Monday, April 30, 2007

Beneath Narcissism Lie Fear and Self-loathing

Some seemingly overconfident people are actually in considerable psychological trouble, suffering what psychiatrists call narcissistic personality disorder, one of the most self- destructive and difficult-to-treat conditions in the lexicon of mental illness.

For contrary to Narcissus of Greek legend, who was enthralled by his own reflection in a pool of water, researchers say that roughly 1 million Americans with this personality disorder act not from self-love but from a kind of self-loathing, a dread of failure and an inability to endure its emotional fallout: shame. Millions more are thought to suffer from narcissistic tendencies, based on similar but less extreme fears. Recent research suggests that this anguish develops in early childhood, and that therapists can help put it to rest. New treatments combine advice on handling everyday situations -- so-called cognitive therapy -- with emotional forays into the unconscious more typical of psychoanalysis.


This integration of biology and psychology amounts to a "paradigm shift" in the way that therapists understand conditions such as narcissism, said Allan Schore, a UCLA behavioral specialist and expert on the origins of personality disorders. "The essential thing seems to be that the patient not only see their narcissism, and talk about it," he said, "but also that they have a physical experience of the emotion that underlies it -- rage, shame, sadness, whatever it is."

The word "narcissist" is so commonly thrown around that it's in danger of becoming an all-purpose label for any difficult character, in the same way that "chauvinist" or "fascist" was used a generation ago. When psychiatrists diagnose the disorder, however, they do so on the basis of several specific traits. These include a grandiose sense of self-importance, in which talents and personal achievements are vastly exaggerated; a desperate need for admiration; an almost absolute blindness to the needs and feelings of others; and continual fantasies of power, ideal love and success that far outstrip the ordinariness of many narcissists' lives.


To be sure, when deployed in a business that feeds on self-promotion and star power, such as entertainment or music, these qualities often produce just that: a star, a sensation, the sort of executive or performer who lands in a Beverly Hills estate with a chef and a fleet of German sports cars. But add to this carefully cantilevered life some imperfect elements -- a demanding spouse,young kids, sluggish box office or sales -- and you can almost hear the joists creaking. When deprived of across-the-board success in the outside world, narcissists' need for attention may turn inward, causing depression, mood swings, even exacerbating physical pain, said Marc Schoen, a UCLA School of Medicine psychologist. "And of course their pain is always much, much worse than anyone else's," he said.

Marriages often wither under such selfish complaint. Alcohol and drug problems are commonplace. Usually it's only a matter of time, therapists say, before there's trouble in the arena that's often the most gratifying, work.

"That's when they come to see someone like me," said Dr. Robert Neborsky, a San Diego therapist who specializes in difficult-to-treat patients, some 40 percent of whom have narcissistic tendencies, if not the whole package, he estimates. "At some point they look around and realize that at home, and at work, everyone hates them." The narcissistic longing for admiration has brought loathing instead, and they don't know why.

As patients, they're no treat, either. Pompous one moment and solicitous the next, alternately contemptuous and then exuberantly affectionate, narcissists are among most difficult therapy candidates.

They may know something is wrong but resist treatment vigorously because the nature of the disorder is based on self-defense and deception of others -- even a therapist trying to help.

The hot flush of shame or anger; the heavy ache of sadness or loss: These physical sensations themselves, expressed in the presence of a capable therapist, appear to activate areas in the brain that did not develop normally in narcissists' second year of life, said Schore.

Researchers do not know exactly why the development goes awry. Some -- in a revival of what has become an out-of-fashion point of view -- attribute the problem to parents who can't or don't properly soothe their toddler's disappointments: teaching the child, in effect, to avoid failure at all costs, rather than learning to cope with it.

Other theorists are convinced that parents' indulgence of their child's moods and demands freezes the boy or girl in a state of childlike grandiosity.

Los Angeles Times
Sunday, October 20, 2002
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Red Flag Narcissistic Behaviors

Think your partner may be a narcissist?
Identifying behaviours below may give
you a good indication of what you may
be facing:

1. Does your partner have a big ego and feel that others are less important than he?

2. Does your partner like to control others and the environment?

3. Does your partner feel that rules don't apply to him?

4. Does he or she take advantage of others to achieve his needs?

5. Does he or she show little respect for others, and may in fact refer to others as "idiots"?

6. Does he or she often criticize others?

7. Is he or she quick to take offense at comments others offer towards them, if those comments are not complimentary?

8. Does he have a quick temper?

9. Can his personality change at a moment's notice?

10. Does he ever exaggerate the truth or outright lie?

11. Does he deny he has any issues to work on but believes that if everyone will do as he tells them to do, then all will be fine?

12. Does he seem totally oblivious to understanding empathy and compassion for others but demands everyone jump if he is slighted or has his feelings hurt?

13. Does he blame others for all his problems?

14. Did he start out the relationship being very charismatic, charming, romantic, and almost "perfect" but those behaviors changed quickly as he became hardened, abusive, critical, and perhaps violent?

15. Did he suggest love and marriage while only in the relationship for a short time?

If the penny is beginning to drop then you may have now identified what you may be dealing with and this will help you deal with your specific situation.

From Medical News Today

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Nasty People

Nasty People:
How to Stop Being Hurt by Them
Without Becoming One of Them

by Jay Carter

ISBN: 076072766X
ISBN-13: 9780760727669

Book Description

How to spot and conquer nasty behavior. Learn the secrets of handling these people by using everything from humor to confrontation.

Surefire methods to neutralize the nasty people in your life

Have you been hurt, betrayed, or degraded by a nasty person? Perhaps it's your boss, your parent, or your spouse. Whoever it is, he or she is an invalidator who feeds on your self-esteem, mental anguish, and unhappiness. But you can stop this cycle of abuse and put an end to sneak attacks on your soul--without resorting to nasty tactics.

In this updated bestselling guide to staying sane while dealing with difficult people, Jay Carter, Psy.D., calls upon decades of practice and observation to offer proven strategies for avoiding toxic relationships. With straight-talking advice, real-life anecdotes, and psychology that makes sense, Dr. Carter gives you the surefire tricks and techniques you need to:

* Identify the invalidators in your life
* Protect your sanity
* Use humor to get out of the blame game
* Conquer self-doubt
* Stop invalidating yourself
* Confront emotional bullies
* See the bigger picture
* Reclaim the captain's seat of your soul

Customer Reviews

A reviewer, A reviewer, 11/14/2005
This is simply one of the best books I have ever read in my life. It is short and to the point and if you apply what he says it will save you a lot of heartache. I am now reading this book for the second time, my God it is so right on. It is practical and can be easily understood. Thank God for Jay Carter!

slam, in marketing/sales/training, 04/06/2004
I lived it!
I have been on the receiving end of a nasty person. This book is a guide on how you can see the signs and take action before it is too late. Quick and easy read!

A reviewer, A reviewer, 09/24/2003
A MUST-HAVE book for everyone
As someone who just resigned from a job I liked and needed because of an invalidating boss, I can tell you this book hits the nail on the head. The examples given are exactly what I experienced-almost word for word. How invalidation makes you feel and what can be done about invalidation are also right on. Mr. Carter provides the big picture of how and why people behave badly-particularly the more subtle and undermining things that victims may not recognize. You get the whole forest and not just a tree or two. The book is empowering to the invalidator as well as the invalidated. I am so grateful Jay Carter wrote it and wish I had this information decades ago. It would have saved me so much pain, bewilderment, time, and money. I intend to buy more copies for gifts.

A reviewer, A reviewer, 05/19/2003
This book is dead on.
This book is a must read. I have had a problem with a nasty person who drove me to become a nasty person and now I know why. I have shared this book with many friends and they plan on getting their own copy. I plan on sharing it with the nasty person and maybe they will have the same eye opening experience that I have had.

A reviewer, A reviewer, 04/29/2003
thank god for this book
I enjoyed this book very much. I learned how to deal with my monster in-law, who is a nasty person but who is a nice person deep down. I learned how to deal with her without hurting her feelings or becoming a nasty person myself.

Margaret Rummens (, a teacher, 05/29/2002
I'm not a nasty person
My sister loved this book because one of her co-workers is mean to her. Of course my sister now knows that if you use this book to label someone else, the book is for you. I read it thinking that I was guilty of being mean to others ... only to find out that if you have to be invalidated a lot to think this way. A great book.

Mindy, a happy person from Kansas, 05/06/2002
A book that gets you to put your feet in other peoples shoes
I liked this book. Lately I have been feeling very uneasy with people, and now that I have read this book I am ready to live a happy life and stop keeping stress (stress caused by others or stress that was caused by being mean and my conscience set in!) bottled-up or exploding on innocent people!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Indifference and Decompensation in Pathological Narcissism

The narcissist lacks empathy. Consequently, he is not really interested in the lives, emotions, needs, preferences, and hopes of people around him. Even his nearest and dearest are, to him, mere instruments of gratification. They require his undivided attention only when they "malfunction" - when they become disobedient, independent, or critical. He loses all interest in them if they cannot be "fixed" (for instance, when they are terminally ill). People find the narcissist "cold", "inhuman", "heartless", "clueless", "robotic or machine-like".

