Flat White

Is this the narcissism epidemic?

1 October 2020

5:11 PM

1 October 2020

5:11 PM

Spare a thought for the Instagram influencers and social media mavens of Victoria: they haven’t been recognised in public for, like, months. 

Thanks to mask-wearing diktats and twenty-two-hour isolation at the pain of $5,000 fines, the cracks in their filtered and Photoshopped veneer may be appearing. Maybe they aren’t so special after all. 

They can turn to their cabinets full of participation trophies and framed certificates declaring their eternal cosmic significance for comfort. However, their demand for admiration outstrips the supply; and their demand is bottomless. 

But don’t worry everyone. They’re safe from ego-harm, At least they are not reminded of their own mortal fragility. 

Israeli-Macedonian author, Narcissism expert, and polymath (psychologist, physicist, and economist) Dr Sam Vaknin, PhD characterises the coronavirus pandemic as a pandemic perpetuated by narcissism. A narcissist has an infatuation with oneself, which leads to extreme risk aversion. “We apply inordinate measures of pampering, self-medication, and self-protection” because we are “such a treasure…we are so amazing.” Their lives are worthy of the “utmost efforts of self-preservation.”  

The advent of “helicopter parenting” and instant gratification all but sealed our society’s fate. In the words of Simpsons theme composer Danny Elfman, the narcissist’s mantra is “nothing bad ever happens to me. 

We don’t expect anything bad to happen because we demand nothing bad to happen to us. We create entire societies where nothing bad can ever happen to anyone ever. The narcissist political program is the same. Keep me safe because I’m worth it. Of course, I should get something for nothing. I’m me!  

We’ve even elected their representatives to positions of unfettered power; tune in at around 11 am each morning and you’ll see their leader in action. It’s the figure silhouetted against the born-in-the-purple ground. 

Narcissists are slippery characters: they can charm, act in an affectionate manner, and to many, appear as perfectly sweet and helpful people. In an intimate relationship, an initial loving “idealisation” can give way to “devaluation”That is, they’ll say anything to get you to fall in love with them and terrorise you when they’ve cut off all routes of escape.  

Narcissists often subject their so-called loved ones to outright cruelty through name-calling, gaslighting (saying something then insisting they never said such things)restricting their movements, and in extreme cases, physical violence when their worldview is challenged. This is all for their partner’s own good. Even if they are the ones doing the tormenting, they insist it is them being victimised. It cannot be tolerated. You must come to think of them as they think of themselves. 

The Narcissist is solely tasked with promoting a perfect image of themselves. They might say, for example, they are being “frank and honest” with you while telling lies the entire time. They take ownership of accomplishments and distance themselves from mistakes.  Instead of making any meaningful change themselves, they’d rather erect a statue to signal all their virtuous qualities; or tear down ones that remind them of their inadequacies. 

As with Narcissists, they remain at the centre of their own universe. They are grandiose, omnipresent, the leader of an infallible fawning tribeYou will be congratulated for following them; punished for opposing.  

Remember: these people are self-proclaimed experts. When in doubt (which isn’t often), they consult other experts that agree with their after-the-fact conclusionsThe behaviour of a Narcissist, according to Vaknin again, is “regulated by a series of routines developed by rote learning and repetitive patterns of experience.” The way they survive in the world is through their compulsions. 

Narcissists are obsessed with their own health. Hypochondria is common. Anything less than perfect and total wellbeing is unacceptable. Anyone who says that taking acceptable risks simply doesn’t understand. Worse; they are the enemy of understanding. When they say that life is full of risk, it is an attack. A mortal body blow.  

We’ve had epidemics before. The Spanish Flu, Asian Flu of 1957, the Hong Kong flu of 1968, the 2003 SARS epidemic, the 2009 Swine flu pandemic. No lockdowns, no panic. Not as much inflated narcissism, thanks in part to social media? Who’s to say? Anyone who isn’t on board with the narcissist must be insane. A batshit crazy tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, for example. 

Vaknin says this, and it’s telling: “Coronavirus will bring out the best in us. That is how desperate we are.” 

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