Once upon a time, in a kingdom far far away, there lived a narcissist we’ll call Speedy. You’ve met Speedy before in this blog. He was an intelligent narcissist and a (mostly) covert narcissist. He tried to hide his narcissism under flippancy, wise-cracking and hideous facial grimaces he thought were humorous, but the façade came tumbling down on the memorable day that…
…Speedy met another narcissist! I’ll pause here for a moment of silent horror. You know the old adage, “Two of a trade never agree”? Then you already know what happened.
Let me set the stage.
Speedy was given a position at work where he was slightly above his co-workers, yet not actually their boss. I’m reminded of George Orwell’s quote from Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” That’s how it was for Speedy. He was more equal than his equals. And he liked it.
Where Speedy’s elevated equality is concerned, Shakespeare summed it up best when he wrote, “But man, proud man, Dress’d in a little brief authority…His glassy essence—like an angry ape.” And he wielded that “little brief authority” with aplomb! A general marshaling his battalions and brigades for battle had nothing on Speedy! Heck, he even paid for special garb out of his own pocket. Very Academy of Dramatic Arts.
And he issued memos. Speedy was the King of the Memos. Woe to anyone who bucked or ignored the directives in The Memos. They went on Speedy’s shit-list and were reported to the real management.
At this point you’re probably concluding that Speedy wasn’t exactly “well liked” and you’d be right. He hadn’t had a close friend for thirty years, didn’t know why and didn’t seem to mind. He’d rather be right than rub shoulders with lower mortals. But the truth is, Speedy never seemed quite real. There was Sad Speedy, Funny Façade Speedy and Preaching Speedy. But I’m not sure anyone knew the real Speedy. Perhaps that’s what Shakespeare meant by a “glassy essence.”
Where was I? Oh yes! The memos!
Now there was one particular co-worker who wasn’t having any of Speedy’s pseudo-authority. We’ll call him Stick because he was like a stick in the spokes. He kept things from running smoothly. In fact, he even went around saying rather nasty things and implying that Speedy was sloughing off at his job. Which wasn’t true! Speedy was an extremely hard, devoted worker.
Worse yet, Stick refused to yield to any of the memos and rejected all of Speedy’s “little brief authority.”
Naturally, Speedy became a very “angry ape” and reported Stick to management. Given that his authority was pretty much faux, it was really his only option. And Stick was gumming up the works rather badly. So I think Speedy did the right thing.
But what Speedy did next is of particular and peculiar interest. He did some Googling and guess what, boys and girls!?!
He armchair-diagnosed Mr. Stick-In-The-Spokes with…narcissism! That’s right. He read up on narcissism and labeled Stick as a narcissist because he wouldn’t yield to Speedy’s authority.
Now I find that fascinating for a plethora of reasons. First, Speedy actually read a description of narcissism and its traits, but never recognized himself. Also, Speedy actually showed interest in psychology…but only to diagnose someone else’s problems, not his own. Thirdly, Speedy performed a long-distance armchair diagnosis, something that he would roundly and soundly vilify many years later when someone arm-chair diagnosed him as a narcissist.
Gimme an “H”! Gimme a “Y”! … Hypocrite!
On a side note, I know of one other scenario where narcissists meet on a regular basis. They are both “onto” each other. They both dislike each other. They both gossip about each other. “Two of a trade…!”
But I digress…
At this point, Management came to a curious decision. Instead of stepping in to straighten out the conflict between Speedy and Stick, they let ’em fight it out themselves. Perhaps Management figured out that it was all wind, whitewash and ego and it was best to let the fire burn itself out.
So they scheduled a meeting. Speedy and his Manager and Stick and his Manager met and boy! Did the sparks ever fly! They argued, they debated and they yelled at each other. I know. So professional…not! When things became too heated, the Managers stepped in and said, “Alright, boys. Simmer down.” At the end, they shook hands but did not part friends or anything like that!
That meeting became the stuff of legends. Gossip about their dramatics ran like wildfire through the company. Speedy and Stick were so proud that the company knew about and would fear their wondrous hot tempers. They felt they could now command respect. Where they should have been mortified, they were, as the British say, “chuffed n’ buzzin’.” It never occurred to them that the rest of the company thought they were wingnuts and did not respect them nor their amazing tempers. It’s rather sad, isn’t it.
Within a few months of The Meeting, Stick was let go from the company and frankly, he deserved it. Speedy breathed a sigh of relief.
Years and years later, someone who knew and loved Speedy armchair diagnosed him with narcissism and let him know about it. Speedy didn’t wait, didn’t hesitate, didn’t spend much (if any) time in soul-searching! The next day he was in his attorney’s office. Gimme an “H”…oh wait. We already did that.
I wish I could say that Speedy lived happily ever after, but I’m not sure he knew how to be happy. He’d been too abused when he was a little boy and too hurt when he was a young man. Being upset was his modus operandi. Maybe his cortisol levels were too high. Maybe he had undiagnosed depression. Maybe it stemmed from youthful concussions and injuries. Maybe all-of-the-above.
In any case, Speedy continued to issue memos, have his memos ignored and get mad about it. He continued to come home angry from work until his own family rearranged their schedules so they wouldn’t be there when he arrived. (He accused them of “leaving the family.”) And he continued to gloat in the power of his famous temper, even claiming he could stall an angry gang packin’ heat simply by screaming at them. “But man, proud man…Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven As makes the angels weep; who, with our spleens, Would all themselves laugh mortal.” I’d like to laugh, but it’s all so terribly sad.
So, unfortunately, Speedy did not live happily ever after. And Stick probably didn’t either because narcissists just aren’t happy!