Dear Aunt Hill,
What can we do to get rid of narcissists?
- Good Riddance Seeker
Imagine that an alien made of stone lands on Earth and acquires human needs upon contact. He is hungry, a new sensation, and tries different things to make this terrible feeling go away: digging a pit, climbing a tree, hitting himself on the head … Until finally, by putting something edible in the hole in the front of his face, the hunger pangs disappear.
What will he do the next time he feels hungry?
He will eat! But sadly, he is not a very wise stone alien and does not understand how to properly obtain the food that will satisfy the hideous hunger pains that occupy all of his thoughts at least three times a day. He fails to observe that Earthlings address this persistent need through personal development, relationships, obtaining gainful employment, not sabotaging the food supply chain, and an infinite number of other live-and-let-live habits and attitudes.
Despite all the neighbours' attempts to straighten out the stone alien, he simply refuses to acknowledge the reality of his own needs. He forgets to secure his next meal once he's satiated. And when he's hangry, he lashes out against everyone who has helped him in the past.
"Again!?!" he wails when he wakes up after a good night's sleep feeling a little peckish. A rage fills him, so he marches to the grocery store to complain to the manager. The manager tells him (in all sincerity) that he is sorry for the stone alien’s discomfort and that his business exists expressly to fix that problem.
"Fuck off!" yells the stone alien. "Like I have money to buy your food."
Not defeated, the manager grabs a bag of potato chips from a box on his desk. As he tosses it to the stone alien, he says, "I'm looking for someone to keep the parking lot tidy.”
"Good luck with that," says the stone alien. "And by the way," he adds as he stomps on the bag of potato chips. "It's breakfast time, idiot: not happy hour.”
When the stone alien leaves the grocery store, he is amazed at how this confrontation has erased his hunger. In fact, an adrenaline rush had pushed many physical sensations out of his range of perception. But the stone alien has no interest in origins or outcomes or reason(s). He differs from Earthlings in that he can only live in the present moment: one single point in time, a spec of dust in space.
The stone alien can't connect the dots (which seem so obvious to the rest of us) because he can only ever perceive the one dot that marks the time and place of here and now.
Can you do something about it? Can anyone do anything about it? The government? A non-profit? Can we send him back to where he came from? School him? Imprison him? Burn him at the stake? Legislate everyone into a politically conscious coma?
Who knows? Maybe we should just ignore him. Maybe that will make him go away.
In fact, ignoring him is likely the only action that will make him go away, although it may take a very long time (longer than a human life span).
If the stone alien has "learned" that confrontation, anger, etc., will distract him from his hunger (and maybe even secure some food in the process, if only because it's being thrown at him), this is how he will eventually "learn" to solve all his problems. The stone alien will solve his problems by creating problems for others.
If you ignore him or at least ignore his bad behaviour, then there will be no adrenaline rush to distract him from his hunger. Ergo, the effort required to cause the fuss becomes futile.
At the same time, if the store manager doesn't have the heart to cut off his food supply, he could find himself handing out free groceries to the stone alien until he retires or dies. And if the free meals start to shrink employee paycheques, inflate customer prices, or depreciate stakeholders' interests in any way, the situation becomes a concern for the community. And tackling it gets a lot more complicated with more voices involved in the debate, as anyone can imagine.
The stone alien might be too proud to take free food with a smile and go off to annoy another grocery store manager. He might even trick a well-meaning soul (through defamation) into stealing food for him to spite the manager and his infuriatingly good nature. Inevitably though, he will take freebies from someone, somehow. And this won’t stop him from wasting his (and others’) resources to stabilize his position, albeit a low one. He will be bitter because even though he is not suffering from hunger, there is no stimulation or excitement in his life. He will get mad at streaming services because he has already seen everything twice. He will happily create a debate between neighbours about how to deal with him solely for his own entertainment.
What can you do with a narcissist? A person who cannot understand winning and losing without abject humiliation in the equation has no safe place within themselves to learn. These beings refuse to look within themselves because they are terrified of what they may find. A well-adjusted person comprehends that parts of themself are mysterious to them,* some even terrifying, and that this is exactly where the spark of life and the excitement are to be found.
Is it your job to solve the narcissists’ problems? No! “So sorry Mr. Stone Alien, but you are not my responsibility. I am my responsibility. You are your responsibility. Whatever brought you here has nothing to do with me. You simply landed near me. I am not ‘acting like you’ when I turn you away. In fact, I am acting in your best interests; as with my own children, I am showing you by my example that collective survival is dependent on the ability of each member not only to produce but to protect that production from 'bad weather,' as well. I am simply living out the natural order of things here, on Earth. Remember Mr. Stone Alien, you are the one who needs to learn how to take care of yourself. Let life be your teacher, like everyone else on this planet does.”
We do best as individuals and as a collective by following the guidelines implicit in the carefully carved speech of our predecessors. Calm down, be polite, and don’t be a drama queen on or off the set. Stay away from hyperbole and revel in the fine and subtle pleasures of the understatement. Learn some new words to better describe what’s going on (so that you and your decent neighbours can better understand each other) and ignore narcissistic behaviour like you would ignore dog poop on the street by the curb. The less protagonism narcissism receives, the less likely the offender will attract a mate. Less mating with narcissists is a good thing. Perhaps this way the trait can be suppressed over time and the stone alien will crumble away into the dust he accreted from.
* Note the proper use of gender-neutral pronouns.