Narcissism in America
“Out of anger, Timothy McVeigh decided he would take his frustration out on others to give the country a wake-up call. Unfortunately, it was a deadly one” (“Diary 18.” Freedom Writer’s Diary. 14). Acts of devastations such as this have been suggested to be a result of people having personalities that are dominated by narcissism. The American Heritage Dictionary defines narcissism as a pattern of traits and behaviors which signify infatuation and obsession with one’s self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one’s gratification, dominance and ambition. Those who have a strong desire to regard themselves, as superior beings are people who are considered to be narcissistic. When questioning the personalities of narcissists, we must first realize a few known problems and surface any possible causes. Ways that narcissists represent themselves may be explained by one of many characteristics possessed and considered abnormal which includes a lack of psychological awareness, such as preoccupation with one’s beauty and fantasies of unlimited success. Not only can narcissism be seen throughout our culture in Orange County, but is a growing problem that is reflected particularly through characters such as, Cypher in the 1999 box office movie hit, The Matrix and The Freedom Writer’s Diary along with my own experiences. Dwelling on the notion of a Timothy McVeigh, or Cypher involuntarily allows us to wonder if the next self absorbed insane bomber or betrayer exists within our circle of friends, or the boy or girl next door, such as Narcissus.
According to the Greek myth, Narcissus was a handsome youth who fell in love with his reflection in the spring. Echo [a young nymph hopelessly in love with Narcissus] with her inability to initiate a conversation was rejected by the self absorbed Narcissus. Subsequently, Narcissus prayed that he would love himself unremittingly, the goddess Nemesis answered this prayer by arranging him that he would stop to drink at a spring on the heights of Mount Helicon. Unable to take his eyes off his reflection in the water, Narcissus immediately fell in love with his image at the spring. As a result, he stayed there staring at himself and died of starvation. But nobody remained at the scene of his death; in its place was a flower known as Narcissus. Feeling good about himself, Narcissus depicts the lack of psychological awareness. Despite Echo being hopelessly in love with Narcissus, he rejects Echo and scorned lovers of both sexes because of his pride.
Similar to Narcissus is the character Cypher in the film The Matrix. ‘Cipher’ in the dictionary means zero, or “one that is without value”. Furthermore, Cypher resembles a Judas archetype, a betrayer, a false Christian, who establishes his selfishness over the welfare of others. This is symbolized by Cypher’s red jersey that has a hole over his heart, which portrays him being heartless and without love, for God or others. The distinctiveness of Narcissus and Cypher can be seen around us. For instance, employees who pursue careers that provide opportunities for public recognition and adulation such as acting, modeling, or politics. With the background of a narcissistic person, we must confront the causes that lead to the previously mentioned problems.
Traumas are inevitable and an inseparable part of life. But in early childhood, especially in the formative years of infancy (ages 0 to 4 years) they acquire an ominous aura, an evil, irreversible meaning. As parents sometimes have to go away due to medical or personal reasons, they may be too preoccupied to stay attuned at all times to the child’s emotional needs. According to psychologist Heinz Kohut, narcissists may sense emotional distress caused by peers or parents they feel have declined to show reassurance, praise, and admiration (“Psychodynamic Perspectives”. 323). For instance, in Diary 16, the writer describes her parents’ disapproval of her boyfriend and rebelled by running away. Eventually, her parents arrived at her boyfriend’s [where the couple had escaped to] house. “She headed toward my boyfriend and started screaming and lecturing him. My dad came toward me, cussing and screaming. Unexpectedly, he punched me in the eye” (Diary 16. Freedom. 35). Verbal and physical abuse upon the daughter (write of Diary 16) are clearly present. In reference to the writer, she may become a reflection of her dysfunctional family – and represses emotions, deny reality, resort to violence and escapism, which ironically began the ordeal. The child, fearful of further rejection and abuse, refrains from further interaction. Instead, it builds its own kingdom of grandiose fantasies wherein it is always loved and self-sufficient. This is the narcissistic strategy which leads to the development of a narcissistic personality. Growing up and attaining maturity to adulthood, adolescents experience predicaments where jealousy is felt due to those who have achieved greater success ranging from school exams to promotions at work. Consequently, narcissists begin to feel the need to strive for high ambitions and devote themselves tirelessly to work.
