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Clarification of Narcissism, Response to LA Times Daum Op-Ed

January 6, 2011 Comments off

I read LA Times columnist Megham Duam’s OP-ED piece this morning, “Narcissist – give it a rest”, and was struck by how general her comments were and how defensive. Let’s take a look at what she says and then actually explain narcissism.

Ms. Daum expresses her annoyance that ” a whole lot of people are accusing a whole lot of other people of being narcissists.” However, she never explains narcissistic behavior, NPD (full blown narcissistic personality disorder), socially reinforced narcissism, collective cultural narcissism, or malignant narcissism (typically found in sociopaths) – so there is no clear cut point of reference. In an op-ed where a person is making a point, it helps one’s position to state the referencing factors to support their opinion. Instead, she simply goes on and on venting her annoyance at this trend. She comments, ” any behavior you don’t like can be dismissed as abrasively, idiotically, dangerously self-centered.” She goes on to then state, “The term has been misused so flagrantly that it’s now all but meaningless.” She ends her article by saying, “After all, we’re not a nation of narcissists. We’re a nation of jerks. Which happens to be easier to spell.”

I will make a little bit of a leap here. It’s possible Ms Daum’s annoyance comes after psychoanalyst, Bethany Marshall appearing this week on the Joy Behar Show stated that Brett Farve, a well known, admired NFL quarterback, may be a narcissist. She said there is such a thing as socially reinforced narcissism and this propels people to behave in narcissistic ways. In the NFL such an environment would not be hard to imagine where football players are adulated, receive high quality focused attention, arrogance and swagger is admired and encouraged, and many players act as if they are special and above others. Ms. Marshall did briefly explain the nature of narcissism. With Farve’s recent problems of being sued by two former NFL female employees for sexual harassment, Ms Marshall stated she thought Farve was craving attention by soliciting a three-way sexual tryst with the women. When they refused they found themselves unemployed shortly thereafter. A sexual harassment lawsuit has been filed against Farve.

To Ms. Daum’s comment about ‘ANY behavior being called self-centered’, i.e. narcissistic, it is quite the opposite. Narcissism is something very specific with specific traits and accompanying behavior. I explain in my book that unhealthy narcissists (a person with a fragmented, disordered personality who has specific set of traits and is known by a persistent pattern of behavior), are driven by two main things: (i) high quality focused attention; (ii) the need to be dominant, or to dominate. Many narcissists show up in professions where they can have both. Typical professions would be acting, attorneys, doctors, politics, psychologists, ministry, and celebrity-oriented professions, like professional sports. The classic narcissist is highly competitive as they strive to be dominant (this makes them feel secure), and place themselves in situation to receive attention (this helps support the grandiose-false self). In all actuality, narcissists are not so much self-centered as they are focused on managing their self-image, one that is a projection of their grandiose false-self. Much of their behavior is unconsciously driven.

The term ‘narcissism’ unfortunately is thrown around loosely and used in a perjorative way, but I would say, it may be warranted to some degree as we do live in a society where people like Farve are idolized; we have a show called American Idol; the long running show Survivor basically shows that it is ok to backstab your teammates to get what you want (the prize money); celebrities like Lindsey Lohan, Michael Jackson, and Brittany Spears are showing up on the nightly news regularly because of their narcissistic behavior; politics is rife with arrogance, back stabbing, and rule-breaking; in the documentary, Inside Job, a psychologist said the Wall Street culture was very narcissistic and the gross entitlement behavior was instrumental in the collapse of the markets. Where do you want me stop?

There are many aspects of common American life where socially reinforced narcissism exists. These behaviors are not happening in a void. They are socially reinforced by the people who admire these narcissists, who see their arrogance and swagger mistakenly as confident and self-assuredness – which is a very common misperception of narcissists. The narcissist insistence on having their way is also seen as a ‘knowing’ trait. People are attracted to confident, knowing, strong personalities. Many narcissists are charming, but their charm is a control tactic, used to bring people into their orbit. This is exactly how many people get involved with narcissists. Then down the line the narcissist will cease being charming and start being manipulative, aggressive, oppressive, and abusive. They become accusatory using sarcasm, put downs, slights, insults, and insinuation.

