A Herd of Narcissists, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I wrote about the relationship between narcissism and shame.  This brings me to my next point, which is that narcissists see themselves as “unique and special people.”

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I’m looking at narcissism because I believe its submerged half, shame, is a shadowy but potent presence in many healthcare settings: its destructive force is shaping the behaviour of many working in the field.

I want to understand what went wrong with my mother’s journey through the healthcare system. I want to know why workers in it were so prone to lying, prevaricating and stonewalling. I would also like to know why advocating for my mother provoked so much anger and resentment.

I’m looking for answers because I am getting older and what I saw frightened me.

My mother’s journey started in an acute-care hospital. From there she went to a rehabilitation hospital, and from there she came to my home, where she lived for 20 months. She is now in a long-term care facility here in Montreal and is, for the most part, doing well. However, if you read Part 1 of this article, you will already know this wasn’t always the case.

Like many [...] continue the story

A Herd of Narcissists, Part 1

I’ve touched on the issue of shame twice now in recent articles. It’s because I believe it is a powerful tool for both good and evil.

When I refer to shame as a tool I mean that the evocation of it, whether self-generated or externally prompted, often triggers one of two responses: a self-correcting mechanism (I won’t do that again) or a self-corrosive mechanism (I’m no good). Brené Brown differentiates between guilt and shame by saying that guilt is attached to our actions while shame is attached to our identity. It’s the difference between doing wrong (Ooops) and being wrong (I’m such an idiot).

I sometimes experience a helpful form of shame when I drive carelessly, and my desire to avoid that feeling is probably what keeps me from doing it too often. On the other hand, being unfairly targeted or thrown into a bewildering conflict seems to evoke a different kind of shame. I’m talking about those times when I’m being treated as the source of a problem instead of just part of it.

Here’s an example: Driving to work one morning, I inadvertently swerved into a neighbouring lane on a one-way street. I corrected myself immediately, but another driver, who was behind me and in that lane, [...] continue the story