Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Narcissism: It's all about image

Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: (Old Testament, Isaiah,  3:16)

President Uchtdorf has mentioned the word Narcissism and warned against this attitude and behavior in several recent talks.  Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a medical and psychiatric term which I wanted to help better define.  If you read the following description and recognize any if these natural tendencies in your behavior, you are probably not as narcissistic as you fear.  If you read this list and think none of it applies to you, I would be more concerned and maybe invite you to pray and then ask the opinion of someone you trust about it. President Uchtdorf challenges all of us to examine and ask ourselves, "Is it I?"

Narcissus is a mythological Greek god that fell in love with his own image.  Today with all the social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, etc, many of us have become consumed and enamored with our online image. Some of us associate our selfworth with number of Twitter followers, Facebook friends, or even out level 100 Frost Mage in WOW.  But why is there so much Narcism in the world?  The controlled western media has been pushing a "its all about you" advertising campaign for several decades.

Within the Church, Narissism can take on a different but related form.  Some individuals can get too obsessed with their spiritual and righteous image.  Yes, we should all be concerned with our personal spirituality and righteousness, but be concerned less about how others perceive us. We should be good examples but not put on a holier-than-thou fascade.  Continually broadcasting to others our personal insights into the scriptures, personal revelations, and visions may be a sign of going beyond the mark in this area. Having a blog and naming it ldsdoctrine might be another. 

Becoming too preoccupied with our spiritual image can open us up to be decieved by Satan. We can find the right balance by making sure we are more concerned with how God and our Bishop sees us then how others see us. A healthy attitude is concerned with doing good and improving ourselves.  An unhealthy attitude is more concerned with appearing more righteous and spiritual and even more humble than everyone else.  A healthy Church attitude in my opinion involves accepting callings from your Bishop, and then doing the very best you can, and as Pres. Uchtdorf says, "stand together and lift where you stand."  An unhealthy attitude would be to decline a calling because we don't think we could do the calling better than it has ever been done, or better than anyone else is doing their calling. A narcissist may reject a perceived difficult calling because they would be more concerned about how struggling through it would affect their image.  A narcissist  doesn't want to look bad but will give themselves other reasons for their refusal.

Narisistic Personality Disorder according to DSM IV and V can be looked up online and involves a pathologic obsession with self-image and self-importance.  Additionally, Narcissism is a spectrum disorder and is often considered by the narcissist to be a normal part of a person's personality style.  Narcististic tendencies not covered in DSM include: 

1. Obsessed with their virtual, physical, spiritual and social image.   
2. Too easily gets defensive even when criticism is not directed at them. 
3. Dishes out plenty of cutting personal criticism to shift attention away from their own weaknesses.
4. Cannot easily listen to the ideas of others.
5. Project their own faults and feelings onto others 
6. Difficulty apologizing or admitting fault.
7. In a discussion when proven wrong, just continually shifts the argument but never adjusts their thinking.
8. Demands praise and compliments 
9. Self-centered, everything involves how it will affect them. 
10. Entitlement mentality 
11. Inflated self-importance 
12. Attention seeking 
13. Jealous of others success. 
14. Lacks insight. Their behavior is their personality style.
15. Pathologic belief that God gives them exclusive revelation and insight because of their righteousness over others. 
16. Unappreciative of others.
17. Judge others based on results and themselves based on intention.
18. Always an exception or making an excuse to justify their sin.
19.  Easily falls victim to flattery.
20. Who is right is more important than what is right.
21. Grandstand and want to take credit but divert blame.
22. When solving a problem more interested in whose to blame than the solution.
23. Cannot accept the reality of conspiracy because it means acceptance that they are not important in the eyes of the world.
24. Not just about self-esteem, 
self-consciousness and 
inadequacy, but a manifestation of a deficiency of faith vs. doubt, hope vs. fear, and charity vs. pride .

[This list describes the behavior of many characters portrayed on TV.  You're welcome, to anyone who uses this insight to become an award-winning television writer.]

Why is recognizing Narcissism in ourselves important? First, it can be very difficult to solve problems with a group of people with strong narcissistic tendencies. It is similarly nearly impossible to solve problems in a marriage where partners are both strongly Narcissistic.  Other than abuse, If a marriage is failing it may be that both sides are exhibiting these natural behaviors.

Second, our love of the world and the worldly blinds us to spiritual things and especially spiritual threats.  We can tend to make excuses and rationalize our sins.  Also, the Book of Mormon warns us about secret combinations seeking to overthrow the freedom of all nations (Ether 8). In addition to our general lack of virtue, our narcissism is also blinding us to these secret combinations that seek to destroy us like they did the Jaredites and Nephites because awakening to the reality of evil would mean accepting that the world considers us not only worthless and expendable but also a liability (useless eater, harmful carbon dioxide producer).

Not eveyone who is asleep to the reality of global conspiracy is a narcissist. In many cases, blindness to evil can involve people like Lehi and Eve whose minds are too pure and without guile to even notice the filthiness of the water or conceive that the serpent had ill intent. But, Nephi and Moroni noticed the filthiness and the ill intent of Satan and spent considerable effort to warn us about it. 

The grandiose extroverted narcissist feels entitled and more important than others expectimg special treatment.  They deny making any mistakes and will often hide errors, or blame them on others and resent anyone who points them out or seeks to provide constructive feedback.

The vulnerable introverted narcissist also feels entitled and expects special treatment but when they make a mistake they will usually alway make excuses and justify their failures because of their more difficult situation.


Anonymous said...
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David B said...

25. criticizes wthout supplying a substantive and constructive reply.

Daniel Burgess said...

Well done! As a Therapist and LDS member, I am often having to address this very real and unfortunately too prevalent issue. You did an excellent job and concisely summarizing the issue. It destroys marriages, families, children and even ones faith. There is excellent resources now and many are successfully recovering and addressing the issue. Keep up the good work.

David B said...

In a marriage conflict, usually both sides are somewhat at fault. Resolution is best achieved when both sides are able to admit their shortcommings and commit to improvement. If one side is convinced that they are a victim or infallible, resolution can be difficult. ...... I think the comment... "men, learn to say, your right and I'm sorry" is damaging to marriages.... truth is, absent abuse, usually both are somewhat wrong and right and both need to be sorry. = equally yoked

But some want to see themselves as the perfect spouse who would never contribute to marriatal discord, but are tirelessly dealing with an imperfect partner who they are committed to saving.

Nancy Flores said...

David B. what does one do in that case or is it anything that can be done? my father is in denial about my mothers narcisistic tendencies he is about to sigh his name to buy a house she wants to buy i am very afraid this is unwise, the idea just occured 2 weeks ago. but he refuses to go in converstatio there . i feel so lost now...

Nancy Flores said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David B said...

Persons with personality disorders generally lack insight into their behavior and consider it is part of their personality style that “gets things done”. But, as far as your personal situation, I can’t advise you.