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What are the causes of narcissism, and (like Twenge argues) are we faced with a narcissism epidemic?

Jean Twenge recently (2009) writes how Western society has seen a narcissist epidemic. I want to explore whether this is because of consumer culture (advertising, social media platforms etc) or whether narcissism stems from something more sinister, Lasch (although writing in 1979) claims the root causes are infancy years and parental abandonment. Please write any academic ideas and knowledge you may obtain.

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  • Apr 14 2014: That assumes there was an end to Manifest Destiny. Narcissism is a European Cultural manifestation that they have used against every person of color. It has not gone away. In fact, it has become worse. They came to America looking for the free lunch and took it. Now that we Natives want what they stole from us back, they say it is theirs through some false manifested right. They natural resources have diminished to a point now that there is not enough to go around for all the white people and they are taking from each other. The very wealthy are claiming Manifest Destiny against their poor counter parts. The result or excuse is Narcissism.
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    Apr 11 2014: I would suggest that the "narcissism" is but a symptom of a much bigger and more pervasive process at work, namely hedonism..

    The last 50 years or so has seen an unprecedented amount of wealth created all around the word. And all that wealth has meant that now billions of people are able to move beyond a life circumscribed by toil and when pleasures were simple, to one now circumscribed by consumption and endless pleasures.

    The focus of our modern day hedonism is to stimulate as many pleasure centers, as we can, as often as we can. Whether that is with fatty foods and obesity or sexual habits that promote disease is less important than the "freedom" to indulge ourselves.

    Of course behind all that pleasure is a culture of consumerism that suggest we are what we consume. Products deemed "classy" or "chic" imply that the possessor is also chic and prestige is the consumer item now.

    such is life today, and then we die.
    • Apr 12 2014: When did you start agreeing with me?
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        Apr 12 2014: accidents happen, it doesn't mean we will be having tea any time soon ;)
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    Apr 11 2014: Here is a lead for you: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/S15327965PLI1204_1#.U0gXzahdWnQ

    As you mention "academic ideas," I would recommend you do a search on Google Scholar, where you will find lots of work by scholars who have studied this question from a variety of perspectives over the last half century. It's best to read some older and some newer work to get a sense of how understanding has changed.
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    Apr 10 2014: There was a time when it was perfectly acceptable to grow up and take over the family's moderately successful business. There was no shame in doing as well as your parents. Society thinks that the next generation has to have all the advantages and opportunities that the preceding generation lacked. Children are expected to do better than their parents or else feel like a failure in life. It's not good enough to earn a livable wage and take care of a family with enough left over to vacation every couple years.

    The luxuries in life are the goal, Boardwalk and Park Ave, as opposed to St. James (Monopoly in case you didn't get the reference).

    A child who feels that the focus is always on them to achieve and be the best, to compete against others and themselves and come out of it a winner, the child may feel there's nothing else in life that matters more than their own actions. A child growing up feeling like the focus is and has to stay on them may have tendencies toward narcissism.

    Teenagers are able to share what they're doing every minute of every day with every one they know with just their thumbs and people respond. Their world seems vast but is actually miniscule and shrinking fast.

    Shift the focus onto matters of substance. Community, social, economic, environmental, or global issues can take the place of the latest techno-toy or trend.
    • Apr 12 2014: Family business? That's an amusing conceit. At no time in history did the majority of families have a business. Throughout history, the majority of families have been A) Peasants, followed by B) Industrial drones, followed by C) Service industry drones. Different regions are in different points of this progression. There's no "family business" for the vast majority of people to take over, and there never has been. The hedonism of the peasant is well known. Let's face it, when you're so poor that you KNOW there will be no future, might as well enjoy today. In industrial countries, the capacity to obtain fleeting pleasure is greater, even for the peasants, labor peasants, techno-peasants, and service peasants. Thus, being in the same basic social and mental places, they act as peasants always have, just more efficiently.
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        Apr 12 2014: Out of everything in my comment, the "family business" point was what caught your attention?

        So do you think that being poor has a profound effect on narcissism?

        I used the term "family business" to represent any employment related, similar to, or on the same socioeconomic level as the preceding generation. I should have clarified.
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    Apr 9 2014: Sophie, your Topic is crucially important. I can say similar to what you're saying - our overcrowded human world creates that epidemic of narcissism as well as other sorts of mass-psychosis.

    Many of us while we are growing up feel panic for the reason that we are so tightly squeezed within mindless crowds, where we must somehow survive.

    We are born as individual living forms not as crowds, and the nature of our own psyche is screaming for help.

    Many think that in order to survive in this psychotic and therefore, senselessly cruel society of human beings we have to defend our Selfs at Any Cost.. However, this superficial mentality is rooted deeply in our inborn instinct protecting our own unique, individual self. In our artificially "controlled" society this good instinct turns into some extreme and twisted ideas and illsome behavior. That very unnatural environment where we grow up is Contaminated Soil, a whole mixture of sickness that is "explained" to us as a "normal" situation.

    We then can see commonly how parents, scared for their child's survival teach him/her to grab whatever comes because he/she is the most special. (My step mother punished me mercilessly every time when she saw I was generous towards others. And I'm still generous - because it is my own nature that cannot be supressed or taken away.)

    Some of us are very strong characters, I believe, like yourself, and that epidemic cannot harm such minds.
    I also think that our basic education is lacking knowledge on wisdom, sound ethics, and most importantly the very nature of our existance and survival that entirely depends on our Mutual co-existence, Mutual survival.
    • Apr 10 2014: So well said!
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        Apr 11 2014: For the first time I've seriously learned about mass-psychosis from this very rare book written by Russian neurologist, the father of objective psychology. (I'm not sure that all his work has been translated to English)

        Right now Bekhterev is recognized as the greatest contributor to neurological science. Howerever, I trust that his pioneering observation on mass-psychosis is the most important for our study.
        He observes and analyzes brainless crowds of 100,000s of people following doltish ideas "produced" by an individual psychopath. It is scary but true to see how contemporary crowds get excited and follow mindless but well-advertised ideas and "teaching" of all sorts.

        To get back to the TOPIC - we need to take a close look at how our narcissistic
        behavior reveals false reasons and goals "inspired" by simply mindless, or manipulating leaders.
  • Apr 12 2014: The word "narcissism" was at one time used as a euphemism for masturbation. Since things like Facebook are simultaneously narcissistic and public, it's rather a funny juxtaposition.
  • Apr 11 2014: Restlessness, vanity and disappointment are the ingredients of narcissism.
  • Apr 10 2014: Narcissism has always been an epidemic in Europe. The reason you are recognizing it now is that they have taken everything from non-Europeans and now what is left is their fellow Europeans. It was once called, Manifest Destiny.

    The feeding frenzy is being turned on the feeders and they are scared to death because it is an evil state of mind.
    Only the ones that have narcissism can truly understand narcissism or even recognize narcissism. All others are confused by the behavior.
    • Apr 12 2014: Speaking as an American, I say that Manifest Destiny was a purely American disease.
  • Apr 10 2014: “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”- Buddha
    • Apr 12 2014: And once you have that, who needs anyone else?
      • Apr 12 2014: I think the Buddha answered that question also. After the Buddha had attained enlightenment he was perfectly happy to sit under that bodhi tree basking in the knowledge but he soon learned that along with knowledge comes responsibility. That knowledge only has value when you share it, so he spent the rest of his life giving away the gifts of knowledge that had been giving to him.
        "You can't keep it unless you give it away" is a tradition derived from the twelve step of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is the theme of "Pay it Forward" and the Golden rule. Without it life is meaningless.