Social Narcissism: Safe Spaces, Collectivity, and Moral Obligation

Way back in 1979, a social critic named Christopher Lasch wrote “The Culture of Narcissism,” in which he made the case that increasing globalization, individualism over community, material success over loving relationships, nuclear families over the extended family or the tribal culture, and the “bottom line” over empathy, would lead to levels of societal narcissism previously unheard of. Of course narcissism has always been around, and used to be brushed under the rug (“nice” people didn’t talk about abuse), but there was always the community or extended family to catch you when you fell. Now, it’s each person for him- or herself, and you’re regarded as a “moral failure,” even by your own family, if you fail to impress the world with lofty achievements, the perfect body, impressive credentials, the biggest McMansion, the prettiest children, or the most glamorous career.

The problem of societal narcissism goes way beyond Millennials taking selfies (taking selfies is really not all that narcissistic anyway).  American politics has become a reality show, in which the most “colorful” or outrageous character has a better chance than the one who truly cares about the people and the future of the nation.

My friend has written an outstanding article about how narcissism has become normalized and even transformed into a virtue in today’s selfish, materialistic, empathy-challenged society.   Comments here are disabled; please comment under the original post.

Family estrangement.


Wikipedia has a good, in depth article about the sad phenomenon of family estrangement, which is related to shunning or ostracism.  Family members who have been estranged (ostracized or scapegoated) are likely to develop PTSD and have dismally low self-esteem.

Family estrangement occurs for a number of reasons, and is most common in societies that value individualism over the family, tribe, or community, so it’s more common in the United States than in other countries.    It’s also my personal opinion that it’s more common in upper middle class families who value material and financial success over loving relationships.  An adult child who fails to toe the line and make the family “look good” becomes an embarrassment to the family’s upwardly mobile aspirations, and becomes the scapegoat or is even rejected from the family.   They are also likely to be disowned.  The ostracized adult child, lacking financial and emotional support and a healthy sense of self worth (because nothing is more devastating to a person’s sense of self esteem than being rejected by one’s own family), often falls into poverty, illness, or mental illness, further shaming the “perfect” family.

The sense of shame of having been rejected by the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally is emotionally, spiritually, and even physically devastating.  It’s the worst kind of soul murder.  To make matters worse, it’s often the “truth teller” (the one who sees through the toxic family dynamics) or the most sensitive or vulnerable child who is shunned in this way.  The scapegoated or ostracized adult child is then blamed for their “failures” and told they brought their hard luck on themselves.

Cluster B personality disorders are very common in families where members become estranged, scapegoated or ostracized, because people with these disorders tend to lack empathy, which is the glue that holds families, tribes and societies together.   Substance abuse is also a common factor and may be co-morbid with Cluster B disorders (substance abuse being a very common but maladaptive coping tool among people with these disorders).

Eskimo Sociopaths

Lone Inuit man.

Here is a very interesting article that discusses how Eskimo (Inuit) hunters historically handled sociopaths and narcissists in their midst.

Eskimos probably had the right idea. In our modern culture today, we look up to narcissists and even sociopaths as role models.

In order to survive in their harsh, cold climate and procure enough food, Eskimo hunters had to work together as a group. Individualism, a we know it today, wasn’t even on the radar and wouldn’t have benefited the group. Cooperation–not individualism–was necessary for survival.

Not anymore. Today, individualism (and thus narcissism) has become adaptive because those people who only have their own self-interest as a priority tend to be the most successful. There’s something very wrong and evil about a society that glorifies individualism over cooperation.


A stranger who I had a conversation with, had a beautiful mind and heart and we talked for an hour about everything. He told me a story about sociopath/narcissists from Eskimo ages….

Eskimos worked together. That’s how they survived was through hunting and team work. But, when they unmasked a sociopath in their pack, this threw off their hunting. This sociopathic Eskimo couldn’t work alongside the others, so they figured out a way to cure NPD/sociopathic Eskimos.

They would invite the sociopath along with them, in a group of three, to hunt. They gave the sociopath their own weapon and everything just as he was apart of their group. They would then venture far far out, to a place only two of them knew around and how to get back to their grounds from. They then told the suspected sociopath to sit on a bolder and wait for the prey…

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