On the other hand, Psychologists suspect that the cause of narcissism is severe mental or physical pain in childhood at the hands of a powerful, idealized mother-father figure. One theory proposes that the parents of people who develop this disorder needed their children to be talented or special in order to maintain their own self-esteem. Conversely, parents [who are the ideal and moral guides] sometimes fail to meet the appraisal that the infants expect. This tends to decrease the children’s sense of self. As children mature, many continue to engage in athletic sports like basketball, baseball, soccer etc. For some of us that never experienced watching any of the mentioned games, parents shouting, “Come on, get the ball!” “Shoot it!” can be heard numerously until winners are determined. During my little league years of baseball, I encountered times where coaches and parents on my team yelled comments like “Strike him out!” or “You shouldn’t have missed that ball”! During that pressuring experience, I can recall the thought of “it’s all up to me now” racing through my mind while doubts ran through my stream of consciousness. What I needed to hear was something a bit more optimistic. Lacking acknowledgement for someone experiencing narcissism results in problems that often have negative effects.
Without encouraging comments such as “you did the best today” or emphasis on recognition , children begin to feel unsteady of their self-esteem and unable to slight punches to their self-worth. Furthermore, members of Congress, supervisors, or sales associates are examples of people who seek higher positions of status and power, and tend to be more successful in their careers. Reasons for success are because narcissists aim toward careers in which they can receive adulation. As for Cypher, none of his crew members acclaim his presence and wearily states, “I’m tired of this war”. Subsequently, Cypher responds to his inability to handle the agony and notions that Morpheus [group leader aboard the crew] lied and “tricked” them all, otherwise would have never taken the red pill. Cypher again falsely speaks for the group, all of which appreciated taking the red pill and finding the truth. In addition, Morpheus “tricked” no one. Even as Neo was choosing the pill, Morpheus clearly warns him, “All I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more”. Cypher then pulls the life plug from the ship, eliminating Apoc and Switch in the Matrix world.
And speaking of eliminating, Timothy McVeigh, angry with the government, acted upon the assumption that federal officers who lead the raid in Waco Texas, executed seventy six people. Says Jennifer McVeigh, Timothy McVeighs younger sister and confidant: He thought the government was becoming somewhat oppressive in certain ways. Overstepping their bounds in certain ways and complained that government had too much control over peoples lives”. McVeigh’s motive for his acts were particularly due to the three government efforts to control guns: the Brady gun-control law, the raid at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 and the siege at the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas, in 1993. A survivor of the Oklahoma City Bombing described, “A man parked the yellow Ryder truck filled with 4,000-pounds of fertilizer-and-fuel-oil bomb, lit the fuse and walked away”. Effects are random, and narcissists-such as McVeigh portray ways of responding to life’s wounds with fury and being inflamed or crushed by criticism and brooding about it extensively.
With people such as Cypher and McVeigh, grandiosity has been viewed as a tool aiding people with narcissistic personalities to disguise feelings whether being insensitive to other people’s needs and feelings; or becoming terribly upset when one is treated in an ordinary matter. The disguises are achieved by shifting meanings and using exaggeration and bits of reality as a nisus for fantasy elaboration.
Through my own experiences as well The Matrix and The Freedom Writer’s Diary, we can see that a narcissist’s self-esteem is comparable to a reservoir that constantly needs to be replenished or becomes dry. Narcissists develop various types of characteristics and are not categorized as one. Whether we encounter a narcissistic person is based upon each individual person’s judgment. Narcissism in our diverse culture makes us realize that many Timothy McVeighs exists around us every day. They are just like walking time bombs waiting to go off, and when they do, some outcomes are overwhelming Betrayers in your crew may exists and be blind to it, we might be hinted who is a narcissist by their qualities. Whenever you look around, you may wonder if the next person you encounter or sits beside you is Narcissus.