Where I stand on “positive thinking.”

I was going through some old posts, and the last sentence of this one demanded my attention, because it looks like it has finally happened. Time for a reblog.

Lucky Otters Haven

positive_thinking_problem
Positive thinking taken to extremes is deluded thinking.

I’ve seen several blog posts about the problem of forced positive thinking lately, and since this is an issue that has concerned me for a long time, I thought I’d add my own take on it.

In recent years, there’s been an increased societal pressure toward “positive thinking.” I think two factors have led to this trend–the New Age philosophy that we can “be as gods ourselves,” and the continued glorification of the Reaganistic optimism of the 1980s. The signs are everywhere, in self-help and pop psychology books, in countless popular slogans and memes that appear on bumper stickers and coffee mugs, on motivational posters, on calendars, on the political campaign trail, and all over social media such as Facebook. The forced positive thinking brigade has even infiltrated churches. Motivational speakers like Tony Robbins and preachers of the “Prosperity Gospel” like Joel…

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Donald Trump & Ayn Rand

Really good article about Ayn Rand (who many hardline Republicans seem to emulate, including many in Trump’s cabinet), Donald Trump, narcissism, and psychopathy. Was Rand a psychopath? Many people think she was, but there’s just as good an argument made by the author of this article (who is a psychopath) that she was really a narcissist. In my opinion, she was both.   As for Trump, he’s clearly a narcissist, but he’s so high on the spectrum his behavior and actions seem sociopathic (a word I prefer to use over psychopathy in most cases, because it’s a behavior pattern associated with malignant or high-spectrum NPD — while psychopathy is a condition one is born with and is not caused by early trauma).   In any case, lack of empathy is a feature of both narcissists (especially those as high on the spectrum as Donald Trump) and psychopathy.   You can think of psychopathy as “bad seed syndrome,” except a psychopath can actively choose to do good things or even be altruistic, if it suits them to do so.

Comments here are disabled; please leave comments under the original post.

CLUSTER B

—Psychopaths or Narcissists?

trumpaynOn November 8th of this year, the “unthinkable” happened. Donald Trump was elected president. Although his campaign sounded more populist that free-market fundamentalist, his choices for cabinet tell a different story. Liberals and progressives and just plain poor people are deeply concerned about the future. Alternet has an article whose title spells it out: It’s Ayn Rand’s America Now: Republicans Have Stripped the Country of Its Last Shred of Morality. Now Trump is hardly the ideal of Objectivists or Libertarians. He doesn’t embrace freedom for the individual, not with his “pro life” and anti-immigrant stance; certainly not with his intention to punish anyone who burns the flag. But the Republican Party representing the 1%, may well make the country Ayn Rand’s America.


aynaspsycho Many enemies of Ayn Rand’s philosophy (and there are many) like to call her a “psychopath.” Of course, many of these same people call…

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I can’t relate to narcissists who love their disorder.

android

I read this post at Psychforums written by a person who sees their narcissism as a huge advantage.

I spent all my life trying to figure out why I felt so different from other people. A few months ago I was researching in detail narcissism for my master thesis on The Picture of Dorian Gray when I suddenly realized that I fit perfectly with all the criteria to be assessed as a high functioning, cerebral, covert narcissist. I immediately felt amazing about it. Not even for one second I believed that there is something wrong in me, but I soon realized that the rest of the world doesn’t seem to agree with my view.

The idea that my malignant tendencies have a reason to exist empowers them, and all the studies I have read on this topic instead of making me feel like I have a mental illness that should be cured provided me with the tools I need to expand my narcissism and use it in my favor. I guess this sounds like I really am sick, but bear with me: why would I, as a narcissist who feeds upon the desire of being special and unique, have a problem with being diagnosed as such? It makes me different from others for real. I am not going to stand in line with all those narcissists who fear themselves, who punish the way they are. Becoming self-aware opens infinite doors to the great potential I have.

