/ Feb 13, 2006
Narcissism is a pattern of traits and behaviors which signify infatuation and obsession with one's self to the exclusion of all others and the egotistic and ruthless pursuit of one's gratification, dominance and ambition.
Narcissism is named after the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus who was a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymph Echo. In punishment of his cruelty, he was doomed to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, he pined away and changed into the flower that bears his name to this very day (narjes in Arabic).
Those of us who know a thing or two about human psychology and behavior consider narcissists among the most difficult people to deal with. These people usually believe that they are right and everyone else is wrong. They believe that they are smarter and more attractive than anyone else. The most difficult aspect is that they lack the capacity to reflect on their own lives: (stepping out of oneself and examining oneself).
When confronted by other people they either dismiss their confrontation, or become extremely defensive, enraged and look for revenge. Of course this terminology is usually used to describe individuals. But I am suggesting a model where we examine the same style of pathology but in cultures and societies.
I believe that our culture(s) in the Middle East fit the criteria that we usually apply to narcissists. In general, people in our culture are not used to examining themselves. They are too fragile to tolerate acknowledging their weaknesses. They lack objectivity when they –as a society or as individuals- try to problem-solve. We believe that we are better than everyone else on earth, we believe that all of our problems are “imposed on us”, we are always the “victims” of other people “plots” to control. If one us tried to remind the group of our responsibilities, he or she would be forced to shut up in the name of “political party, religion, family…”
Societies – like individuals- are always faced with problems. Authorities in these societies deal with their citizens in a distinctive pattern specific to that culture. These patterns are the “collective” patterns of how the “sum of these individuals” is raised at home as children and how they in turn raise their own children.
If parents treat their children as extensions of themselves, dismiss their opinions, intimidate them and force them to “comply” with family/society norms without any explanation or respect for their individuality, we end up with children -and later on adults- who are not used to questioning authority and just follow what everyone around them is telling them to do.
BUT, if parents taught their children to respect themselves, believe in their abilities and are assertive and comfortable in saying what they are thinking about. These parents teach the children the norms of their society but they give them enough freedom to question and learn why these norms are implemented. This way we end up with children that belong to the society because they want to, they feel that they have the power to change the norms of their society while working with others, they are not afraid of saying what they are thinking without worrying that their lives would be threatened if they disagreed with the rest of the group.
I believe that the majority (of course not all) of children in Middle Eastern society (ies) are taught to ignore their natural curiosity, to not ask questions, to comply with the rules and regulations enforced upon them either by emotional manipulation or by physical abuse. This generational brain washing stalled their creativity and limited their horizons, and made a generation after generation of narcissists that breed more and more narcissists.
Last note: the suicide bomber is the ultimate narcissist
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