“The hard way.”

Narcissism [part 2]


perfect storm


On July 1, 2018, my first blog post in this anthropology series, I took the old-school control technology of shame directly to task when I called it a ‘perennial failure of the leading edge.’ I’m not clear if the intuition flows from her Christianity, or elsewhere, however, in dare to lead, Brené Brown identifies what I feel is a profound insight when she writes, “I define narcissism as a shame-based fear of being ordinary.” Brown’s definition resonates (by extension) with my experience, and I’ll come back to that. First, five weeks ago I wrote:

“If the top two characteristics society is imprinting on its population right now are narcissism and nihilism, then many ‘wounded healers’ will be required for the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.”

Last week I confessed ‘it takes one to know one,’ and indicated that on the narcissism issue I’m writing as a ‘wounded healer.’ So, now let’s turn to the ubiquitous nature of narcissism and nihilism in our society right now. 


Sin Red meme 3
dysfunctional narcissism


Going new school

Problematic zeitgeist…

I argued early in this blog series (all hierarchies are bad) (flatland) (no truth) that narcissism and nihilism are the unintended consequences of the drip, drip, drip of extreme-postmodernism [Xpomo] beginning in the last quarter of the twentieth century. In the three posts regarding Xpomo linked above, I used memes like;


postmodernism meme
the “performative error” in Xpomo

The ‘performative error’ the meme illustrates marks the foundational problem with many of the Xpomo projects that have been taken-up in the name of justice. I wrote about how this works a couple of weeks ago in a piece examining a cartoon by Michael Leunig, “Warning.”

And here is another Xpomo poison pill for society:


overreaching deconstruction

Xpomo‘s indiscriminate deconstruction of all hierarchy conflated dominator hierarchies (Red overreach, e.g., ‘sin’ or ‘original sin’) with natural growth and complexity hierarchies. This leads to a relativism (virtual nihilism) of “no one’s view is any better than anyone else’s view.” I’ve noted previously, the relativism fallacy is also grounded in the conflation of ‘intrinsic’ and ‘instrumental’ values. As we see, it has formed an environment in which false moral equivalencies rise to dominance, e.g., “fine people on both sides” [of a dispute between those who espouse bigotry, hatred, and discriminatory injustice and those who stand in protest to hatred and work to promote peace through justice].

Nothing did more damage than this misconstrual of postmodernism, and the Xpomo overreach it spawned:


No truth meme



Past and present conjoined 

Snyder nails the sad irony found at the crossroads of Xpomo claims and the unintended consequences they’ve created. Nearly every social justice cause in the struggle against unjust power chose to embrace Xpomo deconstruction tools as the means to achieving their ends. It turned out that Xpomo tools cut both ways. They worked both to put unjust, dominant hierarchies in check, but also to create a cultural zeitgeist of narcissism and nihilism. The overreach of Xpomo has effectively crippled our sense of shared meaning and with it many of our institutions of social cohesion (social capital).


Creative Commons || CC0

Data indicators of ‘top two characteristics’ claim?


Steve Jobs certainly recognized early the effects of Xpomo seeping into the zeitgeist. His fateful response was to leverage/capitalize on it: iPod (and ear buds); iPhone; iTunes; iPad; iMac; iCloud. Apple is one of the largest technology companies in the world, also one of the most valuable. In August 2018, Apple became the first public U.S. company to be valued at over $1 trillion.


Image by Pexels from Pixabay || CC0

Robert Putnam recognized the phenomenon in his 2001 book, Bowling AlonePutnam noticed  that while people were bowling as much as ever, they were often doing it alone and not as part of a league, or a community (of competitors).

Hyper-individualism is an innocent enough sounding designation, but isn’t it really a not-so-subtle manifestation/indication of narcissism? In 2014 Tim Henderson writes in the Washington Post:


living alone increasing


This is not happening because those who dwell alone do so as an indication of lack or being economically sorted-out. Making the choice to live alone in the Manhattan or Washington markets, for instance, is definitely one of serious financial privilege. So, does affluence, then, indicate, aggravate, and/or exacerbate narcissism?

Hyper-consumerism doesn’t seem so terrible sounding, but, again, isn’t it really a not-so-subtle manifestation/indication of narcissism? Huge homes aren’t large enough to hold all of our things now, so the self-storage industry is growing at a very quick and steady pace.

Going old school


old school
Creative Commons || CC0

Raised that way

In 1999 I happened to take an abnormal psychology course as an elective I needed to finish my undergrad degree so that I could attend seminary. The professor lectured on ‘perfectionism’ on one occasion and confessed that she was a bit of a perfectionist herself. After the class period I asked her, “Were you raised as a Methodist?”

“Why, yes. however did you know?” was her reply.

I could have responded, “The hard way.”

“Perfectionist,’ is often a polite term for ‘control freak.’


Lowman Methodist
original Lowman Methodist Church building

Nearly every week in the original Lowman Hill Methodist Church, God said we are to strive, struggle, and go on to perfection. Quite significant, and, to a child (me), the added feature that failure meant eternal damnation seemed closely tangential to this perfection dictum. And we wonder why and how many emotions and natural behaviors often get repressed to a harmful result?

An additional contributing factor was the home training that often went along with this. As a youngster I hadn’t differentiated the spiritual and material subtleties regarding ‘grace’/’perfection.’ Apparently, it was all too much for my developing Red [CP]. This is where Brown’s insight really implicates the methodology many unconsciously used to unintentionally create narcissiststhose who, like me, have ‘a shame-based fear of being ordinary.’ Often, I’ve found, not a helpful unconscious ‘driver.’

With regard to home training, my dad, along with many others in those days, wanted to train his kids for excellence. So, how was that done? If I did something 90% right, all I’d ever hear about was the 10% that I didn’t get right. Implication: if it’s not perfect, well, it’s just not good enough.

‘Perfect’ storm


perfect storm

The (1950s) Methodist church meant well. I was just too young to apply nuance to the idea of Wesleyan sanctification. And, dad meant well, but apparently he hadn’t applied the appropriate nuance either, perhaps because he’d been raised by the very same formula (only even more harshly) through the 19-teen’s/twenties in the Saffordville Methodist Church.

Most all this, and the arrogance of thinking I could define ‘perfect’ in any given circumstance, remained in my shadow for much of my life. I feel my control need is rooted in internalized shame, that whatever is not right is my fault. Yep, you’re welcome. You’re off the hook, it’s all my fault. It’s a kind of narcissism/internalized-need-for-control that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Somehow, I intuitively channeled my overreaching Red into an addiction, e.g., I feel a need to influence others (probably because if anything fails, then, it’s my fault). I’ve somehow channeled this addiction through what is often an appropriate face of healthy CP, e.g., expressionas an artist, and preacher.

Recovery is ongoing for my overreaching Red [CP]and the coping-addiction (messiah complex?) that, in my case, attends it. I’ve been experimenting-with/doing various kinds of social-media fasts.

Next week, more on ‘spiritual narcissism.’

Your thoughts?

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say?

Note: The blog has outlined Spiral DynamicsIntroduction (June 30), first in series (July 1).

SD Worldview Color Key



2 thoughts on ““The hard way.”

  1. Spot on. One of my favorite in the series so far. I hope the series heads in the direction of post-postmodernism, or metamodernism. Would love to hear your unpacking of that and implications for the church.


    1. Thanks, Dr. Hawley, i appreciate your feedback!

      In the writing and direction for this blog, i’m trying (as able) to discern and follow the lead of the Holy Spirit.

      Michael L. McKee


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