Abnormally high self-esteem is a beast? Weren’t we supposed to work on boosting self-esteem? What is Narcissistic Disorder anyway?
Whether a person cares about other people or not is the difference between very high self-esteem and the mental disorder known as narcissism.
The key to health is I’m OK, you’re OK, live and let live. Respect yourself and your boundaries even as you respect others and their boundaries. Easily said, but not easy at all to put into practice. Almost everyone is either autonomous or deferential, to put it another way. Very few people are both, but being both equally is the only way to have mutual respect, the only way to be truly healthy. Pop culture notions of narcissism fail to take this into account.
Narcissists manipulate and step on people to get what they want at others’ expense, and are often rewarded by society at first if they are good at it, but then tend to crash spectacularly. The truth gets out eventually.
Narcissists may actually be suffering from low self-esteem and therefore the only value they feel they have is the externally assigned value they get from money, status and achievement with no inherent value as a human being.
Professionals have no way of diagnosing people accurately. Diagnoses traditionally based on “moral defects, which are now called personality disorders, [have] been criticized because it simply seems to be a list of behaviors…found objectionable, rather than being descriptions of true medical problems,” writes Thomas.
This book points out how self-esteem programs have failed us, particularly in school. Perhaps the way we do school in general tends to compound all sorts of problems for many, actually lower self-esteem in programs intended to raise it!
The bottom line that is glaringly obvious is that psychiatry and psychology are still too new (barely 100 years old) to be of much help at this stage of the research, truly. The programs intended to help tend to backfire and things get worse and worse because scientists don’t yet have a full enough understanding of what is really going on in the psyche.
This book is an insightful analysis of the topic. Here is an excerpt from the book that hints at the complexities even trained professionals have in trying to sort out the hidden problem of narcissism:
“I suspect that much of the caseload for mental health professionals consists of decent people who have been emotionally wounded, often by people with personality disorders. Meanwhile, the people with the personality disorders either would shun therapy or would seek out the kinds of therapy that would make them worse, not better. Thus, I would expect a narcissist to seek out therapy designed to boost his or her self-esteem, while shunning constructive criticism. In contrast, someone who seeks out or at least accepts constructive criticism from wise people would outgrow their narcissism.”
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