People Who Hurt


people who hurt


Art, Joanne Nam found at MONA  (original in colour).

If we better understand those who have narcissistic personalities maybe we can be less affected by their cruelty – and more accepting that there is little (or nothing) we can do to make them change or have empathy and compassion for another’s feelings and experiences.

(An excerpt from an article in The Weekend Australian Magazine, June 28-29,2014, an edited extract  from The Life of I:  The New Culture of Narcissism by Anne Manne).

“One of the leading aspects of this disorder is a lack of empathy.  Others include grandiosity, obsession with personal appearance, willingness to exploit others for one’s own needs, a sense of entitlement, a belief in the importance and superiority of self, a determination to use any means for self-aggrandisement and destructive rage when thwarted.

A narcissistic personality is not simply marked by selfishness or vanity.  It is a distinct pathological syndrome where so much of the narcissist’s life- events, conversations, actions and relationships – is conscripted into the maintenance and bolstering of the grandiose self.

Narcissism has become the go-to diagnosis for a host of modern ills.  It is our modern “hysteria”.  There is an emerging genre of self-help books for those suffering at the hands of the narcissist – bosses, co-workers, parents, lovers, husbands, wives, teenagers and children.  In ‘Why Is It Always about You?  The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism, Sandy Hotchkiss offers insight into “one of the most prevalent personality disorders of our time.”

Such people are chronically self-focused; they monopolise conversation, put their own needs first, and exhibit tyrannical anger when thwarted.  Empathy is missing.  So too is the capacity for reciprocity – giving as well as receiving.  Relationships tend to be one-way streets.

The narcissist must be the centre of attention.  They soak up admiration like a sponge, need and use others as a narcissistic line of supply.  Whatever is good for the self is good.  They are prone to magical, grandiose thinking about their life; it is all or nothing.  Greatness is what is desired; to be average is despised.

They are also prone to savage envy, and their arrogance means that apologising, taking responsibility for a wrong, is impossible, for the narcissist is never wrong.  At the end of any argument, the narcissist will see only that you have injured them. Often people around them give in to them, always walking on eggshells, as offence is taken so easily.


salge image

Art by Ryan Salge found at MONA.


But it is not simply a matter of the individual psyche.  This is a problem of cultural significance.  Changes in our culture have created an economic, social and relational world that not only supports but actually celebrates narcissism, cultivating and embedding it as a character trait.  From the explosion in cosmetic surgery around the world, through the egos on display in the blogosphere and twitterverse, to popular music lyrics, or the crazy world of celebrities and their imitators – where ordinary people hire paparazzi to give their life significance it doesn’t have – more people now expect red carpet treatment at home and work, and fume over slights and frustrations, even to the point of physically assaulting or killing fellow motorists in outbursts of the new phenomenon of road rage.  In short, too many people behave like princes and princesses without the nobless oblige.”