Narcissists: Masculine and Feminine

Uploaded 5/11/2011, approx. 4 minute read

My name is Sam Vaknin, I am the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited.

Look around you, self-absorption, greed, frivolity, social anxiety, lack of empathy, exploitation, abuse, aggression and violence, and these are not marginal phenomena, these are the defining traits of our world and its denizens.

Our world has narcissistic civilizations, it upholds narcissistic values, penalizes the alternative value systems.

From an early age, children are taught to avoid self-criticism, to deceive themselves regarding their own capacities and achievements, to feel entitled, to exploit others. Litigiousness is the flip side of this inane sense of entitlement.

The disintegration of the very fabric of society is its outcome. It is a culture of self-delusion.

People adopt grandiose fantasies, often incommensurate with their real, dreary lives. Consumerism is built on this common and communal lie of I can do anything I want to or put my mind to, and I can possess everything I desire if I only apply myself to it.

There is one incriminating piece of evidence, the incidence of narcissistic personality disorder among men and women. Here, too, there is no proof that narcissistic personality disorder is a genetic disorder, or even that it has genetic roots. There is overwhelming evidence that it is the sad outcome of faulty upbringing of abuse in early childhood or early adolescence.

Still, if narcissistic personality disorder is not related to cultural and social contexts, then it should occur equally among men and women.

The fact is that it doesn't.

Narcissism, pathological narcissism, is three times more prevalent among men than it is among women. This seems to be because narcissistic personality disorder, as opposed, for instance, to borderline of histrionic personality disorders, which afflict women more.

Narcissism seems to conform to masculine social mores into the prevailing efforts of macho-capitalism.

Condition, achievement, hierarchy, ruthlessness, drive, victory are both social values and narcissistic traits.

Social thinkers like Lash, Christopher Lash, speculated that modern American culture and narcissistic self-centered one increases the rate of incidence of narcissistic personality disorder. And to this, Otto Kernberg, one of the fathers of the science of personality disorders, responded rightly.

The most I would be willing to say is that society can make serious psychological abnormalities, which already exist in some percentage of the population, seem to be at least superficially appropriate.

In other words, social mores, social values, value systems, sanction certain pathological behaviors, make them or render them socially acceptable, and this way enhances them.

In my book, Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, I have written about the connection between gender and pathological narcissism. In the manifestation, I wrote, of their narcissism, male and male narcissists inevitably tend to differ. They emphasize different things. They transform different elements of their personality and of their lives into the cornerstones of their disorder.

They both conform to cultural stereotypes, gender roles, and social expectations.

Women, for instance, concentrate on their bodies as they do in eating disorders. They flaunt and exploit their physical charms, their sexuality, their socially and culturally determined femininity.

In its extreme form, this is known as histrionic personality disorder.

Many female narcissists secure their narcissistic supply via their more traditional gender roles – home, children, suitable careers, their husbands, their feminine traits, their role in society, and so on.

It is no wonder that narcissists, both men and women, are chauvinistically conservative. They depend to such an extent on the opinions of people around them that with time they are transformed into ultra-sensitive seismographs of public opinion, barometers of prevailing winds, and guardians of conformity.

Narcissists cannot afford to seriously alienate those who reflect to them their false self. The very proper and ongoing functioning of their ego depends on the goodwill and collaboration of their human environment.

Even the self-destructive and self-defeating behaviors of narcissists conform to traditional masculine and feminine roles. Besieged and consumed by pernicious guilt feelings, many a-narcissists seek to be punished.

The self-destructive narcissist plays the role of the bad girl, but even then it is within the traditionally socially allocated roles.

To ensure social opprobrium, the narcissist cartoonishly exaggerates these roles. A woman is likely to label herself a whore and a male narcissist to style himself a vicious, unrepentant criminal or a tortured artist.

These again are traditional social roles. Men are likely to emphasize intellect, power, aggression, money or social status. Women are likely to emphasize body, looks, charm, sexuality, feminine traits, homemaking, children and child rearing, even as they seek their masochistic punishment.

There are mental disorders which afflict a specific sex more often. This has to do with the hormonal or other physiological dispositions, social and cultural conditioning through this socialization process and withdrawal assignment through the gender differentiation process.

None of these seem to be strongly correlated to the formation of malignant pathological narcissism.

So, narcissists say in our culture, I belong, I am a narcissist and you, you are the deviance. You have maladapted to my brave new world. It is the world of the narcissist. It is my world.

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