The Narcissistic Epidemic
In many ways we have set ourselves up for the attitudes running rampant today.
Over the years, I have noticed something that is a little on the disturbing side. I’ve been coming into contact with people who have a disease that seems to be spreading in epidemic proportions. Not only adults, but children, and I’ve witnessed it more and more in those older as well. This used to not be as prevalent as it is now. I first heard about this disease when I was going to summer camp as a little girl. The priest at camp apparently had noticed this growing trend among his young congregation as well, and chose readings and gospels that addressed this issue, as well as focusing his homily (sermon) around this growing affliction. The priest called this disease the big “I” disease. This particular disease, is where a person just focuses solely on themselves, the world revolves around them and that everything someone else does has to be connected to the individual in some way. I’m not exactly sure why of all the Masses I have attended and of all the homilies I have heard, this one has stuck with me so many years later.
If I were to hazard a guess, this stuck with me because I didn't want to be one of those with the big “I” disease. I never wanted to be thought of as someone no one could go to because I wouldn't be there for someone because I was too wrapped up in my own life to assist someone else. I’ve always been accused of being too giving, too nice, too tolerant, too this or that as if those things are a bad thing. However, due to people I’ve met whether the relationship be platonic, romantic, or just something in between, I’ve noticed that I’m becoming more and more one of the people with this dreaded disease I learned about as a child. So I had to make a choice, did I want to be like the rest of the people who are succumbing for one reason or another to what I’m now calling the narcissistic epidemic, or do I want to continue to strive to be the person others can continue to say is too giving, too nice, too tolerant, too whatever. I have made the choice to do the latter.
This thought of a narcissistic epidemic came to mind as I was working one day while I was talking to one of my sales people. I just kept hearing them say “I” and all the other pronouns that refer to self, over and over, in reference to everything, not only professional, but personal as well. This particular individual is basically a nice person, and normally isn’t like that, but this day it caught my attention, not exactly sure why it did, but it made me think.
After that conversation, I started looking around, and listening more closely to not only what others were saying, but what I was saying as well. Then I started noticing the actions of others, again myself included, and I noticed we were all being overly narcissistic.
Dictionary.com has the primary definition as having an undue fascination with oneself; vain. The secondary definition is from a psychoanalysis standpoint states, one tending to derive erotic gratification from admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes.
On a sarcastic, catty and joking level, I know one or two people who fit into the second definition. I’m sure we all know one or several people who could fit into either category. However, I digress.
In many ways, this narcissistic epidemic, could be part of the reasons so many marriages are being decimated, and the meaning of the word friend has become lost. It could be a reason why we are losing the basic skills of conversation and listening. There isn’t so much a me generation any longer, it has degenerated into me type society. I’ve noticed that we not only dispose of garbage, but we dispose of people with the same type carelessness, and in some cases a very callous way. I see more and more how once someone gets what they want from someone, the other person is tossed away as if they never meant anything.
Being a little bit on the narcissistic side, is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes being a bit on the selfish side isn’t bad, it helps keep things balanced. But there is a noticeable side effect when someone has succumbed to the narcissistic epidemic, that side effect is what I call the martyrdom syndrome.
The martyrdom syndrome is the thought that everyone is out to get the individual, or that because the individual’s whims weren’t catered to, or the individual was disagreed with. Basically the individual didn’t get what they wanted, whether because of their own doing or because the other person in their immediate vicinity couldn’t or wouldn’t indulge that individual any longer. These people may also be known as the whiners and complainers that you know. These are the people where nothing makes them happy unless they are the center of attention or that people are talking about them, and they have to know what is being said about them.
There are so many reasons why the Narcissistic Epidemic and the Martyrdom Syndrome are so prevalent now, but in my own narcissistic opinion, we all need to take a step back, take a look at ourselves, and how we treat or how we have treated those around us, and ask ourselves, is that really how I want to be known? Personally, I don’t want to be known as selfish, and I don’t want to be considered or consider myself a victim, where everyone is out to get me. Because I know they aren’t. There are a billion other people on the planet who don’t even know I exist, so not everyone is out to get me.
When I take that step back, and I consider all those that are in or have been in my life, I want to be able to say I did my best and that I didn’t take anyone for granted. That those that are in my life know what they mean to me, and that I am there for them, rain or shine, sickness or health.
If we teach our children that other people matter, that sometimes there is sacrifice that comes with any interactions with others, and that there is joy in helping another. Then maybe we can start attempting to wipe out this epidemic and its side effects that have taken hold.