It begins with Donald Trump – a fact in which the US president would no doubt take great delight. SBS VICELAND doco How Narcissists Took Over the World dives into the disorder known clinically as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), and the starting point is the leader of the free world, who is one of the most frequently cited examples of someone who suffers from the condition. He certainly seems to display a number of the traits attributed to narcissists.
What are those traits?
Host Gavin Haynes talks us through the nine personality traits: grandiosity, preoccupation with success and power, belief of being unique, sense of entitlement to special treatment, requiring excessive admiration, being envious of others, lack of empathy, exploiting others for personal gain, and being arrogant and domineering. Sound like anyone you know?
But aren’t we all a bit narcissistic, especially those of us who overindulge in social media?
Well yes, we all probably display a few of those tendencies – and you certainly don’t need to show them all to be classed as having NPD. But genuine narcissists live and breathe those traits. Every action, every interaction.
In the documentary, there’s an interesting conversation about social media and whether it’s resulted in a rise in narcissism. One thing’s for sure, keeping an Instagram account, tweeting your every waking thought and documenting your latest culinary creation don’t make you a fully blown narcissist, but you’d love social media if you were one.
Fully blown narcissists are fully blown scary.
One of the most eye-opening parts of How Narcissists Took Over the World is when Haynes takes us inside the world of online self-help gurus that focus on narcissism, specifically assisting those people whose lives have been made miserable by narcissists. We also attend a self-help group where, as Haynes says, “The trauma of the incidents described could not be denied.”
Is there a cure?
That’s a question Haynes considers when he meets Sam Vaknin, a clinically diagnosed narcissist who now writes and runs a website on the disorder. It’s one thing for the narcissist to be self-aware – Vaknin acknowledges, “If I become friends with you, there will always be the question of what’s in it for me?” – but can the disorder be shaken?
Well, not when the world seems hell-bent on encouraging narcissism. It’s a fairly light-hearted part of the doco, but Haynes attempts to join a dating website that caters to self-perceived “beautiful people” underlines just how skewed the world is in that direction at the moment.
Watch How Narcissists Took Over the World at SBS On Demand: