Sunday, July 02, 2006

Narcissism and sustainability

Linking to this as part of a riff from thinking about something that came up in an earlier post and in the comments: to wit, the notion that in fact, besides ordinary human failings, poor communication, the System as being more inhuman than the sum of its human parts; also, that a hefty percentage of the world's human-caused problems might just be

that more than half (I'd say 80% in terms of totality) of the major problems in the world i.e. poverty, pollution, availability of water, war, anarchy, corruption, etc. are due to fucknuts like [asshead fuckstain in question] spread liberally throughout financial and governmental institutions throughout the world. --eponymous (no, not eponymously the subject of the post!...anyway)

So, the link:

NARCISSISM is distinguished from true leadership (which shares attention) by narcissism’s use, abuse and exploitation of people, as opposed to enhancing and facilitating the value of others. Sustainability is dependent on collaborative, mutually complementary group efforts that seek to maximize benefits for the largest amount of people without exploiting each other or the integrity of the environment. This is offensive to narcissism because it is in direct contradiction to narcissism’s values of dominance, exploitation and control.

So what does narcissism do in the presence of sustainability proponents? It resists. It resists in a methodical, calculated way toward the end of either distracting, derailing, or simply stopping whatever program the sustainability contingent is seeking to implement. Character assassination, misinformation, and blocking access to funding and other resources are commonly employed methods.

Before we discuss how narcissism can be detected and engaged effectively, it is important to review factors which contribute to narcissism being able to effectively control situations and relationships. First, if a person or a group is unaware of his or its narcissism, they will often be unable to recognize the presence of a narcissistic force. It is a well known dynamic in most psychological circles that if one is denying or cut off from an aspect of the self, it is very difficult position to recognize this aspect in others.

Second, many people have the fantasy that if they try hard, "do it right," be reasonable, logical, and have goodwill and a team approach, these factors will generate a positive outcome in interpersonal or group settings. This is about as deep a fantasy as one could possibly have, as it is not based in reality. Why is this? It is not based in reality because a narcissist survival is dependent on having control, or the perception of control. When a narcissist's control is challenged (and this is what efforts toward sustainability do by definition), he becomes threatened, and responds like his survival is at stake, transforming the environment into a veritable jungle. This is not the friendly environment of Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood! In addition narcissism is disdainful of such attitudes (fantasies).

A third factor which reinforces the stranglehold narcissism can have is when people are committed to being "nice" or fair, and as a result are unwilling or unprepared to hold the narcissist accountable for positions or behaviors. Finally, an unwillingness to "go for the throat," as champions do in sporting events, only allows narcissism to recycle and feed off its commitment to domination...

I think it's that last part that's anathema to a lot of goodhearted people. Don't you become the thing you fight? they wonder. Isn't it best to assume everyone means well, deep down? Where will it all end?

My own answers to that, tentatively:

1) Sometimes, yes, and it's important to watch out for that

2) Yes, at first; but when certain specific people repeatedly prove that assumption wrong, it's best to assume that those people do not, in fact, mean well, or at least don't mean you well

3) Don't know.

All I do know is that for whatever reasons buried in my own psyche and past, it is a particular grievance of mine when I see fuckheads getting away with all kinds of exploitive shit because people not only are (justifiably, often) afraid of pissing them off, but for reasons of their own (ideological, personal, whatever) can't or won't see that some people, hermetically sealed as they are, simply can't be reached by love or logic.

You can't get blood from a stone; instead what happens is a transaction where everyone else provides the blood, and thus the illusion is maintained that the stone is a heart, not a drain.


Jean said...

I see fuckheads getting away with all kinds of exploitive shit because people not only are (justifiably, often) afraid of pissing them off

This is huge. And immobilizing.

but for reasons of their own (ideological, personal, whatever) can't or won't see that some people, hermetically sealed as they are, simply can't be reached by love or logic.

90% of the population, I am convinced, can be reached by reasoning, though, which requires the sometimes stomach-churning idea of, you know, putting oneself in that mindset. Firmly. Logic maybe isn't the right word. I think 'reasoning' is better. I've yet to meet a human being, flesh and blood, whether asshat or not, that could be persuaded by pure logic. Assumptions that have taken on the qualities of first principles in a person's mind cannot be overcome in any kind of efficient manner, I don't think. Not in my experience anyway. Did you see the nifty article on the study of confirmatory bias? Logic can't stand up to it. Just can't. However, finding a way to reason from the asshat's mindset to something closer to useful is very possible.

Asking where it will all end, one might as well ask for the time and date of the End of the World.

belledame222 said...

