Saturday, January 28, 2006

Intellectual Dishonesty: A Work of Art 2

Narcissists aren't the only intellectually dishonest people. It's just that their intellectual dishonesty readilly crosses the line into the bizzarre about ANYTHING and everything, because everything's always all about them = their ego. But most people have less-than-perfect integrity and will be intellectually dishonest about some things.

In a study by the Emory University Health Sciences Center, functional neuroimaging (fMRI) has been used to map what goes on in the brain of people deluding themselves. Staunch Democrats and Republicans were given a reasoning task in which they had to evaluate information threatening to their candidate, President Bush or Senator Kerry.

First, each partizan read a statement by their candidate. Then they read a statement clearly documenting a contradiction between those words of the candidate and his deeds, suggesting that the candidate was dishonest or pandering. Then they were asked to consider the discrepancy and rate the extent to which the candidate’s words and deeds contradicted each other.

Next, they were given a statement of exculpatory information that explained away the apparent contradiction. Now they were asked to reconsider the extent to which their candidate’s words and deeds were contradictory.

Then the process was repeated for the opposition’s candidate.

Intellectually honest people would have always found the candidate’s behavior highly contradictory at first and not contradictory in the end. But no one should be surprised that staunch Democrats and Republicans didn’t do that.

Need I say it? Staunch Republicans saw no contradiction in President Bush’s words and deeds, and no exculpatory information could make them unsee contradiction in Senator Kerry’s words and deeds. Staunch Democrats saw no contradiction in Senator Kerry’s words and deeds, and no exculpatory information could make them unsee contradiction in President Bush’s words and deeds.

You can see bizarre examples of this in almost every call-in session about some event just televised on C-SPAN. You won't believe your ears. It goes beyond unreasonableness. Many of these people have to be hallucinating, because they make you wonder if they were watching the same program!

What do the fMRI’s say was going on in the brains of the patrizans tested in the Emory study? Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory, who led the study, says:

We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning, What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts.

Dr. Priya Saxena writes:

Once partisans had come to completely biased conclusions -- essentially finding ways to ignore information that could not be rationally discounted -- not only did circuits that mediate negative emotions like sadness and disgust turn off, but subjects got a blast of activation in circuits involved in reward -- similar to what addicts receive when they get their fix, Westen explains.

"None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged," says Westen. "Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones."


The investigators hypothesize that emotionally biased reasoning leads to the "stamping in" or reinforcement of a defensive belief, associating the participant's "revisionist" account of the data with positive emotion or relief and elimination of distress. "The result is that partisan beliefs are calcified, and the person can learn very little from new data," Westen says.

Now I’d like to see them run the same kind of test on three- or –four-year olds. Guess what? I bet the results would be the same. For, this is Magical Thinking, the way a child thinks before he or she reaches the Age of Reason. Truth is of no value to them. It’s all about their vulnerable little egos. If they need a friend, they’re perfectly happy with an imaginary one. They actually prefer fantasy to reality.

But normal children grow out of it.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Many Faces of a Narcissist

Narcissists project different images on different mirrors.

This is partly because any particular acting job may draw a favorable response from one mirror and an unfavorable response from another. For example, liberal-bashing produces a gratifying reflection in a right-wing mirror, while conservative-bashing produces a gratifying reflection in a left-wing mirror. A goody-two-shoes act looks holy in the eyes of religious hypocrites and the pharisaic, while it looks disgusting in the eyes of true believers and atheists.

Another reason why the narcissist projects different images on different mirrors is because he doesn't dare project the most gratifying image of all — the one his ego gets the biggest boost from — on most mirrors. Moreover, like any set of tools, the different people in his world are useful for different purposes.

A well-known narcissist, Sam Vaknin, explains it this way: he says that a narcissist assesses everyone in his world as a source of what he calls Narcissistic Supply (ego gratification, self-aggrandizement, psychic income — what a narcissistic woman I knew refers to as "sugar," as in "Gimme me some sugar."). It comes in different flavors. Like a bee in search of nectar, he has nothing to do with any "flower" he can't get any from. As for the rest, he determines the most profitable way to tap each one.