I always deeply enjoyed manipulation, now I know why, but I also know that I have the power to bring this skill on a higher level and the more I master this “science” the less people will realize what I am doing to them. I don’t have a problem letting people know that I am a narcissist, but they never believe it – they still see me as a caring, loving, trustworthy girl who would go out of her way to help, too nice and interesting to be classified as “evil”. This discovery has given a great boost to my self-esteem which used to be pretty low. But it was low because I didn’t embrace and accept who I am. Knowledge is power. I am more functional now than before, I test my potential daily to see how far it can go, how much more I can get from it. Why would people ever want to heal from this?!

They say that a lack of empathy is a terrible thing. I don’t even know what empathy is, so why would I be concerned about owning it? They say I will never be happy with the way I am, but, let’s state the truth, people are never satisfied and fully happy anyway; they live for unhappiness because hope is far more enjoyable and stimulating. They say I cannot have fulfilling and real relationships, but that’s not true: given the right partner I can make him feel like he is the most special person in the world. Of course, all of this is done primarily to make myself feel like I have total control over them, but it can still provide them with some good things for themselves. It’s twisted, but I find unconditional love far more twisted. Self-awareness helps me regulating my depression since now I understand that it’s triggered by a lack of NS, so I just need to adjust that to feel back on track.

And when a NS is not readily available I feed my ego by trying to achieve success and praise in my work or studies. The more difficult and stressful it is, the larger my ego grows when I get there. Have you ever felt a proper ego boost? When it feels like there is something extremely warm in your chest which is expanding throughout your body? I live for that feeling.

I always wanted to become a teacher, but I was scared that I wasn’t good enough for that. Right now it has become clear that this is the only thing that I can do successfully. What’s better than a group of people who you can manipulate on a daily basis without being perceived badly? And here by manipulation I don’t mean in a bad way: you can convince them that they can be and do whatever they want in life. And they will repay you by making you feel omnipotent.

That’s a fair deal to me. Last but not least, being a narcissist made me finally forgive my mother for all the years of psychological and physical torture I had to endure. She made me the person that I am today, for better and for worse. I let go of all the grudge and hate and established a far better relationship with her.

I am human, but if my being a narcissist means that I am an evil human being, I can totally accept that and carry on. I would rather be good and be a hero for others, but I always found villains much more charming and true to themselves.

android2

This is an example of ego-syntonic narcissism and is common in high spectrum grandiose (classic, not covert) narcissists whether they’re self aware or not. It seems psychopathic to me. While on an intellectual level I can understand the logic behind it, and yes, I’ll even concede that it is possible to be devoid of empathy or a conscience and still choose to be prosocial (people with NPD and even ASPD can tell the difference between right and wrong, but usually won’t choose to do the right thing, only what suits them), I simply cannot relate to this way of thinking. It seems very machine-like to me, almost a parrot-like existence.

Sure, without a conscience you don’t suffer from guilt and shame the way most people do, but living this way just seems so cold and sterile to me. I spent years unable to feel much of anything, and am recently beginning to discover my softer emotions and wouldn’t have it any other way. Even sadness adds depth to the experience of being alive. How can a person like this be able to experience higher emotions like love, empathy or real joy? A machine can’t experience joy, sadness or love, all they can do is fake it. To me, this seems like a sterile, joyless way to live, an imitation of being a human, and I want no part of it. How can you really enjoy life when everything and everyone becomes nothing but narcissistic supply? I’m sorry, but I’m a person, not a parrot.

That being said, high functioning/high spectrum narcissists do seem to like their narcissistic traits, because they tend to be beneficial in the selfish and narcissistic society we currently live in. The enormous popularity of Ayn Rand and her philosophy of selfishness as a virtue attests to this. But such a world, run by people who feel nothing and get high off their own perceived power and superiority, is deeply frightening to me.

Where I stand on “positive thinking.”

positive_thinking_problem
Positive thinking taken to extremes is deluded thinking.

I’ve seen several blog posts about the problem of forced positive thinking lately, and since this is an issue that has concerned me for a long time, I thought I’d add my own take on it.

