Some Thoughts On NPD

When we speak of someone as “having” Narcissistic Personality Disorder, we badly need to ask who it is that “has” the disorder and what they would be like if they didn’t. As with all the other personality disorders, the locution of “having” – having something different from their selfness – seems to be a cowardly cop-out. There is no non-narcissistic person separate from his narcissism that can “have” the disorder in the same way in which he might have a sore toe; and he is not going to recover. Narcissism is what he is – all of him, forever.

It would be more honest to use the adjectives and even noun labels latterly forbidden to us and say that such-and-such a person is grandiose and self-infatuated, that he simply is a narcissist. But perhaps the simple nouns and adjectives are forbidden to us precisely because the narcissists have successfully taken over the culture of “talking about narcissism”? After all, the personality disorder tests are said to be easy to cheat, as we all know what they want to hear. So such “regulatory capture”, as we call it in industry, is easily possible.

Something similar appears to have happened with parenting. I have seen “support” websites for the parents of what these poor victims sometimes politely call “children with NPD” and at other times call “monsters”. Nowhere here do we see any reference to the fact that narcissism is caused above all by narcissistic parents. In fact, the flora of such “abuse” sites may sometimes even give the impression that a narcissist is actually whoever is failing sufficiently to adore you.

Another critical line that we need to take is concerned with class. The therapy culture assumes that everything is concealing its opposite, so that the narcissist is in fact anxiously feeling inferior and striving not to. Such a thing is certainly possible, and yet we should remember that such “unstable” high self-esteem is not the only kind. The upper classes have always had an utterly stable sense of absolute entitlement. Their self-admiration is real rather than a desperate compensation. Might it even be that all the psychometric talk of narcissism is merely an update of the aristocrat’s contempt for the parvenu, that is, old money’s disdain for new money?

Whenever a man is reproached for considering himself the “all-important centre of his universe”, I want to reply, “But how could he not?” We are the centres of our own perceptual universes, all of us, this is simply the human condition. We have no alternative but to see the universe from inside our selfhood. The difference between ethical levels is not between people who are and are not the centre of their universes, but between people who recognise the independence and rights of the objects that appear in their self-centred perceptual fields and those who do not. The ideal can only be centres-of-the-universe who act decently towards competing centres-of-the-universe.

And it is all very well blaming the loveless for their solitude, as if they invariably have the choice, but of course a person who lacks any strong cathexis will experience the human condition of being the centre of the universe much more definitely – and dangerously – than those who have someone to share it with. Loneliness thus causes a risk, but the temptation to solipsism may be defied. I would therefore ask: demonising all lonely people as narcissistic, regardless of their ethical behaviour, is that either fair or wise?

(Fiddle date-stamp to January 5, 2010 afternoon)

When Is A Cult Not A Cult?

One source of morbid but free amusement is to take a “charismatic” church that has been fretting about the sequestration of youngsters by “cults”, and ask them to define the differences between these “cults” and themselves. Any member of the church who, instead of getting instantaneously angry and threatening you with hellfire, as some of them do, actually tries to answer the question, as (to be fair) other members do, is going to have difficulties. For the criteria are met in precisely the same way. The cults set children against their parents? Well, so do you, and with plenty of Dominical authority. They go further and attempt to isolate impressionable youngsters from the rest of the world? Well, so do you, also quoting Scripture as well as the charismatic doctrine of infernal powers – which derives, not from the Bible as you pretend, but from Dante Aligheri and even from the occultist tradition. They subject the faithful to unaccountable leaders? Well, you yourselves talk about holy submission to godly men, always meaning yourselves. They empty the pockets of the converts and funnel it all up the sales pyramid? Enough said.

Church members honest enough to recognise the congruence are obliged to fall back on the line that it is different when the exact same things are done by Good than when they are done by Evil. The one is the original, the other a satanic imitation. This may make sense inside their own closed universe, but tends not to impress to the questioner.

