ashleyshrugged

Narcissistic Friends

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A friend of mine I met earlier this year claimed to be an Egoist and interested in Objective Philosophy, such as myself. I was very excited, thinking I'd met a potential best friend. The only problem is that I'm starting to think that instead of being an Objectivist, shes a Narcissist. I've found that she is not just selfish, but completely unconcerned with anything that doesn't directly benefit her. We don't have conversations, we have arguments where instead of commenting or giving advice regarding my life, she simply includes her personal experience or opinion with no regard for me, and changes the subject back to her. She has also turned into a source of stress, because I'm always worried about her argumentative nature. I did some research online, and the character traits she seems to exhibit relate to Narcissism.

Has anyone encountered a Narcissist in their life? Can you gain value from these individuals as friends, or are they just a source for stress? I'd appreciate your feedback.

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Has anyone encountered a Narcissist in their life? Can you gain value from these individuals as friends, or are they just a source for stress?  I'd appreciate your feedback.

Never had such an experience with someone, but I wouldn't put up with it if I did.

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A friend of mine I met earlier this year claimed to be an Egoist and interested in Objective Philosophy, such as myself.  I was very excited, thinking I'd met a potential best friend.  The only problem is that I'm starting to think that instead of being an Objectivist, shes a Narcissist.  I've found that she is not just selfish, but completely unconcerned with anything that doesn't directly benefit her.  We don't have conversations, we have arguments where instead of commenting or giving advice regarding my life, she simply includes her personal experience or opinion with no regard for me, and changes the subject back to her.  She has also turned into a source of stress, because I'm always worried about her argumentative nature.  I did some research online, and the character traits she seems to exhibit relate to Narcissism. 

Has anyone encountered a Narcissist in their life? Can you gain value from these individuals as friends, or are they just a source for stress?  I'd appreciate your feedback.

I have a vast amount of personal experience with narcissists. If you're sure that you're dealing with one (and make sure that you are, of course), you should immediately take steps to minimize that person's impact on your life. If this is a relatively casual friend that won't be too difficult, but if you've become closer than that it will take some time and finesse to back away from the relationship.

Narcissists drain your soul to fuel themselves. Don't allow that to happen.

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I've found that she is not just selfish, but completely unconcerned with anything that doesn't directly benefit her.
I think I've never met such a person. Would you like to give some concrete examples?

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I wonder how old this person is. From the description, it would appear quite young. If there is something I have noticed as I have gotten older (I'm 39 now), it's that younger people interested in Objectivism tend toward the "narcissism" described in the original post. Now, if the person is truly the "selfish" type in the current modern understanding of the term, then I'd say stay away. That person has completely misunderstood selfish to mean do anything to anyone for personal gain.

Rational egoism does not mean trample over corpses, it means one's primary concern is one's own life. Ayn Rand was explicit in her view that other people are of tremendous value IF they too are rational. It's difficult NOT to grasp that point just reading the fiction.

If after some observation you conclude this person is merely the "trampling corpses" type, then cut her loose. She is of no value to you.

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Has anyone encountered a Narcissist in their life? Can you gain value from these individuals as friends, or are they just a source for stress?  I'd appreciate your feedback.

It seems you're not gaining very much value from this person and it is a source of stress for you so, regardless of what her problem is, it might be a good idea to find other friends. There are plenty wonderful people in the world you could share your values with and be comfortable and happy with, so why waste time with anything less?

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There are plenty wonderful people in the world you could share your values with and be comfortable and happy with, so why waste time with anything less?

I think I may have been too generous to this person, now that I re-read my post as well as Betsy's. My post hinged on giving the person the benefit of the doubt, but it appears she is already a source of anguish NOW.

Follow Betsy's advice, she knows what she's talking about.

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It seems you're not gaining very much value from this person and it is a source of stress for you so, regardless of what her problem is, it might be a good idea to find other friends.  There are plenty wonderful people in the world you could share your values with and be comfortable and happy with, so why waste time with anything less?

