In this article I show you why some of the conceptions of narcissism are fallacious and I will propose a new perspective on narcissistic tendencies.
Narcissism should be re-conceptualized as social defeat resistance behavior, an attempt for an individual to prove they are not deserving of persecution but instead acceptance and validation, diminishing one’s cons and advertising one’s pros.
This is a clip from an article about narcissism. Notice that the author admits having a failure of empathy/theory-of-mind regarding people who appear to have faulty empathy/theory-of-mind. Somehow this is paradoxical. This is because we fail to empathize with those who are different and this describes how the author views people who are different from her. Try to imagine what it’s like to be a mollusk, this proves exceedingly difficult compared to imagining what it’s like to be a human. Even imagining what’s it’s like to be a dog is easier but far from the simplicity of virtualizing another human in your mind. It is obvious that humans are not simpler than mollusks, but somehow virtualizing humans is far more doable.
This sort of conundrum is a problem for a lot of mental health, quite an ubiquitous problem in fact. The way we pathologize many conditions is probably a result of a failure to comprehend the perspectives of these individuals. Consider autism, a disorder we often see as a failure of theory of mind, all while professional mind theorists still struggle to understand the subjective experience of autism. Perhaps autists do not inherently lack an ability to use theory of mind, but instead there is a fracture in the comparability between themselves and others, perhaps their nervous system behaves just differently enough to produce experiences that progressively deviate from the norm, pushing them out of normal culture due to being outcast for their deviant reactions to stimuli, dropping out of culture, being left behind to such a degree that they can’t relate to society and vise versa. I’d expect even a degradation of regions associated to theory of mind to occur simply do to nonuse. It is the case that neurotypicals would similarly not engage in theory of mind towards the autistic, viewing them like a strange creature or alien, much like in this initial quote.
We become tribal, racist, bigoted often times when confronted with humans who appear unimaginably different. With racism we may perceive the cultural and socioeconomic outcomes of a race and assume the behaviors or tendencies are purely and arbitrarily linked to their race rather than as a byproduct of complex circumstance differences that have shaped the person. The ones who are more exposed to differentness may develop skills in abstracting and understanding differences without identical overlaps of experience or state of mind. The mollusk is so simple yet incomprehensible to our theory of mind, revealing that we don’t process other minds based purely on observing their minds but by comparing it to our own.
The way that left and right politics both attack each other and assume their own superiority is an analogous or even almost identical dynamic between the narcissist and society. Both the left and the right fail to empathize with each other and might perceive each other as cold and un-empathetic. It is anger or perceived threat that seems to turn off our empathy, which is valuable for survival as you don’t want to empathize and submit to your attacker. Political party tribalism is similar to the example about racism above, we generalize and link many behavioral tendencies arbitrarily to the tribal affiliation. In the case of those who are at risk of social defeat, consider that their tribe is themselves, the lone individual who is up against the rest of their society. It may not always be an entire society, but a small tribe may have created the context that feeds this dynamic. The narcissist and those at risk for social defeat would be under the spell of perceived threat. The very fact that narcissism is stigmatized will spur attempts to justify one’s emotions and behaviors. The diagnosis itself is a form of invalidation, it is a statement of brokenness on the ‘afflicted’ individual. Once perceived threat causes a withdrawal of empathy, others appear cold, evil, inhuman. Once the others see this loss of empathy, they too will lose their empathy, viewing the defensive person as an enemy.
Outside of this dynamic, people are also conditioned to not give empathy to narcissists as part of our culture, while the narcissists are often begging for it and trying to induce jealousy or attempting to signal desirability “look what your missing out on” or “I’m too good for you anyways” yet too desperately, too impulsively, fiending for empathy like it’s cocaine. Most of us do not think to praise someone who is boasting excessively. Culture tells us to deprive the narcissist of any validation. Shame him. He’s too greedy. But it’s actually a sort of validation deprivation disorder.
I’ve observed that disagreement and nonconformity in general invokes narcissistic reactions on both sides. Those who become defined by these reactions become compelled into further defending of their ideas and behaviors, and ultimately labeled the narcissist. The habitual responses of the narcissist paired with the habitual reactions to narcissism by society that are normalized by our culture perpetuate the dynamic loop between the narcissist and society. Even when they find new friends they have lingering habits and insecurities and an expectation of criticism and rejection from prior conditioning that will ultimately escalate into true criticisms and rejections once again. Their fears/traumas/Pavlovian conditioning will manifest into reality.
Disagreement on the consensus side of the debate will appear as a defense of the crowd, the person defending the majority may appear as the hero speaking for the masses. It comes off as selfless or at least something that people dismiss without noticing the similarities to narcissism because of the different social context, and importantly, a bias to empathize, justify, and rationalize the position of those who we relate to. In essence, we retain our theory of mind for those we agree with, which allows us to fully relate to those on our side, to humanize our team members. In toxic narcissistic relationships, this humanization is found where lovers justify the narcissistic behavior of their partner. Love has the opposite effect of anger, where love creates a bias of understanding and anger creates a bias to prove that the person is irrational or incomprehensible. Understanding and empathizing with someone who is dangerous to us would result in our own demise. Imagine that a robber breaks into your house and you understand that they are going through extreme hardship and desperation and you forgive them in the moment and allow them to take your stuff.
