Monday, March 05, 2007


Crabbers have long known that there is no need to cover a bucket of crabs. They just stay in the bottom of the bucket, not even trying to climb out. And, whenever a crab does start trying to climb out, the others all suddenly start exerting themselves.

To do what? Follow its lead? No. To drag it back down into the bottom of the bucket and keep it from climbing out.

Kinda like a narcissist, right? But actually, it's kinda like most people.

One of the most surprising facts about the human race is the prevalence of mediocrity. The reason this is surprising is because we never hear anyone admit mediocrity. To the contrary, people always portray themselves as working hard and as doing the best job they can.

Every now and then though, we get a myth-busting wake-up call. Like Hurricane Katrina. How could civil servants behave like that at a time like that? Or, what about the FBI before 9/11? The boss "didn't believe in computers," so the FBI didn't have any that weren't dinosaurs more than 10 years old without Internet access. Sheesh! How can flaming, incompetent negligence like that pass for doing a good job?

I got my first inkling of the invisible world of mediocrity that surrounds us in my first job. Unable to get decent sanitation repairs and equipment for a facility I managed, I came home complaining to my mother that the department heads of that city were "just trying to look like they were doing a good job, instead of actually doing one."

I thought that attitude must be rare. But it isn't. It's the rule. When teachers ask other teachers what they teach, the standard answer is "As little as possible." Not what they'd say to you or their principal, is it? Same with the factory worker on the line. Or the doctor. Or the social worker.

Most people have no motivation to put forth more than minimal effort needed to get by. And that goes for their moral life too.

In this, narcissists are no different. They are different in one regard though. Most people avoid standing out as excellent. We are trained by our peers to do this from a young age.

If, for example, you try hard to get good grades in school, the other kids will label you as a "try-harder," the implication being that trying hard is bad. You will get labeled a "brain."

It's not nice to expose the mediocrity of the other crabs in that bucket by excelling, you see. So, instead of trying too, they'd rather just drag you down and discourage your effort.

Those who coach young tennis players aspiring to great things see the same thing. As soon as a player's tremendous dedication and effort start to pay off, his or her peers start in. The great majority cave in to this pressure. Those you see reach the top of the game, like Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, are those brave souls who won't let this pressure control their choices.

Narcissists are different only in that they fake excellence as much as they can. But they too drag others down.

Often they have a reputation for excellence that is ironic, because their work is actually full of cut corners and negligence.

If they can't fake excellence, I don't know whether they would try hard or not. I suppose in that case, to get what they want, they might. But the narcissists I have known all did a lousy job. In fact it would be more correct to say that they just didn't even do their job.

Why bother when appearances are all that count, and you can fake it?

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At 7:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The narcissists in my life have the basic characteristic of severe laziness. Their whole life is based on getting others to do everything for them. Part of keeping their meal ticket available is beating them down emotionally.

You know, the more we talk, it really is character.

My dad nearly bled to death yesterday and I couldn't feel anything. My kids couldn't feel anything either. We don't want him to suffer but...I don't know, I say we don't feel anything but on the other hand, I also want to say that nothing feels worse than not being able to feel anything and so much harder to express than the grief of someone beloved. My question is, what does that say about my character?


At 9:26 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

What you feel, or don't, is just what you feel. That's not conduct. It says nothing about your character. And even conduct isn't carved in stone. Nothing is inherently right or wrong. Take killing. Sometimes it's the right thing to do. Lying, same thing. There are very few things you would be hard pressed to come up with a justifying occassion for.

And this isn't even that. It's just a feeling. There's a reason for it. What's the reason?

An N has no feeling because he couldn't abuse if he allowed himself to feel for others. That's a helluva big difference from your lack of feeling for this ONE PARTICULAR PERSON. Don't judge.It ain't a moral issue. Like you said, you don't wish him to suffer. So, what's the guilt for?

Whatever feeling you had for him, he relentlessly beat until it died. And now YOU feel guilty about it?

Just let it be. What you feel just is. It doesn't have to be judged or justified.

