Entries categorized "Narcissism"

Narcissism Watch: Spend Money to Look Like the "Working Man"

I have worked at a junk yard and detasseled corn.  I know something of the "working man."  I made many sacrifices and worked very hard so that I would not end up like the working man.  Indeed, my father and I got into a huge argument when I was young: He made me quit my job at the junk yard, since he got the impression I enjoyed it too much.  (Thanks, Dad.)  It's a tough life.

Compare a 50-year-old lawyer to a 50-year-old factory worker.  Law is a grind is just metaphor.  Lawyers like to whine.  Waah, law is so tough.  Yes, it is.  So what?  Go work in a factory for one week if you've forgotten (or never knew) what a real grind is.  Consider it "Scared Straight!" for lawyers. 

In any event, people who have never worked a day in their lives nonetheless want to be perceived as rugged working men.  That is narcissism.  

Narcissism is mistakenly understood as egoism.  There's more to narcissism than mere egoism.  A narcissist does not have a true ego - because an ego presupposes the existence of an internal identity.  An ego looks within.  

Instead, the narcissist has a persona - a brand.  The brand is always looking out, and is always obsessed with how others perceive it.  Always managing the brand.  An egoist (not naming names) simply doesn't give a fuck.  Identity > persona. 

Look at these idiots.  Then read their professions: Idiots  

  • Kris Payne, 26, Landscape Photographer. 
  • Kyle Hackett, 28, Menswear Designer.
  • Jason Andrews, 36, Artist, D.J.
  • Simon Howell, 37, Photographer. 

Back in the day, I wore thick denim jeans to work...Because thin denim would tear.  Steel would cut through thin jeans right into your skin.  The same thing with flannels.  When you're outside working, you need durable clothing to protect you from thick branches and errant scrap metal.  You also need warmth.

Look at the cost of their clothing:

  • Stock: Pima-cotton flannels, tartan ties, and raw selvage denim jeans ($130).
  • Stock: Woodsy-dandy pieces, lambswool-lined leather vests, khaki chino pants ($135).
  • Super-durable blended-cotton fabrics, wool-flannel check coats ($289)

What working stiff could afford to spend $130 on jeans?  None.  Even if they could afford it, they wouldn't be so stupid.  The clothing will eventually rip.  A good pair of work jeans might last a few months.

Denim and flannel wasn't about a look.  It was about reality.  In a society of narcissists, the look becomes reality.

Corrupt Cops and Prosecutors Lose Lawsuit Against John Grisham

A bunch of corrupt and/or incompetent police and prosecutors had an innocent man sent to prison to rot for over a decade.  John Grisham wrote a book about the police and prosecutors.  What do you suppose happened?

Did Scalia's new police professionals reflect on how they sent an innocent man to prison?  Did they seek to improve police procedures in light of their glaring error?  Hah!

Instead, they sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress.  You see, Grisham's book hurt their feelings.  To a bunch of narcissists, their hurt feelings matter more than the harm they cause others.  It's so bizarre to the few of us who are healthy.  To a narcissist, other people are props in their plays.  What happens to other people is only interesting insofar as it relates to the main event - who is always the narcissist.

Some dude went to prison for a decade, and instead of agonizing over their corruption and incompetence, they niggled over a narcissistic injury.  That's exactly how we'd expect them to behave.  It's good to see the bad guys lose again:

In 1988, Ronald Williamson and Dennis Fritz were wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of Debra Sue Carter. Both men were later exonerated after spending over a decade in jail. Their painful story caught the attention of renowned legal-fiction author John Grisham, who wrote a book about Williamson appropriately titled The Innocent Man. Fritz also wrote a book, Journey Toward Justice, detailing the horror of his years of unjust confinement.

Each of the plaintiffs in this case—Oklahoma District Attorney William Peterson; former Shawnee police officer Gary Rogers; and former Oklahoma state criminologist Melvin Hett—played a role in the investigation or prosecution and conviction of Williamson and Fritz. Neither The Innocent Man nor Journey Toward Justice paints the plaintiffs in a positive light.