Those who attack a narcissist will appear to have many of the narcissistic traits during the interaction which will often be unnoticed, almost hilariously so.
This comment from Instagram reveals one of these humorous interactions. The original post that this person is replying to was not an insulting post but something portrayed academically (an infographic post), although of course expressing information that supports veganism which is against their tribe, the Paleo dieters. This is most fascinating because there is a stereotype of vegan narcissism or elitism being employed as an attack and this person is calling others ( vegans) mentally deficient, irrational, and evil. This all implies that she is superior and seems to be very narcissistic and ultimately quite hypocritical. This connects back to the first clip, where vegans are the alien robots from another planet in this scenario, at least to the nonvegans. This alienation and stigmatization of veganism is deprivation of validation. The mere idea that veganism is considered invalid by the majority is inherently a risk factor for a defensive narcissistic response from the vegan when in conflict.
Its worth noting that when a minority identity is heavily criticized by majority society, there is a serious problematic dynamic that occurs. Being nonvegan means going about society without feeling threatening by about 98% of society (the percentage of nonvegans) while the vegan tiptoes on eggshells around the majority of society (98%) who they are conditioned by constant conflict. Basically every meal as a vegan sitting among nonvegans can feel tense and strange. People have a lens expecting tribal conflict or subtle insults which drives paranoia on both sides. This has been my experience with going vegan. Both sides will fear that gossip occurs behind closed doors. Gossip seems narcissistic as well. But again, the majority side will consider their gossip as reasonable while seeing the enemy as unreasonable. Veganism is typically a socially defeated culture.
Genes that are linked to nonconformity and linked to ‘openness to experience’ are also linked to psychopathy, which has overlapping characteristics with narcissism like grandiosity and low empathy. Both are personality disorders under the umbrella of “dramatic personality disorders”. Although I found no associations in the research between narcissism and openness, there does seem to be an association to low agreeableness. It would seem that having ideas that diverge from the norm would have similar effects of having oppositional political viewpoints, or result similarly to the case shown above with veganism. The difference would be that the deviant narcissist isn’t inherently a part of any tribe but simply latched onto some nonconformist opinion in which the deviant may be the sole representative of their opinion, and in the case of narcissism may often be habitually defending opposition to their opinions or behaviors. To the outsider this appears as if the narcissist believes they are always right and everyone else is making inferior choices, a very similar pattern to vegan stereotypes. Common vegan stereotypes include the belief that they feel morally superior or more informed on ethics, health science, or environmental science. The tribe is pressuring conformity while the low agreeable types are defending their nonconformity and attempting to justify it.
Those who react most impulsively to disagreement may be most prone to becoming the narcissist because of the dynamics that will unfold. Others may be equally as narcissistic on the inside, but the impulsive ones will act without regard to the consequences and fall prey to these social dynamics. Quickly they become the scapegoat of the situation, it is something like a game of poker. People hold facades of high status and the impulsive ones succumb to their most natural instincts, making them appear brute-like.
There is this concept that is often touted known as the narcissistic supply, a sort of ego fuel to protect the narcissist from feeling bad. I believe everyone needs narcissistic supply but most have a secure source of it while the narcissist behaves in shameful ways that results in deprivation of their supply. It is like having cooties. Sometimes people lack narcissistic supply because cooties causes everyone to reject you and then you become a validation beggar. The impulsiveness that is associated to the personality disorder could be because it is our first instinct/impulse to become desperate. Beggars of money who scream and cry would most likely get the least money while the ones who exercise a lot of self control and low impulsiveness will be able to gain money.
Genes would not necessarily be the primary mechanism of becoming narcissist, but simply being different and having an urge to defend one’s differentness should be expected to manifest in the personality disorder. The defensive tone will quickly have one responding insecurely and viciously towards others, asserting their rightfulness in the face of conflict. As conflict becomes the common pattern, pavlovian conditioning causes more immediate and habitual response to conflict, and an increasing bias to perceive even the most subtle conflicts, essentially developing skills in conflict detection, or the infamous hypersensitivity to criticism that is common to narcissists. Those who are not conditioned like this will see the narcissist as paranoid and unreasonably sensitive to criticisms. It is something like a PTSD, a hyper vigilant response to criticism to detect future criticisms more quickly and efficiently, ultimately making one look like a hostile, defensive, insecure, and reactive type. Those who become familiar with the narcissist will form their own kind of PTSD-like response, developing skills in detecting defensive reactions. Both sides may begin to undergo power plays, poking, or trolling after becoming aware and bothered by these tendencies. The outsiders will poke at the narcissists ego, feeling justified, while the narcissist will boast as if to make others feel inferior.
We often see the internet as a breeding ground for narcissism but the reality is that the internet is a platform that streamlines conflict and different opinions, which ultimately manifests into the tribal dynamics I’ve proposed in this article. Narcissism is a natural response to conflict. Prior to the internet, ideas and memes would pool locally and geographic cultures would tend to be more homogenous, with ideas slowly changing on a gradient as you travel outward. The method for ideas to travel was word of mouth or telephone. People generally associated with the locals rather than many long distance associations. The television is an exception to this, a platform for popular culture to homogenize but of course this medium is heavily censored. We see that the culture of today is obsessed with being uncensored. The Internet dissolves these limitations and allows for the locality of ideas to diffuse. This results in a lot of conflict because ideas are no longer changing on a smooth geographically oriented gradient, and so the pattern of idea exposure is more chaotic, people are confronted with conflict more constantly. This all facilitates the development of narcissistic traits. In the far future we might expect a new popular culture that is more homogenous than our current state of society.
