Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Reflection - Egocentrism

In her first work called Adam Bede, Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot) told us of someone who was like a rooster, who thought the sun always rose in the morning to hear him crow. He did it without any consideration that the sun was there long before he was, and would be there long after he was gone.

This is known as egocentrism, something that is very often seen in children and even some adults who fail to mature in a timely manner. Many of those adults will eventually pass through this stage of development. Those who do not outgrow this trait tend to transition into narcissism and they will seldom develop any real respect for others.

Egocentrism is often comprised of arrogance and selfishness, but other components may include anger and a sense of inadequacy. In other words, someone may try to compensate for deficits by making every issue about them and what they want. But more than anything it is a lack of maturity.

I have noticed a sharp increase of people who fail to outgrow it. I think a lot of it may generational. Those of us who have raised children may very well be to blame for some of it, but certainly not all of it.

Specifically, I mean there are some of my generation who tried to keep our kids from learning about disappointment, from feeling pain. In some sense, we thought parenting had advanced far enough that we could manage negative feelings with intellectual explanations and controlling the children's environments. Like Dr. Spock, we thought all of this could be done without spanking and without raising our voices. We thought we could all be Ward Cleaver.

We got them through some of it. But as they grew, it became more apparent that many of the kids were not well-equipped to deal with adversity. To put it more plainly, they had no problem solving skills.

Some have had a hard time dealing with life and it's curves at first, but through perseverance and patience they came to realize that some things were bigger than Mom and Dad; they soon learned they would need to gain control of their own lives, before they could learn how to seek a lasting inner peace and some sense of happiness. Others still expect their parents to solve their problems and get angry when they cannot or will not.

The more I look back and the longer I think about it, I now see the error of my ways. Although I am far from a perfect human being without any reproach, I now see that my parents may have had it right in their approach to child-rearing. My dad would have gone to jail had he lived in this day and age of parenting, he was not a "spare the rod" kind of guy.

But all of this is hindsight. We are now faced with a generation of egocentric adults who lack sufficient coping and problem-solving skills to navigate this thing we call life. And even when they do humble themselves to ask parents what they should do in a specific instance or certain scenario, they are not prepared to follow through with the advice because they think the parents are archaic, which translates to stupid.

So it all comes down to one thing and one thing only: I say, let them figure it out for themselves. "The earlier the better" is the preferred method. My kids are pretty much grown now and when they tell me something (about anything), as if to solicit some kind of response, I say what I think. When they shoot it down, I simply say okay, do what you want. I cannot tell you how many times, it has come back to haunt them that they didn't. Oh well, silly them.

But beyond all of this, I think the real message of this post can be found back in the opening stages, where the rooster thought the world revolved around him. We are here but for a short time on this earth and I would hate to miss the world because I was so self-absorbed with myself that I could not experience what others had to offer. Even at my age, I still learn much from others.

The world was here before me and will exist long after I am gone. It rotates in front of and revolves around the sun, not me.

My favorite part of life is giving back to those who have given so much to me. If they have left this life and are not here, I pay it forward. If all I ever thought about was myself, I would be a lonely man devoid of any companionship or friendship.

As it stands now, I am now the patriarch of the family. This is the scary part. Because now that I am, the weight of being right is squarely on my shoulders. Should my family ever need to solicit advice and then promptly disregard it, I am here for them.

And they do solicit. It's just that sometimes, it involves a piece of paper with Jackson's portrait on it.


9 comments:

Mustang said...

“… egocentrism, something that is very often seen in children, and even some adults who fail to mature in a timely manner. Many of those adults will eventually pass through this stage of development. Those who do not outgrow this trait tend to transition into narcissism and they will seldom develop any real respect for others.”Karl Marx’ greatest failure was his lack of understanding about the human condition. We are all egocentric; it is part of being human. Who among us does not make a decision based on self-interest, a perception that a decision will benefit us; a perception tempered by how we see ourselves among our several complex associations? It is true that among most people, maturity brings forth a more giving nature, marked by a lesser expectation that anyone owes us anything. In this regard, the most charitable individuals are older citizens who benefit from the foolishness of their youth.

I think the intention of most parents is honorable, even if flawed. One-hundred years ago, when young people began working before puberty (on the farms, ranches, and within several dangerous industries), they learned about the value of hard work, and they very early came to terms with the fact that life is seldom “fair.” Not everyone raised in this environment went on to become sterling citizens, but most clearly did. Most young people understood responsibility, accountability, and that nothing truly worthwhile is easy, or free. Today, this same age group lollygags about in public schools; their only chore is to learn their lessons — and few of them really are able to do even that.

We cannot escape the human condition, but we can certainly do a better job providing a worthwhile learning environment for the next generation. Naturally, this assumes that parents ever give much thought to the children they are producing; I am convinced that parents clearly deserve their brats. I know I deserve mine.

Z said...

Super post, LA.....

More and more, I'm seeing people with iPods at their ears, or cell phones, at STOP SIGNS and, there I am stopped and they just walk right off the curb without looking...that, apparently, is MY PROBLEM! I MUST see them and not hit them? It's happened so often recently that it's remarkable........

Everything's ME ME ME! now......such a difference from the America of only 30 years ago, in my opinion.

HoosierArmyMom said...

A couple of months ago, Cao of Cao's Blog wrote a piece outlining how Obama's personality fits the "type" described in Dr. Sam Vaknin's book on Narcissism. It was pretty amazing how his actions fit the hallmarks of the disorder.

If I can find the link, I'll come back and post it. It was really brilliantly done and was quite interesting.

The think about narcissism, is it is the result of childhood trauma that causes a child to not mature emotionally, thus the inability to cope with adults on the emotional level. They are, as your article indicates, unable to exercise empathy or understanding of anyone elses point of view or feelings and consider themselves entitled to everything... the ultimate liberal if you will. :-) LOL!!!!

LASunsett said...

Mustang, as always you are right when you say that people are motivated by self-interest. Therefore, a certain amount of egocentrism is present in all of us.

My intention here is to make the claim that many of our kids are not making it out of Piaget's preoperational stage of development, some of which is due to parenting.

As you probably remember from your educational days, this phase is also the one that brings us the concept of "magical thinking". When kids do not effectively make it out of this stage, they tend to turn into teenagers and adults that think things just magically happen without any regard to the effort they must be willing to produce, to get things done.

(My oldest is my evidence to support my claim.)

LASunsett said...

//More and more, I'm seeing people with iPods at their ears, or cell phones, at STOP SIGNS and, there I am stopped and they just walk right off the curb without looking...that, apparently, is MY PROBLEM! I MUST see them and not hit them?//

Good point Z. Another outcome in this scenario is detachment. Unresolved egocentrism leads to narcissism and possibly detachment.

Evidence is as you cite.

LASunsett said...

//The think about narcissism, is it is the result of childhood trauma that causes a child to not mature emotionally, thus the inability to cope with adults on the emotional level.//

In Obama's case, maybe the trauma was his mom moving him around so much. Her life was not stable, therefore she destabilized his life so much that his grandparents had to step in and intervene. By that time, rebellion may have set in. Out of that came a college education from left-wingers who taught him how to cope by developing narcissistic traits.

HoosierArmyMom said...

I'm not sure this will link up, but the blog post is very interesting in light of what you wrote here LA.

http://caosblog.com/9877

The blog post is "Obama's malignant narcissism" and source are Dr. Vaknin's book "Malignant Self-Love" and Ali Sina's book “Understanding Obama: The Making of a Fuehrer”. It all lines up with this post.

I think Obama has definite issues from his upbringing that ties in to the whole "arrogance, gotta have attention" syndrome. Heck he still acts like he's running for office!

And there is something in what you say Z, as a Narcissistic personality tends to live by the credo... "It's all about me". I think a generation of them has been created, as my own younger son and many of his friends, act that way.

LASunsett said...

//I'm not sure this will link up, but the blog post is very interesting in light of what you wrote here LA.
//

I copied and pasted it up top. It works fine.

Thanks for posting this.

HoosierArmyMom said...

You are welcome LA. Your post was so interesting that it reminding me of the one Cao did. I find the "psychology of power brokering" rather fascinating. :-)

History seems to be powered by the mentally challenged if you look at it closely. Alexander the Great had issues... Hitler and Stalin, Idi Amin (Sp?), Castro... to name a few.