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Mental Disorders

by Sandy Hotchkiss
Free Press, 2002
Review by David M. Wolf, M.A. on Jul 2nd 2003

Why Is It Always About You?

    A fine text by Sandy Hotchkiss concerning narcissistic people everywhere, Why Is It Always About You?,  would better be titled, thinks this reviewer, by its subtitle, "Saving Yourself from the Narcissists in Your Life" The book is organized along the lines of a battle manual: very little background of theory, heavy strategy explanations, and then some case examples and final thoughts for victory.

    Ever since Sigmund Freud published his ideas involving narcissism and libido, psychologists and counselors have worked from the premise that many people suffer a form of stunted emotional development which makes them, well, insufferable themselves--ostensibly shameless (but actually shame sensitive), arrogant, self-centered and selfish, exploitive and manipulative. Sandy Hotchkiss takes this premise and constructs on it what she calls "The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism" and tells the reader how to deal with these people and their unwanted effects.

    Those Seven Deadly... are worth enumerating here: shamelessness, magical thinking, arrogance, envy, entitlement, exploitation, bad boundaries. The author devotes all of Part I to these seven. These pages lay out the problem and ring lots of bells for any reader about problem people we have all known in our working lives--if not in our families and personal relationships.

    Afterward, Hotchkiss returns to a too brief treatment of the causes and background of "unhealthy" narcissism and distinguishes it from the healthy stage of childhood development and the continuing "healthy narcissism" which everyone needs in order to work and function in contemporary society. Her focus is on offering strategies for dealing with the unhealthy narcissists in our lives, and this book is very effective in setting forth such helpful measures.

    Hotchkiss, whose degree is in social work, doesn't conclude without a hard swipe at the "narcissistic society" and all the pumped up, false proponents of "self-esteem" who have, in her view, turned some children since the 1980's into "entitlement monsters." She even finds narcissism being preached in the new age churches whose penchant for "unity" with God and all things anti-authority reflects the "Me decade" more than scripture. In general, she is for a return to sensible parenting that can raise up a generation in better touch with reality than some recently inflated and distorted ones.

    Buy this book if you already know that unhealthy narcissism affects people you must deal with; buy it, too, if you have been hurt by a narcissist (or two) and need to clarify what has happened so you can get beyond these harms. And even if you are a counselor or therapist and experienced with narcissistic clients or their victims in therapy, you will find in Why Is It Always About You? a strongly organized, clear, useful guide to the management of such people's impact on others.


© 2003 David Wolf 

David M. Wolf, M.A. studied philosophy of science for the M.A. with Prof. David Hawkins at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and also read advanced philosophy at Trinity College Dublin. His undergraduate education in Philosophy was guided by Prof. Mason Gross. Wolf is certified in philosophic counseling with the American Philosophic Practitioners Assoc. and earns his living in management consulting, where he is distinguished in writing strategic plans and advising in organization development and career counseling.

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