It appears that this pattern of narcissism could be extremely common and nearly universal to human behaviors, while some are consumed by these dynamics for various circumstantial reasons, such as being insulted for being insulted, which is what diagnosing narcissism by doctors or even just peers/family does. Nationalism is like a national grandiosity, responding to cultural differences. Tribalism, elitism, xenophobia, disagreement on almost any level appears to result in these patterns for many, just not always in a way that transcends the appropriate context. It is those whose identity becomes invalid that may manifest into the personality disorder.
It’s important to note that in the face of conflict there are two possible outcomes (or potentially a spectrum between two extreme outcomes):
Social Domination – Winning, superiority, grandiosity, alpha position and basically the seemingly narcissistic side of things, although narcissism could be resistance to defeat which is often times seen as cringe. This is characteristic of mania, which will be explored thoroughly in an upcoming article titled Domination.
Social Defeat – Silence, shame, embarrassment, submission, weakness, inferiority, sometimes the scapegoat (pretty relevant to the case of narcissism in which scapegoating is commonly talked about in family dynamics involving narcissists). Defeat is like psychosis and depression, which also be explored in the new article, but luckily I’ve explored defeat a bit more already!
In regards to scapegoating, it may be that the narcissist often feels scapegoated and in spite attempts to scapegoat others for revenge. I believe that schizophrenia is closely linked to narcissism except a differential outcome in the face of conflict, typically manifesting from social defeat.
My articles titled Dynorphin and Nexus are an exploration of defeat, and this battle between social defeat and winning is also a major theme in Xenotypy which explores deviation psychology. These are worth exploring to understand more of these social dynamics at play. Nexus is best to explore social defeat, which I recommend reading next!
When someone criticizes your personality or behaviors, what is your gut reaction? Is it to admit defeat and accept that you’ve been a loser all along? Or do you attempt to defend and justify your ways of being?
Comment below about your experiences, I want to hear.
We should create a culture of forgiveness that comes into play after initial backlash against immoral behaviors. We can forgive rather than apply a permanent stigma. The punishment could help generate fear of future immoral tendencies and the forgiveness can prevent social defeat sickness or narcissistic identity permanence.
14 thoughts on “AntiNarcissism”
“…perceive the cultural and socioeconomic outcomes of a race and assume the behaviors or tendencies are purely and arbitrarily linked to their race rather than as a byproduct of complex circumstance differences..”
Fantastic point. Reminded me immediately of the caution against conflating impact with intent, on an interpersonal level, e.g. not to infer a negative motive to someone merely because they did something that made us feel negatively.
“Common vegan stereotypes include the belief that they feel morally superior or more informed on ethics, health science, or environmental science.”
I’d argue that this is less of a “stereotype” and more so a reflection of the reality that many have encountered. Nearly every vegan/vegetarian I have ever known in real life or spoken to online fits this description to the letter. I’ve been shouted down as a “carnist apologist” just for suggesting that the vegan diet is not intrinsically superior in every way. Yes, yes, I know “the plural of anecdote is not data” – but there is data, easily found data, on this topic. Every primary vegan source that I can find makes positive claims about the ethical, nutritional, and environmental superiority of the lifestyle, and insists that there’s no such thing as “ethical meat” (i.e. it’s impossible for an omnivore to make ethical food choices… i.e. it’s impossible for anyone that disagrees with us to be moral… etc.).
Let me be clear: I think that there are likely many vegans that are not “superior” in their manner or thoughts toward those that do not share their views. I think that many people undoubtedly thrive on a vegan diet, or could if they tried. I am not denouncing your decision to go vegan, nor do I think less of you for it. I enjoyed your article and have a great deal of respect for the thought and effort that went into creating it. You’re an excellent essayist.
“We should create a culture of forgiveness that comes into play after initial backlash against immoral behaviors. We can forgive rather than apply a permanent stigma.”
This, I thought, was an EXCELLENT point. It certainly seems that the path to redemption is muddier and less distinct than it has ever been in Late Modern/Contemporary history, to our collective detriment. If there’s no possibility of forgiveness, how to we expect people to be incentivized to repent and change their ways?
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for commenting and your kind words! So I’ve written a somewhat lengthy response here, just a warning. I hope you can see a bit of my perspective after this though.
When I mention about veganism, I am not suggesting that they are lacking the stereotypical behaviors, but explaining why. In reality, people go vegan usually are doing so because they were convinced by the ethics, health science, or environmental aspects, and once you enter the community, you will be engaging with all three major arguments and be exposed consistently to memes, inforgraphics, research, lectures, and more. So usually a large portion of vegans, especially those who might be more inclined to speak out will have adopted all three of these positions typically. That’s not always the case though. There’s also a large portion who do not follow the scientific points.
So in essence, people are becoming vegan because they think it is a good idea. The fact that they think it’s a good idea can be “superiority”, which complicates all of this. People generally don’t make drastic life changing decisions on the basis that it’s an inferior ideas compared to all other options.