Yes, I think you're right about reason being more than just logic. That's the other thing I see happening, especially among very smart, educated, "head-oriented" people who are decent, but maybe not so conscious in/of the other functions. Like, so and so -must- be reasonable, reachable, because, damn s/he's so fucking -smart!- so learned, so witty, so urbane, so charming, too.

unfortunately it doesn't always work that way.

Hearts and minds: don't know where one ends and the other begins completely. All I know is that most people can be reached to a certain degree in certain contexts if you only find the right approach (not everyone will or has the patience). Appeal to reason/logic; appeal to emotion; whatever works.

But some people won't be swayed by either; and those are what my shrink calls the "killers."

and they don't have to literally be killers or physical abusers or rapists or nothin'. best friend is wont to say, "there's a wee want in them."

and unfortunately, too, a fair number of such folks do kind of grasp that they're not quite like everyone else, and are smart enough to learn the words, if not the tune, well enough to fool most people (who are after all generally wrapped up in their own shit) most of the time. Among the people who have something invested in the person, denial, and rationalization and (sometimes, often) fear will nicely provide the rest.

And yeah, the fear part itself is not small. It's one of the cornerstones of all abuse, that transaction: you walk on eggshells and do everything right and *maybe* I won't blow up or hurt you (however overtly or subtly).

It's a terrific strategy; works like a charm. Because first of all people naturally respond in a certain way to what's called "intermittent reinforcement." Act consistently and people will be able to predict your reactions and react in kind. Act erratically and people will spend forever trying to figure out just what *is* the magic formula that will make the fuckhead act like a human being for once and for all. when--surprise! there isn't one! not one that has anything to do with you, anyway. and that is because fuckhead was never relating to you in the first place; s/he was relating to hirself, and specifically hir fantasy of you. good or bad, sie never really *sees* you. At all. But it's hard to process that, especially when you're getting the Dr. Jekyll who's nice to you.

It's the same principle behind addiction: press the bar, you get food. Okay, you press the bar when you get hungry. Press the bar, nothing happens. You stop pressing the bar. Press the bar and *sometimes* you get food, sometimes not; you'll keep pressing the bar until you drop dead, even if the food supply cuts off altogether, rather than stop and consider trying something else.

that is, if you're a lab rat.

Of course, people are smarter than lab rats. And capable of being more self-aware.

that doesn't happen automatically, though, i think.

that takes work.

cicely said...

90% of the population, I am convinced, can be reached by reasoning, though, which requires the sometimes stomach-churning idea of, you know, putting oneself in that mindset.

jean -I can't say I'm convinced of this - or maybe it's so - in the end - but the question is, after 'do you really want to go there?' - how long have you got? (Which is why I asked the question 'when will it end?') I haven't read the bible yet in my 52 years and neither do I plan to, but can you imagine how many times I've been exhorted to? On the other hand, I *have* read Sheila Jeffreys, Mary Daly, Robin Morgan, Janice Raymond etc, etc, and many, many lesser lights following in their wake in feminist and lesbian magazines and over the last 18 months on message boards and blogs and I am very, very familiar with their arguements. The polarisation (s) within feminism (s) do not continue to exist because no-one has tried reasoning over the last 36 years and they look no closer to being resolved today than they ever have.

I'm going to think about this today, as I'm short of time right now, but I think belledame has raised an interesting and important issue, as potentially explosive as it might well be. I certainly count myself as someone who will avoid discussion with some personalities in the feminist blogosphere as in my very early days I encountered one who 'ton of bricked' me while I played nice. Others did actually call this woman for being a bully at the time.

belledame222 said...

Yeah. It's hard to know sometimes: is this person going AHHH KREPLACH! because they're so very committed to this particular idea for whatever deep-seated personal reasons? but reachable in other contexts, perhaps, in some ways? Or are they just plain not gonna hear or see anyone who disagrees with them for *any* reason?

and sometimes it may not matter, I guess.

but i mean: i am thinking here (for example) of some staunch homophobes, who couldn't be swayed by the most persuasive theoretical arguments in the world, but *do* overhaul their whole way of thinking about things, however slowly or painfully, when a loved one comes out to them;

as opposed to the people who'd rather abandon decades'-long friendships and disinherit their own kids (or at minimum relentlessly assault them with attempts to convert) than change their worldview.

and, if asked, go into a tearful monologue about how *they've* been wronged by their heartless ungrateful hellbound children...

speaking of "I'm the biggest victim, really," I just saw this amazing documentary on Imelda Marcos, over at a friend's (bless him for sharing). oh. my. god. for sheer batshit self-deluded/serving megalomania, it takes the cake. like, she makes you realize that Sunset Boulevard isn't a satire at all; in some cases, it's gritty realism. or even subtle understatement. Imelda has worked out this whole philosophy wherein bringing "beauty" to the People (as in, mainly, herself and her amazing outfits wherein the painstaking hand-embroidery literally caused many of the poor seamstresses to go blind) is her spiritual mission or something, no shit. and an insanely hilarious sequence which--no, i can't even describe it right now, i need a verbatim transcript or a clip, it's just not capturable.