Following the release of these books, plaintiffs filed suit in Oklahoma district court seeking relief for defamation, false light invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy. They named Grisham, Fritz, anti-death penalty advocate Barry Scheck, and author Robert Mayer—along with their respective publishers—as defendants. The district court dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.

Narcissism v. Individualism

Probably the most influential essay I ever read was Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self Reliance."  One who understands this understands life: "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion []."  The individualist is what he is.  She is a person with a soul or identity.  He is not not a brand or object or commodity that demands the validation of others.  

Some mistake the individualist for a narcissist.  Christopher Lasch explains the distinction in the must-read Culture of Narcissism:

Narcissism represents the psychological dimension of this dependence. Notwithstanding his occasional illusions of omnipotence, the narcissist depends on others to validate his self-esteem. He cannot live without an admiring audience. His apparent freedom from family ties and institutional constraints does not free him to stand alone or to glory in his individuality. On the contrary, it contributes to his insecurity, which he can overcome only by seeing his “grandiose self” reflected in the attentions of others, or by attaching himself to those who radiate celebrity, power, and charisma. For the narcissist, the world is a mirror, whereas the rugged individualist saw it as am empty wilderness to be shaped by his own design.

It's hard for a society of narcissist to understand this distinction.  If you are obsessing over what others think of you - serially Googling your name, e.g., - then you haven't attained self-reliance.  You are not an individual.  You are a brand that floats through the market, hoping for a stranger's grubby hand to stroke you.  

The narcissist is obsessed with the attention of others; the individualist would prefer that others leave him alone.  The narcissist is a slave; the individualist is free.

Law, Image, and Entitlement

"The definition of a narcissist is one who creates an identity and prizes it above all other things." Defining one's self in light of one's job is symptomatic of narcissists, and is common in lawyers. As if italicizing one's profession were not enough ("I'm a lawyer"), lawyers must create a stronger bulwark by calling everyone else non-lawyers. You don't hear mechanics speak of non-mechanics, or engineers as non-engineers, or physicists as non-physicists. What a person does is not who a person is - at least if you have a healthy sense of self.


The worst job a lawyer can have is that of a temporary lawyer. Unlike in other professions, a temporary lawyer is not someone who shows up to do work commensurate with his education. A temporary secretary, e.g., comes into an office to do secretarial work (perhaps while the regular secretary is out on sick leave). A contract lawyer, by contrast, does not do lawyerly work.

A contract lawyer is placed in a small room, huddled next to other lawyers.  There are often cockroaches running around the floor; there is rarely ventilation; and there is never autonomy or independent judgment.

Instead, contract lawyers stare at a computer monitor, reviewing documents to see whether the documents fall under attorney-client privilege.  A contract lawyer must go through 60-100 8.5x11" sheets each hour.  There is no room to think, since there is nothing to think about.  Whether or not a document is privileged is something a smart teenager could figure out simultaneously playing World of Warcraft and listening to an iPod.

After a year or so of contract lawyering, a lawyer is viewed as untouchable. Every heuristic and bias goes against contract lawyers.  "If no one else would hire you to do real legal work, why would I?"  Not every contract lawyer is hopeless.


For one contract lawyer, there was an out. Guest-blogging at the always-depressing Temporary Attorney Blog, someone with few job options wrote:

A college friend of mine works for Cognizant, a mobile communications technology company. Upon hearing of my plight, he asked me to give him my resume so he could forward it to his friend in the legal department. I hesitatingly did so, knowing in my heart and mind that I would be quickly rejected and laughed at because of all the Contract Attorney experience listed on my resume. My prediction came true: my friend called me a few days after forwarding my resume and told me his friend in the legal department determined that I "didn't have the skill set" they needed. My friend pressed him to define exactly what he meant by "skill set," and he said the following (my friend actually took notes):

1) New York Law School is a joke, a farce. They don't even consider NYLS graduates for attorney positions.