This is very normal with most decisions and is what I’m highlighting in this post. People generally want to make good decisions and when someone else makes a contrary decision, there is an immediate paranoia that the other thinks you are inferior, which will be probably true if the person feels their choices are justified.
In the vegan culture there are memes about carnists acting like they are suddenly health scientists or know it all once they find out your vegan. Another common meme is that the vegan will hide themselves but then “carnists” find out and begin to obsess with justifying themselves or conflict. I’ve actually experienced this.
When I was first vegan I was so scared to tell people at stores or food places.
Funny enough, when I order from nonvegan places it’s extremely common for my order to be wrong. The first time I tried the del taco beyond tacos I asked for the no cheese ones and one of them had cheese. This also happened the second time. The first time I went to Dog Haus I think they gave me real beef based on evidence I found later, plus the unfamiliar smell and later intense sickness I got from it. The second time I went to dog haus they gave me real sausage, which they confirmed to me was real based on the size and color difference. The first time I went to this ramen place nearby, there was a single piece of pork at the bottom of their vegan item lol. We didn’t mind much because it was too late, we ate it all. But we did point it out and then things got weird. We were completely casual and not upset about it. Smile/laughing and just mentioned it. They did give us the dish for free, but they began acting very different. They started acting defensive and more anxious. They weren’t responding appropriately to our casual demeanor but instead acting over reactive basically. I thought it’s so strange. To me, this instances in public are so awkward and uncomfortable, when people seem to fall out of tune socially. This in particular does not usually happen when I tell the workers though luckily. But it almost feels as if they are randomly victimizing themselves lol. Usually, the people smile and replace the food with the vegan one. But it’s incredibly frequent, maybe 90% of the time I order at nonvegan places.
Strangely, the rate of error from custom orders before going vegan was something like 20%. Mind you, a majority of these experiences I refer to are actually with vegan items actually on the menu, completely non custom.
Recently in New York, there was manager approved trickery at Burger King. Online it’s possible to order the impossible burger at the location even though it doesn’t exist yet in all but one state of the US. The manager told them to add a beef patty instead of the impossible burger to all customers who order this and then to warn the customer that it has real meat upon delivery of the item. No one was warned at all, and they kept the impossible burger wrapper. Why would they still use the impossible burger wrapper on a normal whopper but switch to real beef? It actually makes no sense. So it is pretty clear that it was something fishy. It’s it’s obvious that people ordering vegan meat would likely cancel their orders if it is real beef, rather than vegans asking to get the real beef instead. But eventually they were caught when the people ordering online came in to order the same thing at the location and noticed it’s not on their actual menu at the storefront and now it’s in the news.
This is only one tiny little oddity about being vegan. I’ve also had my family harass me while I try very hard to avoid interacting on this topic. None of them have ever harassed me for anything. This goes for my nonvegan friends as well. The trend is that people think I’m trying to convert them through subtle tactics. One time my aunt asked what I was eating and I let her try some of the fake cheese. I try to give honest rating and I’ll say “ahh it’s not very realistic but it tastes interesting”. One time I heard my aunt say something like “I see what you are trying to do” and it’s so incredibly awkward and unexpected that I sort of question if it really happened. I basically just didn’t respond and continued as if that statement didn’t occur. Or I pretend to sort of get what she’s talking about but I can’t be sure.
Also nonvegans will defensively talk about liking nonvegan food when I’m trying to completely avoid confrontation. I’ll just tense up and they act like I’m judging them. I’ve had my cousin passive aggressively describe me as cringey, and although he didn’t say me specifically, he seemed to describe me quite accurately but in regards to more general group of people, not vegans but I think it was about political stuff. He described it so aggressively too which came off very strange.
I’ve had family dinners where the only topic is how to cut and cook meat and then people interrogating me.
Eventually I started to react to people. I decided to fully confront them with equal intensity. This lead to such crazy outcomes. People would nearly turn psychotic sometimes. I had someone begin to denounce all science and bring up conspiracies and people jokingly said I “ruined” the guy. Then another person actually changed his life a bunch and started growing food but the thing is, I am not so concerned with what he does, he is manifesting guilt and explored my perspective with his own curiosity and defensiveness. I just reciprocated and responded less submissively at some point.
I’ve also had science friends react very strangely and paranoid when I would bring up studies about health very early on. This was when I wasn’t invested in veganism, it was actually an experiment and I did not know anything about the ethics at this point. But my friend accused me of being biased based on the ethics. This was common, people accusing me of being biased based on the ethics despite me having no involvement with that side yet.
There are similar effects with mental illness. I’ve told people I scored as schizotypal on psych exams and people would begin to denounce any argument based on this fact. And this was in a rationalist debate community too. It was very strange and unexpected but all of these experiences have helped me understand why and how this occurs.
Articles like the one you read here are inspired by many strange social experiences that I’ve observed and pondered for a long while.
Fair enough, and apologies for my misinterpretation of your point – it was not deliberate, I assure you.
As for the schizotypal result being used against you, I’m sorry to hear that; obviously, a person’s arguments should live or die on their merits, not on the personal history of their author. I’ve been victim to this as well, though in an entirely different context and for an entirely different reason (I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, and when I chose to leave any of my arguments against my beliefs were dismissed as “apostate thinking” due to the fact of my non-belief, i.e. nothing I said was actually contended with because of who I was).
