A guide to defending oneself from narcissism in the selfie age.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the reference used to diagnose mental disorders. In the fifth edition, released a few years ago, one of the changes was the elimination of “narcissistic personality disorder” as a diagnosis. The reasons behind its elimination are complicated, but the decision reflects the shifting values of our culture, as social media has given public platforms for budding narcissists to broadcast every selfie, every meal, and every witty remark about the weather. There is growing evidence, partially as a result of the online petri dish of narcissism, that it exists on a spectrum. While you talk about your vacation on Facebook and only exhibit minor traits, there are other people who, described in this highly readable book by longtime psychotherapist and clinical psychologist Burgo as “extreme narcissists,” exhibit traits to such an extent that they can be extremely harmful to relationships. The author outlines the traits specific to narcissists that pose the greatest risks—e.g., making obvious plays for the attention and admiration of others, lacking insight into how behaviors can affect other people, playing the victim and using guilt to manipulate people, and often appearing as self-righteous and “bullet-proof” in disagreements. Taking these, among others, Burgo develops profiles in a series of chapters that use a “type” as a launchpad—e.g., “the bullying narcissist,” “the narcissistic parent,” “the self-righteous narcissist,” etc. Cross-referencing the traits across chapters with examples drawn from case studies of clients he has worked with, Burgo also cites examples drawn from a few of celebrity culture’s shining stars, including Madonna, Mel Gibson, and Kanye West, among others. At no point in the book are narcissists treated as terrible people; Burgo seeks instead to provide a guide for understanding our own narcissism and for figuring out the roles these people can play in our lives.
Clear, easily digestible pop psychology.