I was involved with two major activities with this person (debate team and I was talking about moving in with her next year as a roommate) and I've changed both of those things. I quit the debate team, it was a source of a lot of unnecessary stress, and I also decided to move in with some much better friends, who are anything but a source of stress in my life, in fact, they are a source of happiness and relaxation. I'm not sure how much activity I will continue with this other person, but when we spent less time together, she was much more of a source of joy then a source of anguish, and I'm hoping we can go back to that. She has also been very cool with my decisions to quit the team and to not move in with her. I was impressed with her reaction.

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I was involved with two major activities with this person (debate team and I was talking about moving in with her next year as a roommate) and I've changed both of those things.  I quit the debate team, it was a source of a lot of unnecessary stress, and I also decided to move in with some much better friends, who are anything but a source of stress in my life, in fact, they are a source of happiness and relaxation.  I'm not sure how much activity I will continue with this other person, but when we spent less time together, she was much more of a source of joy then a source of anguish, and I'm hoping we can go back to that.  She has also been very cool with my decisions to quit the team and to not move in with her.  I was impressed with her reaction.

From your last two sentences here, it sounds like you like and/or want her approval. You might ask yourself why? Or, if there is something in her character that you admire, try to identify what it is.

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From your last two sentences here, it sounds like you like and/or want her approval.  You might ask yourself why?  Or, if there is something in her character that you admire, try to identify what it is.

I wasn't necessarily seeking her approval, but if she would have reacted in a different way, perhaps became angry because I was no longer doing what she wanted me to do, then I would be far less likely to continue having her in my life.

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Actually Ashley inadvertedly brought up a wonderful point: sometimes we meet people who do have that literal lack of concern for anything other than their literal selves, and it's a temptation to sometimes call them "selfish", but obviously that's not the appropriate term, so what Ashley used is a genius alternative -- narcissistic!

I really think that's an excellent conceptual alternative to "selfish", so that we can reclaim the latter word for people who actually deserve it, and yet be able to identify and stay away from people who are cold to anyone or anything other than their direct selves.

Thanks!! And as for your ex-friend, I did happen to meet such people in the past, but I've always made sure to get away from them, as soon as possible. Even if there is some value to derive from such people, that's not enough, because they're not in principle Good People and on the scale of things have negative things to offer.

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Actually Ashley inadvertedly brought up a wonderful point: sometimes we meet people who do have that literal lack of concern for anything other than their literal selves, and it's a temptation to sometimes call them "selfish", but obviously that's not the appropriate term, so what Ashley used is a genius alternative -- narcissistic!

I really think that's an excellent conceptual alternative to "selfish", so that we can reclaim the latter word for people who actually deserve it, and yet be able to identify and stay away from people who are cold to anyone or anything other than their direct selves.

Thanks!! And as for your ex-friend, I did happen to meet such people in the past, but I've always made sure to get away from them, as soon as possible. Even if there is some value to derive from such people, that's not enough, because they're not in principle Good People and on the scale of things have negative things to offer.

I think that those non-Objectivists who use the term "selfish" in a negative manner simply view narcissism as a subset of selfishness. And I'm not sure that narcissism captures all the negative alternatives that are commonly ascribed to "selfish" people.

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I consider the concept of selfishness as used in common parlance to be a package deal, subsuming both virtue and vice and confusing related but fundamentally different phenomena.

What kind of person is considered "selfish" by most people?

Howard Roark, by virtue of his long-term rational self-interest. Gail Wynand, in his willingness to sacrifice others to his desires. Peter Keating, in his apparent single-minded drive to be the most successful architect in the country.

Hedonists and narcissists are often considered selfish as well.

Selfishness is also commonly associated with childishness, as young kids are often consumed with "me me me" and thinking the world revolves around them. (I've even heard some Objectivists claim that children are naturally selfish. But I disagree; there is no automatic or in-born tendency toward acting in one's rational, long-term self-interest. That has to be learned. Even though going to a dentist is in one's interest, just look at how eager kids are to go in order to see how much they act in their self-interest.)

What all of these instances have in common is some sense of the person acting to benefit himself. But in each case except Roark, that benefit is limited: Wynand catered to the mob for power, and became a slave to them; Keating's only "gains" were secondhand and empty; the hedonist sacrifices long-term, deep happiness for momentary, superficial pleasure; children act sometimes in their self-interest, but inconsistently and not as a matter of conscious principle.