While I disagree with the vegan interpretation of the evidence (in essentially all areas, from ethics to environmentalism) I do respect those that are committed and live their lives in harmony with their beliefs. I have nothing against vegans, or adherents any religion, philosophy, ideology, etc. so long as they do not attempt to “proselytize” (and by this I don’t mean writing essays or engaging in conversations with the intent to sway opinions).
I look forward to reading more of your articles in the future.
LikeLiked by 1 person
[“Common vegan stereotypes include the belief that they feel morally superior or more informed on ethics, health science, or environmental science.”
I’d argue that this is less of a “stereotype” and more so a reflection of the reality that many have encountered. Nearly every vegan/vegetarian I have ever known in real life or spoken to online fits this description to the letter.”]
But, perhaps that is also the point, that vegans perceive that to be the common perception is the key factor, a stereotype can be 100%, 50% or 10% true to life and as long as it is a popular opinion it incites the narcissistic hair-trigger me against the world response. They all explode on you because they are primed and ready at the first sign of attack, like an autoimmune disease; the more often you suffer an attack the less it takes to set your immune system to attacking its own cells in future.
That is i think what is so pathological to narcissists about modern social media and society in general, it appears to be such a wonderful source of ego-fuel that it draws the narcissist like a moth to the flame. The flame of point-scoring and fact checking and general internet hyper-rationality, they become addicted to the instant hit of positive comments and yet the time where they overreach and lie-brag and then have to defend a hopeless position against people armed with facts and primary sources is recorded for posterity in comments sections and message boards for the whole world to see. its a social defeat they cannot erase, hide or forget about, a maiming the narcissist’s ego can barely survive, and make no mistake a narcissist never forgets a public defeat or social faux pas….
and yet when the normal sources of validation dry up and they need their fix of validation and they remember that first time, the instant flood of admiration/compliments (undiluted ego-fuel) only a click of a button and some carefully chosen/edited pictures away…..
LikeLiked by 1 person
Good point – I hadn’t considered that the popular perception of one’s lifestyle/ideology/beliefs (regardless of how accurate) could be a constant source of identity-defense anxiety. For anyone, not just vegans.
Hell, I remember when I felt that way about atheism, when I described myself as such – I was constantly primed to (counter-)attack.
That’s the thing about a counterattack on someone that didn’t set out to harm you – to them it’s just an attack, not a justified defense.
Never considered that before now – thanks for the thought-provoking response.
The similarity to atheism is good! This is actually what I use to compare when talking to people. Atheism is another “I have the secret truths” like veganism can be. Both of them have online debate culture. They both behave with narcissism. The atheists on YouTube will come off as cringey and aggressive towards Christians. Matt Dilhunty or The Amazing Atheist come off as intensely narcissistic. There’s a kind of “christians are so stupid” or even irritation expressed towards them during conversation. Richard Dawkins does ok though. He is clearly hyped up and defensive but not as badly. He still comes off poorly often. Richard Dawkins also made vegan videos as of late.
There are multiple sides to veganism though and most people have not actually seen the intensely intellectual narcissistic side of the culture. The vegan philosophy debate movement. Blood sport culture. Look up Ask Yourself on YouTube. I’ve actually interacted with this guy and he’s been harsh to me.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Here’s a link to video that I really think you’d enjoy (the entire channel is very worth watching, in my opinion): https://youtu.be/Cx4GvzjRMx8
He talks a great deal about the phenomenon of tribalism, and that links up well with your point about “Christian’s are so stupid” – I think there may be a connection between the two, which I also hadn’t considered.
I don’t think that the _typical_ NPD is at risk of social rejection at all; I think they might _feel_ emotions that make them behave _as if_ they were. The simplest model of NPD, like psychopathy, is one where certain _social_ emotions are unexpressed altogether, and this causes the typical mechanism of affective empathy to malfunction. (AIUI, Hare broadly agrees that psychopath lack a number of neurotypical emotions, BTW). Pithily, the typical ASPD/psychopath is someone who _feels_ like every social interaction is a ploy to exploit the other in a rather materialistic sense: as some might say, if you’re at the table and can’t tell who the sucker is, YOU are the sucker! The narcissist is someone who _feels_ like everything is either that, _or_ a brute contest for social dominance. The BPD has some inkling of what attachment, close social bonding and the trust that comes with those might be like (especially wrt. trusting _others_), but they _default_ to a position of extreme distrust towards others and still emotionally feel _as if_ that distrust fully licenses antisocial, manipulative behavior on their part. (Not coincidentally, of these, BPD is also the most amenable to treatment and remission, as it’s quite close to fully expressing the neurotypical social emotions!).
The book _The Psychopath Code_ is freely available on the internet (hosted at github and a few other places), and it has a nice description of what emotions psychopaths can pretty much _always_ be expected to have, and the social consequences of how these emotions work. It’s something to take with a grain of salt, but it’s still very valuable as a case study and an educated guess at what a satisfactory _explanation_ of psychopathy and Cluster-B disorders might even look like.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for your response!
If the typical NPD is correlated to low agreeableness, this should mean they are predisposed to social conflict which incites the win vs lose game and ultimately these reactions. Normally people would not need to gain validation from others if they are in agreement, it is inherently assumed that all parties are validating each other upon points of agreement.