In recent years, there’s been an increased societal pressure toward “positive thinking.” I think two factors have led to this trend–the New Age philosophy that we can “be as gods ourselves,” and the continued glorification of the Reaganistic optimism of the 1980s. The signs are everywhere, in self-help and pop psychology books, in countless popular slogans and memes that appear on bumper stickers and coffee mugs, on motivational posters, on calendars, on the political campaign trail, and all over social media such as Facebook. The forced positive thinking brigade has even infiltrated churches. Motivational speakers like Tony Robbins and preachers of the “Prosperity Gospel” like Joel Osteen have gotten rich by telling us that if we only think positive thoughts, our entire lives will change for the better. They tell us if we let go of negative thought patterns, we can become happy, successful, healthy, and wealthy.

This is all fine and good, and personally I see nothing wrong with positive thinking for its own sake. Even if the outer trappings of your life rival those of someone living in a Third World nation, it’s certainly better for you if you can scare up a little optimism and hopefulness, and it’s definitely bad for you to dwell in hopelessness, depression and negativity. At the very least, seeing the glass as always half-full will make you more accepting of your sorry lot and therefore happier. That said, it’s incredibly difficult to see the glass as half full when there is barely a drop in your glass. That would be deluded, not positive, thinking.

For all its advantages to our psychological well-being, there’s a dark side to the positive thinking movement too, which goes hand in hand with the current societal glorification of narcissism and the nasty belief that selfishness and lack of compassion are virtues. While telling people that thinking positive thoughts is not a bad thing itself (because there is truth to the idea that negativity tends to draw in negative things–I have seen this dynamic for myself), the positive thinking movement has been taken to disturbing extremes. It’s led to victim-blaming and an overall lack of empathy for the less fortunate. The poor are blamed for their own poverty, regardless of the circumstances that might have led to it or keep them trapped there. They are told they are “not positive enough” or “made bad choices.” Even worse, some churches of the “prosperity gospel” ilk tell them they must have some moral failing or God would be rewarding them with material blessings. They are made to feel shame and guilt for their sorry financial condition. The chronically ill and disabled are likewise blamed for “not taking care of themselves” or “choosing bad habits.” It’s easy enough for someone who has never had to struggle with poverty or serious illness to thumb their noses at those who have and tell them it’s all their own fault.

broken_society

Is this the way Jesus would have acted? No, of course it isn’t. In fact, most of Jesus’ followers and disciples were the most financially and physically vulnerable members of his society. Jesus himself was humble carpenter and certainly not rich. He didn’t condemn these unfortunates or shame them for failing to be positive enough, or making the “wrong choices.” In fact, he seemed to love these vulnerable people most of all. Whatever happened to the “social gospel” of the late 19th and early 20th century? Oh, that’s right–it became “communism.” Somewhere along the way, compassion for the less fortunate and the culture of charity got twisted into “weakness” and “enabling.” The enormous popularity of Ayn Rand, who believed the greatest human evil was altruism, is disturbing, especially since her philosophy of “objectivism” has infected the minds of powerful politicians of a certain political persuasion, including many “Christians.”

While I don’t subscribe to some Christian fundamentalists’ idea that Satan is behind all this worship of greed and self-love and the denigration and victim-blaming of the less fortunate, I do think it’s a very destructive turn in the way our culture thinks, and it’s psychopathic in nature. Lately I’ve been seeing more blog articles criticizing this trend, and that seems like a good sign that at least a few people (usually victims of narcissistic abuse themselves) are finally realizing our society has become woefully empathy-deprived. Hopefully their message can break out of the blogosphere it’s currently confined to and begin to touch the hearts of The Powers That Be who are not yet completely brainwashed by the Cult of John Galt.

It’s absolutely fine (and desirable) to be a positive thinker, because positive thinking does tend to have its rewards, but blaming the misfortunes of others on their negative thinking or worse, their moral failings is just a form of societal gaslighting and is utterly evil itself. It’s also rife with hypocrisy– the Positive Thinking Powers That Be denigrate the emotions of guilt and shame for themselves, but they make sure those who haven’t been blessed the way they have feel plenty of guilt and shame for not having been “enough.” They never stop to think how impossible it is for someone who is struggling every day just to have enough to eat or with severe pain or illness to think in a positive way. It’s much easier for the already privileged and healthy to be able to say “life is good” and mean it. The well heeled Positive Thinking bots never stop to think of this–or they just don’t care, which is most likely the case, because those who haven’t been “blessed” with wealth or good health MUST have done something wrong to deserve it.

