Narcissistic Families: Avoid Becoming One

Recently, I read Drs. Twenge and Campbells’ book, The Narcissism Epidemic. In this book, the authors explore how narcissism has reached epidemic proportions and discuss its individual and social costs. In reading the book, I couldn’t help but think of the ways narcissism has impacted not just individuals, but also families.

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Recently, I read Drs. Twenge and Campbells’ book, The Narcissism Epidemic. In this book, the authors explore how narcissism has reached epidemic proportions and discuss its individual and social costs. In reading the book, I couldn’t help but think of the ways narcissism has impacted not just individuals, but also families.

Several months ago I wrote a blog for Dr. Oz exploring narcissism. In it, I concluded, “By failing to connect with other human beings around them, people who suffer from narcissism live their lives imprisoned by their own inflated egos and empty pride.”  The impact of this imprisonment is that narcissistic people lose out on the richness of meaningful relationships with other human beings.

In a similar vein, I’ve personally and professionally experienced families who live on narcissistic islands. Like narcissistic individuals, narcissistic families spend their days pursuing material and external accomplishments rather than establishing meaningful relationships with other families, religious and social communities. As a result, these families face a greater risk of developing destructive behavioral patterns including abuse and addictions. 

While I could share with you my theories on the reasons family units have developed narcissistic traits, I’d rather focus on what families can to do avoid developing them.

1) For starters, families need to make sure they are part of a larger community. This community includes the social, spiritual and physical aspects of their lives.

2) Families need to devote at least one day a week fostering meaningful connections with other families. This could mean joining or starting a weekly dinner club with other families, attending religious services or becoming part of a sports community.

3) The best way to connect with other people is – in person!  Social networking sites are a great way to pass time, but when it comes to being with another person, nothing beats doing it the good old fashion way (that means face to face – not Facebook to Facebook).

4) Every year families should develop a strategic plan for itself that outlines what the family members will do individually and collectively to connect to the outside world. 

Just like a river needs to flow to the sea, families need to flow out into the communities and the world around them. By connecting with others and giving back, families will thrive and grow, not stagnate and become emotionally polluted.

Blog written by Paul Hokemeyer, PhD, JD
Paul Hokemeyer is a licensed attorney, researcher and Marriage and Family Therapist who works with individuals, couples and...