It is the middle of the night and I do seem to enjoy scaring myself these few days. Back on Thursday I talked about urban legends and today I just watched a video on narcissism.
The video’s 47 minutes and 26 seconds long, so you may want to set aside some time when watching it. However, I would say it is very much worth watching, as documentaries on psychological disorders tend to be. They can be so scary because they can occur in ordinary people, and you never know what they’re going to do next.
After watching the video, some of us are probably going to start evaluating the people we know, comparing them to the 9 traits emphasised in it and wondering if they are narcissists. I can think of 1 person who may fit the narcissism mold, though I may of course be biased since I don’t know her well enough (but she does seem to fit the persona of a cruel and yet charismatic cult leader from what I do know of her). What we have to be careful of, of course, is that without empirical psychological testing, it is easy to wrongly evaluate a person and subsequently treat him with bias. Narcissists may be common, but these traits may not manifest themselves in the way you think.
I know I am most certainly not a narcissist, which is comforting. However, I do sometimes have a rather low ego, which is a problem in its own right. I do not have confidence in some things I do, even if they are things I have been doing for a long time. I feel that I do not deserve admiration or rewards, and that I must constantly work hard because I am not good enough. I am also fearful of hurting others, which makes me sacrifice myself instead. These are the opposite of narcissism, and while other people will appreciate having such a person around, I must work on not being taken advantage of. Most times I cope well with the advice of my friends, but an inferiority complex can be just as unbearable and inconvenient as narcissistic personality disorder.
But of course, people may display seemingly narcissistic personalities on the internet while being perfectly easygoing in reality. This is the deception that the Net can bring, where people role-play and act out characteristics they long to have but may not necessarily do. An inferior person may demonstrate narcissism just to feel that he is stepping into the shoes of one, and so this may artificially inflate the number of irritating people one sees on the internet. Trolls and flamers are good examples of people who seem extremely self-absorbed but are unlikely to be really psychologically abnormal.
I wonder if Big Bang Theory, that comedy show which I’ve watched a few episodes of (but generally find it inferior to ALF) is a parody of narcissism. After all, Sheldon does exhibit a few of those traits, namely lack of empathy and grandiosity. 2 traits are of course a very very mild form of narcissism, but they do make him a generally unpleasant man all the same (and certainly not as cute as ALF). Although ALF is pretty self-absorbed at times, he is definitely not unhealthily so, and some may see he is really just smarter and wiser than us Earth people. In any case, we like people like Sheldon and ALF. Does this mean that we are showing a higher tolerance to self-absorbed people, and does this explain the charisma of cult leaders?