Our attitude to life between narcissism and being overwhelmed

Dealing with contradictions constructively – but not everyone can do that. Who is doing it easier?

That depends on the personality of the individual. Today we assume that the personality is formed very early on. Through our early experiences, we acquire very specific skills or obstacles to deal constructively with demands from the environment for ourselves.

Do you think that more people have bad cards at the moment?

Actually, I started my book before the pandemic. Then Corona came and suddenly biological medicine was very popular and provided answers to all the pressing questions in the world. It determines how people have to behave, social distancing, etc. I’m not happy about that, because the question of the socio-cultural consequences of all these restrictions has not been asked for a long time. When physical contact and intimacy fades away, we need to consider what that means for adults here and now. But much more what that means for babies and toddlers. They need close physical contact and attention. And now experience people behind masks. We don’t even know what that does. Homeschooling has also hidden very important steps in experience.

Anxiety and depression are on the rise. Do you have the impression that this can be “contagious” and that entire societies are affected?

I even think so.

At the same time, given the collective hysteria and a good portion of narcissism, one can get the impression that we are worse off than previous generations. Are we – provocatively asked – simply much softer than the war generation?

On the one hand, we are less prepared due to the pressure that society weighs on us. Personality development today should be viewed critically. Hysteria means dramatization and superficiality. If you look at social media, everything is going in that direction. We are constantly being bombarded with bad, hysterical news. How are you supposed to process that?

As for the war generation, they were made of different stuff than we are. I think that given his social experiences during the war and immediately after the war, this person would have completely different assessment criteria than we, who have been living in fairly stable circumstances with high demands on our health and well-being for a long time. We are more sensitive, we complain much earlier than this person, who would show a higher degree of tolerance towards everyday stress due to his experiences.

Given the challenges, what do you recommend?

We should be less keen on these hot topics. Let’s just take the pandemic: The media keep saying “Corona is extremely dangerous”. People shouldn’t be confronted with the same poison over and over again. It is important to find rules for this, especially on social media.

What can the individual do to avoid falling into hysteria?

Take a step back and reflect on what is happening. We are not at the mercy of late capitalist society. Everyone must strive to take control of the plot and be careful not to get lost. It is necessary to rethink radical capitalism. Many solutions lie on the political, i.e. social, level.


Wolfgang Schneider: “A society between narcissism, hysteria and dependency”, Hogrefe Verlag Bern, 29.95 euros.

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