Any society that is empathy-starved is eventually going to self destruct.

For further reading, check out this article from The New York Times and also this one about empathy being a choice.

The Psychopathy of Ayn Rand

Ayn_Rand1
Ayn Rand1” by Phyllis Cerf (April 13, 1916– November 25, 2006), permission obtained from her son Christopher Cerf[…]Richard E. RalstonPublishing ManagerThe Ayn Rand Institute”. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of Ayn Rand, the author and philosopher who The Tea Party seems to worship with the same reverence they worship Jesus Christ (which is highly ironic, because Rand was an atheist and her values diametrically opposed to Christianity). Certain conservative pundits in recent years have twisted Rand’s ugly philosophy of selfishness (“objectivism”) into their “Christian” right-wing political agenda, and Bill O’Reilly even went so far to say that Jesus would not want to help the poor and homeless because it’s their own fault they don’t have enough to eat. These right wing pundits and politicians never stop to consider that it was the poor and homeless who were Jesus’ disciples and friends, not the rich and powerful. Rand believed that empathy and altruism were the greatest evils to beset mankind, and her childhood hero was a serial killer. She said “she liked the way his mind worked.”

I was going to write an article today about Rand’s obvious psychopathy, but someone has already done it for me. Everything I’d want to say is already here, so I am just going to reblog their excellent article, which uses the items on Hare’s psychopathy checklist to pulverize Ayn Rand because she fit every one of them (these are highlighted in bold).

THE PSYCHOPATHY OF AYN RAND
From Prophet 451’s Journal [link not available]
(stolen from Democractic Underground)
http://www.cwporter.com/psychorand2.htm

randkikestar1
Czar of all the “Rationalists”

You’ve probably heard of Ayn Rand. Most people have these days. She was the author of such inexplicably widely-read “novels” (really, barely-disguised political diatribes) as “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”. Her books are currently enjoying something of a boom among those who misguidedly believe they would be in the self-righteous community of “Atlases” at Galt’s Gulch. The novels themselves are of only passing interest, being long, melodramatic and mediocrely written. Rather, it is the “philosophy” at the core of the novels which bears attention.

Hear ye, hear ye, I come to bury Rand, not to praise her. While numerous conservative thinkers (and, oddly, Neil Peart) have lauded Rand as a philosopher, few academic institutions include Rand or Objectivism as a philosophical discipline. Conservatives, such as Chris Sciabarra, tend to believe that the academic left decries Rand due to her anti-communist, pro-capitalist slant. Like much of the witterings of conservatives who presume to know what the left thinks, that presumes firstly, more power than the academic left has had in decades; secondly, assumes that the left was universally pro-communist and anti-capitalist, something which has never been true and thirdly, that Rand was saying anything worth studying. She wasn’t. Rand’s “philosophy” was the same defence of endless greed which mankind has been engaged in for eternity, the same attempt to place a moral cover on pure selfishness that has long been pursued by any number of exploiters down the centuries. Nietzche was, and is, pilloried for saying “God is dead”, Rand is lauded for effectively saying “the self is God”. There is nothing new here, save perhaps for the self-delusion that allows so many professed “Christians” to adhere to a philosophy that glorifies greed and athieism. There is also a cult-like deification of Rand by her followers and “swarming” of those who dare criticise her which reminds one very strongly of Scientology (and Glenn Beck followers but that’s another matter).

There is another name for those who hold that the only proper moral consideration is the happiness of the self; for those who view empathy and compassion as weakness; who view selfishness as the only virtue: Psychopaths.

Contrary to popular belief, the psychopath is not automatically violent. Rather, the psychopath is defined by a near-complete lack of empathy. Robert Hare (who created the widely used “Hare Psychopathy Checklist”) describes psychopaths as “intraspecies predators” who use a combination of charisma, manipulation, intimidation, sexuality and violence to satisfy their own desires. The more human qualities of conscience, empathy, remorse or guilt are either completely absent or extremely limited. It must be repeated that the psychopath is not necessarily violent. Indeed, many are not because their lives have never placed them in a position where violence was the only means to satisfy their desires. Many businessmen (and therefore, many politicians) profile as psychopaths because they exhibit the core characteristics or some section thereof. Ayn Rand should also be considered a psychopath.

