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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: U.S. | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism
Narcissistic Personality Disorders Entrenched and Encouraged in Corporate America
The U.S. corporatist consumer culture is a breeding ground for individuals with narcissistic personality disorder. Though many activists (including myself) disagree with psychiatric labels, remaining ignorant about the reality of personality disorders, especially narcissism, can result in painful outcomes. There may be a "cure" for narcissism, though not with any pharma pills. The cure for narcissism may involve re-evaluation of our current cultural value systems. That's much harder than just popping pills!
Several prominent experts in the field of psychology have identified narcissistic personality disorder as an outgrowth of our current corporatist consumer culture. Our society's focus on materialism is encouraging narcissistic behavior rather than discouraging this pathology. Pathological narcissism is characterized by a lack of empathy towards others (most Fortune 500 CEOs) and the belief that they are superior to others. "Win at all costs." is the motto of pathological narcissism, and this also is the motto for most U.S. corporations operating methods. When activists wonder aloud how corporations can poison, pollute and steal pensions without batting an eye, this is why. The CEOs of the most brutal and destructive profiteering corporations are most likely "NPDs", Narcissistic Personality Disorders (aka pathological narcissists) who have zero empathy for the suffering of others or the damage they cause the ecosystems. It is reasonable to claim that modern corporations depend upon NPDs in high ranking positions to coldly "look the other way" while engaging in destructive actions while making profits. Though most pathological narcissists are/were male, the entry of females into corporate jobs now results in increasing rates of female NPDs (aka Queen Bees).
Dr. Sam Vaknin has good background info on narcissism in corporations;
"Pathological narcissism is not an isolated phenomenon. It is embedded in our contemporary culture. The West's is a narcissistic civilization. It upholds narcissistic values and penalizes alternative value-systems. From an early age, children are taught to avoid self-criticism, to deceive themselves regarding their capacities and attainments, to feel entitled, and to exploit others.
The perpetrators of the recent spate of financial frauds in the USA acted with callous disregard for both their employees and shareholders - not to mention other stakeholders. Psychologists have often remote-diagnosed them as "malignant, pathological narcissists".
Narcissists are driven by the need to uphold and maintain a false self - a concocted, grandiose, and demanding psychological construct typical of the narcissistic personality disorder. The false self is projected to the world in order to garner "narcissistic supply" - adulation, admiration, or even notoriety and infamy. Any kind of attention is usually deemed by narcissists to be preferable to obscurity.
The false self is suffused with fantasies of perfection, grandeur, brilliance, infallibility, immunity, significance, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. To be a narcissist is to be convinced of a great, inevitable personal destiny. The narcissist is preoccupied with ideal love, the construction of brilliant, revolutionary scientific theories, the composition or authoring or painting of the greatest work of art, the founding of a new school of thought, the attainment of fabulous wealth, the reshaping of a nation or a conglomerate, and so on. The narcissist never sets realistic goals to himself. He is forever preoccupied with fantasies of uniqueness, record breaking, or breathtaking achievements. His verbosity reflects this propensity.
Reality is, naturally, quite different and this gives rise to a "grandiosity gap". The demands of the false self are never satisfied by the narcissist's accomplishments, standing, wealth, clout, sexual prowess, or knowledge. The narcissist's grandiosity and sense of entitlement are equally incommensurate with his achievements.
To bridge the grandiosity gap, the malignant (pathological) narcissist resorts to shortcuts. These very often lead to fraud.
The narcissist cares only about appearances. What matters to him are the facade of wealth and its attendant social status and narcissistic supply. Witness the travestied extravagance of Tyco's Denis Kozlowski. Media attention only exacerbates the narcissist's addiction and makes it incumbent on him to go to ever-wilder extremes to secure uninterrupted supply from this source.
The narcissist lacks empathy - the ability to put himself in other people's shoes. He does not recognize boundaries - personal, corporate, or legal. Everything and everyone are to him mere instruments, extensions, objects unconditionally and uncomplainingly available in his pursuit of narcissistic gratification.
This makes the narcissist perniciously exploitative. He uses, abuses, devalues, and discards even his nearest and dearest in the most chilling manner. The narcissist is utility- driven, obsessed with his overwhelming need to reduce his anxiety and regulate his labile sense of self-worth by securing a constant supply of his drug - attention. American executives acted without compunction when they raided their employees' pension funds - as did Robert Maxwell a generation earlier in Britain."
Though I don't want to "dehumanize" people with pathological narcissism (NPD), sometimes it helps to compare NPDs with mythological vampires. One way this applies is the "once bitten" analogy, is a normal human is 'bitten' by someone with NPD, it is VERY LIKELY that they will develop either narcissistic traits, NPD or some other type of personality disorder or mental illness. Being 'bitten' by an NPD isn't actually drawing blood as with vampires, though it is emotional wounds from having contact with the NPD person. The NPD can be a coworker, boss, parent, sibling, relative, friend, significant other, neighbor or anyone else that one sustains contact with over a period of time.
