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Showing posts with label negative narcissism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label negative narcissism. Show all posts

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Confirmation bias: When self-confirming becomes self-righteousness or self-loathing.

I previously wrote a post that touched upon what I refer to as negative narcissism (Positive narcissist vs. negative narcissist vs. balanced view).  Anyway, the upshot of it was that what people see as narcissism is someone who believes his or herself as beyond real criticism.  They are so focused on presenting a positive image of themselves to themselves and others that they cannot engage in legitimate self-reflection.   The idea of a 'negative narcissist' is someone who is so stuck on the idea that they are a bad person or devoid of positive value that they cannot or will not be able to legitimately be able to self-reflect either.

I decided to take this a step further based on another concept: confirmation bias.   I understand that to be taking events or circumstances and using them to further or confirm your point of view, even if it is not an accurate reflection.   Most of the time, I think it is used to confirm our thoughts on others.   That is, we have an opinion or take on someone(s) and something happens surrounding or involving them and that just confirms what we already 'know'.  For example, say we had a conversation with a friend that doesn't end on a good note (or at least that's what our perception is).   Say we don't hear from the friend for a few days, we might take the lack of communication as our friend being mad at us.  The reality might be a little different.  The friend might have just been venting and had to get off the phone abruptly.   In the meantime, he or she might legitimately be overwhelmed with work or family.

However, I thought about it the other day and realized we confirm our biases about ourselves too.   If we are a classical narcissist we notice an investment of ours is doing well.  We might already think of ourselves as very smart and savvy, warranted or otherwise.   Our observation that our investment is doing well is just a further confirmation to us how brilliant we are.   The reality might be that it is an up market and most everyone is doing well, but why bother us with the pesky facts.   Effectively we would be using confirmation bias to support our self-righteousness or self-praise.  Likewise, with a 'negative narcissist', a person thinks so little of his or herself and isn't inclined to entertain any positive feedback or point of view about themselves, that her or she will use circumstances or situations to 'confirm' how awful or irredeemable they are.  For example, we may be involved in an accident and the evidence points to the other driver being largely at fault, but we may have such a negative view of ourselves that we may decide independent of the evidence if we had just left earlier when we 'should have', the accident would have never happened.  In a way, we are blaming ourselves for the accident.   Effectively we are using confirmation bias to support our self-loathing.

My takeaways are the following:
  • Confirmation bias is not always directed outward, though most of the time I believe people think of it as such
  • Confirmation bias, whether directed inward or outward, is never a good substitute for proper reflection on circumstances.
Just my thoughts.  As always, if someone or someone(s) can get something from my posts, I feel like I've accomplished my role.

- Rich


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Mission Accomplished: Declaring victory too soon.

Few people ever want to admit defeat.  People generally want to think  well of themselves (unless they are what I call a negative narcissist), but I digress.  People generally want to think reasonably well about themselves.   Sometimes that means ignoring your flaws and seeing an inflated view of yourself, that is to say you are a narcissist.  History is littered with tyrants who justified their tyranny because they felt they were serving the greater good--Hitler is probably the most well known.  Sometimes that means measuring your flaws against your good points and concluding your good points exceed that of your flaws.  We see that in politics, where people who have used bad judgement in their life or made mistakes survive their negatives and go on to become successful and well thought of.  Sometimes, it means working on your flaws or failings and 'overcoming' them or achieving victory over them.  We see that in the friend who puts down the bottle for good, the parent who does a better job with their second or third kid or the felon that who finds peace in their faith and makes something of themselves once they are out of prison.

The focus of this post is those who know they have difficulties, flaws or failings and see themselves as overcoming or having overcome them.   Sometimes if we tie our worth too much to our 'issues', then we create an incentive to 'declare victory' prematurely.  I believe everyone has examples from their own life or from those close to them.   I will list examples or cases I've seen of been a part of.

Declaring victory too soon
  • In my post, #MeAsWell: For What It's Worth, I detail sexual abuse I faced as a child.  In my mind despite some hiccups, I had successfully made it into adulthood gainfully and successfully employed most of the time.  I had bought a decent house in a good part of town, had a nice car, was married and was well on my way to parenthood.  In other words, the American Dream.  I had convinced myself and the few others around me that knew about it that I had survived and escaped the damage of my childhood, despite the fact that I'd never sought counseling for it.  The signs of 'success' were there, so hey...    Meanwhile, I had a generalized anxiety disorder raging since age 17, I had a problem trusting people--even those close to me--and my behavior didn't always measure up to the standards that my faith would imply.  Anyone who knows me, realizes that eventually like any great fa├žade, eventually the truth has an ugly way of rearing its head.  The truth was that I had never really fully healed from the abuse during my childhood.  The distrust, the anxiety, the flaws eventually came to a head and by 2011, the signs of success had largely been swept away like a sign on the beach during a hurricane.  House, marriage, job, etc. were no more.
  • I had a friend who had a heroine addiction.  I stood by that friend as long as I could.  I saw her 'successfully' complete a stint at a drug treatment center.  I heard her hopefulness that she was done with it.   In short, she was seeking to declare victory.   Supposedly she was clean (at least for a short time)  when she tragically died in an auto accident.  Her life had spiraled out of control and at the very least I think she was very fragile by that point.  That is to say, even if drugs hadn't contributed directly to her accident, indirectly I think she was still reeling.  I'd seen another friend successfully through detox and sobriety for alcoholism, so I thought my friend with the heroine addiction could make it too.  I didn't realize at the time how addictive and deadly heroine is/was and was fooled into being optimistic.
  • I've seen someone I dated push aside anger, grief and other such feelings and claim she was fine and didn't need counseling.  Yet, every time things got rough or she faced adversity she could be seen running to grief and regret that she couldn't help her mom avoid dying young from pneumonia. 

