In my previous blog post, I talked about “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” — and asked some fans for advice for aspiring reality TV stars. If you got drawn in by that, I continued the topic in my private opt-in newsletter. If you haven’t followed that, you can register for free by filling in that little form up in the top right-hand corner. It’s a no-spam non-commercial commentary blog and you can opt-out at any time. But there is more to say — and this time, I’m reaching deep into the psychology of those who are in the spotlight and want to be in the spotlight.
The tie between the popularity of reality TV shows and celebrity worship was not immediately evident. But it is obvious that our American society is clearly increasing in — Narcissism. In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a handsome young man who was sitting on a stone precipice, admiring his own reflection in the water, when he fell in and drowned. The spot where this happened was allegedly marked by the first Narcissus flower. In modern times — like at dinner last night — the narcissus is a wonderful edible flower that is often served as garnish with sushi. Go figure. The queen of the current American psychology of narcissism in unquestionably Jean Twenge, PhD., a professor at the University of California San Diego, who has written a couple of books and lots of articles on the phenomenon of modern narcissism, and has been much interviewed in the public media. In a recent article, she is defending her own research and findings. Frankly, my non-systematic review of clinical data suggest she is right on. She has been criticized — a badge of boldness and popularity, think I — for attributing narcissism somehow to children having been brought up to believe they are special. Once again, I personalize. My parents filled my head with feelings of being special. Comparing me to Wonder Woman” and, when I was very young, telling me that I was “smarter than the average bear” like Yogi.
But they also told me this gave me a terribly heavy responsibility, They impressed this on me mainly through religion — most especially, making sure that I read parts of the (Jewish) prayer book before the service at all holidays and Sabbath. And we got to temple early, long before services started, because my father of blessed memory had to “warm up” the organ. (He also directed the choir) They never failed to remind me that I was named after Queen Esther, the woman who saved the Hebrew people. In the Book of Esther, she did this by winning a (Royal) beauty contest. I can’t have been older than 6 or so when I explained to her that if we were waiting for me to save the people by winning a beauty contest, then the people are in trouble. She told me I could maybe do this by working hard in school. I guess the rest is history. Many have told me I must have been “raised right.”
Narcissism is a concept that originated with Freudian psychiatry. It was believed to originate in a man when his relationship with his mother was overly close. Other theorists have suggested in may be related to excessive closeness or neglect from either parent. Here is a good summary of the evolution of the concept, as well as the currently accepted diagnostic criteria. There seem to be biological and/or genetic factors, as well as psychological reasons that people can end up diagnosed as the full blown “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” A personality disorder is a way of dealing with the world that a human “develops” during adolescence that is dysfunctional, causing pain to the individual and/or to the people in the world who deal with this person. Estimates of prevalence (frequency) of this disorder in the general population is estimated at about 6%. If you know more than 20 people (you do), chances are you know at least one. They come across as egotistical, to put it mildly. They are not particularly empathic, blame other people for their problems. Their self-esteem is inflated. Their attitude toward themselves fluctuates between feeling “omnipotent” and feeling “devalued.” Curiously enough, I seem to be more likely to meet people with this disorder as colleagues or associates than I am to see them as patients. I believe that to be because when they have troubles in life, they invariably believe the difficulties that caused them are other people’s problems, and not theirs. So it is no surprise that folks with these problems don’t usually show up in a psychiatrist’s office seeking treatment. I can think immediately of a couple of technically excellent surgeons who would meet criteria, as well as a couple of psychologists and psychotherapists. Especially one who believes herself so gifted in application of a certain psychotherapeutic method that nobody else should perform psychotherapy in any other way. Of course, it just ain’t so. I shall avoid discussing narcissism in presidential candidates for now, although it is not hard to imagine another posting about that one. When people note there is an increase in narcissism, they do not usually mean the same full-blown personality disorder we are discussing above. Very often we diagnose narcissistic “traits” for people who have some aspects of narcissism in their personality. There is a fair amount out there. In case you are curious, there is an online test (with a bunch of disclaimers that it should not be used for a clinical diagnosis) to see if you are in any way a little narcissistic. Narcissism seemed historically