It is in fact possible to have some sympathy with these housegroup leaders if one asks what, under some definitions, is not a cult? For it may be the occupational hazard of professional cult “deprogrammers” to conceive of everything as a program – to conceive of everything as neural subversion or a parasitic meme running on human wetware. There are two big problems with this approach. First, what they are doing is then exactly the same as what the cult is doing, but with different clients; and this they practically admit with the very term “deprogramming”. Second and more generally, if everything is X then nothing is. For example, it makes no sense to say that all money is forged. We need a non-X with which to contrast our X. So if everything is a cult, then nothing is, and we need to work a little harder at distinguishing cult religion from cult movie.

(Fiddle date-stamp to June 15, 2011)

Posted on November 5, 2017 at 19:13 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · One Comment
In: THE LONGEST CON, From Rationalism to New Age

Rule One

Men have traditionally been advised that, for the sake of peace with their womenfolk, they should always let them have the last word and invariably tell them, in total defiance of factuality, that they are right. The book about the corrosive effect of this on men – who might have been brought up to value truth for its own sake in preference to the feeding of narcissists – has yet to be written.

If that endeavour is ever tackled, however, the above principle of furnishing narcissistic supply may turn out to be only a specific application of a still more general rule. At the highest level of abstraction, our Rule One might be expressed as “Never, ever question female motivations.” The royal road to peace with womenfolk, and to its price, the destruction of the independent male soul, might be to accept all their showbiz acts of virtue and altruism at face value and not ask what they are really up to.

(Fiddle date-stamp to June 13 afternoon, 2012)

Posted on October 27, 2017 at 21:10 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: WHAT WOMEN WANT, The Copernican Revolution

Which Once You Took For Exercise Of Virtue

What Eliot describes in Little Gidding as “the rending pain of re-enactment” becomes linearly worse with age. Firstly because, as the short-term memory goes, the long-term memory notoriously improves, and secondly because for each new day, “the shame of motives late revealed and the awareness of things ill done” acquires new material to feed on. To believe that you will one day become old and wise enough not to commit acts, the shame of which will subsequently keep you awake at night, is simply an illusion.

Velle non discitur; your basic character does not change, and if you are a dork who does not know how to model social interactions at twenty, or a selfish jerk who does not care how he hurts others, you will in all probability be exactly the same at seventy, or even worse. In the words of the concise Jewish expression, “Wherever you go, your tuchas goes with you.” If the number of times you embarrass yourself or betray others in your seventy-first year is in fact smaller than the number of times you embarrass yourself or betray others in your twenty-first year, this will be solely because you have fewer social interactions to make a mess of, many of your former victims being either already alienated or dead as mackerel.

There are only two remedies for this gift reserved for old age: firstly, to believe that seniority is virtuous by definition and that everything you now do is therefore right and proper, a self-conceit that can leak backwards in time until you come to believe that you were a moral paragon in your youth as well; aging does not give people a better character, merely the conceited delusion of having a better character. This delusion is embraced by perhaps the majority of middle-aged people. The second remedy is death. Unfortunately these remedies tend to occur in that order; whereas it would be so much better if we all died before combining all our other vices with senile self-satisfaction.

Sour old braggarts insist that they are superior in wisdom to young people. Well, they are simply wrong. If human beings are very, very complex algorithms, then the typical old person is a highly simplified and limited algorithm; its behaviour now consists of little else than the same dozen lines of dialogue, or rather monologue, mostly intended to insult, irritate or at least bore the surroundings. I am astonished to find novels containing intelligent, scientifically literate and tolerant parents and other old people, because I never met any myself. I know I would have remembered meeting someone over 50 who was not devoted to ignorance, superstition and bigotry.

The reason why algorithm-based artificial intelligence has never worked is because people were trying to build a computer that acted like a young, healthy, rational human being. They ought instead have built a machine that passed the Turing Test by emulating the average querulous pensioner on the bus, weary, whiny and hung-up on trivia. You could probably use a computer from the Eighties, programmed in Basic.

