“If it weren’t for me, there wouldn’t be any Paramount Studios.”
Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in the movie Sunset Blvd.
For some people with exceptional abilities, the realization that they are, in fact, more capable in many ways than ordinary people can lead to a distorted sense of entitlement and self-concept, a deep sense they really are better than everyone else in some ways that are not justifiable.
Narcissistic personality disorder?
This idea was nicely articulated by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin in the movie Malice (1993), in which Alec Baldwin as Dr. Jed Hill, in a lawsuit hearing about a recent surgery he performed, is characterized by a colleague as having a God complex, and Hill declaims:
“I have an M.D. from Harvard, I am board certified in cardio-thoracic medicine and trauma surgery, I have been awarded citations from seven different medical boards in New England, and I am never, ever sick at sea.
“So I ask you; when someone goes into that chapel and they fall on their knees and they pray to God that their wife doesn’t miscarry or that their daughter doesn’t bleed to death or that their mother doesn’t suffer acute neural trama from postoperative shock, who do you think they’re praying to?
“Now, go ahead and read your Bible.. and go to your church, and, with any luck, you might win the annual raffle — but if you’re looking for God, he was in operating room number two on November 17, and he doesn’t like to be second guessed.
“You ask me if I have a God complex. Let me tell you something: I am God.”
Prodigies face special ego challenges
In his article The Prodigy as Narcissistic Injury, Sam Vaknin, PhD writes about some of the dynamics of narcissism, which is not merely wishful pretension and egoistic arrogance:
“The prodigy – the precocious ‘genius’ – feels entitled to special treatment. Yet, he rarely gets it. This frustrates him and renders him even more aggressive, driven, and overachieving than he is by nature.
“As [psychologist Karen] Horney pointed out, the child-prodigy is dehumanized and instrumentalized.
“His parents love him not for what he really is – but for what they wish and imagine him to be: the fulfilment of their dreams and frustrated wishes.”
[Photo from post about the concert pianist: Lang Lang: “Pressure…but a wonderful way to grow up”]
New York Times writer Stephen Sherrill explains in his article Acquired Situational Narcissism that “Classical narcissism, a personality disorder whose symptoms include lack of empathy, grandiose fantasies, excessive need for approval, rage, social isolation and depression, has been well mapped by the psychoanalytical community…
“People who aspire to stardom tend to be more narcissistic than others, but they don’t develop a true narcissistic personality disorder until they begin to achieve success…”
Of course, prodigies, even those with a “God complex,” may grow up to be highly successful – even superstar – architects, film directors, entrepreneurs, writers.
Being emotionally intelligent about our own potential narcissistic traits may be a matter of awareness of the potential for those traits to hurt others, and even limit our own, even higher, achievement.
Are performers raging narcissists?
“Actors and actresses, because that’s their career, can be sort of self-obsessed.”
Getting Beyond Impostor Feelings
Many talented and creative people experience impostor or fraud feelings and beliefs about themselves, despite their accomplishments. How can we change those feelings to be more confident and creative?
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