Deconstructing Cluster B stereotypes.

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This is a cute drawing circulating Facebook depicting the “typical” person with each of the four Cluster B personality disorders (I cannot give credit for it since I have no idea who drew it or where it originated).   While I understand it’s meant to streamline the overall feel of each of these disorders, they’re still stereotypes. Stereotypes certainly may have a grain of truth behind them, but it’s important to realize they are convenient shortcuts at best, and quite negative and damaging at worst.

Obviously, not everyone with these disorders is going to act the way they’re depicted in the cartoon.  Human beings, even those with personality disorders, are complicated creatures, and just as there are many variations in the general population, so there are many variations among any group of people with one of these disorders.

Here’s another cartoon (which I have used in several posts) that also depicts these disorders in much the same way as the above drawing.

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ASPD:

I think it’s interesting that in both of these cartoons, the person with Antisocial Personality Disorder is a criminal type of individual making threats, either with a weapon or he is already in jail.   Both wear a sadistic expression.  Both are also male figures.    The reality is, not all people with ASPD are criminals or in prison.   They aren’t all serial killers.  Some have never committed a crime (or at least have never been caught).  In fact, the other group of people statistically most likely to have ASPD (or psychopathy) are the very high functioning CEOs of big corporations.   Many people with ASPD are in high profile careers like politics or entertainment.  Their lack of conscience and guilt feelings, coupled with a nearly non-existent lack of empathy (even narcissists have more empathy than a person with ASPD), make it easy for them to rise high in their fields and have no compunctions about firing people or “downsizing.”  Other people’s feelings are much less important than the “bottom line.”  Many high ranking people with psychopathy or ASPD are actually women.

It’s fascinating to me that the two groups of people most likely to have ASPD/psychopathy appear at each extreme of modern society: the low functioning ones locked up in prison and/or running from the law, and the high functioning ones running everything from giant companies to powerful countries.

NPD:

The person pictured with NPD is also a male in both cases, and both guys are dressed up in business suits.   One is holding a wad of cash, and the other is just arrogant, with a PhD (of bullshit!) on his wall.   Both are wearing arrogant expressions.  The reality is, many women also have NPD–females may constitute as much as half of all people with NPD, and I think it’s becoming more common (why else would there be so many narcissistic mothers and websites about them??)

Also, not all narcissists are of this grandiose, arrogant, showoffy stereotype.   Many narcissists are the fragile, vulnerable or covert type, and use their “altruism” or “niceness” to get supply (or put others on a guilt trip).  Or they present themselves as pathetic, put-upon victims who never take any responsibility for themselves and blame others for their miserable lives and failing relationships.    Granted, the vulnerable or covert type of narcissist is probably more likely to be a woman, but this isn’t always the case.   My mother was quite grandiose and arrogant, and so are many women you meet in business.

HPD:

Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) and BPD are both depicted by women in these cartoons.  In both cases, the woman with HPD is a femme fatale, exuding sexuality and demanding attention using her body and come hither expression.    Some histrionics are men though, and just act dramatic and over the top for attention.  It’s not always sexual attention they’re after.   I’ve seen many men with what appears to be HPD in the gay community (this is in no way meant to disrespect gay men, it’s just something I’ve noticed).   HPDs do tend to be more extroverted than the average person.

BPD:

The BPD women in the cartoons vary the most.  In the first drawing she is crying; in the second, she is split between devaluation and idealization.   The emotional instability of a borderline is a fact; but not all borderlines are female.   Males with BPD can act a lot like men with ASPD, due to their tendency to act on impulse and have hair-trigger tempers and fly into violent rages.  Borderline males are more likely to be imprisoned or have a criminal record than men with NPD, who prefer to keep their hands and reputations clean.  BPD women with this disorder can also be abusive toward others or even criminally-minded.  Or they can be codependent, or primarily self-destructive (this is probably the more common type in females).    There are so many manifestations of BPD that it’s a hard disorder to diagnose, probably harder than the other three.   Many people with BPD have addiction issues or eating disorders and hurt themselves more than they hurt others.  .

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Cluster B disorders are not cool.

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Although Cluster B disorders (the dramatic, emotional, erratic group of personality disorders), are largely demonized on the Internet by narcissistic abuse survivors, there’s another growing attitude online that’s pretty much the opposite–that having a Cluster B disorder somehow makes you an uber-cool badass.

This is a dangerous delusion.  Take it from me, having a Cluster B disorder like BPD (in my case) is NOT fun. Nor is it cool. In fact, it really really sucks. 😦 Both for yourself and everyone else.

This growing attitude of “Cluster B coolness” I’ve been seeing more of goes something like this:

NPD:

bad_sport
This is what your narcissist is really all about.

