Emotional Day Traders: Mental Health or Wealth?

Being a narcissist is very efficient. It’s like driving in a really streamlined and fast sports car with the windows closed. You whiz through the world at lightning speed – faster than anyone else – leaving them in your dust. And by keeping the windows closed you minimize drag and don’t have to feel the air, sound, smell and feel of the world go by. Narcissists lack empathy so they do not invest emotional capital in other people – they can be very efficient as a result – they don’t waste any energy on sharing the pain and joy of others. They are not “slowed down” in effect by the needs of others – and they barrel through life streamlined with windows closed.

That is a hell of a way to go through life. Many of us derive much of the meaning in our lives from our relationships with others. Many is the person who gives up material success to make the sacrifices inherent in human relationships – whether as parent, lover, daughter or friend. Giving up a promotion to allow more time for your children, moving across the country for a lover, moving back home to care for ailing parents, missing a party because your best friend needs you that night. The narcissist derives tremendous efficiency by not giving up a part of his emotional world for another, and they don’t miss the gifts that such connections bring. But since they don’t care – they don’t think they are missing anything.

Narcissists also never hesitate. The best athletes are great because they do not hesitate. They get the shot off, the kick made, the pass executed. Hesitation results in not converting a ball possession into a goal/basket/score. Friends of mine who play basketball and soccer relate that consistently, speed is everything. It is no wonder then, that so many elite athletes are full-blown narcissists. If you take even a millisecond to ponder about whether you should be one to get the shot off, or whether your offensive play is selfish – then the window of opportunity shuts. That doesn’t mean that a healthy, non-narcissistic adult cannot be a great player. They can be trained to get the shot off quick – but it does require training, a natural narcissist may be better able to do this viscerally. However, the narcissist may not be your go-to person for the assist or the important pass that could result in glory for another.

What does this mean for real life? Everything. A recent conversation with a gifted psychologist led to some debate about this. He was arguing that the loss of connection that the narcissist experiences may come back to bite them – that people wronged by narcissists will detach from them and the collective tribe will no longer support them.

That was once true. Once upon a time when we grew food together, counted on each other for help, committed to employers for decades, when deals could be sealed with handshakes, when accountability by the community mattered, when integrity was a big part of deal making. The economy moves too fast now, gains come to the most short-sighted. Look at the number of people who have turned day trading into a job. Who cares about allegiances when the losses and gains are posted within a 7 hour trading day. Narcissism is in essence living life as an emotional day trader.

We no longer commit to or assume long term employment and why the hell should we? Look at the number of folks who in good faith committed to the manufacturing sector just to have all the factories shuttered up. Look at folks who counted on retirement dollars from mis-managed pensions by the very people they thought had their backs. So we now jump between employers – and we make deals and cash out quickly.

As such, he who can think quickly, and not get bogged down in time-wasting empathy and the inefficiency of connection is more likely to cash out fast. For example, Hollywood is more forgiving than a Catholic confessional – minus the rosaries. You can wrong everyone in town, but if you post box office numbers or advertising revenue – exculpation comes fast – and the perpetrator can continue his or her efficient and unempathic walk through the mine fields. You watch – if Mel Gibson can pull a rabbit out of his hat and produce a blockbuster – we will happily fill his pockets with cash while he blithely continues his abusive and explosive outbursts. It’s why narcissists keep being narcissists – WE OFTEN REINFORCE THEM FOR THEIR ACTIONS.

So what does that mean for the rest of us who actually do the whole empathy, connection, help other people thing? What about the “authenticists” – people living in a connected way, who use internally mediated guidelines for success, who practice empathy, who honor themselves and others, who keep the windows open – even if the drag on the car slows them down.

While the narcissists never hesitate, the authenticists never waver. The narcissist will change direction depending on the prevailing winds – it’s what happens when you lack an internal compass and no magnetic north. The authenticists stay the course, even if it means financial sacrifice, loss of time, missing the shot. In exchange they get collaboration, reflection, and actualization. They trust themselves, and instead of being empty they are full – of meaning, direction and purpose.

It has long been said that he who hesitates is lost. I actually think that perhaps – he who hesitates is found. Empathy, love, and connection take time. The rewards may be down the road, and they may not be tangible, but they are there.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, August 5th, 2010 at 2:02 pm and is filed under Media and Mental Health, Relationships and Sex. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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