Posted on October 18, 2017 at 21:27 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment

The Spiritual Is Never The Other

I have argued elsewhere that the word “spiritual” is very difficult to parse. When it means pertaining to a ghost, that is, to some alleged residue of a former human, it is almost comprehensible as a name for something that does not actually exist, but otherwise it seems to be mostly a pointless synonym of either “emotional” or “ethical”. That is, having a “spiritual experience” usually means having an emotional high, whereas acting “unspiritually” means doing something wrong, and we already have words for both ideas.

This applies, of course, only to non-tactical usages. For the main purpose of the word “spiritual” lies in one-upmanship, in a claim to see, know or understand something that you cannot, because you are not as “spiritual” as wot I am. This is sometimes parlayed into a pecuniary receivable, while sometimes the point-scoring is considered sufficient in itself.

It is high time that the human race collectively resolved that whenever someone makes this claim, they should not be pleaded with to concede us some human worth, or even argued with, but treated like any other kind of malignant parasite.

(Fiddle date-stamp to 22 Feb 2010)

Posted on October 9, 2017 at 19:04 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: THE LONGEST CON, Religion As Emotional Tech

On Morality and Environments

According to Mark Hauser of Harvard, human brains have a separate morality module. We learn, however different morality packages in different environments. Individualism and confrontation are the appropriate responses to a stable environment, he says, while collectivism and conformity to an unstable one. Well, he seems to be thinking of the instability in terms of resource-poverty, where we all pull together to survive. I wonder whether he has considered another kind of unstable environment, one in which preaching of individualism and confrontation has led to a society based on maximum short-term extraction? Or would he consider that a stable one, in that the rich stay rich and the poor starve in an entirely predictable manner?

(Fiddle date-stamp to October 25, 2009)

Posted on September 28, 2017 at 18:54 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, Messing With The Heads Of The Prey

On Authorised Nosiness Objects

Anyone who keeps their ears open in the public space is condemned to hear astonishingly mean and selfish things said by parents to their allegedly beloved offspring. A social worker I once knew reported that the middle-class mother actually answered questions while the underclass mother generally replied to them with a “Shaddup or I’ll belt ya one”, and that this might have something to do with child intelligence.

But it is not all about threats of violence. Parents complain about adolescents mumbling “Nuffink” or “Dunno” to intrusive questions that no adult would accept from another. In particular adults ask “Why?” questions to which no actual explanation of reasons why is solicited or listened to, as the question form is merely a disguise for a “You’re not-OK” demarche. The other day, for instance, I heard a mother ask, for this special value of the verb, her teenage daughter, “Why must you wear a hood?” (The language of “must” rather than “do”, by the way, is a giveaway to gamy nastiness, and is closely related to the overuse of “always”.)

It suddenly occurred to me that here was a new item for the list of bad reasons for having children that was always at the back of my mind. The desire for unreasonable control over the minutiae of others’ behaviour is not necessarily a response to having a teenager who can get herself into trouble unless intrusive questions are asked. Rather, it may be one of the motivations for embarking on reproduction in the first place. Because only then are you assigned a designated victim who has to suck down whatever you hand out.

(Fiddle date-stamp to August 3, 2009)

Posted on September 21, 2017 at 17:50 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment

The End Of The Road For Equality

The other day a BBC journalist was making or reporting a case for our concept of “equality” being a horrible muddle, confusing equality of opportunity with equality of outcomes. Well, duh, this used to be Political Ideas 101. Of course they are two different things! The right to compete on equal terms strictly implies the possibility of losing the contest. The journalist went on to claim, with an air of making a conceptual breakthrough, that people did not want equality in the sense of rewards being handed out to everyone irrespective of effort, as in Alice in Wonderland’s caucus-race, where everyone wins and everyone gets prizes. What they wanted instead was fairness, which is not at all the same thing. Duh again.

