Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Narcissist Next Door

The Narcissist Next Door: Understanding the Monster in Your Family, in Your Office, in Your Bed--in Your World, by Jeffrey Kluger

We're hearing a lot about narcissism these days, and Jeffrey Kluger is here to explain what narcissism is, how people with it behave, and some of the research--as well as entertain us with anecdotes about famous narcissists.  This is the opening passage of the book, and mind you, it was written before the election cycle got started:
It can’t be easy to wake up every day and discover that you’re still Donald Trump. You were Trump yesterday, you’re Trump today, and barring some extraordinary development, you’ll be Trump tomorrow.

There are, certainly, compensations to being Donald Trump....

But none of that changes the reality of waking up every morning, looking in the bathroom mirror, and seeing Donald Trump staring back at you. And no, it’s not the hair; that, after all, is a choice—one that may be hard for most people to understand, but a choice all the same, and there’s a certain go-to-hell confidence in continuing to make it. The problem with being Trump is the same thing that explains the enormous fame and success of Trump: a naked neediness, a certain shamelessness, an insatiable hunger to be the largest, loudest, most honkingly conspicuous presence in any room—the great, braying Trumpness of Trump—and that’s probably far less of a revel than it seems.

Contented people, well-grounded people, people at ease inside their skin, just don’t behave the way Trump does...
Kluger devotes chapters to:
  • personal and romantic relationships with narcissists--entrancing at first, but they will cheat 
  • what they're like to work with at the office --interview very well, energizing at first, then everybody hates them; move them around a lot and the downside won't show too much
  • in the White House--it's not possible to become President without it   
  • Hollywood and prison.  At the same time.
There's also a chapter or two about tribal identity and dominance, which doesn't seem like narcissism exactly, but it can carry some of the same characteristics.  Humans are always, always looking to define ourselves in terms of us and them, and it can easily get violent.  "Collective narcissism" gets really obvious in sports, war...and business (cue section on Steve Jobs).

It's a highly readable and entertaining book, and I liked it.  Kluger mostly writes for Time magazine, but he also wrote Lost Moon/Apollo 13 with Jim Lovell, which is a great read--and he includes a couple of interesting stories about that here--and some other books that look pretty interesting too.

4 comments:

Ruth said...

I think I'm married to one. I have to read this book.

Jean said...

((Ruth)) Then you may well find this a profitable read. I've missed seeing you around lately.

Ruth said...

I was able to order a copy from my library. Thanks.

I've been swamped w/ "end of school" stuff. June cannot come soon enough.

Jean said...

Oh, I am right there with you. My poor 15yo is scrambling to finish everything within the next two weeks, and there's a lot to do. No wiggle room for her.