So, for example, he exploits a powerful, wealthy, sophisticated, or famous person as a source of Narcissistic Supply in a much different way than he exploits the poor or down-and-out. This is only partly because he doesn't dare treat the former as he treats the latter. It's also partly because the flavor of Narcissistic Supply he can extract from the former is the rare and precious "nectar of the gods." So, he drops their names; he brown-noses and sucks-up to them; he shamelessly, even obsequiously, flatters them and courts their favor; no matter what they do, he finds no fault with them, considering them infallible and above reproach. All to aggrandize himself by association with them.

And so, a narcissist doesn't have two faces, he has multiple faces. Faces he can change as suddenly as a mask. Faces so different they seem like multiple personalities. Each is but his way of exploiting a particular source of Narcissistic Supply.

So, for example, he projects a different image of himself in a church than in a bar. Again for example, the reflection he wants from his co-workers is radically different than the reflection he wants from his spouse and children.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Intellectual Dishonesty: A Work of Art

One way to view narcissism is as extreme intellectual dishonesty.

It's extreme because it goes beyond normal intellectual dishonesty, as for example, when people claim to be "supporting" our troops while claiming that what those troops are doing is evil. Such people twist logic, thinking that we're too stupid to notice. But narcissists make that sound sane by denying or inventing even FACTS. If you have lived with a narcissist, you know that they won't hesitate to claim (if it suits their purpose) that the sky isn't blue -- it's purple.

In other words, they will say ANYTHING, no matter how absurd or contrary to the plainest facts. They are grown-ups who still think with the "magical thinking" of child. Fantasy and willful irrationality.

They actually live in a fictitious world, another world, not the real world. They are permanently lost in their imagination like an author deeply engrossed in imagining and writing a novel. A biographical novel all about themselves.

As Joanna Ashmun writes:

They live in an artificial self invented from fantasies of absolute or perfect power, genius, beauty, etc. Normal people's fantasies of themselves, their wishful thinking, take the form of stories -- these stories often come from movies or TV, or from things they've read or that were read to them as children. They involve a plot, heroic activity or great accomplishments or adventure: normal people see themselves in action, however preposterous or even impossible that action may be -- they see themselves doing things that earn them honor, glory, love, riches, fame, and they see these fantasy selves as personal potentials, however tenuous, something they'd do if they didn't have to go to school or go to work, if they had the time and the money.

But narcissists, like little children with an imaginary friend, don't distinguish between fantasy and reality. They superimpose the "movie screen" of their fantasy on their vision of reality, obliterating it.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, January 13, 2006

To be, or not to be.

If, like a narcissist, you identify with your IMAGE instead of your inner SELF, you identify with an apparition, and logic dictates that you have an existential problem if it disappears. I cannot imagine being in such a state, and I doubt any normal person can. But it is well documented that narcissists say they feel "empty inside" and that they feel they "do not exist" when alone — that is, when they have no mirror.

This is, of course, just childish make-believe. Narcissists make-believe that their false image is their true self. But narcissists aren't the only ones who delude themselves. To hear people make-believing a fantasy, just listen to the left-wing-nuts (and the much less common right-wing-nuts) who call in to comment on a C-SPAN broadcast.

My favorite example occured after a broadcast of one of Senator Kennedy's outrageous performances, in which he abused a Supreme Court nominee he was questioning, while yelling a string of absurdities and boldfaced lies about him right at him. One woman must have been halluciniating some other reality, because she called in afterwards praising and thanking and virtually canonizing the Senator from Hell as some kind of St. Michael the Archangel for fighting to save the world from his "evil" (defenseless) victim.

This is simply lying to yourself about what you're seeing and hearing, often done by simply filtering out unwanted information so that the rest paints a picture you like. This is self delusion, intellectual dishonesty, make-believe.

It reminds one of the stupid question If nobody hears a scream in the dark, did it happen? Or, If nobody sees a planet, does it exist? Many "complex" people answer no. Sheesh, if that were correct, you couldn't even ask the stupid question. This comes close to the stupid question Is the moon made of green cheese (instead of moon rock) if you choose to believe that it is? Many "complex" people answer yes. I ask, how can they believe in anything if they do not even believe in Truth? Since the vast majority of them say they believe in God, I ask how they can, since they can create and discreate him at will?

Such illogical, irrational and conflicting beliefs crash your brain if you don't keep them segregated into different halves of the brain and then keep one half of it shut down. Doing that is called compartmentalizing.