Early on in life, the narcissist learns to disguise his socially-unacceptable indifference as benevolence, equanimity, cool-headedness, composure, or superiority. "It is not that I don't care about others" - he shrugs off his critics - "I am simply more level-headed, more resilient, more composed under pressure ... They mistake my equanimity for apathy."

The narcissist tries to convince people that he is compassionate. His profound lack of interest in his spouse's life, vocation, interests, hobbies, and whereabouts he cloaks as benevolent altruism. "I give her all the freedom she can wish for!" - he protests - "I don't spy on her, follow her, or nag her with endless questions. I don't bother her. I let her lead her life the way she sees fit and don't interfere in her affairs!". He makes a virtue out of his emotional truancy.

All very commendable but when taken to extremes such benign neglect turns malignant and signifies the voidance of true love and attachment. The narcissist's emotional (and, often, physical) absence from all his relationships is a form of aggression and a defense against his own thoroughly repressed feelings.

In rare moments of self-awareness, the narcissist realizes that without his input - even in the form of feigned emotions - people will abandon him. He then swings from cruel aloofness to maudlin and grandiose gestures intended to demonstrate the "larger than life" nature of his sentiments. This bizarre pendulum only proves the narcissist's inadequacy at maintaining adult relationships. It convinces no one and repels many.

The narcissist's guarded detachment is a sad reaction to his unfortunate formative years. Pathological narcissism is thought to be the result of a prolonged period of severe abuse by primary caregivers, peers, or authority figures. In this sense, pathological narcissism is, therefore, a reaction to trauma. Narcissism is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that got ossified and fixated and mutated into a personality disorder.

All narcissists are traumatized and all of them suffer from a variety of post-traumatic symptoms: abandonment anxiety,
reckless behaviors, anxiety and mood disorders, somatoform disorders, and so on. But the presenting signs of narcissism rarely indicate post-trauma. This is because pathological narcissism is an efficient coping (defense) mechanism. The narcissist presents to the world a facade of invincibility, equanimity, superiority, skilfulness, cool-headedness, invulnerability, and, in short: indifference.

This front is penetrated only in times of great crises that threaten the narcissist's ability to obtain narcissistic supply. The narcissist then "falls apart" in a process of disintegration known as decompensation. The dynamic forces which render him paralyzed and fake - his vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and fears - are starkly exposed as his defenses crumble and become dysfunctional. The narcissist's extreme dependence on his social milieu for the regulation of his sense of self-worth are painfully and pitifully evident as he is reduced to begging and cajoling.

At such times, the narcissist acts out self-destructively and anti-socially. His mask of superior equanimity is pierced by displays of impotent rage, self-loathing, self-pity, and crass attempts at manipulation of his friends, family, and colleagues. His ostensible benevolence and caring evaporate. He feels caged and threatened and he reacts as any animal would do - by striking back at his perceived tormentors, at his hitherto "nearest" and "dearest".

Sam Vaknin

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Me-people help

Ego-driven, competitive and confident, narcissists are like kegs of gunpowder. Their presence in your office can fuel others and spark big success. Or they can bring your company or department to the ground.

"They have grand visions and can be big dreamers," says Baton Rouge-based management consultant Allison Dunn, of Dattner Consulting, who trains companies on managing narcissists. "They can also be fanciful, flighty and not grounded."

In his celebrated book on the topic, "The Productive Narcissist," (Broadway Books, 2003), Michael Maccoby breaks narcissists into two camps- productive and unproductive.

Productive narcissists- think Bill Gates- can move the troops and push a company toward visionary goals. Unproductive narcissists- think Martha Stewart- often get into trouble because of their grandiosity, failure to accept blame and inability to relate.

Decide before you start interviewing if you want a narcissist. They interview well, so if you want to avoid loading your team with too many of them, you might have to look past first impressions.

"Narcissists can be very charming," writes Nina Brown in "Working with the Self-Absorbed: How to Handle Narcissistic Personalities on the Job" (New Harbinger Publications, 2002).

"It's T likely that they are seeking someone to mirror or reflect their inflated self perception, and new acquaintances are good candidates for this task."

Dunn says Enron probably made the mistake of having too many narcissists onboard. "They said, 'We're going to hire the best and the brightest and unleash that talent. They imploded."

So why fool with narcissists at all?

"When narcissists win, they win big," Maccoby writes. "Narcissists create a vision to change the world; they are bold risk takers who think and act independently. TThis is exactly the kind of leader we expect to take us places we've never been before, to build empires out of nothing."

Take a look at your team, Dunn recommends. "If you have a team that's not motivated or not succeeding, you can get a lot of energy from adding a narcissist."

Back your first impressions during interviews with research, Dunn says.

"Fact check," she says. "If they say they were project leaders, check it out."

A good question to ask someone you suspect is a narcissist: "What will be your biggest challenge here? How will you have to grow?"

"That says a lot about their willingness to accept feedback," Dunn says.

Once you've got a narcissist on board, put that person in the role of generating ideas or coming up with big-picture goals. Let someone else handle the details and support work. Narcissists won't be happy building spreadsheets.

Narcissists have the ability to drive a team towards success, Dunn says, because they love to win. It's important for managers to tend to the entire team, though, and see to it that the narcissist isn't hogging credit, sloughing blame or being the squeaky wheel who can always get a few minutes of your time as others go it alone.

If you're having problems with a narcissist on your team, Dunn says, "discuss the gap between where they are and where they need to be. T Narcissists are motivated by opportunities to succeed."

What about narcissistic bosses? That can be tough. Since narcissists are driven to succeed, they frequently end up supervising others even though they aren't always ideal for that task.

Your best bet: Manage up. Listen actively, ask questions and let your boss in on how he or she can succeed as your boss.

Get things in writing, Brown notes, in case blame gets shifted to you. That way, you can effectively show that you were carrying out the wishes of your big-I boss.

Push for 360-degree reviews for your boss and, Dunn says, "make him or her look good in a productive way."

Amy Alexander writes a management column for Business Report. E-mail your comments or suggestions for future columns to her at

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Emotionally Abusive Relationship

The Emotionally Abusive Relationship:
How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing

By Beverly Engel

ISBN-10: 0471454036
ISBN-13: 978-0471454038

Book Description

"Engel doesn’t just describe–she shows us the way out."
–Susan Forward, author of Emotional Blackmail Praise for the emotionally abusive relationship

"In this book, Beverly Engel clearly and with caring offers step-by-step strategies to stop emotional abuse. . . helping both victims and abusers to identify the patterns of this painful and traumatic type of abuse. This book is a guide both for individuals and for couples stuck in the tragic patterns of emotional abuse."
–Marti Loring, Ph.D., author of Emotional Abuse and coeditor of The Journal of Emotional Abuse

"This groundbreaking book succeeds in helping people stop emotional abuse by focusing on both the abuser and the abused and showing each party what emotional abuse is, how it affects the relationship, and how to stop it. Its unique focus on the dynamic relationship makes it more likely that each person will grasp the tools for change and really use them."
–Randi Kreger, author of The Stop Walking on Eggshells Workbook and owner of

The number of people who become involved with partners who abuse them emotionally and/or who are emotionally abusive themselves is phenomenal, and yet emotional abuse is the least understood form of abuse. In this breakthrough book, Beverly Engel, one of the world’s leading experts on the subject, shows us what it is and what to do about it.

Whether you suspect you are being emotionally abused, fear that you might be emotionally abusing your partner, or think that both you and your partner are emotionally abusing each other, this book is for you. The Emotionally Abusive Relationship will tell you how to identify emotional abuse and how to find the roots of your behavior. Combining dramatic personal stories with action steps to heal, Engel provides prescriptive strategies that will allow you and your partner to work together to stop bringing out the worst in each other and stop the abuse.

By teaching those who are being emotionally abused how to help themselves and those who are being emotionally abusive how to stop abusing, The Emotionally Abusive Relationship offers the expert guidance and support you need.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal
According to therapist Engel (Partners in Recovery), "even the most loving person" is capable of emotional abuse-that is, "any non-physical behavior designed to control, intimidate, subjugate, demean, punish, or isolate." In a reasoned, sensible tone, she encourages readers to become responsible for their behavior and for changing it. Identified are ten "patterns of abuse" (verbal assault, character assassination, etc), different kinds of abusive relationships, action steps for cessation, and suggestions for recovery. Using dense writing and cogent examples, Engel clearly shows how this type of abuse, either intentional or unconscious, leads to low self-esteem and misery for one or both partners. A difficult and draining yet important read for those who suspect that their relationship has entered abusive territory, this book is highly recommended. For books on remedying less severe marital stresses, try Howard Markman and others' hokey but well-intentioned Fighting for Your Marriage.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bill Clinton Meets The Shrinks

Bill's Narcissism

Narcissism is Freud's allusion to Narcissus from classical mythology, a beautiful youth who fell in love with his reflection in a pool and drowned as he sought to embrace the beloved image. Narcissism was used by Freud to describe the infant's primary union with the mother that is altered by both maturation and frustration. The failures of the mother to meet the infant's needs, inevitable to some extent as well as traumatic events may lead to a narcissistic wound. This may result in a flawed character that has strong feelings of both inferiority and grandiosity, demands constant attention and has difficulties in love relationships. On the other hand, healthy narcissism is a normal event which leads to self esteem, ambition and the capacity to form satisfying relationships. Bill's contradictions are at the center of his paradoxical personality; Norman Mailer calls him "a celestial oxymoron - part rogue, part god." Bill's narcissistic wound explains his deceptiveness, manipulation and the bubba eruptions but his normal narcissism is the rationale for his initiative, self confidence, empathy and charisma.

What caused Bill's narcissistic injury? His episodes of separation and castration anxiety and his experience as a fat and clumsy child are the most visible factors leading to Bill's narcissistic injury. Is that the whole story? No, because I've already said that most personality theorists believe there are constitutional, that is hereditary biochemical factors and also family style issues that contribute to narcissistic injury and the resulting narcissistic personality which is mentioned in the discussion of Slick Willie .

Narcissism which is said to be the leading cultural disorder of the late twentieth century is itself a controversial subject. Time magazine recognized this when it called psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut, "the preacher of narcissism...(who) replaced Freud's tragic vision with an optimistic creed...that man is born good and evil is produced by the culture." The emphasis on narcissism in a system called Self Psychology has shifted attention away from Freud's oral, anal and Oedipal developmental phases but despite Kohut's "whiff of heresy," he remained a Freudian.

Read more @ Bill Clinton Meets The Shrinks

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Narcotic of Narcissism

If you want to know what’s wrong with the West, a good way to begin is simply to watch a bit of so-called Reality TV. A few episodes of Big Brother would suffice. We appear to be raising a generation of young people who seem to think the world revolves around them. We have seen the proliferation of hedonism, egotism, self-centeredness and narcissism. We have become obsessed with ourselves, and seem to think that everyone else should be as well.

If you try to tell one of these young narcissists that “It’s not about me,” that life is more than their narrow little world, they look at you with a quizzical expression on their face. They have for so long been raised on a diet of lessons in self-esteem, therapy, victimisation, Political Correctness, welfare-ism and MTV that they have lost their moral centre of gravity. They have lost all perspective. They think everything centres on them, their needs, their wants, their feelings, their sense of self-worth.

But life does not quite work that way. For most of human history notions such as personal responsibility, hard work, self-sacrifice and consideration for the social good were more highly valued. The emphasis was clearly not on how I feel, how I look, what kind of tan I have, how thin I am, how well-dressed I am, and so on.

But today the curse of narcissism has taken deep root. It is a sort of narcotic, where we live for they next hairdo, tanning session, and wax job. Paris Hilton has become the epitome of this disease. And it shows no signs of going away. No wonder why so many people hate the West. Its many virtues have been lost in a sea of narcissism and selfishness.

Of course I am not alone in these concerns. Nor are they recent ones. Back in 1966 Philip Reiff wrote The Triumph of the Therapeutic in which he chronicled the tendency to turn all our problems and social ills into therapy sessions. Faith and self-reliance gave way to a new religion, focusing on self, and self-satisfaction. “Religious man was born to be saved, psychological man is born to be pleased,” said Reiff.

And in 1978 the late Christopher Lasch wrote an important volume called The Culture of Narcissism. In it he lamented the movement away from community and family toward the self and narcissism. He reiterated some of themes of Reiff: “The contemporary climate is therapeutic, not religious. People today hunger not for personal salvation, let alone for the restoration of an earlier golden era, but for the feeling, the momentary illusion, of personal well-being, health, and psychic security.”

More recently Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel wrote an important book entitled One Nation Under Therapy (2005). The authors show how we have become a generation of therapy junkies, full of fragile egos and crippled emotions. Instead of self-reliance, personal responsibility and fortitude we have become a nation of victims and psychological basket cases. “What healthy children need most,” they argue, “is guidance on how to be civil and ethical – not how to be self-obsessed”.

And this obsession with self is of course happily being fed by the pharmaceutical industry, pumping millions of Prozac, Ritalin, or numerous other mood-altering drugs into our young people every year.

While these authors may be dismissed as more or less conservative social commentators, their concerns have been substantiated by a comprehensive new study by five American psychologists. Their study of 16,475 American college students who completed an evaluation called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006 found that they are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors.

David Crary picks up the story in (February 27, 2007): “‘We need to stop endlessly repeating “You’re special” and having children repeat that back,’ said the study’s lead author, professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. ‘Kids are self-centered enough already’.”

According to the researchers, NPI scores have risen steadily since the current test was introduced in 1982. “Narcissism can have benefits, said study coauthor W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia, suggesting it could be useful in meeting new people ‘or auditioning on American Idol. Unfortunately, narcissism can also have very negative consequences for society, including the breakdown of close relationships with others’, he said.”

Other problems are associated with narcissism: “The study asserts that narcissists ‘are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity, lack emotional warmth, and to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty, and over-controlling and violent behaviors’.”

“Twenge, the author of Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled - and More Miserable Than Ever Before, said narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others. The researchers traced the phenomenon back to what they called the ‘self-esteem movement’ that emerged in the 1980s, asserting that the effort to build self-confidence had gone too far.”

Of course neither I nor the authors mentioned believe that there is no place for counselling, therapy, psychology, and so on. However it has become a religious obsession. The truth is, most of our problems at heart are spiritual and moral. But in a secular world that says only matter matters, it is hard to offer real cures for the soul when it is no longer believed in.

But surely the rejection of Christianity with its emphasis on service to others, personal responsibly and dying to self has lead to this increase in selfishness, hedonism and narcissism, and the therapeutic culture we are now immersed in.

In a secular world, therapy has replaced salvation. After all, if there is no longer such a thing as sin, then all we can do is tinker around with people’s self-esteem and self-image. But those have taken a beating in a goo-to-you world of materialism and purposelessness. No wonder shrinks are working overtime.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Brand narcissism

In a recent show in London, US comic Michael Moore brought one sketch to a crescendo by taking out a pair of scissors and snipping a loyalty card in two. “Say after me!,” he shouted. “I am loyal to myself! I am loyal to my community! I am NOT loyal to a corporation!”.

‘Loyalty’ never was a very good word to describe repeat purchase. But the words we choose have habit of betraying our underlying attitudes and assumptions. Marketers conjured up the word loyalty because in their dreams consumers are, indeed, loyal to their brands.

A human being ‘loyal’ to a soap powder? Or a bank account? Or an airline? As soon as we stop to think about it, we can see how absurd this notion is. Yet such absurdity is so common nowadays that no one (except a few iconoclastic comedians) blinks an eye. This absurdity is a disease: the endemic disease of brand narcissism.

In Greek legend, Narcissus was the poor creature who was so enraptured by the sight of his own reflection that he pined away, gazing at it until he died. Modern psychiatrists classify narcissism as a clearly identifiable personality disorder.

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s reference bible DSM IV, the narcissistically wounded personality tends to display some or all of the following attributes:
1) a grandiose sense of self-importance;
2) fantasies of unlimited success, power and brilliance;
3) a belief that one is superior, special and unique;
4) a constant seeking for attention and admiration;
5) a preoccupation with how well I am doing and how favourably I am regarded by others.

A personality disorder? Or a brand manager’s job description? You take your pick, because the similarities are striking. After all, 'Look at me! Look at how wonderful and attractive I am!' is the fundamental agenda of advertising, direct marketing, public relations, sponsorship, and so on: no brand ever got successful by being a shrinking violet.

Does this similarity matter? Who cares if marketers sometimes use silly words like ‘loyalty’? Isn’t it a trifle condescending to suppose that marketers and their publics can’t cope with a bit of narcisisstic preening? We all take it with a pinch of salt anyway, don’t we? Perhaps we do. But that’s not the point.

‘Look at me!’ brand preening is just one, superficial, symptom of a dysfunction that reaches right back into the heart of how we create, distribute and exchange value. The problem with narcissists is that they only understand their relationships with other people in terms of themselves.

They are only interested in other people to the extent and degree that these other people provide them with a mirror in which to further regard themselves. They use other people for their own purposes – their own self-glorification. And because they so routinely use people for their own narcissistic ends they want as friends. In fact, precisely because use other people for their own ends, they have a habit of hurting and disappointing, turning many a friend into an enemy along the way.

Brand narcissism is very similar. It attempts to use people for the purposes of the brand, in so doing destroys the win-win heart of branding.

Read more in the full book

Beyond Branding: How the New Values of Transparency and Integrity Are Changing the World of Brands

by Nicholas Ind (Editor)

ISBN-10: 0749441151
ISBN-13: 978-0749441159

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Decisions, Delusions & Debacles

Overconfident Narcissists

One doesn’t have to look far to find parallels in the corporate world. Overconfident CEOs provide prime examples of high-risk judgment errors that have caused huge financial losses. “From what we know of them, people at Enron thought they could control the world,” Goodie said.

Such blatant lapses in judgment and their associated undue risk taking have led him to team up with fellow UGA psychology professor W. Keith Campbell and UGA doctoral student Joshua Foster to study decision making among people with high levels of narcissism. Such people have overblown opinions of their intelligence, power and confidence and they demonstrate little sensitivity or caring toward others, said Campbell, who has studied narcissists’ behavior for more than a decade.

“They feel entitled; they feel special,” he said. “If you think you’re better than everybody else thinks you are, then you have to do lots of things to maintain that belief. You have to dismiss negative feedback. You end up adjusting your whole life to maintain the positive sense of self.”

Using Goodie’s experimental procedures involving trivia questions and estimated levels of confidence, the psychologists added a narcissism assessment without volunteers’ awareness. The findings presented no surprise: While no more accurate than others, narcissists were even more overconfident and more willing to bet, losing significantly more points. “Narcissists end up performing terribly because they don’t readjust their self-beliefs in the face of feedback,” said Campbell. “They take too many risks. They don’t pay attention to their failures.”

The researchers’ narcissism finding was published in the October 2004 issue of the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making.

Campbell readily connects such findings with real-world applications. “From an organizational or business perspective, make sure you’ve got checks and limits on the people in charge and don’t listen to their self-reports,” he said. “If they are narcissistic, not only are they going to be overconfident but they are also going to be charming, self-promoting, perhaps manipulative. If you don’t develop strategies to counteract narcissism, you can get into real trouble.”

Tyco’s former chief executive Dennis Kozlowski is a case in point, Campbell said. “When things started going bad, rather than readjust, Kozlowski denied it and did things that appear fraudulent. If you put money into a company, you want someone like Warren Buffett sitting there doing all the numbers.”

Judy Purdy

Friday, April 20, 2007

Narcissism: A Critical Reader

Narcissism: A Critical Reader

By Gaitanidis, Anastasios

ISBN 10 - 1855754533
ISBN 13 - 9781855754539

Product Description

This book provides a comprehensive review of the existing perspectives and applications of narcissism as a psychoanalytic concept that has been extremely influential in the fields of psychotherapy, social science, arts and humanities. Ten authors from different disciplines have been invited to write on the topic of narcissism as it is approached in their specialist field, resulting in an exciting and inclusive overview of contemporary thought on narcissism. This book is also a critical reader. Each author closely examined and analysed the possibilities and limitations of different views on narcissism. It is thus a very useful book both for students and experts who look for a deeper and broader understanding of the notion of 'narcissism' and its various psychotherapeutic, social and cultural applications.


‘This book provides an ideal introduction both to the diverse ways in which narcissism is approached in clinical work, and to the complex interaction between clinical work and the broad cultural elaborations of narcissism. Gaitanidis and his Assistant Editor Curk cogently locate all the papers within the parameters of the wider contemporary debate on narcissism, and the book must be central reading both for counselling and psychotherapy trainees, and cultural and social studies students.’ - Martin Stanton, Associate Research Fellow, University of Cambridge, Consultant Staff Counsellor, University College London

‘Dr Gaitanidis and his Assistant Editor Curk present us with a fresh re-evaluation of the venerable subject of narcissism in this most interesting and diverse edited work. After a faithful review of the psychoanalytic conception of narcissism, the various other contributors tease apart the narcissistic object-relations experience as it pertains in the individual, in coupling, in the community, in art and in other areas and disciplines. This is a singular work. I do not recall the subject of narcissism having ever before been dealt with so broadly, so extensively and so deeply.’ - James Grotstein, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, Supervising Analyst at the Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Society/Institute

‘Narcissism is much abused for good and ill in current psychoanalytic theory and practice. This book is thus very timely in bringing together articles developing measured and critical debates about this topic, focussing specifically on narcissism and love.’ - Janet Sayers, Professor of Psychoanalytical Psychology, University of Kent

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Misdiagnosing Narcissism - Asperger's Disorder

Misdiagnosing Narcissism - Asperger's Disorder

Asperger's Disorder is often misdiagnosed as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), though evident as early as age 3 (while pathological narcissism cannot be safely diagnosed prior to early adolescence).

In both cases, the patient is self-centered and engrossed in a narrow range of interests and activities. Social and occupational interactions are severely hampered and conversational skills (the give and take of verbal intercourse) are primitive. The Asperger's patient body language - eye to eye gaze, body posture, facial expressions - is constricted and artificial, akin to the narcissist's. Nonverbal cues are virtually absent and their interpretation in others lacking.

Yet, the gulf between Asperger's and pathological narcissism is vast.

The narcissist switches between social agility and social impairment voluntarily. His social dysfunctioning is the outcome of conscious haughtiness and the reluctance to invest scarce mental energy in cultivating relationships with inferior and unworthy others. When confronted with potential Sources of Narcissistic Supply, however, the narcissist easily regains his social skills, his charm, and his gregariousness.

Many narcissists reach the highest rungs of their community, church, firm, or voluntary organization. Most of the time, they function flawlessly - though the inevitable blowups and the grating extortion of Narcissistic Supply usually put an end to the narcissist's career and social liaisons.

The Asperger's patient often wants to be accepted socially, to have friends, to marry, to be sexually active, and to sire offspring. He just doesn't have a clue how to go about it. His affect is limited. His initiative - for instance, to share his experiences with nearest and dearest or to engage in foreplay - is thwarted. His ability to divulge his emotions stilted. He is incapable or reciprocating and is largely unaware of the wishes, needs, and feelings of his interlocutors or counterparties.

Inevitably, Asperger's patients are perceived by others to be cold, eccentric, insensitive, indifferent, repulsive, exploitative or emotionally-absent. To avoid the pain of rejection, they confine themselves to solitary activities - but, unlike the schizoid, not by choice. They limit their world to a single topic, hobby, or person and dive in with the greatest, all-consuming intensity, excluding all other matters and everyone else. It is a form of hurt-control and pain regulation.

Thus, while the narcissist avoids pain by excluding, devaluing, and discarding others - the Asperger's patient achieves the same result by withdrawing and by passionately incorporating in his universe only one or two people and one or two subjects of interest. Both narcissists and Asperger's patients are prone to react with depression to perceived slights and injuries - but Asperger's patients are far more at risk of self-harm and suicide.

The use of language is another differentiating factor.

The narcissist is a skilled communicator. He uses language as an instrument to obtain Narcissistic Supply or as a weapon to obliterate his "enemies" and discarded sources with. Cerebral narcissists derive Narcissistic Supply from the consummate use they make of their innate verbosity.

Not so the Asperger's patient. He is equally verbose at times (and taciturn on other occasions) but his topics are few and, thus, tediously repetitive. He is unlikely to obey conversational rules and etiquette (for instance, to let others speak in turn). Nor is the Asperger's patient able to decipher nonverbal cues and gestures or to monitor his own misbehavior on such occasions. Narcissists are similarly inconsiderate - but only towards those who cannot possibly serve as Sources of Narcissistic Supply.

More about Autism Spectrum Disorders here:

McDowell, Maxson J. (2002) The Image of the Mother's Eye: Autism and Early Narcissistic Injury , Behavioral and Brain Sciences (Submitted)

Benis, Anthony - "Toward Self & Sanity: On the Genetic Origins of the Human Character" - Narcissistic-Perfectionist Personality Type (NP) with special reference to infantile autism

Stringer, Kathi (2003) An Object Relations Approach to Understanding Unusual Behaviors and Disturbances

James Robert Brasic, MD, MPH (2003) Pervasive Developmental Disorder: Asperger Syndrome

Sam Vaknin

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Loving the Self-Absorbed

Loving the Self-Absorbed

by Nina W. Brown, Wendy Millstine (Editor), Tracy Marie Carlson

ISBN: 1572243546
ISBN-13: 9781572243545

From the Publisher

With 5 million Americans suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and another 10 million with the less severe syndrome Destructive Narcissistic Pattern, Loving the Self-Absorbed is a timely book. Author Nina Brown gives readers specific steps for limiting the effect of a partner's narcissistic behavior and getting what they need out of the relationship. She explains the five types of "destructive narcissism" and how to recognize their effects on a relationship. Realistic strategies show how to set mutually agreeable behaviors. Because narcissists lack natural empathy, Brown teaches readers how to change their own "fantasy" expectations, create boundaries, learn new "attending behaviors," listen and respond in a self-caring way, and learn when to avoid and ignore especially bad behavior.

