Daily Archives: August 31, 2008

I’m the Center of the Universe

Spiral Galaxy M51.  It's a vast universe out there, but sometimes we think it's all about "me."

The universe is infinite, but sometimes we think it's just all about us.

When John Edwards almost seemed to excuse his marital infidelity by saying he was a narcissist, I thought his self-diagnosis would lead to a discussion in the mass media of what Narcissistic Personality Disorder really is.  But that didn’t really happen.  Many politicians are grandiose, jumping into the ring with skills and experience far below what’s needed to be president.  But are they narcissists? 

What is a narcissist?  It’s a lot more than looking in the mirror every ten minutes, getting $400 haircuts and cheating on your wife, although a narcissist may do all of these acts.  Near the end of this post, I’ve listed the nine most commonly cited criteria for NPD.

The New York Times published an article in July touching on the clinical meaning of Narcissism, since it seems to be the word du jour. 

The Times’ Narcissism story was triggered by Christie Brinkley’s divorce trial.   Brinkley’s soon-to-be-ex husband, Peter Cook, was diagnosed by his psychiatrist as a narcissist.  Here’s the link: Here’s Looking at Me, Kid  Arm chair “psychiatrists” have tagged a lot of celebrities and politicians with the narcissist label — Eliot Spitzer and Tom Cruise, to name two.

Most of us have encountered a narcissist in our everyday life, and if we’re lucky, we might enjoy his or her charming company for no more than a few minutes.  Many narcissists are extremely charming  — at first.  They seem to know just how to pull you in, focusing their attention on you with laser-like intensity.  It’s an amazing skill, considering that one of the hallmarks of narcissism is a lack of empathy. Initially, they make us feel good about ourselves, so there’s a little self-involvement in us, too.  We feel worthwhile, loved, needed. This makes it even more crushing when the narcissist inevitably reveals that we meant nothing to him or her at all.  We’re not a friend or a partner, but just another object to fill the narcissist’s vast unfillable void or a stepping stone to take the narcissist to the next level.  The damage is hugely amplified if the narcissist is in charge of our country.

Here are some commonly accepted diagnostic criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder:  At least five of the following are necessary for a diagnosis:

1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance

2) is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love

3) believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by other special people

4) requires excessive admiration

5) strong sense of entitlement

6) takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

7) lacks empathy

8) is often envious or believes others are envious of him or her

9) arrogant behavior 

The Narcissistic Personality Disorder on-line discussion group at msn.com can be found by clicking here.

My friend Jan writes about narcissism far better than I could.  Here’s a link to her post: Close Encounter with a Narcissist

On a personal level, here’s an article about dealing with “everyday” narcissists. Self-Esteem or Narcissism?

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George Orwell Revisited

                                                                                                                                                                              Last week, I wrote about George Orwell’s new blog. Now he’s back in the news as a subject in a book he shares with Evelyn Waugh.  At first glance, Orwell and Waugh couldn’t be more different in style, interests and beliefs, but writer David Lebedoff has tied together these two fascinating British authors.  You can click on a link below for more information on the book The Same Man: George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh in Love and War.

Orwell and Waugh lived at the same time, observed a similar world and country and expressed opinions on the same topics.  Orwell is known for his dark views of a downtrodden futuristic society, while Waugh’s literary world was lush and populated with an aristocratic crowd. 

The book that epitomizes Waugh for me is Brideshead Revisited.  OK, I admit it was the 1982 miniseries, featuring a young Jeremy Irons, that first drew my attention to Waugh.  Recently, a shorter version of Brideshead Revisited made it to the theater screen.  I don’t see how it can top the first one, but I know I’ll see it eventually.  I’m a sucker for any period piece, even if it takes place last year.

If you want some reviews about the new Orwell/Waugh book go to my book club blog.

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