In writing Negativity, Narcissism, and More Thoughts on Narcissism, I did some investigating and postulating to figure out events in my own life. A comprehensive article found recently at Slate.com has more-or-less confirmed some of the points made.
1.) The arts attracts narcissists.
The arts, medicine, politics all attract inwardly injured people with an outsize sense of themselves and a desire for the world to recognize them.This seems entirely logical as narcissists thrive on attention, adulation and praise. The concert stage is a perfect arena for this.
2.) Narcissists can behave like children.
Many times I have read online or heard elsewhere the comment that musicians behave like children. There appears to be some truth in that observation in cases of narcissistic musicians:
Those involved with someone with NPD frequently say they feel as if they are interacting with a kindergartener. In some way they are. According to a study in the journal Advances in Psychiatric Treatments,
narcissists are stuck with the emotional development of 5-year-olds.
3.) “Quiet” narcissism can be a good thing
To a certain degree self-adulation and confidence is beneficial, even necessary, to a musician’s psyche. Not many people do their job, in real-time, in front an audience. Strong motivation and confidence then, is needed in order for a musician to focus on performing well.
Narcissism fuels drive and ambition, a desire to be recognized for one’s accomplishments, a sense that one’s life has meaning and importance.
This blog for example, involves some narcissism I suppose. (Although I would like to think that it is more of a pursuit for meaning and purpose than for attention or adoration.) In that regard, “quiet” narcissism is a good thing.
For any musician, there is nothing wrong with feeling confident and strong as an Artist.
4.) Narcissists can drive you crazy.
The leading theory is that Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a condition born of environment, not genetics. It is nearly impossible to treat as the afflicted individual thinks they are fine and rarely seeks treatment. Traditional anti-depression medications in fact, can exacerbate the affliction rather than treat it.
… researchers explored whether NPD should even be considered a disorder since the people who have it, by definition, think so highly of themselves. The authors conclude it is a pathological condition but one that uniquely causes “pain and duress” not to the sufferers but to those closest to them.
… NPD can be summed up as, “Contempt of other people and their emotions.”
A favorite phrase of one backstabbing individual I have dealt with was that other people were “crazy” when they disagreed with him. This explained everything, even justifying his own heinous, irrational acts.
People with NPD are convinced there is nothing wrong with them; it’s everyone around them who is impossible or crazy. There’s some truth to their perception because often the spouse and children of the narcissist have been driven mad by their cruelty, disparagement, rages, and vindictiveness.
5.) It is on the rise.
There are many indicators that narcissistic behavior has become something like a virus in our modern, wired culture. Preliminary studies have indicated that up to 1% of the general population has NPD. More recent studies show that this number may now be as high as 10%.
And as for Arts leadership in this current economy –
…narcissists can be charismatic forces for change—because of their drive, vision, risk-taking, and even ruthlessness, many corporations turn to narcissists for salvation.
Desperate organizations want visionaries with promises of salvation. A charismatic can be very appealing.
But such people can become dangerous because their success fuels their already ample grandiosity and feeds the sense they got there by disdaining the normal rules. … working for or doing business with a narcissist have to be careful not be drawn into crossing legal and ethical lines.
Read the full Slate.com article: