- Aug 5, 2004
Existential narcissism: The characterological consequences of the modern American worldview - ProQuest
The individual faced with the frightening realization of his separateness casts off dependency and asserts agency as a means to transcend his vulnerability and suffering. As this pursuit of agency meets some successes, its flame grows. However, the longed for liberation never comes, signs emerge that agency will not ultimately lead there, and doubt creeps in. Because the pursuit of agency emphasizes the separateness of the individual, the experience of existential isolation and vulnerability is greatly heightened. Letting go of the security blanket of agency, self-inflation, and hope for the promised land is terrifying and attempts become more desperate and extreme until the individual, and in our case the culture, comes to a breaking-point. The challenge entailed at this breaking-point involves confronting and resolving the conflict stemming from the reliance upon a narcissistically inflated sense of agency as a means to avoid human limitations, needs, and vulnerabilities. For an individual or a culture that has defined itself and found meaning in life through self-inflation, this challenge constitutes nothing short of an "ego death."