What is functional narcissism? Basically, it’s narcissism that works. Sadly, our environment can be structured in a way that promotes – even rewards narcissistic behavior. We’ve historically seen narcissism as both an aberration and a disturbance or disorder of character. However, our culture of entitlement, permissiveness, and relativism has helped make it more the norm. Moreover, in far too many aspects of modern life, narcissism has actually become quite adaptive.
When something is working, or at least appears to be working, there seems little reason to change things. You’ve heard the adage: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!” Folks who find their ways of seeing and doing things working for them and in so many ways have little motivation to change course. So, while most folks think individuals with character disturbances can’t change, the reality is that many times, and for so many reasons, they don’t see sufficient reason to change.
Functional Narcissism and the Relationship Paradox
Where narcissism doesn’t work very well is in fulfilling, intimate relationships. But that doesn’t mean it can’t work at the beginning of a relationship. Many a relationship partner has found him/herself strongly drawn to the confidence, seemingly carefree nature, optimism, and independence they sensed in a narcissistic individual. And many have also found themselves seduced by the intense interest a narcissist might show in them at the outset. Narcissists tend to regard objects of their desire as both potential “trophies” and positive reflections on themselves. And the kind of intense interest they sometimes show in the beginning can really bowl a person over. It takes a while for someone to realize how little value they really have to a narcissist. And by that time, they’ve both invested a lot and suffered plenty.
We live in an age of shallow, growth-stunting relationships. That’s perhaps the greatest tragedy of all. And one of the reasons there’s so much strife at the macro level in society is because we’ve forgotten the basics of healthy relating at the micro level. There was a time when we more carefully vetted potential relationship partners for character. We scrutinized their relationship history carefully. Before we got really involved, we wanted to be reasonably sure just whom we were getting involved with. Sadly those times have long passed.
A New Series
Next week I’ll be inaugurating a new series on relationships and relationship dysfunction. And I’ll be talking more about the cultural changes needed to stem the growth of functional narcissism.
Character Matters will air live again Sunday, Jan 21, 2018, with its new, expanded focus. Call in at (501) 258-8326 to share a story, comment, or ask a question.
The workshop sponsors will finalize this year’s dates by month’s end. Look for information soon on the Seminars page of the blog.
As always, my deepest thanks for your recommending of my books and the articles on this blog to others.