Narcissism has become a prevalent topic of conversation and public discourse recently. In many arenas and at multiple levels, discussions about the narcissistic behaviors exhibited by company leaders, administrators, bureaucrats and politicians seemingly have the world contemplating the consequences of self-absorbed and egocentric attitudes and actions.
In these conversations, questions often arise: Are people becoming more narcissistic? What are the reasons behind the increase in behaviors that indicate narcissism?
It is a recognized reality that all individuals possess certain degrees of self-focus and self-preservation. Having a positive self-image is, in fact, a good thing. Displaying confidence, celebrating personal achievements and advocating for oneself can be seen as indicators of a healthy sense of self. These character traits contribute to shaping our identity, delineating our value and boundaries and celebrating who we are and our capabilities, capacity and rights.
While it is true that healthy self-confidence and self-promotion can be considered normal and positive, it is important to differentiate between this and pathological narcissism.
Not every demonstration of putting oneself first constitutes narcissism.
Pathological narcissism is characterized by an excessive preoccupation with oneself, a lack of empathy for others, an inflated sense of self-importance and a constant need for admiration and attention. People with pathological narcissism often display manipulative and exploitative behaviors, disregard the feelings and needs of others and have difficulty maintaining meaningful relationships.
The perception that narcissism is on the rise in society has been attributed to several factors. Here are a few:
- Cultural shifts: Changes in cultural values and societal norms are believed, by some, to be a contributing factor to the rise of narcissism. The emphasis on individualism, materialism and self-promotion in modern society, particularly through the influence of social media, can reinforce narcissistic tendencies.
- Celebrity Culture and Social Influencing: The pervasive presence of celebrity culture and the media’s focus on fame, wealth and appearance can lead to increased admiration for individuals who exhibit narcissistic traits. This, in turn, can influence societal norms and aspirations.
- Parenting and Education: It is believed that certain parenting styles and educational practices that emphasize excessive praise, entitlement and overvaluation of children’s abilities may contribute to the development of narcissistic traits, especially where children aren’t learning how their actions lead to the praise they receive and how this impacts others and is connected to the larger value that they hold and have to offer.
- Digital Technology and Social Media: The rise of social media platforms and the constant pursuit of validation through likes, follows, and online personas can foster narcissistic tendencies. The curated nature of social media can create an environment where individuals are constantly seeking attention and admiration.
But, what if there is something greater and deeper going on that is causing the rise in all of this – the narcissistic tendencies, as well as the reasons for them?
What if this great time of detox that we are currently experiencing is why we are seeing the underbelly of humanity emerge? After all, we have been witnessing all sorts of things becoming more extreme and prevalent, not just narcissism.
As with all detoxes, things get worse before they get better. We must see and feel the eons worth of toxicity from what we have practiced and ingested and perpetrated through patterning, conditioning and belief so that we can know the effects and choose differently.
All of the ways we have created experiences that end up generating more polarity, tension and fight need to be transparently seen and understood on a heightened level so that we have the chance to truly recognize the damage they produce. So we have the pressure and impetus we need to change.
Is what we are experiencing setting us up to finally release and heal the massive amount of toxic burden we have been carrying for centuries? Living in the distorted aspects of ourselves instead of seeking to courageously embrace and do what’s necessary to truly connect with the greatest and finest potential within each of us? It is certain that this is what is needed for ultimate growth and advancement to occur. For all of us, not just some of us.
So, let’s take a look at the reality of increasing incidents of narcissistic behavior next to the construct of distorted or disempowered masculine energy.
In ancient Chinese culture, yin/yang represents the dualistic nature of all things. The philosophy of yin/yang describes the interdependent and complementary forces or principles that exist in all aspects of life.
Yin represents the feminine, receptive and nurturing aspect. It is associated with qualities such as softness, intuition, playfulness, introspection, vulnerability and empathy. Yin is symbolized by the black side of the yin-yang symbol.
Yang illustrates the masculine, active and assertive side. Some of the characteristics connected with it are strength, logic, extroversion, accountability, focus and protection. The white side of the yin-yang symbol is associated with yang qualities.
Each and every living thing contains both yin and yang (masculine and feminine) energies within them. When these energies interplay in aligned and healthy ways, it creates balance, harmony and homeostasis.
When there is imbalance in a living system, it generates distortion. We begin to see behavior and actions that are disempowered.
Sick beings behave in sick ways.
Hurt people hurt people.
Distorted/disempowered masculine energy refers to a problematic or disparaged expression of traditional masculine traits and behaviors. It involves an unhealthy or exaggerated manifestation of qualities typically associated with the masculine energetic side of us, such as dominance, aggression, emotional repression and a focus on power and control. Distorted masculine energy can be harmful both to individuals who exhibit it and to those who are impacted by it.
Some characteristics commonly associated with distorted masculine energy include:
- Dominance and control: The desire to exert power and control over others, often through manipulation, coercion or aggression.
- Suppression of emotions: A tendency to repress or deny emotions as a result of societal/familial modeling and expectations, leading to difficulties in emotional expression and forming intimate connections.
- Hyper-competitiveness: An excessive focus on winning, success and status, which can lead to an unhealthy disregard for the well-being of others and a lack of cooperation and collaboration.
- Aggression and violence: A proclivity for aggression, both verbal and physical, as a means of asserting dominance and maintaining control over others.
- Objectification: Treating others as objects to be used for one’s own desires and benefit and the reinforcement of hierarchical stereotypes, creating concepts of lesser and greater that often are accompanied by a lack of respect for boundaries or permission.
As we look at these points, it’s easy to correlate them to the earlier ones outlining the traits of narcissism.
Distorted masculine energy refers specifically to an unhealthy expression of traditional masculine traits that can result from societal pressures, cultural norms, and personal beliefs and experiences, just like narcissism.
Is narcissism, then, really a manifestation of distorted masculine energy?
If so, how can we shift it?
Promoting healthy masculine/yang energy involves encouraging a balance with our feminine/yin energy traits. It asks of us to develop our emotional intelligence, empathy, care for others, and the ability to form genuine and equitable relationships. If balancing these energies helps create harmony and homeostasis, then this should help shift all imbalance that we are experiencing within, as well.
Challenging and transforming distorted masculine energy and, perhaps, helping to turn the tides of narcissistic tendencies in our world, requires addressing social and cultural norms, fostering a practice of recognizing one another’s value and promoting open dialogue around roles and expectations.
Seeking a place of greater alignment and peace within will trigger what is blocking this to rise to the surface. These are the points of discomfort that need to be acknowledged, addressed and healed. If we simply label and complain about the symptoms, we miss the chance to work through the purge period to make room for what is better, greater and more of what we all truly want to create and experience in this world and our lives.