So, with this in mind, what about narcissists? Someone who can't see beyond the length of their own nose is quite nearsighted. A true narcissist can't have deep friendships, because that requires caring about another person, his life, and his values. Friendship among rational people can be a tremendous value. Life as a hermit or "lone wolf" is not as good. Surely a lonely, miserable life is not in one's self interest. So narcissists, too, belong in the camp of false selfishness.

But notice, too, that each of these particular cases of "bad selfishness" or irrational selfishness are distinct from each other and, to identify these vices, there's a need to distinguish these concepts. And this is where the term "selfish" by itself is problematic, even among Objectivists. Equating selfishness and rational self-interest casts adrift these other concepts and their concretes. I like the term narcissism for this reason.

Now if we can classify these other forms of irrational self-interest, we'd be in good shape.

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I consider the concept of selfishness as used in common  parlance to be a package deal, subsuming both virtue and vice and confusing related but fundamentally different phenomena.

What kind of person is considered "selfish" by most people? 

Howard Roark, by virtue of his long-term rational self-interest.  Gail Wynand, in his willingness to sacrifice others to his desires.  Peter Keating, in his apparent single-minded drive to be the most successful architect in the country.

Hedonists and narcissists are often considered selfish as well.

I agree. And the package being sold is that the use of one's reason is irrelevant in the moral judgment of one's character.

Selfishness is also commonly associated with childishness, as young kids are often consumed with "me me me" and thinking the world revolves around them.  (I've even heard some Objectivists claim that children are naturally selfish.  But I disagree; there is no automatic or in-born tendency toward acting in one's rational, long-term self-interest.  That has to be learned.  Even though going to a dentist is in one's interest, just look at how eager kids are to go in order to see how much they act in their self-interest.)

When someone holds that children are naturally selfish, there is no implication that it is an in-born tendency or is automatic. It simply means that children will naturally choose to act selfishly when confronted among alternatives. Of course, that is by no means universal. I think reason is a natural faculty and that children will naturally exert the effort to use it, if it is expected of them. Of course the full use of reason must be learned. However, often it is the unselfish behavior that many parents force, i.e., teach, their children as they get older. The requirement to "share your toys" is one such admonition.

What all of these instances have in common is some sense of the person acting to benefit himself.  But in each case except Roark, that benefit is limited:  Wynand catered to the mob for power, and became a slave to them; Keating's only "gains" were secondhand and empty; the hedonist sacrifices long-term, deep happiness for momentary, superficial pleasure; children act sometimes in their self-interest, but inconsistently and not as a matter of conscious principle. 

So, with this in mind, what about narcissists?  Someone who can't see beyond the length of their own nose is quite nearsighted.  A true narcissist can't have deep friendships, because that requires caring about another person, his life, and his values.  Friendship among rational people can be a tremendous value.  Life as a hermit or "lone wolf" is not as good.  Surely a lonely, miserable life is not in one's self interest.  So narcissists, too, belong in the camp of false selfishness.

But notice, too, that each of these particular cases of "bad selfishness" or irrational selfishness are distinct from each other and, to identify these vices, there's a need to distinguish these concepts.  And this is where the term "selfish" by itself is problematic, even among Objectivists.  Equating selfishness and rational self-interest casts adrift these other concepts and their concretes.  I like the term narcissism for this reason. 

Now if we can classify these other forms of irrational self-interest, we'd be in good shape.

Well, I wouldn't classify those irrational forms as being in one's self-interest. One of the main points demonstrated in The Fountainhead is "where's the self?" in Keating or Wynand or other irrational versions of "selfishness." That is why I don't think that one should use the term selfishness to describe those irrational version. Selfishness depends upon the presence of a self, which is essentially self-awareness, which recognizes that reason is one's method of acquiring knowledge and dealing with people. Keating was a second-hander; Wynand was a power-luster with mixed premises; Toohey was an power-luster for its own sake. A lone wolf is another irrational type. For me, a narcissist is more of a psychological type rather than a philosophic type of personality.

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