Hare’s checklist lists certain personality factors as indicative of psychopathy. The average person will perhaps exhibit one or, at most, two. The psychopath will exhibit all but one or two.

In no particular order, these items are: Glibness/superficial charm.

After her writings became popular, Rand collected around herself a group of cultists who virtually worshipped her. However, Shallow affection, the psychopath’s charm is only ever superficial. As one comes to know and understand the psychopath more fully, the charm which initially attracted one to them is revealed as only skin-deep. In this, Rand was entirely textbook. She was described by most who knew her best as a bitter, friendless child who grew into an equally bitter and acidic woman.

Grandiose sense of self-worth would certainly fit Rand. A woman who names her beliefs “Objectivism” out of a belief that any reasoning person who observes the objective truths of the world would necessarily come to full agreement with her would probably qualify. The fact that her little cult were required to memorise her works and discounted as “imbecilic” and “anti-life” if they asked questions simply seals the deal. Her sincere belief was that thinking freely would automatically lead to total agreement with her views.

The ruthless policing of her cult would also qualify her under the Cunning/manipulative qualifier.

Pathological lying is one that Rand is probably innocent of. So far as we know, there is no reason to believe she was a pathological liar.

Lack of remorse or guilt and Callous/lack of empathy could be described as “Ayn Rand syndrome”. These two qualifiers are really the core of her books, philosophy and worldview. In one of her books (“The Fountainhead”), her “hero”, Howard Roark, blows up a housing project he designed when a minor alteration is made and then orders the jury to acquit him (the fact that, as an architect, Roark was presumably contracted for his work and therefore, it wasn’t “his” anymore piddles all over the supposed respect for property too). [I will add here that there is a scene in “The Fountainhead” in which Roark rapes a leading female character, and Rand defends his crime because it gets him what he wants–Lucky Otter].

In “Atlas Shrugged,” her ode to the super-rich which imagines them going on strike against progressive taxation, Rand describes the rest of the world (without whom, let us not forget, the super-rich would be unable to make anything) in such niceties as “savages”, “refuse” and “imitations of living beings”.

When one of the strikers engineers a train crash (because they don’t just strike but commit acts of terrorism too), Rand makes it clear that she believes the murdered victims deserved their fate because they supported progressive taxation. A stewing hymn of Nietzchean will-to-power, misanthropy, failure to understand economics, feudalism and sexual politics verging on the obscene, “Atlas Shrugged” is full of this stuff. Her heroes spend their time both insisting that they are the heroic producers (and without labour, what are they producing exactly?) and bemoaning that others do not worship them as such. In her spare time, Rand was an admirer of serial killer William Hickman (I’ll spare you the details of his crimes save to say that they were brutal even by serial killer standards), describing him as “a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy”; “other people do not exist for him and he does not see why they should” was her evaluation of his crimes and Rand considered this worthy of praise.

Finally, on the personality factor, there is Failure to accept responsibility for one’s actions. Since our record of Rand’s life isn’t fully detailed, it’s difficult to say how much she satisfied this one. Certainly, when her lover Nathaniel Branden found another partner, she blamed him rather than herself or her increasingly poisonous views. We shouldn’t sympathise with Rand as injured party too much here, she was herself married to someone entirely different and cruel enough to carry on the affair without regard to discretion. Indeed, if the only duty of the superman is to please himself, Branden was acting according to Rand’s ideals and she should have applauded him. She once said the USA should be a “democracy of superiors only” with “superior” being defined as “rich”. One scarcely needs to point out that such a system wouldn’t be democracy at all but oligarchy and interestingly elitist for all her followers’ claim to despise elitism.

One doesn’t need to work very hard to diagnose Rand. Her life and writings paint a vivid picture of psychopathy so clear and obvious that it is only surprising so many miss it. She was a phenomenally damaged woman for whom one can feel an element of pity (an emotion that disgusted her) even while aware of how terrifically dangerous she and her philosophy was and are.

