Latvian Streetlights and Narcissism

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So first of all, I need to explain what I mean by Latvian Walklight habits... In America, as many of my readers know, you can start walking when the eccentric silhouette turns white. When it is blinking red, sometimes with a countdown timer, you should keep walking if you've started, but not start across the street.

Now most people, especially in New Jersey and New York don't give a crap about the lights and instead walk if there are no cars coming, and even sometimes if there are cars coming and they are daring enough to make it.

Here in Latvia the norm is totally different.

You can see people waiting on an empty street, but if the light is red, they will not step foot across the curb. There may be no cars in sight, as was the case on Christmas morning when I went for my run, but if the light is red, people abide by it.

Call us Americans crazy, call us reckless, but if by our own judgement we can cross, we will cross. Screw the leadership, freedom is important!

But where does narcissism come in?

This is a tricky question...

According to Psychology Today, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is defined as

"grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also concentrate on grandiose fantasies (e.g. their own success, beauty, brilliance) and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships. "

At a small level, a really small, non-significant level, the American way of crossing the street is Narcissistic.

How?

You're not caring about how others feel, you're displaying a lack of empathy...

But here's the thing, and it's important!

It's all cultural...

Yes, there are people who have serious problems with narcissism long after adolescence where

"it is common for many adolescents to display the characteristics listed above; this does not indicate that they will later develop narcissistic personality disorder."

I was definitely a very narcissistic teenager, which was exacerbated by scapegoating and gaslighting from people close to me - narcissism can be contagious. But! I take responsibility for my actions and continuously work to become a better companion to myself, and also to those around me. There are times where I catch myself being a dick unnecessarily and I seek to enhance my ability to work with others rather than against.

Looking back on it, I also realize people use this word a lot.

"Narcissism" can have an ugly bite to it, and it's a trend I see all too often in America - the pathologization of normal development tendencies.

Yes, there are real narcissists. Yes, some people need professional intervention, but as a teenager, this is completely normal - to be narcissistic. And adolescence can extend until the age of 25 for some people, typically described as starting between 10 years old and 13 years old, and ending between 19 and 25 years old.

If you're 45 and demanding special treatment (as is common for many adults) it's typically seen as unhealthy and you really need to shape up and stop being a child.

But that brings up a lot of questions... Sure, you're expected to be mature at a certain age...

But when not being mature slaps you with a label - a label which means you're sick, you have a disorder, and you should get professional help... Where is the line drawn?

Professionals are well aware of this dillemma and do what they can to make it objective and reasonable. But when untrained people begin to use medicalized language and "diagnose" people around them, you start getting a lot of issues...

The pathologization of America is a huge problem, in part brought on by entitlement-based commercial culture and the general acceptance of taking psychoactive medication for essentially not being happy all the time.

Anxious? Take a pill.

Depressed? Take a pill.

Nobody stops to think "Hey... Maybe I'm anxious because I just started this new job and am nervous about making a good impression and keeping it long term."

Or "Maybe I'm depressed because I took a huge risk asking that girl out, and she said no, and so did the other two girls I asked out that week, so I just don't feel like putting myself out there for a while..."

But because we don't get empathy from society, and sometimes not from our friends (get better friends if this is you!) we try to numb the feelings.

Through alcohol, or sex, or psychotropic drugs.

The difference between the first two and the second are stark though...

Alcohol is fine in moderation for most people.

Sex can be a spiritual, exciting, powerful, intimate experience which can expand you, your partner and your relationship if done right.

Psychotropic drugs... Unless you absolutely need them, they can do irreparable neurological damage, with no real long-term benefit. I know it's a controversial opinion, but I stick by it - if you don't need them for your immediate safety, you should stay away and seek other help. Like detoxifying your relationships. Like revamping your diet. Like exercising more. Like hanging out with better friends more often. Like opening up to someone close and supportive. Like getting a dog if you can handle it!

Like blogging it out to an email list to get it off your chest.

All of these things will make you a happier, healthier person, without numbing yourself from what you need to process or causing irreparable neurological damage to your only brain.

And now I must go. It's time for me to cross the street. There are no cars here.

~J