The disagreeable would live in a space where many points lead them into invalid space. The frequent exposure to disagreement dynamics would condition their behavior different than someone who is typically conforming.
I view borderline personality as closer to the social defeat side of the spectrum, a sort of almost-schizophrenia where they’ve discovered they can gain comfort in some few humans and maximally exploit a few to overcome the rejection traumas or perpetual rejection circumstance.
Schizophrenics often manifest many of the cluster B traits also. As do bipolars. I am bipolar and do not experience much of this anymore but for the last 12 years or so my life has definitely been dictated by narcissistic, borderline, and other dynamic issues. Borderline only rarely occurred though, in times where I was truly being isolated and fully rejected from any social experience. The narcissism occurred the longest and was a reaction to feeling rejected or that others would be angry at my differences. I rationalized that it was envy basically.
I think prior criticisms will condition a person to react differently to criticisms compared with people who are criticized less often.
The one who has opinions that deviate will be most prone to this. For schizophrenics, they may believe in flat earth theory and become totally rejected dogmatically essentially. They may bring up loads of math and physics but any normal person, especially those uneducated in both math and physics, will reject the flat earther simply because it is a cultural dogma to oppose the absurd flat earthers. And so the flat earther would be primed to expect predictable reactions when they bring up flat earth to others, and this can become such an obsession and defining problem for their life that they generalize outside people with these predictions, ultimately creating a paranoia and persecutory mentality. It is true that flat earthers are persecuted by popular culture. They essentially have cooties. The fact that the mathematically uneducated wouldn’t even care to see the flat earthers conspiratorial mathematics/physics will register as a new generalizable pattern: the gullible sheep humans who can’t wake up from their cultural matrix. Such a common schizophrenic theme. So much of the symptoms and even biology of schizophrenia can easily be pinned to ostracization, and this is one of the major themes I explore in my blog here.
These dynamics are why divergent thinkers, creatives, and out of the box types will tend to develop narcissistic traits at some point. It is almost an inevitable reaction to their societal position. This is partly the motivation many have for not opposing cultural dogmas. This is part of why conformity is beneficial, to avoid such consequences.
There are genes associated with nonconformity and schizophrenia. There is also studies showing that schizophrenics culturally deviate before any symptoms occur. There is evidence that social rejection biochemical reactions enhance D2 signaling (the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia) and block NMDAr (the NMDAr hypofunction theory of schizophrenia) and this biochemical is induced during traumatic events (trauma theories of schizophrenia) and mediates social defeat stress (social defeat hypothesis of schizophrenia) and lastly, the drug that binds to the same biochemical system induced extreme hallucinations within 30 seconds of inhaling, causing complete detachment from reality, it is known as Salvia Divinorum.
If you haven’t already, check out some of the other articles around this topic especially Dynorphin, Xenotypy, and Nexus. These explore the research in more depth and touch on the same universe of ideas as AntiNarcissism does!
I’ve not read that book yet, I’m going to put it in my list and so thank you for your suggestion!
Hi, just to keep this short: there _is_ a case for what you’re saying when it comes to “narcissism” in the ordinary sense, in a context of normal social emotions and affective empathy. I’m saying that NPD is by all appearances, a totally different animal. Plausibly, he genuine NPD can’t draw on healthy sources of self-esteem _because_ these require the sort of affective empathy that’s founded on the neurotypical social emotions. This stuff can be subtle, but I think e.g. even deep intellectual curiosity/engagement might be something that the NPD doesn’t really “get”, for whatever reason. To them, it really is _all_ about material/basic comfort or social dominance; both of which, not coincidentally, are adversarial goals – and this is why affective empathy doesn’t “register” to the NPD or to the ASPD/psychopath; the basic ability is there, but it can only be used selfishly, to predict the other’s “moves” in the adversarial (or even the _assumed_-to-be-adversarial) game. Of course this is just an educated guess, not something I am sure about; but, taking into account these basic differences, I think it’s a pretty “empathetic” view of NPD, that fully engages our theory-of-mind-like abilities in the affective sphere to model these personalities in an elegant way.
Although I didn’t get into this in the article, I think these traits of narcissism would be a spectrum that correlates to frequency of engagement in which more engagement with these narcissistic reactions results in further reinforcement and habituation of them.
I think sociopathy can be explained in a similar light, where empathy is turned off for people partly because people seem to be immoral liars very often. There is some amount of normalized lying in our culture and a lot of people pretend to be altruistic for social image. I think the psychopath is noticing this and then using it to justify and game the system more harshly. We often times base our morality relatively to those around us. This is why crazy stuff like Nazism can occur partly too. We are likely doing a lot of unnoticed but fully normalized horrible actions. I think it’s the case that psychopaths are more aware of these normalizations, seeing how absurd people’s ethics are. I think when you see others as bad, you can base how bad yourself is by comparing. We will often think “well everyone else is doing it” which means no one can call us out. Many people aren’t interested in acting ethical but rather want to maximize their freedom and ability to gain benefits from their environment.
I would actually posit that it’s extremely common to behave sociopathically and that if you pay attention to conversations about workplace or family or public spaces, people will speak with varying degrees of sociopathy and the allowance for unethical behaviors while also laughing about it or discussing whether we should or not. If people find 100$ on the ground I think most will just keep it. I think sociopathic thinking would be rationalized that “most people will keep it, so people can’t assume I’m any worse than them”. I think this is likely cultural too though. With the sociopath I think many of them experience a case of abuse and their generalization of human tendencies is very negative which allows for more negative behaviors in themselves. An ethically cynical position.