to be just a little more frequent in men than in women. However, most of the followers of the Kardashians known to me are women. Some statistics suggest that the growth in narcissism that has taken place in our generation comes mainly from women. Remember, they want to be admired, but may also feel “devalued.” While all these changes in the world have been going on, I have been aging. I do look at objective research findings to confirm observations whenever I can. Still, I think the page indexed below is correct when it infers more people will look at a woman’s physical appearance than at her character development. Put this into the context of the age of the internet and most particularly, Facebook. It is possible for a woman who craves more admiration and self-esteem than she has got, to vicariously live the life of someone with the ascribed status that comes with wealth, fame, and physical attraction. This page adopts Twenge’s work and associated studies into a set of directions to help men avoid “hooking up” with narcissistic women. By this time, I have pretty much made up my mind that I am not terribly likely to get a Kardashian-type status in any social context known to me. But I am still wondering — what do I really know about the people, the women who make up a non-negligible amount of people I know either casually or as folks on a professional staff? What do I know about them if they like and follow the Kardashians? Yes, the obligatory formal academic type psychological studies do exist, and have been reviewed. Note that this article focuses on “celebrity worshipers,” who have taken a scale relevant to that entity, which seems to be far from having 100% consistency with the designation of “narcissist,” although I suspect there may be more than a little overlap. This paper specifically cites a fairly large study (343 folks) where 4 of 5 scales on the inventory for narcissism correlate with the Celebrity Attitudes scale for “celebrity worship.” Aspects of psychopathology (that is, mental illness) that are found in the population of celebrity worshipers more frequently than in the population at large include a “proneness” to fantasy and a “tendency” toward addiction, and criminality, depression and anxiety. This particular combination sounds like more than a few of my “dual-diagnosis” patients — that is, folks being treated simultaneously for addictions and mental illness. As for me, I have at least decided that I am not suited for Kardashian-type celebrity worship. Given the above psychopathology, I am very glad I do not encourage such psychopathology, for I was imprinted with the notion that with great power comes great responsibility (many years before the popular Spiderman movies picked up this slogan). Somehow, I still want to believe that every human has the capability of elevating the entire human race by elevating individuals to higher moral situations. I will cling to these beliefs of my childhood, as anachronistic as they may seem. I feel somehow noble that I have put this effort into explaining what is going on.
I have a lot of trouble feeling sorry for celebrities. I mean, I do applaud Tom Hanks for being open about his type II diabetes (adult onset, often associated with factors such as aging and being overweight). I have seen and heard too much about stereotypes of people as being overweight and lazy and old when they are type II diabetic.
I have always been concerned about people who have lives of such unrelenting boredom and mundanity that they choose to live through being fans of celebrities. Many beloved patients and one beloved husband think I should be a celebrity, for having done things. This, of course, would fly in the face of numerous celebrities who have done little or nothing identifiable, such as the Kardashians, but I am assured it is still possible. Read more on Did Yo-yo dieting Give Tom Hanks Diabetes?…
Britney Spears doesn’t make the news much anymore. Her career is probably still going strong, but her wild ways and scrapes with the law are old news. The media has latched on to new starlets and scandals, and they will never run out.
However, I noticed recently a story about conservatorship of this once-superstar (perhaps now only a mega-star?), and wanted to take the occasion to talk about this very serious legal step of conservatorship.
Miss Spears’ father is her conservator, and he wants her boyfriend appointed as a co-conservator over her well-being, and this might be a sign that he’s getting ready to marry her. There is something very wrong with this picture.
People having conservatorship over other people should not be taken lightly. Read more on Brittany Spears, Conservatorship and the Abuse of Power…
Whitney Houston’s death might be “old news” already, but I still think her death may not have been in vain.
Because Whitney was a star, we were treated to hearsay before facts. She drank in the morning, in a public place, and according to some observers may have been behaving a bit strangely.
There is an old screener for alcoholism called the “CAGE” questionnaire. It’s named after the four questions that presumably even a primary care physician — who has little room left in an overtaxed memory — could remember. Read more on Whitney Houston’s Death May Not Have Been in Vain…
You can deep fry just about anything and it will taste good. Ask just about anyone who lives in the south. Twinkies, cheesecake, pickles, or whole turkeys. Maybe even an old tennis shoe. Nothing is exempt!
