The Dangerous Lure of Narcissism
By: Christine Hammond LMHC
The media loves to cover narcissists almost as much as a narcissist loves to be covered by the media. And why not? The narcissist’s stories are colorful, prone to exaggeration, intentionally divisive, and feature them as the star. It is easy reporting because it is naturally interesting, requires limited verification, and is emotionally charging. A person either loves the narcissist or intensely hates them; there is little area for grey which makes for a great story.
The same is true on a smaller scale when meeting a narcissist for the first time. They have larger than life personalities, can command large or small crowds, exude confidence, and are immensely charming. Who won’t want to capture the attention of such a person? It validates the hidden desires of worthiness, acceptance, and recognition. It is an immediate ego boast to capture the attention of a narcissist.
But there is danger in being lured in by a narcissist. What looks good now can have devastating consequences later. How?
Begins with attraction. The problem with being lured in by narcissism is that it is more like indulging in crack cocaine than taking a refreshing drink of water. The narcissist is similar to crack in that once it is lit up, it immediately exudes an exciting euphoric “I can do anything” feeling. But this short lived fantasy is shocked back to reality the minute the drug wears off. The reality of the crash leaves the media or a person completely deflated, yet desiring the drug even more intensely.
Sets stage for control. This “I want more, I can’t stand it” struggle is exactly what the narcissist is trying to entice. They want to create this in the media or other person because it mirrors one of their favorite abuse mechanisms: push-pull. A narcissist will intentionally draw a person in with their charm, then push them away by ignoring, pull them back in with gifts, and reject when there is non-compliance. If the narcissist can get the media or other person to accept responsibility for their own attraction, then they can slide out of responsibility for using the push-pull tactic.
Meets a need. Of course none of this would be possible if the narcissist wasn’t meeting some hidden need of the media or other person. The media needs viewers to survive and thus requires a constant flow of exciting stories. A person wants to be validated and therefore loves the attention. The narcissist instinctively perceives the hidden agenda of others because it is similar to their own. Naturally the narcissist knows how to fill their needs and therefore can instantly and instinctively do it for the media and others.
Becomes an addiction. Before too long, the lure of the narcissist becomes an addiction. Just like crack cocaine, the drug takes control of the person just as the narcissist takes control of the media or another person. But the drug and the narcissist are both fickle. The first high of engagement is never repeated despite the increased dosage. The deliverance of euphoria is promised but not achieved. Yet the media or other person craves more and more. It is a cycle that is hard to break because it means giving up on ever feeling that same level of high again.
Hitting rock bottom. Once the drug or narcissist has gained complete control, the media or other person loses all sight of who they once were. This loss of identity causes them to hit rock bottom. The choices at this point are simple and clear: either remain this way or change. Remaining means allowing the attention hungry addiction to win. Changing means rejecting the drug and its’ effects. But desiring the change is not enough. It requires the hard work of self-evaluation, accepting responsibility, setting new boundaries, asking for support, and lots of determination.
Addict thinking. At the heart of every addiction is incorrect thinking. The hardest part of coming out of an addiction is changing thought patterns. Most addicts develop a victim mentality to escape responsibility which must stop or another addiction will surface. An addict must stop blaming the narcissist (drug) and find satisfaction from within. And the media must return to their roots of responsible journalism instead of the attention grabbing sensationalism.
Balanced approach. Crack cocaine is powerful only when being lit up. Otherwise it is just another shiny clear rock. The same is true for narcissism. It is only powerful when a light is being shined on it. The narcissist doesn’t care what type of attention they get, as long as they get it, just as crack doesn’t care what type of lighter is utilized. Recovering addicts learn to approach life with balance instead of giving into their cravings. The media should do the same.
Every addict knows they cannot do this journey alone, it requires support and encouragement. Perhaps now is the time for an attention obsessed country to abandon their addiction and stop feeding the narcissists either through love or hate. Together we can diminish the lure of narcissism by recognizing our own short-comings and not falling prey to quick fixes.
To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.