The Myth:  If you have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), you’re a self-confident, go-out-and-knock-em-all-dead, ambitious, and highly intelligent badass who Gets. Things. Done. Psychopaths are similarly glorified, but they’re basically the reason why everything’s wrong with the world and empathy is seen as a “weakness.” The narcissistic woman is regarded as a diabolical yet seductive Jezebel who turns strong men into whimpering slaves at the snap of her pretty fingers and who every other woman strives to be. The narcissistic man is regarded as a buff, handsome, masculine, virile, successful go-getter who all women melt for (and that’s how they regard themselves, of course).

The Reality:  In actuality, if you have NPD, you’re a negative, selfish, deluded, demanding, envious, entitled, whining crybaby with no real sense of self who everyone hates (and who hates everyone) but are afraid to say so because it might set off one of your infamous rages or you giving them the even more crazymaking “silent treatment.” People are always walking on eggshells around you because you’re really so unstable, hypersensitive to criticism,  and deluded by and drunk  with your own “greatness.”  You’re a sore loser too and can’t stand to see anyone else do well or get any attention.   No one really likes you and you’re probably right that people are talking about you behind your back, but frankly you deserve it. Also, many narcissists are just plain stupid and have no emotional intelligence.  As for their reputed skillfulness in bed,  many narcs (especially the cerebral types) hate sex and can’t or won’t perform.  Or, as with everything else, they only care about their own needs and to hell with yours.

BPD:

mommie_dearest2
Joan Crawford had a BPD diagnosis. Is this sexy, alluring, and “quirky” to you?

The Myth: If you have Borderline Personality Disorder, some people think this means you’re a sexy beast or babe who’s alluring, unpredictable, passionate, always charming and “quirky”, and never boring. Your chameleon-like abilities to match the attitudes of those around you is seen as evidence of potential Oscar-winning ability. It’s always pointed out how many actors and musicians suffer from BPD.

The Reality:  Let’s be honest.   If you have BPD you’re emotionally unstable, volatile, almost crazy (the original term “borderline” referred to the disorder being on the border between neurosis and psychosis), out of touch with reality, unable to take a firm stance on anything (or conversely, switching back and forth between two extremes, which just makes you look insane) due to your terror of being rejected or abandoned, prone to be an addict, (drugs, booze, gambling, shopping, cutting, eating and/or dieting, other people), clingy,  codependent, insecure, high-maintenance,  and fickle. The borderline doesn’t really have a false self per se like the narcissist, but they can’t access their true self either, so they wind up “taking on” the attitudes and emotions of those who happen to be around them like some kind of emotional bodysnatcher (in contrast with true empathy, their feelings overwhelm them and are out of control), and they just plain overreact to every damn thing so you feel like you’re always walking on eggshells.

HPD:

clown_makeup
You think you look seductive. Everyone else thinks you look like a clown.

The Myth: Although Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) isn’t widely talked about, its reputation is similar to that of BPD (but is really the stereotypically feminine form of Overt NPD): usually female, a sexy, seductive siren, dramatic, highly social, loves parties and being the center of attention, and is never, ever boring. You’ll fall madly in love with this bewitching seductress due to their many charms and their great looks.

The Reality: The real truth about people with HPD is that they’re insincere, emotionally labile to the point of being embarrassing (but their over-the-top “emotional displays” are largely an act), shallow, materialistic, and emotionally retarded. They often overdress (or underdress!) or are overly made up for an occasion, are sexually promiscuous, and are inappropriate in social situations, but they don’t care if you’re cringing in embarrassment for them because even negative attention is still attention and that’s what they crave more than the air itself.

ASPD:

aspd
Nuff said.

The Myth:  So here we are at the juggernaut of the Cluster Bs, the baddest badass of them all, Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD). Often confused with Psychopathy (and often overlapping with it), the antisocial or psychopathic badass is a sexy and fearless rogue, unconcerned with how others feel about them, possessed of an arresting and penetrating gaze (actually a predatory, creepy stare) that makes you feel like they are really listening to you, determined to get what they want (whether it’s their latest kill or their latest corporate takeover) and never giving up or allowing themselves to be intimidated, by anything. They’re the Rebels Without a Cause, the self-confident Ferris Buellers, the Coolest of the Cool, the celebrated anti-heroes of novels and films socially sanctioned to serve as a receptacle for the Shadow Self that resides within us all. The ASPD badass gives us permission to mentally “act out” our darker impulses, without actually hurting anyone, and that’s why we all love serial killers so much, and why the Ted Bundys and Charlie Mansons of the world get more marriage proposals than any football or film star.

