A recent comment from a reader about regret and abortion led me to question the link between regret and our current cultural climate. Studies vary on the percentage of women who do and do not regret their decision, some quoting 70% do not regret it, others quoting 80% (pregnant from sexual assault) regretted their decision. Assuming for the sake of argument the 70% for absolutely no regrets is accurate, one wonders how this high percentage is possible.
In a growing “Culture of Me”, perhaps instead of thinking these figures are high we should be asking ourselves why women who undergo abortions should be any more remorseful than the rest of the population. In fact, narcissism, a primary trait of which is lack of empathy, has become so prevalent in our society it may no longer be considered a disorder.
The American Psychiatric Association recently announced it’s considering lifting narcissistic personality disorder — along with four other personality disorders — from its highly influential Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
…the diagnosis may be dropped for the manual’s 2013 edition, Campbell says, essentially because it’s a manifestation of normal personality.
So, he says, the same patient would be told he or she has “a combination of traits that maybe lie on a continuum or a spectrum. You have high levels of traits that are associated with narcissism.”
A New Normal?
But the way narcissism is treated — in the majority of cases, with therapy — wouldn’t change much.
“There’s no treatment for extreme narcissism that’s somehow different than moderate narcissism,” Campbell says.
And while things won’t change much for those on the couch, he says, the way we talk about narcissism in culture might.
“When this happened I went and looked at Twitter just to see what people were saying about it,” Campbell says. “The most common response was, ‘It must be so normal now, it’s no longer a disorder.'”
And the second-most?
“‘Gee, I guess I’m OK, then’,” Campbell says. “People see there’s narcissism everywhere, and they’re just shocked … that they’re considering getting rid of it. It’s such a perfect term for so much of what we see in society.”
It’s easy to laugh at the amount of “Me” promoting we all participate in on a daily basis, the status updates of our every thought and a general sense of entitlement to whatever we desire. We should have it, we deserve it, and dag nabbit we want it now. Quite a disconnect from Mother Teresa’s “A life not lived for others is not a life.” to Snooki’s “I think I’m fascinating.” But what effect will a narcissistic society have on our children?
The Narcissist turns other people from people into objects and they relate to other people primarily in terms of what the other can do to enhance their self esteem. This is what I mean by my title, “objectifying the object.”
In our culture, one of the worst outcomes of such objectification concerns the way in which we treat our children. We give lip service to the idea that our children are the most important people in our country and then turn around and make cultural and legal decisions that enhance the desires and pleasures of adults, often at the expense of children.
A growing body of literature supports the idea that children do best when raised by two, married parents. (There is not enough data yet to know how children of same-sex couples fare.) Yet our culture has consistently made it easier for people to have children without marriage and easier to divorce once children are in the picture. In the weighting of what is best for the parents versus what is best for the children, the children’s needs come in a distant second.
Another place where this is an issue is in abortion. At one time there was no question among people that life began at conception. Whether or not you believe that holds, it is certainly true that for a wanted pregnancy, the child begins to become a real person, invested with the love, hopes, and dream of its mother, fairly early in pregnancy. By the time of quickening, when the baby’s first movements are felt, no prospective mother would call her baby anything but a human being. On the other hand, in order to make it psychologically possible to abort an unwanted baby, the prospective child has to be turned into a devalued object, a mere “fetus” or a “choice”.
In a Narcissistic culture, children are increasingly seen as objects, possessions, if you will. Abortion fits into this paradigm because a possession can be easily disposed of while a child is a person who may have other desires.
If NPD is removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, will it simply be the norm? Currently, there is no treatment for narcissism, but the first step, as always, is to recognize that there is a problem.by