cover image Everyday Narcissism: Yours, Mine, Ours

Everyday Narcissism: Yours, Mine, Ours

Nancy Van Dyken. Central Recovery, $15.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-942094-45-6

Licensed psychologist Van Dyken argues there is a single source for a wide swath of mental hang-ups and neuroses. Using examples from her clients’ lives, she argues that messages from authority figures during childhood shape people to believe myths about their responsibility for others’ emotions and their ability to control the world. She coins “everyday narcissism” to describe the resulting passivity, inability to discuss emotion, and self-denial that these myths teach are appropriate behavior. She offers several exercises for readers to help work through childhood wounds and move towards a more balanced approach to mental health. Paradoxically, her view of a healthy psyche (always attending to your own needs first, refusing anything that you deem unpleasant, forcing others into what amounts to awkward conversations about feelings) runs closer to the colloquial usage of narcissism than her reworking of the concept. As a unifying theory of all relationship and personal problems, everyday narcissism becomes too diffuse to be particularly useful. For people overwhelmed by their desire to be liked or a belief that they can control others’ emotions, this guide provides concrete, useful guidance out of these traps. Yet, the work is not nearly as universal nor convincing as Van Dyken claims. (Aug.)