Friday, November 09, 2007

Factors Enabling Narcissism To Sabotage Sustainability

How do these developmental and genetic factors which become dominant aspects of both individuals' and groups' consciousness and behaviors interfere with efforts at sustainability? The narcissistic defense seeks to dominate every space in which it participates – both on individual and group levels. This force of narcissism is interested in, committed to, and obsessed with power and control, and it will sacrifice people and resources indiscriminately. The narcissistic defense interferes by stonewalling, intimidating, and dominating attention in group settings.

NARCISSISM is distinguished from true leadership (which shares attention) by narcissism’s use, abuse and exploitation of people, as opposed to enhancing and facilitating the value of others. Sustainability is dependent on collaborative, mutually complementary group efforts that seek to maximize benefits for the largest amount of people without exploiting each other or the integrity of the environment. This is offensive to narcissism because it is in direct contradiction to narcissism’s values of dominance, exploitation and control.

So what does narcissism do in the presence of sustainability proponents? It resists. It resists in a methodical, calculated way toward the end of either distracting, derailing, or simply stopping whatever program the sustainability contingent is seeking to implement. Character assassination, misinformation, and blocking access to funding and other resources are commonly employed methods.

Before we discuss how narcissism can be detected and engaged effectively, it is important to review factors which contribute to narcissism being able to effectively control situations and relationships. First, if a person or a group is unaware of his or its narcissism, they will often be unable to recognize the presence of a narcissistic force. It is a well known dynamic in most psychological circles that if one is denying or cut off from an aspect of the self, it is very difficult position to recognize this aspect in others.

Second, many people have the fantasy that if they try hard, "do it right," be reasonable, logical, and have goodwill and a team approach, these factors will generate a positive outcome in interpersonal or group settings. This is about as deep a fantasy as one could possibly have, as it is not based in reality. Why is this? It is not based in reality because a narcissist survival is dependent on having control, or the perception of control. When a narcissist's control is challenged (and this is what efforts toward sustainability do by definition), he becomes threatened, and responds like his survival is at stake, transforming the environment into a veritable jungle. This is not the friendly environment of Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood! In addition narcissism is disdainful of such attitudes (fantasies).

A third factor which reinforces the stranglehold narcissism can have is when people are committed to being "nice" or fair, and as a result are unwilling or unprepared to hold the narcissist accountable for positions or behaviors. Finally, an unwillingness to "go for the throat," as champions do in sporting events, only allows narcissism to recycle and feed off its commitment to domination.

Bruce Gregory, Ph.D