As to Ms. Daum’s last comment…. we’re a nation of jerks, this I find somewhat disturbing. To categorize all people as jerks is overstating anyone’s position. She also says earlier in a vein of sarcasm, I am afterall, a you-know-what. Why would anyone even humorously reference themselves as a narcissist? My own analysis here is not to psychoanalyze Ms. Daum though, but to clarify narcissism for what it is and how the behavior of narcissists destroys families and ruins lives — and particularly the life of the narcissist.

To peel away the layers of what makes narcissists who they are would take a whole book to explain. I did just that when I came to realize both my parents exhibited narcissistic behavior. I spent one year of intense research studying everyday and another two years to write and publish my book. I am working on a second book about collective cultural narcissism to be published later this year.

Want to know more about narcissism? You can buy my book, It Has a Name! and you can also click the Narcissism category for related posts.

Hypocrisy and Unhealthy Narcissism

January 4, 2011 Comments off

Hypocrisy is the state of pretending to have beliefs, opinions, virtues, feelings, qualities, or standards that one does not actually have. Hypocrisy involves the deception of others and is thus a kind of lie.

Hypocrisy is not simply failing to practice those virtues that one preaches. Samuel Johnson made this point when he wrote about the misuse of the charge of “hypocrisy” in Rambler No. 14:

Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that expresses zeal for those virtues which he neglects to practice; since he may be sincerely convinced of the advantages of conquering his passions, without having yet obtained the victory, as a man may be confident of the advantages of a voyage, or a journey, without having courage or industry to undertake it, and may honestly recommend to others, those attempts which he neglects himself.

As I stated in my book on unhealthy narcissists,: Do not believe what they say, believe what they do. Unhealthy narcissists will say whatever is necessary to gain what they want, and what they want is always self-serving. They behave in two identifiable ways: (i) they behave in ways to garner high quality attention; (ii) they are driven by a need to be dominant.

They will lie, tell half-lies, cajole, charm, exploit, manipulate, use overt or covert control tactics to achieve their aims, and otherwise deceive others (see my post on the Art of Deception). They are controllers, arrogant in their stance, oftentimes attaching themselves to a noble cause to embellish their grandiose false-self, are performers by nature, insistent on their way, unapologetic for their bad behavior, and will act in contrary ways as a means to keep others off balance. Unhealthy narcissism is not one thing, it is a group of personality traits and is evident in a persistent pattern of behavior.

Find out more in my book, It Has A Name! available through Amazon, Kindle, Sony Smashwords, and hard copies through Create Space through links on this web site.

Source: Wikipedia

Bullying In the Workplace

December 28, 2010 Comments off

“Bullying by the boss is common but hard to fix”. Not true. The fix, is to stand up for yourself, and/or get another job — even in a tough job market like we are experiencing now, your self-esteem, self-respect, and self-worth are more important. You must not subordinate yourself to bullies. My book, It Has A Name!, begins and ends on the subject of bullying. Many bullies are unhealthy narcissists. They will not change, apologize, or own up to their behavior. The advice of most experts and what I say in my book is, Get away and stay away because you do not know the level of their dysfunction or the depth of their narcissism. Move on. Space and distance is your ally.

USA Today reports: Bullying by the boss is common but hard to fix

One in three adults has experienced workplace bullying, according to surveys conducted earlier this year by research firm Zogby International for the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI). Nearly three-fourths of bullying is from the top down, according to a 2007 study.

Some tyrannical managers scream and send out scathing e-mails. But often, an oppressor uses a more subtle — and easily covered — collection of behaviors. These actions could include purposely leaving a worker out of communications so they can’t do their job well, mocking someone during meetings and spreading malicious gossip about their target, says Catherine Mattice, a workplace consultant who specializes in this issue.

The acts may seem trivial, but as they build up over time, the ramifications can be monumental.

Bullied workers often feel anxious and depressed, can’t sleep and are at increased risk for ailments such as hypertension. Some employees feel so overwhelmed, they just can’t see a way out. “Sometimes, unfortunately, suicide is the result,” Mattice says.

Who gets picked on by whom

Workplace bullying can take many forms. While it’s often a boss targeting employees, workers have picked on peers — and even their supervisors.

Slightly more than 60% of bullies are men, and 58% of targets are women, according to WBI. When a woman is the aggressor, she often picks on her own gender: Women target other women in 80% of cases. Men are more apt to target men.