At 1:30 PM, Blogger Cathy said...

Kathy...I take it you were in a relationship with a narcissist? And that is why you write so much on the topic?

I recently just got out of a relationship with a person I think is a narcissist and I just happened onto your site. So many things I'm reading take me to certain situations I had with my ex.

Is there hope for these types of people? Aside from being drugged up and on therapy for the rest of their lives with no real solid and permanent change?

At 7:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know you're right, Kathy. I guess I just don't like that my dad's stinking character has had such an effect on me. I'm a heart person and I always know what I feel. I just don't know what to do with this huge chunk of black ice. I don't know what to name it or how to remove it.

My dad made it anyway and my husband and I got through my sister having her first real trauma to deal with in regard to my parents. Our involvement was only over the phone and I thought we did well. What had to be said was said and it went no further. We are winning small battles. This site has helped a lot in that regard.


At 8:01 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

You know, it's just sad when you feel that way - feel nothing for a parent or brother or sister. When they can even die and all you feel is nothing. When you'd feel more for a stranger.

We aren't made of stone. The N bludgeons our love for them to death.

But it's just sad. Not bad. Feelings are not a sin. We just have to let them be.

As for the frozen tears, I've seen and heard of that. It reminds me of Dante's Inferno. The bottom of Hell is a lake of ice that you're frozen in. Every time you want to cry, just as the tears start to come, they freeze, so you can't.

Of course his vision of hell was a vision of justice - a place where wrongdoers must suffer what those they put through hell suffered.

Dante must have suffred this himself to know just what hell is.

At 9:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We probably all suffer at the hands of these people but not all of us are born to them or marry one. That's where the real damage occurs. However, I would much rather be me and damaged than to be the one who has damaged so many. I would not want to pass from this life without ever having loved. What ever they think they gain is not worth never knowing or giving love. If they knew what love was, I don't think they would beat it to death.

I'm better today. Probably because I don't have to go to a funeral that I should cry at and not be able to and have people wonder about it. I know that is a selfish way to feel about it but I'm glad it has been put off awhile longer. I need some more time to put some distance between me and all the struggle that took place in my transferring their care to my sister. I can only imagine what has been said to the extended family and I've no way to defend myself against it. I'm not even sure I could make myself go.


At 11:42 AM, Anonymous gh said...


I followed through to the link on your blog and wanted to suggest a title to you but couldn't there so I figured I'd leave it here for you to find.

A book I came across that you might find helpful as you work through things:

The kind of partner you will want (when you are ready again) will indeed be someone who'd want you as you are now. We all have rough spots, and we so desparately need partners and friends who will love and accept us when we are at our worst. At the very least, we know God does!


At 9:28 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Note to anonymous of a few minutes ago: I am sorry that I cannot publish your post. It is because, while you left out the names of specific places, you did mention a specific entity I think, a business. If you repost, leaving out any reference to an identifiable person or other entity, I will be happy to publish it.

At 9:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are ab"soul"tely correct, Kathy (Ha! I am not correcting the has meaning for me LOL). Thank you for not publishing my remarks; thank you for thinking for me. I really appreciate it when others are able to stop me before I can't control myself in a moment; at times when I exhibit the very characteristics as those people I ran from in terror.
I have come a long way, baby...but thank you, KK. May I also submit that you continue to use excellent, wise judgment with ALL comments, as you have in the past for the very reasons you kindly (possibly my projection, but I am REAL grateful you didn't publish my bull s###) stopped mine.
Everyone's entitled to earn a living...and I must remember that those who thrive in mediocrity, happily and sated NEED a mediocre forum, where few demands are placed upon them nor will there ever be scrutiny of their work under a creative microscope, in order to earn a living. I heard it said that "Mediocrity always attacks excellence", so keep going, fellow healers on your journeys...but why did it have to hurt so much and feel so personal? It seemed like a case of "Your kind of integrity and rigorous committment to honesty isn't wanted here, no matter HOW friendly our facades."
It's ok, though. We'll get by.


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