Narcissistic behaviours are hidden and embedded in different situations and layers of society

Narcissism: Fragile Bodies in a Fragile World


Coincidence or structural connection?

“Systems theory provides such an approach and can consequently be considered a field of inquiry rather than a collection of specific disciplines” (Laszlo, 1998). Theory is integrating several of sciences, working on unifying principles toward the goal of unity of science.

Questions presented in chosen article (Cowan-Jenssen, 2009) refer to social and cultural values communicated through politics, media and consumer community in western societies. Narcissistic behaviours are hidden and embedded in different situations and layers of society. Different social phenomena are best presented through systems perspectives, and I’m arguing in this text that the timing of different factors as time, culture, history are due to secularization, permissiveness and humanism more prone to domination of certain moral, as the time is more liberal. Basic revolution in the field of production assets and infrastructural communication is most influential in the field of digital, which boosted not only positive consequences of such revolution, but also negative ones as Cowan-Jenssen suggests in article (2009). Systems theory describes complex systems as higher or lower orders. The behaviour of the whole results from interaction of such orders and is the same, regardless of categorization as higher or lower (Kompa, 2012). Society is more than group of individuals, and should not be reduced to that orders when exploring for phenomena explanation. Biological factors are chemically connected to narcissism. Freud has chosen Nacke’s (1899) clinical description of narcissism, where narcissist perceives and treats his body as he treats his sexual fantasy. It’s not a perversion, but the act of self-preservation (Fonagy, 2012, p.3). As it is the phenomena is natural, historical and the information factor acts as accelerator of process. As human society on a daily bases uses politics as community management is even more prone to embed such behaviour in different scopes of society, which results as culture medium of narcissistic percentage of population being successful or even becoming the leaders of community. Those are the elements of equation. Is this phenomena merely coincidence or there is a structural connection, which explains the process and hidden embodied environmental stimuli?

Narcissism is embedded


Cowan-Jenssen (2009, p.82) linked capitalism with narcissism, while seeing exploitation of people, or as workers or consumers. Permanent advertising of certain lifestyle, based on owning selected goods, heavily influences the self-image or self-esteem. Implementation of such lifestyle demands its sacrifice. Marketing and aggressive advertising through massive escalation of technology affects consumer’s life heavily (Cowan-Jenssen, 2009, p.82), core messages of advertising are often built to imprint in consumers self-image inadequacy while promoting the cult of celebrity. Modern politics, media, technology, consumer philosophy and competitiveness of capitalism are a fertile ground for producing certain percentage of narcissists. Quantity of information that surrounds present member of modern western society is so big and so pervasive that processing of them requires completely different organisation of individual. Does historical stream due to actual cultural and mental system makes this environment even more fertile for mental disorders such as is narcissism? Systems approach uses political system as arena, while mental disorder narcissism is phenomena of biopsychosociological system of person. In political systems many mentally disordered people are successful and serves their position. The article is in its core structuralistic, which very comprehensibly recaps paradigmatic view about sociological and psychological development. When thinking of structuralism we should bear in mind that in essence reductionist approach of structuralism applies extended emphasis on environmental impact. Biopsychosocial model sees cognition as equation of three factors: external stimuli, internal stimuli, and synaptic program as embodied cognition. (The balance of interconnection of external factors in general visa internal factors, and external factor of time, the history visa biological features, is what gives value to biopsychosocial model. The ways those factors connect and interact are updated in actual individual experience.


Critical analysis

Cognitive processes are to be analyzed in holistic way. Every reductionism of our reality experience perceives the world only through one point of view. Cognitive science connects these perceptions in one single story. Interconnection of external factors in general, internal factors and belief system with values is simplistic psychological model of cognitive equation. Synthesis of structuralism, which developed methodological tools for analysis of environmental/external factors of community and biopsychology, as studies of biological fundaments of our cognition, leads us toward epistemological breakthrough in research of cognitive processes. This synthesis produces methodological breaks and flanking technology achievements. Structuralism approach examines only a part of external factors, which produces information among most of external stimuli operating as embodied experience, while biopsychological approach explains mechanisms of rooted cognition. Clearly man is the peak of the evolution and holds the pole position of future evolution. It is due to neocortex, which enabled leap of human kind. Basis of this leap is the system, which organize individual parts, which are much more than collection of those parts, and their networks. This leap shouldn’t be performed neither on external structures, which puppet we are in our life experience, neither on biopsychological processes in our body, especially in our brain. Because of their functionality we cannot deny their existence and interconnectedness.

Science research should aim to develop methodology and technology of research. Beside content challenges, to develop the leap or a breakthrough, this is necessary accompanying aspect of research, to achieve epistemic break and dominance on the theoretical hegemonic field. Regardless the topic, this should be basic goal of each research.


Cowan-Jenssen’s article is reductionist in analysis, exposing cultural development as the main issue in collective spree of narcissism. While systems theory leaves the parts of whole intact, and seeks for integration of as several disciplines, reductionist approach of author determines the outcome of analysis as pathological and negative. Focus is mostly on environmental factors, while systems theory strive towards more holistic perception, keeping it parts whole and integrated, organized in higher and lower orders. With new technology human relations are transformed on a daily basis, collecting suggested information through different tools and media. Tool is always neutral; the use of tool defines the user. As Freud (Fonagy, 2012) has noticed that narcissism could have usefulness in self-preservation, reductionism loses dimensions on his way, and those dimensions are part of our quality of life and us. This approach limits therapeutic starting points in reorganizing mental order and emotional state. What article provides with its reductionist approach is deep analysis of environmental factors stimulating the pathological aspect of self-image.

Strengths of systems approach regarding narcissism are identification of many factors that affect individual’s perception of himself. It’s not only pathological interpretation of selected behaviour, but is also liberal in its development, or even protective. The wholeness gives much wider set of solutions, leaving to each particle to play its role in perfection of existence. Systems theory in psychological therapy focuses on behavioural patterns. Patterns are visible on affective, motivational, cognitive and group behaviour. It is not only individual, as it is not only collective. All parties involved get the same attention and consideration. It focuses on positive, security in relationships between members and members with themselves.



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  3. Cowan-Jenssen, S., & Goodison, L. (2009). Narcissism: Fragile Bodies In A Fragile World. Psychotherapy and Politics International, 2(7), 81-94. Retrieved March 25, 2015, from, last accessed: 25.3.2015
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  6. Fonagy, P. (2012). Freud’s “On Narcissism an Introduction. London: Karnac Books.

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