This is the predicament narcissists are permanently in. Since they identify with their phony image reflected in mirrors, if their mirrors abandon them, they feel that their very existence is snuffed out! The fate worse than death.

Now, a normal person may feel buried alive by total abandonment. But even in that hell, he will say, "I think, therefore I am."

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The "Doting" Narcissist

Because the mentally ill are so complex, opposite behaviors often stem from the same root cause. We see this often in narcissists.

For example, to the same self-aggrandizing end, a "doting" narcissist does the opposite of the ignore-ant narcissist by showering attention on his child. But I don't think he should not be called a doting narcissist, because he is not fond of his child and takes no interest in the inner person of his child. He should be called a "scrutinizing narcissist," because all this attention is critical attention. Critical attention is the only kind a narcissist gives, because it plays the Teeter Totter Game.

So, if possible, he attends every tennis tournament or meet, no matter how far away. Every concert. Every play. He even shows up at practices and at the prom. And he delivers his detailed critique after every performance. He lives vicariously through his child, because that child's success improves his image and wins him attention. He invests an inordinate amount of time and effort and money in his child's talent. And a truckload of critical attention, because he is never satisfied. Which makes that child, no matter how successful, feel inadequate and inept. As one poor young rich kid put it to me: it torments him with the haunting fear that he's "a loser."

If he is a she, she may not be satisfied with her daughter's face and want plastic surgery to fix it. She may color her little child's hair. She may dress the girl like a Hollywood movie star. With the same result.

The children of narcissists are just objects to exploit for the parent's aggrandizement, whether that narcissistic parent is an ignore-ant narcissist or a scrutinizing one.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Great observations in the comments

I'm really glad I started this blog. Many of the observations posted in the comments are right on and really add to this site as a resource for those trying to understand NPD. Thanks.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, January 02, 2006


A narcissist's "self absorption" is absorption in a false self. An external entity. His false image. This accounts for the strangest thing of all about malignant narcissists: they are as out of touch with themselves as they are with the rest of the world!

All people can get out of touch with themselves and lose track of how they feel. This comes from being too intensely focused too much of the time. Especially with sedentary work. In this state, the brain learns to filter out sensation. One of the benefits of Eastern practices like Yoga and Tai Chi is that it helps us get back in touch with ourselves.

What goes on in a narcissist is essentially the same thing, I suppose, but to a bizarre degree.

How bizarre? Well, I'm afraid you'd have to see it to believe it, but here goes.

One narcissist I knew was so dissociated from himself that he never knew when he was ill. Subconsciously he must have known, because he lost his appetite and went to bed. But his wife had to tell him he had a cold or the flue. He could never answer the simple question Where does it hurt? If asked, "Does it hurt here?" he would answer, "I don't think so." He felt nothing short of extreme pain. By old age, he had made his brain so numb he didn't even feel that. Rough handling by his caretaker had dislocated his shoulder. On seeing this, the person who discovered his injury was astonished that he was sitting there as if in no pain. He said it didn't hurt. Or at least he didn't think it hurt. (No abused little child wants to know his mommy hurt him.) When told that a dislocated shoulder made big, strong football players lie on the ground writhing in agony, he reconsidered. Within minutes, he began complaining that it hurt. But he never did seem to feel severe pain.

Another narcissist I know of was as hypertensive as a shrew. Astronomical blood pressure had enlarged her heart. The doctor asked how long she had felt it beating against her rib cage. "What?" "You must have felt it beating against your rib cage. How long have you felt that happening?" It is almost certain that her heart had been throbbing against her ribs, 24-7 for well over a year. Yet she had never been aware of that.

How do narcissists get so far out of touch with themselves? I suspect they do it simply by keeping focused on something all the time. They fill the gaps between daily work and appearances before mirrors with distractions. One thing I've noticed about narcissists is that they must always be busy, busy, busy. And when there's nothing to do, they bury their nose in a book or newspaper, or they glue themselves to a TV -- anything to avoid a moment of quiet reflection. Blaring radios, sleep, TV, aimless busywork, useless reading — anything to keep burying that repressed corpus delicti (their true self) so it doesn't surface to consciousness in a moment of self awareness.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

craig class janesville