My daughter has frequently come home from soccer fulminating about certain girls on her team who keep “yelling” at her. I have to admit that I didn’t initially take her complaints very seriously. Being a teen she (a) has thin skin and (b) is prone to exaggeration. Also, in a good soccer game, there is lots of communication going on. “Mary, be open!” “I got it!” “Watch out, Jane!” It wouldn’t surprise me if my daughter took “Watch out” as an insult.
And then I saw her team play.
In fact, my daughter was absolutely right. There are a handful of girls who have taken it upon themselves to tell everyone else on the team what they’re doing wrong. In shrill, teen girl voices they scream out “You shouldn’t have missed that.” “You’re in the wrong place.” “You’re doing that wrong.” “I told you to be mid field [never mind that the coach said something else].” As the game goes on, they get more and more shrill and dictatorial.
The person mostly at fault for this is the coach, who should squash this type of behavior immediately. He doesn’t, though. and the fact that this is a recreational league staffed by parent volunteers means that there’s not a lot other parents can do. I’ve advised my daughter to pull a sweet-tempered “dumb blonde” in the face of this hectoring. She should, in dulcet terms, keep saying “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you,” until those girls are embarrassing themselves by screaming at the top of their lungs. Meanwhile, my daughter should pay attention only to the coach. Whether my daughter has the guile and self-control to pursue this approach is questionable.
Why am I writing about this if I can’t change the passive coach and it’s unlikely that my daughter will do anything other than get angry? I’m writing because I find it almost incomprehensible that there are people out there who think that they have the right to yell at anyone. This kind of narcissism is so alien to me. There are certainly situations in which one has the right and even the duty to tell people what to do and to tell them what they’re doing wrong: a parent to a child, a teacher to a student, a sergeant or chief to a new recruit, an employer to an employee, etc. What my daughter is dealing with, though, are just ordinary girls (usually popular in school) who believe that they are entitled to tell everyone else not just what to do, but what they’re doing wrong.
It’s narcissism, plain and simple. One of my favorite romance novels (you know I like them), involves a woman escaping from an abusive relationship to a narcissist. In Lisa Kleypas’s Blue-Eyed Devil, Kleypas has as good a summary as I’ve ever seen of what a narcissist is, how he or she thinks, and how he or she controls people:
I was welcomed into a small, cozy office with a sofa upholstered in flowered yellow twill, by a therapist who didn’t seem all that much older than me. Her name was Susan Byrnes, and she was dark-haired and bright-eyed and sociable. It was a relief beyond description to unburden myself to her. She was understanding and smart, and as I described things I had felt and gone through, it seemed she had the power to unlock the mysteries of the universe.
Susan said Nick’s behavior fit the pattern of someone with narcissistic personality disorder, which was common for abusive husbands. As she told me about the disorder, it felt as if she were describing my life as it had been for the past year. A person with NPD was domineering, blaming, self-absorbed, intolerant of others’ needs . . . and they used rage as a control tactic. They didn’t respect anyone else’s boundaries, which meant they felt entitled to bully and criticize until their victims were an absolute mess.
Having a personality disorder was different from being crazy, as Susan explained, because unlike a crazy person, a narcissist could control when and where he lost his temper. He’d never beat up his boss at work, for example, because that would be against his own interests. Instead he would go home and beat up his wife and kick the dog. And he would never feel guilty about it, because he would justify it and make excuses for himself. No one’s pain but his own meant anything to him.
“So you’re saying Nick’s not crazy, he’s a sociopath?” I asked Susan.
“Well . . . basically, yes. Bearing in mind that most sociopaths are not killers, they’re just nonempathetic and highly manipulative.”
“Can he ever be fixed?”
She shook her head immediately. “It’s sad to think about what kind of abuse or neglect might have made him that way. But the end result is that Nick is who he is. Narcissists are notoriously resistant to therapy. Because of their sense of grandiosity, they don’t ever see the need to change.” Susan had smiled darkly, as if at some unpleasant memory. “Believe me, no therapist wants a narcissist to walk in the door. It only results in massive frustration and a waste of time.”
(Kleypas, Lisa, Blue-Eyed Devil (pp. 92-93). Macmillan. Kindle Edition.
When I look around at the number of people, from the White House down, who believe that they exist on a different plane and are therefore entitled unfettered right to criticize others, I have to ask whether this was always the case, or if the last fifty years — since Marxists took over parenting ideas and education — have created a generation of self-righteous narcissists. What do you think?
Oh, and here’s just the right video for this post: