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)

Posted on January 5, 2010 at 14:08 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, Therapists And Other Health Hazards

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