Last night I found myself laughing hysterically at the predicaments and struggles of the young men on Secret Princes. This television show is about four modern day royals (including a Romanov and a Medici) who go under cover in Austin, Texas to find the women of their dreams. These guys, who are in their late 20′s or early thirties, never knew whether the women they dated back in the countries of origin were interested in them for themselves or were really interested in their titles and wealth. So, they decided to come to America, change their names, and live in humble accommodations with no trust money to seek “the love of their life”.
This is a perfect reality show to study unhealthy narcissism and the struggle not only to be real but also to be seen as real. My gut splitting laughter explodes frequently as the “false” meets the “real”. What is painful to watch is how each of them struggle with the separation that is caused by the narcissism. I am most aware of this separation and the suffering that is experienced in myself and my clients, as well, as we all struggle similarly to be real. Say what you want about how bad television is and I would argue that this show when watched through a certain lens, can be quite instructive. Let me talk a little about unhealthy narcissism.
Unhealthy narcissism in its most extreme is called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). This is one of the saddest of mental disorders because it is very resistant to treatment.
Some of the features of unhealthy narcissism are:
- entitlement; expects special treatment
- self-centeredness; pulls attention to themselves
- difficulty with empathy; inability to recognize or identify with the feelings, needs, and viewpoints of others
- arrogance in attitude and behavior; think of themselves as better than others
- easily hurt but may not show it
- inflation, may set unrealistic goals and then experience painful disappointment
- grandiosity; preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of great success, enormous attractiveness, power, intelligence
These features define and limit the person who has the NPD and cause significant impairment in their social and work life. The person who has these tendencies as primary life lessons will feel injured, disappointed, angry/rageful, isolated, misunderstood, and depressed. What a horrible list! Disappointment and rage will be the primary experience.
Where at first we may be attracted to the grandiosity of the narcissist, we will soon feel used and maybe even abused by them. Some of us marry them if “finding ourselves through relationship” is one of our big life lessons to learn. I have developed a program designed for anyone who has this as a life lesson. I think of this course as a relationship safety course to teach you how to recognize and avoid those who can’t really be intimate and make a healthy bond in a long-term committed relationship. If you are such an unhealthy relationship now, I can help you out of it.
Remember, most of us display some of these characteristics sometime. Who has not gotten upset if someone crowds into a line in front of us? The difference between unhealthy and healthy narcissism is one of degree. In unhealthy narcissism these characteristics are exaggerated and the person in unable to give, experience gratitude and let another person in deeply. A healthier person is able to be charitable, express positivity to others and form intimate relationships.
Getting back to the show. Though I do not believe that any of the princes in this show have NPD, the princes are all especially vulnerable to narcissistic wounding because of their birth right. It is one thing to be told as a child that you are a prince or princess and another to actually be one. So each of the princes in this show confront the narcissism that separates him because he wants to connect with women. The expectation of special treatment is constantly dashed. Grandiosity is hilarious in this setting. In order to make date money, one of them has to wear a tomato costume and stand on the street to drive business to a food cart. Wow, how desperate must a prince be to suffer like that so that he can afford a date? These guys confront their “specialness” from one hysterical situation to the next.
Since they want to connect so badly they are willing to put their titles and privilege on vacation. Through the interactions between the princes and the women they encounter we are touched with their humanness. They “really” suffer in order to get something they “really” want. And, we see them growing and becoming more attractive episode by episode. This process is initiatory for them as poverty and being in a foreign place add even more challenge to their collective quest. We want them to succeed in finding their “princess”.
Watch this show and see if you can identify with each prince as he struggles to be “real”.
Leave me a comment or question!
Photo Credit: Narcissus-Caravaggio (1594-96)