He might be able to get me an interview for a paralegal position though, but it's a long shot. (Mr. Matasar. I AM A LICENSED ATTORNEY, NOT A PARALEGAL!! I SPENT OVER $140,000 TO OBTAIN MY J.D. FROM NYLS AND I'M ADMITTED TO PRACTICE IN TWO JURISDICTIONS!!)

The contract lawyer is desperate for money. Later in the post, he states that he's so desperate that he's going to default on his student loans. His identity is so tied up into his J.D. and bar passages that he'd rather be broke than suffer the destruction of that identity.


The entitlement mentality of common of narcissism. He passed two bars (ALL CAPS! EXCLAMATION POINTS!). He's a lawyer. None of this matters to anyone but himself. No one owes him a job.

His entitlement attitude is self-destructive in another way. What if he took a job as a paralegal? Consider the possibilities for a minute.

A smart paralegal is usually asked, "Why aren't you a lawyer?" Often a paralegal is a lawyer - though perhaps not a member of the Bar. Some people do not want the stress of being a lawyer, and in California, anyway, a paralegal usually gets paid overtime.

A paralegal who can do lawyer-like legal work will soon find himself receiving more lawyer-like work. A paralegal who works and thinks like a lawyer - and who is also a licensed lawyer will - not long be working as a paralegal.

If this contract lawyer is as good as he thinks, then he will soon have a job doing real lawyering. Yet his fake image of himself as a lawyer will prevent him from ever becoming a real lawyer.

He is entitled to better. Because he is entitled to better, he will receive nothing.


Many people wind up like the hapless loser contract lawyer. "I won't dare to that!" Well, why not? Because it's beneath you? If it really beneath you, or beneath the false identity you've created?

Interestingly, it's often the person with the strongest sense of self who will do the lowliest level work when it needs to be done. Of course it's economically inefficient for the CEO to take out the trash. Yet many empty trash cans when it needs done. There is no, "What has my identity become?!" narcissistic injury. A person with a strong sense of self is not defined by taking out the trash.

Will you do what you must do? That is good questions to ask ourselves each day. Often we have no good reason for why we won't. If the best answer is, ultimately, "Narcissism," then we're at least on our way to recovery.

See a Narcissist Parent

Do check out this insightful post and fascinating comment thread.  "Sparkylong" serves as the voice of insight and reason.  "Turk" plays the role of narcissistic father.

The post and thread reminded me of a brilliant insight from The Last Psychiatrist: "[Today's parents] secretly read their kid's email and MySpace accounts, but have never once read the kid's math book. (If you do your kid's math homework with them every night, I swear to you that you won't need to worry about MySpace.)."

Catholicism Succumbs to the Culture of Narcissism

Section 1983 Blog has a post about Catholic League v. City and County of San Francisco, a frivolous case in our frivolous times.  In Catholic League, the Catholic Church sued because the City of San Francisco hurt Catholics' feelings.  Suing for hurt feelings is only more evidence of our culture of narcissism.  

Thinking about the lawsuit reminded me of a passage from from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:

In the exercise of domestic jurisdiction, the nobles of Rome express an exquisite sensibility for any personal injury, and a contemptuous indifference for the rest of the human species. When they have called for warm water, if a slave has been tardy in his obedience, he is instantly chastised with three hundred lashes: but should the same slave commit a wilful murder, the master will mildly observe, that he is a worthless fellow; but that, if he repeats the offence, he shall not escape punishment.

That's the culture of narcissism.  Hurt someone else...No big deal.  Fail to bend to our whim...Lashings!

Rape children?  No big deal.  Confess your sins, and we'll transfer you to another parish.  Call us bigots?  We're filing a lawsuit!

The Church has become part of the culture rather than something separate from the culture.  Blurring the line between church and state has not turned the United States into a theocracy.  Instead, it's turned Catholicism into the Church of Narcissism.  

It is the Church, not the state, most is need of separation of church and state.

Money and Cognitive Bias

Bankrate.com has fantastic article entitled, "12 Hair-Raising Money Tales."  Some of the tales involve banker corruption, deceit ans so-called gotcha capitalism.  Many money mistakes involve decisions.  And thus there are problems with cognitive bias.  Take this example: 

In 1995, my husband's employer in Pensacola, Fla., sold to a company in Bowling Green, Ky. The economy was strong, and we were enjoying our Florida home and thinking about retirement. But my husband took a consulting position with the Kentucky company.