Read entire article, click here

Predatory Hedge Funds in New Game: Buying Tax Liens

December 20, 2010 Comments off

It’s getting better all the time…… that is a line from the Beatles song of the same name. Indeed, for the bankster-gangsters it is getting better as the opportunity to profit at the expense of the pain of the everyday American again is showing up in one more truly astonishing way. I listened to this new report last week on NPR about how hedge funds are looking to cash in on property tax liens. This is a real stomach turner as there is a direct conflict of interest here: banks, like Bank of America, own hedge funds that are buying up property tax liens! They are hedging their bet that homeowners will not be able to pay off their taxes and they will benefit from the hardship of these owners. These are the same banks who will not give out modifications to help homeowners repay their debt on nefarious home loans given by the same bank. You see, this is part of the non-transparent financial sector and the same entities whose exploitive practices hoodwinked everyday Americans into buying sub-prime loans are now engaged in this distasteful business. You have people out of work or on slim retirement incomes and they cannot pay their utility bills and so get a tax line slapped on their property which, if not paid, can cause them to lose their property — it is happening and it is another disgraceful unethical practice that needs addressing. Hats off to Fred Schulte, the investigative reporter who shed some light on this subject.

Fred Schulte is an investigative reporter, who has worked for The Baltimore Sun and The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. He currently works for the Center for Public Integrity, after it merged with the Huffington Post Investigative Fund earlier this year.

“There’s a lot of money in it,” Schulte says. “That appears to be their motivation. Banks and hedge funds have been in the tax lien business for years but with the advent of online auctions, there’s a great opportunity for banks, who have access to very cheap money, to come in and buy these debts. Most people redeem the debt fairly quickly at a decent interest rate, so that’s how the bank makes money.”

The economics work out in favor of the banks because many of the debts owed are for utility bills under $1,000. Homeowners know they can lose their homes if they don’t settle their debts so they try to pay — but legal fees and other payments can quickly become burdensome, Schulte says.

Last May, Schulte reported that one woman in Baltimore lost her home because of an unpaid $362 water bill. After her bill was sold to a lien holder, double-digit interest rates and fees increased the bill to more than $3,600 — which she couldn’t pay. The city evicted her.

In May and early June, Bank of America and a Wall Street hedge fund, Fortress Investment Group, bought hundreds of millions of dollars of tax liens in Florida from a series of online auctions. Both BofA and Fortress bought their liens under different aliases — and sometimes bid on the same parcels more than 8,000 times.

“They really come in and rev up the system,” Schulte says. “It used to be that it was just a couple of people in rooms holding up paddles at these auctions. Now you have a situation where anybody in the world can be bidding anonymously and millions of millions of dollars changing hands in a matter of minutes — and there’s very little known about who the people are who are buying them.”

“Some people think that this is a business that they would rather not talk about. They want to get the money from it but they really don’t want to be publicly identified with a business that some people say is benefiting from the economic misfortune of others,” he says. “Some of the banks doing this had been the recipient of bailout money from the taxpayers. So some critics were telling us, ‘These banks, when they were in trouble, the taxpayer bailed them out and now they’re running down to these distressed real estate markets and buying up liens on people who can’t pay their taxes.'”

Entire NPR story — bring a barf bag, click here
Schulte’s Huffington Post Expose, click here

Brutes-In-Suits: Class Struggle In America

December 2, 2010 Comments off

Not even 24 hours after President Obama met with senior Republican Congressional leaders and expressed hopes for a “new dialogue,” renewed partisan fury engulfed the Senate on Wednesday, as Republicans threatened to block any legislation until a deal is reached to extend the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, potentially derailing the Democrats’ busy end-of-year agenda.

Everyday Americans financial well-being and perhaps their fundamental way of life is at risk. We are witnessing an ugly chapter in American and European history where the wealthy are asserting their power and influence like never before over the common man and woman. The wealthy have taken over the halls of Congress in such a way that elected representatives integrity has been compromised. These elected officials are betraying their Constitutional duties by doing the bidding of powerful influential persons over and above the interests of the American people. This group primarily made up of large financiers and bankers, have amassed an unbelievable amount of wealth over the past 20 years — $40 trillion, according to former Reagan economic advisor, David Stockman.

