The Selfishness Of Others (Review)

I’ve been encountering a lot of buzz about narcissists lately.  The most numerous and obvious references are about Donald Trump.  However, this popular obsession about narcissism predates the Trump election by more than a few years.

The current young generation is a prime target of accusers of narcissism. Other supposed narcissists are our lovers, close family members, and terrible bosses. This world of people obsessed with narcissism makes up the “narcisphere”.  This name was coined by writer Kristin Domdek in her book length essay The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism.

The “narcisphere” has ballooned out of Internet forums and YouTube videos. It’s a culture with its own language and beliefs. Domdek points out that the first thing to know about popular notions of narcissism is that we are worried about other people’s alleged narcissism.

The popular version of a narcissist is someone who is fake.  The narcissist doesn’t possess a complete soul. They lack authentic compassion and there seems to be something unwholesome about them. So-called “experts” on the “narcisphere” have hijacked terms from legitimate psychology like “projection” and “mirroring”.

An Internet checklist that has gone viral since the election of Donald Trump is “The Narcissism Personality Inventory”. The list, which was first printed in 1979, has nine items that indicate a person’s inclination towards narcissistic personality disorder.

In Domdek’s book we find an informal history of narcissism.  Her examples include her own self-centered boyfriend and Allison, who was featured on MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen  teevee show. Allison wanted Atlanta’s Peachtree Street closed down for her personal parade.

selfishnessofothers-02kristindomdekDomdek argues that narcissists are real because we believe them to be so. The author says that the supposed traits of narcissists vary according to who is doing the analysis.  The alleged narcissistic characteristics include supposed motivations, gender, age, and relationship to the analyzer.  The main thing to remember about pop-diagnosis, is that it is usually about somebody else, not the person making the “diagnosis”.

One fear of narcissism is that of we writers who have been told that the overuse of the first person words, I, me, myself, and mine, could be an indicator of a self-absorbed or narcissistic personality. This is something that concerns me whenever my own blog posts explain a personal experience.  When proofreading each blog post, I weigh the how and why each first person pronoun is used. (This paragraph is loaded with them.) Am I worried that I’m being too self-absorbed?

The best parts of the book-essay may be the analyses of Ovid’s classic story of Narcissus and Echo in Metamorphoses from which the psychological condition obtained its name.  The essay offers various interpretations of the ancient story.

Narcissus was exhausted after a day of strenuous activity and hunting. He takes a break near a clear spring. While he drinks, Narcissus is captivated by the beauty of his own image reflected in the water. He falls deeply in love with himself and wastes away. After his body is gone, the pastel narcissis flower takes his place near river banks in order to enjoy the reflections on the waters.

Domdek’s book points out that in pathologizing narcissism we make the mistake of diagnosing other people. These amateur analyses divide us into people who have empathy and other people who lack it.  Is this view accurate? Isn’t this just another way of fracturing society into us and them?

If you’ve been thinking about a possible narcissist in your life, Kristin Domdek’s book is worth your time.

{ The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism by Kristin Domdek; 150 pages, published August, 2016 by F.S.G. Originals; ISBN: 978-0-86547-823-7 }

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the musician/DJ/photographer/activist Moby. “I think a lot of self-importance is a product of fear. And fear, living in sort of an un-self-examined fear-based life, tends to lead to narcissism and self-importance.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Books, cultural highlights, Health and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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