Many people have had contact with an NPD and as society increasingly rewards selfish behavior we can expect the rates of contact to increase into the future. More NPDs created results in the spread of this disorder throughout society, just as vampires breed themselves exponentially once the plague begins. However, we must remember that people with NPD still qualify as human (despite their actions indicating otherwise) and we cannot just drive a stake through their heart as we would with vampires.
There are some people trying to find a cure for pathological narcissism, and it seems for our collective survival we must all aid in this exceptionally difficult endeavor. After all, the more NPDs in society the greater the risk of being 'bitten' by one!!
"Is There a Cure for Narcissism?
Although many would disagree with me I believe anything can be cured. I am a fan of Louise Hay's book "You Can Heal Your Life" where she talks about how incurable means "to cure from within." This means that when a doctor says something is incurable that means the doctors don't have a medicine or treatment for it that is proven to work. However it doesn't mean that the patient himself can't find a cure from his own inner resources.
Every day people are proving the modern medicine wrong in their belief that something cannot be cured. People are curing themselves of cancer, heart disease and diabetes on a daily basis. People are being cured of mental diseases, personality disorders and just about everything there is a name for.
I have a girlfriend who grew up with a severely abusive narcissistic father. The result was MPD or Multiple Personality Disorder. She claims to have had some 2000 different personalities living in her head. Now she is completely cured and a beacon of hope and support for others who have been through abuse.
If someone can be cured of MPD that is this severe, than one can certainly be cured of NPD or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. However the individual with NPD has to want to change. He has to have hit some point in his life where the pain of staying the same outweighs the fear of change or in this case the fear of facing the truth.
I think the problem we have here is that most people seeking the change are the victims of narcissistic abuse, not the narcissist's themselves. The victims entertain fantasies of approaching the narcissist and saying "honey, I think you might have a problem, or you may have narcissistic personality disorder, and I need you to get some help for this little problem or I'm going to leave."
The fantasy is that the narcissist will say "yes, honey, you are absolutely right, I've always felt something was deeply wrong with me and I want to change. I will schedule an appointment with the therapist this week."
HA! Not likely, although I'm sure some readers have heard a similar story in the narcissist's attempt to gain control of the relationship.
The more likely reaction will be the wrath of narcissistic rage being unleashed upon you. You have just threatened his security, which is the illusion he lives in. You are likely to be the subject of attack on just why it is that YOU are the one with the problem and he will deliver his wrath in such a way you begin to believe it.
As victims we must look upon a narcissist as a child, in a sense. He doesn't live in our reality nor can he hear our words. You must understand that he has carefully constructed his world to protect him. This means keep danger out! Any threat to his self-image is danger!
When I work with my clients, victims of narcissistic abuse, I encourage them to focus on themselves rather than the narcissist. This is where true change happens. You cannot hope to change him but you can change yourself. This means refusing to tolerate abuse on any level and taking control of your experiences.
Most victims of abuse will find themselves leaving, eventually, when they realize they cannot change the person they are with. By the time I hear from the victims they are worn down, lost, feeling used, depleted and in the deepest pain they have ever felt. They have nothing left to give.
Often times the victims are so needy, fragile and sensitive that they are themselves displaying narcissistic behavior. I have had many people who claim to be victims of narcissistic abuse, write to me in extremely disrespectful and attacking tones putting down my work, my books, my philosophies etc. I had one woman tell me, after reading my book that she felt taken advantage of, cheated, like a sucker and informed me what price she felt my book should be sold for. Fortunately, for me, she was one cold letter in the middle of hundreds of warm letters from people who really valued my work.
So the question many have is "How do I know I am not the narcissist?" When I was in therapy I asked my Therapist the same question. She told me "if you have to ask the question than it is highly unlikely that you are a narcissist because narcissistic personalities don't think the problem is with them."
Victims of abuse often feel the problem is with them and this is re-enforced on a regular basis by the abuser.
Perhaps the reason we often feel that we are the one with the problem is because we seem to be suffering a whole lot more, we seem to be obsessed, weak, insecure, needy, fragile, sensitive and observing behavior in ourselves that we don't like. Meanwhile the narcissist has his strong, confident front that next to us, causes us to feel our light is pretty dim, in fact nearly stuffed out altogether.
Not to say that victims of narcissistic abuse don't have a problem. If you are a victim of consistant abuse then you do have a problem. The problem is you continue to allow yourself to be abused and the question would be why? This is where you need to get help for yourself. Find out why you are allowing it, why you are giving him your power and your energy.
The more you can take your focus off the narcissist and put it on yourself the better you will be. The more you focus on trying to cure the narcissist the more trouble you will find yourself in.
There are people who claim to have cured the narcissism in their relationships and I feel in some cases, it is entirely possible. Nearly anything is possible. But change begins from within and if you are a victim it is time to stop being a victim and start being a victor. Start finding ways to empower yourself, stop allowing the abuse, get help, get your power back!
If you are a narcissist looking for a cure! Good for you! You can set the example for those to come.
I have had several people who claim to be narcissists that find their way to my sites and my support groups in effort to understand themselves better. I don't allow narcissism in the support forums for the safety of those who I am trying to help, however just being approached tells me that there are people out there with NPD looking for help.
I will be doing more research in this area and post my findings on this page. Please check back."