Over the last decade, psychologists have been carefully studying the increasing trend of narcissism in our American culture, particularly among youth. The number of individuals diagnosed with narcissism personality disorder is growing exponentially.
In fact, many researchers are calling it an epidemic.
Those who struggle with narcissism have a grandiose sense of the self.
They believe they are special, entitled, and deserve more than everyone else around them. They take actions to better themselves, their bodies, and their egos. Their friendships are to enhance their own worth, not the other’s. They are navel gazers, constantly asking, “what is in it for me?”
Maybe you know someone like this.
Maybe you are someone like this (although, funny enough, you probably wouldn’t admit it).
Ironically, narcissists, who seem to be caught in a inextricable web of self-absorption, may also struggle immensely with insecurity, anxiety, depression, violence, and self-loathing at times.
This is both an individual and cultural disease.
Even if most of us don’t have a full-fledged personality disorder, deep down, don’t we all have some of the narcissist in us? Just scrolling through social media posts shows our self-absorption is run amuck.
But there may be an antidote.
In the recent HBO hit series, “In Treatment,” Gabriel Byrnes discusses his role as a psychotherapist.
He notes, “Listening, I think, is one of the most profound compliments that you can pay to another person. To truly listen and to feel that you’re heard is deeply fulfilling in a deep human way.” This awareness of listening is an act of empathy.
Hearing the story of another human, and deeply listening to that story, is an act of compassion, altruism, and love. It involves losing yourself and experiencing a “vicarious introspection” into the life of another human being.
Neurological studies show that altruism is actually a biological response, hard-wired into the brain.
In fact, acts of generosity, empathy, or altruism light up a primitive part of the brain that is usually associated with pleasurable actions like eating good food or sex.
They might actually cure narcissism.
So if you’re starting to fear you’re a little too self-absorbed, stop to listen, think about others instead, and give generously with what you have.
Ironically, in combating narcissism through empathy, the individual who has long suffered from narcissism actually secures the greatest win—a pleasurable biological response—when focused on others.
A cure for their narcissism.
We all win when we listen and act.
Whether it’s through charity, educating others, or advocacy, your actions on behalf of others doesn’t just benefit you—it benefits them as well.
Raising our voices for health and hope for others means better health and hope for everyone.