This woman has grown a Southern comfort food empire by cooking deep fried cheesecake and other things I am unlikely to eat. She did not go public with her Type II Diabetes until three years after she learned of it. Now someone from some group for science in the public interest says she should have come forward earlier.
Her empire can’t be doing that well, for I bought a little bottle of her mint jelly at some deep discount store about a week ago. I liked it, but it wasn’t any better than anyone else’s mint jelly. Admittedly, I’ve never watched her on television. I don’t watch cooking shows because I don’t care about food the same way I used to. I remember when all I could think of after one meal was what I would get for the next. And I was never even the primary food preparer at home. My honored husband has always taken that in hand for me. Read more on The Cooking Guru’s Health Problems…
I am not going to repeat the lurid details of Jerry Sandusky’s crimes against young boys and the whole of humanity. I suppose what he was able to accomplish was a pedophile’s dream — The specific charity (the Second Mile) for “helping young boys” that brought him a steady flow of victims, the who judge had been a volunteer for his charity.
Now, there are allegations that his own family contained alleged victims – possibly his grandson.
It’s not that nobody knew — People had complained and reported many times over many years.
Some how it never got out. Read more on Sandusky-Penn State Revelations Keep Coming…
Amazingly enough, I have avoided writing about Charlie Sheen so far.
I do not believe his story to be that unusual — just different from others in a matter of degrees.
His creative and limit-pushing exploits seem to be a little more over the edge than most. My guess — and it is a guess at this point — is that he, like other actors (seems to me David Arquette has complained of “racing thoughts” in the not too distant past), is probably what we call a “dual diagnosis;” that is, underlying bipolar illness with some substance abuse associated.
Am I a Brit-snob? Never thought I was, but maybe I am turning into one. Or maybe it is because The Daily Mail has more detail about the trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor — and better pictures. Whatever. The truth of the matter is that when the story about Michael Jackson’s death first came out, I had to look up the generic name of Propofol, because I have never used it. I mean, why would I be hanging around with general anesthesia? For that matter, why would a cardiologist be hanging around with general anesthesia?? Money alone? Possible, I do not know what this guy’s finances were like. But I have never personally known or heard of a starving cardiologist — although I suspect that those who do insurance only no co-pay may be closer to it than they want to admit. But I suspect this guy was not one of those. “Rescuer?” Perhaps. Although I cannot quite see Michael Jackson as a “victim” needing saving. Someone basking in the glare of celebrity? More likely. A rich person’s doctor, maybe — a doctor wanting to work with famous people. I have felt the pull of that one myself. But I ran like crazy when I figured out these folks are more interested in getting the prescriptions they want – usually recreationally — rather than in getting something that might actually help any actual medical problem they might have. “Celebrity” may be a new kind of pathology, where people imagine themselves as uber-people who have more rights than other people, and who can buy pretty much anything they want. Some doctors are easier to buy than others –otherwise how could tobacco companies present medical experts who say smoking won’t harm you? Who can put a price on credentials, or even signatures? I think this man sold it all. Sure, The Mail has verified — other stories, other places, too — that his purchase of large amounts of propofol was legal, and that his credentials were real. This is not substitute for “ethics,” which people often say they will teach in medical school, but which are, basically, impossible to teach. How can you teach something that life-experience will be the only thing to test you on? Ethics are learned young, far before medical school, and internalized. Read more on Celebrity Pathology Requires Ethics To Treat…
My husband and I don’t have children – much less “tweens” – but even I know who Hannah Montana is.
Okay. I only have a little idea about what is going on in this specialized world except when some of the women with whom I tend to associate (the mental health field is almost all women) told me that their little daughters loved Hannah Montana. But I would have to be Helen Keller not to see her image on blankets and jewelry and plastic stuff the exact nature of which is unidentifiable to me, and to hear her recordings in public places where they blare so-called “popular” music indiscriminately.
This should be understandable.
I will admit I had to look up the information that Miley Cyrus plays Hannah Montana on a Disney network TV show that has all the tweens twittering or tweeting or whatever. Read more on Hanna Montana Gets High — And Tweens Follow…