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Explaining narcissism
by Jay Gutman
2015-10-21 09:58:48
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Like many people I do have self-esteem but I wouldn’t consider myself a narcissist. Or maybe that’s an overstatement. Narcissists are usually people with a damaged frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is the frontal part of your brain which reads and regulates social interactions and the potential consequences of your actions among other things. Damage to the frontal lobe is caused by alcohol abuse, marijuana, other drugs, excessive sugar, excessive meat diets, other people engaging in violent behavior against you, other people verbally abusing you, or any other self-harming behavior.

Researchers have shown rather conclusively that these three things contribute to a healthy frontal lobe: coffee (the nicely brewed kind, three cups a day) along with extensive reading (reading extensively for pleasure, hours a day) and practicing foreign languages or trying to learn them. So if you spend time drinking coffee, reading lots of books and newspaper articles and learning foreign languages, your self-esteem can be very high and you won’t feel the need to “manipulate” your image or to be deceptive about how good or great a person you really are.

narc01_400Unfortunately, those who read, study foreign languages and enjoy a few cups of brew a day are the minority in our society. Narcissism can be cured by encouraging people to be persistent in reading and studying foreign languages. For others, there are basically five types of narcissists (it depends how you count) and most exhibit one or more of these traits.

-The know-it-alls: these narcissists are convinced that no knowledge escapes them. They are the kinds who say “I know” to everything you say and who go on lecturing you about a variety of topics that they in fact have very little knowledge of. If you question their knowledge or certain points in their lectures, they tend to take offense and will counterattack by asking you a question and losing their temper because you did not know the answer.

I once got a lecture by a know-it-all narcissist who thought he was lecturing about modern Israel when his lecture was in fact a very poor attempt at narrating the Biblical Kingdom of Israel. When I told the guy “look, what you’re saying here is in the Book of Genesis, not in today’s Tel Aviv” his reply was “I read the Bible 60 times.” That made me laugh, because it took me three months to read the Bible once cover to cover, and I believe any attempt to spend less time reading the Bible can make the reading quite tedious.

Why? They are probably in a position which requires knowledge that they don’t have. They are perhaps professors who bribed and cheated their way into professorship, teachers who barely passed their teacher certifications or who have a poor command of the subject they teach. Perhaps they are in a political or administrative position that requires a lot of knowledge that they don’t have or in a country or city they know less than they should about. They often don’t have time or patience to catch up with the knowledge they lack (most of them cheated their way to the position of power) so they compensate by making facts up. These people include those who claim they speak foreign languages when they can barely greet in the foreign language.  

-The grandiose narcissist: These types of narcissists seem want to make believe that they have connections and power beyond what their actual power is. They met world leaders, know everyone in the entertainment business and their smartphones are likely to contain real (or often photoshoped) pictures of them in different places around the world and with different entertainers.

At the workplace, they seem to know everyone in the hierarchy and tend to use those said connections to get what they want. If every Monday one of your co-workers tells you they had a drink with the supervisor, they are probably trying to assert their influence. Or maybe they’re dating the supervisor’s daughter. More often, they are dating a Hollywood actor, or working on a secret government project. You will notice grandiose narcissists with their excessive use of makeup, grandiose choices in fashion, and by their tendency to talk using a louder voice than they should, hoping everyone in the room and outside the room can hear them and join the conversation.

Why? They are usually people from a humble background and at one point were surrounded by rich or powerful people. Perhaps they went to a posh private school thanks to a scholarship, or worked in a job where their boss knew a lot of famous people. More often, they have trouble making friends in a city or town they just moved or at a workplace they just got a job at and feel like they have to reinvent their past and make themselves noticed.

- The seductive narcissist: one technique narcissists sometimes use is they will praise you excessively so you can praise them back. You’ll notice that when you don’t praise them back they will tend to show you the cold shoulder.

They will often tell everyone that they consider them their “hero” and give excessive praise about physical looks and intelligence, hoping the praise will be reciprocal. Such techniques are also used by men to get women in bed, or by women to get men to confess their interest in dating, so they can be reassured by the fact that they are still attractive while they still have the power to shoot down the man.

Why? They perhaps had a violent break up or suffered an ugly divorce. Perhaps their parents used to constantly belittle their accomplishments, their teachers hated them and very few if any people ever showed them affection. They feel the need to be shown affection by people and fear that they will be treated coldly again, thus the excessive praise.

- The bullying narcissist: They are the ones who will bluntly tell you that you have a stain on your shirt, that you haven’t shaved or that you must have put on some weight. The way you dress does not please them, and they will let you know. You will tutor their kids French for free for one and a half year, but they will call you an idiot and tell you to scram when you need their help (true story).

When you invite them for a cup of coffee, they will come smack you in the back of the head for coming too early, or coming two minutes late. They will teach you how to hold your cup of coffee, and be offended that you don’t put sugar in your coffee, or that you put too much sugar in your coffee. While eating lunch, they won’t like how you handle your fork and knife, and they’ll disagree with what you order.

Why? If you ask them their life story (which they will seldom want to share) it is usually one filled with fighting and violence. They were probably in a gang in school, their parents probably beat them for that. They probably constantly got into fights with people or even worse, they grew up during war time. They perhaps even fought during the war or constantly picked up fights at bars and with random people. Everyone they meet can lead to a potential fight. Or maybe their parents were the kind who would spank excessively for any grade lower than an A+.

- The vindictive narcissist: They will come home, shout at you because dinner’s not ready. You will shout back and they will pick up their phones and say they will call the police. They will raise their fists, you will slap them, and they will pretend to call the police. If you don’t slap them hard enough, they will hurt themselves and tell the police you did that to them. If you’re a foreigner, they will repeatedly call the police and ask them to deport you back to your country.

Why? Either themselves or someone they know was or is in jail, or perhaps a close relative (brother, father, mother) was violently killed. At some point they have had to deal with the police, either because they used to be in a violent gang or did some kind of illegal activity. They have perhaps been arrested a few times, and are with or without a criminal record.

Of course, not all readers and language learners have high enough confidence, and not all people who don’t read or study languages are narcissists. Some grew up in a happy neighborhood and have simple lives, others grew up in tight-knit supportive families and communities and have high self-esteem. But every now and then you might end up in a job or school or community that might undermine your self-confidence.

They say human beings are like porcupines in the winter when they interact. Porcupines in the winter tend to bundle up together to stay warm before their spines will hurt each other’s backs and they go back to being alone. It’s the same thing with human beings. If you spend too much time with the same people you might end up saying or doing hurtful things to each other. Companies or places where people socialize for excessive amounts of time need to provide privacy (private rooms, offices or walls separating each one’s individual space) otherwise their workers or roommates are likely to turn into bullying each other and other people. Same thing goes for when you raise children: make sure they don’t spend too much time outside home but that they get healthy privacy at home, although make sure you see them from time to time. As for the internet,  in an era of instant communication, I recommend that you make it a rule to wait for a couple of days before you reply any instant message or email to avoid being over-dependent which can lead to destructive relationships.   



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