Signs of Collective Narcissism

Written by Dr. Eric Perry
Image Credit: Pixabay

“In the final analysis I believe in man in spite of men.” ~Elie Wiesel

I recall as a young boy thinking of girls as alien beings inhabiting the same planet but playing by a whole different set of rules. They were seen as the enemy and I was convinced that boys were superior to girls. I recall my sister arguing that boys had cooties and that girls rule. I believe she won that argument. Without awareness, we were taking part in collective narcissism. Collective narcissism, also known as group narcissism, is a type of narcissism where an individual has an inflated self-love for their in-group. The individual will see his or her group as superior to all other groups and it may function as a narcissistic entity. At that point of my young life, my sister and I were actively part of our respective in-groups; boys versus girls. We both idealized the group we belonged to and believed it was superior to the other group. It appears that collective narcissism is natural for children. Studies show that children between 6 and 9 generally have a higher opinion of their in-group and will, directly and indirectly, exhibit aggression towards those who are not part of their in group.

While collective narcissism in children appears to be innocent and part of creating self-identity, for adults it often takes a darker tone. Collective narcissism has the potential to create the same destructive chaos of an overt narcissist. It is interesting to note that the term “Collective narcissist” was first used by Theodore Adorno to describe the sentiment that gave support to Nazi rule in Germany in the 1930’s. It is normal and part of our society to identify with many diverse groups throughout our lifetime but we must be careful not to let the pride we feel for our group turn into hate or hostility for another group. Once in a while, put yourself in the other group’s place and try and see things from their point of view. If possible, engage in discussions. Perhaps, by having an open discourse we can learn to respect each other’s differences and get along.

Here are some characteristics of collective narcissism:

1. Person exhibits an exaggerated belief in the superiority of their in-group
An individual who is taking part in group narcissism believes that their group is superior to all other groups. They are not able to find any fault in their group. They seek to be validated as superior and will seek revenge towards anyone who does not recognize their group.

2. The group requires constant validation
Much like the narcissist who outwardly displays an overconfident persona to hide a weak and vulnerable inner self, the group is comprised of individual’s who may doubt the prestige of their in-group and will seek constant validation. The individuals are the source of the group’s narcissistic supply. Validation may be gained by engaging in group building behaviors such as political rallies. The group activities will feed the group’s narcissistic need for a continuous flow of praise and validation. Further, the group will constantly seek validation from outside its group and will become hypersensitive to any perceived or imagined slight.

3. The more involved a person is in a group the higher their opinion is of that group
As a person becomes more invested in the group, they begin to see the group as an extension of the self. The group becomes a manifestation of their narcissistic ego and they will praise it to no end.

4. Individuals with a low or damaged ego may seek strength by belonging to a group
Studies show that the individuals within a group of collective narcissists have low self-esteem and tend to rely on negative emotions. They avoid interpersonal closeness and are vulnerable to shame. They fully embrace the group’s exaggerated image in order to experience positive emotions and connections.

5. Collective narcissism goes beyond cultures and ethnicities
The group may be comprised of different cultures and ethnicities all sharing the same blind devotion.

6. The collective narcissistic group will create a common enemy
The group will cultivate hate and reject or attack any group that threatens their group’s grandiose image. They may believe in conspiracy theories about the other group, however unrealistic it may be.

Here are some examples of group narcissism:

1. Leader/follower
In this group, the leader is the mirror-hungry narcissist who wants an endless flow of admiration and respect while his followers, the ideal-hungry narcissists find confidence and comfort in the charisma of their leader. The two groups within the group feed off each other and exist only to raise the other’s weak ego. They will go to great lengths to praise and ensure the other’s existence. They will convince each other of their greatness.

2. National Narcissism
An example of this would be, “My country is better than yours.”

3. Religious Groups
An example of this would be, “My religion is better than yours.”

4. Political groups
The daily news is often filled with narcissistic entities opposing one another.

5. Specialized groups
Some examples of this are branches of the military and police forces.

The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a professional relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a medical professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.

