Thursday, November 19, 2009

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

I am always amused by students who actually still believe that they are somehow hurting me by refusing to do their work. Some of them are simply five years old psychologically and emotionally, the equivalent of a toddler holding his breath until his face turns blue or until he gets his way. Others, indeed a great many others, suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, a condition that seems to afflict a great many teenagers nowadays, particularly girls.

From Google Health:

Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition in which there is an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with one's self.

A person with narcissistic personality disorder:

  • Reacts to criticism with rage, shame, or humiliation.
  • Takes advantage of other people to achieve his/her own goals.
  • Has feelings of self-importance.
  • Exaggerates achievements and talents.
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love.
  • Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment.
  • Requires constant attention and admiration.
  • Disregards the feelings of others; lacks empathy.
  • Has obsessive self-interest.
  • Pursues mainly selfish goals.

This describes a great many of my students fairly well; they exhibit at least four or five of these symptoms, the most common of which are highlighted in bold. I'm told all the time that this is a normal, natural state for teenagers but I don't buy it. Not all teenagers are narcissists; if they were, there'd be no point in bringing attention to the disorder, and what's more, no one would notice it.

There are certain specific behaviors in the school context that emerge from narcissistic children. One is the belief that they are somehow hurting their teachers (or, indeed, anyone but themselves) by refusing to do their academic work. Another is that they actually think they're helping themselves and are more likely to get their way by being peevish and reflexively hostile. Another is the incredible belief, which I've discussed previously, that they should receive passing grades on assignments and report cards because they cannot do the work or understand the material.

I actually had a conversation with a student yesterday that illustrates another symptom of this disorder. I was covering another teacher's class, and as usual, the students were noisy and would not do the work the teacher had left for them. I am generally disinclined to give room passes during coverages, so as to minimize students' taking advantage of their regular teacher's absence, and I specifically told this group that I would not do so if they persisted in making noise and refusing to do their work and behave in a civilized and appropriate manner. I must have said no to at least four or five different students asking for passes.

Finally, toward the end of the period, another student asked for a pass and I said no. It would not be fair, I told her, for me to say yes to you after I said no to everyone else. (Also, school rules bar room passes in the first and last ten minutes of class.) She persisted. I said, I understand where you're coming from, but you must understand that fairness requires me to say no. Then I asked, do you agree that it would not be fair for me to say yes to you after I said no to everyone else? She replied, No. I asked why and she had no answer. She either could not or would not say what I think we both knew: that she believes her needs are more important than others', or that her needs matter and other people's don't. That she is entitled to get what she wants irrespective of objective fairness; that not getting what she wants is automatically, inherently unfair.

I also get tired of hearing adults (and students) tell me that I should not be annoyed by this sort of behavior, that I should not be concerned about it, that I should expect it and that i should not try to correct it. Nonsense. When someone tells me, "You can't expect kids to" do this or that, know this or that, understand this or that, or appreciate this or that, my response is always the same: Yes I can. I can, I do, and I will. I don't have to "accept" appalling, deplorable, antisocial behavior no matter how old the actor is. No person is reasonable and civilized by default; they have to be taught. One way to teach them is to not enable them by "accepting" such behavior because "they're just kids."

1 comment:

narcissistic personality disorder said...

Narcissistic personality disorder is a kind of mental disorder. In this type, a person has an overly high feeling of their own importance. There are many signs of this disorder like thinking you are better than those around you, obsessed with fantasies of power, success and good looks, taking advantage of other people, difficulty in maintaining relationships, fragile self esteem, over sensitive etc.