Customer Reviews

Dianne, School Counselor with a Master's !, 10/02/2005
I finally know I am not crazy !
This book is laid out so well. It explains the symtoms of a distructive narcissistic parent (and in my case, husband too)in a clear understandable manner. Although she uses proper terms, she takes time to explain what they mean and give examples. She does not leave you hanging by just helping you understand what is wrong with you. She shows you how to become stronger and able to cope with it. It has taken me 36 years of marriage to finally understand why I have felt so unhappy for so long. I thought it was all my fault and I would do everyone a favor by suicide. There is HOPE. Read this book BUT let a therapist help you through it. It can be very painful at times when those bad feelings and rememberances come to the surface. You cannot get better without facing them. Even though I work as a counselor, my own problems were too close for me to see.

A reviewer, A reviewer, 08/14/2005
Supportive insight
I hate to admit this but it took me 11 years to understand my partner and this book was what finally did it. That sounds grandiose but it is true. Also very important --the insight into my own behavior and actions that contribute to this problem relationship. This information is the kind of support I needed whether I decide to stay or whether I decide to leave.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Is it all about you?

Narcissism is subtle.

The nature of its activity is self-deception–our own narcissism is invested in keeping us narcissistic, manufacturing intelligent rationalizations to justify and perpetuate itself.

Narcissism is easily recognized in others, but rarely in ourselves. We define narcissism in narrow terms to cast ourselves outside its net. A “real” narcissist is someone who is fixated on her physical appearance, someone who can never be wrong, or someone who displays his own superiority. While all of these orientations and behaviors are narcissistic, we fail to recognize that they are obvious versions of an underlying selfishness that nearly all of us share, no matter how “selfless” we believe ourselves to be.

Narcissism creates restlessness, because a self afflicted with itself can never rest. No matter how much self-growth, self-improvement, and self-esteem it achieves, the self is unable to transcend its own interest. The narcissistic self is both exhausted and enslaved, locked in the prison of its own self-involvement.

Fortunately, there are specific practices that have been shown—both by contemporary psychological models and by varying spiritual traditions—to radically transform narcissism. These practices fall into three broad categories: relational, or interpersonal practices; spiritual, or meditative/contemplative practices; and interpretive, or perspective-taking practices.

End Your Narcissism

Monday, April 16, 2007

Prisoners of Childhood

Prisoners of Childhood

by Alice Miller

ISBN: 0465062873
ISBN-13: 9780465062874

From the Publisher

The "drama" of the gifted - i.e., sensitive, alert - child consists of his recognition at a very early age of his parents' needs and of his adaptation to these needs. In the process, he learns to repress rather than to acknowledge his own intense feelings because they are unacceptable to his parents. Although it will not always be possible to avoid these "ugly" feelings (anger, indignation, despair, jealousy, fear) in the future, they will split off, and the most vital part of the "true self" (a key phrase in Alice Miller's works) will not be integrated into the personality. This leads to emotional insecurity and loss of self, which are revealed in depression or concealed behind the facade of grandiosity. Alice Miller defines the ideal state of genuine vitality, of free access to the true self and to authentic individual feelings that have their roots in childhood, as "healthy narcissism." Narcissistic disturbances, on the other hand, represent for her solitary confinement of the true self within the prison of the false self. This is regarded less as an illness than as a tragedy. In her psychanalytical work, Dr. Miller found that her patients' ability to experience authentic feelings, especially feelings of sadness, had been for the most part destroyed; it was her task to help her patients try to regain that long-lost capacity for genuine feelings that is the source of natural vitality.

Customer Reviews

Sam Vaknin (, the author of 'Malignant Self Love', 01/24/2001
The Sad Narcissist
Alice Miller is by far the most prominent popularizer of the twin concepts - True Self and False Self. She regards the True Self as a prisoner within the walls of the False Self. The latter is an intricate and multi-faceted defence mechanism. Defence against what? Against one's emotions that were repressed during early childhood. The narcissist plays a role - that of the gifted, docile, accepting, tranquil, loving, peaceful and well-adjusted child. He becomes the extension of his parents: their unfulfilled dreams and sexret wishes. His identity is moulded to fit the idealized and ideal offspring. His negative feelings are buried deep inside his tormented psyche. These emotional skeletons later erupt and produce depression, suicidal ideation or narcissistic defences. Excellent, readable and - if one can use this word in this context - entertaining. Sam Vaknin, author of 'Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited'.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

He Loves Me Not? Impossible!

Narcissists make notoriously
bad life partners. But their
talent or deflecting negative
feedback may help their
relationships run smoothly
in the short term.

Among most couples, romantic bonds often unravel when one person begins to doubt the other's affection. The threatened party typically starts behaving in ways that sabotage the union, studies show, whether or not the initial worries are founded.

Narcissists, however, come equipped with a belief that may head off this downward spiral: "They think, I know I'm wonderful, and therefore, my partner must think I'm wonderful," says Joshua Foster, a University of Georgia graduate student.

Foster led a group of female subjects to temporarily question their partners' devotion by having them list reasons why their partners may not be committed to them. After making their lists, the women tended to score high on a test about their relationships' dysfunction—they reported a willingness to accept a date from a stranger, for example.

The narcissists of the group, not surprisingly, found the first task difficult to complete. But they went on to score much lower on the next part of the exercise, portraying themselves as committed to their boyfriends, even though self-centered people are well known to have a propensity for cheating. Narcissists essentially balked at the suggestion that their partners might not think highly of them, whereas the "normal" subjects were unsettled by the thought.

A narcissist's inability to be affected emotionally derails his or her relationship over the long run, says Foster. "Narcissists seem great at first—they are confident, exciting and seem to be free of hang-ups. But then, Mr. Cool turns into Mr. Doesn't Care."

Carlin Flora

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Controlling People

Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand and Deal with People Who Try to Control You

by Patricia Evans

ISBN: 158062569X
ISBN-13: 9781580625692

Editorial Review

From Library Journal
An interpersonal communications specialist, Evans (The Verbally Abusive Relationship) has written a timely book that not only helps readers free themselves from controlling types but also seeks to explain the occurrence of verbal abuse, battering, stalking, harassment, hate crimes, gang violence, tyranny, terrorism, and territorial invasion. What she calls a "compelling force" overcomes these controllers; because they sense the overwhelming "psychic pain, distress, and discord permeating the world," they must impose a twisted kind of order on their friends, lovers, and acquaintances. Often, she continues, people with good intentions end up doing the opposite of what they would need to do to realize a goal or fulfill a need. This is a compelling work, but it belongs in the hands of counselors; lay readers who feel controlled will find it worthwhile but hard going. Public and academic libraries with special collections on relationships should also strongly consider. Susan E. Burdick, MLS, Reading, PA

From the Publisher

In Controlling People, bestselling author Patricia Evans tackles the "controlling personality," and reveals how and why people try to run other people's lives. She also explains the compulsion that makes them continue this behavior -- even as they alienate others and often lose those they love. Controlling People helps you unravel the senseless behavior that plagues both the controller and the victim. Can the pattern, or spell, be broken? Yes! says the author.

By understanding the compelling force involved, you can be a catalyst for change and actually become a spell-breaker. Once the spell is broken and the controller sees others as they really are, a genuine connection can be forged and healing can occur. Should you ever find yourself in the thrall of someone close to you, Controlling People is here to give you the wisdom, power, and comfort you need to be a stronger, happier, and more independent person.

Customer Reviews

A reviewer (, A reviewer, 12/19/2002
Good but a little too black/white
Evans is sharp and penetrating in her analysis. There is a lot in this book that has been written before except for one major breakthrough that Evans makes. For starters, other writers have always painted the controlling person with all negative genial qualities while Evans wisely points out that many controllers can seem very loving to their mates. They often will speak highly of their controlled mate and will often look very chivalrous. The catch she recognizes is that controlling people do not actually relate to who the person is but to a "pretend person." And what is tricky is that this pretend person can be idealized and canonized to have saint-like qualities by the controller. As in: "you are such a great person, you never do anything to irritate me." But the second that the person walks out of the controllers boundaries they get vicious. She is insightful in that she says controllers are not just present in love relationships but also can be friends,coworkers, fans, etc. She also shows how controllers use fear, manipulation, guilt to get what they want. Her only flaw is that she fails to mention the reality that everyone has controlling qualities. Just because someone is being controlled does not mean that they are not or never were a controller themselves. Everyone has controlling aspects to them in that they sometimes attempt to use fear to get what they want. Everyone is trying to control the world in some way and these ways can be very subtle. Evans paints a picture of victimization for the controlled but fails to mention that the truth is that most victims are secret victimizers in some sense. It is not a black/white issue.

