Narcissism desensitization occurs when we get so used to it we stop recognizing how pathological it is. Often, when a bad thing becomes too “normalized” we can even forget that something better exists. This is a hideous phenomenon. But almost anyone who’s survived an abusive relationship can attest the reality of it.
I asserted two very troubling facts many years ago. First, character disturbance, including narcissism, has become more widespread than ever, largely due to cultural factors. Second, it exists along spectra of type and severity. Accordingly, every day we encounter a wide variety of character dysfunction. Arguably, narcissism tops the list. But narcissism itself is a spectrum phenomenon. And most of these forms are subtle, and oddly, palatable to a degree. So, we’ve become quite accustomed to them. That’s what I’m calling narcissism desensitization.
The Price We’ve Paid
We are all paying a very steep price for our narcissism desensitization, and for our desensitization to character disturbance in general. To quote from the introduction of my upcoming book:
Any reasonably conscientious person would certainly have to wonder what’s happened to so many of us and to so much of our world. Have we lost all sense of civility, decency? Can we no longer properly monitor and control ourselves? And perhaps more importantly, what’s happened that all manner of behavior once regarded as rare, outrageous, or appalling has become so commonplace that almost nothing seems to shock us anymore? Is this just the way things are and will continue to be? Is integrity of character simply a lost commodity? And, perhaps most importantly, is there anything we can do to foster the kind of decency in folks that will help restore some sanity and safety to our lives?
Re-Writing The “10 Commandments” of Character
About 5 years ago, Dr. Armistead and I began crafting a book on the most essential axioms for developing solid character. Dr. Armistead mined mounds of my written material, both published and unpublished. The resulting product was good. But something about its character was sorely lacking for me. So, I balked at publishing it. I’d written it for parents trying to guide children to a life of integrity. It was also meant for good people striving to become even better people. And it tried to speak to those dysfunctional characters who had come to a point in life where they knew they had to change. But as I mentioned, something was missing – something vital. So I let it sit for a while, contemplating what wasn’t quite right.
After figuring out what was lacking, I’ve been busily re-writing what was originally titled
The 10 Commandments of Character. The earlier version expanded upon the principles of solid character I first outlined in Character Disturbance (see: pp. 140-148). And it had a decidedly moralistic tone. But the principles and values the book speaks to are more than moral codes. Moreover, truly healthy characters are healthy emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually. So, the retitled book is aptly (and tentatively) called: Essentials for the Journey: Embracing and Living the 10 Commandments of Character. It speaks about character from a much broader perspective. And I’ll have much more to say about this in upcoming posts and podcasts.
A Necessary Book
I consider my upcoming book the most necessary work I’ve ever labored over. The events of the last few days testify loudly to that. The depths to which we seem to have had to sink to begin to come to our senses about how important character is truly breaks my all-too-human heart. And if I have anything at all to say about it, we will make character matter again. We simply have to. The risks are too great if we fail. And so I labor. But it’s truly a labor of love. Please wish me well.