Welcome to the Spring 2018 edition of Frontiers. This edition we have decided to focus on narcissism. This is partly because a disturbing trend seems to be emerging in popular culture; of a sort of weaponized folk psychology in which the term ‘narcissist’ is often deployed to discredit or attack. A new label for evil which is often liberally applied, and carries a scientific respectability with it. In looking at social media, we often see the shorthand term ‘Narc’ used (weirdly, this term reflects the language often used in crime films to describe a traitor or informer) as well as talking about a narcissistic ‘supply’ in terms that reflect vampire myths.
The person described as a narcissist is portrayed as an ‘alien’ being who is in some way inhuman.
These descriptions seem to rely on a very polarised and split view of narcissism in which it is almost a sign of a purely malignant essence. The person described as a narcissist is portrayed as an ‘alien’ being who is in some way inhuman. This split view ignores the narcissistic traits which all of us who are functioning in our society possess, and reproduces knowledge which does not actually tell the full story. As a psychotherapist who often works with clients who have issues around narcissism, and has seen them often find ways to cope and relate more fully, I feel that it is important to move the discourse away from blame and splitting and an idea that someone with issues around narcissism can ‘never recover’. In this edition, Sam Bloxidge explores the way in which this split image is formed and looks at the reason why we all have narcissistic traits.
Sam Agnew follows this article by drawing on the work of Almaas to look at what narcissism is, whereas Cristina Preda traces some different theories around narcissism, including psychodynamic and transpersonal approaches, looking at some of the ancient myths which reflect our understanding of narcissism today.
In two additional articles that reflect some of the other related issues around narcissism, Suzie Chick presents the other side of a relationship with a narcissist – her personal experience of taking the ‘Echo’ position and how by reflecting the needs of the other you can lose oneself in the process. On a contrasting academic note, I talk about how narcissism can intrude into politics at the expense of recognising difference and Otherness, drawing on my experience of the progressive left, and how ideology born from narcissistic personality structure can gloss over difference.
Aside from this we have our usual dilemma, this edition looking at the complexities of working with HIV and possible legal issues that can arise.