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Pedants' corner

Narcissism / narcissistic - labelling

(65 Posts)
geekesse Mon 27-Jul-20 00:03:34

These labels get used a lot on GN. Of course, people like to label other people. They especially like to label people they disagree with or dislike. But I do wish they would choose their labels with care.

I think it’s a repeated bad habit here in GN for people to label those they don’t (or didn’t) like as ‘narcissistic’. A poster’s family member may indeed be (or have been) an unpleasant, unkind, bullying, cruel, self-centred person. That describes their attitudes and behaviour. But since we can’t climb inside someone else’s head, we can’t possibly detect whether such attitudes and behaviour are the result of narcissism or some other disorder of personality or reasoning.

Narcissistic personality disorder is a relatively rare diagnosis, and yet narcissism is reported to crop up quite frequently among families of posters to this forum. It seems unlikely that GNetters are disproportionately unfortunate in the psychology of their relatives, or are better able to diagnose the condition than the professionals.

Furthermore, it may be that much unpleasantness is actually the result of a two-way breakdown of a relationship because of a clash between two personalities. We rarely get both sides of a story on GN, and so we often rely on a poster’s angry or bitter diagnosis of somebody who has hurt them, often over many years, as the basis for a discussion. I often wonder how the other person would describe the GN poster if we could ask them.

As soon as I see someone using that term about another person, it tells me at least as much about the person using it as it does about the subject of their complaint.

I shall now don asbestos underwear and await a flamefest.

Chewbacca Mon 27-Jul-20 00:06:48

Hallelujah! I'll don my asbestos underwear and join you geekesse, budge up!

sharon103 Mon 27-Jul-20 00:11:17

I absolutely agree.
As my mum used to say, sometimes "it's 6 of one and half a dozen of the other."

rosecarmel Mon 27-Jul-20 00:12:20

Careful, that underwear might cause hemorrhoids! Hope y'all brought the witch hazel! 😊

rosecarmel Mon 27-Jul-20 00:14:58

What's funny about narcissist frustration is that they stare into reflective screens all day, but worry about their underwear! 😂

geekesse Mon 27-Jul-20 00:24:44

rosecarmel

Careful, that underwear might cause hemorrhoids! Hope y'all brought the witch hazel! 😊

Rosecarmel, it’s really unkind of you to refer to my friend Hazel, whom I brought along, as a witch...

rosecarmel Mon 27-Jul-20 00:37:53

geekesse

rosecarmel

Careful, that underwear might cause hemorrhoids! Hope y'all brought the witch hazel! 😊

Rosecarmel, it’s really unkind of you to refer to my friend Hazel, whom I brought along, as a witch...

😊

Jane10 Mon 27-Jul-20 07:01:45

geekesse I could have written your post. I agree with every word!

Lucca Mon 27-Jul-20 07:26:34

Agree. Someone recently complained about a relative’s behaviour and one reply said something along the lines of “she’s obviously a narc”. Aargh. Hate the abbreviation too.

MawB Mon 27-Jul-20 07:36:06

Geekesse - gringringrin
Thank you for a smile on a grey morning and a moment of respite from people who take themselves too seriously!

Bridie22 Mon 27-Jul-20 07:48:16

Well put, I agree totally .

Missfoodlove Mon 27-Jul-20 08:06:52

“ I rue the day you were born”
“ You’re not fit to lick your brothers boots”
A beating for cleaning the floor with a mop and not on my hands and knees.
Emptying my bank account to provide a present for my wonderful brother.
Being told daily you were stupid.
Allowing me to be beaten by my father for something as trivial as dropping a tissue.
All this before the age of 12.
After this it got worse and worse.

My mother controlled what I ate, wore she was so nasty to any of my friends she took a dislike they wouldn’t come to my house.

She would lie about me to family friends, teachers telling them I was difficult.

By 13 I practically ran the house, I was her slave.

My brother and father were allowed to physically and verbally abuse me.
I must deserve it she would say.

All this time she would be telling me and anyone who would listen how wonderful she was, how hard she worked, how she had always been beautiful and clever.
How she deserved a better daughter.

I could go on but it becomes darker and too painful.
So if all of this gives you a good laugh then great.

You are crass and insensitive.

MawB Mon 27-Jul-20 08:09:14

MissFoodLove nobody is laughing at you or your dreadful experiences flowers

geekesse Mon 27-Jul-20 08:33:04

MissFoodLove, the joke was the backwards pun from ‘witch hazel’.