Rand herself died alone except for a hired nurse. Her deranged views had driven away anyone who might have been close to her. Like L. Ron Hubbard, however, her lunatic ideas have spawned a cult that would turn all of us into happy little psychopaths; a cult that includes many of the world’s foremost economists, politicians and rabble-rousers (Beck again, although “intellectual terrorist” might be more appropriate). Like George Orwell, Rand imagined a dystopian world characterised by the powerful’s exploitation of the powerless. Unlike Orwell, Rand wanted to live there.

…..

I suppose I should add here that Rand was also a hypocrite. Decrying government support systems and safety nets as “coddling the incompetent and undeserving,” she unflinchingly collected both Medicare and Social Security when she contracted lung cancer late in her life. I suppose she thought she was a “deserving” exception to her own ugly philosophy of selfish callousness?

Why is narcissism so “hot” these days?

narcissist_nation

I haven’t seen any official studies or statistics, but it seems like narcissism is possibly the most popular psychological topic on the Internet in recent years. Blogs about narcissism are spreading like wildfire (though it’s possible they may be on the decline now). The subject of narcissism seems to be brought up regularly even in articles and sites about other topics, especially entertainment, big business, and politics, where narcissism is rampant. Narcissism is a buzz word, and it’s because we children of the Baby Boomers and Silent Generation–parents who bought into narcissistic values way back in the 1960s and 1970s–are finally having our say.

In a society-wide twist of values, Narcissism has become a virtue. Old fashioned virtues like altruism and empathy are seen as liabilities that hold people back from achieving success, rather than prosocial traits that keep us civilized and human. Ayn Rand, who idealized narcissism in her philsophy of “objectivism” (and was most likely a narcissist herself) has become a cult hero; her mediocre torch romances “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead,” both featuring selfish, narcissistic “heroes” as their protagonists, have been enjoying enormous popularity.

ayn_rand
Ayn Rand.

I believe all this started in the 1960s and 1970s, during the Consciousness Revolution. Certainly the 1950s were mind numbingly conformist and rife with racism and sexism, but things went way too far in the other direction, as Baby Boomers and younger members of the Silent generation began to rebel against all the conformity. They popularized the idea of “doing your own thing,” whatever that thing was. Having and raising children became something to be avoided and any woman with a brain avoided pregnancy as if it were a disease. Abortion and The Pill became legal–and cool. Of course there’s nothing wrong with women having control over when and whether to have children, but I think the general attitude toward children in the 1960s and 1970s was negative. Young Gen X children were not wanted or valued. They were demonized in movies like “The Omen,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist.” I remember an Esquire article from March 1974, “Do Americans Suddenly Hate Kids?” Well, it did seem that way.

Their parents, the Boomers and Silents, were encouraged to put their own self-growth and advancement of their careers ahead of child-rearing. At the time, this was even thought of as “good” for children, providing them with a positive example of a parent with a high self image and lists of achievements a mile long. Unfortunately, for many children growing up during this time, the attitude that adults were more valuable than children backfired and we felt like we just weren’t that important in our parents’ universe. We grew up with collective low self esteem.

hippie_parents
Hippie parents.

The 1970s were dubbed “The Me Decade” and adults were encouraged to do and be whatever they wanted, even if this meant neglecting their own children and turning them into latchkey kids with far too much freedom for their own good. Promiscuous sexual behavior and drug abuse among adults was rampant. Women everywhere (including my own) joined consciousness-raising groups that encouraged them to put themselves over their families. The fallout rained down on the lives of their Generation X and Gen-Jones (late Boomers born at the end of the 1950s and early 1960s) children, and we suddenly found we had to fend for ourselves, without much parental support, even when our parents were not narcissists.

While attitudes toward children improved during the 1980s as Millennial children began to be born, the Boomers and younger Silents who had spearheaded the Consciousness Revolution and Me Generation, were suddenly in positions of authority in politics, business and entertainment. We had Ronald Reagan, with his “trickle down economics” and support of the “supply side” and big business over the people. Tax cuts for social programs commenced with his election and increased over the next 30 years (and show no sign of letting up). Reagan was popular and charismatic, and so were his draconian economic policies that hurt the poor and later, the middle class. New college graduates during the 1980s and 1990s realized they could make unlimited amounts of money in the stock market and suddenly the “helping professions” were unpopular and considered far less lucrative than making a killing on the stock market or in investment banking. These became the infamous “having it ALL” Yuppies.