and then, too, ol' Norma only had the one body on her record.

seriously, i gotta write this thing up before i forget the amazing details (i can just ask Rey i suppose); most jaw-dropping moment:, or one of them:

she/they wanted a film center to rival the Lincoln Center or Cannes, maybe; to prove that the Phillipines wasn't just some backwater (Image Is Everything).

so, ignoring all protests that considering how many people in the country are literally starving and maybe this isn't like the first priority for a multi-squillion dollar project, she orders this gigantic (and frankly fugly) edifice (one of her critics quipped that she had an "Edifice Complex" at one point, she was so fond of the huge honking buildings), for to house the future international arts whatever, i guess.

apparently, in the haste to get the thing finished, the second layer of concrete was poured before the first had dried, causing a collapse. one or two dozen workers were crushed and killed.

Imelda, the story goes (which she vehemently denies of course--lies! all lies!) ordered them to fikeep on going and finish the damn thing, full speed ahead. right on top of the bodies, in other words.

there were cutaway photos to limbs outlined in concrete.

anyhoo now the thing is a ghost building; some say literally, the place is haunted. it's completely empty and has never been used for a single film screening or anything of the sort.

actually, what it reminded me of in a weird way was the Bashir documentary on Michael Jackson. Huge heroic self-portraits commissioned conflating them with Jesus; grotesquely outsized buildings and furniture and over-the-top outfits; a seemingly genuine self-deluded confusion of their own need for adoration (or conflation with the world itself? I Am The Cosmos, goo goo ka choo) with a desire to Save The World. and of course, the endless protestations of martyrdom; nothing's their fault, every criticism a hideous lie made up by ignorant jealous people or enemies or u-name-it; and they just can't understand how anyone could be so cru-u-ell.

mad shit.

oh yeah: and, always, a devoted contingent of diehard sycophants/fans--I mean besides the mercenaries who were/are actually getting paid to do their dirty work; just average schmos on the streets adoring them like some strange gods. for no apparent (material at least) payoff. seriously, this is the part i least understand. or maybe just don't want to because it drives me so crazy. i don't mean MJ so much, clearly, whose ability to do real-world damage other than to his fucked-over employees and of course his coterie of little companions is relatively limited.

but so now like Imelda's children are back in the government in the Philippines, you know; daughter's in Congress, son's a local governor or something,

i honestly think it's some kind of thwarted religious impulse or something, sometimes.

or more often poor abused people who love to get caught up in the beautiful illusion, even if it doesn't bring any actual bread, because it feels like pretty much all they have.

best i can make of it.

belledame222 said...

so I guess what I'm saying is:

sure, it's important to understand what makes even these people tick, if only for the sake of learning how to recognize it before it goes too far. and sure, in many cases it *does* help to enter into the other person's mindset; if there's any hope of connection at all.

(then again, i think sometimes that for people who've been abused one way or another, i.e. most of us, and/or people who are basically too decent themselves to conceive that a genuine attempt to be met partway won't eventually be reciprocated, i.e. also many of us; it is not all that easy to tell the difference between genuinely two-way connection and being vampirized. again.)

but i mean: ultimately, i think, especially when it comes to people who have real influence, at a certain point it's just beside the point *what* their mindset is. Because they're hermetically sealed in it; and to enter in there, that way madness lies. More to the point it doesn't stop the abuse. So at a certain point it becomes necessary to say,

"I don't care *why* you're doing this; it's hurting me/us/these people and here's where it ends. Period."

*How* one follows through on that is of course a huge subject in itself; but at minimum i think it's necessary to start with the prinicple that sometimes. frankly, that's what it's gonna take.

and, too, i am thinking: it's not about "speaking truth to power." Most of the time, power doesn't want to hear your truth; that's WHY they're in (abusive) power. Speak the truth to everyone *else.* That IS power.

belledame222 said...

...and, too, frankly, reifying power as "patriarchy" or "capitalism" or "The System" or what have you, while handy insofar as it provides a "big picture" way of understanding how this shit gets institutionalized, ultimately only gets you so far, i am starting to think. it becomes a burden rather than a help when it's become a handy shorthand for lumping people into the category of "oppressor" or "oppressed" based on *who they are,* not *what they do.*

"by their fruits you will know them."

belledame222 said...

Actually now i'm thinking, in terms of getting into the mindset of people like this: you can do it, and it might be a useful exercise if you keep having to deal with these people. It's not about the particular ideology or creed, though.