We took equity from our residence in Florida and bought a small home on a large lake in Kentucky. We planned to downsize, sell the Florida home and travel after my husband completed his work.

Isn't that typical?  That's optimism bias. "Optimism bias is the demonstrated systematic tendency for people to be over-optimistic about the outcome of planned actions. This includes over-estimating the likelihood of positive events and under-estimating the likelihood of negative events. It is one of several kinds of positive illusion to which people are generally susceptible."  

Someone gets a promotion: Don't just celebrate with a nice dinner.  Buy a new car!  A new house!  Spend right up to your new salary.  Live as if that new salary is always going to be there.

Let's put aside the spiritually-draining concept of supersizing one's spending.  If you're mostly happy with your current salary, why buy more stuff just because you have more money?  Your lifestyle was fine before your raise.  Plus, money is freedom.  Save enough money that you can tell your boss to go to Hell.  Watch your job-related stress fall.  Oh, you thought it was a coincidence that your boss always tells you to buy a house or to upgrade your car?    

I see optimism bias with friends my age.  Why are you in such a hurry to get into a house?  Besides the fact that owning a house makes one a debt slave: Why do you think you'll be able to keep paying the mortgage?  Is there a guarantee that the money will always be there?  Unless your parents are rich, what's your safety net?  No one needs a safety net, though.  Optimism bias.

Most people, though, underestimate the likelihood of negative outcomes.  It can't happen to me.  Yet another aspect of our culture of narcissism.

"This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly"

As we live in a culture of narcissism, few realize when we are re in a bubble.  Sure, there have been bubbles in most every other country; and all throughout history.  But we are special.  I am a special.  I would never get caught in a bubble.  Well, of course, this time wasn't different.

Oh, but the recession/depression is over, right?  Even though Japan lost a decade, and the Great Depression lasted years.  We are special.  This time is different.  Narcissism.  

The theme is explored in This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly.  Fantastic radio interview here.  

Book here: 


Probably most human behavior would not be surprising if a person understood: social classes; sociopathy; and especially narcissism.  Humans really can be stereotyped.  People are interesting, persons are boring. 

A great place to start is: Narcissism: Denial of the True Self (here). The book's cover is purple, and indicates that an M.D. wrote it - either of which should disqualify it from purchase.  It's good, if you think of it like The Sociopath Next Door - an introduction to the issues and psychopathology.  Once you're done with Narcissism, check out The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (here).  

The Culture of Narcissism was first published in 1979.  Three decades have not altered the themes.  Books like The Culture of Narcissism reminds one why it's pointless to watch "the news."  Most news is transitory.  Would anyone who has read Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds be surprised to learn about the housing bubble?  Tulips or houses; bubbles are bubbles.  Would anyone who has read Extraordinary Popular Delusions (here) be surprised to learn that we are currently in a higher education bubble; or that we're still in a housing bubble?  No.  

But books take a long time to read.  If it's a good book, closing the covers reminds you that you're now ignorant of 99% of a subject.  And if you only know 1% about something after reading a book: What does that say about your fluency in everything else?  

Reading headlines, though, makes you feel like an informed citizen.  "Did you see the news today?!"  No.  Should I have?

Reading books makes you question everything that a lifetime of headlines have indoctrinated you to believe.  It's better to feel informed than have the ignorance of your true self revealed.  Indeed, that's the curse of narcissism.  

Lacking a true self, you construct the Informed (Wo)Man.  In reality, you're empty.  You know nothing.  You have no wisdom or knowledge.  Reading news is an easy way to protect yourself: How dare you?!  I know stuff!

Of course, learning stuff is a process of manipulation.  Protecting your empty self allows mass media to create an additional self - the Easily Manipulated Consumer.  No.  Not me.  I choose to buy this new car.  That's what they want you to think.

"Because everything I was ever told was a lie..."