I think for most of us, if we honestly look into our lives, we can find area or two in our lives in which were have 'declared victory' too soon.  That is to say, we are not in as good of a place as we would like to believe we are.  That's not to say that everyone is totally screwed up or has areas in their life which hold them back excessively.  However, I think it is safe to say that most people have misjudged their progress in an area in which they can improve.  I believe sometimes it is easier to 'declare victory' than to do the hard work of self-improvement.   

Just my 1/50th of a $1 for the day.  

Cheers from a snowy day in the Gateway to the West.


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Failing doesn't make you a failure

I am glad that this election cycle is winding down.  In my 47 years, this election was probably the most hostile/tense election season we as a nation have even witnessed.  As with any elections there were winners and losers.  I think it's pretty clear the 'winners' and the 'losers' in this election cycle and analysis thereof is being repeated ad infinitum.  So, I won't focus on that, but it does lend itself to the following concept:

Failing doesn't make you a failure.  

For anyone who has ever had a significant failure in their life such as:
  • Falling short of being elected.
  • Failure in marriage.
  • Falling of short of winning the big game.
  • Not getting the promotion/losing your job.
  • Failing in school.
  • Broken friendships.
it is hard to separate a particular failure or failing from the overall sense of being a failure.  It is akin to shame vs. guilt.  Shame focuses on self (and has a sense of at least semi-permanence), guilt focus on poor choices (and can be more passing).  Similarly, labeling oneself as a failure, implies feeling broken in a permanent way, whereas noting a failure implies limited--in scope and permanence--damage.

If one is labeled a failure, he or she has effectively had their successes negated or overwhelmed by the label.  If one is said to have failed, it is feasible that their successes before are still respected and that their chance of success after is recognized.

--

It is easy to say tell someone who is in the midst of a particular failure that they aren't a failure, but it can harder for them to accept it.  What they've got to realize is that 
  • Everyone has failings in their life.  After all, if that weren't the case, why would we have the need for a Higher Power (God)?
  • Some of the people we consider 'successful' failed time and again before they hit on their life's success. Successful people who have failed:
    • Henry Ford went broke 5 times before succeeding at Ford Motor Company
    • Bill Gates dropped out of college and failed in his first business (Traf-O-Data) before starting arguably the most successful software company (Microsoft).
    • Oprah Winfrey was born poor to a single teenage mom, was abused as kid and became a teen mom--child died in infancy--before she landed a radio job which ultimately led to her billion dollar production company.
  • Not everyone wins 'the big game/election/promotion', but that doesn't nullify their accomplishments.
    • Ernie Banks never made it to the World Series, but his Hall of Fame induction gives lie to the concept that this made him a failure.
    • Tim Tebow had limited success in the NFL, but no one can take away his Heisman Trophy and National Championship at Florida.  Additionally, he has carved out success in broadcasting.
    • Adlai Stevenson is remembered by many as losing the Presidency to Eisenhower twice, but no one can take away his time as Governor of Illinois, Ambassador to the U.N. and his efforts in making a JFK presidency possible. 
  • That it is okay to visit (mourn) a particular failure/failing, but it is not okay to live there.  Visiting or mourning failure appropriately and moving forward can strengthen us.  Living in failure can be very disabling or debilitating. 
  • Our faith can be a strong guide, however, we are not born with an individual instruction manual.  Our Higher Power and true friend and family in our lives understand that we will at times not make the best choices of ignorance or maybe even hubris.  That doesn't mean that we are stupid or a bad person, it just means we don't always have all the answers.  See my post on the Fog of War and Decisions/Choices.  
--

One final note: We've all heard the term 'narcissist', but I'm convinced of a concept that I call 'negative narcissism'.  The idea being that a negative narcissist finds it easier to live in the concept of being a failure than having a more balanced view of their lives.  If you label yourself as a failure, it makes it easier not to accept responsibility for individual failings.  It also, makes it easier to justify not taking steps to try to succeed.   After all, if you are a failure (or destined to it), then well, you couldn't help it anyway and why bother trying?

Anyway, whether our candidate or team wins or loses, they don't have to be considered a failure.  If a particular endeavour in our life ends in success or failure, we can own a failing, but we don't have to own being a failure.  Just some post election musings.

-- Rich