The Reality:  The antisocial badass is really just a heartless and criminally minded horse’s ass, who has no capacity for empathy, isn’t even socially constrained by their need to impress others to garner narcissistic supply (because they don’t require any), and is frequently in prison or has a rap sheet the size of War and Peace. This is a guy (or gal) who will make your life a living hell, beat you to a pulp any chance they get and leave you in a heartbeat and not even remember your name.

If they’re high functioning, they’re the people who are responsible for everything that’s wrong in the world today and the reason why you work 3 jobs and can’t afford a vacation or health insurance.

If they’re low-functioning, if they’re not straight up criminals, they’re flabby, pasty Basement Dwellers who dishonestly leech off the system or their family members so they never have to work and spend all their time trolling Internet forums to get a rise out of random strangers.   Just like my ex.

 

basement_dweller

Ah, what a studly, irresistably dangerous heartbreaker you are.

If you’re a psychopath or sociopath, you operate more like a machine than a human. Is that something we should be aspiring to?

So there you have it. Cluster B disorders are not cool. They are serious mental (and some believe, spiritual) illnesses, and they are pathetic.   And let’s not forget that people suffering from Cluster B disorders are not happy people.  In fact, most of them are pretty miserable.  They are to be pitied (and avoided) rather than emulated.

A rebuttal in defense of Cluster B. 

The Persistent Myth of the Narcissistic Millennial

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The popular media just doesn’t understand anything about narcissism–or Millennials. It continues to trot out the “Millennials are narcissists” stereotype because they’re more likely than other generations to take selfies and are more likely to be living with their parents into their late 20s and even early 30s (even though the lack of good jobs and disastrous economy has a lot to do with this and has nothing to do with their being entitled or spoiled). If Millennials take more selfies than older people, that really doesn’t have anything to do with narcissism. It may have to do with vanity (which isn’t narcissism per se) or the fact “everyone else is doing it” and the technology happens to be available. Someone on another blog even pointed out that taking a selfie is actually a vulnerable act and a real narcissist won’t be taking selfies because they’ll want you to believe they are someone other than who they really are and a selfie shows you as you really are.

This article’s about a year old but is still relevant because the “all Millennials are selfie-taking narcissists” meme hasn’t gone away. It’s time to set the record straight. We also have short memories–every generation since the Boomers (and maybe earlier than that) has been similarly vilified during their late teen and young adult years.

The Persistent Myth of the Narcissistic Millennial
By Brooke Lea Foster for TheAtlantic.com, November 19 2014

People are still lobbing the same accusations at Millennials, even though evidence shows they’re not any more self-absorbed than their predecessors.

A few months ago, the news went viral that the American Psychiatric Association had classified “taking selfies” as a sign of a mental disorder. It lit up Facebook and Twitter until it was revealed that the article was a hoax.

But still, I doubt I’m the only one that has felt at least a tiny sense of self-loathing after, say, posting a photo of myself on Facebook. Deep down, taking a “selfie” doesn’t just feel like capturing a moment—it also feels like capturing myself at my most vain.

In his pop-psychology book “The Narcissist Next Door: Understanding the Monster in Your Family, in Your Office, in Your Bed—in Your World”, published in September, author and Time editor at large Jeffrey Kluger argues that the popularity of the “selfie” is just one way that our culture is becoming more narcissistic. In fact, he says, narcissistic behaviors today aren’t just more accepted; they’re celebrated. “We’ve become accustomed to preeners and posers who don’t have anything to offer except themselves and their need to be on the public stage,” he says. The egocentric antics of figures like Donald Trump or Kim Kardashian, for example, make our own narcissistic proclivities seem more palatable by comparison, and social media only instigates the desire for attention. Facebook, to a narcissist, can be like an open bar to a drunk.

millennialquote

But Kluger also devotes a chunk of his book to what’s become a tired argument: The idea that Millennials—the generation that came of age with selfies and Facebook and the Kardashians—are the most self-absorbed generation of all. “Plenty of people are narcissistic in our society,” Kluger says, “but Millennials are doing these things on a pandemic level.”

Of course they are. They’re young and full of themselves, like every other generation that’s come before them was at some point. But are Millennials any more narcissistic than, say, the Baby Boomers, who were once considered the most self-obsessed cohort of their time? Consider the 1976 cover story of New York Magazine, in which Tom Wolfe declared the ‘70s “The Me Decade.” One could argue that every generation seems a little more narcissistic than the last, puffing out its chest and going out into the world with an overabundance of self-confidence, swagger, even a bit of arrogance. These traits are simply hallmarks of early adulthood—it’s often the first time people are putting themselves out there, applying for first jobs and meeting potential life partners. Overconfidence is how people muscle through the big changes.

Read the rest of this article here.

Further reading: Are Millennials Really the Most Narcissistic Generation Ever?