When it comes to the topic of narcissism, you might be surprised to learn that psychologists still hotly debate what narcissism actually is. Some say they have very high self-esteem, others that they have very low self-esteem. Others that they are self-aware and clever, others that they’re cognitively deficient and barely aware of themselves as active participants in their lives at all. Object relations theory suggests something is fundamentally wrong in their perception of objects both internal and external. Some say they don’t have any empathy, others that they have empathy, but they just don’t care. More importantly for a therapist; some say they can be treated successfully, but others that they are completely beyond rehabilitation. Then there are countless others who take up various positions between those ranges, and some additional views that I haven’t even mentioned. The only things that psychologists seem to agree on regarding narcissism is that they’re very difficult people to get along with; they tend to avoid therapy, they’re very easily offended, they are horrible parents, they’re almost never happy, and they’re controlling and destructive.
So when I talk about narcissism it is important that I am clear about what I am talking about, but also I often think with all the debate and disagreement among experts in the field maybe I should use a new term altogether in referring to them. I tend to use the term “tyranni” to refer to narcissists because for me the most distinctive aspect about a narcissist is not their supposed “self-love”, which is hotly debated, but their pervasive desire to dominate and subvert all their relationships: to act as little tyrants so to speak, hence I call them tyranni meaning “the little tyrants”. For this article I will use the term narcissism, but rest assured if I ever write a book about them I will probably call them tyranni instead.
The topic of narcissism is intensely interesting to me, I could really write a book about narcissists, I even have my own private word for describing them, “tyranni” which I think is clearer in describing them and their perfidious nature. However, in the interests of keeping my blog updated I thought I would share a few thoughts I’ve been having recently regarding the topic of bonding and how it concerns the nature of narcissists.
Bonding is a complicated subject, and one that is often brought to my attention by people asking me about women who have had multiple sexual partners and how compromised their ability to bond is. I am familiar with the research being referenced here, and statistically it is true, women who have had multiple sexual partners before marriage are a very high risk of divorce… However, statistics are not as straight forward to interpret at they may appear. For instance, how many of those women had lost (or lacked) the ability to bond before they had any sexual partners? I mean, is multiple sexual partners the cause of the lack of ability to bond or was their lack of ability to bond the cause of them having so many sexual partners?
Consider it this way, these women had to have a first time with someone, so why didn’t they just bond with him?
One of the surest ways to get yourself in an awkward or aggravating situation these days is to bring up the topic of gender. Gender, once exclusively the domain of grammar, not biology, has become a political issue of the most taboo kind, especially if you are in university. In fact, the gender debate played a large role in my decision to withdraw from my PhD candidature and leave the academic environment. It wasn’t because I wasn’t interested in the ideas surrounding gender, but even though I was fascinated in the topic, and wanted to explore it, I did want to explore the topic in directions completely different to what is currently considered acceptable on university campuses.
The traditional view of gender, if there is indeed such a thing, is a difficult concept to pin down. I often muse to myself that maybe grammatical conventions started it all because words with a pretty ending were generally called “feminine” while words with a strong ending were called “masculine” and if people couldn’t agree if an ending was sufficiently pretty or strong to be either then it was “neuter”. I bet those early grammarians had no idea the chaos that would be unleashed on future generations thanks to their colourful scheme used to classify nouns. But I digress, let’s suppose for the sake of argument that there is a traditional view of gender and that femininity is emotional, empathic, relationship focused, and receptive. Conversely, masculine nature is rational, assertive, systematic, and mathematical. Yes, many people, myself included, would dispute these definitions as being too narrow, but this is just for illustrative purposes.
Now, let’s ask ourselves: how many men and women actually have genders that match these descriptions? Continue reading