I have to go see Gone Girl, written by Gillian Flynn, this weekend. I know the movie has been out for a while, but I put off seeing it until I read the book…something I finally accomplished last weekend when my husband and I stole away to the beach! Since I finished reading it, however, I haven’t been able to get the “BEWARE OF…” and “CAUTION” signs out of my head. I knew I’d have to tackle the subject in this week’s blog.
Now, for those of you who have not yet read the book or seen the movie, don’t worry. I am not going to spoil the suspenseful plot or analyze the twists and turns of the cautionary tale. But, I do want to explore a major theme that jumped out at me from this work of “fiction.”
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a real illness. I hate to generalize or pick on Generations X and Y, but many young people today are all about “Me, me, me.” Blame this attitude on parents; trust funds; society; reality TV; the entertainment industry; technology or the Internet. It doesn’t really matter. Regardless of who or what gets blamed, too many are vane, self-centered, egotistical, self-obsessed, self-absorbed, and conceited these days.
Social media has become a huge enabler. It offers a myriad of platforms to tell followers – every minute of every day – where you are, what you are doing, what you are thinking, or what happened to you. Even the media, by providing late-breaking reporting, fuels the fire by offering the public immediate access to worldwide happenings. Technology is the drug that produces immediate gratification.
Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot to define nar·cis·sism. It is “extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.” (If you want to know if you have narcissistic tendencies, click here to take a short quiz.)
Narcissists want people to be dazzled by their attractiveness, intelligence, and other apparent perfections. They boast success through exotic vacations, luxurious cars, rare wines, exclusive restaurants, private planes, and high-fashion clothes. If they are forced to deal with the loss of a job, the loss of money, or some other loss in status – they profess and protest that someone else is to blame.
Today, the perfection-seeking among us think liabilities and imperfections can be wiped away. We live in a Photoshop world. Applications remove red eyes, wrinkles, blemishes, and even can recolor backgrounds. Plastic surgery can make us look like someone else. Websites like Facebook enable us to create profiles – personas – avatars – that may resemble us, but aren’t always one hundred percent authentic. Both Amy and Nick pretend to be people they are not. They fake it and lie about it. Sadly, they cannot accept that they are not perfect. No one is. Eventually they get caught.
From a Jewish perspective, the antidote to all of this is quite clear. Perform acts of loving-kindness – gemilut hassadim – and work to make the world a better place…the antithesis to the narcissist is the person who cares and worries about, and does things for, others.
Leave the smart-phone, computer, and TV at home. Go read a story to a preschool class. Play bingo with the elderly in an assisted living facility. Serve food in a soup kitchen. Help build a home for the homeless. Teach someone English as a second language. Volunteer to be a Big Brother or Sister. Join a non-profit committee or board and use your skills to try to fix a social problem. Stop worrying about yourself and focus on others instead.
Gone Girl…I really hope the movie won’t disappoint.