I think it must go something like this:

You are in a single-person live-action video game. As the player, you are the only actual person, of course; all your "allies" and all your enemies are cartoon characters. Your goal in the game can be anything from get all the treasure to kill all the bad guys to save the world--or anything else. But what it will really mean is that you Win, and something glorious will happen; your praises will be sung, trumpets sound, light dawns, perfect love happens...something just amazingly amazing.

So it *is* a game; but, at the same time, it's deadly serious, because you can't remember doing anything except play the game, and you can't imagine what else could possibly be out there; if you think on it at all, it probably fills you with a mindless horror and dread. Except you probably don't in fact think of it at all; you're too busy.

So of course there *is* emotional investment in the game, and even in the other cartoon characters in the game--affection for the allies, horniness for the sexy ones, desire to annihilate the enemies. At the same time, though...they're not *real,* not *really,* so except insofar as they help or thwart you in your ultimate goal, they're ultimately completely expendable.

That would be the mindset, I think. Actually can be a fun place to visit (as in, when you're *really* playing a game in the arcade or on stage, as opposed to Real Life with real people who have no idea that this is the game); but, you really really don't want to live there.

And you don't want to spend too much time around the people who *do* live there; unless you don't mind being a two-dimensional character whose only real reason for being revolves around the player's needs.

Unsane said...

you learn to go for the throat after a while. But the lesson can be slow and it helps to live with a sadist to know that they are relentless and don't bow to reason.

Unsane said...

Some recent stuff on my blog about this too!

belledame222 said...

cool; will check it out.

I keep thinking i really want to get back ("back;" well seriously at all to begin with) into martial arts. Aikido seems like it'd be useful for just a whole bunch of reasons.

Jean said...

I certainly count myself as someone who will avoid discussion with some personalities in the feminist blogosphere as in my very early days I encountered one who 'ton of bricked' me while I played nice.

Well... I'm there too, cicely. I definitely know that feeling.

And I agree, who wants to go there? At the same time, it could be said about anything. When people do step into the area of 'okay, let's look at this from x perspective,' they get verbal rocks thrown at them. It's not that nobody has tried to do it, it's that when they do, they get kicked back in line (or to the curb, and therefore rendered ineffectual) pretty quick. Which goes back to the fear thing. But that's a function of the group and not the individual---just ftr, I am certainly not saying that this is special to feminism.

Yeah, I'm going to think about this some more.

belledame222 said...

>When people do step into the area of 'okay, let's look at this from x perspective,' they get verbal rocks thrown at them. It's not that nobody has tried to do it, it's that when they do, they get kicked back in line (or to the curb, and therefore rendered ineffectual) pretty quick. Which goes back to the fear thing. But that's a function of the group and not the individual-

wadr, I'm not sure this is always the case, point o'fact.

well, if what you're saying is, you bring up such and so in a certain space and you get clobbered, then yes. it's why i would never dream of going into say Free Republic and trying to bring up...well, anything that didn't toe the party line. (ick, that particular party line). Does that mean that no one who ever posts or reads there is ever approachable? Probably not. But i do think it's probably best to at least try it in a context where any given individual can be talked to separately from the Borg.

and also that again, some individuals just aren't reachable.

and, too, as cicely says: bullying happens, and that is again something that exists outside any particular ideology.

Jean said...

well, if what you're saying is...

Well, yeah, I'm agreeing with you there. And I don't deny that bullying goes on...well, hell, I don't even bother with some people, because that's all they do. But that's the whole dynamic of a few people out of any one group---hey, the remaining 10% from my hyperbolic 90%---sort of prodding the rest with fear that operates away from the ability to reason. Which... yeah, don't do it in the context of the Borg. But I think that while my view might seem sort of simplistic or whatever, I do think to a large extent, some of it's about people just not wanting to really concede that someone else might be making a better point. At the same time, I certainly don't think that's the only thing going on.

I'm stuck on the confirmatory bias thing. I'm really stuck on it. I think that by being stuck on it, I'm actually proving it. Oh, my. My brain farts in anticipation of a day off.

belledame222 said...

...anyway, I take this as one of my guiding lights:

>Nearly everyone has some narcissistic traits. It's possible to be arrogant, selfish, conceited, or out of touch without being a narcissist. The practical test, so far as I know, is that with normal people, no matter how difficult, you can get some improvements, at least temporarily, by saying, essentially, "Please have a heart." This doesn't work with narcissists; in fact, it usually makes things worse. [See discussion of the relationship between normal personality traits and personality disorders.]>

belledame222 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
belledame222 said...

(right there with you on the brainfart thing.

truthfully i feel like i've been completely mentally flatulent all week. it's the heat or the humidity or allergies or *something.*