Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Arnold, Narcissus and a New Novel

Oil on canvasImage via Wikipedia
We all are a little fascinated by narcissists, I think. We have had a celebrity culture since the beginning of time, what with the invention of gods and goddesses to explain away human shenanigans. But this culture has grown exponentially.

The origin of "narcissist" comes from the Greek word Narcissus: It is not only the name of a flower, but is also the name of a beautiful, yet sociopathic Greek demi-god who looked down upon those who loved him. He ended up getting his just desserts when another demi-god, Nemesis attracted him to a pool of water where he fell in-love with his own reflection and wasting away because he couldn't leave himself.

It is a wonderful story about how our survival depends upon community, and in particular  how respect for other human beings is paramount.

This is what I think is NOT happening when I see someone like Charlie Sheen or Kanye West on the news, or today when I heard about Arnold Schwartzenegger having had a child with a member of his household staff ten years ago, and he and Maria Shriver have been together twenty five years.

Now I don't know Arnold or Maria personally, nor have I followed their careers. But yes, my mind immediately jumps to narcissism, and it's slowly devastating effects on everyone in a narcissist's circle. Feelings of shame and worthlessness. Invisibility. Addiction.

I'm looking at the effects of the culture of narcissism in my next book, so it's no wonder that my thoughts keep drifting to Arnold and Maria. Perhaps I will come to a new understanding. My book  centers around a Reality TV show, and a girl who gets caught up in it because she both wants to please her friend (a boy), and to be finally seen by her self-obsessed mother. (Hilarity hopefully ensues.)

There have been many studies citing that our youth, already developmentally primed for self-absorption, are becoming more and more narcissistic. Jim Taylor, PhD writes in Psychology Today: It's one thing to see that there are an growing number of narcissists in America today. But the real concern is not the individual narcissists among us, but when our society embraces and, OMG!, accepts narcissism as the norm. And that time may have arrived. That's when we have to start asking the next question which is far scarier: What effect will this increasingly normalized culture of narcissism have on our society?

Writing is discovery and exploration, and while I don't think I can come up with a cure for narcissism, I can journey with my MC (Main Character) as she navigates those rough waters and comes through with more of a sense of herself in the context of community.
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  1. I have a friend who's a narcissist, so I look forward to your next book. Perhaps I'll pass it on to her ... :)

  2. Tee hee! Hint, hint, huh? Oh, if only narcissists could recognize themselves! I appreciate your comment!

  3. I work with kids who have proprioceptive issues, not knowing where their limbs are in relation to one another and in space. One of the treatments for this is "heavy work" or heavy lifting, jumping etc. to give their limbs more feedback, a sense of where they are. I can't help but think that this may be helpful to our narcissistic culture. Narcissists seem lost to me. Maybe our youth need more responsibility or "heavy work" to give them a sense of purpose in their lives.

  4. Very interesting post. For me, the lowest mark was when John Edwards let me down. I thought finally we had someone who was REAL and honest...should have known. I thought him handsome but thought he rose above it...not true. I felt personally lied to when he showed himself.

    Arnold now has done the same thing. I thought at first his romance and marriage was opportunistic... that he used the family name. Gradually won me over, thought he was real...ah, just another one and at a later date!

    Loved that you reminded us to think "community". It just isn't taught anymore. Think of the filth of Walmart parking lots alone...who thinks of anotehr when they toss a filled baby diaper on the parking lot in front of where another steps?

    Sorry, Lena, will close my rant!

  5. Thank you "Anonymous" for chiming in! I agree - we all need more of a sense of responsibility, "heavy work" to make us feel grounded and a part of the world. Thank you for this insight!

  6. Bookie - I love your comments! Don't worry about ranting! This is part of community building. The next step is acts of love and kindness . . .

  7. Hi Léna,

    Sorry it's taken me so long to comment on this post. How exciting!

    I have a "must read" book as you explore narcissism as a condition and metaphor. It looks at both sides of the coin - the positive and negative sides of narcissism.

  8. Ooooh Keith! What is it! I must know!

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