Human beings do indeed seem programmed for fairness or justice. You can see this in children, who would rather be properly punished for something they have done than mildly rebuked for something they have not done. Children do not like freeloaders either. The socially corrosive effect of inequality, the journalist argued, came not from people achieving different incomes from working hard, while the lazy rotted in poverty, but from one person working hard and prospering while another worked just as hard and starved. It came from opportunities being unequal for no fault of the individual concerned, it came from the game being rigged. “Everybody knows that the dice are loaded.”

Traditionally, what we called socialism was ambivalent about this. In its theory it could sound surprisingly like an uncorrupt capitalism and the economist’s dream of “perfect competition”. “He who does not work, neither shall he eat”, said both St. Paul and Lenin, but later on, political doctrines were tailored to the workshy bohemians who derived their sense of entitlement not from noble birth but, in the Romantic manner, from allegedly superior souls. To his shame, in his youth Hugo was one of these, believing in the “lifestyle” of living on the dole, but he is all growed up now. It was undoubtedly people like him, and even more the hippies, who sterilised the whole idea of socialism for the working men and women for whom it was originally created. Wanting the just fruit of their labours, but not to have to share it with bums, they gave ear instead to the people who had been rigging the game and ripping them off since the dawn of time, but had now learned how to offer them a fairness they had no intention of delivering.

Recent years have seen a yet deeper perversion. Since equality of opportunity means the right to enter a fair competition, you might lose, and that would never do. So instead you demand equality of outcomes, whereby losing any game becomes ipso facto proof of the rules being rigged. Should you win the game, on the other hand, then that is evidence of your superiority to those you have out-competed. You switch between the two paradigms, the right to play and the right to win, hailing equality as long as it works in your favour and not a second longer.

Nay, you can go further still, and demand perfection of outcomes, whereby anything unsatisfactory in your life becomes ipso facto proof of you being oppressed. Finally you can enact that one of your fundamental rights is freedom from blame and responsibility, so that “equality” means, no longer what it says on the tin, but a blessed state of having everything you want and nothing you do not want, for the first time since you were in the womb.

(Fiddle date-stamp to February 1, 2013)

Posted on September 13, 2017 at 22:10 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, A Theory Of Everybody

Open The Skull And Take It Out!

Somebody called John Allen Muhammad has identified a need to train a “new generation of black minds”. I am all for more training of black people to use their minds better, as I am all for more training of white, red, yellow and polka-dotted people to use their minds better. But I wonder whether we now need to fear that he, or just silly people in his audience, are going to posit that “the black mind” is something inherently different from the white mind, in the same way as some hold that male and female minds are wired differently. And then I wonder in what this difference will be said to consist.

(Fiddle date-stamp to March 22, 2011)

“The Goodness Of Our Hearts”

Many people have observed that anyone who starts a sentence, “To be honest with you”, is just about not to be. If professional con-men do this as well as amateur liars, then we have even less excuse for losing our money, but perhaps it is a beginner’s mistake. If this is made by some residual conscience that requires over-correction, perhaps in order to convince the speaker that he is not in fact a villain as much as to convince the victim of his lies, we might look for the same mechanism elsewhere.

I would nominate, therefore, the way parents belonging to what has so disgustingly been called the Greatest Generation used to praise their own motives in a manner that ought to have fallen foul of the Christian humility they attempted to impose on others. For, whenever they gave anything to their children, they invariably claimed that it was being done “out of the goodness of our hearts”. This was true even when the self-interest shone brightly through. As in the liar example, perhaps it was meant to convince themselves rather than their children, who became quite resistant even if they could not analyse the bullshit verbally.

For the human need at the top of the pyramid that Maslow ought to have described is “undeserved self-esteem”. The Greatest Generation’s impudent daily boasting about the goodness of their hearts could hardly have been motivated by anything other than a pre-emptive strike against a deeply submerged awareness that their hearts were not in fact good. When they heard from Jeremiah 17:9 that, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked,” their self-conceit was proof against the Word of God applying to them.

(Fiddle date-stamp to August 4, 2011)

Posted on September 3, 2017 at 19:22 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment