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Felt less empowered than before reading! ...Channeling Freud
on July 22, 2014
Berstein outlines various categories of emotional vampires and links them to a personality disorder. Examples of the different personality disorders varied from extreme, perhaps intentionally exaggerated, to over-simplified. My review is about the narcissists, since that was the personality disorder in which I was interested. All the other personality disorders, he made seem as if they were self-defeating, no need to pay them much mind, in my opinion.
Berstein talked about different types of narcissists, which I began to feel was from a less empirical source and a more personal one, particularly the Narcissistic super star, whom he regarded quite highly. He seemed to be writing a manuscript on how to deal with a (super star) narcissist in a way that I believe a narcissist would like to be dealt with, but not necessarily healthy for the non-narcissist. For example, he talked about narcissists being behind the success of today -- without success there is no narcissist and vice versa. The appropriate ways to deal with a narcissist then is to compliment him frequently, only align your needs with his, and then present all your desires in that fashion -- most literature describes this way of interacting with a narcissist in a mockingly fashion, like: if you are with a narcissist, be prepared to make it all about him, deny your own needs, have no sense of self, etc. (like you get the feeling that THIS way of interacting with a narcissist is masochistic, wrong) -- but he meant it literally as advice. It almost seemed as though he was trying to make a sheep out of those who had to deal with a narcissistic super star (himself, maybe), so that they would be better participants/victims, and went so far as to say do not report them to Human Resources, but gave an alternate, less dignified way of handling a situation. For example, there was a particular boss who had severe temper outbursts, using quite abusive (derogatory, name-calling, insulting) curse language, and Berstein's approach recommended making light of the outburst and cracking a joke to lighten the mood. He also said, abuse is a term too frequently and loosely used by histrionics (I inferred that he DESPISED histrionics); he said, "abuse" should only be used when you're involving an attorney. I found that sentiment to be concerning.
(warning: run-on sentences galore!):
I gave the book two stars because, as a woman in a male egotistical profession, I wanted to feel more powerful and armed after reading the book. For example, there is a male surgeon in the book and a female stay-at-home mother, where the woman is upset that he spends no free time with her and the child and won't attend the child's ball games, because he has obsessions of his own that he attends to in his free time as soon as he comes home (cameras), and he yells at her when he has a bad day, and she feel anxious when he comes home because maybe she forgot to put something away that he will yell at her for -- the author's advice is for this woman to pretend to be interested in her husband's camera, and be docile when he snaps at her telling her he pays for everything, so he basically has the right to be self-consumed in every other aspect, and the wife should try to appeal to his spontaneous desire (the camera this time) in order to get him to agree to go to the son's ball game, so that he thinks it's about him and the camera, and not the wife or the child! He has the wife playing a very dumbed-down subordinate role, pretending to be interested in the camera instead of having a stern conversation or giving ultimatums, apologizing when she asks a harmless question that he takes as an insult and replies caustically. I am a female in medicine, and had he written about a female surgeon and a male stay-at-home dad, I would certainly not condone castration of a man's sense of self just because his wife is a surgeon - yet a woman is expected to feel awed in some way about her husband, so that she restrains herself from any opinions, desires, needs, self-respect, boundaries, etc (like his participating in raising the child and speaking to her with respect should be optional? Or presented in a fashion where he feels like he's getting something out of it too?) -- Anyone else channeling FREUD?
Instead, I found there were little or no tools/lessons that I wanted to take away from the book. Truthfully, I felt like a summary of the book on narcissists is: narcissists are selfish and manipulative, but behind every success -- be a self-depricating victim when dealing with them, hope you get them to see a self-interest in you, and perhaps you too can benefit WITH the narcissistic superstar -- otherwise, walk on egg shells, because you are subordinate to them in life, and they are successful and need their creative space, namely the superstar.
Finally, the book left me with the notion that Berstein himself might be a frustrated narcissist.