Image via WikipediaWe 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.