Christopher McCullough, Ph.D. (, therapist & author in San Francisco, 09/30/2002
Freedom from control and controlling
Evans gently and firmly invites us to recognize controlling behavior in others and also in ourselves. She does so with equal insight and compassion for both controller and the controlled without gender bias. As a therapist I have heard men (mostly) use the claim of bias against men as a defense against their own abusive behavior. No one interested in knowing the liberating truths about controlling behavior will object to the insights and examples presented in this powerful book. Even if 100% of the examples given were about men controlling women ,which is not the case, how would that change anything if the male reader was indeed a controller? The analogy is when a husband finds a motel receipt in his wife's purse she makes the issue that he shouldn't have been in her purse, NOT that she was having an affair. If a reader of either sex finds themselves dismissing the control issue with claims of any book's gender bias it should be a signal that there is a defensive attitude involved. Being a controller does not make you evil but not owning up to it is to further needless abuse.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Narcissism guides mate selection

Narcissism guides mate selection: Humans mate assortatively, as
revealed by facial resemblance, following an algorithm of “self seeking like"

Liliana Alvarez, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Caracas, Venezuela. Email:

Abstract: Theoretical studies suggest that mating and pair formation is not likely to be random. Computer simulations suggested that sex among genetically complex organisms requires mate choice strategies for its evolutionary maintenance, to reduce excessive genetic variance produced by out-crossing. One strategy achieving this aim efficiently in computer simulations is assortative mating modeled as “self seeking like”. Another one is selection of “good genes”. Assortative mating increases the probability of finding a genetically similar mate, without fomenting inbreeding, achieving assortative mating without hindering the working of other mate selection strategies which aim to maximize the search for “good genes”, optimizing the working of sex in evolutionary terms. Here we present indirect evidence that in a significant proportion of human reproductive couples, the partners show much higher facial resemblances than can be expected by random pair formation, or as the outcome of “matching for attractiveness” or the outcome of competition for the most attractive partner accessible, as had been previously assumed. The data presented is compatible with the hypothesis derived from computer simulations, that human mate selection strategies achieve various aims: “self seeking like” (including matching for attractiveness) and mating with the best available genes.

Full text available @

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Codependent No More

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself

by Melody Beattie

ISBN: 0894864025
ISBN-13: 9780894864025

Book Description

Three years on the New York Times bestseller list, CODEPENDENT NO MORE first identified attitueds, feelings, and behaviors now recognized as hallmarks of codependency. Checklists, activities, and self-tests provide concrete tasks to help readers examine the nuances of codependency in their lives.

Customer Reviews

A reviewer, A reviewer, 01/30/2004
One of the best on Codependence
For many years, I was in a completely codependent relationship and did not know how to break out of it. Then I figure a way out on my own. At least I thought I did... but what happened was that I just changed the people around me and the relationships were essentially the same. After reading this great book, I finally stopped blaming other people for my relatioship problems and began looking into myself. It was then that my life really began to make a positive change. I then read another excellent book called, 'The Ever-Transcending Spirit' by Toru Sato and I began seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It provided me the motivation to move on from my codependent relationships. It is a tough thing to deal with your own issues inside but it is the only way out and the only way to real happiness. Are you ready to do some real work and step out of your own misery? If your answer is yes, I recommend these books to you.

A reviewer, A reviewer, 01/21/2003
I really love this book!
I was in a bad relationship and this book really helped us straighten it out. It was not easy but it helped us figure out why it wasn't working and what we can do about it. I think the author has important insights that all of us can learn from regardless of how healthy our relationships are. If you are interested in improving relationships, I would also recommend Rhythm, Relationships, and Transcendence by Toru Sato. It is a fabulous book that will take you closer to enlightenment.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Study finds self-esteem programs don't work

FSU study finds self-esteem programs don't work


Feeling pretty good about yourself?

That's great, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you are smarter, healthier or more successful than others. And if that's not bad enough, people may not like you very much, either.

After nearly two decades of teachers, parents and therapists focusing their efforts on boosting children's self-esteem, a team of psychologists led by Florida State University Francis Eppes Professor Roy Baumeister has found no evidence that boosting self-esteem through school programs or therapeutic interventions leads to any positive outcomes.

"Raising self-esteem will not by itself make young people perform better in school, obey the law, stay out of trouble, get along better with their fellows or respect the rights of others," he said.

Baumeister came to that conclusion after he and co-authors Jennifer Campbell of the University of British Columbia, Joachim Krueger of Brown University and Kathleen Vohs of the University of Utah conducted a thorough review of all of the major studies on self-esteem. He presented his findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS).

Schools and others jumped on the self-esteem bandwagon after many experts began to espouse self-esteem as the key to success.

"Once schools started self-esteem programs, I think they developed a momentum on their own, partly because the exercises, e.g. going around the room and letting everybody say what is special about himself or herself, feel good to all concerned," Baumeister said. "Certainly it is a more enjoyable way to pass some hours in the school day than, say, doing math or spelling drills."

A better approach, the researchers say, would be to boost self-esteem as a reward for ethical behavior and worthy achievements.

"We think it will require a basic change in many self-esteem programs, which now seek to boost everyone's self-esteem without demanding appropriate behavior first," they wrote. "Using self-esteem as a reward rather than an entitlement seems most appropriate to us."

Baumeister's team looked at studies linking self-esteem to school performance, job and task performance, interpersonal relations, happiness, aggression and antisocial behavior, and health issues such as eating, drinking and drug use, smoking and sex.

Although there are modest correlations between self-esteem and school performance, it is more likely that good performance leads to high self-esteem rather than the other way around. The same holds true for job performance.

More importantly, the researchers found that efforts to boost self-esteem have not been shown to improve academic performance and may sometimes be counterproductive. Nor does high self-esteem prevent children from smoking, drinking, taking drugs or engaging in early sex. If anything, high self-esteem fosters experimentation, which may increase early sexual activity and drinking.

Studies on violence, aggression and antisocial behavior yielded mixed results, according to the researchers. They found that neither high self-esteem nor low self-esteem is a direct cause of violence, although narcissism leads to increased aggression in retaliation for wounded pride. Certain subcategories of high self-esteem also yield both the highest and the lowest rates of antisocial behavior such as cheating or bullying. On the other hand, low self-esteem may be a contributing factor to delinquency.

People with high self-esteem claim they are more likable, attractive and have better relationships than others, but these advantages exist mainly in their own minds, the researchers found. Objective data, such as ratings by their peers, generally fail to confirm their high opinions of themselves, and in some cases, they are actually disliked more than others.

That finding highlights an intrinsic problem with studying self-esteem, Baumeister noted, and that is that self-esteem is a perception rather than a reality. Those with high self-esteem include people who honestly accept their good qualities as well as narcissistic, defensive and conceited individuals who exaggerate their successes and good traits.

There are some potential benefits to high self-esteem, however. The researchers found that high self-esteem reduces the chances of bulimia in girls and women. The researchers also concluded that high self-esteem helps make people happy and may promote acting on one's own initiative.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Women Who Love Too Much

Women Who Love Too Much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He'll Change

by Robin Norwood

ISBN: 0671733419
ISBN-13: 9780671733414

Book Description

This is the world-renowned, inspiring, practical program for women who believe that being in love means being in pain. Based on the multi-million-copy bestseller, Women Who Love Too Much presents a clear, comprehensive, 10-point recovery plan for women who are addicted to the wrong men for the wrong reasons. Among the vital lessons you will learn in this program are: How the search for the love you never got from your parents can become a crushing obsession in adulthood. How to change from loving someone so much it hurts, to loving yourself enough to stop the pain. How to free yourself from destructive loving and build a healthy, meaningful relationship. This step-by-step self-awareness program offers help, understanding and, above all, hope -- the pathway to making love the truly happy event it is supposed to be.

From The Critics

LA Times
Robin Norwood has written an extraordinary self-help book that reads like a thrilling page-turner....This beautifully written, intelligent book can help women break the pattern of foolish love.

Houston Chronicle
If you constantly find yourself loving men you want to change, Women Who Love Too Much is for you.

Customer Reviews

A reviewer, just a normal person, like you, 09/23/2006
Force yourself to read this one - it WILL save your life.
I didn't know why I kept ending up in relationships that, in hind-sight, were doomed from the start. This was the most difficult book for me to read and I started and stopped multiple times as I recognized myself in the characters, but didn't know why. By the time I finished the book (for the 2nd time) I truly realized that denial is not a river in Egypt. No mater how difficult, read this book to it's conclusion, and more than once if necessary, to help you make a positive change in your life.

