There is a tribe of males more than a little infatuated with themselves and their own ideas. We’re often described as narcissists. Upon discovering I fit into this group, I was appalled, and predictably I obsessed that I was too obsessed with my own behavior.
I now look at myself as a recovering narcissist. I observe how frequently I engage in being a legend in my own mind. Sometimes I’m amused. Sometimes I’m not.
My wife is tolerant but not particularly amused. Interestingly, I come across few women narcissists.
Narcissism often gets relegated to an example of an early developmental stage that gets carried into adulthood as a result of trauma or a peculiar environment that caused a freezing of psychological resources in the past. This effect is not unlike following a recipe while making a cake. If at an early stage something goes awry, you may end up with a less than delightful outcome. Accidentally add salt instead of sugar early in the process and the results will be unique but not particularly edible.
I’m playing with the idea that there is healthy narcissism characterized by the person feeling accompanied while they feel they are the center of the world and a kind of unhealthy narcissism where the person feels abandoned or alone and so creates a world that he can feel the center of. Creating things comes naturally to those that experience this condition.
I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that many male narcissists are not exhibiting a personality feature born of past trauma. They are natural narcissists basking in the center of attention, comfortable with being on display. Creativity is often a hallmark of their personality. I’m playing with the idea that these self-oriented males are examples of the ancient genetic archetype described in detail when I discuss evolution, males that often come from families of left-handers. These are the male performers, often playing to gain the attention of a female, not very hierarchically inclined, but very focused on achieving attention. It is no mistake that artists are often narcissists. If the first stage of human development is characterized by an extraordinary surge of creativity with the self being produced from a single cell, then the next stage is awareness of the self just created. For humans, creativity and self awareness go hand in hand.
There are several implications
Autism may be a form of extreme narcissism or an early developmental stage so stretched out as to become one’s whole life. Innovative autism theorist Simon Baron-Cohen (cousin to Sasha) has suggested that autism is a too-male brain resulting from too high testosterone levels in the mother’s womb. I would suggest that autism is an example of an exaggeration of the left spectrum or older genotype, the artist/dancer prototype characteristic of matrifocal social structures. A mother with high testosterone levels suggests the female of this older genotype. High testosterone mothers create lower testosterone males and higher testosterone females. Autism is but the extreme of a narcissistic, creative, low testosterone male of this ancient, pre-patriarchal, random-handed society. Autism does not represent an extreme male brain but an unusually maturational delayed, neotenous brain encouraged by a mother with high testosterone levels.
Estrogen is also potentially in play, but I’ll discuss that another time.
Another implication of embracing rather than rejecting the narcissists among us is the repercussion of positively recognizing the evident flood of young male narcissists coursing into society. Their appearance has been accompanied by an astonishing increase in creativity as they interact with the web. I’m suspecting that it is not a bad thing. For example, it is not evidence of a society with regressive tendencies. I’m thinking that it is evidence of societal neoteny with features of earlier stages of ontogeny prolonging into the adult of the species. The forces compelling the neotenization of society are manifesting in increased male narcissism, increased creativity, increased autism and an increase in the number of women comfortable with wielding authority.
In the way that the label “narcissism” has been assigned to the self-enthralled (mostly males, in my experience) there is the label borderline personality disorder that has been assigned to another seeming deviation from a norm. I’m hypothesizing that if narcissistic personality disorders are mostly male, then borderline personality disorders are mostly female. Whereas there is a healthy narcissism, there is also a healthy borderline. That would be the left spectrum, old genotype woman used to being in command, comfortable with authority at the center of a matrifocal world. These details would suggest that narcissists often mate with borderlines and that left-handers would often be in their families. There is also a suggestion that conditions characterized by maturational delay, such as autism, would be closely associated with these two complementing personality “disorders”.
Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking. I don’t have to be a narcissist to even consider that I might be right. But it helps.
related: Action Words