Dr. Perry

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72 responses to Signs of Collective Narcissism

  1. samanthamurdochblog says:

    Fascinating…totally makes sense and explains some of the horrible things that humans do. Also, I suppose it links with the fear of the unknown as people fear what they don’t understand and seek the comfort and validation of other like minded individuals…great post. 😺💕x

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Growing up in a house with our mother suffering from this disease made all 3 of us kids acutely aware of what we needed to do to fight and survive. With all our education about this matter Ive never heard of groups in this way. You are so spot on tho and now I see what some afflilations do not work for me. I choose to be positive and appreciate the people in my life that promote peace and success. Looking forward to more of your thoughts and posts.-Laurel

    Liked by 6 people

  3. I love the analogies you employ to demonstrate your exact point. It makes your writing relatable and easy to follow along with, while always remaining informative.

    My mind immediately went back to my grade school days – I was relieved to recall that though my primary friend group was comprised of females, that I also played a lot of sports with the boys and always preferred being included in with them since they seemed to have so much more fun! I genuinely can’t recall a time I ever thought ‘ew, boys, cooties!’. So I felt a tad smug for half a moment thinking I had managed to bypass this as a child… And then I recalled the Catholic school just blocks away from my rough and tumble public school, and our perceived rivalry with them… and then the name we had for them…. the L—- Losers. Ugh. Please remember, we were in a single digit age bracket then. Your reference to collective narcissism being natural in children – spot on.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Excellent. You simplify the reality that is in actuality complex in a positive way. I agree with Samantha that fears can play off of which group people identify with and can also be the match that lights the flame of not only dissention but acts of violence and hatred.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. goodtritionblog says:

    So enlightening. Thank you for this. I believe I am actually the “common enemy” of a collective narcissism group right now. They all fit your description both in personality and behavior. Constant need for praise on social media, immediate lashing out at anyone who doesn’t support their group’s behavior/comments, and a definite broadcasting of superiority of their group as a whole. Thanks for the information.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Even though families were not included in this list I wonder if they might apply on a smaller sense of collective narcissism. When there are generations in a family and then people marry into that family and they ALL join in with the characteristics you mentioned. Never had this thought before. Thanks for stirring this thinking.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. Wow. This is my family. Especially the leader/follower idea. Everyone protects each other, no one cares about you if you stray away from protecting them and keeping them on their pedestals. Thank you for sharing this. This gave me a lot to think about,

    Liked by 4 people

    • Clicking for Cash from Home says:

      Sometimes you got to leave the family in order to save your sanity or else drown in the muck of negativity.

      Liked by 6 people

  8. christopher819 says:

    Very timely and interesting article that unfortunately directly applies to situations here in the U.S. Thank you for posting it.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. Whisperfox says:

    *Very* insightful! I most related to “Individuals with a low or damaged ego may seek strength by belonging to a group.”
    When my husband of over 20 years left me, I was devastated and left with no self esteem. I ended up in a roommate situation of about 6-7 people, all pretty tight and clique-ish. It became vital to me that I become a part. That situation las beted only 2 years, thank goodness. I recognized it was dangerous for me.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. danroberson says:

    Learning to discern truth in the middle of lies and to leave when threatened takes a very strong person. That person may be one who is not afraid of dying. You bring up many valid points. The collective state of groups who defend or condemn without questioning is very dangerous.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. My experience of this was being raised a Seventh day Adventist. Every characteristic of groupie narcissism you listed was true of my upbringing and the group. A constant scanning of info to validate what was being taught. Thank God my family was rescued.

    Liked by 6 people

  12. mliae says:

    OMG, this is so true! It was bad enough when we were coming into our own as adults, but what I see now — SO MUCH of it is collective narc!

