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Tuesday, April 15, 2014



         N is for Narcissism

Friends, do you know that some peoples’ main credo in life is I, me and mine? While healthy interest in oneself promotes happiness and success,  foolish obsession with one's physical and mental superiority is tragically binding. Such people even start believing that the world exists only for them. Others’ reactions or opinions hold no significance for their cocooned minds. In fact, they brush aside any opposing stance to their own as contemptuous. Sometimes over trifles, they pretend to be hurt and victimized. They often accuse others of malicious intent towards them, where none exists. Harboring fantasies of grandiose schemes where they are the chief protagonist wielding power is their compulsive addiction.

Self-absorption and expecting others to toe their line ever, becomes central to their narrow thinking. Vanity and self-admiration acquire the status of their nagging need. Their worldview is confined to their own internal perceptions and they jettison the ground realities of life by a nonchalant nod.

The term 'Narcissism' originated with Narcissus from Greek mythology, a handsome young man who falls in love with his own reflection in a pool of water and fails to pull himself away. Subsequently he pines himself to death.

Later Sigmund Freud used this concept in his psychoanalytic theory. He developed the idea further in his book ‘On Narcissism’ as a personality disorder afflicting many.

One of the greatest examples of destructive Narcissism in literature is that of Shakespeare’s King Lear. On being asked how much she loves him, Cordelia his youngest daughter,  who unlike her cunning older sisters declares, “I love  your majesty/ according to my bond, no more no less” which so  enrages Lear that he curses Cordelia, disowns her and distributes his entire wealth and kingdom between his  other two daughters. His misery and humiliations that followed at the hands of his crafty daughters rouse pity at his ignorance of human nature. His childishness to expect the same authority, entitlements and sycophancy from his kin and minions, even after relinquishing his kingship speaks of intellectual immaturity even though he was the all-powerful king. How he fails to see through the empty rhetoric of Regan and Goneril claiming to love him above everything else in the world proves his shallow and tragic overestimation of his self.

Another fable, which is also a metaphor for tragic self-love, is that of a stag. He comes to drink water at a stream in the forest and is so mesmerized by the reflection of his majestic looking antlers that he fails to sense danger on time and though he runs for his life, his antlers get entangled in the bushes and he meets his death in the ferocious attack of the lion.

The worrisome part is that the malady of preoccupation with the self is becoming a rage amongst modern youth. Studies point out the electronic gadgets and social networking sites take up so much of their time that actual human contact becomes a casualty. Coupled with that the trend of being soft on children even when they make mistakes, for the false fear of lowering their self-esteem has contributed to the erosion of discipline and parental influence. The clichéd syndrome, ‘I am on my own’ is feeding isolation and irresponsible individualism.

The  spread of this unhealthy culture of arrogance and rude assertions such as ‘others may go to hell’  need to be debated seriously for the good of society.

Images courtesy: Google

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  1. So true about self-victimization, and about parents coddling their children when should be scolded. There is a thin line between self-esteem and ego, self-love an narcissism. I love your perspective.

  2. Such entertaining and informative post for N!!