With NPD I think that the dynamics start to change and behavior becomes more extreme when the identity is infected by these dynamics. Online trolling interactions are often narcissistic abuse or even gaslighting.
I don’t agree about a lack of curiosity inherently but I do think NPD will become preoccupied with conflict (just like everyone would) and especially not behave curiously under social contexts because that is of least concern. A lot of emotions will be left behind as the primary concern becomes distressful and they wish to fix their security problem or socially ‘win’.
I agree that NPD can be related to inability to draw on healthy sources of self esteem because of a need for affective empathy. But I also think affective empathy turns off in the face of threat which I’ve described in the post.
– Quality stuff. I think you did the ADD podcast (90 minutes?) a while back, yes? I was a big fan of that. I even sent it to my mom, though I doubt she ever listened to it (which is a reflection on everything in that equation but you, trust me).
– Take a look at this short post (https://theindependentwhig.com/haidt-passages/haidt/conservatives-understand-liberals-better-than-liberals-understand-conservatives/) containing an excerpt from Jon Haidt’s book. Haidt’s study is a well-calibrated one. He asks liberals and conservatives to “pretend” to be the other tribe as they write short paragraphs. The conservatives pull it off, the liberals do not, the far left are even worse. This needs explaining.
– Assuming it wouldn’t be too rudimentary for you, you should listen to this audio course: Explaining Social Deviance (http://m.thepiratebay.org/search/Explaining+social+deviance+/0/0/0). (I’ve listened to 50-70 TTC courses. That one is in the top 15%.) Even if you don’t learn anything, sometimes it helps the theorizer part of your brain just to be in the “on” position with neurons firing.
– Did you ever read TLP? The Last Psych? http://www.thelastpsychiatrist.com
You’re coming to a lot of the same conclusions I’ve come to from different angles.
One, the internet is, as you say, the erasure of geographic boundaries—among others. I think the biggie here is that racial and national “discourse communities” (linguistics term) are at least half-open to outside observation if not participation, whereas before they were mostly “black box.” (This is not to say that I can peek into Reddit’s /r/arabs and understand the subtext of the conversations being had. But I can look.)
This unboxing has created a massive problem. Before, when isolated, the Europeans could talk endless shit about Americans without Americans knowing, caring, or being affected in any way. Now, there is a massive “tiff” between the two continents, and it’s having real-world political implications. The President can publicly doubt our commitment to NATO, and even his detractors don’t get THAT pissy about it. It’s not on their shortlist of things they hate about him despite easily being the item of (potential) greatest global effect. Eisenhower famously said going to the Oval Office from his position as NATO chief felt like a step down.
In simple terms: men and women, privately, amongst themselves, question the sanity of the opposite sex. It’s a healthy part of same-sex bonding… so long as it doesn’t go overboard, and so long as the opposite sex can’t hear you. Now, everyone in every group can hear every other group. This is bad, bad, bad. It’s made even worse by the fact that on the internet, the “overboard” people find each other and multiply and compete for hyperbole.
So: these groups had largely achieved a stasis of non-conflict via black box discourse communities. Now, everything is in the open. Of course there’s conflict. What else would there be?
This pattern is not universal. Look at sports communities like /r/cfb (Reddit college football). Pre-internet, strong in-group bias (“homerism”) reigned; discourse was geographic and often non-overlapping (excepting where you have 2 teams in one area). What now? Strangely, not conflict. Perhaps because there are 128+ tribes, an equilibrium is achieved where excessive favoritism is punished as deviant, instead of rewarded as in politics.
The single most worrying tribalistic behavior I see on the internet is what I call “neck stomping.” You have a user comment that’s already heavily, heavily downvoted and massively, massively scorned upon. The user is completely and totally “socially defeated,” to use your terms.
What happens here? IRL, in a fist fight, the thorough winner is expected to let up. A knowledgeable professor, having swatted away an undergraduate’s objection, downplays the student’s wrongness and magnanimously moves on.
But online, the neck stompers crawl out of the woodwork and take sucker punches (with their feet) on the guy’s metaphorical limp and bloodied corpse. They take bigger punches than they would ever take in any other situation.
Keeping in mind that it’s “just the internet” and no physical harm is done—fine, fair, but the same is true in the classroom example—what personality type is prone to this kind of behavior? I don’t know what you call it, but it’s the absolute worst category of human being. Truly, I think the SS was disproportionately made up of these kinds of guys. Without these hyenas, Hitler couldn’t have done what he did.
Last thought, off-topic:
There are critical missing discourse components in online discourse. One is the often silent, group-wide “c’mon, buddy.” For use when someone totally jumps the shark. Sometimes it’s an eyeroll, sometimes it’s a groan, but it’s a group-wide rejection of a line of logic as being “extra ridiculous.” It’s phenomenally powerful. Nothing else causes reassessment quite like a group-wide “c’mon, buddy.”
The internet, by virtue of our commenting systems, lacks this entirely. And there is nothing to fill the gap. Hence, reassessment is dramatically less frequent. Hence, we become more “ideologically” (for lack of a better word) rigid.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’m glad you’ve liked the content so far! Yes I did that Adhd podcast episode you refer to.