Yuppies were better parents than their hippie predecessors, but they micromanaged everything their children did, to the point the kids became stressed because they weren’t free to just be kids. These overcontrolled children were sent to the best private schools, given lessons in everything from piano to karate, and had no free time to just play and learn on their own. Millennials grew up stressed out and expecting to achieve in life, only to find when they first entered the job market during the 2000’s, they could not find decent jobs.

yuppie_mom
Yuppie mom.

Narcissism continues to be a “virtue” and our policies increasingly glorify the self and unlimited financial achievement over humble, old fashioned values of community and compassion. Children who were born or who were children or teens during the 1960s and 1970s are now adults, the oldest of us now in our 50s. I’ve noticed most blogs by ACONs seem to be written by women in their 40s and 50s: these are the Generation X and late Boom/Generation Jones children who suffered the most at the hands of parents who bought into the selfish ’70s and greedy ’80s. Even back in those days, the shift of narcissism from a vice to a virtue was not unnoticed. In 1979, cultural historian Christopher Lasch wrote his treatise “The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations,” about the danger of narcissistic values for American society. His book remains popular today.

We may be a bunch of middle aged fuddy duddies, but we’re no longer scared and we are not shutting up. We call out everything we see wrong with the culture we were raised in, a culture that has become just as unhealthy for our own Millennial children. We were the scapegoats of a society that didn’t value us, and now we are the truth-tellers who are boldly talking about everything that was done to us, everything that went wrong and why. It was us who spearheaded the ACON movement (and yes, it is a movement) and are bringing narcissism out into the light where it can be seen for the disgusting and ugly scourge on humanity it really is. We are doing our best to nurture our own children according to more humble, old fashioned values, although that’s hard in a society that still only values personal gain and material wealth, and still tries to keep us down.

Don’t judge me because I’m poor.

impoverished
The topic that’s on my mind right now is potentially volatile and can open a huge, rotten, festering can of political worms, so that’s why I’ve been hesitant to write this. But heck, it’s on my mind, and I promised myself and my readers I would hide NOTHING, and I NEED to rant about it because it hits so close to home, so here goes.

Recently, there’s been an increasing number of conservatives (the loudest and most extreme are in the Republican Party) who have abandoned all pretense of caring about those who have less than they do–in fact, they are openly (even proudly) hostile toward the poor, blame-shifting the lousy economy, lack of jobs, and basically all of America’s problems onto the most vulnerable people in our society. American society in particular has become narcissistic, worshiping and rewarding those who have the most money and the most toys, while punishing those who have nothing more than ever before, rubbing salt into their wounds. Their contempt used to be limited to the poor who didn’t work (and those who were milking the system and might have deserved their wrath), but lately it’s extended even to the working poor–men and women who hold up to 2 or 3 jobs and work full-time (and many supporting young children), but due to the low wages they earn that haven’t kept up with an economy rife with inflation and where good jobs are scarce, still can’t lift themselves out of poverty. Empathy is seen as a liability rather than a virtue, and those who have empathy for others are seen as weak. Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” has become the bible of the greedy and self-centered, and no one bats an eyelash, even though Rand herself was a narcissist whose role model was a serial killer.
The verdict is, if you don’t have money, you don’t deserve to live. There are no extenuating circumstances. If you’re poor, it’s your own fault.

Hatred of the poor isn’t anything new (and has been going on throughout human history, but enjoys spurts of popularity from time to time), but lately there hasn’t even been any effort to mask the hatred–it’s in your face constantly. Just watch FOX News, which I don’t. There’s no civility any more, and even less empathy.

