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Cultural narcissism


Narcissism is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one's own attributes. The term originated from Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water. Narcissism is a concept in psychoanalytic theory, which was popularly introduced in Sigmund Freud's essay On Narcissism (1914). The American Psychiatric Association has had the classification narcissistic personality disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) since 1968, drawing on the historical concept of megalomania.

Narcissism is also considered a social or cultural problem. It is a factor in trait theory used in various self-report inventories of personality such as the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory. It is one of the three dark triadic personality traits (the others being psychopathy and Machiavellianism). Except in the sense of primary narcissism or healthy self-love, narcissism is usually considered a problem in a person's or group's relationships with self and others. Narcissism is not the same as egocentrism.

The term "narcissism" comes from the Greek myth about Narcissus (Greek: Νάρκισσος, Narkissos), a handsome Greek youth who, according to Ovid, rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. These advances eventually led Narcissus to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus "lay gazing enraptured into the pool, hour after hour," and finally changed into a flower that bears his name, the narcissus. The concept of excessive selfishness has been recognized throughout history. In ancient Greece the concept was understood as hubris. It is only more recently that narcissism has been defined in psychological terms.



John: I'm feeling really starved.
Mary: Oh, I just ate. (shift-response)
John: I'm feeling really starved.
Mary: When was the last time you ate? (support-response)
  • In 1752 Jean-Jacques Rousseau's play Narcissus: or the Self-Admirer was performed in Paris.
  • In 1898 Havelock Ellis, an English psychologist, used the term "Narcissus-like" in reference to excessive masturbation, whereby the person becomes his or her own sex object
  • In 1899, Paul Näcke was the first person to use the term "narcissism" in a study of sexual perversions.
  • Otto Rank in 1911 published the first psychoanalytical paper specifically concerned with narcissism, linking it to vanity and self-admiration.
  • Sigmund Freud published a paper on narcissism in 1914 called "On Narcissism: An Introduction".
  • In 1923, Martin Buber published an essay "Ich und Du" (I and You), in which he pointed out that our narcissism often leads us to relate to others as objects instead of as equals.
  • Positive: Narcissists think they are better than others.
  • Inflated: Narcissists' views tend to be contrary to reality. In measures that compare self-report to objective measures, narcissists' self-views tend to be greatly exaggerated.
  • Agentic: Narcissists’ views tend to be most exaggerated in the agentic domain, relative to the communion domain.
  • Special: Narcissists perceive themselves to be unique and special people.
  • Selfish: Research upon narcissists’ behaviour in resource dilemmas supports the case for narcissists as being selfish.
  • Oriented toward success: Narcissists are oriented towards success by being, for example, approach oriented.
  • Jay Gatsby, the eponymous character of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, "an archetype of self-made American men seeking to join high society," has been described as a "pathological narcissist" for whom the "ego-ideal" has become "inflated and destructive" and whose "grandiose lies, poor sense of reality, sense of entitlement, and exploitive treatment of others" conspire toward his own demise.
  • In the film To Die For, Nicole Kidman's character wants to appear on television at all costs, even if this involves murdering her husband. A psychiatric assessment of her character noted that she "was seen as a prototypical narcissistic person by the raters: on average, she satisfied 8 of 9 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder... had she been evaluated for personality disorders, she would receive a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder."
  • Gordon Gekko is a fictional character in the 1987 film Wall Street and its 2010 sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,. Gekko has become a symbol in popular culture for unrestrained greed and self-interest (with the signature line, "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good"), often in fields outside corporate finance.
  • Charles Foster Kane is a fictional character and the subject of Orson Welles' 1941 film Citizen Kane. The character is widely believed to be based on publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Welles played Kane (receiving an Oscar nomination), with Buddy Swan playing Kane as a child. Welles also produced, co-wrote and directed the film. Citizen Kane explores the life of the titular character, who is born of humble origins. In 1871, Kane's mother puts him under the guardianship of a New York City banker named Walter Parks Thatcher, who raises him in luxury. As an adult, Kane takes control of a newspaper, which he uses to advance businesses in which Kane holds stock. Kane also hires staff members away from the rival Chronicle newspaper, regarding them as collectibles. To finance the fledgling Inquirer, Kane uses his personal resources; this would allow him to operate it, even at a million dollar annual loss, for decades.
  • Blackburn, Simon, Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014)
  • Brown, Nina W., Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-up's Guide to Getting over Narcissistic Parents (2008)
  • Brown, Nina W., The Destructive Narcissistic Pattern (1998)
  • Golomb, Elan, Trapped in the Mirror – Adult Children of Narcissists in their Struggle for Self (1995)
  • Hotchkiss, Sandy; Masterson, James F., Why Is It Always About You? : The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism (2003)
  • Lavender N. J.; Cavaiola, A. A., The One-Way Relationship Workbook: Step-By-Step Help for Coping with Narcissists, Egotistical Lovers, Toxic Coworkers & Others Who Are Incredibly Self-Absorbed (2011)
  • Lowen, Alexander, Narcissism: Denial of the True Self (1984)
  • Lunbeck, Elizabeth, The Americanization of Narcissism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014)
  • McFarlin, Dean, Where Egos Dare: The Untold Truth About Narcissistic Leaders – And How to Survive Them (2002)
  • Morrison, Andrew P., Essential Papers on Narcissism (Essential Papers in Psychoanalysis) (1986)
  • Morrison, Andrew P., Shame: The Underside of Narcissism (1997)
  • Payson, Eleanor, The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One-Way Relationship in Work, Love, and Family (2002)
  • Ronningstam, Elsa F., Identifying and Understanding the Narcissistic Personality (2005)
  • Shaw, Daniel, Traumatic Narcissism: Relational Systems of Subjugation (2013)
  • Thomas David, Narcissism: Behind the Mask (2010)
  • Twenge, Jean M.; Campbell, W., Keith The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement (2009)
  • Vaknin, Sam; Rangelovska, Lidija, Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited (1999)
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