As to explain this phenomenon of liberals vs conservatives differing in ability to play the role of the other, I think conservative cultures are built upon conformity and agreeability and their disdain for the outsider is probably disdain for disagreement and nonconformity, or especially heresy against specific values of the culture in question.
The liberal on the other hand is individualist, like I’ve mentioned in the adhd topic, the liberal linked genes are also Neanderthal linked genes. Neanderthals also had smaller tribes. Maybe because conflict was always an issue.
The xenophilic types who enjoy otherness will understand and respect nonconformity, but maybe it’s not based on being able to relate but instead based on respect of otherness itself due to the realization that they are an other, they are an individualist.
I believe there is some research or articles out there exploring how liberal culture is far less cohesive and organized as a whole compared to conservative culture which is more homogenous. Conservatives might often spend excessive time trying to understand the other, where the other is the group, the homogenous conformist culture. The dogmatic nature of some of these cultures may be inherently incomprehensible and push attempts to conceptualize and understand further, meanwhile the liberal culture may value people despite their differences, meaning there is less pressure on understanding the other, but instead accepting any difference as long as it is not unethical perhaps (although conservatives generally see liberals as disregarding of ethics). While the conservatives might not be flexible on leaving these conformist cultures, perhaps they actually have skills in agreeableness and empathy somewhat. Perhaps the association to ethnocentrism, nationalism, or xenophobia, isn’t rooted purely in an inability to see the other but through strong, potentially dogmatic dedication towards their cultural values. In essence the conservative may feel that the other is not an enemy for being other but is an enemy for resisting important values.
On the other side liberals may value tolerance, empathy, and individual freedom because many of them wish society empathizes with them and so they understand at least this and value divergence.
Thank you for bringing this point about conservatives and liberals up because actually, this isn’t something I’ve focused on much.
This pattern of gendered gossip being unveiled by the internet is truly fascinating. Another context of the internet that I’ve overlooked. I do think a gendered cultural war is possible (or perhaps already happening). I’m not sure if these things are bad, currently during war they will be but in the long term it might lead to an evolution of social norms and culture. I’m not sure though, as it reminisces of Calhoun’s Rat Utopia experiments. These ultimately ended in total extinction after mass socialization caused toxic culture to develop. Eventually the rats stop having sex, get into gendered warfare, incels, form tribes, cannibalize (despite having endless food). The MGTOW, Incel, “radical feminist”, SJW, “men’s rights” and any of the subcultures I’m missing all appear to be a byproduct of sexual culture war. It would be frightening if the far future ended up in some kind of MGTOW WGTOW exclusive popular culture which is essentially how Calhoun’s experiment resulted before the fall of mouse society and ultimately extinction of the mice.
I personally believe that rationality culture would hold back any sort of dystopian tribal gender cultural war manifestation. At least I hope.
With social defeat, the big problem is that most people are generally protected by their likability. If someone has friends or followers, it will be expected that your dissent is met with counter attacks. But when someone is edging closer to social defeat, these people are unprotected and you can be sure that no counter attacks exist to fear. You basically get a free pass to dominate which makes oneself gain status and feel superior. For those who are also close to social defeat, they will take the opportunity as it can redeem themselves a little bit. Another factor is that associating with the socially defeated usually means adopting stigma and becoming socially defeated as well. It’s actually dangerous to stick up for the heretic. So the altruistic impulse must be strong enough to override the fear of being attacked or defeated yourself. I think there was some research about random heroic acts being common behavior for sociopaths. Where sociopaths would be more likely to help someone in public while others are prone to the bystander effect. This is not to say the bystander effect is super relevant to the social defeat issue but it can be. There are genes like MAOA which are linked to sociopathy and violent behaviors a bit. I don’t think the gene makes people randomly violent or unreasonable but rather less inhibited by social defeat mechanisms. Normally people give in and submit, acting depressive or withdrawn but the MAOA people may not experience this, resulting in fights when faced with conflict. But it may also mean less fear and more willingness to heroic acts I imagine.
Lastly, the lack of the “come on buddy” is interesting. I think we basically replace this with downvotes which are synonymous with hate and rejection unfortunately. The abstraction of social mechanisms forces us to use the downvote for both purposes and probably changes group social dynamics as a small warning rejection will be perceived generally as outright heresy to the group. It seems very uncommon for upvotes to be paired with commentary that is expressing “come on buddy”.
We could probably solve a lot of social media problems simply by analyzing the many valuable nuances in group social interactions so that there is functions such as the “come on buddy” function. This may be the key going into the future. We need social dynamics analysis to become a major area of research and technological design.
Thank you for this article. It is all so very interesting- as is all your line of posts. I think we are all better for reading things like this.
When people criticise me my gut reaction is defend myself. But the joy of my kind of dissociation is that I’m always looking a life through a pane of glass and I can take a breathe, calm down and try to be honest with people, explain my perspective/biases and hope they are willing to engage/understand me/my perspective and I hopefully get a chance to do the same for them. “I believe vs is” is important language I think. But in my experience many people aren’t interested in seeing my perspective even though I’m intrigued by theirs and I’ll often just withdrawal as it turns into a battle of wills- and not about what is something like the search for truth/understanding.
Thank you again for all your posts.
LikeLiked by 1 person