I remember when GW Bush was running for President I heard conservative, Pat Buchanan say, “I don’t know who these people are, but they are not Republicans.” It made me think there was something afoot here in the U.S. that was catching tried and true Republicans, like Buchanan, off guard. What we have come to find out through documentaries like the Inside Job, Frontline’s Inside the Meltdown, and Simon Johnson’s, The Quiet Coup, is we have a group of people in our financial and banking industry who have displaced the de facto power in American government through aggressive financial fraud by way of gaming the system using Credit Default Swaps, Mortgage Backed Securities, and Collateralized Debt Obligations – otherwise known as CDS, MBS, and CDOs.

What is the cost to everyday Americans? Trillions, many lifetimes of savings and work gone, or quickly dwindling, pensions robbed, 401ks wiped out, jobs, houses, whole lives up in smoke. But I think only now we are just beginning to understand the other component of this cold hard reality, that of lifestyle changes and the serious sacrifice that will be required going forward that will be a direct result of new austerity efforts now hitting our country.

The fight today between Democrats and Republicans is about extending $65 billion in unemployment benefits vs extending $700 billion Bush tax cut. Republicans are using their votes to block any legislation and in particular the extension of unemployment benefits unless they receive the full extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest in America.

The blunt threat was made in a letter to the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and signed by all 42 Senate Republicans. And it was reiterated by the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, in a speech in which he accused Democratic leaders and Mr. Obama of ignoring the midterm election results.

They did not stop there…..

Senate Republicans said they would even block a major food safety bill that the Senate adopted just on Tuesday but must be voted on again because of a parliamentary glitch. The food safety measure, which strengthens the Food and Drug Administration in an effort to prevent unsafe foods from reaching grocery stores and restaurant, was approved by a vote of 73 to 25, with 15 Republicans joining Democrats in support.

President Obama has said all along he wanted the tax cuts only for those making $250,000 or less. That is a major sticking point for the Republicans. They want the wealthiest to continue to receive the Bush tax cuts which initially amounts to $700 billion. The contrariness of their insistence is these tax cuts which impact the deficit are in direct opposition to the new Simpson/Bowles deficit cutting proposal. The real cost of the tax cuts over the next ten years:

Mr. Obama and senior Democratic Congressional leaders want to let the tax cuts expire on annual income above $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for individuals, while continuing the lower rates on income below those amounts. The Democrats’ plan would add roughly $3 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years. The Republicans want to extend all of the lower rates, which would add about $4 trillion to the deficit over the next decade.

Essentially they want to have their cake and eat it too. They want Americans to shoulder ALL the pain and ALL the cost and are willing to hold up the extension of unemployment benefits to 2 million Americans in the middle of winter when people need to pay to heat their homes! This is where we are at folks. How anyone would think that Republicans are representative of the everyday man, woman, or child, is beyond me. They show no sympathy, no understanding, but in fact are arrogant entitlement brutes-in-suits. This smacks squarely of collective narcissism. It is disgraceful. But it is also very disturbing for it would seem the President and other Democrats are powerless against this group.

This morning this new reality was further confirmed when I listened to a report about Ireland. They have in so many words traded away their sovereignty for ECB, European Central Bank, rescue package. As part of their banking rescue package Ireland must use $17 billion of its own money which is coming from their Social Security reserves. Essentially, they will be putting this on the backs of their elderly and retired citizens. More ruination, more suffering.

NPR Morning Edition click here to listen to, Irish Brace For Strict Austerity Budget with economist Jacob Kirkegaard.

So, the question is what do we….everyday Americans…. do about all this? I think we are getting a hint of what will may required by watching European reaction to their austerity plans. Riots, violence, anger, upheaval. At the very least, protest and ramped up activism. The fact is, we must wrestle away power from the largest banks who are now ” 20 percent larger than they were before the crisis”, according to Thomas Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “They control $8.6 trillion in financial assets — the equivalent of nearly 60 percent of gross domestic product.” The question then is, who owns the other $32 trillion of the $40 trillion referenced by David Stockman? Who are these people?

Certainly, there are wealthy Democrats and other Americans in this group who are appalled at this power shift and would be willing to subsidize new political parties or efforts to challenge them, but where are they? Where is the leadership? But among my peers, where is the outrage? I am stumped by the apathy throughout our country. Are we a whooped bunch of puppies? Are we blind? Do we simply not care? What is the root of our complacency? Whatever it is, for those who are idly sitting by, the new reality will arrive for them as well as for all others who give a damn about our country. As I said on the Huffington Post last night, it is getting to feel alot like the 60s only the music isn’t as good.

