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The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism

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3.59  ·  Rating details ·  821 Ratings  ·  125 Reviews
They're among us, but they are not like us. They manipulate, lie, cheat, and steal. They are irresistibly charming and accomplished, appearing to live in a radiance beyond what we are capable of. But narcissists are empty. No one knows exactly what everyone else is full of--some kind of a soul, or personhood--but whatever it is, experts agree that narcissists do not have i ...more
Paperback, 150 pages
Published August 16th 2016 by FSG Originals (first published June 14th 2016)
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Greta
Honestly, I barely understand what I've been reading.
Dense and poorly written essay.
The reviews are better than the book.
Chance Lee
Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: true-story, favorites
Dombek's 138-page essay is a concentrated look not at narcissism, but at those who fear narcissism. Turns out they're the same thing. The fear of narcissism is, in a way, its own form of narcissism.

To deconstruct the narcissism apocalypse we live in today, Dombek traces the term's convoluted history from its mythological roots in the story of Narcissus and Echo, to its first entry in the DSM, to the Instagram-fueled world of today where the term "narcissist" is throw at anyone who posts one too
...more
jeremy
May 16, 2016 rated it liked it
a mostly fascinating look at the clinical and cultural history of narcissism, kristin dombek's the selfishness of others: an essay on the fear of narcissism isn't the sort of trite garbage that aims to convince you a narcissist may be sleeping in your bed with you, living next door, or sharing the microwave at your office. instead, dombek offers a thoughtful take on a much misunderstood psychological diagnosis, tracing it from the greek myth for which it's named to the current age of maligned mi ...more
Elaine
Feb 10, 2017 rated it liked it
I have to say I struggled a bit with this book but perhaps that just emphasises the complexity of this disorder. Some very interesting concepts are discussed here, one being are narcissists really people with low self esteem or in fact the exact opposite, excessive self esteem? Dombek also discusses what she terms the "fear of narcissism." I must admit I did lose track of the argument sometimes and wasn't sure if she was saying narcissism doesn't really exist and it's just a way we make ourselve ...more
Michelle
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism” authored by educator notable journalist Kristen Dombek: expertly researched, thoroughly explores the widespread concern and rise (0%-5% increase) of the epidemic of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) which was first introduced in the DSM in 1980, and recently updated in the DSM-5 (2013).

According to Freud, artists and writers were listed with criminals recognized by their immaturity, vanity, and inability to grow-up and acc
...more
Peter Landau
Sep 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Are you a narcissist? Of course you are. We all are. It’s so obvious. That’s our modern condition. We’re self-obsessed millennials who live online and care about only our empty selves. Boy, what a bunch of assholes we are.

Really, we’re just idiots, unthinking morons who glom onto buzzwords and echo what we’re told, read and see. There’s hardly an original thought among the lot of us, none that hasn’t already been manufactured and broadcast. We use these superficial distinctions as shorthand, bu
...more
Therese
Parts of this short book were pretty dense, like where she discusses the history of psychology, and I only skimmed them ... she also has a kind of oblique style even when she writes from a more "human interest" standpoint about bad boyfriends and teenagers unjustly accused of narcissistic behavior. In other words, she makes her points indirectly, which sometimes makes it hard to follow the nuances of her argument. Her main point seems to be that the fear of narcissism easily gets out of hand and ...more
Graeme Roberts
Feb 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
Unclear and poorly written, despite the noble intent to debunk the mass foolishness, charlatanism, and outright fraud of popular social psychology.
Jafar
Jun 09, 2017 rated it liked it
For people who easily throw around the accusation of narcissism (at current or former romantic partners, family members, or an entire group or generation, e.g., the millennials), have a firm belief in being authentic and unselfish while regarding others with suspicion of being manipulative and self-serving, and are quick to judge others based on a superficial interaction.
Peter Herrmann
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
I lost the forest for the trees reading this book. Everything you ever wanted to know about narcissism, in excruciating detail - with occasional tangential discussions about other subjects - but somehow, I lost the point of what she was saying ... if there ever was a point.
P
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, excellent essay. Basically: each of us is a bad person (i.e. a sinner, although Dombek of course doesn’t frame it as such), but also every other person isn’t as bad as one assumes. These issues are exacerbated by the internet, mass media, and contemporary psychology (or at least popular reporting of its findings). I listened on audio, but recommend reading instead as there are a lot of proper nouns, theories, and statistics to parse.
Athena
Sep 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Some parts of this short book are very good. Dombek is excellent at parsing established theories of narcissism and self-centeredness, from the myths of Narcissus and Echo through Rene Girard, Alice Miller, and the latest edition of the DSM. The close readings she offers are concise and eloquent, clarifying ideas that have been misunderstood or forgotten. I found Dombek's discussion of Girard and mimesis particularly fascinating (I haven't read anything by him), and she seems most enchanted by hi ...more
Pete
Aug 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
non-specific praise: all books should be ~160 pages long, give or take a notes section and some prefatory throat-clearing. it is the ideal length. you can read it in a few sittings, feel like oh look at me i read a book, they cost less, everybody wins.

i've noticed that i tend to get very judgy very fast when i clock what i deem to be narcissistic or self-obsessed behavior in other people, and i started to get curious about that particular thing, when this book popped in a review somewhere or ot
...more
Em "Reacher"
Jan 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
There are a lot of questions that I never think to ask, but should. Like Jack Reacher's question, "...when people say they slept like a baby. Do they mean they slept well? Or do they mean they woke up every ten minutes, screaming?” Or like Kristin Dombek's question, "what's up with the narcissism epidemic?" Dombek deftly writes her answer in The Selfishness of Others. I'm still waiting for Jack Reacher to tell me his. This is a firm recommendation.
Lindsey Brooke
Oct 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
It caught me in the end; Dombek hit a note of poetic eloquence toward the finish that almost made me forget that what I'd just read was so difficult to interpret because of its abundant punctuation. It was an interesting read with many things to consider and think about, but the sentences go on forever and lose their context. I often thought, "who the **** edited this?" The best part was The Artist chapter. Everything prior was, unfortunately, quite messy.
Jeannie
Aug 04, 2016 rated it liked it
While essay this was an interesting exploration of the history of and current fascination of narcissism, particularly the difficulty in defining/diagnosing it, it was frustratingly meandering and ultimately failed to make a cogent argument.
Shelley
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology
This book is written by someone who wants to understand the narcissistic phenomenon and does a lot of reading and research about it. However, the result is a mishmash of way too many different constructs and there is little distinction between opinions of bloggers and actual scientists.

Another problem is that the current manifestation of narcissism as evidenced on the Internet and social networks is much more complicated than the author grasps. The current situation probably is an evolved form
...more
Patrick
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘Any book you write is its own asylum, but a book about narcissism is like the padded cell inside the asylum.’

It’s a strange thing, sometimes, living so much of my inner life online. There is a funny feeling I get when I start describing something I’ve read or heard about on the internet with another person, in whatever context, when I suddenly realise they have no idea what I’m talking about; and not only that but it would take so long for me to explain the layers of context to what I’m talking
...more
Jeff
Aug 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 311-312
Better than it has any right to be, Kristin Dombek's book on Narcissism popularizes brain psychology and summarizes the discursive forks Freud's drive theory entailed for our thinking through narcissism and empathy. Other than her solid summary of the psychology (and an essay out of philosophy on empathy), Dombek's "text" is the same internet you and I face every night. (That's why her book doesn't have much right to be good.) Reading that "text," she can't quite tell if Narcissism is a subject ...more
Ctkruckus
Burned through this bad boy in a lunch hour.
Quite enjoyed it.
Stephanie
Aug 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
I so look forward to reading anything Kristin Dombek writes in the future. Such a well-constructed, witty essay, written with a critical and compassionate eye (the latter being a rarity these days).
Tucker
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dombek's essay is structured like a series of analytic vignettes that make slightly different points, as if transcribed from a notebook that recorded related ideas as they occurred. (This sentence seems like an admission of the author's struggle: "Any book you write is its own asylum, but a book about narcissism is like the padded cell inside the asylum.") At first, it seems she accepts the idea of narcissism as it exists in popular currency but, wading more deeply into the book, she is increasi ...more
Kira Jayne
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This text is populated by a diverse bouquet of styles and content. Clearly well researched, the book conveys the colorful history of narcissism as a national ideology, how it has developed over time, and perhaps some future perceptions of what narcissism really is. Dombek does all this by using a plethora of contexts from psychology journals, to popular reality TV, and even moments from her real life. The last few pages made me cry they were so "uncanny." Her thorough, essayistic approach made t ...more
FFF
Jun 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Siete artículos/ensayos sobre el narcisismo bastante disparejos. Parecen haber sido escritos con distinto propósito (unos casi periodismo de investigación, otros más cerca del ensayo literario, otros trabajo académico puro y duro) y en diferentes momentos, y solo después articulados como un todo que ni siquiera lleva introducción para terminar de darle una forma más o menos definida al "libro". Sin embargo, tiene un par de textos sugerentes, sobre todo cuando se distancia de la mirada de "schola ...more
Drew
Jul 25, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm not the audience for this book. David Brooks is the audience for this book.
There were things I found interesting - and the 'murderer' chapter is essay-writing at its very best - but mainly I found myself saying "yes, and?" because the things Dombek was 'revealing' or exploring felt already known to me. They might not be to you, especially if you've ever called someone else a millennial in disgust, so the mileage swing here may be significant.
Bradley
Aug 01, 2018 rated it liked it
An interesting, but not revelatory, nor groundbreaking essay. It did a good job of looking at the literature and history of this painful disorder, and the ending was thoughtful. I don't think it added much new to the subject, and was not exactly a good introductory to the subject either. So, overall not a bad essay but not one of my favorite reads either.
Sabrinac
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fantastic look at the direction humanity is going while questioning the deep sense of disconnectivity through the actions of people labeled as narcissists.
Weston
May 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
Boring and cliché like some inane blog post by a psychology major. But I seem to dislike essayists, as I've learned they're called, especially the Klosterman guy. Anyways it wasn't for me.
Amanda
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was poignant and a rare gem. It focuses on problems that have arisen since the computer age... selfies, fake lives, etc. and the great divide between people that has resulted. Running away from someone that may exhibit signs of narcissism (i.e. combing their hair repeatedly) is also a form of narcissism in its own right. Empathy seems most conducive to the problem but this book takes you through theories supported by philosophers, psychologists and scientists.
Laura
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Must-read. Kind of mind-blowing. Many thanks to my friend for lending it to me!
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“Vonnegut was talking,” I say today, “about the psychic effects of trauma.” There’s a sentence of Alice Miller’s looping in my mind, about grandiose people and depressives, Narcissus and Echo: “Neither can accept the truth that this loss or absence of love has already happened in the past, and that no effort whatsoever can change this fact.” It’s the main thing I’ve learned from reading all this psychology: the future is always trying to feel like the past. When it does, it feels like selfishness, hurt, loss at the hands of others. The trick is to let it empty. Maybe this is another way to come unstuck in time.” 3 likes
“But behind that neat list of narcissistic traits, within psychology’s ever-expanding and dividing fields and schools, the debates continued: How much self-regard is normal, and how much unhealthy or even evil? When someone is acting like a six-year-old, should you empathize with their view of reality or try to correct it? If someone doesn’t want to talk to you or fall in love with you, when is that because he is fundamentally an asshole? If someone turns suddenly away from treatment, or from a relationship, does that mean she is incapable of love? Are there really people who have no empathy? Can you help someone learn to love? And is this thing called narcissism something some people are, or something they do? These are questions you can ask forever, not only if you are a psychologist, but if you find yourself loving someone who turns away.” 2 likes
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