A local psychologist and author has warned that narcissism is rampant among young people in their teens and twenties.
Michael Hardiman, who practises in Galway, believes the greatest example of its growth is found in social media.
Writing in his new ebook Reclaiming Selfhood - Authentic Living in a Superficial age, the counselling psychologist says a new crisis is facing society due to changes in parenting styles and an increased focus on self-esteem building.
He says when he began writing about the formative influences of childhood 20 years ago his main concern was examining the long term effects of the “destructive, punitive and negative” treatment of children in families and at school. The culmination of such experiences was an epidemic of low self esteem among the adult population of that time, he adds.
“Underlying a great deal of the distress shown among many adults was the problem of low self esteem. Now 20 years on, a new crisis is facing society,” outlines the psychologist. “The pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Parents who grew up experiencing overly strict, neglectful and punitive histories have reacted in how they approach parenting their own children. They set out to protect their children from any of the difficult and painful experiences that marked out their own childhoods.”
He states this motive, combined with the growth of the psychology of self-esteem has created a social phenomenon that can be described as the “entitlement generation”.
“Narcissism is now rampant among those in their teens and twenties. Perhaps the greatest example of this growth is found in the area of social media. Greek mythology captured the problem of narcissism in its story of Narcissus gazing at his reflection in the clear pool. The modern day equivalent is MySpace and Facebook.
“Nowadays, great numbers of young adults turn on their screen and what do they see? For many, the screen shows dozens and sometimes hundreds of images of .....the person looking in. Their ‘walls’ ‘homepage’ and ‘timelines’ filled with trivial details about the events that go to make up their lives. All of it is about ‘Look at me’, ‘I am special’, ‘My life is interesting and important’ (even if in a great number of situations it isn’t ).”
He maintains this “self display” is however only one facet. The other aspect of the “narcissism phenomenon” are the beliefs engendered and reinforced consistently in people’s lives.
“These include beliefs that one is special (as distinct from valued ), that their feelings are more important that anyone else’s and that whatever they want they can have. Conversely, the values of patience, tolerance for others, awareness of the difficulties of others, social conscience and doing without, are all considered old fashioned and archaic relics of times gone by.”
Mr Hardiman claims that as a result of this a new generation of adults are facing grave difficulties in growing into maturity as responsible and well rounded citizens.
“The major symptoms are lack of care for others, inability to sustain hard work and discipline, shallow relationships (100 friends on Facebook and nobody to talk to ), parental abuse, financial irresponsibility and dependence.
“Sometimes as the boredom and emptiness of narcissistic living takes its toll the young person enters therapy, often paid for by his or her parents. Unfortunately, much modern therapy is founded on the assumption of the early seventies self psychology and sets about encouraging the client to become even more self absorbed and self centred.”