It’s really a form of prejudice, no different really than a person of color ostracized and shamed because of the color of their skin. As a person who is currently under severe financial stress and trying to survive on an income barely above minimum wage (and having no outside help or assistance) as well as being a Highly Sensitive Person, I feel these insults keenly and feel diminished and enraged every time I read another article or watch another news show where some self-righteous cretin blathers on about how “the poor choose to be poor,” or that we are lazy, entitled, “welfare queens” with no morals and even less intelligence–and worse yet, dare to hide their ugly and mean-spirited self-righteousness under a cloak of piousness: many (not all) of these small-minded people call themselves Christians. I actually remember hearing some politician (I can’t remember who) who said Jesus wouldn’t give handouts to the poor, and cutting Food Stamps would be the most Christian thing one could do. What I’d like to know is, what God does he worship and what Bible is he reading? How dare he presume to put words like that into Jesus’ mouth, when Jesus himself was all about acceptance and love of the downtrodden and oppressed of his society.

The reason why this open hostility toward the poor is such a huge trigger for me is because that attitude assumes something about me that isn’t true. People who embrace the “you chose to be poor” mindset haven’t walked in my shoes, and they don’t know me or what led to my circumstances. They are presuming something about me based on an ugly stereotype. How is saying all poor people are lazy, stupid and entitled any different from saying all blacks are criminals, or all Jews are dishonest and greedy, or all Italians are dirty and don’t bathe? Now I’m not saying I didn’t make some bad choices because I have. I’m not saying I bear no responsibility for my own circumstances, because I do. I’m not saying it’s my government’s responsibility to lift me into the middle class, because it is not.

But you don’t know me. You have no idea who I am or why I am poor. You can’t, since you probably either never were poor, or if you had to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” you probably didn’t really–you probably had a grandpa, a mom and dad, or a long-lost uncle who helped you through college and graduate school, or helped you get the job you have today, or a loving mother who gave you a place to stay when you were down on your luck. Don’t tell me this does not apply to you. Hillary Clinton said “it takes a village” to raise a child, and she was right: it’s a fact that kids who were not given the opportunities–either in the form of college tuition or some other type of tangible or even just emotional support, are far less likely to become successful.

As an only child of narcissist parents (mostly my mother, but my father was an enabler and N-apologist), I had no financial, physical, or emotional support once I reached the age of 18. I had to pay for my own college education with student loans, while working full time. When I hit rough spots later in life, I never had the option to return home while I got back on my feet. On top of this I was suffering from depression, PTSD, autism, and avoidant personality disorder–and every one of these disorders causes people to become withdrawn, isolated and introverted. I think it’s a legacy a lot of us children of narcissists have been saddled with–there does seem to be some sort of correlation between narcissistic parents and autism (as well as the obvious PTSD and avoidant personality). Back in the 1960s and 1970s, it was believed autism was caused by “refrigerator mothers” but this theory was later rejected–however I do think there is something to it and should be studied further. Autistic adults (and non-autistics who have nevertheless turned inward due to their abuse) have a real handicap in today’s fast paced, competitive society where aggression, brashness and great social skills are a huge plus. Those of us who are intelligent but who don’t do well in a social setting are likely to become lost in the world because we lack the ability to connect and make friends with successful people who could help us. If an autistic adult (or just a painfully shy adult) doesn’t have family support and also lacks a specialized degree or talent (that may or may not be “discovered”), it’s not likely they’ll get very far in life, regardless of their native intelligence. It has nothing to do with how hard they work: I’ve worked my butt off most of my life, at times holding 2-3 jobs AND attending college, so I don’t think my poverty is due to my being “lazy and entitled.” I do not get any “welfare” or even food stamps. Everything I have, I pay from my own pocket, so shut the hell up.

So that’s why I hate it when people make assumptions about why I’m poor, and tell me what I’m doing wrong when they know diddly squat about what makes me tick or what motivates me. I don’t think poverty is a lifestyle “choice”–no one in their right mind would choose a life of struggle, want and heartache. For most of us, it was foisted upon us. And the more you have to worry about basic things like food and shelter, the less energy and time you have to “improve yourself.” But I don’t expect outside assistance or a “government handout” and haven’t asked for any. I try to take the steps necessary to pull myself out of the mire, but I REALLY resent being blamed for my situation when I lacked the advantages most other kids had, then had to somehow find my place in an unempathic, narcissistic, materialistic society where people who are introverted or highly sensitive or who live inside their heads are considered weak, stupid and incompetent because we don’t “schmooze” well with others.