    Liked by 6 people

  13. Well said. Belonging to a group (such as the LGBTQ communities) has its benefits, giving us a sense of belonging. However, we risk losing our individuality and the right to make our own decisions. In the long run we may even lose our connection with out higher self.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. jkvegh says:

    Reblogged this on Transformative Psychotherapy, LLC and commented:
    This is a really good article about collective narcissism and something we all need to be conscious of – that it exists. I believe this is the reason a lot of young women (and older women) are turned off by the term feminists. It is why so many people feel it is difficult to stand behind any party. It is very funny because you have to be careful who you are calling a “Narcissist.”

    Liked by 6 people

  15. jane e says:

    This is the first time I’ve heard this term. I see it everywhere and I am guilty of behaving this way. Thank you for making me aware. I will certainly check my behaviour in the future!

    Liked by 5 people

  16. Kamal says:

    I’m enjoying your blog! This feature of the human condition is one that really bugs me and i think you’ve done a great job of describing it. It’s because humans are so prone to tribal-think that i’ve been so adamant to homeschool my kids. Public school is like a breeding ground for tribal behaviors because it removes children from the family unit which is really the only tribe that matters in my opinion.

    Liked by 4 people

  17. katemantis says:

    I grew up in a society ( communist) where these social groupings were less common than today, after 28 years of young democracy. But I can see nowadays this strange need of clustering in order to build a resistance against real or imagined enemy groups. Some of them are build around causes, ideals, ideologies and often end up in becoming hard to bear, as you cannot reason with them outside their logic. This outcome prevented me to join such groups as I don’t want to give up my freedom of thought. Thank you for your clarifying article and sharing it!

    Liked by 5 people

  18. Wow – social identity theory is one of my faves. Haven’t considered it through the lens of narcissism before & my mind is blown now I’m starting to thanks to your article. Wowowow!

    Liked by 4 people

  19. queentracey1 says:

    I really feel this is a situation is just going to continue to get worse and worse as the years go, one generation of narcissist makes another, and more and more. How can we stop it? How to fix the human race, I fear we are near having more narcissist in the world then not!

    Liked by 3 people

  20. I love how you start with a personal story and this one was an especially great segue into the article – I found both entertaining and interesting. Thank you.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. Great post! I never knew there is something called as Collective Narcism. It makes sense though. I can totally relate to the point where you mentioned your childhood. I remember we also had this sort of girls vs boys group back in school. Even few movies promoted this thought…

    Liked by 2 people

  22. I think we all can’t help but have biases due to our life, to feel like we’re part of something better. In a positive light, that essentially means hope. But I think it’s exactly in this line of thought that we can overcome these in/out group biases.

    It’s like the Robber’s cave experiment by Sherif, in which intergroup conflicts were created by starting competition between boys, and yet it was overcome by goals that could only be achieved together.

    We’ll all inevitably feel some sort of competition between each other, whether it was created seemingly unnecessarily like over gender, nationality or skin, as opposed to beliefs we have such as religion, politics or responses to events, and yet the best way to overcome that is to look towards what we can all strive in together. Like we differ in politics, but we engage in it in order to bring about a better world, and this reminder allows us to be tolerable to another group in case they are actually onto something we’re missing in order to achieve that.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. JLJ says:

    Great insight! You put to words what I’ve instinctively felt not only in personal situations but political, spiritual and social situations. Thank you for the clarity!!

    Liked by 3 people

  24. Hummingbird says:

    well written. Narcs are everywhere, and their followers. We all want leaders, even the narcs (they love to idolize, to the point they lose reason, and reality) So, they too are looking to idolize. Its in our DNA, from the dawn of time.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Ladysag77 says:

    Well timed post Dr. Perry. We are healing from this as we watch out our door in this country. I know the tides are turning. Thank you for sharing😊

    Liked by 3 people

  26. cheriewhite says:

    Oh my gosh! You just described a huge chunk of my classmates, who were bullies to the max! Our 30th reunion is late this year and I snubbed my invite! I refuse to go to an event where people will be constantly one-upping each other! Thank you for this post!

    Liked by 3 people

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