Lauri, A reviewer, 02/04/2006
Opened my eyes!
I read this book after a series of abusive men. It made me take responsibility for the types of relationships I was calling into my life. I stopped dating for a while and started the process of learning to love myself. I am now in a trusting, committed relationship with a man who loves and respects me. This relationship challenges me to be the best person I can be. Instead of pushing all the wrong buttons, he pushes all the right ones.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Acquired Situational Narcissism

The Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a systemic, all-pervasive condition, very much like pregnancy: either you have it or you don't. Once you have it, you have it day and night, it is an inseparable part of the personality, a recurrent set of behavior patterns.

Recent research (1996) by Roningstam and others, however, shows that there is a condition which might be called "Transient or Temporary or Short Term Narcissism" as opposed to the full-fledged version. Even prior to their discovery, "Reactive Narcissistic Regression" was well known: people regress to a transient narcissistic phase in response to a major life crisis which threatens their mental composure.

Reactive or transient narcissism may also be triggered by medical or organic conditions. Brain injuries, for instance, have been known to induce narcissistic and antisocial traits and behaviors.

But can narcissism be acquired or learned? Can it be provoked by certain, well-defined, situations?

Robert B. Millman, professor of psychiatry at New York Hospital - Cornell Medical School thinks it can. He proposes to reverse the accepted chronology. According to him, pathological narcissism can be induced in adulthood by celebrity, wealth, and fame.

The "victims" - billionaire tycoons, movie stars, renowned authors, politicians, and other authority figures - develop grandiose fantasies, lose their erstwhile ability to empathize, react with rage to slights, both real and imagined and, in general, act like textbook narcissists.

But is the occurrence of Acquired Situational Narcissism (ASN) inevitable and universal - or are only certain people prone to it?

It is likely that ASN is merely an amplification of earlier narcissistic conduct, traits, style, and tendencies. Celebrities with ASN already had a narcissistic personality and have acquired it long before it "erupted". Being famous, powerful, or rich only "legitimized" and conferred immunity from social sanction on the unbridled manifestation of a pre-existing disorder. Indeed, narcissists tend to gravitate to professions and settings which guarantee fame, celebrity, power, and wealth.

As Millman correctly notes, the celebrity's life is abnormal. The adulation is often justified and plentiful, the feedback biased and filtered, the criticism muted and belated, social control either lacking or excessive and vitriolic. Such vicissitudinal existence is not conducive to mental health even in the most balanced person.

The confluence of a person's narcissistic predisposition and his pathological life circumstances gives rise to ASN. Acquired Situational Narcissism borrows elements from both the classic Narcissistic Personality Disorder - ingrained and all-pervasive - and from Transient or Reactive Narcissism.

Celebrities are, therefore, unlikely to "heal" once their fame or wealth or might are gone. Instead, their basic narcissism merely changes form. It continues unabated, as insidious as ever - but modified by life's ups and downs.

In a way, all narcissistic disturbances are acquired. Patients acquire their pathological narcissism from abusive or overbearing parents, from peers, and from role models. Narcissism is a defense mechanism designed to fend off hurt and danger brought on by circumstances - such as celebrity - beyond the person's control.

Social expectations play a role as well. Celebrities try to conform to the stereotype of a creative but spoiled, self-centered, monomaniacal, and emotive individual. A tacit trade takes place. We offer the famous and the powerful all the Narcissistic Supply they crave - and they, in turn, act the consummate, fascinating albeit repulsive, narcissists.

Sam Vaknin

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Why Does He Do That?

Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

by Lundy Bancroft

ISBN-10: 0425191656
ISBN-13: 978-0425191651

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
This fascinating investigation into what makes abusive men tick is alarming, but its candid handling of a difficult subject makes it a valuable resource for professionals and victims alike. Bancroft, the former codirector of Emerge, the nation's first program for abusive men, has specialized in domestic violence for 15 years, and his understanding of his subject and audience is apparent on every page. "One of the prevalent features of life with an angry or controlling partner is that he frequently tells you what you should think and tries to get you to doubt or devalue your own perceptions and beliefs," he writes. "I would not like to see your experience with this book re-create that unhealthy dynamic. So the top point to bear in mind as you read [this book] is to listen carefully to what I am saying, but always to think for yourself." He maintains this level of sensitivity and even empathy throughout discussions on the nature of abusive thinking, how abusive men manipulate their families and the legal system and whether or not they can ever be cured. Jargon-free analysis is frequently broken up by interesting first-person accounts and boxes that distill in-depth information into simple checklists. Bancroft's book promises to be a beacon of calm and sanity for many storm-tossed families.

From Library Journal
Bancroft, a former codirector of Emerge, the first U.S. program for abusive men, and a 15-year veteran of work with abusive men, reminds readers that each year in this country, two to four million women are assaulted by their partners and that at least one out of three American women will be a victim of violence by a husband or boyfriend at some point in her life. His valuable resource covers early warning signs, ten abusive personality types, the abusive mentality, problems with getting help from the legal system, and the long, complex process of change. After dispelling 17 myths about abusive personalities, he sheds light on the origin of the abuser's values and beliefs, which he finds to be a better explanation of abusive behavior than reference to psychological problems. Bancroft extends his approach to problematic gay and lesbian relationships as well, making the book that much more useful and empowering. This is essential reading for those in the helping professions and highly recommended for all libraries, especially those in communities with emergency shelter programs. Dale Farris, Groves, TX

Book Description

"He doesn't mean to hurt me-he just loses control."
"He can be sweet and gentle."
"He's scared me a few times, but he never hurts the children-he's a great father."
"He's had a really hard life..."

Women in abusive relationships tell themselves these things every day. Now they can see inside the minds of angry and controlling men-and change their own lives. In this groundbreaking book, a counselor shows how to improve, survive, or leave an abusive relationship, with:

€ The early warning signs
€ Nine abusive personality types
€ How to tell if an abuser can change, is changing, or ever will
€ The role of drugs and alcohol
€ What can be fixed, and what can't
€ How to leave a relationship safely

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Narcissism and the End of Social Cohesion

After we've all had a good laugh about how college kids are more narcissistic than ever, we should look at how much of a real problem this is with regards to our country's future.

I was at a training recently and one of the younger social workers in the room was talking to me about the need for more certified male mentors. This came from a discussion about how when case managers gather services for families, almost all of them end up requiring some form of therapy as well as respite/mentor services. The obvious reason being that there is typically no father present or the one that is around is not functional in the home. The picture we were describing is a rather common one: boys of all races and ages growing up with no positive male role models and in turn never being taught nor having the opportunity to develop appropriate coping skills for boys.

Though the conversation zigged and zagged from one topic to another, even to the extent that we were seriously discussing what has been the long term effects (if any) that the Million Man March had on getting black men to return to their families to raise the children they brought in to this world. That's when someone at the table looked up from their lunch of chicken and rice and said rather profoundly, "You know, the men of this country may be pigs but the mothers out there aren't much better and in some cases they are worse."

This is absolutely true. Many drug-using mothers had abandoned an untold number of teenagers I treated when I worked in an inpatient drug rehabilitation facility when they were born or any number of years after. Others were not abandoned but they might have done better if they had been given up for adoption as their mothers continued to use drugs all throughout the child's life and tended to bring in men who in more cases than I care to recount, molested them.

There are a multitude of reasons why young people use drugs, become unfit parents, take unnecessary risks and even commit serious crimes. These reasons range from socio-economic to psychological. However, if there is one common thread that links the awful behavior of a low – no income crack addicted mother to a drunken irresponsible high-income frat boy is the unfortunately common trait, narcissism.

"The terms "narcissism", "narcissistic" and "narcissist" are often used as pejoratives, denoting vanity, conceit, egotism or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others," according to Wikipedia.

You can follow the line of regression from the Post World War II era to where we are now by looking at a number of factors. After WWII we see in the US the rise of suburbs and a distinctly self-sufficient middle class. It's never been uncommon for parents to want better for their children than they themselves one experienced but now not only can parents provide a better life for their children but also, one with less and less responsibility for others. In other words, where once families had to think about each other in order to survive, slowly but surely the roles of the younger family members in which they were the caretakers of older generation were replaced by the government (social security) as well other unintended consequences of modernity.

To put it in another way, from the end of WWII until now we've had the dubious convenience of not having to care for others because the government and lord knows that else would do it for us. As more money and opportunities unfolded for the happily progressing American family, so did the devil of selfishness grow, feeding on the steadily declining idea of community. No sooner were we as a country throwing overboard the social mores that had helped civilization grow out of the darkest corners of Africa, were we giving in to behavior dictated by the basest impulses in the human psyche. It didn't happen overnight but this did happen. Sixty to seventy years ago, it was not typical for people to have children out of impulse and then not take care of them because their own needs were not being met. From a socio-anthropological point of view, we flipped as a people from one where the needs of others outweighed the needs of the one to the needs of the one are the only needs that exist (until one's conscience kicks in).

