

What I have always done is told them that while I am glad to have helped them, and happy to have been able to understand and support them, that they did every bit of the hard work to change and I was a helpful, but minor player.

I enjoy feeling that I am helpful, but it is uncomfortable when patients think I am special. But then I am grounded in a faith that makes it very easy to stay humble. To people who are not, or who tend to narcissism, the overly positive transference can be poisonous.

I do notice a parallel between the desire for liberals to have the government to give away other people's money rather than donating their own money to charity and the instruction for psychologists to help the world rather than the people sitting in their office though.

It is a missed focus, an approach that exchanges the here and now for the there and some day while also relieving the shrinks from focusing on something they can actually do: help their patients.


1:28 PM, April 16, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

My favorite quote on change:

"If you want to change the world, why don't you start with yourself."

By trying to change the world to fit their Utopian dream. But, like every other Utopian dream, it's "the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts."

2:21 PM, April 16, 2010  
Blogger Chuck Pelto said...

TO: DADvocate
RE: Bad Metaphor

"the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts." -- DADvocate

The witch, Circe, turned men into beasts. The Sirens lured men to shipwreck themselves on rocks and then ate some accounts. Others that they just caused the men to be shipwrecked.


P.S. Either way, it's still a wreck....

4:25 PM, April 16, 2010  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Just quoting Patrick Henry.

4:28 PM, April 16, 2010  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

i save my god-like feelings for the musical stage.

in the therapeutic setting i push the responibility for change back on the client.

the lure of cult behaviour and worship draws some to the healing field as it does to the ministry, and i suppose there are therapists with scores of patients conditioned to behave like parishoners.

i noticed some years ago an emerging theme amogst comedians, who went from being funny to being socially active. when that happens they cease to be funny to me, and just become another form of political spokesperson.

whoopi golderg, ted danson, ed begley jnr.

entirely not funny, boring moralists intent on telling me what to do with my money, my time and my conscience.

5:39 PM, April 16, 2010  
Blogger Steve said...

You said, "I sometimes wonder how much they want to do good in the world vs. how good they want to feel about themselves for feeling omnipotent and influencing (forcing) others to do as they wish."

There's a great quote by T.S. Eliot I think addresses this issue spot on.

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”

Steve Browne

8:31 PM, April 17, 2010  
Blogger lifenotdeath said...

I'm not a therapist or psychologist. But I do find it fascinating to ask the question, "What makes someone be: left-wing, do-gooder, liberal, save-the-world or whatever label you want to use?" Or more precisely I'm often asking, "what is the common thread amongst all those who are go-gooders, liberals, saving the world, etc?" More bluntly I'm asking, "Who in the hell believes all that crap?"
I think you've hit on an important part of the answer to that question. A "positive" way to phrase that answer is to say that all people know that they mean something and have worth. But the world seems intent on destroying that worth or making the person feel insignificant. So, many people spend most of their life trying to restore/find/create that meaning and worth. "making a difference", "saving the world", "being powerful", etc., are just all different ways to do that. Psychologists often, NOT ALWAYS, are people who are more aware of that need than others and use their profession to create that worth.

9:19 AM, April 18, 2010  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

for fear of being pedantic i will say that the more we indulge the (not-ok) child and allow it to make poor decisions the more we run the risk of being pig-parented.

the solution?

developing a strong adult.

that`s what the society of 40 years ago valued.

the more we promote narcissistic immediate gratifiction ("get six-pack abs in six weeks!"), the more we indulge the not-ok child who can`t understand it takes months of dieting to reveal the muscles hidden underneath years of over-eating.


the feared word.....

12:17 PM, April 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter G. Miller said...

Imagine if someone wrote an article "on the psychology behind modern conservatism." The reaction on Dr. Helen would predictably -- and correctly -- say that such observations are so generalized as to be useless.

Rather than looking at people on the basis of their perceived group identity, it's necessary -- if less convenient -- to look at people as individuals. Thus, for example, people arrive at "conservative" positions for a variety of reasons and what is "conservative" to one person may be more or less so to another. Moreover, one may have "conservative" views regarding one issue and "liberal" views regarding another. Think of Orrin Hatch and stem cells.


5:50 AM, April 19, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess unique, which every individual is, is not always special. After all, the Yugo was a unique automobile. I think Jeff brought up an interesting thought or two, about "love" and what happens when it is not mutually shared between two, and how one can "cop an attitude" about it.

I just wish I could see the damned spot I'm standing on better than I do at times. Other people's moccassins and all that.

4:44 AM, April 21, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, so sometimes I just wake up too early. Although there was none in me at the time, the coffee was, at least, brewing.

1:18 PM, April 21, 2010  

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