Corrosive Effects of Paranoia

November 23, 2010 Comments off

Terrorists are laughing their asses off while watching Americans search each other for knives, box cutters, and incendiary devices. They have effectively modified our free open democracy and affected a change in attitudes towards our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Due to our paranoia, we have allowed ourselves to fall prey to a kind of manipulation that is eroding our fundamental rights. There is term for this — sneak thievery, where something is stolen through underhanded means. That would seem to be a kind of capitulation, a caving in to the terrorists.

Let’s be clear. Al Qaeda and other terrorists groups, are collective narcissists, who use cowardly means to affect change. They have taken advantage of democracy loving Americans who have lived in relative peace since WWII. We now need to be shook out of our torpor and demand more intense action against these immature renegades. Within our airports and train stations and subways we can use stepped up psychological behavior profiling using skilled observation. We need to intensify monitoring of intelligence; cross linking of databases. We need more sensors placed at points of entry: airport entries stadiums, public restrooms, bus stations, you name it. Rather than making Americans the targets, make Americans helpers. Like the volunteer police folks here in San Diego, we could have volunteers who help monitor these sensors. Hate to say it, but more surveillance cameras are needed. Turning Americans against Americans though IS the worst possible outcome. The real enemy is the corrosive effects of paranoia that undermines our American way of life and values as embedded in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. We must not cave in to these sneak thieves. This is one subject every American can get behind and demand that we defeat, not by giving up our rights, but by protecting them and using them.

Collective Control of Everything

November 19, 2010 Comments off

Genetic engineering — patenting of seeds, genes, hybrids of plants and animals. It’s real and it is happening now. Monsanto spent $8 billion buying seed companies. Seed banks are now patented. This is a move to monopolize food. Monsanto’s products are banned in Europe.

I encourage people to grow their own gardens and to buy locally. Protect your heritage and heirloom seeds. Store them and buy organic.

February 2009 NY Times article reported, Crop Scientists Say Biotechnology Seed Companies Are Thwarting Research.

The problem, the scientists say, is that farmers and other buyers of genetically engineered seeds have to sign an agreement meant to ensure that growers honor company patent rights and environmental regulations. But the agreements also prohibit growing the crops for research purposes.

In Dune, the famous quote, He who owns the spice controls the universe, applies to any human necessity: energy, water, and food. To be sure, there are efforts to control all essentials of life. The Brave New World Aldous Huxley described is now, the New World Order – a collective of powerful multi-national corporations and banks. The question is can we escape its grasp? Can we fight the monetization of nature herself? What happens to our right to pursue happiness when everything…. land, precious minerals, water, food, production, news, transportation, energy and the distribution thereof of all these things….is owned by powerful corporations? Where is our right to self-determination and autonomy then?

Genetic engineering is a cousin to social engineering and within novels like Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984, lie the kernel of concern for a world order not voted into power by free men and women, but engineered by corporations.

G.K Chesterton wrote of these books in 1935 at the height of the Great Depression:

After the Age of Utopias came what we may call the American Age, lasting as long as the Boom. Men like Ford or Mond seemed to many to have solved the social riddle and made capitalism the common good. But it was not native to us; it went with a buoyant, not to say blatant optimism, which is not our negligent or negative optimism. Much more than Victorian righteousness, or even Victorian self-righteousness, that optimism has driven people into pessimism. For the Slump brought even more disillusionment than the War. A new bitterness, and a new bewilderment, ran through all social life, and was reflected in all literature and art. It was contemptuous, not only of the old Capitalism, but of the old Socialism. Brave New World is more of a revolt against Utopia than against Victoria

Utopia, a metaphor for golden ages, for the rise in prosperity in the middle classes, for the roaring 1920s and so very much like the booming early 21st century. And the ‘slump’ is the Great Depression, now made more familiar to us as we experience the Great Recession. Yes, we are up close and personal with these men’s vision of darkness. Collective narcissism has run amok.

On 21st of October 1949, Huxley wrote to George Orwell, author of Nineteen Eighty-Four, congratulating Orwell on “how fine and how profoundly important the book is”. In his letter to Orwell, he predicted:

“Within the next generation I believe that the world’s leaders will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging them and kicking them into obedience.”

Next time you are using your personal handheld device take heed to your techno-hypnosis, look up and think about what is happening to you and the world around you.