There is no question that we're more narcissistic as a society today than we ever have been. The real question is whether or not we've hit the point of no return. One has to wonder if the trend of the last 40 some odd years have gone past the point of being irreversible. Twenty years ago one could argue that so long as we walled up the poor areas of America and kept it's malevolent influence away from the proverbial children, well then, frankly who'd care if the poor burned themselves into oblivion. However, 20 years since even then, when many thought we could sweep poverty and its subsequent generation of immoral behavior under the rug, we've seen the richest and most potentially successful amongst us give rise to the same, if not worse behavior run amok throughout the country.

You may have heard that, "A new comprehensive study suggests today's college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than their predecessors.

Five psychologists who conducted the study worry the trend could be harmful to personal relationships and American society. The study suggests narcissists "are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity" and lack emotional warmth. The study also suggests narcissists are also more likely "to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty, and over-controlling and violent behaviors."

The study examined the responses of more than 16,000 college students nationwide who completed the Narcissistic Personality Inventory between 1982 and 2006. The researchers say NPI scores have risen steadily since 1982." (Source)

So even the data suggests that the most affluent amongst us are just as selfish and ego-integrity deficient (look it up folks) as the people mostly associated with the worst in human nature. My question is that if the rich Caucasian prom queen has just as much of a chance of tossing her baby in the dumpster as a the resident inner city minority crack whore, then where is this trend leading us as a society? In other words, if all the kids of the generation which is to be the caretaker of those of us whom are say, 40 or older, only care about themselves and can't generate any decent or long lasting relationships with anybody on the planet, then how are we supposed to proceed as a society?

The simple math is this: we've abandoned, both literally and figuratively, 2 – 3 generations of children who, out of survival instinct, have learned to only fend for themselves and are not capable of caring for others thus there will be no stewards of the future left to take care of the country when the rest of us are gone.

As I asked the young lady at the training rhetorically but with a worried heart, "How does one undo 40 years of teaching people it's OK to be selfish?"

The answer to that question may hold the key to this country's future.

Posted to by Mark Radulich on 03.08.2007

Friday, April 06, 2007

Self and Society: Narcissism, Collectivism, and the Development of Morals

Self and Society: Narcissism, Collectivism, and the Development of Morals

by Drew Westen

ISBN-10: 0521317703
ISBN-13: 978-0521317702

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal
Westen proposes to combine the ``traditionally distinct'' psychological and sociocultural theories into a more heuristic and congruent schema. Focusing on the theories of behavior and psychic dynamics, as well as the more complex area of morality, he presents the views of Freud, Skinner, and existential psychologists. He then deals, in broad outlines, with the approaches of anthropology and sociology. Finally, he explores the interrelationships between culture and personality and delves into the ``psychodynamics of modernization.'' Arguing that ``self is an inherent aspect of modernization,'' Westen offers the nonspecialist a goodthough not exhaustiveoverview of the fields of personality and social theory. A comprehensive bibliography is included. Winifred Lambrecht, Anthropology Dept., Brown Univ., Providence,
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

‘Based on an admirably thorough exposition of modern thought and research in the psychological and social sciences, Drew Westen presents here a brilliant, intellectually exhilarating effort to transcend, by means of a new theoretical formulation, the artificial divisions in our knowledge about individuals and about cultures.’ Marie Jahoda, Professor Emerita, University of Sussex

‘This is a notable attempt to integrate contemporary personality theory and contemporary theories in anthropology around the concept of psychological need. It is an impressive overview of a psychocultural approach to social theory that takes into account usually neglected psychological variables. A cogent and compelling work, it will provoke thought and response in its readers.’ Professor George DeVos, University of California, Berkeley

Book Description
The relation between individual and collective processes is central to the social sciences, yet difficult to conceptualize because of the necessity of crossing disciplinary boundaries. The result is that researchers in different disciplines construct their own implicit, and often unsatisfactory, models of either individual or collective phenomena, which in turn influence their theoretical and empirical work. In this book, Drew Westen attempts to cross these boundaries, proposing an interdisciplinary approach to personality, to culture, and to the relation between the two. Part I of the book sets forth a model of personality that integrates psychodynamic analysis with an understanding of cognitively mediated conditioning and social learning. In Part II, Westen offers a view of culture that blends symbolic and materialist modes of discourse, examining the role of both ideals and ‘material’ needs in motivating symbolic as well as concrete social structural processes. In Part III, he combines these models of personality and culture through an examination of cultural evolution and stasis, identity and historical change, and the impact of technological development on personality. Throughout the book, Westen provides reviews of the state of the art in a variety of fields, including personality theory, moral development, ego development, and culture theory. He also addresses and recasts central issues in psychology, sociology, anthropology, and social theory, such as the relations between emotion and cognition; social learning and psychodynamics; ideals and material forces; and individual and collective action. His book will appeal to students and scholars in all the social sciences, as well as to any reader concerned with understanding the relation between individuals and the world in which they live.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life

Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life

by Susan Forward, Craig Buck

ISBN-10: 0553381407
ISBN-13: 978-0553381405

Editorial Reviews
All parents fall short from time to time. But Susan Forward pulls no punches when it comes to those whose deficiencies cripple their children emotionally. Her brisk, unreserved guide to overcoming the stultifying agony of parental manipulation--from power trips to guilt trips and all other killers of self worth--will help deal with the pain of childhood and move beyond the frustrating relationship patterns learned at home. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

“A dynamic, powerful, hard-hitting book. It offers tremendous hope as well as understanding. It could truly be a lifesaver.”
— Abigail Van Buren, “Dear Abby”

“I consider Susan Forward to be among the foremost therapists of our age.”
— John Bradshaw, author of Healing the Shame That Binds You and Homecoming

Customer Reviews

A book I will NEVER throw away, April 26, 2005
Reviewer: It's me "logitechgirl" (LONG ISLAND CITY, NEW YORK USA)

If sometimes you find yourself feeling depressed or angry for no apparent reason- there may be a reason.

When this happened to me I did everything from self-help books, to meditation techniques, to partying, to listening to music, to rolling up into a ball and laying there- all to no avail. Then one day during one of these moods I decided to try reading something yet again to get my mind off the out of the blue sadness- after reading only the first couple of chapters, something finally clicked in me, and I really knew for the first time what these episodes were about. For the first time ever I actually felt the healing process begin within me and could start taking charge of how I felt. I can't say enough about the excersises in this book! The last few chapters are especially helpful. When you feel up to it, you may want to take out your highlighter because there are some real gems in this text that you'll want to read and re-read for years to come.

An extremely useful book, non-academic and easy to read, August 18, 2000
Reviewer: Simon Jackson (Bradford, West Yorkshire United Kingdom)

Open the front cover to this important book by Dr Susan Forward and almost as an introductory note we are told that toxic parents are the inadequate parents, the controllers, the alcoholics, the verbal abusers, the physical abusers and the sexual abusers. This is not a book about parents who get things wrong. As parents we all get things wrong - I know I do, we all do things that perhaps we regret - this isn't being toxic, it's called being human. These mistakes very rarely do harm. A toxic parent on the other hand is an individual whose behaviour scars and harms their child/ren to such a degree that often it can seem like the there can be no resolution to the damage caused. As a result the children grow into adulthood feeling inadequate, unloved and worthless.

This book is about and at the same time is for those adult children.

As children, our parents give us a script, a way of being that we use to filter all that we experience. If that script is one that says ` you are worthless, to be abused - sexually, physically, emotionally ` then all I do in my life, all my actions, my reactions and interactions will be through the filter of my lack of worth.

This is a book for those adults whose sense of worthlessness underpins all they do.

I work as a counsellor and often those I work with tell me that they are responsible for what their parents did. "If I hadn't cuddled Daddy he wouldn't have got in to bed with me", "If I'd done better at school I wouldn't have got punished". A valuable message in this book is that the child is a child not a mini adult. The real adults are the responsible ones and it is they that are accountable for the abuse inflicted on their children. The abused adult child is however responsible for their actions as an adult no matter their experiences as a child. From this perspective the adult abused as a child has it in his/her control to change the script that has been given to them

If you want to change your unhealthy script or life pattern this book is for you.

There are some aspects of `Toxic Parents' that I have some professional and personal difficulty with. Chapter Seven for example is titled `Confrontation: The Road to Independence'. I wouldn't agree that confrontation is the only road to independence, indeed change, growth, self determination and awareness can all be experienced and lived without the need to confront. This aside, Dr Susan Forward has written an extremely useful book, non-academic and easy to read. As a result it will provide to those who have experienced toxic parents a valuable tool for change.

The journey to change will be difficult, it will be lined with pain and tears but you can get there, `Toxic Parents' will be a useful signpost on that journey.