Are we a Nation of Narcissists?
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Violence and desensitisation

Western culture is becoming increasingly violent.  There’s an increase in domestic violence and domestic homicide, coward punches, road rage incidents and everything in between. There’s a number of reasons for this, one being that that the internet and social media are enabling and legitimising violent behaviour. What was once considered violent, is not so anymore. Add to the mix someone with narcissistic traits, and a upward trend of hyper-masculinity (hegemonic masculinity) and we get a very sad society indeed. Not only are narcissists not recognising their violent behaviour, they don’t care because they think they are better than others and therefore, another’s feelings, emotions and physical pain don’t matter. Narcissists can be very cruel in an increasingly cruel world where we are basically desensitised to violence and violent behaviour because there’s just so much of it.

Is too much violence bad for us?

An overexposure to violence can have detrimental effects, not just to our children, but to everyone. Violent scenes such as those in movies and video games become less ‘arousing’ over time and can result in desensitisation, eventually leading to insensitivity and callous behaviour. As a result, people can become ‘comfortably numb’ to other’s pain and suffering, and may be less likely to be helpful, which is why there’s now a trend to film fights and violent behaviour and upload to the internet, rather than come to the rescue. There is a gradual reduction in responsiveness to violent scenes. This is because the desensitised person is influenced by their own emotional or physiological reaction to an injury and they are more likely to judge a situation as not serious.

Exposure to violence has a lasting effect on aggression through the process of desensitisation. Disturbingly, repeated exposure to violent stimuli can cause a reduction to strong emotions such as sympathy, fear and disgust, the more often the stimulus is presented. Because our society is steeped with violence, aggression and cruelty as a way of life, with incidents such as rape, murder and terrorism reported daily, the human race has become desensitised, and people really should be appalled, but sadly, we’re not. The culture of violence is a constant feature of residential life and our children live out their everyday lives exposed to violence in many forms. And quite often, the children model their behaviours on what they’re seeing. (In domestic violence cases, it has been reported that children were present in 61% of Australian cases).  Of course, what this does is reinforce violence behaviour as a way of conduct for children: they’re more likely to be violent as teens and adults.

There’s been an increase in ‘king hits’ in the last few years – it used to be termed the coward’s punch. Do a search of ‘King hits’ into YouTube and there’s 45,600,000 results with titles such as, “The Best king hit EVER!!” and “Top 10 King hits”, which means some people are not seeing this behaviour as violent, but rather as cool. Cole Miller, an 18-year-old Brisbane man was coward punched and died in early 2016. In fact, in a two-week period around that time, I read about six coward punches on both men and women, which have led to death or medical treatment of the victims.

There are a few reasons that I believe are causing an increase in coward punches. With most social change, it’s not thing that is the cause, but rather a mix of things – like making a cake, the end result took many ingredients. Firstly, the way we are raising our boys to idealise overt masculinity. Big boys don’t cry, man up, be a man, don’t be a sissy, you’re such a pussy, you hit like a girl, and on it goes. Basically, the way we’re teaching our boys to be men is part of the problem.  We’re raising a generation (probably more) of hyper-masculine males whose understanding of ‘being male’ equates to being aggressive and overty sexualised.  Many of the ideologies we’re instilling in our children are based on violence. Australia is a white patriarchal society where men are basically elevated over women. Some men then need to prove their superiority status among other males. Add alcohol, brains that aren’t mature enough to process problems and issues effectively, a total lack of respect for social etiquette and values, and a societal desensitisation to violence, and you get an increase in coward punches. All of these elements are traits of narcissism and sociopathy – our culture has personality disorders. But this increase in violence didn’t just start recently, it’s been a slow, constant and relentless change that many people were not even aware of. It’s evident on our streets, in film, in video games, cartoons, lyrics and music, and books.

Want more information?  Dr Maguire’s book Selfies, sexting, suicide and savagery: Welcome to the era of narcissism  will be released at the end on 2016.  You can pre-order by emailing info@nowgeneration.com.au.  Want a Now Generation consultant to speak at your conference, school, organisational masterclass?  Contact Lynette on info@nowgeneration.com.au