It sounds to me as if your Mother was indeed an ‘unpleasant, unkind, bullying, cruel, self-centred person’ who abused you dreadfully. You may have every right to be angry and bitter. My point was that the term ‘narcissist’ is not appropriate unless it is a medical diagnosis.

Lucca Mon 27-Jul-20 08:39:07

Missfoodlove. I’m so sorry for what you had to go through. However I think the point being made is that the term “ narcissist” is thrown around too easily nowadays and in fact using it to describe someone who is just a bit of a pain in the proverbial must surely offend you too as it belittles what your experience was.

Lucca Mon 27-Jul-20 08:40:32

To me it is like the throwing around of “I love you to bits” to someone who is actually just a good mate !

Missfoodlove Mon 27-Jul-20 08:41:47

“As soon as I see someone using that term about another person, it tells me at least as much about the person using it as it does about the subject of their complaint.”

I find the whole tone of this thread hurtful.

Missfoodlove Mon 27-Jul-20 08:48:53

I feel the insinuation is that because I have described my mother as a “narc” then there is something wrong with me.

You didn’t think carefully enough before hitting the keyboard.

There are so many victims and survivors who have strived so hard to hold everything together.

You are belittling a group of people who have been belittled for most of their lives by the person that should love them the most.

geekesse Mon 27-Jul-20 09:01:56

MissFoodLove,

Oh, I thought very carefully before I hit the keyboard.

There are many posts on GN where people use the term to discuss relatives, alive or dead. You were not singled out, and it wasn’t a post of yours which started this train of thinking. Your experience of shocking abuse is not being questioned.

Please note that I posted this under the topic ‘Pedants’ Corner’, not ‘Relationships’ or Estrangement’. It is the use of language I am challenging, not the reality or effect of abuse.

sodapop Mon 27-Jul-20 09:11:22

I totally agree geekesse too much inappropriate labelling.

I am so sorry you experienced such awful problems Missfoodlove, I understand why you were annoyed by the post. The fact remains though that too many people throw these terms around without any real understanding.

Lucca Mon 27-Jul-20 09:38:09

Good point - it is in pedants corner. I have started giving my partner grief for saying something was an “absolute nightmare” when talking about a crowded car park or a phone call to his insurance company.

Lucca Mon 27-Jul-20 09:40:31

Missfoodlove

I feel the insinuation is that because I have described my mother as a “narc” then there is something wrong with me.

You didn’t think carefully enough before hitting the keyboard.

There are so many victims and survivors who have strived so hard to hold everything together.

You are belittling a group of people who have been belittled for most of their lives by the person that should love them the most.

Nobody is belittling anyone who has been the victim of genuine narcissistic people. It is the widespread use of the term by unqualified people that belittles your experience.

Chewbacca Mon 27-Jul-20 09:48:31

Nobody is belittling anyone who has been the victim of genuine narcissistic people. It is the widespread use of the term by unqualified people that belittles your experience.

Absolutely this.
As the OP says, the term is now used to describe anyone that we don't like or just don't get on with and by people who aren't qualified to make any such diagnosis. It seems to be used to add gravitas to their descriptions of others and to absolve themselves of any blame of the situation they're describing.

allsortsofbags Mon 27-Jul-20 10:18:59

I get a bit out of shape when I hear diagnoses thrown around so casually as it make me wonder why I bothered to continually study for years when all I need to do was get on-line and I could be an instant expert :-)

Throwing around psychological terms seems to be as active now as it ever was :-) I too find it annoying but I remember when "Anal Retentive" was the throw around term.

Back in the 90's I read Christopher Lash's book "The Culture of Narcissism" and thought I hope things never get that bad but ... Sad, very sad.

I agree it does take more than reading about a persons hurts to diagnose another person as having a Narcissistic Personality Disorder or the often used short hand "Narc". Yet it seems to be the "go to" first option far too often.

To be fair for anyone trying to stay safe in difficult relationships researching Narcissism can be helpful and may offer ways to manage situations better.

But the caveat "a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing" is often ignored.

Knowing more than we did before can be helpful and the Internet is an amazing resource but the real skill is knowing how and when to use what we learn.

It's not just about learning a new term and throwing it about so I am pleased that you started this post as it has given me an opportunity to air my annoyance too.

Lucca Mon 27-Jul-20 10:23:45

All sorts ofbags I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the use of “oh he’s on the spectrum”?
Usually when Describing someone a bit abrupt or rude ?